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This will be the final post. It was fun blogging with you for a month, and I am grateful to Thomas for the invitation, and to everyone who joined in. As many of you know, in addition to the free will problem I have been working for some years now... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
Back to hard determinism. I thought it would be interesting to do something a bit different. So here's a link to a draft of a short (fewer than 3400 words) paper of mine for those who want the full Monty, and below it a half-sized summary. I apologize for the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
In this post I will turn my critical focus from hard determinism to compatibilism. I will present a shortened version of some philosophical moves I recently made in the Journal of Ethics ("The Trap, the Appreciation of Agency, and the Bubble"). I take up the issue of the individuation of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
Thank you for the responses to my first post, on compatibility-dualism. I trust that more people now have a better idea of how such a position on the compatibility question can make sense, and some of the things that make it attractive, as compared to a monistic compatibilism or hard... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
Thank you Thomas for the invitation, I am grateful; I am honored to have been asked (and particularly to be appearing right after John "immortality" Fischer). I thought that I would post on a number of distinct things, but focus more on stuff related to my weird views on the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
Chuck Norris can travel back in time and kill his own grandfather Chuck Norris is causa sui Chuck Norris knows Theory X Chuck Norris is in perfect reflective equilibrium (without reflecting) Justice is Chuck Norris
Thanks, all, I agree that it's been a splendid discussion and that we have probably said most of what can be said. I am glad that there is wide agreement that funishment is not promising, and that when we need to punish, that this will be unjust to the criminals (under HD). The rest depends on how we interpret hard determinism, and particularly on where we put the utilitarian (or similarly consequentialist) element. a. If we think of HD as just combining incompatibilism and determinism (or rather absence of libertarian free will), then little follows normatively. b. If we are basically utilitarians (like Thomas), then we might emphasize that the retributivist justification for punishment falls, but nothing really follows and we should just maximize utility. [If it turns out that it's better if most people should punish out of false retributivist beliefs, then those should be induced.] c. Once we begin to give weight to the traditional FW paradigm (FW> moral responsibility> desert> punishment), then, to the extent that it matters to us, so we will feel that there is a problem. But as long as we understand HD to incorporate utilitarianism, we can still punish the criminals, for the sake of others, albeit admit that this would be unjust. [We can set the option of funishment aside, on the assumption that even for HDs it doesn't work, and others of course don't see any attraction in it.] d. If we take the FW paradigm "deontologically", then, given HD, we must not punish. For, to such HDs, the ONLY justification for punishment is that it is deserved (based upon FW and MR), and it can never be deserved. So, such HD simply says that we must never punish. Given that as hard determinists we cannot punish, and that unfortunately we cannot funish either (assuming that I've shown that funishment would be self-defeating for HD), then, as such HDs, we are stuck. Our theory collapses, as a normative prescriptive theory that should help us to live morally in this world. For, given that we often have to punish, but that to a "deontological" HD we mustn't punish, the theory collapses. Which letter should we go for? Clearly (b)-(d), for on (a) we cannot understand the concern with any of this. The intuitions behind the FW paradigm have considerable force against utilitarianism, in my view (e.g. justice cannot be understood in utilitarian terms, and justice matters). But that's an issue beyond our scope. If one is just a utilitarian, go for (b), otherwise you are left with (c) or (d). I think that AS HARD DETERMINISTS (in the beyond (a)-(b) sense), we should go for (d). This does not mean that utilitarian considerations play no role for us (e.g. it might be that utility is also a necessary condition for punishing). But if according to HD the justification for punishment requires free will-based desert, and there is no free will, then punishment is unjustified (for HD). Does that mean that the HD just lies down and let's the world collapse (i.e. the criminals rule)? As a person, No, but as a HD, Yes. This means, as I understand it, that the person may support punishment, but AS A UTILITARIAN, NOT AS A HARD DETERMINIST. I think that to speak about using utilitarian justifications for punishment as though they are available within HD is just to confuse ourselves. This is the main remaining topic of contention, I take it. So, if you accept my "deontological" interpretation of HD, then in practice, HD is not a player. It does not permit punishment. It could have been a player, had funishment been feasible, but funishment is bad for HD. So HD might be true as a theory (I think that it is partly true), but it lacks any practical resources. Yes, there is still utilitarianism but, on my view, when one follows it one is no longer a HD. HD, to recall (under this interpretation) tells you that it is NEVER justified to punish. Are we then better off if compatibilism is true? Yes. We can maintain the FW paradigm and still punish, and not betray the basic moral intuitions behind the importance of the free will problem because of utilitarian considerations. And I think that compatibilism is partly true, but that's beyond this discussion. If a robust libertarian FW was available, that would be even better...
Thanks Tamler and Kevin, Well, if you put the utilitarian considerations inside HD then sure, you can get anything. (Kevin, I don't see how you can get desert considerations to favor punishment FOR HD, so let's stick with utilitarianism or a similar consequentialism; desert can be a relevant consequentialist concern only for NON-HDs.) But, if you grant me the assumptions I want, then the reductio follows. Here's why: 1. The basic assumption is something like: it is unjust to punish anyone unless through his free actions he has made it the case that he deserves to be punished (i.e. he is not innocent). 2. According to HD, there are no free actions. 3. Hence no one deserves to be punished (everyone is innocent, whatever they do). 4. It is unjust to punish anyone. 5. If we incarcerate someone but compensate him for the deprivation (i.e. funishment), then incarceration can be just, even for HD. So we can justly funish, but not punish. 6. But funishment is self-defeating for HD. 7. So, no punishment and no funishment (for HD's). THE END On my interpretation, we cannot punish under HD, nor can we funish. So, as a normative theory purportedly telling us what to do, HD breaks down. And that's the end of the matter, insofar as HD is concerned (again, as I interpret it). Now we can go on and turn utilitarian and continue to punish, but that's morally unjust according to HD (see #4). Maybe its good for utilitarianism that HD breaks down, but my present point is that it breaks down. We do not go to punish AS HD's, but as utilitarians (or the like). HD is an interpretation of whether it is just to punish, if there is no free will. It simply says NO. You mustn't punish the innocent, and everyone is innocent. HD is not in the business of making people happy, or minimizing innocent casualties, or making the streets safe, other worthy causes. That's utilitarianism (or the like), not hard determinism. Compare an analogy. You fall in love with a girl, and want her to love you and sleep with you. But she doesn't love you. Whatever happens, she won't love you. Insofar as love is concerned, that is that. Maybe you can offer to buy her an apartment and she will agree to sleep with you, but that's something else, not love.
Hi Tamler, Thanks for your post. I actually think that we are making important progress here. Let's try to see where we agree, and then focus on where we disagree. Let's assume hard determinism for the sake of this debate (although as you know I am in part a compatibilist). Given HD, we both agree that no one deserves to be punished. We also both agree with your 2 (or Joe's 2). If the existence of the world depended on punishing an innocent person, sure, I'm all for that. It would actually take less for me to agree. (I don't think that it would be just to do so, but sometimes there are good moral reasons to do unjust things.) So what is at issue? I'll call this Free Will-Related Justice. The traditional paradigm of the free will problem goes something like this: free will is a condition for moral responsibility, MR is a condition for desert, and desert is a condition for just punishment. ("Condition" here is necessary, not sufficient.) If a person does something bad of his own free will, then it may be just to punish him, if not, then it never is. For, given the paradigm, he cannot deserve to be punished, and hence doing so would be unjust. Now, I think that almost invariably both libertarians and compatibilists share this paradigm, although they have a more demanding and a less demanding view about the required free will, respectively; both think their sense of free will can be met. The HD, as I understand her, agrees with the libertarian in the quest for a more demanding sense of free will (as a condition for e.g. just punishment), but is pessimistic as to whether it can be had. So what does the HD do, if she still wants to have JUSTICE (based upon the FW paradigm)? IF funishment could work, she could opt for funishment. Since the criminals are compensated for being incarcerated, and are not made to suffer, on balance, funishment is arguably not unjust, even within the FW paradigm. THIS IS WHY I THINK THAT THE PROSPECTS OF FUNISHMENT ARE CRUCIAL FOR HARD DETERMINISM: if funishment could work, then even hard determinists could be just, within the free will parameters! If my argument is correct, however, funishment doesn’t work. This, then, is a tragedy for hard determinism (of the sort I described). As a theory of JUSTICE (based upon the FW paradigm), the theory is, in practice, self-defeating, and breaks down. Even hard determinists should say that their theory should not guide our practice, insofar as justice is concerned. And if hard determinism is true, this is a tragedy for all of us. For, it means that we cannot have here justice. This is not the end of the matter, morally, as there is still consequentialism (and perhaps other options, but I will set them aside). But I think that it is only to sow confusion to deny that insofar as the traditional free will related sense of justice is concerned, if HD is true, we have reached the end of the road. I don't think that utilitarians or similar consequentialists have any intrinsic interest in justice, let alone the free will-dependent variety. They care only about utility. They usually admit this. There is a big issue how adequate utilitarianism is, as a moral theory. I am a normative pluralist, and therefore I think that it is often morally salient, and may occasionally even be decisive. But it would only confuse matters to pretend that it is a theory of justice. So, to sum up, here are my main claims: 1. It is a great pity, for hard determinism, that funishment does not work. Otherwise we could have just punishment (of a sort) even under the traditional free will paradigm, and even as hard determinists. In other words, we could solve the problems which typically require punishment, without making anyone suffer. 2. If HD is true, then (given that funishment doesn't work), that is by and large the end of the idea of just punishment. When we will punish (make people suffer, for long periods, and for the social good rather than their own), that will be grossly unjust. [There might still be good consequentialist reasons to do so, but that's not my concern here.]
Dear Thomas, Thanks for your post. Let me try to clarify why (and where) I think that the hard determinist needs to be worried about my argument. In one way you are courageous, in being willing to say that hard determinists have no inherent problem with punishing (=inflicting suffering upon) the innocent if this serves a good social purpose, and more generally in openly aligning hard determinism with consequentialism. But in another way, by talking about the infliction of suffering (as in the dog analogy) as a short, brief "training" period which is also in large measure made for the purpose of the person being trained, you make your life too easy. Think about people who we believe that it would be unacceptable to have on the street - murderers, rapists, professional thieves, Mafia people. Most of these people are incorrigible, so the infliction of suffering will not change them for the better. In order to protect society, we have to keep them incarcerated, for many years. Thereby we also deter many others. We are not doing it for them, but for ourselves. Surely this is a large portion of the relevant people. And they are the folk we should be worried about. HD believes that these people are all innocent and undeserving of punishment. Hence the thought that although we may incarcerate them, we need to compensate them for the deprivation ( i.e. funish rather than punish them), is surely morally attractive. You should welcome funishment, as an ideal, in preference to punishment. With funishment, we can both keep ourselves safe and all those people who after all do not deserve to suffer will not suffer. But my paper shows that unfortunately funishment cannot work. If this is indeed accepted, then I think that it spells the end of HD as a distinct moral position. Again, if funishment were possible, then (on the assumption that there is no free will and desert) hard determinism would be morally wonderful: unlike the retributivists who inflict suffering on the innocent in the name of a false picture of free will, HD protects society but not at the expense of the (innocent) wrongdoers. So it is a tragedy, for HD, that funishment cannot work. That, I claim, is really the end of the matter. What would have been a genuinely moral hard determinist picture of justice in action (switching from cruel punishment to funishment) turns out to be impossible; the vision cannot be implemented. HD's should acknowledge the significance of this result. Of course one could go all utilitarian (or a similar consequentialist position), and see no problem about inflicting suffering upon the innocent whenever "the suffering be necessary for some individual or social end". But compared to funishment, that is a sordid result. We inflict suffering upon some innocent people merely as a means to improve the lives of others; society cruelly victimizes some of its members merely as a way to keep social order. I think that calling this "justice" is a travesty. And denying that justice matters is not a trivial stance.
Adam - right, thanks for the exchange. SL - you are asking the right questions. I am not sure what exactly my argument does imply, since it's purely negative, but we still have to go on living (even as hard determinists). I agree that the truth of determinism is unrelated to any of these issues. With hard determinism, as a "hard" interpretation of the implications of determinism, or more accurately of the absence of libertarian free will irrespective of determinism (by contrast to the "soft" version, i.e. compatibilism) there is more leeway. If we assume for the sake of discussion that HD is true, as a theory, i.e. as the correct interpretation of determinism, and if we accept my argument that it cannot be implemented, then what does that show? That is a difficult question. One could argue that Nothing - being true is one thing, being applicable is another. But in an ethical view, which is supposed to guide moral life, that seems problematic. Perhaps we could play with different levels, so that a view can be true but not action-guiding, or the like. I am not sure what my position is on this question of the relations between ethical truth and practice, in general, and there isn't much philosophical discussion of it as far as I am aware. In any case, if we believe HD and I am right that trying to apply it will not work, then in practice at least the theory fails; hard determinists cannot produce a penal system that their own theory holds as adequate. Following their theory into practice would be a mistake, for them. That is at least a practical refutation, and, well, its not very comfortable for an ethical theory.
Adam - I would want to go more slowly. This being philosophy, we need to sit a bit on the questions, before going to the answers, let alone the practical ones. If my funishment argument works, does it refute hard determinism as the true theory? Not necessarily. But it does show that, for HDs, (a) justice is impossible, not in a vague sense where you never get perfection, but in a fundamental way. Here we should sit for a while, have a glass of water, and try to recover - justice is a big deal. And if indeed HD is in practice self-defeating, that also might mean that (b) the view collapses, it cannot give moral guidance. If HD is true (in whole or in part), but it collapses, then that is a problem for moral theory. Also, it is worth while also thinking whether (c) the issue I raise is limited to punishment. I think not, HD will have a big problem with many other forms of making (good or bad) distinctions between people, which means that it will have grave problems with incentives and more broadly with appreciation. This needs further reflection. So much for HD. My view combines HD with compatibilism. So, very broadly, I think that "ideally" we should continue with the Community of Responsibility based upon compatibilist distinctions, mitigated by the insights of HD which say that such practices are unjust. See, for example, my 2005 piece "Free Will and Respect For Persons", #28 in my site, which is here: We should not be e.g. utilitarians because utilitarianism does not respect persons (and doesn't really care about the free will problem, which you should if you respect persons). In practice, since I am skeptical about the prospects of living with avowed compatibilism, and being here first-order consequentialists is not only in my view mistaken but is also not clearly possible (can we e.g. praise and blame while knowing that these are just manipulative mechanisms?), the implications of the "practical" viewpoint are not obvious. Maybe we cannot be first order hard determinists, compatibilists, or utilitarians! For what it's worth, I am inclined towards a conservative view whereby we are probably better off, overall, living with the false libertarian beliefs (and so for most people not being aware that they are false). That is, Illusionism on free will. See Part 2 of my book Free Will and Illusion, and too many papers since. So, in sum, I think that we have here HUGE issues about the relationship between theory and practice, what beliefs we can live with, the impossibility of true justice, and so on. Just going for some version of utilitarianism as a guidance for daily practice arguably doesn't make sense even if one is a utilitarian, and also one shouldn't be, even in a world without libertarian free will. Alan - the analogy between banishment and funishment is interesting. HD's like Derk Pereboom se the quarantine analogy as the most helpful one, and there is a similarity there. I don't know enough about the history of banishment, but since the British were libertarians I would be surprised if they thought that the convicts in Australia would be living a good life (and they made sure this wouldn't be so when they first arrived there). I see your point, but the more such banishment can be construed as punishment, the less compatibilists would object. I don't take compatibilism to be very vengeful. Neil - I agree that on free will we should in practice probably give up on trying to be deep (but isn't that a deep view?). On P.F. Strawson, I am much more a fan than you. I think that it's not obvious what he is trying to do, but partly he is offering a Humean view which says that we should just live our practical lives and not try to be deep. Here I am not sure that you are that far away (except that he did not think much of making radical revisions).
If we are hard determinists, we think that no one deserves to be punished, and that to punish criminals would be unjust. However, many criminals still need to be incarcerated away from the rest of us. In my recent Law and Philosophy piece, I argue that hard determinists are committed... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2011 at Flickers of Freedom