Reading Michael Frede

Michael Frede argued that the modern notion of a free will was not present in the earliest Greek thinkers, but developed late in Stoicism, especially with Epictetus, and was refined by Augustine to become the modern notion.

Frede thus appears to agree with Susanne Bobzien, but it depends on the definition of “free will” and the “free will problem” that they are using.

Frede claims to have no preconception of free will. He hopes that it will emerge from a careful reading of the ancient works. In his 2011 book, A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought, he says,

“Now, though I do not presuppose a specific notion of a free will, let alone want to endorse or advocate some specific notion of it, I do rely on something like a general idea of a free will, something like a schema which any specific notion of a free will or any particular version of the notion of a free will, at least in antiquity, will fit into. I do not arrive at this general idea or schema on the basis of some philosophical view as to what any notion of a free will has to look like but rather with the benefit of historical hindsight. That is to say, I have looked at the relevant ancient texts and have abstracted this schema from those texts which explicitly talk of a will, the freedom of the will, or a free will. In having such a schema, we shall at least have a general idea of what we are looking for when we investigate the origins of the notion of a free will but without having to commit ourselves to any particular view, ancient or modern, as to what a free will really is.” (pp.6-7)

Frede finds in the Stoics a notion of will that is distinguished from the Platonic or Aristotelian notions by denying any role for a nonrational element in the mind or soul.

“With Stoicism, then, we get for the first time a notion of the will as an ability of the mind or of reason to make choices and decisions. This ability, though, which we all share, in the case of each of us is formed and developed in different ways. How it develops is crucially a matter of the effort and care with which we ourselves develop this ability, which we also might neglect to do. The will thus formed and developed accounts for the different choices and decisions different human beings make. As we have seen, the precise form in which the Stoics conceive of the will depends on their denial of a nonrational part or parts of the soul. Hence in this specific form the notion of a will was unacceptable to Platonists and to Aristotelians, who continued to insist on a nonrational part of the soul.”

Reading J. L. Austin

John L. Austin was an analytic philosopher who favored the analysis of ordinary language, rather than the creation of new technical philosophical terms, such as the “logical atoms” of Bertrand Russell and the early Ludwig Wittgenstein. He opposed logical positivistic philosophers such as A. J. Ayer, who believed that all sentences had a truth value. For Austin, some sentences were not passive statements about facts, but performative utterances, such as “I do” in a wedding ceremony. He called them “speech-acts.”

Austin analyzed the ordinary meaning of “I can,” and argued that there might be an implicit “if” lurking in the background of such statements. “Are cans constitutionally iffy?,” he asked in his famous 1956 essay “Ifs and Cans.”

In his Ethics, G. E. Moore had made free will compatible with determinism by analyzing the phrase “could have done otherwise” as meaning, “could have done otherwise, if I had chosen to do otherwise”
Austin’s Putt
Austin extends “I can” to mean “I can, if I try.” He separates the physical ability from the desire or intention to perform an action. His celebrated example is (footnote 9 in “Ifs and Cans”) an attempt to “hole” a putt. He normally has the ability to putt successfully. He wants (or tries or intends) to hole a putt. But in one case, his physical ability (or perhaps physical conditions beyond his control) prevent him from making the putt.

Austin then asks, could I have done otherwise? Could I have made the putt, in exactly the same physical conditions? “Further experiments,” he says, “may confirm my belief that I could have done it although I did not.” This is a sound empirical point of view. If Austin tries to hole the putt several times – on the same green, the same “lie” of the ball, the same distance to the hole, etc. – and finds that he does succeed, say, 95% of the time, it is reasonable to say that he could have, indeed normally would have, holed the putt. Physical reality often gives us only a statistical probability concerning what we “can” do.

In his work, Ethics, P.H.Nowell-Smith, who is also trying to come to grips with the implications of determinism, argues that “could have” means “would have, if.” But Austin argues that this cannot be the categorical statement Nowell-Smith makes of it, because there are so many other conditionals that might be part of the “if” clause – if he had the opportunity, if he had the ability, if he was lucky, etc.

Daniel Dennett on Austin’s Putt
In his 2003 book, Freedom Evolves, Daniel Dennett says that Austin’s Putt clarifies the mistaken fear that determinism reduces posibilities. Considering that Dennett is an actualist, who believes there is only one possible future, this bears close examination.

First, don’t miss the irony that Dennett is using “possible worlds” thinking, which makes the one world we are in only able to have one possible future, our actual world.

Dennett says

Now that we have a clearer understanding of possible worlds, we can expose three major confusions about possibility and causation that have bedeviled the quest for an account of free will. First is the fear that determinism reduces our possibilities. We can see why the claim seems to have merit by considering a famous example proposed many years ago by John Austin:

Consider the case where I miss a very short putt and kick myself because I could have holed it. It is not that I should have holed it if I had tried: I did try, and missed. It is not that I should have holed it if conditions had been different: that might of course be so, but I am talking about conditions as they precisely were, and asserting that I could have holed it. There is the rub. Nor does “I can hole it this time” mean that I shall hole it this time if I try or if anything else; for I may try and miss, and yet not be convinced that I could not have done it; indeed, further experiments may confirm my belief that I could have done it that time, although I did not. (Austin 1961, p. 166)

Austin didn’t hole the putt. Could he have, if determinism is true? The possible-worlds interpretation exposes the misstep in Austin’s thinking. First, suppose that determinism holds, and that Austin misses, and let H be the sentence “Austin holes the putt.” We now need to choose the set X of relevant possible worlds that we need to canvass to see whether he could have made it. Suppose X is chosen to be the set of physically possible worlds that are identical to the actual world at some time t0 prior to the putt. Since determinism says that there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future, this set of worlds has just one member, the actual world, the world in which Austin misses. So, choosing set X in this way, we get the result that H does not hold for any world in X. So it was not possible, on this reading, for Austin to hole the putt.

To include adjacent worlds seems to add alternative possibilities?
Of course, this method of choosing X (call it the narrow method) is only one among many. Suppose we were to admit into X worlds that differ in a few imperceptibly microscopic ways from actuality at t0; we might well find that we’ve now included worlds in which Austin holes the putt, even when determinism obtains. This is, after all, what recent work on chaos has shown: Many phenomena of interest to us can change radically if one minutely alters the initial conditions. So the question is: When people contend that events are possible, are they really thinking in terms of the narrow method?

Suppose that Austin is an utterly incompetent golfer, and his partner in today’s foursome is inclined to deny that he could have made the putt. If we let X range too widely, we may include worlds in which Austin, thanks to years of expensive lessons, winds up a championship player who holes the putt easily. That is not what Austin is claiming, presumably. Austin seems to endorse the narrow method of choosing X when he insists that he is “talking about conditions as they precisely were.” Yet in the next sentence he seems to rescind this endorsement, observing that “further experiments may confirm my belief that I could have done it that time, although I did not.” What further experiments might indeed confirm Austin’s belief that he could have done it? Experiments on the putting green? Would his belief be shored up by his setting up and sinking near-duplicates of that short putt ten times in a row? If this is the sort of experiment he has in mind, then he is not as interested as he claims he is in conditions as they precisely were. To see this, suppose instead that Austin’s “further experiments” consisted in taking out a box of matches and lighting ten in a row. “See,” he says, “I could have made that very putt.” We would rightly object that his experiments had absolutely no bearing on his claim. Sinking ten short putts would have no more bearing on his claim, understood in the narrow sense as a claim about “conditions as they precisely were.” We suggest that Austin would be content to consider “Austin holes the putt” possible if, in situations very similar to the actual occasion in question, he holes the putt. We think that this is what he meant, and that he would be right to think about his putt this way. This is the familiar, reasonable, useful way to conduct “further experiments” whenever we are interested in understanding the causation involved in a phenomenon of interest. We vary the initial conditions slightly (and often systematically) to see what changes and what stays the same. This is the way to gather useful information from the world to guide our further campaigns of avoidance and enhancement.

Curiously, this very point was made, at least obliquely, by G. E. Moore in the work Austin was criticizing in the passage quoted. Moore’s examples were simple: Cats can climb trees and dogs can’t, and a steamship that is now traveling at 25 knots can, of course, also steam at 20 knots (but not, of course, in precisely the circumstances it is now in, with the engine set at Full Speed Ahead). The sense of “can” invoked in these uncontroversial claims, the sense called “can (general)” by Honoré (1964) in an important but neglected article, is one that requires us to look not at “conditions as they precisely were” but at minor variations on those conditions.

So Austin equivocates when he discusses possibilities. In truth, the narrow method of choosing X does not have the significance that he and many others imagine. From this it follows that the truth or falsity of determinism should not affect our belief that certain unrealized events were nevertheless “possible,” in an important everyday sense of the word. We can bolster this last claim by paying a visit to a narrow domain in which we know with certainty that determinism reigns: the realm of chess-playing computer programs.
(Freedom Evolves, pp. 75-77)

See J.L.Austin on I-Phi

Reading Susanne Bobzien

Susanne Bobzien is Professor of Philosophy at Yale specializing in the problem of determinism and freedom, especially among Hellenistic and later ancient philosophers.

Her 1998 book Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy is a detailed analysis of arguments, especially those of Chrysippus, for the compatibilism of freedom with causal determinism.

In her book and a 1998 article in Phronesis (Vol. 43, No. 2 (May, 1998), pp. 133-175), Bobzien identified several variations on the theme of human freedom that were important in antiquity. Three of them are indeterminist freedoms, by which she means the decision is partly or wholly a matter of chance, and does not involve the character and values of the agent. (These are “extreme” libertarian positions, but are held today by Robert Kane, Mark Balaguer, and others):

1) freedom to do otherwise: I am free to do otherwise if, being the same agent, with the same desires and beliefs, and being in the same circumstances, it is possible for me to do or not to do something in the sense that it is not fully causally determined whether or not I do it.

2) freedom of decision: a subtype of freedom to do otherwise. I am free in my decision, if being the same agent, with the same desires and beliefs, and being in the same circumstances, it is possible for me to decide between alternative courses of action in the sense that it is not fully causally determined which way I decide. 1) differs from 2) in that it leaves it undecided in which way it is possible for the agent to do or not to do something.

3) freedom of the will: a subtype of freedom of decision. I act from free will, if I am in the possession of a will, i.e. a specific part or faculty of the soul by means of which I can decide between alternative courses of actions independently of my desires and beliefs [this is “extreme”], in the sense that it is not fully causally determined in which way I decide. 2) differs from 3) in that the latter postulates a specific causally independent faculty or part of the soul which functions as a “decision making faculty.”
(Phronesis, p.133)

Bobzien contrasts these radical libertarianisms with what she calls “un-predeterminist” freedom:

4) un-predeterminist freedom: I have un-predeterminist freedom of action/choice if there are no causes prior to my action/choice which determine whether or not I perform/choose a certain course of action, but in the same circumstances, if I have the same desires and beliefs, I would always do/choose the same thing. Un-predeterminist freedom guarantees the agents’ autonomy in the sense that nothing except the agents themselves is causally responsible for whether they act, or for which way they decide. Un-predeterminist freedom requires a theory of causation that is not (just) a theory of event-causation (i.e. a theory which considers both causes and effects as events). For instance, un-predeterminist freedom would work with a concept of causality which considers things or objects (material or immaterial) as causes, and events, movements or changes as effects. Such a conception of causation is common in antiquity.
(Phronesis, p.133)

In Bobzien’s “un-predeterminist” freedom, there is nothing that causally determines the agent’s action, but the agent will always make the same decision in exactly the same circumstances, because the decision is completely consistent with the agent’s desires and beliefs (and character and values).

Bobzien’s idea of un-predeterminist freedom is a good fit with two-stage models of free will.

Finally, Bobzien lists three compatibilist freedoms, negative “freedoms from” rather than positive “freedoms to…”

5) freedom from force and compulsion: I am free in my actions/choices in this sense, if I am not externally or internally forced or compelled when I act/choose. This does not preclude that my actions/choices may be fully causally determined by extemal and internal factors.

6) freedom from determination by external causal factors: agents are free from external causal factors in their actions/choices if the same external situation or circumstances will not necessarily always elicit the same (re-)action or choice of different agents, or of the same agent but with different desires or beliefs.

7) freedom from determination by (external and) certain internal causal factors: I am in my actions/choices free from certain intemal factors (e.g. my desires), if having the same such internal factors will not necessarily always elicit in me the same action/choice.
(Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy, p.278)

In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (2000), Bobzien challenged Pamela Huby’s 1967 assertion that Epicurus discovered the “free will problem.”

In 1967 Epicurus was credited with the discovery of the problem of free will and determinism. Among the contestants were Aristotle and the early Stoics.
Furley merely de-emphasized the direct involvement of the random swerve in volition, as had Bailey before him.
Epicurus emerged victorious, because — so the argument went — Aristotle did not yet have the problem, and the Stoics inherited it from Epicurus. In the same year David Furley published his essay ‘Aristotle and Epicurus on Voluntary Action’, in which he argued that Epicurus’ problem was not the free will problem. In the thirty-odd years since then, a lot has been published about Epicurus on freedom and determinism.

But it has only rarely been questioned whether Epicurus, in one way or another, found himself face to face with some version of the free will problem. In this paper I intend to take up the case for those who have questioned the point, combining a fresh perspective on the debate with a selection of new arguments and a detailed textual analysis of the relevant passages. Let me begin with a brief sketch of the problem of freedom and determinism which Epicurus is widely taken to have been concerned with.

The determinism Epicurus defends himself against is usually understood as causal determinism: every event is fully determined in all its details by preceding causes. These causes are commonly pictured as forming an uninterrupted chain or network, reaching back infinitely into the past, and as governed by an all-embracing set of laws of nature, or as manifestations of such a set of laws of nature.

Freedom to do otherwise, freedom of decision, and extreme freedom of the will Bobzien now labels “two-sided” freedom
On the side of freedom, Epicurus is generally understood to have been concerned with freedom of decision (the freedom to decide whether or not to do some action) or freedom of choice (the freedom to choose between doing and not doing some action) or freedom of the will (where the freedom to will to do something entails the freedom to will not to do it, and vice versa; I call this two-sided freedom of the will). Epicurus is taken to have introduced an indeterminist conception of free decision or free choice or two-sided free will: agents are free in this sense only if they are causally undetermined (or not fully causally determined) in their decision whether or not to act or their choice between alternative courses of action; undetermined, that is, by external and internal causal factors alike. There is assumed to be a gap in the causal chain immediately before, or simultaneously with, the decision or choice, a gap which allows the coming into being of a spontaneous motion.
Epicurus did not make actions directly the result of random atomic swerves, and he did think volitions were “up to us.”
In this way every human decision or choice is directly linked with causal indeterminism. The assumption of such indeterminist free decision, free choice, or two-sided free will does not presuppose that one specifies an independent mental faculty, like e.g. a will, and indeed it is not usually assumed that Epicurus’ theory involved such a faculty.

The ‘free will problem’ that Epicurus is assumed to have faced is then roughly as follows: If determinism is true, every decision or choice of an agent between alternative courses of actions is fully determined by preceding causes, and forms part of an uninterrupted causal chain. On the other hand, if an agent has (two-sided) freedom of the will, it seems that the agent’s decision or choice must not be fully determined by preceding causes. Hence, it appears, determinism and freedom of the will (freedom of decision, freedom of choice) are incompatible.

I do not believe that Epicurus ever considered a problem along the lines of the one just described. In particular, I am sceptical about the assumption that he shared in a conception of free decision or free choice akin to the one I have sketched. (I also have my doubts that he ever conceived of a determinism characterized by a comprehensive set of laws of nature; but this is a point I only mention in passing.) To avoid misunderstandings, I should stress that I do believe that Epicurus was an indeterminist of sorts — only that he did not advocate indeterminist free decision or indeterminist free choice.

Bobzien is of course right that Epicurus did not think that our decisions were made at random with no regard for our character and values, or for our feelings and desires. This is a straw argument put up by critics of Epicurean philosophy, notably the Stoic Chryssipus and the Academic Skeptic Cicero.

Epicurus explicitly said human actions are caused by an autonomous agency, a third cause beyond chance and necessity.

But Bobzien is wrong to suggest that Epicurus did not see a problem between human freedom and the causal determinism of his fellow atomist Democritus, and that Epicurus’ atomic swerve was not his proposed solution to that “free will problem (viz, by breaking the causal chain).” Bobzien recognizes that her claim depends on the definiton of free will when she notes that

Whether Epicurus discussed free will depends on what one means by ‘free will’. For example, if one intends ‘free will’ to render Lucretius “libera voluntas,” and to mean whatever element of Epicurus’ doctrine Lucretius meant to capture by this phrase, then Epicurus evidently was concerned with free will. My concern is only to show that he did not discuss a problem of free will that involves a conception of freedom of decision or choice as adumbrated in the main text. [namely, “extreme” libertarianism in which chance is the direct cause of action.]

See our account of free will in antiquity for more details and which ancient philosophers were first to take positions as determinist, libertarian, and compatibilist in antiquity.

Reading Ernst Cassirer

Ernst Cassirer was a neo-Kantian philosopher who had a great influence on the philosophical implications of quantum physics, by personal contacts with the major quantum physicists, and through his 1936 book Determinism and Indeterminism in Modern Physics. The English translation, published in 1956, was prepared with the help of Henry Margenau, who had studied with Cassirer.
Max Born said it was a satisfaction to him that Cassirer “also sees the philosophical importance of quantum theory not so much in the question of indeterminism but in the possibility of several complementary perspectives in the description of the same phenomena as soon as different standpoints of meaning are taken.”
Arthur Stanley Eddington had associated free decisions with “free” electron jumps, a position he repudiated a few years after Cassirer’s book.
Cassirer attacked this simplistic notion:

When it is said that the electron is bound in no other way than as demanded by these rules, or that it has a certain playground within which it is “free,” this is nothing else and nothing more than a metaphysical mode of expression. From this interpretation of freedom as a mere possibility, bounded by natural laws, there is no path toward that reality of will and decision which concerns ethics. To identify the “selection” (Auswahl) that an electron is able to make from the set of different quantum orbits — in accordance with Bohr’s theory — with “choice” (Wahl) in the ethical sense of that concept would be to succumb to a purely linguistic confusion. For a choice exists only when there are not only different possibilities, but where also a conscious differentiation and a conscious decision is made.

Note that Cassirer is here very close to the idea of the two-stage Cogito model of free will, if he would accept the different possibilities as generated by quantum randomness.
But Cassirer strongly defends determinism (p.203), so doubts that quantum mechanics can help with the problem of free will:

The new mode of determination which is to be established is not built on the ruins of nature’s conformity to law; rather it joins the latter as a correlative and complement. For this reason alone it is most questionable whether, or in what manner, a relaxation or dissolution of scientific determinism can be made useful for the solution of the fundamental problem of ethics.

Cassirer is concerned about the randomness objection in the standard argument against free will
A “freedom” emanating from such a source and based on such a foundation would be a fatal gift to ethics. For it would contradict the characteristic and positive meaning of ethics; it would not leave room for that moral responsibility the possibility and necessity of which ethics aims to prove. Whenever something is “ascribed” to a person in the ethical sense, it presupposes, and is connected with, some type of prior determination on the part of that person. An action which should simply fall out of the causal nexus, which should take place at random without reasons, would stand entirely alone and could not be referred or ascribed to a persisting ethical subject.

Dogmatic fatalism is pre-determinism. Adequate determinism is a critically developed determinism
Only an action “grounded” in some way can be considered a responsible action, and the value ascribed to it depends on the type, on the quality of these grounds and not on their absence. Thus the question of free will cannot and must not be confused with the question of physical indeterminism. The free will whose establishment concerns ethics is incompatible with a dogmatic fatalism; but it is by no means incompatible with a critically conceived and developed determinism.

Henry Margenau on Ernst Cassirer
Margenau was a close colleague, perhaps more a disciple, of Ernst Cassirer and generally claimed to agree with Cassirer’s thoughts on causality and determinism. When Cassirer died, Margenau was preparing an appendix for the 1956 English translation of Determinism and Indeterminism in Modern Physics. The appendix (and a bibliography) was to bring the question of causality up to date as of 1956.

A dozen years later, Margenau was invited to give the Wimmer Lecture at St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania. His topic was Scientific Indeterminism and Human Freedom, and instead of holding to Cassirer’s view “that it would be fatal for ethics to tie itself to and, as it were, fling itself into the arms of a limitless indeterminism,” Margenau embraced indeterminism as the first step toward a solution of the problem of human freedom.

Margenau lamented that “it forces us to part company with many distinguished moral philosophers who see the autonomy of ethics threatened when a relation of any sort is assumed to exist between that august discipline and science.” He clearly means his longtime mentor. “Ethics,” says Cassirer, “should not be forced to build its nests in the gaps of physical causation, but he fails to tell where else it should build them, if at all.”
(Scientific Indeterminism and Human Freedom, Wimmer Lecture XX, 1968 (p.71))

Ernst Cassirer on Emil du Bois-Reymond
Cassirer devotes the opening pages of his Determinism and Indeterminism in Modern Physics to the claim that “determinism” in the modern sense of a complete causal physical determinism was not really understood until an essay of du Bois-Reymond in 1872.

This seems completely wrong, but Cassirer was very influential for many modern physicists, insisting on subjective versus objective views (mirroring Neils Bohr’s dualistic complementarity, with its wave versus particle views. Cassirer preserves a spiritual view, similar to Immanuel Kant’s noumenal world view, as the realm of ethics and freedom.

Du Bois-Reymond was quite wrong about determinism, which was equated with necessity in the eighteenth-century debates about freedom versus necessity. He is right that those debates turned into questions of freedom versus determinism in the nineteenth century, but they both assumed there were causal chains that threatened human freedom. See chapter 18 on “Cassirer’s Thesis” in Ian Hacking’s The Taming of Chance for more.

See Ernst Cassirer on I-Phi

Reading Philippa Foot

Philippa Foot was an Oxford-trained philosopher who argued for a neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics as opposed to deontology, utilitarianism, or consequentialism in ethics.

Foot created the famous moral thought experiment known as the trolley problem.

In 1957 she wrote an article in The Philosophical Review entitled “Free Will As Involving Determinism.” Foot criticized arguments that free will requires determinism, and in particular the idea that one could not be held responsible for “chance” actions chosen for no particular reason.

Her article begins with the observation that determinism has become widely accepted as compatible with free will.

The idea that free will can be reconciled with the strictest determinism is now very widely accepted. To say that a man acted freely is, it is often suggested, to say that he was not constrained, or that he could have done otherwise if he had chosen, or something else of that kind; and since these things could be true even if his action was determined it seems that there could be room for free will even within a universe completely subject to causal laws. (The Philosophical Review, vol LXVI, (1957), p.439)

Foot’s estimate of the wide acceptance of determinism is correct, but hard to reconcile with quantum indeterminacy in modern physics, as Elizabeth Anscombe pointed out a few years later in her inaugural lecture at Cambridge.

It has taken the inventions of indeterministic physics to shake the rather common dogmatic conviction that determinism is a presupposition or perhaps a conclusion, of scientific knowledge. Not that that conviction has been very much shaken even so…I find deterministic assumptions more common now among people at large, and among philosophers, than when I was an undergraduate. (Causality and Determination, 1971, p.28)

Foot examines arguments by David Hume, R. E. Hobart (the pseudonym of Dickinson S. Miller, a student and later colleague of William James), P. H. Nowell-Smith, Gilbert Ryle, and A. J. Ayer.

Foot correctly doubted that the ordinary language meaning of saying our actions are “determined” by motives has the same meaning as strict physical determinism, which assumes a causal law that determines every event in the future of the universe. She cites Bertrand Russell’s view of causal determinism:

The law of universal causation . . . may be enunciated as follows:…given the state of the whole universe,…every previous and subsequent event can theoretically be determined.

Foot is also skeptical of the simple logical argument that everything happens either by chance or because it is causally determined. This is the standard argument against free will that makes indeterminism and determinism the two horns of a logical dilemma.

Foot notes that our normal use of “determined” does not imply universal determinism.

For instance, an action said to be determined by the desires of the man who does it is not necessarily an action for which there is supposed to be a sufficient condition. In saying that it is determined by his desires we may mean merely that he is doing something that he wants to do, or that he is doing it for the sake of something else that he wants. There is nothing in this to suggest determinism in Russell’s sense. (ibid, p.441)

And when we do something “by chance” it may not mean physically undetermined, and may not be used to deny responsibility.

It is not at all clear that when actions or choices are called “chance” or “accidental” this has anything to do with the absence of causes… Ayer says, “Either it is an accident that I choose to act as I do, or it is not.” The notion of choosing by accident to do something is on the face of it puzzling; for usually choosing to do something is opposed to doing it by accident. What does it mean to say that the choice itself was accidental? (p.449-50)

If I say that it was a matter of chance that I chose to do something,…I do not imply that there was no reason for my doing what I did, and I say nothing whatsoever about my choice being undetermined. If we use “chance” and “accident” as Ayer wants to use them, to signify the absence of causes, we shall have moved over to a totally different sense of the words, and “I chose it by chance” can no longer be used to disclaim responsibility. (p.450)

Foot does not see that the role of chance and indeterminism might simply be to provide “free” alternative possibilities for action, to be deliberated upon and used as causes or reasons behind motives of our “will” as we choose to act.

She also does not seem to know that Hobart’s 1934 article was entitled “Free Will As Involving Determination And Inconceivable Without It.” In her reference (note 5), she thinks Hobart’s article has the same title she is using – “Free Will As Involving Determinism”.

See Philippa Foot on I-Phi

Reading Elizabeth Anscombe

Elizabeth Anscombe was a student of Ludwig Wittgenstein and later served, with G. H. von Wright and Rush Rhees as the executor of his papers and as editor of his Philosophical Investigations.

Her Inaugural Lecture as Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University in 1971 was entitled “Causality and Determination.” She explained that we had no empirical grounds for believing in a determinism that is logically necessary or even in the physical determinism that appears to be required by natural laws like Newton’s. Anscombe thus properly distinguishes between determinism and determination, which requires only adequate determinism. And she sees that a strict causal, logical, and necessitated determinism (really predeterminism), is an illusion.

The high success of Newton’s astronomy was in one way an intellectual disaster: it produced an illusion from which we tend still to suffer. This illusion was created by the circumstance that Newton’s mechanics had a good model in the solar system. For this gave the impression that we had here an ideal of scientific explanation; whereas the truth was, it was mere obligingness on the part of the solar system, by having had so peaceful a history in recorded time, to provide such a model. (p.20)

She asks…

Must a physicist be a ‘determinist’? That is, must he believe that the whole universe is a system such that, if its total states at t and t’ are thus and so, the laws of nature are such as then to allow only one possibility for its total state at any other time? No.

Anscombe is familiar with developments in quantum physics. She notes that Max Born dissociated causality from determinism. And she mentions Richard Feynman’s suggestion (following Arthur Holly Compton) of a Geiger counter firing that might be connected to a bomb “There would be no doubt of the cause of the explosion if the bomb did go off,” she says. So there can be causality without determinism. (p.24)

She notes that C. D. Broad, in his 1934 inaugural lecture, had considered indeterminism, but he had added that whatever happened without being determined was “accidental.”

He did not explain what he meant by being accidental; he must have meant more than not being necessary. He may have meant being uncaused; but, if I am right, not being determined does not imply not being caused. Indeed, I should explain indeterminism as the thesis that not all physical effects are necessitated by their causes. But if we think of Feynman’s bomb, we get some idea of what is meant by “accidental”. It was random: it ‘merely happened’ that the radioactive material emitted particles in such a way as to activate the Geiger counter enough to set off the bomb. Certainly the motion of the Geiger counter’s needle is caused; and the actual emission is caused too: it occurs because there is this mass of radioactive material here. (I have already indicated that, contrary to the opinion of Hume, there are many different sorts of causality.) But all the same the causation itself is, one could say, mere hap. It is difficult to explain this idea any further. (p.25)

Indeed it is. We wish that Anscombe had tried.

But she goes on to say Broad naively assumed that our actions were therefore randomly caused. Apparently aware that randomness as a cause of action had been criticized since antiquity, she calls Broad naive.

Broad used the idea to argue that indeterminism, if applied to human action, meant that human actions are ‘accidental’. Now he had a picture of choices as being determining causes, analogous to determining physical causes, and of choices in their turn being either determined or accidental. To regard a choice as such – i.e. any case of choice – as a predetermining causal event, now appears as a naif mistake in the philosophy of mind, though that is a story I cannot tell here.

Again, we could hope she would have told us more.
Anscombe recounts the severe criticism of scientists’ suggestions that indeterminism could account for human freedom.

It was natural that when physics went indeterministic, some thinkers should have seized on this indeterminism as being just what was wanted for defending the freedom of the will. They received severe criticism on two counts: one, that this ‘mere hap’ is the very last thing to be invoked as the physical correlate of ‘man’s ethical behaviour’; the other, that quantum laws predict statistics of events when situations are repeated; interference with these, by the will’s determining individual events which the laws of nature leave undetermined, would be as much a violation of natural law as would have been interference which falsified a deterministic mechanical law. (p.25)

Ever since Kant it has been a familiar claim among philosophers, that one can believe in both physical determinism and ‘ethical’ freedom. The reconciliations have always seemed to me to be either so much gobbledegook, or to make the alleged freedom of action quite unreal. My actions are mostly physical movements; if these physical movements are physically predetermined by processes which I do not control, then my freedom is perfectly illusory. The truth of physical indeterminism is then indispensable if we are to make anything of the claim to freedom. But certainly it is insufficient. The physically undetermined is not thereby ‘free’. For freedom at least involves the power of acting according to an idea, and no such thing is ascribed to whatever is the subject (what would be the relevant subject?) of unpredetermination in indeterministic physics. (p.26)

Nevertheless, Anscombe is surprised that indeterministic physics has had so little effect on the thinking of philosophers of mind, who remain mostly determinists.

It has taken the inventions of indeterministic physics to shake the rather common dogmatic conviction that determinism is a presupposition or perhaps a conclusion, of scientific knowledge. Not that that conviction has been very much shaken even so. Of course, the belief that the laws of nature are deterministic has been shaken. But I believe it has often been supposed that this makes little difference to the assumption of macroscopic determinism: as if undeterminedness were always encapsulated in systems whose internal workings could be described only by statistical laws, but where the total upshot, and in particular the outward effect, was as near as makes no difference always the same. What difference does it make, after all, that the scintillations, whereby my watch dial is luminous, follow only a statistical law – so long as, the gross manifest effect is sufficiently guaranteed by the statistical law? Feynman’s example of the bomb and Geiger counter smashes this conception; but as far as I can judge it takes time for the lesson to be learned. I find deterministic assumptions more common now among people at large, and among philosophers, than when I was an undergraduate. (p.28)

See Elizabeth Anscombe on I-Phi

Reading Mortimer Adler

Mortimer Adler’s work was always encyclopedic. He is perhaps best known as the editor of the Great Books of the Western World (1952, 52 volumes), and its companion A Syntopicon: An Index to The Great Ideas (1952, 2 volumes). Both of these are the work of a team of writers working with Adler.

But even the books written directly by Adler are encyclopedic in nature, especially his two-volume survey on freedom – The Idea of Freedom: A Dialectical Examination of the Conceptions of Freedom (1958) and its sequel The Idea of Freedom: A Dialectical Examination of the Controversies about Freedom (1961).

In The Idea of Freedom, vol.I, Adler classifies all freedoms into three categories:

The Circumstantial Freedom of Self-Realization
The Acquired Freedom of Self-Perfection
The Natural Freedom of Self-Determination

Self-realization is freedom from external coercion, political end economic freedom, etc.

The freedom we have identified as circumstantial is variously called “economic freedom,” “political freedom,” “civil liberty,” “individual freedom,” “the freedom of man in society,” “freedom in relation to the state,” and “external freedom.” It is sometimes referred to negatively as “freedom from coercion or restraint,” “freedom from restrictions,” or “freedom from law,” and sometimes positively as “freedom of action,” “freedom of spontaneity,” or “freedom under law.”
(The Idea of Freedom, vol I, p.127)

Freedom from these constraints is the kind of freedom worth having stressed by the classical compatibilists from Thomas Hobbes on.

Today most philosophers might include a large number of circumstantial internal constraints on freedom such as an agent’s mental disabilities, addictions, behavioral conditioning, both normal and coercive (indoctrination or brainwashing), and perhaps even factors like heredity and environment.

Self-perfection is the idea from Plato to Kant that we are only free when our decisions are for reasons and we are not slaves to our passions (making moral choices rather than satisfying desires).

This is the acquired or learned knowledge to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, true from false, etc. Adler also includes many theologically minded philosophers who argue that man is only free when following a divine moral law. Sinners, they say, do not have free will, which is odd because sinners are presumably responsible for evil in the world despite an omniscient and omnipotent God.

As signifying one of the three ways in which writers think that men possess freedom, the word “acquired” refers to that the possession of which depends upon a change or development in human beings whereby they have a state of mind, or character, or personality which differentiates them from other men.

Whatever word is used to designate this difference (whether it be “good,” “wise,” “virtuous,” “righteous,” “holy,” “healthy,” “sound,” “flexible,” etc.), the difference represents an improvement, or the attainment of a superior condition, as measured on whatever scale of values is posited by the particular writer.

Freedom, in other words, is thought to be possessed only in conjunction with a certain state of mind, character, or personality that marks one man as somehow “better” than another.
(The Idea of Freedom, vol I, p.135)

Self-determination covers the classic problem of free will. Are our actions “up to us,” could we have done otherwise, are there alternative possibilities, or is everything simply part of a great causal chain leading to a single possible future?

Most of Adler’s natural freedoms are compatibilisms. They include Hegel’s freedom of a stone falling according to Newton’s law of gravity.

Adler defines the natural freedom of self-determination as that which is not either circumstantial or acquired.

A freedom that is natural is one which is (i) inherent in all men, (ii) regardless of the circumstances under which they live and (iii) without regard to any state of mind or character which they may or may not acquire in the course of their lives.
(ibid., p.149)

In volume II, writtten a few years later, Adler revisits the idea of a natural freedom of self-determination, which explicitly includes alternative possibilities and the self as a cause so our actions are “up to us.” Note that the uncaused self decides from prior alternative possibilities.

We have employed the following descriptive formula to summarize the understanding of self-determination that is shared by authors who affirm man’s possession of such freedom. They regard it, we have said, as “a freedom which is possessed by all men, in virtue of a power inherent in human nature, whereby a man is able to change his own character creatively by deciding for himself what he shall do or shall become.”

We have further explained that “being able to change one’s own character creatively by deciding for one’s self what one shall do or shall become” expresses the topical agreement about self-determination only when at least two of the three following points are affirmed:

(i) that the decision is intrinsically unpredictable, i.e., given perfect knowledge of all relevant causes, the decision cannot be foreseen or predicted with certitude;

Adler may see a two-stage model, first alternative possibilities,
not causal factors,
then an act of will.
(ii) that the decision is not necessitated, i.e., the decision is always one of a number of alternative possible decisions any one of which it was simultaneously within the power of the self to cause, no matter what other antecedent or concurrent factors exercise a causal influence on the making of the decision;

(iii) that the decision flows from the causal initiative of the self, i.e., on the plane of natural or finite causes, the self is the uncaused cause of the decision it makes.

These three points, as we shall see, generate three distinct existential issues about man’s natural freedom of self-determination. Writers who deny (iii) that, on the plane of natural or finite causes, there are any uncaused causes deny, in consequence, the existence of a freedom the conception of which posits such causes. Writers who deny (ii) that an effect can be caused in a manner which does not necessitate it deny, in consequence, the existence of a freedom the conception of which attributes to the self the power of causing but not necessitating the decisions it makes. The existence of self-determination is also denied by writers who claim (i) that God’s omniscience excludes a freedom the conception of which involves the intrinsic unpredictability of decisions that are the product of man’s power of self-determination
(The Idea of Freedom, vol II, p.225)

In his over 1400 pages, Adler devotes only six pages to brief comments on quantum mechanical indeterminism 53 (v.1, p.461-466). Adler depends heavily on the thoughts of Max Planck and Erwin Schrödinger, who along with major thinkers like Einstein, Louis de Broglie, and David Bohm, rejected indeterminism.

See Mortimer Adler on I-Phi

Reading Jacques Monod

Jacques Monod’s 1971 book Chance and Necessity was a landmark in the popular science literature for its unequivocal statement that the origin of life is purely a product of Chance.

…chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact. And nothing warrants the supposition — or the hope — that on this score our position is likely ever to be revised.
(Chance and Necessity, p. 112)

Monod correctly denies any teleological forces are needed to create life from inanimate matter, but he finds that teleonomic purposeful behavior is one of the fundamental characteristics of life, along with what he calls autonomous morphogenesis (life is “self-constructing”) and reproductive invariance (life is “self-replicating”).

Information philosophy agrees that with the emergence of life, information structures with purposes entered the universe.

But there must have been information-creating, ergodic processes at work before terrestrial life appeared. They created the informational substrate for life, in particular, the sun and the planetary environment hospitable to the origin of life on earth.

Monod says that some biologists have been unhappy with his idea of teleonomy, that living beings are endowed with a purpose or a project, but he says this is essential to the definition of living beings. His next criterion isautonomous morphogenesis. He says,

…a living being’s structure results from a … process … that owes almost nothing to the action of outside forces, but everything, from its overall shape down to its tiniest detail, to “morphogenetic” interactions within the object itself.

We now know this is only “adequate determinism

It is thus a structure giving proof of an autonomous determinism: precise, rigorous, implying a virtually total “freedom” with respect to outside agents or conditions — which are capable, to be sure, of impeding this development, but not of governing or guiding it, not of prescribing its organizational scheme to the living object. Through the autonomous and spontaneous character of the morphogenetic processes that build the macroscopic structure of living beings, the latter are absolutely distinct from artifacts, as they are, furthermore, from the majority of natural objects whose macroscopic morphology largely results from the influence of external agents.

Crystals are one of the few purely physical “ergodic” processes, reducing the entropy locally

To this there is a single exception: that, once again, of crystals, whose characteristic geometry reflects microscopic interactions occurring within the object itself. Hence, utilizing this criterion alone, crystals would have to be classified together with living beings, while artifacts and natural objects, alike fashioned by outside agents, would comprise another class.
(Chance and Necessity, p.10)

The quantum cooperative atomic phenomena that form crystals are of course the same as form the macromolecules of life, DNA, RNA, etc.

Monod thinks there is an “internal, autonomous determinism” that “guarantees the formation of the extremely complex structures of living beings.” The “guarantee” can not be perfect as a result of statistical physics. Monod is fully aware of quantum indeterminacy. After discussing chance in terms of probability and games of chance, he says,

on the microscopic level there exists a further source of still more radical uncertainty, embedded in the quantum structure of matter. A mutation is in itself a microscopic event, a quantum event, to which the principle of uncertainty consequently applies. An event which is hence and by its very nature essentially unpredictable.

Monod identifies the key evolutionary process as the transmission ofinformation from one living information structure to the next. Note that this is accomplished in the constant presence of thermal and quantal noise


Such structures represent a considerable quantity of information whose source has still to be identified: for all expressed — and hence received — information presupposes a source. He says “the source of the information expressed in the structure of a living being is always another, structurally identical object.”

[Living beings have the] ability to produce and to transmit ne varietur the information corresponding to their own structure. A very rich body of information, since it describes an organizational scheme which, along with being exceedingly complex, is preserved intact from one generation to the next. The term we shall use to designate this property is invariant reproduction, or simply invariance.With their invariant reproduction we find living beings and crystalline structures once again sharing a property that renders them unlike all other known objects in the universe. Certain chemicals in supersaturated solution do not crystallize unless the solution has been inoculated with crystal seeds. We know as well that in cases of a chemical capable of crystallizing into two different systems, the structure of the crystals appearing in the solution will be determined by that of the seed employed.
(Chance and Necessity, p.12)

Monod claims that the main distinction between crystals and living things is the quantity of information transmitted between the generations. He thus neglects the creativity inherent in the acquisition and transmission ofknowledge by living things.

Crystalline structures, however, represent a quantity of information by several orders of magnitude inferior to that transmitted from one generation to another in the simplest living beings we are acquainted with. By this criterion — purely quantitative, be it noted — living beings may be distinguished from all other objects, crystals included.

In his major contribution toward an informational approach to biology, Monod goes on to make a quantitative estimate of what he calls the “teleonomic level” of a species, arranging them in a hierarchy based purely on information content. This is an important beginning for information-based biological science.

…since a structure’s degree of order can be defined in units of information, we shall say that the “invariance content” of a given species is equal to the amount of information which, transmitted from one generation to the next, assures the preservation of the specific structural standard. As we shall see later on, with the help of a few assumptions it will be possible to arrive at an estimate of this amount.That in turn will enable us to bring into better focus the notion most immediately and plainly inspired by the examination of the structures and performances of living beings, that of teleonomy. Analysis nevertheless reveals it to be a profoundly ambiguous concept, since it implies the subjective idea of “project.” [Consider] the example of the camera: if we agree that this object’s existence and structure realize the “project” of capturing images, we must also agree, obviously enough, that a similar project is accomplished with the emergence of the eye of a vertebrate.

But it is only as a part of a more comprehensive project that each individual project, whatever it may be, has any meaning. All the functional adaptations in living beings, like all the artifacts they produce, fulfill particular projects which may be seen as so many aspects or fragments of a unique primary project, which is the preservation and multiplication of the species.

To be more precise, we shall arbitrarily choose to define the essential teleonomic project as consisting in the transmission from generation to generation of the invariance content characteristic of the species. All the structures, all the performances, all the activities contributing to the success of the essential project will hence be called “teleonomic.”

This allows us to put forward at least the principle of a definition of a species’ “teleonomic level.’ All teleonomic structures and performances can be regarded as corresponding to a certain quantity of information which must be transmitted for these structures to be realized and -these performances accomplished. Let us call this quantity “teleonomic information.” A given species’ “teleonomic level” may then be said to correspond to the quantity of information which, on the average and per individual, must be transferred to assure the generation-to-generation transmission of the specific content of reproductive invariance.
(Chance and Necessity, pp.13-14)

For François Jacob, who shared the Nobel Prize with Jacques Monod, teleonomy was a basic characteristic of every cell. Jacob said that the basic purpose and desire of every cell is to become two cells


But Monod sees that his teleonomy appears to be in conflict with a basic tenet, the very cornerstone, of modern science.

The cornerstone of the scientific method is the postulate that nature is objective. In other words, the systematic denial that “true” knowledge can be got at by interpreting phenomena in terms of final causes – that is to say, of “purpose.” An exact date may be given for the discovery of this canon. The formulation by Galileo and Descartes of the principle of inertia laid the groundwork not only for mechanics but for the epistemology of modern science, by abolishing Aristotelian physics and cosmology. To be sure, neither reason, nor logic, nor observation, nor even the idea of their systematic confrontation had been ignored by Descartes’ predecessors. But science as we understand it today could not have been developed upon those foundations alone. It required the unbending stricture implicit in the postulate of objectivity — ironclad, pure, forever undemonstrable. For it is obviously impossible to imagine an experiment which could prove the nonexistence anywhere in nature of a purpose, of a pursued end.But the postulate of objectivity is consubstantial with science; it has guided the whole of its prodigious development for three centuries. There is no way to be rid of it, even tentatively or in a limited area, without departing from the domain of science itself.

Objectivity nevertheless obliges us to recognize the teleonomic character of living organisms, to admit that in their structure and performance they act projectively — realize and pursue a purpose. Here therefore, at least in appearance, lies a profound epistemological contradiction. In fact the central problem of biology lies with this very contradiction, which, if it is only apparent, must be resolved; or else proven to be utterly insoluble, if that should turn out indeed to be the case.
(Chance and Necessity, pp.21-2)

Monod’s resolution of his “profound epistemological contradiction” is to make teleonomy secondary to – and a consequence of – reproductive invariance.

Since the teleonomic properties of living beings appear o challenge one of the basic postulates of the modern theory of knowledge, any philosophical, religious, or scientific view of the world must, ipso facto, offer an implicit if not an explicit solution to this problem.{T]he single hypothesis that modern science here deems acceptable: namely, that invariance necessarily precedes teleonomy. Or, to be more explicit;` the Darwinian idea that the initial appearance, evolution, and steady refinement of ever more intensely teleonomic structures are due to perturbations occurring in a structure which already possesses the property of invariance — hence is capable of (preserving the effects of chance and thereby submitting them to the play of natural selection.

Ranking teleonomy as a secondary property deriving from invariance — alone seen as primary — the selective theory is the only one so far proposed that is consistent with the postulate of objectivity. It is at the same time the only one not merely compatible with modern physics but based squarely upon it, without restrictions or additions. In short, the selective theory of evolution assures the epistemological coherence of biology and gives it its place among the sciences of “objective nature.”
(Chance and Necessity, pp.23-4)

Monod summarizes the history of philosophy more or less as we do (and asKarl Popper does), along the lines of the great division, or dualism, between idealists and materialists.

We see the distinction as between those who think information is an invariant and those who see it as constantly increasing. Monod’s focus onreproductive invariance may prevent him seeing the importance of novelty and creation of new information. Ever since its birth in the Ionian Islands almost three thousand years ago, Western philosophy has been divided between two seemingly opposed attitudes. According to one of them the authentic and ultimate truth of the world can reside only in perfectly immutable forms, by essence unvarying. According to the other, the only real truth resides in flux and evolution. From Plato to Whitehead and from Heraclitus to Hegel and Marx, it is clear that these metaphysical epistemologies were always closely bound up with their authors’ ethical and political biases. These ideological edifices, represented as self-evident to reason, were actually a posteriori constructions designed to justify preconceived ethico-political theories.
(Chance and Necessity, p.99)

Monod on Knowledge and Value

Like many scientists, Monod regards the open search for knowledge and truth as of intrinsic value. Can he go on to make knowledge itself a value in the objective world of “value-free” science? Monod seeks an “ethic of knowledge.”

Must one adopt the position once and for all that objective truth and the theory of values constitute eternally separate, mutually impenetrable domains? This is the attitude taken by a great number of modern thinkers, whether writers, or philosophers, or indeed scientists. For the vast majority of men, whose anxiety it can only perpetuate and worsen, this attitude I believe will not do; I also believe it is absolutely mistaken, and for two essential reasons.First, and obviously, because values and knowledge are always and necessarily associated in action just as in discourse.

Second, and above all, because the very definition of “true” knowledge reposes in the final analysis upon an ethical postulate.

Each of these two points demands some brief clarification.

Ethics and knowledge are inevitably linked in and through action. Action brings knowledge and values simultaneously into play, or into question. All action signifies an ethic, serves or disserves certain values; or constitutes a choice of values, or pretends to. On the other hand, knowledge is necessarily implied in all action, while reciprocally, action is one of the two necessary sources of knowledge.

The moment one makes objectivity the conditio sine qua non of true knowledge, a radical distinction, indispensable to the very search for truth, is established between the domains of ethics and of knowledge. Knowledge in itself is exclusive of all value judgment (all save that of “epistemological value”) whereas ethics, in essence nonobjective, is forever barred from the sphere of knowledge.

The postulate of objectivity…prohibits any confusion of value judgments with judgments arrived at through knowledge. Yet the fact remains that these two categories inevitably unite in the form of action, discourse included. In order to abide by our principle we shall therefore take the position that no discourse or action is to be considered meaningful, authentic unless — or only insofar as — it makes explicit and preserves the distinction between the two categories it combines. Thus defined, the concept of authenticity becomes the common ground where ethics and knowledge meet again; where values and truth, associated but not interchangeable, reveal their full significance to the attentive man alive to their resonance.

In an objective system…any mingling of knowledge with values is unlawful, forbidden. But — and here is the crucial point, the logical link which at their core weds knowledge and values together — this prohibition, this “first commandment” which ensures the foundation of objective knowledge, is not itself objective. It cannot be objective: it is an ethical guideline, a rule for conduct. True knowledge is ignorant of values, but it cannot be grounded elsewhere than upon a value judgment, or rather upon an axiomatic value. It is obvious that the positing of the principle of objectivity as the condition of true knowledgeconstitutes an ethical choice and not a judgment arrived at from knowledge, since, according to the postulate’s own terms, there cannot have been any “true” knowledge prior to this arbitral choice. In order to establish the norm for knowledge the objectivity principle defines a value: that value is objective knowledge itself. Thus, assenting to the principle of objectivity one announces one’s adherence to the basic statement of an ethical system, one asserts the ethic of knowledge.

By the very loftiness of its ambition the ethic of knowledge might perhaps satisfy this urge in man to project toward something higher. It sets forth a transcendent value, true knowledge, and invites him not to use it self-servingly but henceforth to enter into its service from deliberate and conscious choice. At the same time it is also a humanism, for in man it respects the creator and repository of that transcendence.

The ethic of knowledge is also in a sense “knowledge of ethics,” a clear-sighted appreciation of the urges and passions, the requirements and limitations of the biological being. It is able to confront the animal in man, to view him not as absurd but strange, precious in his very strangeness: the creature who, belonging simultaneously to the animal kingdom and the kingdom of ideas, is simultaneously torn and enriched by this agonizing duality, alike expressed in art and poetry and in human love.

Conversely, the animist systems have to one degree or another preferred to ignore, to denigrate or bully biological man, and to instill in him an abhorrence or terror of certain traits inherent in his animal nature. The ethic of knowledge, on the other hand, encourages him to honor and assume this heritage, knowing the while how to dominate it when necessary. As for the highest human qualities, courage, altruism, generosity, creative ambition, the ethic of knowledge both recognizes their sociobiological origin and affirms their transcendent value in the service of the ideal it defines.
(Chance and Necessity, pp.173-9)

Monod’s Historical Error on Chance and Necessity

Monod took the title of his work from a statement by Democritus that he imagined or misremembered (an example of the Cogito Model for human creativity). He opens his book with this quotation,

Everything existing in the Universe is the fruit of chance and necessity. Democritus

Unfortunately, Democritus made no such statement. As the founder of determinism, he and his mentor Leucippus were adamantly opposed to chance or randomness. Leucippus insisted on an absolute necessity which leaves no room in the cosmos for chance.

“Nothing occurs at random (maten), but everything for a reason (logos) and by necessity.”οὐδὲν χρῆμα μάτηῳ γίνεται, ἀλλὰ πάντα ἐκ λόγου τε καὶ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης

See Jacques Monod on I-Phi

Reading Peter van Inwagen

Peter van Inwagen made a significant reputation for himself by bucking the trend among philosophers in most of the twentieth century to accept compatibilism, the idea that free will is compatible with a strict causal determinism.Indeed, van Inwagen has been given credit for rehabilitating the idea of incompatibilism in the last few decades. He explains that the old problem of whether we have free will or whether determinism is true is no longer being debated. In the first chapter of his landmark 1983 book,An Essay on Free Will, van Inwagen says:

1.2 It is difficult to formulate “the problem of free will and determinism” in a way that will satisfy everyone. Once one might have said that the problem of free will and determinism — in those days one would have said ‘liberty and necessity’ — was the problem of discovering whether the human will is free or whether its productions are governed by strict causal necessity. But no one today would be allowed to formulate “the problem of free will and determinism” like that, for this formulation presupposes the truth of a certain thesis about the conceptual relation of free will to determinism that many, perhaps most, present-day philosophers would reject: that free will and determinism are incompatible. Indeed many philosophers hold not only that free will is compatible with determinism but that free will entails determinism. I think it would be fair to say that almost all the philosophical writing on the problem of free will and determinism since the time of Hobbes that is any good, that is of any enduring philosophical interest, has been about this presupposition of the earlier debates about liberty and necessity. It is for this reason that nowadays one must accept as a fait accompli that the problem of finding out whether free will and determinism are compatible is a large part, perhaps the major part, of “the problem of free will and determinism”.
(Essay on Free Will, p.1)

Unfortunately for philosophy, the concept of incompatibilism is very confusing. It contains two opposing concepts, libertarian free will and hard determinism.

And like determinism versus indeterminism, compatibilism versus incompatibilism is a false and unhelpful dichotomy. J. J. C. Smart once claimed he had an exhaustive description of the possibilities, determinism or indeterminism, and that neither one neither allowed for free will. (Since Smart, dozens of others have repeated thisstandard logical argument against free will.)

Van Inwagen has replaced the traditional “horns” of the dilemma of determinism – “liberty” and “necessity” – and now divides the problem further:

I shall attempt to formulate the problem in a way that takes account of this fait accompli by dividing the problem into two problems, which I will call the Compatibility Problem and the Traditional Problem. The Traditional Problem is, of course, the problem of finding out whether we have free will or whether determinism is true. But the very existence of the Traditional Problem depends upon the correct solution to the Compatibility Problem: if free will and determinism are compatible, and,a fortiori, if free will entails determinism, then there is no Traditional Problem, any more than there is a problem about how my sentences can be composed of both English words and Roman letters.
(Essay on Free Will, p.2)

Van Inwagen defines determinism very simply. “Determinism is quite simply the thesis that the past determines a unique future.” (p. 2)He concludes that such a Determinism is not true, because we could not then be responsiblefor our actions, which would all be simply the consequences of events in the distant past that were not “up to us.”This approach, known as van Inwagen’s Consequence Argument, is the perennialDeterminism Objection in the standard argument against free will.

Note that in recent decades the debates about free will have been largely replaced by debates about moral responsibility. Since Peter Strawson, many philosophers have claimed to be agnostic on the traditional problem of free will and determinism and focus on whether the concept of moral responsibility itself exists. Some say that, like free will itself, moral responsibility is an illusion. Van Inwagen is not one of those. He hopes to establish free will.
Van Inwagen also notes that quantum mechanics shows indeterminism to be “true.” He is correct. But we still have a very powerful and “adequate” determinism. It is this adequate determinism that R. E. Hobart and others have recognized we need when they say that “Free Will Involves Determination and is Inconceivable Without It.” Our will and actions are determined. It is the future alternative possibilities in our thoughts that are undetermined.Sadly, many philosophers mistake indeterminism to imply that nothing is causal and therefore that everything is completely random.This is the Randomness Objection in the standard argument.

Van Inwagen states his Consequence Argumentas follows:

“If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.” (Essay on Free Will, 1983, p.16)

Exactly how this differs from the arguments of centuries of Libertarians is not clear, but van Inwagen is given a great deal of credit in the contemporary literature for this obvious argument. See for example, Carl Ginet’s article “Might We Have No Choice?” in Freedom and Determinism, Ed. K. Lehrer, 1966.We note that apparently Ginet also thought his argument was original. What has happened to philosophers today that they so ignore the history of philosophy?

Van Inwagen offers several concise observations leading up to his Consequence Argument, including concerns about the terminology used (which concerns arise largely because of his variations on the traditional problem terminology).

Determinism may now be defined: it is the thesis that there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future.Let us now see what can be done about defining free will.
I use the term ‘free will’ out of respect for tradition.

When I say of a man that he “has free will” I mean that very often, if not always, when he has to choose between two or more mutually incompatible courses of action — such that he can, or is able to, or has it within his power to carry out.

It is in these senses that I shall understand ‘free will’ and ‘determinism’. I shall argue that free will is incompatible with determinism. It will be convenient to call this thesis incompatibilism and to call the thesis that free will and determinism are compatible compatibilism.

I have no use for the terms ’soft determinism’, ‘hard determinism; and ‘libertarianism’. I do not object to these terms on the ground that they are vague or ill-defined. They can be easily defined by means of the terms we shall use and are thus no worse in that respect than our terms.

van Inwagen does not seem to mind that “incompatibilism” lumps together opposite schools – hard determinists and libertarians

Soft determinism is the conjunction of determinism and compatibilism; hard determinism is the conjunction of determinism and incompatibilism; libertarianism is the conjunction of incompatibilism and the thesis that we have free will.

I object to these terms because they lump together theses that should be discussed and analysed separately. They are therefore worse than useless and ought to be dropped from the working vocabulary of philosophers.

‘Contra-causal freedom’ might mean the sort of freedom, if freedom it would be, that someone would enjoy if his acts were uncaused. But that someone’s acts are undetermined does not entail that they are uncaused.

Incompatibilism can hardly be said to be a popular thesis among present-day philosophers (the “analytic” ones, at any rate). Yet it has its adherents and has had more of them in the past. It is, however, surprisingly hard to find any arguments for it. That many philosophers have believed something controversial without giving any arguments for it is perhaps not surprising; what is surprising is that no arguments have been given when arguments are so easy to give.

Perhaps the explanation is simply that the arguments are so obvious that no one has thought them worth stating. If that is so, let us not be afraid of being obvious. Here is an argument that I think is obvious (I don’t mean it’s obviously right; I mean it’s one that should occur pretty quickly to any philosopher who asked himself what arguments could be found to support incompatibilism):

we call this theDeterminism Objection

If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.I shall call this argument the Consequence Argument.

we call this theRandomness Objection

[What van Inwagen calls] The Mindargument proceeds by identifying indeterminism with chance and by arguing that an act that occurs by chance, if an event that occurs by chance can be called an act, cannot be under the control of its alleged agent and hence cannot have been performed freely. Proponents of [this argument] conclude, therefore, that free will is not only compatible with determinism but entails determinism. (p.16)

Note that van Inwagen’s Mind argument adds the second horn of the dilemma of determinism. He named it the Mind Argument after the philosophical journal Mindwhere objections to chance were often published.Thus van Inwagen’s Consequence and Mind Arguments are the two parts of the standard argument against free will.

Although van Inwagen is famous for the first horn of the dilemma, the determinism objection to free will (also known as the Direct Argument), he has also contributed significantly to the second – and much more difficult to reconcile – randomness objection. (also known as theIndirect Argument).

Free Will Remains a Mystery for van Inwagen

Van Inwagen dramatized his understanding of the indeterministic brain events needed foragent causation by imagining God “replaying” a situation to create exactly the same circumstances and then arguing that decisions would reflect the indeterministic probabilities. He mistakenly assumes that possibilities translate directly into probabilities.He also mistakenly assumes that random possibilities directly cause human actions.

Now let us suppose that God a thousand times caused the universe to revert to exactly the state it was in at t1 (and let us suppose that we are somehow suitably placed, metaphysically speaking, to observe the whole sequence of “replays”). What would have happened? What should we expect to observe? Well, again, we can’t say what would have happened, but we can say what would probably have happened: sometimes Alice would have lied and sometimes she would have told the truth. As the number of “replays” increases, we observers shall — almost certainly — observe the ratio of the outcome “truth” to the outcome “lie” settling down to, converging on, some value. We may, for example, observe that, after a fairly large number of replays, Alice lies in thirty percent of the replays and tells the truth in seventy percent of them—and that the figures ‘thirty percent’ and ’seventy percent’ become more and more accurate as the number of replays increases. But let us imagine the simplest case: we observe that Alice tells the truth in about half the replays and lies in about half the replays. If, after one hundred replays, Alice has told the truth fifty-three times and has lied forty-eight times, we’d begin strongly to suspect that the figures after a thousand replays would look something like this: Alice has told the truth four hundred and ninety-three times and has lied five hundred and eight times. Let us suppose that these are indeed the figures after a thousand [1001] replays. Is it not true that as we watch the number of replays increase we shall become convinced that what will happen in the next replay is a matter of chance.
(”Free Will Remains a Mystery,” in Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 14, 2000, p.14)

Van Inwagen reveals that he clearly thinks that indeterminism directly results in actions. No wonder on his account that “free will remains a mystery!”He repeated the argument more recently:

If God caused Marie’s decision to be replayed a very large number of times, sometimes (in thirty percent of the replays, let us say) Marie would have agent-caused the crucial brain event and sometimes (in seventy percent of the replays, let us say) she would not have… I conclude that even if an episode of agent causation is among the causal antecedents of every voluntary human action, these episodes do nothing to undermine the prima facie impossibility of an undetermined free act.
(”Van Inwagen on Free Will,” in Freedom and Determinism, 2004, ed. Joseph Keim Campbell, et al., p.227)

Van Inwagen, Kane, and Compatibilism compared to the Cogito Model

Robert Kane has argued that randomnmess in the decision need not be there all the time, just enough to be able to say we are not completely determined. Even if just a small percentage of decisions are random, we could not be responsible for them.We can make a quantitative comparison of the outcome of 1000 thought experiments (or “instant replays” by God as van Inwagen imagines) that shows how the indeterminism in the Cogito Model is limited to generating alternative possibilities for action.

Van Inwagen’s results after 1000 experiments are approximately 500 times when Alice lies and 500 times when Alice tells the truth.

Robert Kane is well aware of the problem that chance reduces moral responsibility, especially in his sense of Ultimate Responsibility (UR).

In order to keep some randomness but add rationality, Kane says perhaps only some small percentage of decisions will be random, thus breaking the deterministic causal chain, but keeping most decisions predictable. Laura Ekstrom and others follow Kane with some indeterminism in the decision.

Let’s say randomness enters Kane’s decisions only ten percent of the time. The other ninety percent of the time, determinism is at work. In those cases, presumably Alice tells the truth. Then Alice’s 500 random lies in van Inwagen’s first example would become only 50.

But this in no way explains moral responsibility for those few cases.

Compare the Information Philosophy Cogito model, which agrees with compatibilism/determinism except in cases where something genuinely new and valuable emerges as a consequence of randomness.

In our two-stage model, we have first “free” – random possibilities, then “will” – adequately determined evaluation of options and selection of the “best” option.

Alice’s random generation of alternative possibilities will include 50 percent of options that are truth-telling, and 50 percent lies.

Alice’s adequately determined will evaluates these possibilities based on her character, values, and current desires.

In the Cogito model, she will almost certainly tell the truth. So it predicts almost the same outcome as a compatibilist/determinist model.

The Cogito model is not identical, however, since it can generate new alternatives.

It is possible that among the genuinely new alternative possibilities generated, there will be some that determinism could not have produced.

It may be that Alice will find one of these options consistent with her character, values, desires, and the current situation she is in. One might include a pragmatic lie, to stay with van Inwagen’s example.

In a more positive example, it may include a creative new idea that information-preserving determinism could not produce.

Alice’s thinking might bring new information into the universe. And she can legitimately accept praise (or blame) for that new action or thought that originates with her.

To summarize the results:

Van Inwagen Kane Cogito Compatiblism
Alice tells truth 500 950 1000* 1000
Alice lies 500 50 0* 0

* (Alice tells the truth unless a good reason emerges from her free deliberations in the Cogito Model, in which case, to stay with van Inwagen’s actions, she might tell a pragmatic lie.)

We should also note the Moral Luck criticism of actions that have a random component in their source.

Alfred Mele would perhaps object that the alternative possibilities depend on luck, and that this compromises moral responsibility.

On the Cogito Model view, Mele is right with respect to moral responsibility. But Mele is wrong that luck compromises free will.

Free will and creativity may very well depend on fortuitous circumstances, having the new idea “coming to mind” at the right time, as Mele says.

The universe we live in includes chance and therefore luck, including moral luck, is very real, but not a valid objection to our libertarian free will model (or Mele’s “modest libertarianism”).

How to Think about the Problem of Free Will
Van Inwagen recently produced a very clear proposal for thinking about free will. It is a paper to appear in The Journal of Ethics entitled How to Think about the Problem of Free Will.It starts with a very concise wording of the Standard Argument against Free Willthat includes the Determinism, Randomness, and Responsibility Objections.

There are seemingly unanswerable arguments that (if they are indeed unanswerable) demonstrate that free will is incompatible withdeterminism.And there are seemingly unanswerable arguments that (if indeed . . . ) demonstrate that free will is incompatible withindeterminism.

But if free will is incompatible both with determinism and indeterminism, the concept “free will” is incoherent, and the thing free will does not exist.

There are, moreover, seemingly unanswerable arguments that, if they are correct, demonstrate that the existence of moral responsibilityentails the existence of free will, and, therefore, if free will does not exist, moral responsibility does not exist either. It is, however, evident that moral responsibility does exist.

Van Inwagen concludes:

It must, therefore, be that at least one of the following three things is true:

The seemingly unanswerable arguments for the incompatibility of free will and determinism are in fact answerable; these arguments are fallaciousThe seemingly unanswerable arguments for the incompatibility of free will and indeterminism are in fact answerable; these arguments are fallacious.

we call this theResponsibility Objection

The seemingly unanswerable arguments for the conclusion that the existence of moral responsibility entails the existence of free will are in fact answerable; these arguments are fallacious.

The “problem of free will” is just this problem (this is my proposal): to find out which of these arguments is fallacious, and to enable us to identify the fallacy or fallacies on which they depend.

Van Inwagen recognizes that the philosophical discussions of free will are clouded by the use of vague terminology. He recommends some terms be avoided – ‘libertarianism’, ‘hard determinism’, and soft ‘determinism’ – and that terms be confined to ‘the free-will thesis’, ‘determinism’, ‘compatibilism’ and ‘incompatibilism.’ He says

There is a tendency among writers on free will to oppose ‘compatibilism’ and ‘libertarianism’; but the fundamental opposition is between compatibilism and incompatibilism.Here is a major example (not entirely unconnected with my minor example). Philosophers who use the term ‘libertarianism’ apparently face an almost irresistible temptation to speak of ‘libertarian free will.’

What is this libertarian free will they speak of? What does the phrase ‘libertarian free will’ mean?

Although van Inwagen says he has presented the free-will problem “in a form in which it is possible to think about it without being constantly led astray by bad terminology and confused ideas,” he himself is apparently confused by the ambiguous term incompatibilism.Incompatibilists are of two opposing types; libertarians who take incompatibilism plus the free will thesis to mean that determinism is not true, and determinists who deny the free will thesisbecausedeterminism is true.So “libertarian free will” and “compatibilist free will” nicely distinguish between an indeterminist view of free will and the view that free will is compatible with determinism.

And it is impossible to define a libertarian with just one of van Inwagen’s set of terms.

van Inwagen makes his confusion clear:

Noun-phrases like ‘free will’ and ‘compatibilist free will’ and ‘libertarian free will’ are particularly difficult for me. I find it difficult to see what sort of thing such phrases are supposed to denote. In serious philosophy, I try never to use an abstract noun or noun-phrase unless it’s clear what ontological category the thing it purports to denote belongs to. For many abstract noun-phrases, it’s not at all clear what sort of thing they’re supposed to denote, and I therefore try to use such phrases only in introductory passages, passages in which the reader’s attention is being engaged and a little mush doesn’t matter.

Van Inwagen then looks closely at the noun phrase “free will” and asserts that it always means the same thing, that the agent is/was able to do otherwise.

‘free will’, ‘incompatibilist free will’, ‘compatibilist free will’ and ‘libertarian free will’ are four names for one and the same thing. If this thing is a property, they are four names for the property is on some occasions able to do otherwise. If this thing is a power or ability, they are four names for the power or ability to do otherwise than what one in fact does.All compatibilists I know of believe in free will. Many incompatibilists (just exactly the libertarians: that’s how ‘libertarian’ is defined) believe in free will. And it’s one and the same thing they believe in.

This seems to be word jugglery. Libertarians and compatibilists are using the same noun phrase, but they are denoting two different models for free will, two different ways that free will might operate. Free will is not just the words in a set of propositions to be adjudicated true or false by analytic language philosophers.

John Locke explicitly warned us of the potential confusion in such noun phrases, and carefully distinguished the freedom in “free” from the determined “will.” Van Inwagen’s problem stems in part from taking this phrase to be a single entity.In Latin and all the romance languages, as well as the Germanic languages – in short, all the major philosophical languages (excepting the Greek of Aristotle, before the Stoics created the problem we have today and Chrysippus invented compatibilism) – the concept of free will is presented as a complex of two simple ideas– free and will.

liberum arbitrium, libre arbitre (French), libera volontà (Italian), livre arbítrio (Portuguese), va gratuit (Romanian), libre voluntad (Spanish)Willensfreiheit (German), fri vilje (Danish), vrije wil (Dutch), fri vilja (Swedish)

ελεύθερη βούληση (Greek), свободную волю (Russian), स्वतंत्र इच्छा (Hindi).

Even some non-Indo-European languages combine two elementary concepts – vapaasta tahdosta (Finnish).

Polish – woli – is an exception to the rule.

The reason Aristotle did not conflate freedom with will, according to his fourth-century commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias, was because for Aristotle the problem was always framed in terms of responsibility, whether our actions are “up to us” (in Aristotle’s Greek ἐφ ἡμῖν), whether the causes behind our actions, including Aristotelian accidents (συμβεβεκός), come from within us (ἐν ἡμῖν).

Coming back to van Inwagen, he then asks what it is that libertarians, including himself, really want. For one thing, he wishes that free will could be compatible with determinism. “It would be so simple,” he says. But reason has convinced him it is incompatible.Will van Inwagen be satisfied to learn that free will is compatible with the adequate determinismthat we really have in the world? And that the microscopic indeterminism that we have need not be the direct cause of our actions?

Let us turn from what libertarians want to have to what they want to be true. Do libertarians want libertarianism to be true? Well, libertarianism is the conjunction of the free-will thesis and incompatibilism. To want libertarianism to be true, therefore, would be to want both the free-will thesis and incompatibilism to be true. I will stipulate, as the lawyers say, that libertarians want the free-will thesis to be true. (And who wouldn’t? Even hard determinists, or most of them, seem to regard the fact — they think it’s a fact — that we do not have free will as a matter for regret.)But do libertarians want incompatibilism to be true? Perhaps some do. I can say only that I don’t want incompatibilism to be true. Just as hard determinists regard the non-existence of free will as a matter for regret, I regard the fact — I think it’s a fact — that free will is incompatible with determinism as a matter for regret. But reason has convinced me that free will is incompatible with determinism, and I have to accept the deliverances of reason, however unpalatable they may be. I should think that any philosopher in his or her right mind would want compatibilism to be true. It would make everything so simple. But we can’t always have what we want and things are not always simple.

Sadly, incompatibilist libertarians have been right about indeterministic freedom, but wrong about the Will, which must be adequately determined.And compatibilists have been right about the adequately determined Will, and wrong about indeterminist Freedom, which is never the direct cause of human actions.

See the Cogito model for more details.

Van Inwagen then congratulates himself for having reintroduced the standard argument for the incompatibilism of free will and determinism. As our history of the free will problem shows, this argument has been around since Epicurus.

The Consequence Argument is my name for the standard argument (various more-or-less equivalent versions of the argument have been formulated by C. D. Broad, R. M. Chisholm, David Wiggins, Carl Ginet, James Lamb, and myself) for the incompatibility. It is beyond the scope of this paper seriously to discuss the Consequence Argument. I will, however, make a sociological point. Before the Consequence Argument was well known (Broad had formulated an excellent version of it in the 1930s, but no one was listening), almost all philosophers who had a view on the matter were compatibilists. It’s probably still true that most philosophers are compatibilists. But it’s also true that the majority of philosophers who have a specialist’s knowledge of the ins and outs of the free-will problem are incompatibilists. And this change is due entirely to the power, the power to convince, the power to move the intellect, of the Consequence Argument. If, therefore, the Consequence Argument is fallacious (in some loose sense; it certainly contains no logical fallacy), the fallacy it embodies is no trivial one. Before the Consequence Argument was well known, most philosophers thought that incompatibilists (such incompatibilists as there were) were the victims of a logical “howler” that could be exposed in a paragraph or two.

[Eddy Nahmias, in a post called Counting Heads on the Garden of Forking Paths blog, has surveyed philosophers and finds the ratio of compatibilists to incompatibilists (2:1) to be about the same in the general and specialist populations.]

Van Inwagen concludes:

The problem of free will, I believe, confronts us philosophers with a great mystery. Under it our genius is rebuked. But confronting a mystery is no excuse for being in a muddle. In accusing others of muddle, I do not mean to imply that that they are muddled because they do not believe what I do about free will. I do not mean to imply that they are muddled because they are compatibilists.

Describing the problem of free will as whether compatibilism or incompatibilism is true – a redescription that van Inwagen takes most of the credit for – is likely a major contribution to the philosophical muddle we find ourselves in.

See Peter van Inwagen on I-Phi

Reading Randolph Clarke

From Randolph Clarke’s web page at Florida State University

My primary research interests are issues concerning human agency, particularly intentional action, free will, and moral responsibility. I’ve also written on practical reason, mental causation, and dispositions.I favor a causal theory of action, on which something counts as an intentional action in virtue of being appropriately caused by mental events of certain sorts, such as the agent’s having an intention with pertinent content. This kind of action theory takes human agency to be a natural phenomenon, something of a kind with (even if differing in sophistication from) the agency of many non-human animals.

Many philosophers have thought that free and morally responsible action would be ruled out if our actions were causally determined by prior events. My book, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will, examines whether indeterminism of any sort is more hospitable. Though I defend libertarian views (accounts requiring indeterminism) from several common objections, I argue that none of these accounts is adequate. If responsibility isn’t compatible with determinism, then, I think, it isn’t possible.

Clarke introduced the terms “broad incompatibilism” and “narrow incompatibilism.” A narrow incompatibilist is an incompatibilist on free will and a compatibilist on moral responsibility. A broad incompatibilist sees determinism as incompatible with both free will and moral responsibility.Narrow incompatibilism resembles John Martin Fischer’s term semicompatibilism.Semicompatibilism is the idea that moral responsibilityis compatible with determinism.The term “incompatibilism” is used to characterize both determinists and libertarians.

Thus broad incompatibilism resembles Derek Pereboom’s term “hard incompatibilism.” Hard incompatibilism is the idea that free will and moral responsibility do not exist. Some hard incompatibilists like Saul Smilanskyand Daniel Wegner call free will an illusion.

Like many philosophers, Clarke tends to equate moral responsibility with simple responsibility or accountability, that is, being the cause of an action.

In recent years, it has come to be a matter of some dispute whether moral responsibility requires free will, where the latter is understood as requiring anability to do otherwise.I shall not take sides here in these disputes. I treat the thesis that responsibility is incompatible with the truth of determinism as a separate claim, and I call incompatibilism without this further claim “narrow.” Narrow incompatibilism holds that free will, understood as indicated above, is incompatible with determinism, but it (at least) allows that responsibility and determinism may be compatible. I call the position that free will and determinism are not compatible but responsibility and determinism are compatible “merely narrow incompatibilism.” A semicompatibilist may endorse merely narrow incompatibilism, but she need not, as she may remain uncommitted on the question whether determinism precludes the ability to do otherwise. I call the view that both free will and responsibility are incompatible with determinism “broad incompatibilism.” (Libertarian Accounts of Free Will, p.11)

The technical language of philosophers specializing in free will is a total mess, quite opposite to the stated goal of analytic language philosophy to make conceptual analysis clear. This makes it very difficult for outsiders (and some insiders) to follow their contentious debates.

Conceptual analysis would be much easier if a more careful separation of concepts was made, for example “free” from “will,” and “free will” from “moral responsibility.”

Clarke’s Objections to Dennett, Mele, Ekstrom, Kane and our Cogito Model.

Clarke defines additional new terms in his Libertarian Accounts of Free Will. He calls Daniel Dennett’s two-stage model of decision making “deliberative,” since quantum randomness internal to the mind is limited to the deliberations. And he calls Robert Kane’s model “centered,” by which he means the quantum randomness is in the center of the decision itself.Clarke accepts the Kane and Ekstrom views that if the agent’s decision simply results from the events in the deliberation phase that that could not be what he calls “directly free.” Clarke calls this deliberative freedom “indirect.”

“Indirectly free” is a reasonable description for our Cogito Model, which has indeterminism in the “free” deliberation stage and “adequate” determinismin the “will” stage.

Although Clarke says that a “centered event-causal libertarian view provides a conceptually adequate account of free will,” he doubts that it can provide for moral responsibility. He says that

An event-causal libertarian view secures ultimate control, which no compatibilist account provides. But the secured ultimacy is wholly negative: it is just (on a centered view) a matter of the absence of any determining cause of a directly free action. The active control that is exercised on such a view is just the same as that exercised on an event-causal compatibilist account.

It is a bit puzzling to see how the active control of a libertarian decision based on quantum randomness is “just the same as that exercised” on a compatibilist account, unless it means, as Double argued, no control at all. So it may be worth quoting Clarke at length.

Dennett requires only that the coming to mind of certain beliefs be undetermined; Mele maintains that (in combination with the satisfaction of compatibilist requirements) this would suffice, as would the undetermined coming to mind of certain desires.Likewise, on Ekstrom’s view, we have undetermined actions — the formations of preferences — among the causes of free decisions. But she does not require that these preference-formations either be or result from free actions. Nor can she require this. Any free action, she holds, must be preceded by a preference-formation. An infinite regress would be generated if these preference-formations had to either be or result from free actions. And a similar regress would result if Dennett or Mele required that the undetermined comings-to-mind, attendings, or makings of judgments that figure in their accounts had to either be or result from free actions.

Thus, given the basic features of these views, all three must allow that an action can be free even if it is causally determined and none of its causes, direct or indirect, is a free action by that agent. Setting aside the authors currently under discussion, it appears that all libertarians disallow such a thing. What might be the basis for this virtual unanimity?

When an agent acts with direct freedom — freedom that is not derived from the freedom of any earlier action— she is able to do other than what she, in fact, does. Incompatibilists (libertarians included) maintain that, if events prior to one’s birth (indirectly) causally determine all of one’s actions, then one is never able to do other than perform the actions that one actually performs, for one is never able to prevent either those earlier events or the obtaining of the laws of nature.

Clarke now claims that even prior events thought up freely by the agent during deliberations will “determine” the agent’s decision. This is roughly what the Cogito Model claims. After indeterminism in the “free” deliberation stage, we need “adequate” determinism in the “will” stage to insure that our actions are consistent with our character and values (including Kane’s SFAs), with our habits and (Ekstrom’s) preferences, and with our current feelings and desires.Clarke oddly attempts to equate events prior to our births with events in our deliberations, claiming that they are equally determinist. He says,

If this is correct, then a time-indexed version of the same claim is correct, too. If events that have occurred by time t causally determine some subsequent action, then the agent is not able at t to do other than perform that action, for one is not able at tto prevent either events that have occurred by t or the obtaining of the laws of nature. An incompatibilist will judge, then, that, on Dennett’s and Mele’s views, it is allowed that once the agent has made an evaluative judgment, she is not able to do other than make the decision that she will, in fact, make, and that, on Ekstrom’s view, it is allowed that once the preference is formed, again the agent is not able to avoid making the decision that she will, in fact, make. If direct freedom requires that, until an action is performed, the agent be able to do otherwise, then these views do not secure the direct freedom of such decisions.Mele confronts this line of thinking head-on. Some libertarians, he acknowledges, do hold that a decision is directly free only if, until it is made, the agent is able to do other than make that decision, where this is taken to require that, until the action occurs, there is a chance that it will not occur. But such a position, Mele charges, is “mere dogmatism” (1995a: 218). It generates the problem of control that he (along with Dennett and Ekstrom) seeks to evade, and hence libertarians would do well to reject this position.

There is, however, a decisive reason for libertarians not to reject this position, a reason that stems from the common belief — one held by compatibilists and incompatibilists alike — that, in acting freely, agents make a difference, by exercises of active control, to how things go. The difference is made, on this common conception, in the performance of a directly free action itself, not in the occurrence of some event prior to the action, even if that prior event is an agent-involving occurrence causation of the action by which importantly connects the agent, as a person, to her action. On a libertarian understanding of this difference-making, some things that happen had a chance of not happening, and some things that do not happen had a chance of happening, and in performing directly free actions, agents make the difference. If an agent is, in the very performance of a free action, to make a difference in this libertarian way, then that action itself must not be causally determined by its immediate antecedents. In order to secure this libertarian variety of difference-making, an account must locate openness and freedom-level active control in the same event — the free action itself — rather separate these two as do deliberative libertarian views.

On the views of Dennett, Ekstrom, and Mele, agents might be said to make a difference between what happens but might not have and what does not happen but might have, but such a difference is made in the occurrence of something nonactive or unfree prior to the action that is said to be free, not in the performance of the allegedly free action itself. Failure to secure for directly free actions this libertarian variety of difference-making constitutes a fundamental inadequacy of deliberative libertarian accounts of free action.
(Libertarian Accounts of Free Will, p.63-4)

We need only extend the process of decision to include everything from the start of freedeliberations to the moment of willed choice to see that the Cogito Model allows the agent to make a real difference. The agent is justified saying “I could have done otherwise,” “This action was up to me,” and “I am the originator of my actions and the author of my life.”Clarke goes on to consider his “centered” event-causal view, and initially claims that it provides an adequate account of free will, but his “adequate” is damning with faint praise.

Clarke finds a “conceptually adequate account of free will” for narrow, but not for broad, incompatibilism. His “centered” account, like that of Kanevan InwagenEkstrom, andBalaguer, includes indeterminism in the decision itself. It is not limited to deliberations as in most two-stage models.

If merely narrow incompatibilism is correct, then an unadorned, centered event-causal libertarian view provides a conceptually adequate account of free will. Such a view provides adequately for fully rational free action and for the rational explanation — simple, as well as contrastive — of free action. The indeterminism required by such a view does not diminish the active control that is exercised when one acts. Given incompatibilism of this variety, a libertarian account of this type secures both the openness of alternatives and the exercise of active control that are required for free will.

It is thus unnecessary to restrict indeterminism, as deliberative accounts do, to locations earlier in the processes leading to free actions. Indeed, so restricting indeterminism undermines the adequacy of an event-causal view. Any adequate libertarian account must locate the openness of alternatives and freedom-level active control in the same event — in a directly free action itself. For this reason, an adequate event-causal view must require that a directly free action be nondeterministically caused by its immediate causal antecedents.

If, on the other hand, broad incompatibilism is correct, then no event-causal account is adequate. An event-causal libertarian view secures ultimate control, which no compatibilist account provides. But the secured ultimacy is wholly negative: it is just (on a centered view) a matter of the absence of any determining cause of a directly free action. The active control that is exercised on such a view is just the same as that exercised on an event-causal compatibilist account.

This sort of libertarian view fails to secure the agent’s exercise of any further positive powers to causally influence which of the alternative courses of events that are open will become actual. For this reason, if moral responsibility is precluded by determinism, the freedom required for responsibility is not secured by any event-causal libertarian account. (pp.219-20)