There are two theories of free will that are often discussed in relation to ethical responsibility. The first is usually called �libertarianism,� and it is typical of Arminian theology. Many philosophers have also argued for it, from Epicurus in ancient times to C. A. Campbell, H. D. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga and many others recently. Indeed, it seems to be something of a consensus among Christian philosophers today that one cannot do justice to moral responsibility without presupposing a libertarian view of freedom.
The libertarian view states that some human decisions and actions, particularly moral and religious decisions, are strictly uncaused. In the most sophisticated forms of libertarianism, these decisions are not even caused by our desires or character. They are very insistent on this: a truly free act is not an act which carries out our strongest desire; it rather, typically, goes against our strongest desire. The libertarian is aware, of course, that our desires are largely a function of our heredity, environment, past decisions and so on. If free decisions are based on desires, he thinks, they are not fully free. They are not in this case wholly uncaused.
The libertarian argues that such a view is essential to moral responsibility. For no one is responsible for an act unless he �could have done otherwise.� If I am strapped to a robotic machine which, using my arms, robs a bank, I am not to blame for robbing the bank. I �could not have done otherwise.� Such is the libertarian argument.
I have always felt that this position lacked cogency. For one thing, it denies the rule of God�s sovereignty over the hearts and decisions of human beings, a rule which I find abundantly attested in Scripture (see my lectures on the Doctrine of God). Indeed, in saying that human actions can be �uncaused,� it attributes to man ultimate causality; but in Christianity, only God is the first cause.
For another thing, libertarianism seems to me to be unintelligible on its own terms, for it makes our moral choices accidental. R. E. Hobart, in a famous article from the 1930s, wrote to the effect that on the libertarian basis, a moral choice is like my feet popping out of my bed without my desiring them to, and carrying me where I don�t want to go. The attempt to separate decisions from desires is psychologically perverse.
Further, libertarianism, rather than guaranteeing moral responsibility, actually destroys it. How can we be held responsible for decisions, if those decisions are �psychological accidents,� unconnected with any of our desires? Indeed, such a situation would, precisely, negate all responsibility. Certainly it is difficult to imagine being held responsible for something we really didn�t want to do.
And libertarianism would make a hash of ethical and legal evaluation. In order to prove that someone was responsible for a decision or act, we would have to prove that decision or act was uncaused! And how can you prove a negative like that? In fact, as we actually practice ethics and law, causation as such is never a factor in judgment, and indeed it could not be. Certain kinds of causation (like the robot machine I described above) do remove responsibility; but causation itself does not.
An alternative concept of freedom, one consistent with Reformed theology and held by a number of philosophers (the Stoics, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Hobart, Richard Double et al) is often called �compatibilism,� for on that basis, free will and determinism (the view that all events in creation are caused) are compatible. Compatibilism maintains simply that in making moral decisions we are free to do what we want to do, to follow our desires. As such, compatibilism is the precise opposite of libertarianism, which holds that freedom requires independence from desire itself.
Reformed theology recognizes that all people have freedom in the compatibilist sense. Adam before the Fall acted according to his desires, which then were godly. After the fall, sinners still act according to their desires, but those desires are sinful. The redeemed are enabled by God�s grace, and progressively, to desire things which are excellent; and they are free to act according to those desires. The glorified saints in heaven will have only pure desires, and they will act in accordance with those.
I believe that compatibilist freedom is the main kind of freedom necessary to moral responsibility. There are other kinds of freedom, however, which are also important theologically and ethically. For example, I believe that human beings have a certain freedom to transcend their heredity and environment, so that although these factors may constitute moral challenges, tests, even temptations, we may not use them as excuses for sin. We may not claim to be �determined� by heredity or environment so that we deny our responsibility before God.
Another important kind of freedom is freedom from sin itself. That is the usual meaning of �freedom� in Scripture, as in John 8:32,36. In this sense, fallen man is in bondage, not able to avoid sinning. Only the grace of Christ can set him free. In this sense, sinful decisions are not free decisions, although they are free in the �compatibilist� sense. Does this bondage compromise the sinner�s moral responsibility? Certainly not according to Scripture.
If we have difficulty here, it may be because we fail to understand the nature of the sinner�s bondage. It is a moral and spiritual bondage, not a metaphysical, physical or psychological bondage. If, as in my robot-machine illustration, someone is physically forced to do something he doesn�t want to do, then of course his bondage removes his responsibility for the act. Confronted with his �deed,� the person would have a valid excuse: �I couldn�t help it; I was physically forced to do it.� But imagine someone coming before a human judge and saying, to excuse himself of a crime, �I couldn�t help it, your honor; I was forced to do it by my nature. Since birth I�ve just been a rotten guy!� Surely there is something ironic about appealing to depravity to excuse depraved acts! If our defendant really is a �rotten guy,� then, far from being an excuse, that is all the more reason to lock him up! My point, then, is that although physical (and some other kinds of) bondage can furnish valid excuses for otherwise bad actions, moral bondage is not such an excuse. I can�t imagine anyone disputing that proposition once he understands it.
So, there are several different concepts of freedom: libertarianism, compatibilism, moral transcendence of environment, freedom from sin. Indeed, there are many others, too. We speak of �freedom� whenever there is an ability to overcome some potential obstacle. Economic freedom is the ability to purchase and invest, despite the difficulties of achieving it. Physical freedom of various sorts exists when the body is not restrained, e.g., by ropes or prison bars. Legal freedom is the ability to do something without being guilty of a crime, and so on. It is a good idea for us to remember how ambiguous the term �freedom� is. When someone makes an issue of it, we may legitimately ask that person to define what concept of freedom he has in mind.
And we ourselves should try harder to be clear. When you preach evangelistically, noting the proper Calvinist and biblical emphasis on the sinner�s inability, how do you present that? Simply to say that the sinner �cannot� receive Christ is misleading. In many senses he can, and should: he is physically and mentally able; he is not forced to remain a sinner contrary to his desires; nor is he �unable� in the sense that we have some knowledge that divine grace will forever be denied. The sinner�s inability is moral and spiritual; indeed, as we have seen, it is an inability for which he is himself responsible.
Simply to say �you cannot receive Christ� is to motivate a passive response at best, one which simply waits for God to do something. But that is not the response required by New Testament preaching, or by Reformed preaching at its best. The response required is �repent, believe and be baptized.� The sinner is to act, not to wait for God to make him act. Of course if he does act, then we know that God has acted too!
Another area of confusion: I don�t know how many times I have asked candidates for licensure and ordination whether we are free from God�s decree, and they have replied, �No, because we are fallen.� That is to confuse libertarianism (freedom from God�s decree, ability to act without cause) with freedom from sin. In the former case, the fall is entirely irrelevant. Neither before nor after the fall did Adam have freedom in the libertarian sense. But freedom from sin is something different. Adam had that before the fall, but lost it as a result of the fall.
by Ted Honderich
-- the Determinism and Freedom Philosophy Website --
This sums up a lot of T.H.'s past words elsewhere -- in the very large book A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience and Life-Hopes and also the first edition of How Free Are You? It is against the idea that determinism is logically consistent with free will and moral responsibility, and also against the idea, as turns out to be possible to be, that these things are logically inconsistent. It gives a background to the papers Determinism: Compatibilism, Incompatibilism, and the Smart Aleck and Determinism as True, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism as Both False, and the Real Problem. Truth to tell, though, it has been a little overtaken by further thoughts -- most of them in the second edition of How Free Are You?
This paper is a sketch of a deterministic philosophy of mind and then of its consequences for the fundamental part of our moral lives which has to do with moral responsibility. (1) In its first part, to be a little more precise, this somewhat unfashionable theory presents our human actions as effects of certain causal sequences. In these there occur the antecedents of the actions -- decisions and intentions and also the neural events which go with them -- all of which antecedent events are themselves effects of yet earlier parts of the causal sequence. Some of these yet earlier parts are environmental, and others are bodily events in the life of the individual.
This would not be a determinism in an interesting or traditional sense if it involved a loose idea of an effect. There have been a number of such ideas, the most recent being of an event made no more than probable by antecedents. (2) Here what causes something else does no more than make it probable. An effect of this kind, however probable it was, was in the end a chance event, an inexplicable event. It is inexplicable because given the world exactly as it was, the event might as well not have happened. Thus it seems to me that we do not here have our standard idea of an effect. Whether or not there are mysteries, standard effects are not mysteries.
Whatever may be the truth about our standard idea of an effect, my idea of one is of a necessitated event, an event necessitated by what I shall call a causal circumstance. That is not exactly what is sometimes meant by talk of a causally sufficient condition. What is meant by saying that a circumstance was a causal circumstance or necessitated a certain event, in part and roughly, is as follows. Since or given that the circumstance occurred, whatever else had been happening, the event would still have occurred. Like much else that I shall have to say, this could be technically elaborated, but need not be now. (3) In general, the view is that causal connections are real or in the world, although evidently they are not things in an ordinary sense and they do not involve mysterious powers. Nor are they logical or conceptual connections. The most fundamental of them are such as to be reported by conditional statements of the form just mentioned. These conditionals, in virtue of the `whatever else' clause, are of course a species of counterfactuals.
The deterministic philosophy of mind consists in three hypotheses. It is best to take first what is temporally the middle one. This hypothesis concerns all mental events and in particular decisions and intentions, the antecedents of actions. The hypothesis presupposes a certain realistic view of the nature of mental events, and then explains how each mental event is related to a simultaneous neural event.
The view of mental events is realistic in that it allows that mental events have an intrinsic character different from that of neural events, and certainly over and above their causal roles. In the doctrine of Functionalism proposed by Hilary Putnam and others. (4) By contrast, the character of mental events is exhausted by or comes to no more than their causal or logical roles. Each mental event, in my view, has within itself two interdependent elements, subject and content. That mental events have this character does not remove them from the physical realm, the spatio-temporal realm, but it does make them non-neural.
Each mental event is related to a simultaneous neural event in that the two items are in nomic or lawlike connection. This is not to say that one is a causal circumstance and the other an effect, partly because neither precedes the other in time. But it is to say that they stand in the fundamental relation in which causal circumstances and their effects also stand. This comes mainly to two propositions. (1) Given a neural event of a certain kind, whatever else had been happening, there would still have occurred a simultaneous mental event of a certain kind. Also (2) if the mental event had not occurred, whatever else had been happening, neither would the neural event.
Partly in virtue of this nomic connection, a mental event and a simultaneous neural event constitute what can be called a psychoneural pair. Such a pair is a single effect of antecedents and a cause of subsequent events. This account of the relation between simultaneous mental and neural events is distinct from Identity Theories of mind and brain, (5) but has the same recommendation. Or rather, it actually does have what are wrongly supposed to be two recommendations of many such theories. It recognizes psychoneural intimacy, the intimate relation of a mental and a neural event, which neuroscience can be taken to have confirmed -- it is no more dualistic than most contemporary Identity Theories, all but those which assert Eliminative Materialism. Secondly, this account of the psychoneural relation gives a place to our conviction that both mental and neural events have causal roles with respect to our actions and also subsequent mental events. Thus it avoides epiphenomenalism, surely an absurdity.
So much for what can be called the Hypothesis of Psychoneural Nomic Correlation, which relates simultaneous events. The second hypothesis is the heart of the theory of determinism. It gives a certain account of the explanation by earlier events of psychoneural pairs -- say the pair which consists in a decision and a certain neural event, or what can be called an active intention or perhaps a volition and a certain neural event.
The Hypothesis on the Causation of Psychoneural Pairs, as it can be called, involves an idea whose occasional denial seems to me to involve confusion. It is the true idea that causation is transitive. That is, it involves the idea that if A necessitated B and B necessitated C, then A necessitated C. Thus the initial elements of a causal sequence, which may occur at different times, necessitated the final effect.
The hypothesis, simply stated, is that each psychoneural pair is the effect of a causal sequence whose initial elements were of two kinds. These were either neural or other bodily elements just prior to the very first mental event in the existence of the individual in question, whenever that was, or they were direct or last environmental elements then and thereafter. A direct environmental event is one such that it affects an individual without the help of an intermediate environmental event.
The hypothesis conflicts with a number of traditional views of the mind which may be described as asserting Free Will. They attempt a fundamentally different account of the explanation of mental events, or such mental events as decisions. The governing aim of these views is to give an account of an individual's decisions such that she can in a certain strong way be held morally responsible for them. Thus it is said of an individual's decision at a time that she could have decided otherwise than she did, given all things as they then were, and given all of the past as it was.
It is no longer the case that these traditional views can ignore the brain and neuroscience, but they take account of it in a particular way. (6) The best of them, better than any that has actually been elaborated by a defender, would accept the Correlation Hypothesis, the proposition that neural events necessitate simultaneous mental events, but deny that the neural events are effects. It is at this point that the view would make use of a certain common interpretation of Quantum Theory, thereby drawing the conclusion that the mentioned neural events are made probable but not necessitated by antecedent events.
These views cannot stop with an indeterminist account of neural events, of course. If they did, the correlated mental events would be too near to chance events, events for which an individual could be in no sense responsible. Thus these views have at their centre another kind of explanation of decisions. Decisions are originated by the individual or some part of the individual -- say the Self -- or an event within an individual. What this comes to, looked at in what is perhaps the best way, is that a decision is not an effect, not necessitated, but nonetheless has a source in the individual or something within her such that she is responsible for it in the strong sense -- of which I shall have more to say in due course. An alternative idea, that the decision is an effect, but that its cause is not an effect but originated, faces the same and perhaps more difficulties.
One near-disaster of such views, to my mind, is that they fail to give anything like a respectable positive account of the fundamental relation of origination. About the best that has ever been said, as was reported above, is that I stand to my decision in such a way that I could have made a different decision given things as they are and have been. That clearly is not to define or characterize the relation. It is to do what can be described as make an unanalytical comment about it. It does not need adding that talk of a Self or originator is obscure and near to rebarbative. I do not myself agree with philosophers who take these views to be wild or near to nonsensical at these crucial points, but I do see reason for that opinion. (7)
The third hypothesis of the theory of determinism is as simple as the Hypothesis on the Causation of Psychoneural Pairs. The Hypothesis on the Causation of Actions involves a general definition of our actions, of course including speech actions. They are bodily movements or stillnesses somehow owed to active intentions -- which active intentions also represent or somehow picture the bodily sequences. The Hypothesis on the Causation of Actions is in part that each action is an effect of a causal sequence one of whose initial elements is a psychoneural pair which includes the active intention which represents the action. This is the least controversial of the three hypotheses.
Many philosophers have discussed such a determinism without committing themselves to its truth. Within philosophy in English there has often been discussion, more particularly, of the consequences of such a determinism for morality. If such a determinism is true, what follows for morality? I shall indeed be considering the fundamental part of this question, but let me remark in passing that I am indeed inclined to take the antecedent as true -- that is, to take determinism as true.
A lesser reason, already implied, is that only a determinism allows for an explicit and articulated philosophy of mind. Accounts of decision in terms of Free Will are accounts that do derive from very fundamental attitudes we have, of which I shall have more to say. Still, they are accounts which I, perhaps in company with most philosophers, and certainly almost all philosophers of mind, find it difficult to respect. They are at their crucial junctures conceptually very thin. A second source of my belief in determinism is neuroscience. It seems to me to provide overwhelming evidence. A third and heretical source is my not being impressed by the common interpretation of Quantum Mechanics mentioned earlier.
To say a word more about that, Quantum Mechanics consists in a formalism and an interpretation of that formalism. There is the mathematics, and there is a view of what the mathematics is about, the referents of the numbers. The referents are commonly said not not to be necessitated, but to be a matter of indeterminacy or randomness. Thus it can be supposed that the brain is indeterministic.
No agreement has been achieved on the nature of these referents, let alone a persuasive acount. That in itself is remarkable. What I wish to note, however, is that if one looks at the writings of physicists, one is told that the referents are, among other things, epistemological concepts, propositions, possibilities, features of a calculation, mathematical objects, probability waves, theoretical entities, and waves of no real physical existence. What these have in common is that they are not spatio-temporal events. But since all causes and effects are such events, it is only such events that determinism is concerned with. There is at least the possibility, then, that what Quantum Physics is taken to say is undetermined or unnecessitated is something that determinism does not say is necessitated. Determinism may be as untouched by Quantum Mechanics as it is by the fact that a number or a proposition is not an effect.
This is not the place to take further the issue of the truth of determinism, or to defend what may seem to be a philosopher's impertinence in having a view of the import of Quantum Theory. Henceforth I shall be concerned only with the issue of what follows with respect to morality if determinism is true.
There is a venerable tradition in philosophy named Compatibilism which flows from Hobbes and Hume. (8) It is dedicated to the idea that if determinism is true, each of us may nevertheless be held morally responsible for actions, and be credited with responsibility for actions. Moral responsibility for an action does indeed presuppose that the action was freely chosen, but an action can be freely chosen even if determinism is true -- freedom and determinism are logically compatible.
This is so, we are told, since freedom consists in voluntariness. Many definitions have been given of voluntariness. Their central idea is that a voluntary choice is one that is according to the desires and the nature of the individual, which is to say not forced upon her by something external, notably other persons or a constraining environment. Again, a voluntary choice may be regarded as a matter of embraced desires as distinct from reluctant desires. Indubitably freedom of this kind is consistent with determinism, since it can amount to choices having a certain sort of causation rather than no causation.
There is a another venerable tradition named Incompatibilism. Some of Kant's reflections on freedom are within it. (9) It is dedicated to the idea that if determinism is true, none of us can be held morally responsible for our actions, or be credited with responsibility for them. That is because moral responsibility for an action presupposes that the action was freely chosen, but free not only in being voluntary. A free choice, we are told, is also one which was originated. The philosophers of this tradition, as I have already remarked, have succeeded in giving only the thinnest account of origination. One clear thing, however, is that it is logically incompatible with determinism. An originated choice is disconnected from antecedents -- or, to be more careful, not connected with them in the way that is true of an effect.
It has long been supposed that one of these two traditions must give us the truth about the consequences of determinism for moral responsibility. Indeed this seems a logically necessary truth. Freedom either is or is not consistent with determinism. It is my view that the logically necessary truth, to put the matter one way, has a false presupposition. The real facts about the relation of determinism to freedom are not at all conveyed by the necessary truth.
It seems to me that we can approach the matter by getting clearer about the matter of holding people morally responsible for actions or crediting them with responsibility for actions. There is an advantage to be had from not peering further at the word `free' and not attempting to devise still more proofs of its content, but instead looking directly at which might be called the human reality of the problem of determinism and freedom. What does holding people responsible for actions and crediting them with responsibility for actions come to?
Doing this is not to be identified with judging actions to be wrong or right. That what I did was wrong is indeed presupposed by my properly being held responsible for it, but it is not the same fact. So with my being credited with responsibility and my being judged to have acted rightly. I can do wrong without being held responsible for the action, do right without being credited with responsibility.
Nor is holding someone responsible for a particular action the same as judging her to be a bad or inhuman person, where that is to make a judgement that pertains to much more than one action, but to character or a pattern of life. So with crediting someone with responsibility for an action and judging her to be a good or human person.
It seems evident that to hold someone morally responsible for an action is to disapprove of her morally with respect to that action. To credit someone with moral responsibility is to approve of her morally with respect to an action. If holding someone responsible is not the same as judging an action to be wrong, or assessing a person over time, perhaps a lifetime, it is also distinct from what may follow on holding the person responsible, which is an action of blaming or punishing her. The latter is clearly distinct from the former. So with crediting with responsibility and an action of praising or rewarding.
Suppose a woman, foreseeing her coming divorce, contrives to divert a large part of the couple's joint monies to her children, in order to deprive their father of his share of them and to win away the affection and loyalty of the children. Unless the situation is extraordinary, we shall certainly hold her responsible. What does this particular fact come to?
It is clear that my holding her responsible, my disapproving of her morally with respect to the action, does not come to just a belief, something true or false, about what can be called the initiation of the action. I have an attitude to her with respect to the action. If this attitude has such a belief within it, it also involves much more.
It is no easy thing, by the way, to give a general definition of an attitude -- covering moral approval and disapproval, personal feelings, hope, and so on. Let me say that an attitude is a an evaluative thought of something, feelingful, and bound up with desire, the mentioned feeling being feeling in a narrow sense, somehow similar to or even bound up with sensation. Different attitudes, say resentment as against hope, call for different particular descriptions.
In the case in question, what does my my attitude of holding the woman responsible come to? It is of fundamental importance to the question of the consequences of determinism that it may on different occasions come to different things. To hold her responsible is to be engaged in or subject to one or another of at least two different attitudes. Each of us engages in or is capable of both these attitudes. We do or can move back and forth between them.
One attitude partly involves certain feelings, feelings in a broad sense. These are feelings of repugnance for the woman with respect to her vicious or dishonourable desires to deprive her husband and to win away the loyalty of the children. It is my tendency to withdraw from her and from her desires, perhaps to try to change them. These feelings are distantly related to aesthetic ones.
Secondly, and very differently, this first attitude involves feelings which may be expressed in a number of ways. I may say, in vernacular English, that the situation is to be laid at her door, or that she should not get away with it, or indeed that the husband should get satisfaction. This second lot of feelings, in a general sense, consists in desires, at bottom the desire to act against the woman. These are in the category of retributive desires, desires for the distress of another person, and satisfied by just that distress as distinct from any consequence of it. The woman should have, at the least, the discomfiture of knowing that others disapprove of her.
On what do my retributive feelings rest? Or, as we can as well say, what belief do they incorporate about what we can call the initiation of her action? Well, it may be that they will diminish and in fact collapse under certain conditions. If so, we can see what they rest on if, on the other hand, they do persist. They will collapse, as it seems to me, if I come to believe that determinism was true of the woman's first desire to take the step in question, her forming of the intention, and her acting on it. Certainly this is a speculation, since it is a fact that we do not often, if ever, succeed in believing determinism in the sense of such an explicit theory of it as was sketched above. Our culture is against it. Still, the speculation about a collapse of feelings seems to me a persuasive one. It is supported by, among other things, our resistance to pleas of inexplicit determinism on behalf of those of whom we are morally disapproving.
If my retributive feelings would collapse if I came really to believe that determinism was true of this episode in the life of the woman, it seems clear that what they rest on when they persist is a certain conception of the initiation of the decision and the action. I take a particular thing to be true, or more ordinarily have images that tend in a certain direction. That is, I somehow take it that the decision was originated. Its happening was not fixed by the state of the world when she took it, or preceding states of the world. She could have decided otherwise given things as they were and as they had been. If our resting retributive desires on an assumption of origination is a contingent fact about human nature, or even a fact that will not be with us to the end of time, it remains a fact.
So -- we can do something which is naturally called holding another person responsible for an action, holding her responsible in a strong sense, and doing this is inconsistent with determinism. I have not done greatly more here than assert this fact of inconsistency, but certainly more can be said to make it clear and strong. (10)
Suppose we think of this particular way of holding people responsible, this particular attitude, and, perhaps more importantly, think of the analagous way of crediting ourselves with responsibility, morally approving of ourselves. If we think of this, and we also contemplate that determinism is true, our response is likely to be one of dismay. In short, our response may be that determinism wrecks what might be called our practice of assigning moral responsibility. Above all it wrecks an image we have of ourselves as estimable agents of a certain kind.
If it is possible that in holding the woman responsible I take the given attitude to the woman, with the given upshot in connection with the contemplation of determinism, it is just as possible that on another occasion I take another attitude, with a different upshot. None of us is immured in the first attitude.
Again this is not just a matter of my having a certain true or false belief. I have, again, feelings of repugance for her. But my attitude, in its second part, has to do with my perception of the harm done to the husband and very likely also the children. My attitude in its second part may be said to consist in a desire to affect her in such a way that matters are rectified, or, if that is not possible, to affect her in such a way as to reduce the likelihood of such actions or related actions in the future. These are, in a brief phrase, desires to affect her motivations and perhaps those of others in order to prevent harm.
If my attitude to the woman is importantly directed to the future in this way, what conception does it involve of her initiation of her action? Well, I would not have the given attitude to her I have if, as must be unlikely in this case, she acted in ignorance of what she was doing. If that really was true, I would have no rationale for trying to change anything but her state of knowledge. Nor should I have my desire to affect her if, as again must be unlikely, she was compelled by someone else to act as she did. There would be no need to change her . Nor should I have my desire, at any rate exactly as I do, if she had a real but finally unsuccessful desire not to have the low desire that did issue in the diverting of the monies. Nor of course should I have my attitude if I took her to be insane or radically immature. In these latter cases, so to speak, she would not be a suitable object of intentions of the kind in question.
My holding her responsible or morally disapproving of her, in this second way, does indeed involve a conception of the initiation of her action. It is not a conception of the decision as originated, but only of the decision as voluntary. In brief, to revert to something like the too-general description of voluntariness mentioned earlier, I take it that the decision flowed from her own unconflicted desires and capable nature.
Suppose we think of this second way of holding people responsible, and again contemplate that determinism is true. The fact of the matter is that the attitude in question, including its belief component, is perfectly consistent with determinism. We may thus make a different response in the matter of moral responsibility and determinism, a response different from dismay. It can be called intransigence. It is to the effect that determinism can be put aside, that it does not wreck the assigning of moral responsibility but leaves it as it is. We need not be troubled at all.
This story of two attitudes, or at least two attitudes, has been very schematic. What has been provided are stark models, not any nuanced or complete pictures of our feelings. But perhaps you have been persuaded at least of the possibility that there are at least two different things that fall under the description `holding someone morally responsible for an action'. Both of them support responsive actions on our own part, although not necessarily the same actions. What is important is that the first one, which of course has variants, involves conceiving of the initiation of an action in terms of both voluntariness and origination, and the second one, along with variants, involves only voluntariness. To speak differently, one involves one conception of freedom as a reason or part of a reason for responsive action and one involves another.
It may be worthwhile putting these claims into a nutshell, or a smaller nutshell. Suppose your son for no good reason, perhaps the colour of his skin, is attacked in the street and badly injured. You may have a vengeful attitude which centres on the thought that his assailants, whatever their histories, and with things just as they were, could have acted differently. They could have stopped themselves. You may also have an attitude which has to do with improving the future and focuses most importantly on the vicious desires of his assailants. You may move between these attitudes, both of them ways of holding someone responsible. You may as a result make different responses to determinism.
I am now in a position to draw the first of two conclusions about the consequences of determinism. It is that each of the long-running traditions, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism, is false. The first, as I remarked, is that freedom is voluntariness, and the second that freedom is voluntariness together with origination. They are alike in sharing the view that all of us have a single shared conception of a free decision. In fact we do not, but have two.
Certainly, if freedom were one thing, it would necessarily be true that either it is or it is not consistent with determinism. But freedom is not one thing. Freedom, and in particular the freedom that enters into or is presupposed by our holding people responsible, is two things. In place of saying freedom is or is not consistent with determinism, which utterance has a false presupposition, we need to say that one freedom is, and one freedom is not, consistent with determinism. (11)
Let me add one argument here. Hobbes and Hume and those who agree with them must give some explanation of why their opponents have over centuries persisted in their view, their supposed error. The explanation given, in short, is four or more centuries of lingustic and philosophical confusion about a single shared idea. Kant and his party must also provide what can be called an error theory -- an explanation of why Hobbes et al. have persisted in their view of a single thing we are all supposed to know. Kant and his party talk of weak empiricism and word-play. The egregious Popper has the effrontery to speak of Hume as muddled . (12)
These explanations seem to me near to absurd. What explains four centuries of dispute is not that we all have a single shared conception of freedom -- which one side or the other does not have the persistence or wit to analyse clearly. What explains the dispute is that each of us, in place of having a single shared conception of freedom, has two sorts of attitude. With respect to disagreements generally, the absence of convergence or agreement is often hard to explain when what is at issue is a matter of fact. It is not hard to explain with attitudes, let alone attitudes which in ways conflict in a single breast.
My second conclusion, which must be brief, has to do with what ought to be our response to determinism. I have said that if we have in mind the first way of holding people responsible, and crediting people with responsibility, and bring this together with determinism, our response is or may be dismay. We have been mistaken in an attitude -- and also, of course, in acting on it. I have also said that if we have in mind the second way of holding people responsible and giving credit to them, and bring this together with determinism, our response is likely to be intransigence.
What we really need to do is recognize that each of us has or is capable of the two sorts of responsibility-attitudes, and see clearly the effect of determinism on us. What it comes to is that determinism neither wrecks moral responsibility nor leaves it untouched. We must gives something up but we can keep something. Indeed we can keep part of the first sort of responsibility-attitude, the part having to do with repugnance. Further, what we can keep is worth having. I remain capable of moral credit for my actions. I can have a kind of moral credit which has to do with wholly human or exemplary desires and intentions.
My subject in this paper has been determinism and moral responsibility, and so I have in a way been true to another tradition. It is a philosophical tradition which brings together Compatibilists and Incompatibilists and supposes that determinism is most important with respect to its consequences for moral responsibility. In fact, I doubt this. It is most important, in human terms, with respect to its consequences for what can be called our life-hopes. These are an individual's principal hopes for her future. As in the case of moral responsibility, we have or are capable of two attitudes here -- one involving the conception of an unfixed future, one involving a future of voluntary actions. We have or are capable of two kinds of life-hopes.
Determinism, to my mind, also has consequences for what can be called personal as distinct from moral feelings or attitudes. (13) Resentment and gratitude are examples. It is possible to think that these consequences too are more humanly important than the consequences for moral responsibility -- and, as can be added, related consequences in connection with attitudes having to do with right actions and good persons.
Determinism also has consequences, as already implied, for what we do as a result of holding persons responsible. Punishment is central here, but far from the only such fact. Also, determinism has consequences with respect to our claims to knowledge, our confidence of laying hold on truth.
In all these areas of consequence, as I see it, the situation is the same. We have or are capable of two sorts of attitude, and thus we may respond to determinism with dismay or intransigence. But we can also attempt to respond in another way. We can attempt to change our feelings. We can see what we must give up, and what we can keep, and the value of what we can keep. This can be called the response of affirmation.
To look back, my contentions have been as follows. There is a philosophy of mind consisting in three hypotheses, free of ancient and modern mystery. It is determinist in character. It or something like it seems to me true. Since we do not share a single settled conception of a free decision, it is pointless to assert, with Compatibilists, that freedom is consistent with determinism. It is exactly as pointless to assert, with Incompatibilists, that freedom is inconsistent with determinism. The problem of determinism and freedom is in a sense not an intellectual or conceptual problem. We have different attitudes, and what we must do, if we accept determinism, is to seek and keep and value those in which we can rationally persist.
It was Schopenhauer's view, perhaps, that our existence is to be mourned, that we would decline the gift of life if we could anticipate its nature beforehand. (14) Nietzsche, in his way also a determinist, said differently, that we may affirm life. (15) It is Nietzsche with whom we can and must agree.
University College London
1. The original theory, here in a way improved, was elaborated in my A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life-Hopes (Oxford University Press, 1988) and the two paperbacks into which it was subsequently divided, Mind and Brain and The Consequences of Determinism (Oxford University Press, 1990). The original book's 644 pages have been much reduced in How Free Are You? (Oxford University Press, 1993).
2. P. Suppes, A Probabilistic Theory of Causality, North Holland, 1970, Probabilistic Metaphysics, Blackwell, 1984; D. H. Mellor, `Fixed Past, Unfixed Future', in B. Taylor, ed., Michael Dummett: Contributions to Philosophy, Nijhoff, 1986; B. Skyrms, Causal Necessity, Yale, 1980.
3. Ch. 1 of A Theory of Determinism and Mind and Brain are given over to causation.
4. H. Putnam, Mind, Language and Reality, Cambridge University Press, 1975; J. Fodor, Psychological Explanation, Random House, 1968; D. Dennett, Brainstorms, Harvester, 1979. Putnam, however, has now abandoned Functionalism.
5. The best-known recent Identity Theory is that of Donald Davidson. See `Mental Events' in his Essays on Actions and Events, Oxford University Press, 1980. For my view of its shortcomings, see `Smith and the Champion of Mauve', Analysis, 1984, and `The Union Theory and Anti-Individualism' in the forthcoming book Mental Causation , ed. J. Heil and A. Mele, Oxford University Press, which also contains a reply by Davidson, `Thinking Causes'.
6. This is true of K. R. Popper and J. C. Eccles, The Self and Its Brain, Springer, 1977.
7. Peter Strawson famously described indeterminist views of the mind as consisting in `obscure and panicky metaphysics'. See `Freedom and Resentment', in his Studies in the Philosophy of Thought and Language, Oxford University Press, 1968. Galen Strawson regards indeterminist views of the mind as in a way incoherent. See his Freedom and Belief , Oxford University Press, 1986.
8. Hobbes, Of Liberty and Necessity and Leviathan in Works, ed. W. Molesworth, Bohn, 1839-45 (c. 1650); Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, Oxford University Press, 1888 (1739), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding , ed. L. A. Selbby-Bigge, Oxford University Press, 1963 (1748)
9. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , trans. N. Kemp-Smith, Macmillan, 1950 (1781), p. 477, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. L. W Beck, University of Chicago Press, 1949 (1748) pp. 97-8
10. That we have an attitude of this kind, inconsistent with determinism, can be shown by other means than the thought experiment. In my book, as remarked below, I also consider the consequences of determinism for life-hopes, personal feelings, knowledge, and so on. Arguments for an attitude of the given kind in connection with life-hopes, personal feelings, knowledge and so on can be transferred to the matter of holding people responsible.
11. This clear way of putting the matter was at least muffled in the theory as originally expounded.
12. The Open Universe, ed. W. W. Bartley, Hutchinson, 1982, p.xix
13. This was first made clear by Peter Strawson in his Compatibilist paper noted above.
14. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea, trans. R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp, Routledge, 1883 (1818), The Will to Live: Selected Writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, ed. R. Raylor, Doubleday, 1962 (c. 1840)
15. Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche , ed. W. Kaufman, Viking, 1954 (c. 1880), Basic Writings of Nietzsche , ed. W. Kaufman, 1966 (c. 1880)
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