|HOW FREE ARE
YOU? THE DETERMINISM PROBLEM
Chapters 8 & 9
by Ted Honderich
What follows here is the chapter Dismay and Intransigence, and the chapter Compatibilism and Incompatibilism, of the 2nd edition of this most translated contemporary book on the problem of determinism and its relation to freedom and responsibility. The earlier chapter prepares the way for the later one, the conclusion that both of Compatbilism and Incompatibilism are false. Yes, the proposition advanced that determinism is compatible with freedom and responsibility, and the proposition that determinism is incompatible with freedom and responsibility, are both false, as of course they can be since they are not propositions about one thing. The chapters also have a thought or two on the thoughts of Professors Fischer, Frankfurt and Kane.
DISMAY AND INTRANSIGENCE
We hope for a lot of things, most of them small. We hope to get home by 7 o’clock for the news on television, that someone won’t be annoyed by what was said last night, that it will be sunny on Sunday. More important, we also hope for large things, for what can be described as one large thing. A young woman hopes above all to become an actress. She holds to this hope and guides herself by it and does all she can to realize it. Others preserve their hope to get some other kind of standing or respect, or to possess something, perhaps a home of a certain kind. I may hope to succeed in a long struggle against my competitors, or to come to have a kind of relationship with another person, or to avoid a disaster. Someday I may mainly hope to delay death.
Hopes for large things can be given the name of life-hopes. Such a hope gives to an individual’s life a good deal of its inside nature. Different such hopes mark the stages of a life. It is such a hope that at any time provides or rather is an individual’s attitude to his or her future. To contemplate my future now, my coming life, is to have such a hope. It would of course be mistaken to suggest that each life-hope has sharp definition or is for some single thing, as in the examples so far. A life-hope can be vaguer, as when someone wants life to turn out decently, or not to get worse. It can be for a few large things rather than one. The thing or things will be large in terms of the individual’s life, but not necessarily regarded as large by others. We can be so unlucky as to hope above all for just enough to eat. That is the prospect we want, what we feel will satisfy us.
Life-hopes seem in general to have two kinds of content. There is a state of affairs that we hope for—say being regarded as in some way a success, or the family’s being in good shape, or just owning a car. The state of affairs in this narrow sense is important, but less important than something else. The other kind of content of a hope has to do with our future actions, maybe a long campaign of them.
What this comes to in one part is that we want not just to have things, but to achieve them. The state of affairs of being regarded as a success is one thing, and having earned it is another. But even if we are not self-examining strivers focused in this way on doing things for ourselves, our hopes will have everything to do with our future actions. That is because we rightly believe that it is only, mainly, or importantly through our own actions that we will get what we want. Even if what I want is to be rich, and I do not much mind how that comes about, I will take it that my getting rich will depend on what I do. We are not fatalists of a certain ancient kind, who feel that what will happen in their futures will have nothing to do with their own actions. At any rate we do not ordinarily think or feel this way. We think of our futures in terms of our coming actions. In particular, we think in terms of what can be called initiating our actions.
You might ask at this point what a hope is. A short answer is that a hope is an attitude to the future. And what in general is an attitude? It is worth giving an answer to this general question. Our coming reflections, although they will not all be about life-hopes, will all be about attitudes.
You can say that an attitude is an evaluative thought of something, which is to say an approving or disapproving thought, where the thought is bound up with desire, and somehow feelingful. If we think of certain examples of attitudes rather than others, more pressing ones, it may seem better to start by saying an attitude is a desire rather than a thought, but the same elements will come in. An attitude is like an intention in that it has various elements. It is also like an emotion in this way. As for the distinction between an attitude and an emotion, an emotion is likely to be more transient and involve more excited feeling.
Any attitude, then, takes something to be good or bad, and involves desiring it or not, and brings in feelings. The latter are somehow related to sensations. The feelings are prominent in some cases, notably a fearful attitude. To get back to hope, we can now say a bit more than that it is an attitude to the future. A hope is a desire for something, involving an approving valuation of it, bound up with feeling, and such that it is not certain that the thing will come about.
The main thing about life-hopes, and about all the other attitudes we will be considering, is that they come in two kinds or families. That is not to say that some individuals have one kind and other individuals the other, but that each of us has or can have both kinds. The difference between them has to do with the thoughts of our future actions that enter into them, and at bottom thoughts about what was called the initiation of those actions. A young woman can have a life-hope to be an actress which involves her future actions thought of by her as having one sort of initiation—and also a life-hope to be an actress where her actions are thought of by her as having the other sort of initiation.
Life-hopes of the first kind, to speak of them in one way, partly involve thinking of our futures as open or unfixed or alterable. If I have a hope of this kind, I take it that questions about my future are not yet answered—it is not that the answers are already settled and stored up, but that they do not yet exist. I’ve got a chance. It’s up to me. Maybe I can succeed. I am not the kind of fatalist committed to the argument that just since it is true now that this or that will happen next year, it is settled now that it will happen. We aren’t fatalists of this kind. One piece of evidence is that when philosophers turn their attention to this fatalism, their purpose is always to try to refute the argument, since they take its conclusion that everything is settled to be false.
Life-hopes of this first kind can be spoken of in another way. They can be said to involve thinking that our futures are not just products or automatic upshots. They will not just be products of our characters, weaknesses, temptations, and so on—in short, our natures. Also, our futures will not be just products of our natures taken together with the situations in which we will find ourselves. I will not drink more and more, and nor will I be the toy of my circumstances, a leaf in the breeze.
This first kind of life-hope, spoken of in either of the two ways, carries some impression of activity, something that can change things, and can rise above the rest of a person’s nature and environment. You may by now have guessed what is coming. It is the idea that life-hopes of this first kind are related to the philosophical account of persons in terms of Free Will or origination. That is not to say that these hopes are near to containing a conception of an unchanging substance sailing through time or a worked-out doctrine of Free Will. They contain no such thing, but rather a kind of impression or image. It is this that philosophers have turned into a doctrine. It is safe to say that the impression comes before the philosophy.
So I do have or can have this kind of life-hope with respect to my future. It also has in it an image of my future actions as being initiated in a certain way: they will be something like originated. That is what makes the future open, and my nature and environment overcomable. These actions in my present anticipation of them will almost certainly have another character, of course. They will really be mine in the sense that they will not be against either my wishes or my true nature. We will come on to that separate and important idea about their initiation, but let us pause for a moment to deal with a possible doubt, a doubt about the existence of this first kind of life-hope.
Does anyone really doubt having or being able to have this kind of very natural hope? If so, they can stop doubting by contemplating what it would be like really not to have it. What it would be like not to have this hope would be to feel that you were in something which William James, the brother of the novelist, called the iron-block universe. That is, the universe of which universal determinism is true. This determinism, James wrote,
professes that those parts of the universe already laid down appoint and decree what other parts shall be. The future has no ambiguous possibilities hidden in its womb; the part we call the present is compatible with only one totality. Any other future complement than the one fixed from eternity is impossible. The whole is in each and every part, and welds it with the rest into an absolute unity, an iron block, in which there can be no equivocation or shadow of turning.
We do hope otherwise, which is to say not just that we accept the iron-block universe but that we add something to it. We have a hope which does not go with the iron-block universe at all. We have a kind of life-hope which is incompatible with a belief in determinism, either the theory in this book about persons or a universal one. An open future, a future we can make for ourselves, is one of which determinism isn’t true.
Suppose you become convinced of the truth of our theory of determinism. Becoming really convinced will not be easy, for several reasons. But try now to imagine a day when you do come to believe determinism fully. Also imagine bringing your new belief together with a life-hope of the kind we have been considering, this natural way of contemplating your future. What would the upshot be? It would almost certainly be dismay. Your response to determinism in connection with the hope would be dismay. If you really were persuaded of determinism, the hope would collapse.
This is so because such a hope has a necessary part or condition on which the rest of it depends. That is the image of origination. There can be no such hope if all the future is just effects of effects. It is for this reason, I think, that many people have found determinism to be a black thing. John Stuart Mill felt it as an incubus, and, to speak for myself, it has certainly got me down in the past.
The response of dismay in connection with life-hopes has to do with one kind of them. There is another kind. We can also approach it by seeing what it is like to lack it. Think of a man who has lost his job, and whose life-hope is therefore waning or has been lost. The future he wanted was one with a job. He hoped for more of the kind of life he had in the past, one that goes with having a job. In particular, he had in mind being independent, being regarded in a certain way by his children, being active, and having the things that come with decent pay. Now, there is little or nothing left of that hope.
What does he feel? What he feels is that he will continue to be frustrated in his desire. The world, or anyway the world of work, will continue to be against him. He will have to put up with the drudgery of watching too much television, or whatever else goes into the place of what he would rather do. His life will be one of acting on or satisfying only what we can call reluctant or second-best desires, as distinct from embraced desires, desires into which he really enters. He will live in a frustrating world, not a satisfying one.
To turn now to luckier people, they can and do have hopes that have in them the picture of future actions done out of embraced and not reluctant desires. They are not always hopes that have to do with not being frustrated by a world, where that is a matter of a whole society or the state of it. We may have hopes that have to do with not being frustrated by ourselves. What I may want above all is to escape some personal weakness or self-indulgence or habit that drags me down. I myself may have desires which go against and overcome my embraced desire. I would rather not have them. I drink too much, or don’t get down to work. More dramatically I may be the victim of an addiction to hard drugs or a psychological compulsion. I want to live differently (cf. Frankfurt 1969).
If my hopes of this kind may have to do with my future actions and either my world or myself, they may also have to do with my actions and a few other people. My hope may be to escape the domination or influence of others. More dramatically, it may be to escape from a real threat. In most of our lives, that is unlikely to involve a man with a gun, more likely to be one of the respectable threats of ordinary or business life. Or, finally, my hope may have to do with escaping some particular physical constraint. I want not to be sick, or to have a bodily disability, or to be in jail.
So here we have a kind of hope that brings in actions owed to a certain kind of initiation, different from before. These are actions flowing just from embraced rather than reluctant desires, actions done in satisfying and not frustrating circumstances. Such an action, as we can also say, reverting to something said earlier, really does come from an individual—it is not against his or her desires or true nature. To introduce a label, its initiation is a matter of voluntariness. We can think of an action in just this way, without adding in anything else, any different idea. We can have hopes involving actions conceived in just this way. The man without a job once had a hope, and maybe now has the remainder of one, which is fully described in the way we have described it. His spirits will soar if he is just offered the chance to do what he wants, to work. He will be satisfied by exactly that.
If we now bring hopes of this second kind together with determinism, what is the result? Our response will be owed to what is certainly a fact, that determinism can be true without affecting these hopes at all. There is nothing in them that is inconsistent with it. There is nothing about embraced desires and satisfying situations that conflicts with determinism. Working because I really want to and because I think of nothing else is just as consistent with determinism as watching television reluctantly. To use the label, there is nothing about actions being voluntary in their initiation that conflicts with determinism. For determinism, voluntary actions are ones that have a certain kind of causal history, as distinct from any non-causal history. Voluntary actions are effects of a certain class.
Our response to thinking of determinism together with this kind of hopes will mainly be that the hopes are untouched and untroubled. Everything is okay. Nothing changes. Our response may also involve a thought about hopes of the other sort—and our disregarding them as unimportant. We may feel we don’t have to think about them. This response as a whole involves rejecting dismay. This way with determinism is a kind of satisfied intransigence.
I do not mean to suggest that the two kinds of life-hope and the two responses to determinism are always exactly as described. What has been said is schematic and without shading. In reality there is a lot more variation and complexity. But it does seem a fact that each of us has or can have an attitude to the future involving an image of origination, as well as ideas of voluntariness, and an attitude involving only ideas of voluntariness, and that each of us at least can make the two reponses. That does not have to be a law of human nature for my argument, just a fact about most of us.
Neither kind of attitude to the future, considered in itself, can be regarded as any kind of mistake. There is no room for the idea of mistake. I can regard or take just my anticipated voluntariness as a reason for a feeling about the future. I can at another time take only an anticipation of my also being able to originate my actions as a reason for a feeling about the future. It is a fact too that responding with intransigence or dismay involves no mistake in itself. There is more to be said about these responses, but nothing that will take away from the fact that they are possible and indeed natural.
There is the same story with other things than life-hopes. Although these other pairs of attitudes are best described a little differently in each case, the fundamental facts are the same. Generally speaking, we have attitudes that have to do only with actions taken as really owed to the agents or actors, not against either their desires or their true natures, and we have attitudes having to do with actions taken as really owed to the agents but also originated.
Consider certain attitudes we have to other people. These we can call the personal feelings (P. F. Strawson). They are of the greatest importance to our lives. There are positive or appreciative ones owed to the good feelings of others for us, and the good judgements of others on us, and their resulting actions towards us. Our lives as we live them are tremendously the better for the love, loyalty, and acceptance of others, and for their approval and admiration, and what they do out of all these feelings. There are also our negative or resentful personal feelings. These are also owed to the attitudes of others towards us, in this case their feelings and judgements against us, and the resulting actions. Our resentful feelings, from hatred down to pique, do not enrich our lives, but they are rooted in them. It is hard to imagine life without them, or to feel confident about escaping them.
The personal feelings are not moral feelings, although they may be mixed up with them. I can be grateful for something you have done without thinking of it as right or wrong, or of you as getting or losing moral credit for it. I may even be grateful for a good review of my book which I know was not a masterpiece of impartiality. So too with my resentful feelings. I may not be able to succeed in what I will no doubt try to think, that you did wrong in hurting me, but that is no guarantee that I will like you.
Suppose I come to believe that someone, an adversary, has tried to pay me back for something by a certain means. He has reported a story of a careless, wounding comment of mine to the man it was about, a friend on whom I depend. This will be of no benefit at all to me. The report of what I said, if a bit overdone, had truth in it. I resent, no doubt more than resent, the carrier of the tale. What does my feeling involve?
I may say in expressing my bitterness that he could have done otherwise. And I may fill that in by saying various things. He knew what he was doing, his report wasn’t just a slip. Also, he wasn’t compelled to do the thing, perhaps out of control and actually carried away by passions. Thirdly, I do not think the action was wholly out of character, really at odds with his personality. He himself, I say, is malicious or vengeful, or anyway not honourable. I may add that he is not mad either, but normal enough, with an adequate sense of the hurts of other people. I may point out, finally, that nobody else was part of his action. He was not being manipulated or the like.
These are all assumptions or beliefs about the initiation of my adversary’s action. They are assumptions like some of those I may make about my own future actions in connection with one kind of my hopes. What we have here is what was labelled voluntariness, and no more than that. It is clear that all the assumptions are consistent with determinism. It does not at all follow from determinism that a man does not really know what he is doing, or is compelled to do a thing, or is unusual in any of the other ways touched on above. It doesn’t follow from determinism that a man couldn’t do otherwise than he did, where that means he didn’t know the facts, or was compelled to do the thing, or the like. There is the same fact, by the way, about personal feelings that have not been mentioned, personal feelings directed not towards others but towards oneself.
Thinking of these personal feelings, and supposing determinism to be true, again may issue in the response of intransigence. We can take determinism to leave things just as they are. We do not feel called on to do the humanly impossible, to withdraw from these resentful feelings. We do not lose the satisfaction of the appreciative feelings. If there are other grounds for another kind of personal feelings, grounds that are threatened by determinism, we can ignore the matter. What we have is enough.
That is all very well, but I can also think and react differently, and not necessarily on another day or in another mood. This can come about in various ways. I may come to feel in connection with my adversary that my bitterness is or has to be directed against a person. It cannot just be concerned with a bundle of facts, features of a person, starting with something about a state of knowledge, going on to something about control or the absence of compulsion, then something about character, and so on. He carried the tale to my friend.
Here is a stronger thought going in the same direction. I may be faced by someone with excuses and explanations of my adversary’s action. Someone will say that he could hardly have resisted the temptation of striking that little blow by telling the story. At this point I am certain to feel and to say that in a fundamental way he could have resisted the temptation. He could have resisted it even if it had been strong. He could have done otherwise, where that does not just mean that he knew what he was doing, he wasn’t out of control, and so on. He could have done otherwise in the sense that given things as they were, strong temptation and all, he could have done differently.
These reflections and others like them can lead me to think of his action differently. I turn from thinking of it as merely voluntary to thinking of it as also owed to him himself. My bitterness carries the image of his having originated what he did. This kind of personal feeling does conflict with determinism. If determinism is true, I am likely to feel I have to give it up, and all attitudes like it. I also need to give up something a lot happier, the counterpart kind of appreciative attitudes to other people. Gratitude, what I may think of as real gratitude, has to go. This is the response of dismay with respect to personal feelings. I may move back and forth between it and intransigence. Certainly I can fall into it.
There is no mistake and nothing to stop me from taking just the thought of a fully voluntary action as a reason for a feeling, and no mistake or anything that stops me from also requiring an originated action for a feeling. I can focus on one conception of the initiation of action or the other, with the two upshots. This will be important when we come, as we shall soon, to what were mentioned at the beginning of this book, the traditional doctrines of Compatibilism and Incompatibilism.
Determinism does not have consequences for only life-hopes and personal feelings. It has a third consequence, of which we already know something. It has to do with knowledge, and is what is really important about the Epicurean objection to determinism. More precisely, it has to do with our confidence in having knowledge, a kind of attitude to ourselves. What it has to do with is the fact that knowledge is owed to enquiry, and enquiry consists in actions, above all the mental activity of trying to answer questions and solve problems.
Here we can think of our own personal enquiries, or the large joint enterprise over centuries which brought together our shared conceptual scheme and our general view of things. I can have an idea of any enquiry as being the discovery of reality, with none of its sectors closed off. This is exploration, not a guided tour. The picture includes an image of origination. Alternatively, I can have the idea of enquiry as only a matter of myself or others not being frustrated in any desire for information. Neither circumstances nor people get in the way. Here the picture rests only on voluntariness. In short, I can have two different ideas of freedom in enquiry.
These two attitudes to reality, or kinds of confidence about reality, stand in relations to determinism that you will anticipate. I am unlikely on any occasion to persist long in the attitude including origination. But to have it in mind is to have something in mind that must give way to determinism. That is depressing. It is depressing to suppose there may be a reality other than the one to which a guided tour fixed by causation has restricted me. With the attitude involving only voluntariness, I may take it that determinism carries no threat at all. There is no ground for serious worry.
We have now seen something of three things touched by determinism—our life-hopes or contemplated futures, our personal feelings, and our knowledge. It may be, as I suspect, that these three areas of consequence are the most important. Certainly they cannot be left out. We are unlikely to come to any true judgement about the consequences of determinism if they are ignored. Philosophers have in fact ignored them, which may help to explain why no agreement has ever been reached about the import of determinism for our lives.
What philosophers have until now thought about, with one or two honourable exceptions, is just a fourth implication of determinism, the implication for moral responsibility. Certainly it needs thinking about, as do three other related implications. These in a way depend on our thoughts and feelings about moral responsibility. They have to do with what is right or what actions are right, and with the moral standing of individuals, and with the social institutions and practices such as punishment which result from these conceptions.
We will come back to punishment and the like. For now, just consider moral responsibility. The subject-matter is sometimes left or made obscure, but it comes to holding people (including ourselves) morally responsible for something bad, and crediting people (including ourselves) with moral responsibility for something good. These again are attitudes we have. What they come to, differently described, is being morally disapproving of a person in connection with an action, and being morally approving of a person in connection with an action.
Again, these attitudes fall into two kinds, and each of us has both. In this case there seems little need for weakening the claim by saying that at least we can have both. If a man injures my daughter in the street, or defrauds her in a financial transaction, or concocts evidence against her in a court, I can focus on his action as voluntary but also originated. I hold him responsible where that involves my seeing his action in a certain way. It came out of his own desires and the person he is, and it was such that he could have stopped himself from doing it given things as they were. My holding him responsible also involves my having certain feelings and desires. In particular, I have a retributive desire. I want it to come about that he suffers at least some unhappiness about what he has done. The desire may go a lot further than that.
Now, to proceed a little differently from life-hopes and so on, suppose not that I become convinced on some future day of the theory of determinism we have been considering, but just that right now I fall into a common kind of half-determinist feeling and thinking about his action. This sort of thing often has to do with thoughts of the underprivileged background and history of a person. I come to feel that given the sort of person he is, and given the situation he was in, he did not have much chance of behaving differently. What happens? My retributive desire at least falters. Alternatively, suppose I am at the pitch of my feeling against him, and someone else courageously or unwisely pleads the story of his background and history to me. My reaction may be a determination to persist in my vengeful feeling by denying or questioning the half-determinist story.
What these reflections show is that holding someone responsible can be something that is inconsistent with determinism. To think of this way of holding people responsible, and to contemplate that determinism is true, is to face dismay. This is partly so since we are required to give up a feeling that we rightly take to be deeply rooted in us. There is the same result, perhaps in a way more troubling, with crediting others and ourselves with responsibility for good or estimable actions.
That is not the end of the matter. There is no doubt that I can in another way hold the injurer of my daughter responsible. I can focus just on the fact that the injury he did to her was voluntary. It was really owed to him and to his own desires. I can enlarge on this fact to myself in various ways. I can without doubt have strong feelings about him, and speak of his voluntariness as the reason. They will include feelings of repugnance for this person who was able to do the thing in question, and desires for the prevention of more such injuries. There is the same possibility in the different case where I morally approve of someone.
Will anyone doubt all this? Well, a kind of doubt has been raised as to whether we ordinary folk and the philosophers of origination have any half-adequate idea of origination at all. Certainly the philosophers of origination have not been able to do well at clarifying their commitment (see chapter 4). And it can hardly be maintained that our ordinary attitudes have more than a kind of impression or image in them (p. 94). But is it only some piece of nonsense, such as the old nonsense of speaking of a thing causing itself?
If so, what has just been said of our two families of attitudes is a great mistake. We only have one family of attitudes that deserves the name. And a certain dispute over centuries between two doctrines mentioned in the first chapter of this book, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism, has been a perfectly pointless one between something sensible and a nonsense. Furthermore, to look back to chapters 6 and 7, it does not matter if determinism is true or false, since there is no serious idea with which it conflicts. The question of its truth does not need looking into. That was time wasted (G. Strawson).
This is a surprising position. There is some bravado in supposing that reflective persons have for some centuries been involved in close dispute about only a nonsense. It is possible to think otherwise. As remarked earlier, the fact seems to be that we all have a primitive idea of the initiation of decisions and actions such that they are not just effects but are controlled by the person in such a way that he or she can be held responsible in a certain way—and such that life-hopes and other related attitudes are also possible (pp. 93–4).
Consider a parallel. Suppose I have no idea of why the sweet peas in the garden need sun, but am persuaded they do, no doubt by good evidence. Despite the evidence, I have no acquaintance at all with photosynthesis, not even any boy’s own science of the matter. It does not follow, presumably, that I lack the idea that the sweet peas need sun. I could have the idea, too, in a pre-scientific society where news of the science of the thing would for a long time make no sense. Could I not also have the idea, in a later society, if all of many attempts to explicate the need had broken down in obscurity and indeed contradiction?
At first sight, certainly, those who suppose that there is a half-adequate idea of origination are in just this sort of position. They speak no nonsense when they assert or offer for contemplation a certain thing. It is that there occur originations, these being events that are not effects, are in the control of the person in question, and render the person responsible in a certain way for ensuing actions—his being held responsible can consist in an attitude having in it certain desires, notably retributive ones. The friends of origination speak no nonsense when they depend considerably for their characterization of the events of origination on these consequences. The friends have still spoken no nonsense when it transpires that they cannot in some way explain how it comes about that there is origination, or would come about if there were any. They have still spoken no nonsense if their attempts to explain are themselves pieces of nonsense.
Maybe more distinctions are needed here—they usually are—but it certainly remains my own view that determinism does threaten something important to us.
There is the broad fact that each of us has or can have two families of attitudes, one having to do with actions taken as owed to voluntariness or the desires and natures of the agents, and one taken as also owed to origination. We have or can have two kinds of life-hope, two kinds of confidence in knowledge, two kinds of personal feeling, and two kinds of moral feeling about people and their actions. Something of the same sort is to be said about taking actions to be right or wrong, and having general judgements of people not in connection with a single action.
There is also the equally important broad fact that we can make two responses to determinism, Dismay and Intransigence. We can take determinism as destructive and we can take it as harmless. We can take is as a black thing and we can take it as just a tolerable background fact.
Something follows immediately from the proposition of Attitudinism, that we have the two kinds of attitudes, and the proposition about responses to determinism. These propositions must bear on the two doctrines just mentioned, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism. That is our next subject.
The two propositions also give rise to a large problem. Is there more to be said for one of the responses of Dismay and Intransigence than the other? Is there very much to be said for either? Is there more to be said for a third response? We will get to that.
COMPATIBILISM AND INCOMPATIBILISM
Philosophy in the English language has mainly been clear, cool, and more or less in touch with common sense and the facts of science. It has not gone in much for either high reasoning or deep thinking, which inclinations are stronger in French and German philosophy. David Hume of the eighteenth century is the patron saint of the main kind of philosophy in English. In one respect, though, he is usually given some credit that is better given to his predecessor, Thomas Hobbes of the seventeenth century. Hobbes can be regarded as the first of the Compatibilists. Perhaps he had predecessors, but he was the first of the great philosophers to propound the proposition of Compatibilism. It is that determinism and freedom are logically consistent, that our concept of freedom is such that we can be subject to determinism and also perfectly free.
This is not the proposition that determinism is consistent with Free Will or origination, that we can both originate choices and also be subject to causal necessity. The idea, rather, is that what we mean by freedom, which in fact is not Free Will, is compatible with determinism. Incompatibilism, the opposed tradition, is that what we mean by freedom is not compatible with determinism since part of what we mean is Free Will.
We need to look at this long battle for two reasons. One is that it contrasts with what has just been argued about two families of attitudes and two responses. The contrast makes that argument and the conclusions clearer. The second reason is that these two philosophical traditions make up the opposition to a view of this book about the consequences of determinism—and of course near-determinism. The view may not be right, as I have taken it to be, but it is certainly new and can do with more clarifying. What we have arrived at about attitudes and responses is the first part of it. If what the opposition parties say is right, Attitudinism and what has been said about responses to determinism can’t be true.
Hobbes asks what liberty or freedom is, and gives this answer:
there can no other proof be offered but every man’s own experience, by reflection on himself, and remembering what he uses in his mind, that is, what he himself means when he says an action . . . is free. Now he that reflects so on himself cannot but be satisfied . . . that a free agent is he that can do as he will, and forbear as he will, and that liberty is the absence of external impediments. But to those that out of custom speak not what they conceive . . . and are not able or will not take the pains to consider what they think when they hear such words, no argument can be sufficient, because experience and matter of fact are not verified by men’s arguments but by every man’s own sense and memory.
What this comes to is that if you’ll just think about it, you’ll see that what you and all of us mean by being free is being able to act in a certain way if that is what we want, and not to act in that way if that is what we want. Being unfree is being frustrated, being stopped from doing whatever we want by external impediments. That is the idea we all have, as each of us can find out by remembering it and thinking about it.
Hobbes in other passages emphasizes what is certainly clear, that we can be free in this way even if determinism or what he calls necessity is a fact, which he is sure it is. He also emphasizes that this freedom is exactly what is required if we are to hold people morally responsible and credit people with moral responsibility for what they do.
Bishop Bramhall thought otherwise in his not entirely calm reply to Thomas Hobbes. He said in part that Hobbes’s freedom or liberty, which amounts to not being frustrated, is no great thing. It is not to be confused with true liberty.
true liberty consists in the elective power of the rational will. . . . Reason is the root, the fountain, the original of true liberty. . . . Judge then what a pretty kind of liberty it is which is maintained by T.H., such a liberty as in little children before they have the use of reason, before they can consult or deliberate of anything. Is not this a childish liberty, and such a liberty as in brute beasts, as bees and spiders . . . ? Is not this a ridiculous liberty? Lastly (which is worse than all these) such a liberty as a river has to descend down the channel. . . . Such is T.H.’s liberty. . . . T.H. appeals to every man’s own experience. I am contented. Let everyone reflect upon himself.
In short we all know that freedom or liberty is not had by animals, although they can often do what they want, or by rivers, which are not frustrated in running down their channels. Freedom, as we all know if we think about it, is a matter of adult Reason. It is a matter, more precisely, of the developed Faculty of the Will or the power of origination.
Bishop Bramhall did not convince Hobbes, and he did not convince Hume either. Hume took the view that disagreements about things we all know about can only continue if the disagreements involve ambiguous terms.
This has been the case in the long disputed question concerning liberty and necessity, and to so remarkable a degree that, if I am not much mistaken, we shall find that all mankind, both learned and ignorant, have always been of the same opinion with regard to this subject, and that a few intelligible definitions would immediately have put an end to the whole controversy.
Hume then proceeds to what he calls his reconciling project. If we think straight about it, we can agree that what we mean by liberty or freedom is
a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will: that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may. . . . This hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to everyone who is not a prisoner and in chains. Here, then, is no subject of dispute.
Hume’s use of the word ‘power’ has nothing to do with the mysterious power of origination talked of by the defenders of Free Will. Being free is just having power in the sense that you can do what you want—your wants give rise to what happens, not prison chains or the like. Having this power is perfectly possible even if determinism is true, as Hume thinks determinism is. Determinism does not say there are never internal causes of actions, actions really owed to the agent. Also, a person’s having this power and nothing else is all that is needed in order to be responsible for actions and to be rightly punished for them.
Immanuel Kant, the great German philosopher, was not at all persuaded.
Suppose I say of a man who has committed a theft that this act by the natural law of causality is a necessary result of the determining ground existing in the preceding time and that it was therefore impossible that it could have not been done. . . . How can he be called free . . . ? It is a wretched subterfuge to seek an escape in the supposition that the kind of determining grounds of his causality according to natural law agrees with a comparative concept of freedom. According to this concept, what is sometimes called ‘free effect’ is that of which the determining natural cause is internal to the acting thing. . . . With this manner of argument many allow themselves to be put off and believe that with a little quibbling they have found the solution to the difficult problem which centuries have sought in vain and which could hardly be expected to be found so completely on the surface.
What we do and must understand by the term ‘freedom’, according to Kant, is not action caused by something internal rather than external to the agent. It is ‘spontaneous origination’, not subordinate to causality at all. All of us, unless we are taken in by the quibbling, see that this conviction of ours is exactly this that is required to explain another fact, that we are certainly morally responsible for our actions.
To come quickly to the middle of the twentieth century, the Cambridge philosopher G. E. Moore took the view that whatever else we mean by saying an action was free, we partly mean that the person in question could have done otherwise. Moore then set to work to analyse what it is to say a person could have done otherwise. He decided it is to say something like this: she would have done otherwise if she had wanted to. But then she could have done otherwise even if determinism is true. Determinism doesn’t say that she wouldn’t have done otherwise than she did if she had wanted to do that other thing. She might then have done the other thing, since there would have been a different cause operating. Moore therefore cautiously embraced Compatibilism.
The Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin also did some neat work on what it means to say a person could have done otherwise. He showed to his satisfaction that it doesn’t mean what Moore had in mind, that if there had been a different cause operating, the person would have done otherwise. It doesn’t mean anything about causes. To say an effect Y would have happened if its cause X had happened, it seems, is to say Y wouldn’t have happened without X. But to say a person could have done otherwise if she’d wanted is to say she might have done otherwise even though she didn’t want to. Austin therefore cautiously embraced Incompatibilism.
Both Austin and Moore, by the way, held back from deciding whether or not determinism is true. There have been many other such Compatibilists and Incompatibilists. The question they ask is not ‘Since determinism is true, what then?’ but ‘If determinism is true, what then?’ As for the dispute between Moore and Austin about ‘could have done otherwise’, we need not get into that. We do need to notice one thing. Moore and Austin do agree that we all mean one thing when we talk about freedom, and one thing when we say a person could have done otherwise.
The long battle between Compatibilists and Incompatibilists has carried on since the time of Moore and Austin. Philosophical journals do not leave it alone for long. Books keep coming out. Proofs are announced. Fuller and better accounts of what we are supposed to mean by ‘free’ are given by Compatibilists. They improve on Hobbes and Hume by including in the story something about an absence of internal impediments as well as of external impediments, and also something to keep spiders and rivers out of it, and so on.
We will come back to some of this, but already we have a summary of the main things believed by the two sides, who are partly in agreement.
1. They agree that we all share some single settled idea of what has to be true of a choice if it counts as free, and hence of what has to be true of an action if it counts as free. They say this single concept about the initiation of choices, since we all agree on it, is written into our language.
2. Compatibilists say that our single settled idea of a free choice is of a choice that is according to the desires of the chooser. It is what the chooser really wants. So with a free action. A free choice or action is essentially what was labelled a voluntary one in the last chapter: it is according to the agent’s desires and true nature, not against them. Incompatibilists disagree and say that what we all think is a free choice is not only one that the chooser in his true nature really wants but also one that is owed to Reason or the Faculty of the Will or whatever. A free choice is a voluntary and an originated one.
3. Both sides agree in assigning to all of us a certain belief, which they take to be a plain truth. It is the factual belief that something is necessary for something else. A free choice is necessary for holding the person responsible. The sides differ, as just remarked, about what we are all supposed to take a free choice to be.
4. Incompatibilists say, as a result, that we all know that people are only morally responsible if determinism is false. Only then can there be choices that are both voluntary and originated. Compatibilists say differently that we all know that people can be perfectly morally responsible even if determinism is true. All we need for responsibility is a voluntary choice.
5. Both sides agree that the question they are concerned with is a logical or intellectual or theoretical one. What we have to do is just see clearly, not get confused, get a good definition of the idea we all share, not get led astray by other philosophers with a doctrinal axe to grind, check what is or isn’t consistent with what, pay attention to this or that proof of what freedom involves. The question is importantly a linguistic one. What we have to do is analyse ‘free’ in ordinary English and similar words in other ordinary languages.
Neither the tradition of Compatibilism nor the tradition of Incompatibilism is absolutely uniform. There are differences between philosophers in the same tradition. John Stuart Mill is not exactly the same as Hobbes, Hume, and Moore, and Jean-Paul Sartre is not exactly the same as Bishop Bramhall, Kant, and Austin. Still, it is safe to say that in the five propositions above we have an accurate summary of the two traditions.
It is also safe to say that they are both mistaken. You may want to reply quickly that logically or necessarily it either has to be true that our ordinary concept of freedom is compatible with determinism or that it is not. Just as it either has to be true that you’re over six feet tall or that you’re not. One or the other has to be true. You may say there is a law of logic about that. But the either-or statement states, or anyway presupposes, something else—that there is one thing in question with respect to what is called our ordinary idea of freedom. If there isn’t one thing, then saying that our ordinary idea of freedom either is or is not compatible with determinism may be perfectly pointless and in fact as good as false.
In fact, to look back to the first item of our summary of the two traditions, it is false to say that everybody shares a single settled concept of freedom. Our reflections on our two attitudes in the last chapter prove that. We can and do think about actions as being free in the sense of being just voluntary, and we also think about actions as being free in the sense of being both voluntary and originated. We do that in real life.
You might ask at this point why, if this is plain, time was taken in the last chapter going through life-hopes, personal feelings, knowledge, moral responsibility, and so on. Part of the answer is that we thereby got a proper idea of the full range of the consequences or implications of determinism. We also got ourselves concentrated on the actuality of the problem. But, you might still ask, couldn’t Compatibilism and Incompatibilism have been refuted just by pointing out the fact that we have two ideas of a free choice or action?
I don’t think so. By our different method, the method of what you might call recovering our experience, or actually eliciting feelings, we got no less than a proof of the fact that we have the two ideas. It was a proof that is related to something more familiar, a behavioural proof. What one of those comes to, roughly, is establishing that someone has a desire or belief by seeing how he behaves, what he does. Similarly, it is possible to prove that someone has a certain idea by establishing that he has a certain attitude. We found two sets of attitudes, the proof of two ideas.
That is not all. With a certain class of highly relevant persons, including students of philosophy, it very likely would not have been effective just to ask quickly what idea or ideas of a free choice we have, and point out we have two, rather than go through the business of recalling our experience and eliciting feelings. It very likely would not have been effective in the case of anyone familiar with the dispute between Compatibilists and Incompatibilists, and already on a side, maybe very solidly on a side. There would have been the risk of an automatic response to a plain statement of Attitudinism. It is a mortifying fact of life that preconceptions and theories get in the way of seeing facts.
To get back to where we were before that digression, the first and fundamental proposition of both Compatibilists and Incompatibilists is a mistake. We don’t have a single settled idea of what has to be true if a choice is to count as free. And our ordinary language doesn’t contain such a single idea. The fact of the matter is that ‘free’ and a lot of related terms are systematically ambiguous. We can use them in the two ways, for voluntary choices and actions, or for both voluntary and originated choices and actions. We don’t have any definition of a free choice if a definition is supposed to be the one and only correct description of a thing.
To go on to the second part of our summary of the two schools of thought, we already know that each of them has to be wrong in saying that our single idea is whichever they say it is. Returning to the example of the man who behaved badly to my daughter, it is a plain fact that I can think of his choosing to do so just in terms of its being fully voluntary, with what follows from that, and that I can also think of it in terms of its also being a matter of Free Will, with what follows from that.
The third thing said about the two schools of thought was that they agree that we all have a certain necessity-belief, a belief that free choice in one sense is necessary to holding someone responsible or giving him credit for something. This is another mistake. It is a mistake, at any rate, if we understand what seems to be intended, that we all believe a certain statement of fact about one thing’s being necessary to another.
That it is a mistake begins to be clear as soon as you ask for the statement of fact. What is it? To take the Compatibilist story, it can’t be that just believing a choice was voluntary is logically necessary to having a certain attitude to someone—in the way that believing that something is a person is logically necessary to believing that it is a woman. Part of what is involved in holding someone responsible is making a certain evaluation of them, a bad evaluation. But, as moral philosophers have been telling us for a long time, there don’t seem to be logical relations of any kind between facts and values, between ‘is’-statements and ‘ought’-statements.
What is really going on when we think of a choice as having been voluntary is that we are taking that as a reason for our feeling about the person, and for actions having to do with him. We regard the voluntary choice in a certain way. But to take something as a reason for something else is not to believe that the first thing is logically necessary to the second. If it were, to mention one problem, we could not change our minds about the worth of reasons in the way we do.
I dwell a little bit on this mistake of Compatibilists and Incompatibilists for a certain reason. Their mistake has played a role in making each of their positions a little more persuasive. If we really did have an ordinary belief with a truth value about something’s being really necessary to holding people responsible, and no more than that, it would not be likely that we also had a contradictory belief, that something more was necessary. If we really believed it true that only voluntariness in an action was necessary to our having certain feelings about it, we would be unlikely to have the opposite belief that voluntariness was not enough but origination was also required. But there is nothing much surprising in our sometimes taking one thing as a good enough reason for something and our sometimes not doing so—particularly if the thing is somewhat different on different occasions.
Here is a related point. If it really were true that there was some kind of matter of fact, about one thing’s being necessary to another, you could expect that we would all agree about it. You could expect that we would all have one idea of a free action in connection with holding people responsible. As some philosophers like to say, there is likely to be convergence in opinion with respect to true propositions. People are likely to come to agree. But the same isn’t the case with taking something as a reason for something else. You and I might not agree about whether certain facts are a reason for having an abortion. If the two schools of thought had not made the mistake in question, they would not have been so confident in their views.
The fourth part of our summary of their views was what they had to say about moral responsibility. Compatibilists say determinism leaves it where it is, Incompatibilists say that determinism wrecks it. Both are wrong. Compatibilists are wrong because we know from our reflections that we have one way of holding people responsible, involving an image of origination, that is out of place if determinism is true. Incompatibilists are wrong because we know that we have one way of holding people responsible, involving only an idea of voluntariness, that goes perfectly well with determinism.
To put it differently, Compatibilists go wrong by having some kind of unclear idea of just one of our attitudes, the one involving only voluntariness, and then taking it for the only one we have, and turning it into a single settled definition of free choice and a belief about a necessary relation to something else. Incompatibilists start with some kind of unclear idea of our other attitude, with the origination image in it, and go wrong in the same way. Maybe if either side had seen clearly in connection with moral responsibility that it was just an attitude we have to persons that they were considering, they would not have been so sure that we have only one of them.
While we are on the subject of fundamental disagreement between the two traditions, let me say something else. Each side is confident that it is in possession of the truth. It is a good idea, and often necessary, if you are saying you are in possession of the truth, to have an explanation of why a lot of other people disagree. So each tradition has tried to explain the error of the other. Boiled down, what each explanation comes to is that the other side is just confused or even dim.
Here is a question. Has the problem of the consequences of determinism gone on for centuries because of confusion? That is hard to believe. What would explain the persistence of the problem is there not being a single settled idea of freedom, but two ideas, involved in different attitudes. What would go further in explaining the persistence of the problem is each of us having the two ideas, and moving back and forth between them. You could say we are at odds with ourselves. So to my mind there is the separate argument for our view that it explains an important part of the history of philosophy.
The fifth and last feature of the two schools of thought is believing that the problem of the consequences of determinism can be settled by logical, intellectual, philosophical, or linguistic means as traditionally conceived. Just look closely at your idea of freedom, get the right definition, check the Oxford English Dictionary, and so on. That is one more mistake. The real problem of determinism’s consequences is far from being as purely intellectual as the two schools have supposed.
The real problem is that we have got two sets of attitudes, about a lot more than moral responsibility, and this fact issues in our making at least two responses to determinism. To put it differently and a little reductively, we have two sets of desires, and they issue in at least the two responses. That is an uncomfortable situation. But does it amount to a purely intellectual problem, one that we can solve by finding out a truth, or seeing an idea clearly, or showing two propositions to be consistent or inconsistent? I don’t think so. For a start, you can’t refute a desire.
We will go on to the real problem in the next chapter, but first let us get up to date on the persistence of the long battle between Compatibilists and Incompatibilists. It has to be recorded, first, that since the judgements on Compatibilists and Incompatibilists as both wrong was brought to their attention (Honderich 1988), these two parties have not entirely faded away or humbly fallen silent. Not many past members of them have admitted their error and converted to Attitudinism. As already remarked, at least some have gone on proving themselves to be as uniquely in possession of the truth as were Hobbes and Bramhall.
In the last couple of decades, a good deal of diligence has gone into a certain Incompatibilist line of thought laid out by a strong philosopher. Plainly stated, it is that if determinism is true, then my action today, perhaps my going along again with my unjust society, is the effect or consequence of a causal circumstance in the remote past, before I was born. That circumstance, clearly, was not up to me. So its necessary consequence, my action of compliance today with my unjust society, is not up to me. Hence my action today is not free and I am not responsible for it. Determinism is inconsistent with freedom and responsibility (van Inwagen).
This line of thought is dignified by having the name of the Consequence Argument for Incompatibilism. It is worth noting in passing that in its essential content, its logic, the argument has nothing to do with our being unable to change the past. It is that the past had in it no act of origination and in particular no relevant act of origination. It had in it no act of origination that had the later action of going along with my unjust society as content or object, so to speak, and as effect. Instead the past had in it that remote causal circumstance and a causal sequence from it leading up to the action of compliance. If the past did have such a relevant act of origination in it, although I still couldn’t change it or the rest of the past, things would be OK. My action of compliance could be up to me.
It is also worth noting that the argument has nothing essential to do with a causal circumstance in the remote past. To repeat, what the Incompatibilist supposes would make my action today up to me, make me free and responsible, is an act of origination relevant to today’s action of compliance. Suppose that the act of origination for the action of compliance would have had to be not in the remote past but in the last five minutes—originations wear out, so to speak, if they do not issue in actions within five minutes. If they are to work, they have to be renewed. We do indeed believe something like this. If so, for the Incompatibilist, my action’s having been the effect of a causal circumstance just over five minutes ago would make the action not up to me.
Thus what is crucial for this line of thought is a relevant act of origination. And hence, to mention one thing, the argument has as much need of giving an adequate account of origination as any other argument of its ilk—any Incompatibilism. What in fact has happened in connection with the line of argument, however, is a lot of reflection, aided by modal logic, on something else. We could transform it into reflection that makes the essential content or logic of the argument explicit, talk about a causal circumstance just over five minutes ago, but there is no need to do so.
The reflection has been on whether it does really follow, from the fact that a remote causal circumstance was not up to me, that its necessary consequence, my action today, is not up to me. The reflection has included variations on the plain version of the line of thought, and also objections to and supposed refutations of both the plain line of thought and the variations (Ekstrom).
It is not easy for me to see that this has been philosophical time well spent. Does it not seem clear that in an ordinary sense of the words, it does indeed follow that if the remote causal circumstance was not up to me, neither was what was connected with it by an unbroken causal sequence—my action today?
Will anyone say that there is no sense of the words in which it follows that if the remote circumstance was not up to me, neither was its necessary consequence? No fundamental or important sense in which lack of control is transitive in this way? Might you join me in saying that if modal logic were to prove that there is no such sense of the words, or no important sense of the words, so much the worse for modal logic?
On the other hand, could modal logic or anything else prove that if my action today is the consequence of a certain causal circumstance, there is no sense in which it is, say, up to me? There is, isn’t there, a clear sense in which my action, necessary consequence though it was, may well have been up to me—perfectly up to me?
Anyone who still needs persuading might indulge in a little imagining about me. Imagine I was struck a month ago by the philosopher Bradley’s utterance that to wish to be better than the world is to be already on the threshold of immorality. Suppose I had then consciously determined after a month’s serious reflection that henceforth I would consistently act on the side of my society. Suppose it had come about that a great desire drew me only to this—and of course that I desired to have the desire, and so on. In fact my whole personality and character now supported my action of deference. I could not have been more for it. Does not this conjecture, or any more restrained one you like, clearly establish that it must be a very brave Incompatibilist who maintains that there is no significant sense in which my action of compliance was up to me?
Now consider the other side in the traditional dispute—some Compatibilist struggle in the last couple of decades, also deriving from the work of a strong philosopher (Frankfurt). This work mainly centres on a certain kind of example, such as the following one from science fiction.
Polly is faced with a decision between doing the right thing or simply indulging a selfish desire. Polly, being the person she is, decides on the right thing. As a matter of fact, however, even if she had been about to decide to be selfish, she would have decided to do the right thing. This is because there is also a demon neuroscientist in the story. He has implanted a device in her brain such that if she were to be about to decide to do the selfish thing, she would instead decide on the right thing.
What the example shows, it is said, is that a person’s moral responsibility with respect to an action doesn’t depend on being able to do the other action. It doesn’t depend on being able to do otherwise. Polly’s being credited with moral responsibility for her action doesn’t depend on her having had an alternative.
The example is puzzling, because it is a little vague. You can say, of course, that in a sense Polly could have done otherwise—she could have tried to decide on or do the selfish thing—and it is for this reason that she gets moral credit for what she did decide. But we do not have to get into that. The example, if it is to be of relevance to us, has to be made entirely definite in a certain way. We have to take the episode as one in which Polly’s decision is subject to determinism. It is a decision of which Initiation Determinism, as we called it, was true.
So the example, for all its drama, comes down to the proposition that Polly can be morally responsible, in this case credited with moral responsibility, which presupposes her being free, even if determinism is true. Indeed she can be. And you can explain why. A large part of the explanation is, so to speak, the person Polly is. She is good willed, not seriously selfish. The decision was in accord with her nature. Also, she was in no sense constrained or compelled to make the decision—it was not against any serious desire or impulse of hers. In short, the decision was voluntary.
But now what has been proved? Well, I guess it has been proved, if a little proof will do, that we have an idea of freedom that is consistent with determinism. But we are supposed to have a proof of Compatibilism. That doctrine has been to the effect that our single idea of freedom, or single important one, is the idea of voluntariness. Has this been proved? Obviously not. In fact there is no difficulty at all in presenting and colouring examples so as to prove the existence of the idea of freedom that includes origination. Indeed this could be done with the example of Polly. It can be presented as an instance of a completely determined decision and hence as one in which a decision in a certain sense is unfree. I contentedly leave that to you.
Let me mention yet more quickly some more industry by Compatibilists, owed to an idea of the same philosopher (Frankfurt; cf. Dennett; Lehrer; Magill). It might be taken as at bottom the effort to show why kleptomaniacs, compulsive hand-washers, and other such unfortunates, often taken as unfree in their behaviour, are also such on the Compatibilist account of freedom. Certainly, it can be thought there is a problem for the account here, since the kleptomaniac in walking out of the department store yet again without paying for the blouses presumably is somehow doing what he wants to do, presumably is not acting against desire.
Compatibilists are indeed on the way to a solution if they suppose, a little bravely, that all kleptomaniacs not only desire to make off with the blouses, but also desire not to have that desire. By means of this idea of a hierarchy of desires, that is, the Compatibilist is indeed improving his conception of a free action—it is, at least in the first part of the conception, an action such that we desire to desire to perform it. Suppose more than that—that the whole philosophical enterprise, this hierarchical theory of freedom, works like a dream, with no difficulties about a regress or about identifying a self with a particular level of desires or about anything else.
Will that have come near to establishing that there is no other conception of a free action? Will it come close to establishing that we have operating in our lives only the hierarchic conception? Will it come close to establishing the lesser thing, to which some Compatibilists have recently tended to retreat, that this conception is fundamental or dominant or most salient or in some other way ahead of another one? Come to think of it, how could it actually do that? Are we to suppose that from the premise that one conception of freedom has now been really perfected it follows that there is no other conception of freedom or none worth attention?
So it is hard for me to agree that the Incompatibilist and Compatibilist regiments should have gone on proving that one of them has the truth. What each of them has actually been doing for the most part, and it has been work of value, is to clarify and develop their particular conceptions of freedom—improve further on successors to Bramhall’s idea of origination and Hobbes’s idea of voluntariness. They have not seen themselves and their humbler project aright. If they have served a philosophical purpose, it is still satisfactory to record that the two regiments are no longer alone in the field, as we shall see in due course (pp. 142–3). It is also satisfactory that there have been famous defections from their ranks, or anyway uncertainty as to whether certain captains are still with them.
Professor Kane, who sometimes still seems to be at the head of the Free Will regiment, can nevertheless now write that ‘freedom’ definitely can mean something compatible with determinism. He can add that
I think those of us who believe in a free will that is incompatible with determinism—we Incompatibilists and libertarians so-called—should simply concede this point to our Compatibilist opponents. Many kinds of freedom worth wanting are indeed compatible with determinism. What we Incompatibilists should be insisting upon instead is that there is at least one kind of freedom worth wanting that is incompatible with determinism. (Kane 2002c; cf. 2002d)
It is unclear in what sense this is Incompatibilism, certainly, since it allows that we are concerned with the other kind of freedom.
As indicated, Incompatibilism may be in process of reducing itself to the claim that its idea of freedom is more important to us than the other one. Maybe that we want it more. Can it really be that the brave battle between Incompatibilists and Compatibilists, from Hobbes and Bramhall onwards, about the factual question of whether freedom is compatible with determinism, about our supposed single and settled concept of freedom, is to come down in the end to a little quarrel about which of two kinds of freedom would be better for us, maybe do more for our dignity?
That would be sad for traditionalists, but in fact an improvement on the old stuff. That is not to say that Incompatibilists would be right, that they could actually defend their new position. It is far from an evident truth. Compatibilists would have several replies. Take moral and legal rights, whole structures of them, so important in our societies and in relations between them. They have to do with freedom, obviously, and perhaps nothing about freedom gets more attention. It is clear that the rights ordinarily have to do only with ensuring the voluntariness of actions by individuals. What bills of rights seek to do is preserve us from certain constraints and compulsions.
So there is a good reply for Compatibilists. But as in the case of the dispute between the two parties until recently, the factual dispute supposedly about a single concept of freedom, what needs to be said about an essentially evaluative dispute is that neither party wins. We do give importance, in different contexts, to the two ideas of freedom.
There is also Professor Fischer, also prominent in this part of philosophy. He is, as he says, a Semi-Compatibilist. Determinism in his view is incompatible with freedom, but compatible with moral responsibility. This seems rather more than a fracture in the iceberg of Compatibilism. Certainly, it is not hard to agree that there is a conception of freedom incompatible with determinism, and a conception of moral responsibility that is compatible with it. This follows from there being two conceptions or versions of each of these things. Should Professor Fischer not give up his old allegiance completely and join the the Attitudinists?
The real problem raised by determinism, to go back to it, is that each of us has the two ideas of freedom contained in two families of attitudes, each fundamental, and this results in two responses to determinism and an uncomfortable situation. Let us go on to this real problem.
The next chapter of How Free Are You?, for which the publishers would like you to buy the book, in English or in one of the seven translations, is the real problem that persists after we get rid of Compabilism and Incompatibilism. But you can turn to something else the new last chapter of the second edition of the book.
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