COMPATIBILISM AND INCOMPATIBILISM
by Ted Honderich
-- The Determinism and Freedom Philosophy Website --
This is an improvement on my contribution to the recent Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference, on determinism and freedom, admirably organized by the University of Idaho and Washington State University. The piece goes forward with the idea that the two traditional doctrines, that determinism is consistent with freedom and that it isn't, are very cold potatoes and also provably mistaken. The town of Moscow, Idaho was full of traditionalists of the two kinds, but the upsetting idea may have made some headway. The piece owes something, indeed a lot, to my indulgence in philosophical autobiography. It persists in at least a scepticism about the usual interpretation of Quantum Theory. The scepticism was not reduced by the fine contribution to the conference, a survey of contemporary physics, by the philosopher of science from Pittsburgh, Professor John Earman.
ABSTRACT: A determinism of decisions and actions, despite our experience of deciding and acting and also an interpretation of Quantum Theory, is a reasonable assumption. The doctrines of Compatibilism and Incompatibilism are both false, and demonstrably so. Whole structures of culture and social life refute them, and establish the alternative of Attitudinism. The real problem of determinism has seemed to be that of accomodating ourselves to the frustration of certain attitudes, at bottom certain desires. This project of Affirmation can run up against a conviction owed to reflecting on your own past life. The conviction is that an attitude akin to one tied to indeterminism, a way of holding yourself morally responsible, has some basis despite the truth of determinism. We need to look for radical ideas here, as radical as Consciousness as Existence with the problem of perceptual consciousness. Could that doctrine help with determinism and freedom? Could a problem about causation and explanation do so?
1. Determinism and Whether It is True
You can take determinism to be the family of views, a few of them clear and otherwise conceptually adequate, that our decisions and the like and also our actions flowing from them are the effects of certain ordinary causal sequences. These personal events are necessitated by initial and also by subsequent causal circumstances that make up the causal sequences. Has this determinism been shown to be false?
Whether we actually experience its being false, which is to say become aware of its falsehood in the course of our deciding and acting, has been disputed. From the 17th Century right up to an issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies the other year (Searle 2000), some philosophers have said that we do indeed experience the falsehood of determinism. We learn or somehow get the truth that at least sometimes our decisions and actions are not ordinary effects.
That is, in deciding and acting we ordinarily have a certain idea of freedom, and we also somehow see that we do actually have this freedom -- that we are having it in the course of the deciding and acting. It is part of our consciousness of pieces of deciding and acting that they could go the other way instead, given things exactly as they are and were. Rather than being ordinary effects, the decisions and actions are originated.
To say they are originated is to refer to some special mental or neural generative activity that takes the explanatory place of ordinary and clear causation. Often an attempt is made by philosophers to describe this generative activity itself. It is described as being a matter of extraordinary or funny causes, even self-causes, or creative endeavours, or teleology, or ordinary English verbs oddly understood, or something sui generis, or reasons in a particular sense of the term where they are not only terms of logical relations, premises for conclusions, but events -- although of course not ordinary causal events. Events of some kind are needed, of course, for the explanation of other events -- the decisions and actions.1
All of these descriptions of origination are found unclear or factitious by other philosophers, unsurprisingly. But that is not the end of origination. To say decisions and actions are sometimes originated can be to say no more than that our decisions and actions come about in such a way, whatever it is, that certain attitudes on our part are in order. These attitudes include certain hopes for the future and the particular moral approval that credits us with a particular kind of moral responsibility, and so on. To say the lesser thing is to say something perfectly intelligible.2 Nor does it become unintelligible if you go further and say that our decisions are somehow within our control or up to us, whatever that comes to, and hence that certain attitudes are in place.3
Against the idea that in deciding and acting we actually experience the falsehood of determinism, other philosophers have said or contemplated, from the 17th Century to a more recent issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies4, that what we ordinarily experience in deciding and acting is something quite different from an absence of effects. We have the idea that decisions and the like are effects but not effects of a particular kind -- and we can know this idea fits the facts.
That is, decisions and acts are not effects of compelling, constraining or inhibiting causal circumstances -- causal circumstances in conflict with our desires, wills, personalities or characters. As we discern in these typical cases, there is nothing that is forcing our decisions on us. There is an absence of compulsion or the like. We know that in this clear sense the thing can go the other way. There is the freedom of voluntariness, as distinct from origination. Determinism is left perfectly possible by it.
Whatever is to be said of this dispute about deciding and acting with respect to determinism, of which more in a minute, there is a truth about the rest of our common experience, including our actual experience in science -- and in neuroscience most relevantly. It is that this wider experience leads us towards the view, a second determinism, that all experienced events other than decisions and actions are effects of ordinary causal sequences. If this is so, we surely have good reason, a strong inferential base, for taking the same to be true of the decisions and actions.
Certainly with nature as we encounter it in our lives, and also with machines, and most importantly with our bodies, we do know of sequences of causal circumstances for the events in them. We have at least some evidence. At breakfast, no spoon levitates. At work, no keyboard or lever fails really inexplicably, truly randomly. No event in my central nervous system is such a real mystery, something of which there is no ordinary causal explanation to be had. We know enough of ordinary events outside of our deciding and acting to know -- what indeed our very language of causation expresses -- that they are effects of ordinary causal sequences.
Do you say that our experience of other ordinary events than our decisions and actions is one thing and our theory, particularly our Quantum Theory, is another? You may indeed, but without great effect on some of your hearers, particularly some who were on hand for Professor Earman's admirable tour of the subject at the 2001 Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference.5 We are not all overwhelmed by science put to philosophical purposes, or science when it becomes philosophy.
After nearly a century during which the indeterministic interpretation of Quantum Theory might have been proved, corroborated, supported by direct and univocal experimental evidence, or what you will along these definite lines, it has not been. This shouldn't be overlooked with deference. Nor has anyone despatched the relevant proposition, annoying to practical-minded physicists, that two theories can both work even if they are inconsistent and hence one of them is false.
It has not even been made clear, of the items in Quantum Theory as interpreted that are said not to be effects, that they are indubitably in the category of things said by determinists of the several kinds to be effects. That is, it has not been made clear these items are events, individuals in a stretch of space and time as distinct from abstract entities or whatever. No determinist with his head screwed on frontwards has ever said one end of an equatation is the effect of the other, or that a figure's having angles adding up to 180 degrees is the effect of its being a triangle.
It has become apparent that the indeterministic interpretation of Quantum Theory has a nature akin to that of a philosophical theory, or indeed just is a philosophical theory. I have in mind a theory that is at a certain distance from experience, and experimental data and also mathematics, and that aspires instead to the essence of philosophy. That is a kind of logic, which is to say greater conceptual adequacy than found in science -- higher standards of clarity, consistency, completeness and so on. That a theory may fail dismally in the aspiration, first of all on account of being self-contradictory, as the indeterminist interpretation of Quantum Theory has so often been and admitted to be, does not remove it from the class of philosophical or would-be philosophical theories.
About the truth of a determinism of decisions and actions, it is worth remarking, too, that the supposed micro-indeterminism based on Quantum Theory would almost certainly not touch the matter if it really were a fact. It would almost certainly be consistent with the determinism of decisions and actions, a macro-determinism related to the macro-determinism of neuroscience. It would be as consistent as it would be with that determinism of the ordinary world remarked on earlier -- the absence of levitating spoons and so on.6
For the purposes of this paper, a determinism of decisions and actions will be taken as a reasonable assumption. This paper does not assume, with the author of the piece in the earlier issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies (Searle 2000), that causation works upwards or simultaneously with brain and mind in deciding and acting, but does not work sideways or across time with respect to these activities. That is, this paper does not assume that Quantum Theory as interpreted does not relate numerically different if simultaneous macro-events in choosing and acting, but does relate earlier and later ones. This paper does not assume either, with respect to sideways relations in general, that our brains and minds jump back and forth between Quantum Theory as interpreted and causation, depending on whether we are deciding something or, on the other hand, just seeing or thinking something. This stuff, to my mind, is a dog's breakfast. (Honderich 2001a)
What most moves me to this unAmerican intemperateness, perhaps, is that there can be no doubt whatever, as we shall soon be seeing, that certain desires are in play with respect to determinism and freedom. They are the stuff of attitudes of hope, moral approval, confidence in belief, personal pride, and so on. Something like this is rightly allowed by such open libertarians as Kane (1996). They are deep desires, sometimes with religion in them. They are more in play than desires in some other parts of philosophy.
To speak generally, we want a certain freedom and the dignity it gives us, and it seems we want them more as retirement approaches. When suddenly it turns out that an interpretation of Quantum Theory, until now supposed to be a perfectly general theory of reality, can be understood as operating in so friendly and local and inconsistent a fashion as to satisfy a philosopher's deep desire, it is possible to wonder, to vary the metaphor, which is the dog and which is the tail.
And let me remark on one other reason for my assumption of determinism and my intemperateness. Some philosophers, as you have heard, look into their experience of deciding and acting and see that it is uncompelled. Whatever introspection comes to, that is something they can actually do, as implied above. I am indeed aware that what is making me hand over my wallet in the man with the gun. But can I look into my experience and see that it is uncaused? Of course not. That fact, if it is one, is something outside the experience, presumably prior to it. Does more need to be said? Some other time.
2. Incompatibilism and Compatibilism, Their Falsehood, and Attitudinism
To turn now from the truth of determinism to its consequences or upshot for us, we have one regiment of philosophers, as you have heard, saying that in our consciousness of deciding and acting we have our idea of freedom and it is inconsistent with determinism. And we have the other regiment of philosophers agreeing that in our deciding and acting we have our idea of freedom, anyway typically, and it is consistent with determinism. The first regiment assigns to us the idea of origination, along with voluntariness of course, and the second regiment assigns to us only the idea of voluntariness. Each side says we have only their preferred conception. Or, both regiments hedge their bets, and say that their preferred conception is the only one somehow important to us. (Kane, 2002)
These contentions can come to seem very remarkable. In moving and after moving my finger to the left rather than the right, or in and after voting for the Left rather than the Right, I can have either idea of freedom with respect to my experience. I can have it if I haven't read or heard a word of philosophy. I can have either idea this very moment about moving my finger. So can you and anybody else.
What could Incompatibilist Philosopher conceivably say to stop me having the Compatibilist idea of voluntariness? It's true of my moving my finger at the moment, certainly. What could Compatibilist Philosopher say to stop me having the Incompatibilist idea of orgination? It's intelligible if it doesn't go too far, and it's no contradiction, and it can come to me even if I take determinism to be true. For these ideas it's a free country, isn't it?
Is Incompatibilist's contention, or Compatibilist's, actually be the thriller that we have his idea more often? Does Incompatibilist's contention reduce to the seeming philosophical scandal that his idea about us accords to us something he wants as a person, some ascendancy or elevation above nature or the rest of nature? Is Compatibilist's contention really that the claim of our voluntariness is the only claim as to freedom that he is his conventional clear-mindedness finds reassuring?
That we all have both ideas of freedom and, so to speak, make use of them and are supported by them to about the same extent, has seemed to me patently true. That is to say that both of Incompatibilism and Compatibilism are false. They are and always have been doctrines to the effect that we all have a single, settled idea of freedom. They have always agreed in that. Remember Hume, for a start, about all mankind agreeing about liberty (1963 (1748), p. 95).
That they are false is better confirmed, indeed demonstrated, by reflection on other things than our experience of deciding and acting. There are whole structures of our culture and social life that not merely give evidence of but are informed by either one or the other of the two ideas of freedom we all have. They provide a kind of large-scale behavioural proof that we have the two ideas.
We have retributive punishment, based on an assumption of the origination of offences by offenders. Some of our societies kill offenders by way of this idea. But we also have preventive punishment, which requires no such assumption. What lies behind the two practices or impulses -- and also various practices or impulses of reward -- are other things that are as confirmatory in themselves of our all having both ideas of freedom.
These are two kinds of moral attitudes in holding people responsible and crediting them with responsibility. In a sentence, I can disapprove of you morally for not having done otherwise given the past and present as they were, and I can disapprove of you, differently, for being the person who willingly did that awful thing out of your very own character and personality and nothing else.
It is as true, to revert to the external rather than the attitudinal world, that social and legal structures of individual rights ordinarily have to do with ensuring only the voluntariness of actions by individuals. What the framers of bills of rights have in mind, obviously, is to secure that we are preserved from certain constraints and compulsions -- that we have the freedom of voluntariness.
On the other hand, while we have no significant structures for the preservation of origination, since this is not within our power, we do in our lives give about as important a place to origination. It is one large assumption about ourselves that enables us to separate ourselves from the rest of conscious life, what used to be called the animal kingdom. Our assumption is a part of what explained, a while ago, the willingness of England to cure cows of an ailment bearable to them and harmless to us by killing and burning endless numbers of them. We do not allow that we can kill people in order to keep up market prices.
It is indeed a second assumption of this rapid paper, then, that both Incompatibilism and Compatibilism are false. The supposed problem of consistency dividing the two regiments of philosophers collapses into nothing as soon as it is seen there is no single concept of ours in this neighbourhood about which a question of its consistency with determinism arises, but rather two concepts, one of which is patently inconsistent with determinism and one of which is patently not. Incompatibilism and Compatibilism are answers to a question with a false presupposition, that we have but one conception of freedom or one important conception, and they themselves assert or presuppose that falsehood.
Having been impressed by some of the previous pieces in this book, are you still as unpersuaded as an editor of this volume is or was?7 Do you say something along the following lines? 'Compatibilism is the thesis that determinism is consistent with the claim that persons often have moral freedom or freewill. Incompatibilism is the denial of Compatibilism. How can they both be false? Doesn't this conflict with the law of the excluded middle?'
The answer is that it doesn't if there is no such thing as the claim that persons often have moral freedom or free will -- which there isn't -- and one of two claims here is inconsistent with determinism and one isn't.
Being as stubborn as philosophers ought to be, do you now say something of the following sort? 'Philosophers who work on moral freedom are concerned to provide an account of what it is for somebody's actions to be up to him or something of the sort. Incompatibilists say one thing, Compatibilists another about our shared belief of what it is for something to be up to him. It isn't as if there is a pre-philosophical or pre-theoretical notion of origination and a different pre-philosophical notion of voluntariness.'
Well, your third proposition there is the conclusion you're supposed to be arguing for. And your first two propositions also beg the question. What you need is an argument for the proposition that we have only one idea, or one important idea, of what it is for somebody's action to be up to him.
And most certainly, by the way, you get no such thing in concentrating on what is called the consequent argument of Incompatibilists -- the thought that something can't be up to somebody if it is the consequence of something in the remote past that wasn't up to him. Or by concentrating on the Compatibilist thought that somebody can be morally responsible for something even if they couldn't do otherwise -- what is called the argument from alternative possibilities. But for my reasons for saying so, if you can't now guess them, you will have to look elsewhere (2002a, pp. 115-121; 2002b, pp. 469-473).
3. One Remaining Problem, and the Response of Affirmation
So exit a question about consistency with a false presupposition, the presupposition that we have one conception of freedom. And exit Incompatibilism and Compatibilism. What is right is Attitudinism -- that we all have two families of attitudes, one family containing one of the two conceptions of freedom. In which case, what is our real philosophical situation?
Well, the two conceptions do indeed enter into and are indeed bound up with attitudes and practices with fundamental places in our lives. So there is a remaining problem of determinism and freedom. It has seemed to me to be the problem that results from taking determinism to be true, or from contemplating its truth, the problem of giving up or contemplating giving up what is inconsistent with it, the attitudes and practices bound up with the idea of origination, at bottom certain desires.
The possibility can come to mind, incidentally, that this real problem has in fact been the concern of at least some Compatibilists who have purported to be proving to us, one more time, that voluntariness by itself is our only idea of freedom or our only significant idea. One way in which you can try to give up an idea or belief and what goes with it is to try to persuade yourself that you don't actually have the idea or belief. You are more likely to fall into the strategy out of an exessively intellectual orientation to our existence.
In any case, the real problem of determinism has seemed to me the given kind of practical problem. It is the problem of how to do something, the problem of how to accept the frustration of deep desires, those bound up with origination. We want the content of certain hopes, as already remarked, which is to say futures in a sense open as distinct from being only a matter of agreeable necessity. We want the reassurance of certain moral attitudes. Also, we want a confidence that our inquiries of various kinds, our pursuits of knowledge, are in a way unlimited as well as unfettered. So with our non-moral attitudes to others -- personal attitudes. By attention to these latter attitudes, Peter Strawson (1968) moved the philosophy of determinism and freedom towards an awareness of the various attitudes that have come to seem to be its actual subject-matter.
The practical problem is not to be solved by a kind of collapse, a response of dismay to determinism. This, in short, is a kind of concentration on the particular kind of hopes, confidence in beliefs, personal feelings and so on that are inconsistent with determinism. For a start, there is no rationality in persisting in dismay when something else may be possible. Also this response will not be a settled one. Nor is the practical problem solved by another response to determinism, an intransigence. This is a kind of concentration on the kind of hopes and so on that is consistent with determinism. For a start this response is also unsettled, vulnerable to the other one.
It has been my own proposal until recently that the best response to determinism is something called Affirmation. (2002a, Ch. 10; 1988, Ch. 9) This consists in perceiving and valuing the life consistent with determinism, perceiving and valuing certain attitudes, relationships, and structures of culture, and thereby giving up the life inconsistent with determinism. The response is usefully parodied as a case of looking on the bright side, and is indeed a part of a philosophy of life.
This Affirmation recommends itself, but it can be supposed that particular means or strategies can also be of use in connection with it. One is a kind of satisfying naturalism in other than the current philosophical sense -- the satisfying naturalism that can be called taking up membership in nature, maybe Nature. Another means, requiring no sensibility or poetry, is contemplating escape from certain of the feelings inconsistent with determinism, notably the special guilt and failure associated with our images of origination in connection with our own actions.
None of this is likely to be successful, essentially because of the strength of our desires. It has seemed to me that success in the project of Affirmation will be owed, in the end, to nothing other than plain and settled belief in determinism. That remains rare, a lot rarer than contemplating the truth of determinism -- taking it as something in need of being considered. It has seemed to me that we or most of us, and perhaps more of our successors, will succeed in the response of affirmation only when we really believe of the things we dearly want that we do not have them and cannot ever have them.
4. Another Problem
Thomas Nagel in an account of determinism and freedom (1986) remarks that he changes his mind about the subject every time he thinks about it, and others may at least be tempted to this carry-on, as I have lately been. A question can be raised in your mind, indeed something like a conviction, about such an attitudinal view as the one just outlined and the project of Affirmation -- or for that matter about Compatibilism. But my concern is Attitudinism and the project.
The principal point is that a persistent question can be raised in your mind about Attitudinism -- mainly what is said of the role of the idea of origination -- and about Affirmation. A question can be raised about them by way of reflective attention to your own life. A question can be raised, that is, by indulgence in autobiographical thinking or writing, at any rate if it has had in it actions and so on such that you would think better of your life and yourself now if they were missing. (Cf. 2001b, pp. 395-399)
It can seem impossible not to feel responsible in a certain way for what you have done. This is to disapprove morally of yourself in a certain way, at bottom to have certain desires of several kinds. This disapproval is akin to the disapproval of which we know, the kind that carries in it an idea or image of the initiation of your actions that is inconsistent with determinism -- origination.
You are not saved from this self-doubt, self-accusation or guilt by the thought that you seem to be wanting your past to have been inconsistent with determinism. Rather, you are stuck with the thought, aren't you, that there is some fact about your past that enters into the disapproval? It is certainly relevant that the disapproval is unhappy and self-diminishing, not something agreeable.
That is not the end of the story about autobiographical reflection, but only half of it. Very likely your dealings with your past are not all of them judgemental, not all of them concerned with moral or other disapproval or approval. Often, if you get started on this reflection, what you want is just to understand. The aim is explanation of what happened, not judgement on it. (Cf. Richardson and Bishop 2002.)
And, to come towards the point, the terrible fact is that you can deal with your past life in this way and fall into no doubt whatever about determinism. No doubt whatever that everything that happened did have an explanation in the ordinary and indeed the only real sense. That stuff wasn't random. It was ordinary effects. Indeed you can increase your conviction of the truth of determinism. That, at any rate, has been my experience. This is owed, presumably, to nothing arcane, but just to your coming to more knowledge about a subject-matter, maybe reading your diary and putting together facts.
So, here is seeming contradiction. A kind of disapproval exists and seems to be based on some fact. The natural candidate is origination -- but since determinism is the case, there is no origination. (2002a, Ch. 12)
The seeming contradiction is something like the different and absolutely intractable one announced by Kant, also as a result of something about morality (1950 (1781)). Kant rightly did not respond in the Compatibilist way of course, by just giving up the proposition of indeterminism and and going on about freedom as being only voluntariness. Rather, he announced that he would have both of the determinism and the indeterminism. both of determinism and origination, by putting them in different places. Determinism in or for the phenomenal world, indeterminism in the noumenal world.
This Higher Compatibilism, entirely at odds with ordinary or mundane Compatibilism, seems hopeless. A distinction between two worlds is of course possible, and has a number of philosophical versions, several of them less metaphysical than Kant's. But there seems no hope whatever of locating indeterminism and freedom significantly in only one of them, and certainly no hope for taking it out of the experienced world entirely. In any case, since what is undetermined and free must in some sense turn up in both worlds, it is impossible to see that the contradiction is actually escaped.
Is it conceivable that some philosophical idea as radical as Kant's can have a better hope of dealing with the seeming contradiction? In particular, to come to the crux, is it conceivable that we can by some idea or other persist in certain attitudes, close to the attitudes tied up with origination -- persist in these attitudes without recourse to origination and consistently with determinism?
5. Perceptual Consciousness, Causal Lines
Let me lay out a couple of lines of thought. Both of them do indicate more of how radical it seems to me we need to be -- it isn't a matter of anything like more tinkering with origination. Both of them just might be of use, too, with the seeming contradiction. The first has to do with the nature of consciousness, the second with causation and explanation.
What is it for you to be aware of this room now? More generally, on the assumption that consciousness divides into perceptual, reflective and affective parts, what is it for you to be perceptually conscious? Two sorts of general answer are given, and also given with respect to the other two parts of consciousness.
One sort of answer, if you will allow a quick but enlightening parody, is that perceptual consciousness is cells. It is neural activity. This is the old physicalism about the mind of the 17th Century, a physicalism that now includes Functionalism and Cognitive Science With Philosophical Ambition. The other answer is only more disgraceful in terms of the physicalist conventionality of our current Philosophy of Mind. It is not often given openly, but is implied by the increasing resistance to the idea that consciousness is cells. This other answer, not much parodied, is that consciousness is non-physical stuff in heads.
It is possible to be attracted, as I am, to a quite general physicalism -- the view that all that exists is something close to physical. It is possible to be attracted too, likely by way of the fact of the subjectivity of consciousness, to the intolerable idea that perceptual consciousnessness is indeed funny stuff in heads. You might think this situation is rather like what we have been considering, attraction to both determinism and to something that so far has been sunk in indeterminism. It seems to me possible that the situation with perceptual consciousness will be resolved by a radical view of this consciousness.
What is it, really, for you now to be aware of this room? It is for the room in a way to exist. That answer can be shown not to be merely a rhetorical way of saying no more than that you are aware of the room. It is not a non-analysis. Rather, the claim that your perceptual consciousness consists in a kind of existence of a world consists in the claim that there is a certain state of affairs, certainly not in your head. It is things, reasonably called chairs and the like, being in space and time and dependent both on another world, roughly speaking the relevant atoms, and also on your neurons in particular. The world in question is anterior to the physical world, the one dependent both on atoms and crucially on all of us, above all our shared perceptual apparatus.
A few words delivered on the wing are unlikely to persuade you of this doctrine, Consciousness as Existence (2000, 2001c). My first and lesser aim, as you have heard, is to indicate something of the order of differentness of thought that seems needed if we are to make a better escape from three centuries of impasse in the philosophy of determinism and freedom. In the doctrine about perceptual consciousness, a general physicalism is in a way held onto, and the mystery of non-physical stuff in the head absolutely abandoned. But what attracted us to the stuff in the head, its recommendation, is delivered to us by other means.
Above all, we are offered a real subjectivity, something clear on this subject. This is your world of perceptual consciousness, different from the shared physical world. Given the history and state of the philosophy of determinism and freedom, is it not clear that only so significant a departure from the cart-tracks, and maybe one's own recent tracks, has a chance?
Might it be that we have a chance of dealing with the seeming contradiction involving determinism and certain attitudes by way of reflection on the nature of consciousness -- and in particular on Consciousness as Existence? Searle thinks something like the first thing, and so, after all, if I may be permitted another moment of unAmerican philosophical activity, there may be one thing in his paper that is right. Surely no question of freedom could arise about just exactly a physical world -- a world in which we are present only as conceived in the current physicalism of the Philosophy of Mind.
To say a word now of a particular idea about determinism and consciousness, the autobiographical feelings of responsibility that persist despite determinism are a matter of a certain individualism. If my feelings of this kind cannot rest on my having originated my life, so to speak, can they rest on the fact that my consciousness consists in what can be called the private ownership of some reality?
Consciousness as Existence does not leave me, so to speak, outside the world and merely its product. Rather, my being aware of things is my having a standing that in a certain sense is creative, at any rate constructive. A world of perceptual consciousness, a world anterior to the physical world and no more mental, actually depends not only on atoms but on me. Do I thus have a role or station that makes sense of feelings like those that have hitherto been assigned to origination? (2002a, pp. 147-151; cf. 2001b, pp. 395-399)
To finish up here, let me add, for all of us and particularly for the one or two open-minded graduate students of our age, another indication of the extent to which we should think of abandoning the philosophy of determinism and freedom as we have it and making a new start in this new millenium. This has to do with causation and explanation.
A causal circumstance, as you know, is a set of events that necessitated an effect. We typically isolate one of those events and say it caused the effect, or indeed was the cause of the effect -- as against another mere condition of the effect, another event in the causal circumstance. This could be the human action in the set, and will hardly ever be the presence of oxygen. In general it is the event that most interests us or the event that it is in our interests to isolate.
Suppose you now set about explaining something in a life, perhaps a pattern of it or a culmination of it, and you take that pattern or culmination to be the effect of a causal sequence, this being a past array of causal circumstances. You can now do the further thing of isolating a cause in each of the causal circumstances or maybe just some of them. This gives you what can be called a causal line within and from the beginning of the sequence to the the pattern or culmination. It may be that this is much of what is had in mind by Alasdair MacIntyre (1981) and other philosophers who speak of a narrative in connection with a life.
There is a problem about isolating a single condition in a causal circumstance and dignifying it as the cause. The problem, a paradox if you will, is that in a clear sense this cause is no more explanatory of the effect than any other condition in the causal circumstance. All are required or necessary conditions. But the cause seems to be exactly that -- more explanatory. That is exactly what is conveyed by calling it the cause. Evidently there is the very same problem about a causal line. In a clear sense it cannot be more explanatory than any other chosen succession of items or states, say presences of oxygen. But it is more explanatory, isn't it?
What this comes to is that the culmination of a life, say, is a matter of plain determinism, but there seems also to be the possibility of some kind of explanation of it that is different in kind. Some kind of departure from determinism, or unexpected addition to it. At any rate there is a problem or paradox here. The putative explanation would be consistent with determinism, indeed within it, but different in kind. I wonder if the thing is worth reflection in connection with determinism and the attitudes in which we can find ourselves persisting, but I mainly offer it here as another indication of the extent to which we should start out anew with determinism and freedom. (2002a, pp. 151-153; 2001b, pp. 399-415)
It may be that we shall get nowhere. If so, I myself shall go beyond Compatibilism and Incompatibilism only to the Attitudinism and the project of Affirmation. Sticking to this will have to involve something like seeing that what presents itself as a certain moral attitude to oneself and one's past is in fact moralism, indeed a kind of moralized self-abuse. But this Affirmation will not be perfect contentment.
Atmanspacher, H. and R. Bishop 2002. Between Choice and Chance. Thorverton & Charlottesville: Imprint Academic.
Honderich. T. 1988. A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life-Hopes. Oxford: ClarendonPress. Reprinted 1990 as the two paperbacks Mind and Brain and The Consequences of Determinism.
----------- 2000. 'Consciousness as Existence Again', in Philosophy of Mind: The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Vol. 9, ed. Bernard Elevitch. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University, Philosophy Documentation Center. Also in Theoria, 95, June 2000.
----------- 2001a. 'Mind the Guff: A Response to John Searle', Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, 4, April.
----------- 2001b. Philosopher: A Kind of Life. London & New York: Routledge.
----------- 2001c. 'Consciousness as Existence and the End of Intentionality', in Philosophy at the New Millenium, Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures for 2001-2002, edited by A. O'Hear. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
----------- 2002a. How Free Are You?, 2nd edition. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.
----------- 2002b. 'Determinism as True, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism as False, and the Real Problem', in Kane 2002.
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Richardson, F. and R. Bishop 2002. 'Rethinking Determinism in Social Science', in Atmanspacher and Bishop 2002.
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1. There would be no hope, of course, in replacing ordinary causation with reasons conceived as just premises in deductive, inductive or otherwise normative relations. Reasons in this sense are indeed just propositions standing in relations with other propositions. That there is a good reason in this sense for my doing something, even a reason that overwhelms all others, or even a reason that conflicts with nothing, is perfectly consistent with my not doing it at all. Reasons of this ordinary kind explain no actions and cannot conceivably replace ordinary causes in their explanatory role. To speak only of such reasons is to give no explanation of action in the relevant sense. As for reasons in what is perhaps the most ordinary sense, where they are actual causes taken by their owner as rational or the like, sometimes called psychological causes, these deterministic items are of course ruled out for the philosopher of origination from the start.
2. Peter Strawson (1968 )spoke for many philosophers before and after him when he spoke of 'the obscure and panicky metaphysics' of origination. Galen Strawson (1986) takes the view, in brief, that we do not need to think about determinism since there is nothing intelligible in conflict with it in the talk of origination. Father right, son not so right.
3. There is more on origination as I see it, and on other matters considered in this paper, from causation onward, in Honderich (2002a) and (2002b). There is a lot more on almost all relevant matters, for resolute readers, in (1988).
4. Honderich (2001a). My own contemplation of the proposition about what we ordinarily experience, however, certainly does not issue in support for Compatibilism, the doctrine usually associated with it and considered below.
5. For the final version of Prof. Earman's lecture, see the first paper in this book, 'Determinism: What We Have Learned and What We Still Don't Know'. Cf. the various contributions in Atmanspacher & Bishop 2002. You need not rush to agree, however, with what may be assumed, that the only conceptually adequate conception of determinism is in terms of physics.
6. These various sceptical thoughts about the indeterminist interpretation of Quantum Theory and its use in defence of freedom of origination are set out more fully, along with other thoughts of the same tendency, in my 2002a, pp. 71-80, and 1988, pp. 304-334.
7. Joseph Keim Campbell.
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