• After Compatibilism: Essays on Freedom and Responsibility

      McKenna, Michael S.; Wallace, Robert Hamilton; Sartorio, Carolina; Timmons, Mark; Horgan, Terence; Nelkin, Dana K. (The University of Arizona., 2020)
      This dissertation is a series of standalone essays. Together, they form a critique of contemporary compatibilist approaches to the problem of free will and determinism, and they offer an alternative methodology for approaching questions about freedom and responsibility. Compatibilist approaches to the free will problem exist on a spectrum from the more normative to the more metaphysical. Views at the metaphysical end of the spectrum typically understand free will in terms of abilities. In Chapter 1, I argue that these views face a powerful dilemma: they either fail to explain these abilities or fail to show that these abilities are compatible with the thesis of physical determinism. Perhaps a commitment to abilities could be given up, but I argue that takes us too far afield from the intuitive way we understand ourselves as free agents. Compatibilist approaches at the normative end of the spectrum have been largely influenced by P.F. Strawson’s responsibility naturalism. Views of this sort begin by carefully attending to the features of our responsibility practices in order to glean the nature of the sort of freedom that grounds apt responsibility ascriptions. In Chapter 2, I defend a version of this view from a decisive objection: Strawsonian compatibilism seems to make evildoers exempt from moral responsibility. Nevertheless, in Chapter 3, I argue that Strawson's program cannot properly insulate itself from metaphysical concerns about abilities. The methodology may actually support a powerful form of incompatibilism about free will and determinism. This casts the entire contemporary project that draws on his work in a suspect light. Drawing lessons from these two failures, in Chapter 4, I offer a practice-based argument for realism about freedom and responsibility—the view that we really are free and responsible— that is neutral with respect to questions about the compatibility of freedom and determinism. The argument does not depend on any particular metaphysical theory of abilities or particular view of our moral practices. I argue in Chapter 5 that, given this realist framework, we have reason to think that whatever ends up being true about the abilities that characterize free and responsible agents, they will be compatible with determinism after all.