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Posted by on Jan 8, 2013 in Philosophy | 0 comments

Free will posts at Talking Philosophy

I’ve written a couple of new posts at Talking Philosophy, dealing with a particular argument against the existence of free will. This argument is based on the idea that it is not fair to praise or blame people for their actions or characters, since they cannot claim ultimate responsibility for these. The argument assumes that we do not have libertarian free will (it would take a further argument to justify that assumption), and from there, it purports to give a reason for rejecting compatibilism.

I have all sorts of problems with the argument, although variants of it seem quite popular, both within the formal literature and online, and I’d be interested to see a reformulation that attempts to get around the problems which I identify. In particular, I think that the argument relies on a much too metaphysical concept of fairness. As it seems to me, calls for “fairness” and protests against “unfairness” arise when we (or many of us) think that personal bias, favouritism, etc., are operating in situations where we (or many of us) consider these pernicious or inappropriate.

We may not be wholly aware of why we consider a certain situation to fit into that category, or why we think that particular criteria (equality, productivity, effort, or whatever) should be used in a class of situations instead of favouritism, etc. We may simply have been socialised to think of certain kinds of situations in certain ways, and to have the concomitant emotional reactions. I assume that we’d need something like a utilitarian argument if we wanted a justification for accepting favouritism in some situations, though not others, or for applying certain specific criteria in certain situations, and others in other situations.

Meanwhile, anyone who is interested in the relevant past threads over at Talking Philosophy, following my various posts about aspects of free will, can click on this link. It should give you all my posts that I’ve tagged with “freewillseries”.