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Incompatibilism, The Consequence Argument, and the No Past Objection

Introduction

Suppose you believe that free will is incompatible with determinism. It is likely that among your reasons for believing this, you will cite the “Consequence Argument” as chief among them. The Consequence Argument (hereafter, CA) is widely regarded as the best argument for the conclusion that determinism is incompatible with freedom to do otherwise.

In the early 1980s, Peter van Inwagen (1983) developed influential versions of this argument. Influential replies to the CA also appeared, most notable being perhaps David Lewis’s (1982) reply. Eventually, however, debates over the CA became stagnated. Robert Kane (2005, 30) notes that key segments of the debate “tend to reach an impasse.” Likewise, John Martin Fischer (2012, 156) claims that those responses to the CA that make the debate “a real debate” have reached “a Dialectical Stalemate.” This is not to say that no new moves were being made, but much of the debate now seemed largely confined to highly technical discussions surrounding certain contentious modal principles employed in the CA (Kapitan 2011, 131).[1]

Recently, new life appears to have been breathed into debates over the CA with the publication of Joseph Keim Campbell’s (2007) paper, “Free Will and the Necessity of the Past.” As Daniel Speak (2011) notes of Campbell’s objection to the CA: “Although [Beta-blocking and Finessing Fixities] have something of a tradition, [Joseph Campbell’s criticism] appears to be a newcomer to the debate” (124). In this series of posts, I’ll discuss Campbells objection the CA, and then a recent argument by Andrew Bailey (2012) against Campbell’s objection to the CA. (more…)