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Another Argument (For Incompatibilism)

Part four of a series on arguments for/against incompatibilism. 

(part one)     (part three)

(part two)

In this post, I’ll provide the gist of Bailey’s (2012) argument for strict incompatibilism; thus, there will be details left out, but I don’t think passing over them will hinder us as we move forward. It’s important to remember that Bailey’s argument is intended to do three things: (1) get us strict incompatibilism, (2) get us strict incompatibilism without cost (cf. my previous post), and (3) avoid Joseph Campbell’s No Past Objection.

Another Argument

Bailey claims The No Past Objection affects the traditional Consequence Argument as well as other popular incompatibilist arguments. Either, The No Past Objection tells against the validity or soundness of these arguments, or else metaphysical costs are incurred to salvage them. So what is the strict incompatibilist to do? One option is to develop another argument, one that avoids the need for additional metaphysical currency and handles cases like Campbell’s Adam case.

In “Incompatibilism and the Past” (2012) Bailey proposes just such an argument and helpfully baptizes it, “Another Argument.” Bailey writes,

The thought this: I am free with respect to some truth only if it could be false. But its being false in just any old world will not do. I am free with respect to a truth only if it’s false in some sufficiently nearby world. A world is sufficiently nearby only if it shares the laws with the actual world. And a world is sufficiently nearby only if it shares at least one time with the actual world. This is not a sufficient condition for free will, but it is a necessary one. And determinism rules it out. For if determinism is true, a world sharing any time with the actual world (and sharing the actual world’s laws) shares all times and all truths with the actual world. (2012, 369)

Another argument is then presented formally thus: Let s(t) be a proposition expressing the complete state of the world at time t,

P1. Necessarily, for any subject S, and any truth p, if S is ever free with respect to p, then there is some time t such that the conjunction of s(t) and the laws is compossible with not-p. (premise)

P2. Necessarily, if determinism is true, then for any time t and truth p, the conjunction of s(t) and the laws entails p. (definition of determinism)

P3. Therefore: necessarily, if determinism is true, then for any time t and truth p, the conjunction of s(t) and the laws is not compossible with not-p. (from P2)

P4. Therefore: necessarily, if determinism is true, for any subject S, and any truth p, S is not ever free with respect to p. (from P1 and P3).

(Bailey 2012, 369-370)

The crucial premise is (P1). Bailey defends (P1) against charges that it is problematically equivalent to its conclusion (2012, 370-372). My concern will not be with this aspect of Bailey’s argument, and so I will address the argument as it stands.

Bailey begins his informal argument by stating a necessary condition of freedom: “I am free with respect to some truth only if it could be false.”  However, this isn’t enough. The truth needs to be false in a “sufficiently nearby world.” Bailey stipulates his own definition of what it takes to for a world to be “sufficiently nearby.” Says Bailey, “A world is sufficiently nearby only if it shares the laws with the actual world. And a world is sufficiently nearby only if it shares at least one time with the actual world” (369). This duo of necessary conditions applied to someone, S’s, being free with respect to some truth has it that if it is true in the actual world, α, that S As, then the proposition that S As must be false in at least one world, W, that shares α’s laws and at least one time with α. (Here ‘α’ does not name the world that is in fact actual, i.e., ours.)

The upshot of Bailey’s argument is that it gets  strict incompatibilism without the cost, and it avoids Campbell’s NPO. I’ll briefly discuss why it’s thought that it does the latter. Bailey’s argument makes no assumption about what time we pick, and so it doesn’t depend on a contingent premise about a world’s having a remote past (i.e., a past before any humans existed). So is “Adam” free in his action—call this action R, i.e., reaching for an apple at t—performed at the first instant? That depends. If he is, we need to find another world, w, that shares its laws with the actual world, α, and at least one time with α, but R is false in w. But given determinism, any two worlds that share the same deterministic laws of nature and at least one time, share all truths. The time we choose could be t, or any t* > t. Therefore, if Adam’s world is deterministic, then all worlds we pick that share the laws with Adam’s world and at least one time, just is Adam’s world. Since  is true in Adam’s world, it’s

Before moving forward, it is important to note this: Bailey is presenting us with what has been referred to as nomological determinism. As Kadri Vihvelin (2011) explains,

[N]omological determinism (henceforth ‘determinism’), is a contingent and empirical claim about the laws of nature: that they are deterministic rather than probabilistic, and that they are all-encompassing rather than limited in scope

[…] 

Given these rough definitions of the difference between deterministic laws, probabilistic laws, and limited laws, we can understand determinism as the thesis that a complete description of the state of the world at any time t and a complete statement of the laws of nature together entail every truth about the world at every time later than t. Alternatively, and using the language of possible worlds: Determinism is true at a possible world w iff the following is true at that world: Any world which has the same laws of nature as w and which is exactly like w at any time t is exactly like w at all times which are future relative to t. (§1)

This is in keeping with Bailey’s (2012) claim that, “if determinism is true, a world sharing any time with the actual world (and sharing the actual world’s laws) shares all times and all truths with the actual world” (369). The only minor difference is that Vihvelin’s description runs the determinism only in the forward direction whereas Bailey notes that the direction of time is irrelevant. That is, if nomological determinism obtains then, if two worlds, W and W*, share the same laws and are exactly alike at some future time t, then they are exactly alike at all times t* < t (and, of course, all times t** > t).

References

Bailey, Andrew (2012). “Incompatibilism and the Past.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Vol. LXXXV No. 2, September 2012, 351–376.

Vihvelin, Kadri (2011). ‘Arguments for Incompatibilism.’ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Edward N. Zalta(ed.), URL. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2007/entries/incompatibilism- arguments/.

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