Part five of a series on arguments for/against incompatibilism.
In this final post of the series I’ll argue that Andrew Bailey’s (2012) Another Argument (for incompatibilism) fails according to the standards it sets for itself. Recall that the “original” consequence argument, CA, failed as an argument for strict incompatibilism because it relied on a contingent premise to get a necessary conclusion. Joseph Campbell illustrated this nicely via his “Adam” example. Adam is a being who has no past and does a free action in a determined world. Incompatibilists will say Adam’s action couldn’t be free. But how can they show this? Not by the CA. Call this objection, The No Past Objection, NPO.
Bailey’s (2012) paper argued that the NPO affects many popular arguments for incompatibilism. He also looked at incompatibilist arguments against the NPO and argue that they either fail or come with metaphysical costs. Bailey then presented an argument for strict incompatibilism that he claimed came with no costs. He called this argument, Another Argument (discussed in pt. 4). Crucial to note here is that Another Argument assumed nomological determinism.
In this post I will respond to Another Argument with Another Adam(s). The intent is to undermine Another Argument similar to how the original Adam undermined the CA. That is, I’ll point out contingent premises in Another Argument. I’ll use three Adams. The first two will be contentious, but I’ll claim that arguing against those cases will come with costs, which is what Bailey wanted to avoid. Thus, Another Argument fails on its own standards. If Bailey is fine with paying the costs, Another Argument may not fail, but it will be superfluous. That is, if Bailey is prepared to pay the costs needed to defend Another Argument, why not just pay the costs needed to defend the CA against the NPO? However, my final Adam case will not be so easy to dismiss. The final case not only works against the CA, but Another Argument too. One interesting upshot that will come out of my final case, or so I’ll claim, is that arguments for strict incompatibilism may be a will-o’-the-wisp.
N.B. For those tempted to think there’s something self-referentially incoherent about my title, read it as: Not-(Another Argument)
Not Another Argument
Each of the three cases I’ll offer below can be spelled out in more detail and shown to be resistent against some initial defeaters. However, I’m not going to spend much time on the first two Adam cases. I’ll spend more time on the final case.
1. Lawless Adam
In the spirit of The No Past Objection, I propose The No Laws Objection. In Bailey’s (2012) paper, he uses “the laws” and “laws of nature” interchangeably. Now, suppose W is a deterministic world where anti-realism about laws of nature is true. Following Campbell (2007, 109), we add to this: “At its first moment of existence lived Adam, an adult person with all the knowledge, powers, and abilities necessary for moral responsibility. Shortly after Adam comes Eve, and the rest is history. For each of the propositions that comprise W, someone is such that he has, or had, a choice about whether that proposition is true—at least there is no reason to doubt this claim.” Adam’s action was determined and there are no laws in W, thus Another Argument includes a contingent premise and fails as an argument for strict incompatibilism. [See §3 below for just one example of how one could get determinism without laws of nature.] Now, one might argue that laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. This involves costs though, and Another Argument was supposed to be without cost.
2. Timeless Adam
Time does not seem necessary, even if laws are. Enter: The No Time Objection. Let W be a determined timeless world—a Platonic heaven, say—and Adam be a timeless soul, in W Adam rationally and timelessly choses to think about the Pythagorean theorem. Perhaps eternal facts about Adam’s nature entail he think about the Pythagorean theorem. Since there is no time in this world, Another Argument has employed a contingent premise to get a necessary conclusion. Bailey might think that timeless choices are impossible, but the same considerations above apply here. Indeed, the same kind of response Bailey gave to those who argued that instantaneous actions are impossible might be apropos here, viz., “[I]t has a cost. It takes on rather specific metaphysical commitments about (free) action, belief-desire complexes, anticipation, deliberation,” etc. (2012, 358). Thus, either this case is possible or incompatibilists will have to incur costs to avoid it.
3. Divinely Determined Adam
Bailey’s argument seems to only land against what we called above nomological determinism (conjoined with time). That is, it is alleged that on “determinism,” if two worlds W and W* share the same laws and some time, then if p is true in W, p cannot be false in W*. However, it seems to me that we can satisfy Bailey’s (P1) yet hold that the worlds in question are deterministic. This is possible because determinism could be true while nomological determinism false. Recall Bailey’s necessary constraints on being free,
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. (2012, 369).
Now let’s tell a story,
Divinely determined Adam: Consider, for instance, the possible world W. Suppose that W is a determined world. In W lives Adam, an adult person with all the knowledge, powers, and abilities necessary for moral responsibility. For each of the propositions that comprise W, someone is such that he has, or had, a choice about whether that proposition is true—at least there is no reason to doubt this claim. In W, every human action is determined, not by the laws of nature, but by God’s will. In W, Adam eats a piece of pizza at t, and thus had a choice about whether this proposition was true. Now, consider another world, W*. All human actions in W* are determined not by the laws of nature, but by God’s will. Suppose W and W* share the same indeterministic laws of nature and a time, and in W*, Adam does not eat a piece of pizza at t, and thus had a choice about whether this proposition was true.
This seems possible to me. That is, it seems that two worlds, W and W*, share all the same laws of nature and just one time, but S does A in W and not-A in W*, since God directly determines S to A in W and S to not-A in W*.
To be more precise, it seems that Bailey’s target is nomological determinism conjoined with a causal closure thesis. On this view, if two worlds share the laws of nature and a time, they share all laws and times; they would, therefore, have identical futures. But, as Alvin Plantinga (2011) says, “clearly there is a possible world that (i) shares [a time and the laws of nature] with the actual world, (ii) is not causally closed (because, perhaps, God specially acts in it) and (iii) does not share its future with the actual world” (82). Now, Plantinga concludes from this that determinism is false (on the Newtonian conception of the laws of nature). But here ‘determinism’ is simply a kind of determinism. I cannot see why God could not create two worlds that share a past and the laws of nature but have different futures and divine determinism is true in those worlds, so determinism is true in those worlds while nomological determinism is false in those worlds.
Now, the indeterminist will not grant that Adam has acted freely in the above scenario. But he meets the necessary conditions laid out by Bailey for deciding whether any S has acted freely. If Adam is not free in either W or W*, Another Argument does not tell us that. That is, Another Argument doesn’t get us strict incompatibilism. One also cannot apply the (standard) Consequence Argument to the above, for God’s will, not “the laws of nature plus propositions about a remote past,” is the determiner. Moreover, God’s will or beliefs we could say exist in a timeless realm, and so do not exist in a “remote” past. Thus, in order to get strict incompatibilism, perhaps we need Another Another Argument.
The problem with demonstrating strict incompatibilism is broader than getting around the use of contingent premises about the past. The general problem is that there are many different kinds of determents. As Kadri Vihvelin (2011) relays: “In the literature, determinism is sometimes used as an umbrella term for a variety of different claims which have traditionally been regarded as threats to free will . . . nomological determinism is just one of several different kinds of determinism” (§1). That is, there are different kinds of determining conditions, and none seem essential to ‘determinism’ as such. It is this fact that may explain why an argument for strict incompatibilism remains elusive.
Bailey, Andrew (2012). “Incompatibilism and the Past.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Vol. LXXXV No. 2, September 2012, 351–376.
Campbell, Joseph Keim (2007). “Free will and the necessity of the past.” Analysis 67: 105–111.
Helm, Paul (2003). “God Does Not Take Risks.” Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion. Michael Peterson and Raymond Vanarragon (eds.), New York: Blackwell 2003, 228–237.
Plantinga, Alvin (2011). Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. New York: Oxford University Press.
Timpe, Kevin (2006). “Free Will.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. James Fieser and Bradley Dowden (ed.), URL = http://www.iep.utm.edu/freewill/