These "reactive attitudes" were for Strawson more real than whether they could be explained by fruitless disputes about free will
, and determinism
. They were "facts" of our natural human commitment to ordinary inter-personal attitudes. He said it was "a pity that talk of the moral sentiments
has fallen out of favour," since such talk was "the only possibility of reconciling these disputants to each other and the facts."
Strawson himself was optimistic that compatibilism could reconcile determinism with moral obligation and responsibility. He accepted the facts of determinism. He felt that determinism was true
. But he was concerned to salvage the reality of our attitudes even for libertarians, whom he described as pessimists about determinism.
"What I have called the participant reactive attitudes are essentially natural human reactions to the good or ill will or indifference of others towards us, as displayed in their attitudes and actions. The question we have to ask is: What effect would, or should, the acceptance of the truth of a general thesis of determinism have upon these reactive attitudes? More specifically, would, or should, the acceptance of the truth of the thesis lead to the decay or the repudiation of all such attitudes? Would, or should, it mean the end of gratitude, resentment, and forgiveness; of all reciprocated adult loves; of all the essentially personal antagonisms?"
Since Peter Strawson
changed the subject in 1962 from free will to moral responsibility, there has been an increasing tendency to equate free will with moral responsibility.
From the earliest beginnings, the problem of "free will"
has been intimately connected with the question of moral responsibility
. Most of the ancient thinkers on the problem were trying to show that we humans have control
over our decisions, that our actions "depend on us"
, and that they are not pre-determined by fate, by arbitrary gods, by logical necessity, or by a natural causal determinism.
But to say that today "free will is understood as
the control condition for moral responsibility" is to make a serious blunder in conceptual analysis
and clear thinking. Free will is clearly a prerequisite for responsibility
. Whether the responsibility is a moral responsibility depends on our ideas of morality.
Here are some recent examples of conflating free will and moral responsibility, which we regard as an ethical fallacy
John Martin Fischer says:
Some philosophers do not distinguish between freedom and moral responsibility. Put a bit more carefully, they tend to begin with the notion of moral responsibility, and "work back" to a notion of freedom; this notion of freedom is not given independent content (separate from the analysis of moral responsibility). For such philosophers, "freedom" refers to whatever conditions are involved in choosing or acting in such a way as to be morally responsible.
(Free Will, vol 1, p. )
Manuel Vargas says:
It is not clear that there is any single thing that people have had in mind by the term "free will." Perhaps the dominant characterization in the history of philosophy is that it is something like the freedom condition on moral responsibility. Roughly, the idea is that to be morally responsible for something, you had to have some amount of freedom, at some suitable time prior to the action or outcome for which you are responsible. That sense of freedom — whatever it amounts to — is what we mean to get at by the phrase "free will." However, there may be things for which free will might be important or other senses of free will that are independent of concerns about moral responsibility. For example, philosophers have worried whether free will is required for some human achievements to have a special worth or value, or for there to be values and valuing in any robust sense. Although I think much of what I will say can be applied to other aspects of thinking about it, I will primarily concerned with free will in its connection to moral responsibility, the sense in which people are appropriately praised or blamed. (Four Views on Free Will, p.128-9)
Derk Pereboom says simply
free will is understood as the control condition for moral responsibility.
Starting with his 1985 book, Free Will and Values
, Robert Kane
has argued that free choices are those moral decisions requiring great effort because the arguments pro and con the decision are equally balanced (the liberty of indifference
The ancients and medieval thinkers argued that freedom could be equated with morality. Men were free to do good. If they did evil, it was the influence of some nefarious power preventing them from doing good.
Kant - free when we do good, otherwise slaves. --original in Aristotle, virtue is knowledge? Stoics?
Doyle - ethical (moral) fallacy. freedom is a physical question. it is based on arguments about determinism versus indeterminism. The will is in part a psychological question. responsibility is a causality question is the agent properly in the causal chain. moral questions are not physical questions. to confound them is to connect ought with is. moral responsibility is a major field of ethics that can stand on its own without sophisticated attempts to deny free will. e.g., Frankfurt sophistry.
For some Naturalists
, the equation of free will and moral responsibility is driven by their goal of eliminating punishment and what they see as a "culture of vengeance." The fallacious reasoning goes something like this - "If free will is required for moral responsibility, we can deny moral responsibility be denying free will."
Naturalists seem to naively accepted the ancient religious arguments that free will is an exclusive property of humans (some religions limit it to males). One strand in the naturalist argument then is to say that humans are animals and so lack free will. It will be interesting to see how they react to the establishment of a biophysical basis for behavioral freedom in lower animals. This behavioral freedom is conserved and show up in higher animals and humans as freedom of their wills.
Vargas - age at which children acquire free will
Consider the question of how we go from being unfree agents to free agents. This is a puzzle faced by all accounts of responsibility, but there is something pressing about it in the case of libertarianism. As children we either had the indeterministic structures favored by your favorite version of libertarianism or we lacked them. If we lacked them as children, we might wonder how we came to get those structures. We might also wonder what the evidence is for thinking that we do develop said structures. Suppose the libertarian offers us an answer to these questions, and the other empirical challenges I raised in the prior section. We would still face another puzzle. What, exactly, does the indeterminism add? What follows in this section is not so much a metaphysical concern as it is a normative concern. It is a concern about what work the indeterminism does in libertarianism, apart from providing a way to preserve our default self-image as deliberators with genuine, metaphysically robust alternative possibilities. (p.148)
Equating free will with moral responsibility, then to use spurious arguments to deny free will, and thus to deny moral responsibility - in order to oppose punishment - is fine humanism but poor philosophy, and terrible science.
We do not normally seek revenge for animal actions - punish animals. We do kill them, incarcerate them, etc.
And Responsibility is a Prerequisite for Moral Responsibility, not vice versa