Joseph Keim CampbellJoseph Keim Campbell is a rare critic of Frankfurt-style examples which are intended to deny the importance, even the existence, of alternative possibilities. Campbell even argues that far from disproving alternative possibilities, the Frankfurt examples strengthen the case for a "strong compatibilism," one that includes alternative possibilities. In his article "A Compatibilist Theory of Alternative Possibilities," Philosophical Studies, 88, pp.319-30, 1997, Campbell wrote:1
In recent discussions of freedom and determinism, two views of compatibilism have emerged. One, which I call strong compatibilism,2 assumes the following:In his 2004 introduction to his book Freedom and Determinism, written with Michael O'Rourke and David Shier, Campbell describes the current context of the traditional problem of freedom and determinism.Strong compatibilism has long been thought to be incoherent by incompatibilists, who deny (2),3 but recently it has also received criticism from other compatibilists, who deny (1). In a celebrated essay, for instance, Harry Frankfurt has provided examples in which it seems that a person is morally responsible for some action even though she could not have done otherwise.4 This result has delighted many philosophers who find that attempts to establish (2) in light of (1) have generally led to failure,5 and has given rise to what I call weak compatibilism:
Thoughts about freedom and determinism have engaged philosophers since the days of ancient Greece. On the one hand, we generally regard ourselves as free and autonomous beings who are responsible for the actions that we perform. But this idea of ourselves appears to conflict with a variety of attitudes that we also have about the inevitable workings of the world around us. For instance, some people believe that strict, universal laws of nature govern the world. Others think that there is an omnipotent God who is the ultimate cause of all things. These more global views suggest that each particular event — including each human action — is causally necessitated, and so they suggest a conflict with the claim that we are free. Hence, the problem of freedom and determinism is, at base, a problem about reconciling attitudes we have toward ourselves with our more general thoughts about the world around us. It is a problem about locating our actions within those streams of events that make up the broader universe. Freedom is usually discussed within the context of theoretical concerns about the nature of moral responsibility. For it is a basic assumption that some kind of freedom — call it "moral freedom" — is a necessary precondition for our being accountable for our actions. Moreover, even those who endorse moral nihilism, the claim that no one is ever morally responsible for anything, usually do so because they also believe that we lack moral freedom... In summary, the majority of contemporary philosophers agree that some kind of freedom — moral freedom — is required for moral responsibility. But they differ as to the nature of this freedom as well as some of the other necessary conditions for moral responsibility. Proponents of the traditional view continue to maintain that moral freedom is just free will, but a variety of philosophers have rejected the latter notion altogether. This is primarily due to the impact of the Frankfurt examples and formal arguments for moral nihilists, and incompatibilism. Moreover, while debate about the compatibility of moral freedom and determinism is still alive and well, most philosophers have rejected determinism given quantum mechanics. Gone are the labels of soft determinism and hard determinism, but the lion's share of opinions on the nature of freedom and determinism still fall into three main groups: libertarians, moral nihilists, and compatibilists, including semicompatibilists.In 2011, Campbell wrote Free Will, a survey of the dazzling number of "problems, arguments, and theories" about free will that now comprise "free will skepticism," the claim that no one has free will. Campbell's three main groups still include libertarianism (which he does not explore deeply) and compatibilism, but he replaces moral nihilism with free will skepticism (p. 73). Campbell is concerned that there are many conflicting views on the definition of free will. This is so, but Campbell does not clearly define the major difference betweeen "libertarian free will" and "compatibilist free will." the latter being the determinist position that as long as our actions are not externally coerced or compelled then we have freedom of action. He defines a "monism" as the idea that all views of free will are the same, or reducible to one view, and "pluralism" as the idea that there are multiple conflicting views. His "provisional" monist proposal is that free will exists when our actions are up to us. This is the way Aristotle and Epicurus defined what we now call "libertarian free will," as something that was neither chance nor necessity. Campbell says that his provisional view could cover both the "classical view," i.e., that free will requires the ability to do otherwise, and the "source view," that the agent need only be the "adequate" or perhaps the "ultimate" source of the action traceable back in the "actual sequence." He presents the standard argument against free will as what he calls the "free will dilemma."
Determinism entails that every act is determined by prior causes. Indeterminism does not entail anything about the causal structure of the world surrounding any particular human action. Thus, indeterminism cannot entail that every act is undetermined let alone that every act is a matter of luck. Ergo, the Mind argument does not support premise 2 of the free will dilemma. Considerations of luck are relevant to free will skepticism but not for this reason. They are relevant because they lend support to the view that indeterminism cannot help [premise 2'].Campbell has a finely nuanced understanding of quantum indeterminism, as not making events uncaused, but as only making them probabilistically caused. He says:
Informally, determinism is the thesis that "given the past and the laws of nature, there is only one possible future." Determinism is usually understood as a causal thesis: past events together with the laws of nature bring about future events. But we should be careful to distinguish determinism from the thesis of universal causality: every event has a cause. Perhaps quantum mechanics requires indeterminism but it doesn't follow from this that quantum events are uncaused. Quantum laws might be probabilistic, so there can be universal causality without determinism.Indeed, indeterministic events that generate alternative possibilities for action do not in any way reduce our responsibility for evaluating the alternatives and choosing one, for reasons, motives, feelings, etc. that are consistent with our character. This is the two-stage model of free will, with indeterminism limited to the first stage and adequate determinism in the second stage. It is not clear why logical philosophers who make such dramatic assumptions as premise 1 are not making similar dramatic assumptions about premise 2, namely, that indeterminism does entail that every act is undetermined, the logical opposite of premise 1. This was what the ancients Leucippus and Chrysippus feared, and moderns like J. J. C. Smart and Nowell-Smith also maintained. And is not Galen Strawson's argument similar? Perhaps not. Perhaps Campbell thinks Strawson is saying some acts are determined (no responsibility there) and some acts are undetermined (no responsibility there either). This indeed is Strawson's view. He does not care whether actions are determined or undetermined. Free will skepticism, according to Strawson, "holds good whether determinism is true or false; the issue of determinism is irrelevant." (p. 55.) Nevertheless, Campbell argues correctly (p. 55) that "indeterminism is not incompatible with free will." Indeed, some indeterminism is required to break the causal chain of physical determinism. The question becomes, is indeterminism helpful? (yes, because it introduces alternative possibilities and ambiguous futures) and can it be shown to be not harmful? (yes, as long as it is limited to generating possibilities and is not the direct cause of our actions). And even chance "centered" in the decision is acceptable as long as all of the alternative possibilities that remain after second-stage deliberation are defended by reasons, motives, etc, so none is simply random. Examples of these defensible possibilities are Robert Kane's Self-Forming Actions. Campbell was trained as an epistemologist and notes that we might define "knowledge" as absolute infallible certainty. "Given this definition, it is pretty easy to show," he says, "that no one knows anything. But no one cares about that because we all accept that knowledge is fallible, that even the most certain of evidence does not guarantee truth." (p.57) Campbell should apply this epistemological skepticism and pragmatic reasoning to the absolute truth of determinism, for which no evidence at all exists. Indeed, considerable evidence exists for some indeterminism, though not enough to make our actions random, unless we want them to be random. Might he not conclude that the determinism we have is merely "adequate" for all practical purposes? Campbell concludes his survey of free will skepticism with an argument that "for every response to the argument for epistemological skepticism, there is a formally analogous response to the consequence argument that is equally plausible." (p. 103) Campbell provides no explicit parallels, but concludes his work on an optimistic note, with what he says is a "compelling argument."