Piking Peter

Here’s a response to Peter Pike over at Triablogue about Libertarian Free Will.


Per the missed point, too many restrictions would be positing conditions inconsistent with the idea. So far I can’t see how any of the restrictions you posited preclude LFW. I think van Inwagen in his classic essay spelled out quite clearly what those inconsistent conditions are. 

Given that the power to do otherwise is glossed counter-factually, I don’t see how this makes it illusory.  I think a romp through counter factuals would help you here. If you disagree, do you think the fact that God created the world renders it necessary that God created the world? Could God have done otherwise or does that language mean nothing at all? If not, what’s the difference between your conception of deity and that of the Platonists with a necessary world? Doing your devotionals out of Plotinus, are we?

Deliberation has plenty to do with PAP and lots of philosophers have thought so. You may not think so, but that just tells me that you’re not a Libertarian (or you need to read more professional philosophical literature and fewer villiage atheists) but we already knew that so at best you’re only begging the question.

In deliberation I have chosen between choosing and not choosing and I have here chosen between alternatives. This is in part what deliberation is, the agent (minds aren’t agents-Jesus has two intellects and he isn’t two agents.) is staving off from executing an intention. The execution is a decision about an intention. I am not a Morris Albert fan (“Feelings”), but this kind of elimnitivism seems unhelpful. By the same reasoning I could argue that it may feel as if I have qualia, but I in fact don’t. I may feel like I have a mind but I in fact don’t. Once you start down that dark path, forever will it consume you as it did the Churchlands. 

It doesn’t follow that simply because I can only choose one among many that the one I select is rendered inevitable by antecedent conditions. God can choose to create or redeem, but it in no way follows that since God chose between alternatives that God was determined to select the option he selected. If the concept is coherent with God then it is coherent period. We can fight about application but that is ancillary.  Your argument here turns on an equivocation on the term “can.” I “can” only choose one of the objects in the sense that the two are not compossible. But it doesn’t follow that my “can” ability is honed to that one specific object of choice.

Your analogy about cars and pistons is quite right and this is what I am asking about. Your theory doesn’t seek to explain the phenomena, but to explain it away and so smacks of elimnitivism. Deliberation as a staving off of making a decision as well as weighing options seems to have no place and neither does a decision, the execution of an intention.

If desires and reasons were causes, one wouldn’t be weighing them. In fact, they aren’t-they are states and states cause nothing, which is why the agent weighs them. And if the choice simply is the strongest desire that wins out, why even talk about decisions? Why even talk that way as if it were somthing different? On linguistic grounds, if you wish to dispense with ordinary language you need to give a reason to think that that the ordinary surface gramar is misleading. On metaphysical grounds, why posit the existence of something that is an explanatory dangler? The fact that you can’t seem to give it anything more than the status of a “conflict” seems to confirm this. There is nothing really to it, it is just something else at a lower level of explanation. And this gets us to something like a Humean view of human agency as a bundle of reasons and desires but lacking any underlying unity. Events occur through us and to us, but not from us.

 It may be true that I am unable to deliberate without reasons and desires, but showing that the latter are necessary conditions for the former isn’t tantamount to showing that the conflict between desires and reasons just is deliberation. Experience seems to indicate to me at least that my deliberation is more than a conflict, it is a putting them down and comparing options and contrasting them in a variety of ways. Fiddler on the Roof voiceOn the other hand…” Likewise I agree that desires and reasons play a part in deliberation, but strictly speaking, they are not in conflict, the agent is in conflict over them. Your account seems to inter-theoretically reduce the agent to something else, namely that which is not an agent.  And given the compatibilist literature, Compatabilists are quite aware that deliberation poses significant problems for their theory. You seem to easily dismiss what people far more informed than you or I are sensitive to. Now you may have some stellar reasons why they shouldn’t be, but I am a very skeptical kind of person. It may be the case that even if I in fact can select one out of two options it doesn’t follow that the modality that attaches to my choice once executed also attaches to my antecedent deliberative state. I agree that once I make the choice I can’t go back and change it and that is because it is accidentally necessary (per accidens). It is over and done with and I can’t change the past. But it doesn’t follow that my antecedent process of deliberation was also governed by necessity any more than affirming the consequent is a valid form of reasoning. You’d need to show that the antecedent state of affairs was necessary and that this necessity was transferred through logical implication, but you haven’t done that.

It is true that there are many antecedents states that carry me along the wave of life, but I am not a mere conduit for them. I prefer surfing after all. (Even the smallest people can change the world.)  The number of antecedent conditions that carry me alone doesn’t imply that they bear a deterministic relationship to my executive power. You need to argue that there is something about their nature that does so. And unless you are going to argue for materialistic and mechanistic determinism, which confessionally Calvinists have argued against (witness Hodge for example) your points about antecedent physical states is useless to you. Moreover, such conditions may circumscribe options available to me, but while my genes dispose and incline me to consume food, I don’t have to eat. I can choose to die. Lots of people have done it. Jesus fasted after all. Don’t you?

If you think that moral responsibility is compatible with determinism, I’d really like to see a coherent sketch from you personally on how moral responsibility is incompatible with cases of external covert manipulation of an agents choices. Now, the enemy of Alternative Possibilities par excellance, Harry Frankfurt, has admitted that his gloss on moral responsibility that denies the necessity of AP is compatible with cases of external manipulation, which intuitively should not be so. Can you do any better? Fischer and Ravizza tried.

4 Responses to Piking Peter

  1. Perry,

    Not trying to sound like the dummy I am, but would you recommend a book like Philosophy For Dummies?

  2. Nick says:

    Hi Perry,
    Just a thought, in addition to the helpfull links to key books on contemporary/historical philosophical discussions/issues, you may want to post a link to certain short artilces on these same subjects. For instance, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy would help get people up to speed on partilcuar philosophical topics (like libertarianism verse compatababilam etc.) without having to read a whole book on the subject. Now obviously all things being equal, I would condone the reading of a whole book on a philosophical subject to get the complexities of the matters at hand, but some folks may want to get the gist of the issue but not have the will or time to read a whole book. If you are already trying to do this, please disregard this thought.

  3. MG says:


    You wrote:

    “I’m trying to grasp where, according to Libertarians, too many restrictions are too many restrictions.”

    Couldn’t the libertarian just say “there are too many restrictions when one of the necessary conditions for libertarian freedom is eliminated”?

  4. […] our Orthodox friend, has written a post about me titled Piking Peter. I’ll assume he’s trying to clever here, but Dawson Bethrick already beat Perry when he titled a […]

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