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For other uses of each of these words, see Compatibility.

Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent (people who hold this belief are known as compatibilists).[1]

Incompatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are logically incompatible categories.[2]

Contents

Compatibilism

Compatibilism, as championed by the ancient Greek Stoics, Hobbes,[3] Hume and many contemporary philosophers, is a theory that argues that if free will and determinism exist they are in fact compatible. Determinists argue that all acts that take place are predetermined by prior causes, including human actions. If a free action is defined as one that is not predetermined by prior causes, then determinism, which claims that human actions are predetermined, rules out the possibility of free actions.

A compatibilist, or soft determinist, in contrast, will define a free act in a way that does not hinge on the presence or absence of prior causes. For example, one could define a free act as one that involves no compulsion by another person. Since the physical universe and the laws of nature are not persons, actions which are caused by the laws of nature, would still be free acts, and therefore it is wrong to conclude that universal determinism would mean we are never free.

For example, you could choose to continue reading or to stop reading this article; while a compatibilist determinist would not deny that whatever choice you make will have been predetermined since the beginning of time, they will argue that this choice that you make is an example of free will because no one is forcing you to make whatever choice you make. In contrast, someone could be holding a gun to your head and telling you that unless you read the article, he/she will kill you; to a compatibilist, that is an example of a lack of free will. (The compatibilist account sometimes includes internal compulsions such as kleptomania or addiction.)

Further, according to Hume, free will should not be understood as an absolute ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances. Rather, it is a hypothetical ability to have chosen differently if one had been differently psychologically disposed by some different beliefs or desires. That is, when one says that one could either continue to read this page or to delete it, one doesn't really mean that both choices are compatible with the complete state of the world right now, but rather that if one had desired to delete it one would have, even though as a matter of fact one actually desires to continue reading it, and therefore that is what will actually happen.

Hume also maintains that free acts are not uncaused (or self-caused as Kant argued) but rather caused by our choices as determined by our beliefs, desires, by our characters, or just for the hell of it (spontaneous random act). While a decision-making process exists in Hume's determinism, this process is governed by a causal chain of events. For example, one may make the decision to support a charity, but that decision is determined by the conditions that existed prior to the decision being made.

Critics of compatibilism often focus on the definition of free will: they agree that the compatibilists are showing something to be compatible with determinism, but they think that something cannot properly be called free will. Incompatibilists are happy to accept that lack of coercion is a necessary criterion for free will (a coerced act is not free), but doubt that is sufficient (an un-coerced act is free). They believe "free will" refers to genuine (e.g. absolute, ultimate) alternate possibilities for beliefs, desires or actions, rather than merely counterfactual ones. In the absence of such possibilities, the belief that free will confers responsibility is held to be false.

However, a compatibilist may respond to the argument mentioned above stating that non-determinism is also incompatible with free will, so the Libertarian is no better off. The compatibilist may also argue on conceptual grounds that "free will" has nothing to do with ultimate causes on a grand metaphysical scale, but instead only refers to an apparent fact of human psychology (i.e., that conscious mental states seem to play an active role in determining the choices that are made).

Compatibilists often continue and argue that determinism is not just compatible with free will, but actually necessary for it. If one's actions aren't determined by one's beliefs, desires, and character, then it seems that they aren't one's real actions.

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Compatibilism in Theology

Compatibilism in this context holds that the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are both biblical concepts and, rightly understood, are not mutually exclusive. The all-knowing God (who sees past, present, and future simultaneously from the perspective of eternity) created human beings (who have the subjective reality of making choices in the present that have consequences for themselves and others in the future) in such a way that both are true: God is ultimately sovereign and therefore must have at least permitted any choice that a human could make, but at the same time God is right to hold humans accountable because from their perspective within the confines of serial time, humans make moral choices between good and evil.[4]

Soft Determinism

William James, the American pragmatist philosopher who coined the term "soft determinist" in an influential essay titled The Dilemma of Determinism, [5] held that the importance of the issue of determinism is not one of personal responsibility, but one of hope. He believed that thorough-going determinism leads either to a bleak pessimism or to a degenerate subjectivism in moral judgment. The way to escape that dilemma is to allow a role of chance. He said that he would not insist upon the name "free will" as a synonym for the role chance plays in human actions, simply because he preferred to debate about objects, not words.

An argument can be made which claims that the aspects of reality that are important to hope are unaffected by determinism. Whether or not the universe is determined does not change the fact that the future is unknown, and that a person's actions help determine that future. In fact, it is even conceivable that a lack of belief in determinism could lead to 'bleak pessimism', or fatalism, since one could potentially believe that their actions did nothing to determine future events.

Incompatibilism

Incompatibilism means that the notion of a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that people have a free will. It can be treated in at least two ways: by libertarians, who deny that the universe is deterministic through-and-through, and the hard determinists, who deny that any free will exists.

Libertarianism

Libertarianism in the philosophy of mind is unrelated to the like-named political philosophy. It suggests that we actually do have free will, that it is incompatible with determinism, and that therefore the future is not determined. For example, at this moment, one could either continue reading this article if one wanted, or cease. Under this assertion, being that one could do either, the fact of how the history of the world will continue to unfold is not currently determined one way or the other.

One famous proponent of this view was Lucretius, who asserted that the free will arises out of the random, chaotic movements of atoms, called "clinamen". One major objection to this view is that science has gradually shown that more and more of the physical world obeys completely deterministic laws, and seems to suggest that our minds are just as much part of the physical world as anything else. If these assumptions are correct, incompatibilist libertarianism can only be maintained as the claim that free will is a supernatural phenomenon, which does not obey the laws of nature (as, for instance, maintained by some religious traditions).

However, many libertarian view points now rely upon an indeterministic view of the physical universe, under the assumption the idea of a deterministic, "clockwork" universe has become outdated since the advent of quantum mechanics. By assuming an indeterministic universe libertarian philosophical constructs can be proposed under the assumption of physicalism.

There are libertarian view points based upon indeterminism and physicalism, which is closely related to naturalism. [6] A major problem for naturalistic libertarianism is to explain how indeterminism can be compatible with rationality and with appropriate connections between an individual's beliefs, desires, general character and actions. A variety of naturalistic libertarianism is promoted by Robert Kane,[7][8] who emphasizes that if our character is formed indeterministically (in "self-forming actions"), then our actions can still flow from our character, and yet still be incompatibilistically free.

Alternatively, libertarian view points based upon indeterminism have been proposed without the assumption of naturalism. Although at the time C. S. Lewis wrote Miracles [9], Quantum Mechanics (and physical indeterminism) was only in the initial stages of acceptance, he stated the logical possibility that if the physical world was proved to be indeterministic this would provide an entry (interaction) point into the traditionally viewed closed system, where a scientifically described physically probable/improbable event could be philosophically described as an action of a non physical entity on physical reality (noting that under a physicalist point of view the non physical entity must be independent of the self identity or mental processing of the sentient being).

Others may use some form of Donald Davidson's anomalous monism to suggest that although the mind is in fact part of the physical world, it involves a different level of description of the same facts, so that although there are deterministic laws under the physical description, there are no such laws under the mental description, and thus our actions are free and not determined.[10]

Hard Determinism

Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. No wholly random, spontaneous, mysterious, or miraculous events occur, according to this philosophy. A determinist would assert that it is simply stubborn to resist scientifically-motivated determinism on purely intuitive grounds about one's own sense of freedom. It is said that the history of the development of science suggests that determinism is the logical method in which reality works.

Since many believe that free will is necessary for moral responsibility, this may imply disastrous consequences for their theory of ethics. As something of a solution to this predicament, it has been suggested that for the sake of preserving moral responsibility and the concept of ethics, one might embrace the illusion of free will, in spite of acknowledging its lack of existence in reality under the assertions of determinism. Those critical of this position may raise the question, "if free will is illusory, yet a necessary component of ethics, would this not imply that morality itself is specious?" Others might hold this view to be ignorant or hypocritical. In either case, it is clearly an issue that, for some, the lack of free will suggested by determinism constitutes much reason for ethical debate.

Pessimistic or "Hard" Incompatibilism

While hard determinism clearly opposes the concept of free will, some have suggested that free will might also be incompatible with non-determinism. This is pessimistic incompatibilism, and has been used as an argument against Libertarian incompatibilism. Under the assumption of naturalism and indeterminism, where there only exists the natural world and that the natural world is indeterminisitic - events are not predetermined (e.g., for quantum mechanical reasons) and any event has a probability assigned to it - no event can be determined by a physical organism's perceived free will, and nor can any event be strictly determined by anything at all.

Hard incompatibilism differs from hard determinism in that it does not commit to the truth of determinism.[11] Typically, supporters of hard incompatibilism accept both libertarian critiques of compatibilism and compatibilist critiques of libertarianism.

Experimental Research

In recent years researchers in the field of experimental philosophy have been working on determining whether ordinary people, who aren't experts in this field, naturally have compatibilist or incompatibilist intuitions about determinism and moral responsibility[12]. Some experimental work has even conducted cross-cultural studies.[13] However, the debate about whether people naturally have compatibilist or incompatibilist intuitions has not come out overwhelmingly in favor of one view or the other, but there has been some evidence that people can naturally hold both views. For instance, when people are presented with abstract cases which ask if a person could be morally responsible for an immoral act when they could not have done otherwise, people tend to say no, or give incompatibilist answers, but when presented with a specific immoral act that a specific person committed, people tend to say that that person is morally responsible for their actions, even if they were determined (that is, people also give compatibilist answers).[14]

See also

References

  1. ^ A summary of Compatibilism by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. ^ A summary of Incompatibilism by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  3. ^ Still, in Hobbes' case, the issue is complicated: he does argue that "LIBERTY, or freedom, signifieth properly the absence of opposition (by opposition, I mean external impediments of motion); and may be applied no less to irrational and inanimate creatures than to rational." (Leviathan, Chapter 21), but also that: "[...] from the use of the words free will, no liberty can be inferred of the will, desire, or inclination, but the liberty of the man; which consisteth in this, that he finds no stop in doing what he has the will, desire, or inclination to do." (ibid.)
  4. ^ Compatibilism page on Theopedia
  5. ^ William James - The Dilemma of Determinism
  6. ^ Why Naturalists Should Mind about Physicalism, and Vice Versa Williams, Peter Quodlibet Journal, Volume 4 Number 2-3, Summer 2002
  7. ^ A summary of Kane's views by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  8. ^ Kane, Robert. “Free Will: New Directions for an Ancient Problem.” (2003). In Free Will, Robert Kane (ed.) (2003) Malden, MA: Blackwell
  9. ^ Lewis, C.S (1947). Miracles. 
  10. ^ David Sosa -- Free Mental Causation! (MS Word)
  11. ^ Pereboom, Derk. 2001. Living Without Free Will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-79198-7
  12. ^ Eddy Nahmias, Stephen Morris, Thomas Nadelhoffer,and Jason Turner. (forthcoming). “Is Incompatibilism Intuitive?,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
  13. ^ Hagop Sarkissian, Amita Chatterjee, Felipe De Brigard, Joshua Knobe, Shaun Nichols, Smita Sirker (forthcoming). "Is belief in free will a cultural universal?" Mind & Language
  14. ^ Shaun Nichols and Joshua Knobe. (forthcoming). “Moral Responsibility and Determinism: The Cognitive Science of Folk Intuitions.” Nous.

External links


[[File:|thumb|right|160px|Schopenhauer said "Man is free to do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills" The Compatibilist calls this limited freedom 'free will']]

This page discusses a philosophical view on free will. See other uses of the term Compatibility.

Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent.[1] It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism. Strictly speaking, Compatibilism defines free will as more of a Liberty - as "freedom to act (according to one's determined motives)".

Compatibilism's definition of 'free will' is contrasted with that of incompatibilism, which instead defines free will in indeterministic terms.

Contents

History

Compatibilism was championed by the ancient Greek Stoics and early modern philosophers like David Hume and Thomas Hobbes.

According to at least one survey, more philosophers are compatibilists than incompatibilists.[2]

Defining free will

File:Walking drinking
'Free will' is being used to mean 'not restrained'

Compatibilists (aka soft determinists) often define an instance of 'free will' as one in which the agent had freedom to act. That is, the agent was not coerced or restrained. Arthur Schopenhauer famously said "Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills". In other words, although an agent may often be free to act according to a motive, the nature of that motive is determined. The Compatibilist's belief that we often have 'free will' is perhaps better described as a belief in occasional Liberty. Also note that this definition of free will does not rely on the truth or falsity of Causal Determinism.

Alternatives as imaginary

File:Gotland-Froejel-Kirche
Saying "there may be a person behind that door" merely expresses ignorance about the one, determined reality

The Compatibilist will often hold both Causal Determinism (all effects have causes) and Logical Determinism (the future is already determined) to be true. Thus statements about the future (e.g. "it will rain tomorrow") are either true or false when spoken today.

Hume adds that the Compatibilist's free will should not be understood as some kind of ability to have actually chosen differently in an identical situation. The Compatibilist believes that a person always makes the only truly possible decision that they could have.[3] Any talk of alternatives is strictly hypothetical. If the compatibilist says "I may visit tomorrow, or I may not", he or she is not making a metaphysical claim that there are multiple possible futures. In that case, he or she is merely describing her uncertainty about what her determined future holds.

Compatibilism in Theology

File:Ermitorio del Calvario
It may be that God holds people accountable for their actions precisely because his determined plan is unknown to them

Compatibilists often seek to reconcile free will with predestination of all events specifically to allow for a God's omniscience. This is again accomplished by the typical Compatibilist definition of 'free will' as 'freedom to act'.

Compatibilism in this context holds that the religious concepts of God's sovereignty and the free will of man are, rightly understood, not mutually exclusive. The all-knowing God (who sees past, present, and future simultaneously from the perspective of eternity) created human beings (who have the subjective reality of making choices in the present that have consequences for themselves and others in the future) in such a way that both are true: God is ultimately sovereign and therefore must have at least permitted any choice that a human could make, but at the same time God is right to hold humans accountable because from their perspective within the confines of serial time, humans make moral choices between good and evil.[4] This route to reconciliation may not be entirely successful, however. Examples of criticism include the Argument from free will, and perhaps the Problem of Hell.

Implications for morality

The Compatibilist might argue that determinism is not just compatible with any good definition of free will, but actually necessary. If one's actions are not determined by one's beliefs, desires, and character, then how could someone possibly be held morally responsible for that action?

In practice, the moral systems of the compatibilist have much in common with those of Incompatibilist Determinists (though perhaps not Incompatibilist Libertarians). This is because both Hard Determinists and Compatibilists use moral systems that bear in mind that people's motives are determined.

Criticisms

Invalid use of 'free will'

File:Prim
Compatibilism has much in common with so-called 'Hard Determinists', including moral systems and a belief in Determinism itself

Critics of compatibilism often focus on the definition of free will: Incompatibilists may agree that the compatibilists are showing something to be compatible with determinism, but they think that something ought not to be called 'free will'. Incompatibilists might accept the 'freedom to act' as a necessary criterion for free will, but doubt that it is sufficient. Basically, they demand more of 'free will'. The Incompatibilists believe free will refers to genuine (e.g. absolute, ultimate) alternate possibilities for beliefs, desires or actions, rather than merely counterfactual ones.

Faced with the standard argument against free will, many compatibilists choose determinism so that their actions are adequately determined by their reasons, motives, and desires.[5] Compatibilists are sometimes accused (by Incompatibilists) of actually being Hard Determinists who are motivated by a lack of a coherent, consonant moral belief system.

Compatibilists are sometimes called "soft determinists" pejoratively (William James's term). James accused them of creating a "quagmire of evasion" by stealing the name of freedom to mask their underlying determinism.[6] Immanuel Kant called it a "wretched subterfuge" and "word jugglery."[7] Ted Honderich explains that the mistake of Compatibilism is to assert that nothing changes as a consequence of determinism, when clearly we have lost the life-hope of origination.[8]

Moral poverty

Another point of contention is whether the Compatibilist's definition of 'free will' as a sort of 'freedom to act' successfully confers Moral responsibility for one's actions.

See also

List of Compatibilists

References

  1. ^ summary of Compatibilism by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. ^ "Counting Heads," on the Garden of Forking Paths
  3. ^ Harry G. Frankfurt (1969). "Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility," Journal of Philosophy 66 (3):829-39.
  4. ^ Compatibilism page on Theopedia
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ James, William. 1884 "The Dilemma of Determinism," Unitarian Review, September, 1884. Reprinted inThe Will to Believe, Dover, 1956, p.149
  7. ^ Kant, Immanuel 1788 (1952).The Critique of Practical Reason, in Great Books of the Western World, vol. 42, Kant, Univ. of Chicago, p. 332
  8. ^ Ted Honderich, The Consequences of Determinism, 1988, p.169

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