I have finished my book Causes, Laws, and Free Will: Why Determinism Doesn't Matter and it is now "in production", as they say, at OUP. Since I have been writing it for what feels like several centuries, I am much relieved.
The cover art will be A Game of Chess by Sofonisba Anguissola, which I have always loved.
It will be published sometime next year.
Here is the abstract:
Common sense says that we are morally responsible for our actions only if we have free will and that we have free will only if we are able to choose among alternative actions. Common sense says that we do have free will and are morally responsible for many of the things we do. Common sense also tells us that we are objects in the natural world, governed by its laws. And yet many contemporary philosophers deny that we have free will or that free will is necessary for moral responsibility. Some hold that we are morally responsible only if we are somehow exempt from the laws of nature. Causes, Laws, and Free Will argues that this philosophical flight from common sense is a mistake. We have free will and we are morally responsible whatever the laws of nature may turn out to be. The impulses that tempt us to think that determinism robs us of free will are mistakes -- mistakes about the metaphysics of causation, mistakes about the nature of laws, and mistakes about the logic of counterfactuals.
CHAPTER 1: The Problem Introduced: Would Determinism Rob us of Free Will?
I introduce the Basic Argument:
1. If determinism is true, we are never able to do otherwise.
2. If we are never able to do otherwise, we have no free will.
3. If we are never able to do otherwise, we are never morally responsible.
Therefore, if determinism is true, we have no free will and are never morally responsible.
I distinguish two kinds of compatibilists. Moral compatibilists concede or do not dispute the first premise; they reject the third premise. Metaphysical compatibilists concede the second premise, but reject the first premise. This book will defend metaphysical compatibilism. I distinguish determinism from some claims about causes and laws. I note an ambiguity in 'has the ability' and 'is able to' and draw a distinction between narrow and wide abilities. The metaphysical compatibilist rejects the first premise by arguing that determinism is compatible with both kinds of abilities.
CHAPTER 2: The Problem Distinguished: Is it Possible for Us to Have Free Will? Do We Have Free Will?
I distinguish three questions about free will. Is it possible that we have free will? Is it possible both that determinism is true and that we have free will? Do we actually have free will? We need to distinguish the impossibilist from the incompatibilist. The impossibilist answers 'no' to the first question and thus 'no' to the other two questions. The incompatibilist answers 'yes' to the first question and 'no' to the second question. The metaphysical compatibilist answers 'yes' to the first two questions. The common sense compatibilist answers 'yes' to all three questions and also says that determinism doesn't matter; that is, the common sense compatibilist says that free will is compatible with indeterminism as well as determinism. This book will defend common sense compatibilism. I examine two kinds of arguments for impossibilism -- the arguments of the logical fatalist and arguments that claim that free will (or moral responsibility) requires a self-making ability that is impossible for any non-godlike creature.
CHAPTER 3: Abilities, Choices, and Agent Causation
Our belief that we have free will, including the ability to do otherwise, is based on our many and varied experiences of reliably moving our minds and bodies in the ways we try to move them and our belief that we are always, or almost always, able to try. I argue that these beliefs about our causal powers are neutral with respect to determinism and the details of the truth about the causal relation and causal relata. Some philosophers argue that we are free and morally responsible agents only if determinism is false and we cause our choices or basic actions in some way that does not consist in event-causation; this is called 'Agent-causation'. I investigate the metaphysics of Agent-causation and argue that insofar as we have reason to believe that Agent-causation is possible, we have reason to believe it is compatible with strict deterministic laws.
CHAPTER 4: The Unavoidability of Metaphysics: Moral Responsibility and Ability to Do Otherwise
Frankfurt famously defended moral compatibilism by arguing that, no matter what your view of free will, you should agree that a person may be morally responsible for what she did even if she wasn't able to do or even choose or try or begin to do otherwise. His argument fails. There are two very different methods that a Frankfurt-style intervener can use to ensure that his subject chooses and does only what he wants her to choose and do. The first method -- the method of the Bodyguard -- succeeds in limiting the subject's freedom, but it does not and cannot rob the subject of her ability to choose or at least begin or try to choose otherwise. The second method -- the method of the Pre-Emptor -- is logically bogus. I argue that it is a modal fallacy to think that the Pre-Emptive intervener in a Frankfurt story deprives his subject of any freedom or ability.
CHAPTER 5: Arguments for Incompatibilism
The incompatibilist claims that at deterministic worlds a necessary condition of free will (or moral responsibility) is always absent. Arguments for this incompatibilist conclusion come in two varieties. The first kind of argument is based on the premise that we have free will (or are morally responsible) only if we are the "sources" (first causes, originators, Agent-causes) of our choices or basic actions. The second kind of argument is based on the premise that we have free will (or are morally responsible) only if we are at least sometime able to do (choose, try, or begin to do) otherwise. I examine and reject both kinds of arguments. The failure of the arguments is due to mistakes about the relation between laws, causation, counterfactuals, and our causal powers. Peter van Inwagen claims that his Consequence argument has "raised the price" of compatibilism by making its metaphysical commitments clear. I will argue that the price of compatibilism is less than the price of the incompatibilist alternative.
CHAPTER 6: The Abilities and Dispositions of our Freedom
I propose a determinism-neutral account of free will. We have the free will common sense says we have by having some bundle of narrow abilities and by being in suitably friendly surroundings; when this is so, we have not only the narrow but also the wide ability to do otherwise. I call this 'the Bundle view'. We have narrow abilities by having dispositions with an intrinsic causal basis; we have wide abilities when the relevant dispositions are not finked, masked, or lacking an extrinsic enabler. I defend a modified version of Lewis's analysis of dispositions, but the Bundle view is not committed to the truth of any particular analysis. I use the Bundle view to provide a diagnosis of the failure of Frankurt's argument and the Consequence argument. I argue that the objections that defeated the Simple Conditional Analysis of 'could have done otherwise' do not undermine the Bundle view. I also argue that the objection that was widely accepted as fatal to the Simple Conditional Analysis was based on a mistake about counterfactuals.
CHAPTER SEVEN Laws, Counterfactuals, and Fixed Past Compatibilism
The free will/determinism problem is one of the hardy perennials of philosophy and anyone who claims to have provided a solution has an obligation to explain why the problem has resisted attempted solution or dissolution for so long. The common sense compatibilist faces an additional challenge: If compatibilism is true, why is it so hard to believe? Why is the most common first response to determinism the incredulous stare and the second response some version of incompatibilism? I argue that if we evaluate an important class of counterfactuals in the way that David Lewis says we do, we can explain our incompatibilist impulse. There is also a fringe benefit. If Lewis is right about counterfactuals, and the Bundle view is the correct account of our abilities, the common sense compatibilist can also be a Fixed Past compatibilist.