“The Human Condition,” by Thomas Whitaker/Prison Arts Coalition
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION is a five-part, four-book series, including:
PART 1: Preface and General Introduction
PART 2: Cognition, Content, and the A Priori: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge
PART 3: Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics
PART 4: Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy
PART 5: Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise
Its author is ROBERT HANNA:
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1
PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 2
COGNITION, CONTENT, AND THE A PRIORI: A STUDY IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND KNOWLEDGE
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 3
DEEP FREEDOM AND REAL PERSONS: A STUDY IN METAPHYSICS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Note on References
1. Introduction: Freedom, Life, and Persons’ Lives
2. Beyond Mechanism: The Dynamics of Life
3. From Biology to Agency
4. Neither/Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism
4.2 The Four Metaphysical Horsemen of the Apocalypse
4.3 The Three Standard Options, Natural Mechanism, and The Fourfold Knot of Free Agency
4.4 Three Arguments for Classical Incompatibilism, and In-the-Zone Compatibilism
4.5 Three Arguments for Local Incompatibilism with Respect to Natural Mechanism
4.6 Sympathy for the Devil: Compatibilism Reconsidered
4.7 Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death?
4.8 Too Hard to Live With: Strawson’s Basic Argument, Hard Determinism, and Hard Incompatibilism
5. Either/Or: Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity
5.1 The Internal Structure of Deep Freedom
5.2 From Frankfurt Back to Kierkegaard: How to Have a Live Option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or, Without Alternative Possibilities
5.3 Psychological Freedom, Deep Freedom, and Principled Authenticity
6. Minded Animalism I: What Real Persons Really Are
6.1 From Deep Freedom to Real Persons
6.2 Real Persons
6.3 Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Real Personhood
7. Minded Animalism II: From Parfit to Real Personal Identity
7.1 Parfit’s Theory: Six Basic Claims
7.2 Against and Beyond Parfit 1: Two Reasons, and The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity
7.3 Against and Beyond Parfit 2: Four More Reasons
In the fullness of time, the complete, downloadable text of each part of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION will also be made available on APP.
A NOTE ON REFERENCES
For convenience, throughout the five-part four book series, The Rational Human Condition—comprising 1. the Preface and General Introduction, 2. Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, 3. Deep Freedom and Real Persons, 4. Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, and 5. Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism—I refer to Kant’s works infratextually in parentheses. The citations include both an abbreviation of the English title and the corresponding volume and page numbers in the standard “Akademie” edition of Kant’s works: Kants gesammelte Schriften, edited by the Königlich Preussischen (now Deutschen) Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: G. Reimer [now de Gruyter], 1902-). I generally follow the standard English translations, but have occasionally modified them where appropriate. For references to the first Critique, I follow the common practice of giving page numbers from the A (1781) and B (1787) German editions only. Here is a list of the relevant abbreviations and English translations:
BL “The Blomberg Logic.” In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Trans. J.M. Young. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992. Pp. 5-246.
C Immanuel Kant: Correspondence, 1759-99. Trans. A. Zweig. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999.
CPJ Critique of the Power of Judgment. Trans. P. Guyer and E. Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.
CPR Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. P. Guyer and A. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.
CPrR Critique of Practical Reason. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 139-271.
DiS “Concerning the Ultimate Ground of the Differentiation of Directions in Space.” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992. Pp. 365-372.
DSS “Dreams of a Spirit-Seer Elucidated by Dreams of Metaphysics.” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Pp. 301-359.
EAT “The End of All Things.” Trans. A. Wood and G. Di Giovanni. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 221-231.
GMM Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 43-108.
ID “On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World (Inaugural Dissertation).” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Pp. 373-416.
IUH “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim.” Trans. A. Wood. In Immanuel Kant: Anthropology, History, and Eduction. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007. Pp. 107-120.
JL “The Jäsche Logic.” Trans. J.M. Young. In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Pp. 519-640.
LE Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Ethics. Trans. P. Heath. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.
MFNS Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. Trans. M. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.
MM Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 365-603.
OP Immanuel Kant: Opus postumum. Trans. E. Förster and M. Rosen. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993.
OT “What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?” Trans. A. Wood. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Pp. 7-18.
Prol Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. Trans. G. Hatfield. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.
PP “Toward Perpetual Peace.” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 317-351.
Rel Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. Trans. A. Wood and G. Di Giovanni. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Pp. 57-215.
RTL “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy.” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 611-615.
VL “The Vienna Logic,” Trans. J.M. Young. In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Pp. 251-377.
WE “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 17-22.
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 3
DEEP FREEDOM AND REAL PERSONS: A STUDY IN METAPHYSICS
CHAPTER 4 Neither Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism
Section 4.2 The Four Metaphysical Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The capacity for free will is not a “bonus” capacity, like the ability to play a musical instrument well, the ability to do higher mathematics, or the ability to learn foreign languages easily. On the contrary, the capacity for free will is essential to our nature. Indeed, according to The Intuitive Definition, the very idea of free will is so centrally embedded within our self-conception of our own rational animal and real personal lives, that it is metaphysically and morally impossible to conceive of ourselves without it. In the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant captures this indispensable self-conception in the following way:
Reason must regard itself as the author of its principles independently of all alien influences; consequently, as practical reason or as the will of a rational being it must be regarded of itself as free, that is, the will of such a being cannot be a will of his own except under the idea of freedom, and such a will must in a practical respect thus be attributed to every rational being. (GMM 4: 448)
Nevertheless, our grasp of this indispensable self-conception is not without some serious cognitive dissonance. This, in turn, is principally because four possible metaphysical scenarios, like The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—Conquest, War, Famine, and Death—seem to stand directly and threateningly in the way of our ever being able to give an adequate, complete philosophical or scientific theory that would be able to explain and vindicate with decisive reasons this indispensable conception of ourselves as possessing free will, as free agents, and as real persons. These metaphysical malefactors are:
(1) Universal Natural Determinism,
(3) Universal Natural Indeterminism, and
(4) Natural Mechanism.
Let us now look more closely at them, one by one.
Universal Natural Determinism is the doctrine that the complete series of settled past events, together with the general causal laws of nature, causally necessitate the existence and specific character of all present and future events, including all the choices and acts of rational animals or real persons. This can be formulated even more carefully. Let us adopt the following symbolic conventions, where ‘p’ stands for an arbitrarily chosen proposition about the natural world, to the effect that p:
C-NEC: It is causally necessary that
Pa: All settled past events are taken together as a complete series
Ln: All the general causal laws of nature are conjoined
Fp: Every fact that p about every present and future event is fixed
Then Universal Natural Determinism can be explicitly stated as:
(C-NEC) [(Pa & Ln) → Fp]
If Universal Natural Determinism is true, then it specifically follows that whatever I am choosing or doing now is necessitated by The Big Bang—or whatever it was that actually constituted and determined the causal and nomological origins of the physical world, its cosmological expansion, its entropy, and its thermodynamics, in a framework that includes general relativity and quantum mechanics. Furthermore, Universal Natural Determinism entails that:
Causally necessarily, if any two events E1 and E2 have exactly similar pasts, then E1 and E2 will also have exactly similar presents and futures.
Let us call this The Closed Future Rule. The basic idea expressed by The Closed Future Rule is that the present and future of the larger natural world and all the rational animals or real persons in it, are antecedently fixed with causal necessity, and that natural history and the lives of persons do not contain any inherently random factors. It also follows directly from Universal Natural Determinism that if some super-duper-scientist—named, say, “Trillian”—were able to know all the relevant natural facts about the past and also all the general causal laws of nature, then she would be able to predict all present and future events a priori with scientific certainty; and in this way, Trillian would be an even smarter super-scientist than Frank Jackson’s famous super-scientist Mary,[i] who merely knows all there is to know about the neurophysiology of vision.
For clarity’s sake, and also because this is going to be dialectically important in my later discussion, it is crucial to distinguish Universal Natural Determinism from a much stronger doctrine which says that the complete series of settled past events, together with the general causal laws of nature, logically necessitate the existence and specific character of all present and future events, including all the choices and acts of rational animals or persons. This is Fatalism. Let us also adopt this convention:
L-NEC: It is logically necessary that
Then Fatalism can be explicitly stated as:
(L-NEC) [(Pa & Ln) → Fp]
According to Fatalism, there is no logical contingency whatsoever in the causal processes of natural history, or inside the lives of rational animals or real persons. Otherwise put, according to Fatalism all the causal links in nature, or inside us, are also logically necessary links. It follows directly from Fatalism that if Trillian were able to know all the relevant settled natural facts about the past, and also all the general causal laws of nature, then she would also be able to predict all present and future events a priori with logical certainty.
While Fatalism is consistent with Universal Natural Determinism, nevertheless Universal Natural Determinism does not entail Fatalism. You can consistently affirm Universal Natural Determinism and also deny Fatalism. Even if every present and future moment’s existence and specific character is in itself logically contingent, in the sense that it logically could have been otherwise, given all the actual settled facts about the past and all the general causal laws of nature, nevertheless Universal Natural Determinism can still be true. Universal Natural Determinism says only that any present or later event in time is causally necessitated to exist and have a certain specific character, given that the past exists in the specific way that it does exist, and given the specific character of the general causal laws of nature. But the past did not logically have to be just that way, nor did the general causal laws of nature logically have to be just that way. To be sure, the logical necessity of the past, and the logical necessity of the general causal laws of nature, are not automatically entailed by Fatalism. Yet they are still consistent with Fatalism.
Moreover, Fatalism does not entail Universal Natural Determinism, on at least one not wholly implausible interpretation of Fatalism. If it turned out that both the past and also the general laws of nature were logically necessary—if, in effect, the essence of the physical world directly mirrored a system of classical logic, as e.g., in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus—then this Ultra-Fatalism could hold true even if Universal Natural Determinism were false. Indeed, in the Tractatus Wittgenstein claims that all necessity is logical necessity and that causal necessity is not only impossible but even unintelligible:
5.133 All inference takes place a priori.
5.135 In no way can an inference be made from the existence of one state of affairs to the existence of another entirely different from it.
5.136 There is no causal nexus which justifies such an inference.
5.1361 The events of the future cannot be inferred from those of the present. Superstition is the belief in the causal nexus.
6.37 A necessity for one thing to happen because another has happened does not exist. There is only logical necessity.[ii]
Wittgenstein’s extremely interesting philosophical response to his own Ultra-Fatalism is what I will call Mystical Compatibilism:
6.421 It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed. Ethics is transcendental. (Ethics and aesthetics are one.)
6.423 Of the will as the subject of the ethics we cannot speak. And the will as a phenomenon is only of interest to psychology.
6.43 If good or bad willing changes the world, it can only change the limits of the world, not the facts; not the things that can be expressed in language. In brief, the world must thereby become quite another. It must so to speak wax or wane as a whole. The world of the happy is quite another than the world of the unhappy.
6.44 The intuition (Anschauung) of the world sub specie aeterni is its intuition as a limited whole. The feeling of the world as a limited whole is the mystical feeling.[iii]
I will have more to say about Mystical Compatibilism below. But in the meantime, Wittgenstein’s Ultra-Fatalism clearly brings out the crucial point that Universal Natural Determinism is about the causal-nomological necessity of the present and future, not about the logical necessity of the present and future. Similarly, Universal Natural Determinism cannot logically guarantee that any particular moment of time will actually exist. For all that Universal Natural Determinism says, it is logically possible that the world might never have existed. Of course, the world does actually exist now. So either the world always existed, or perhaps the world started to exist and then continued to exist until now, or else the world pops in and out of existence discontinuously. —Or whatever, depending on your favorite cosmology and/or theology. But in any case, it is always logically possible that the world might also fail to exist at any present or later time.
I will mention here in an anticipatory way, in order to return to it when I critically discuss the well-known Consequence Argument in the next section, that it is a standard strategy for critics of Universal Natural Determinism, whether intentionally or not, to confuse Universal Natural Determinism with Fatalism, whether “ordinary” Fatalism or Ultra-Fatalism. For example, if someone sincerely says
“If everything is naturally determined, then whatever has happened, was strictly fated to happen, and whatever will happen, strictly must happen, no matter what I choose or do,”
then he is confusing Universal Natural Determinism with Fatalism, and possibly even with Ultra-Fatalism.
It is equally crucial to distinguish Universal Natural Determinism from yet another stronger doctrine, which says that nature is initially created and also sustained at every later moment by the irresistible causal powers of an all-knowing and all-good deity. This stronger doctrine is Universal Divine Determinism, aka “Theological Determinism.” While Universal Divine Determinism is both consistent with Universal Natural Determinism and indeed entails Universal Natural Determinism as a trivial consequence, nevertheless Universal Natural Determinism does not entail Universal Divine Determinism. Even if an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, world-creating, and world-sustaining deity does not exist, Universal Natural Determinism can still be true.
In this connection, and corresponding to the fallacy of confusing Universal Natural Determinism with Fatalism, there is an important two-part fallacy that consists in confusing Universal Natural Determinism with Theological Determinism, and then unsoundly inferring universal moral chaos from the denial of Theological Determinism, which I will dub Smerdyakov’s Fallacy:
“If God is dead, then everything is permitted.”
Smerdyakov’s Fallacy is of course so-dubbed because of this famous passage in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamozov, which I have already cited in section 3.1 above as a stark example of the sort of highly self-deceiving, fallacious normative reasoning that is strongly encouraged by The One-Dimensional Conception of Rational Normativity:
“Take that money away with you, sir,” Smerdyakov said with a sigh.
“Of course, I’ll take it! But why are you giving it to me if you committed a murder to get it?” Ivan asked, looking at him with intense surprise.
“I don’t want it at all,” Smerdyakov said in a shaking voice, with a wave of the hand. “I did have an idea of starting a new life in Moscow, but that was just a dream, sir, and mostly because ‘everything is permitted’. This you did teach me, sir, for you talked to me a lot about such things: for if there’s no everlasting God, there’s no such thing as virtue, and there’s no need of it at all. Yes, sir, you were right about that. That’s the way I reasoned.” [iv]
To be perfectly explicit, Smerdyakov’s Fallacy consists in—
(i) confusing Universal Natural Determinism with Theological Determinism, and also
(ii) mistakenly assuming the truth of Divine Command Ethics: the doctrine that God creates morality and that whatever God wills to be morally right is morally right just because God wills it.
So Smerdyakov is doubly confused. Moreover, from the standpoint of the existentially-oriented Kantian moral theory I defend in Kantian Ethics and Human Existence,[v] the moral significance of someone’s sincerely asserting
“If everything is naturally determined, then whatever has happened, was strictly fated to happen, and whatever will happen, strictly must happen, no matter I choose or do,”
and Smerdyakov’s Fallacy are exactly the same. He has thereby given himself a license to choose and do whatever he feels like choosing and doing, or not to so choose or so do, without any regard for non-consequentialist moral principles, and constrained only by natural mechanical general causal laws. He thereby comports himself as if he were nothing but a fleshy deterministic or indeterministic real-world Turing machine, a biochemical puppet or moist robot, running a decision-theoretic program for satisfying egoistic, hedonistic, or otherwise consequentialist desires. As we also saw in section 3.3, this sort of highly self-deceived and highly self-serving reasoning—ironically and tragically enough, only a really and truly free agent could ever engage in this sort of duplicitous thinking—is the quintessence of inauthenticity from a Kantian point of view, that is, the self-stultifying, self-automating denial of your own capacity for principled authenticity:
This dishonesty (Unredlichkeit), by which we throw dust in our own eyes and which hinders the establishment in us of an authentic moral disposition (ächter moralischer Gesinnung), then extends itself also externally, to falsity or deception of others. And if this dishonesty is not to be called malice, it nonetheless deserves at least the name of unworthiness. It rest on the radical evil of human nature which (inasmuch as it puts out of tune the moral ability to judge what to think of a human being, and renders any imputability uncertain, whether internal or external) constitutes the foul stain of our species—and so long as we do not remove it, hinders the germ of good from developing as it otherwise would. A member of the English Parliament exclaimed in the heat of debate: “Every man has his price, for which he sells himself.” If this is true (and everyone can decide for himself), if nowhere is a virtue which no level of temptation can overthrow, if whether the good or evil spirit wins us over only depends on which bids the most and affords the promptest pay-off, then, what the Apostle says might indeed hold true of human beings universally, “There is no distinction here, they are all under sin—there is none righteous (in the spirit of the law), no, not one.” (Rel 6:38-39)
To keep things as simple as possible, however, in what follows I will generally leave aside the special and subtle metaphysical and moral issues associated with the possibility of either Fatalism or Universal Divine Determinism, and concentrate solely on the doctrine of Universal Natural Determinism whenever I am discussing Determinism.
In any case, by sharp contrast to Universal Natural Determinism, Universal Natural INdeterminism is the doctrine that Universal Natural Determinism is false, that all connections between events, including the existence and specific character of the choosings and doings of persons, are the result of chance and governed by general probabilistic or statistical causal laws alone, and that no particular future events can be scientifically predicted with certainty a priori. So even our super-duper-scientist Trillian cannot know the future with certainty, and will simply have to make educated guesses. In particular, Universal Natural Indeterminism entails that:
Causally necessarily, even if two events E1 and E2 have exactly similar pasts, then possibly and with some definite degree of probability, E1 and E2 will each have a different present and a different future.
Let us call this The Open Future Rule. The basic idea of The Open Future Rule is that the present and future of the physical world, together with all the persons in it, is not antecedently fixed, and that natural history or the lives of rational animals or persons contain some inherently random factors. Assuming the truth of The Open Future Rule, it is metaphysically possible that everything in natural history or the lives of rational animals or real persons is just a series of happenings of more or less random events according to probabilistic or statistical general causal laws. This is Universal Natural Indeterminism. It is crucial to note that Universal Natural Indeterminism is still probabilistically or statistically causally law-governed, aka “stochastic,” and not in any way the same as natural pandemonium, which would be utterly lawless.
In any case, it seems self-evident that if all the choices and acts of rational animals or real persons obey either The Closed Future Rule of Universal Natural Determinism or The Open Future Rule of Universal Natural Indeterminism, then theorists of “deep” or metaphysically robust free will, as opposed to the “shallow,” merely psychological free will of “reactive attitudes” and “reasons-sensitive mechanisms,”[vi] are in serious trouble. More comprehensively then, what I will again call the doctrine of Natural Mechanism[vii] holds that:
either (i) Universal Natural Determinism is true,
or (ii) Universal Natural Indeterminism is true,
or else (iii) some events are inherently deterministically caused as regards their existence and specific character, and the other events are inherently indeterministically caused as regards their existence and specific character, and every event is either inherently deterministically caused as regards its existence and specific character or inherently indeterministically caused as regards its existence and specific character.
In other words, Natural Mechanism says that all things in nature, including all rational human animals or real human persons, are nothing but deterministic or indeterministic automata.
In section 2.1 above, I also made the proposal that the underlying logic and mathematics of Natural Mechanism jointly satisfy the Church-Turing Thesis, which identifies effective decidability, recursive functions, and Turing-computability, given the two further plausible assumptions of “causal orderliness” and “decomposability” to the effect that:
(i) the causal powers of any physical realization of an abstract Turing machine are held fixed under our general causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, and
(ii) the “digits” over which the Turing machine computes constitute a complete denumerable set of spatiotemporally discrete physical objects.
More precisely then, as before, I am saying that:
Anything X is a natural automaton, or natural machine, if and only if:
(1) X is constituted by an ordered set of causally-efficacious behaviors, functions, and operations (aka “causal powers”),
(2) the causal powers of X are necessarily determined by all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang, together with all the general deterministic or indeterministic causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, and
(3) X’s causal powers are all inherently effectively decidable, recursive, or Turing-computable, given two further plausible assumptions to the effect that
(3i) the causal powers of any real-world Turing machine are held fixed under our general causal laws of nature, and
(3ii) the “digits” over which the real-world Turing machine computes constitute a complete set of mathematically denumerable (i.e., non-real-number, non-complex-number, non-transfinite) quantities, i.e., spatiotemporally discrete, physical objects.
Therefore if Natural Mechanism is true, then all sentient and sapient animals, including ourselves, and all other real persons as well, are, really and truly, and perhaps also nothing but,[viii] fleshy deterministic or indeterministic Turing machines, biochemical puppets, and moist robots.
Roughly sixty years before Turing’s breakthrough paper in 1936,[ix] in 1874, here is how the ultra-Darwinian biologist Thomas Huxley trenchantly put the very same point:
The consciousness of brutes would appear to be related to the mechanism of their body simply as a collateral product of its working, and to be completely without any power of modifying that working as the steam-whistle which accompanies the work of a locomotive engine is without influence on its machinery. Their volition, if they have any, is an emotion indicative of physical changes, not a cause of such changes… It is quite true that, to the best of my judgment, the argumentation which applies to brutes holds equally good of men; and, therefore, that all states of consciousness in us, as in them, are immediately caused by molecular changes in the brain substance. It seems to me that in men, as in brutes, there is no proof that any state of consciousness is the cause of change in the motion of the matter of the organism. If these positions are well based, it follows that our mental conditions are simply the symbols in consciousness of the changes which take place automatically in the organism; and that, to take an extreme illustration, the feeling that we call volition is not the cause of a voluntary act, but the symbol of that state of the brain which is the immediate cause of that act. We are conscious automata, endowed with free will in the only intelligible sense of that much-abused term—inasmuch as in many respects we are able to do as we like—but nonetheless parts of the great series of causes and effects which, in its unbroken continuity, composes that which is, and has been, and shall be—the sum of existence.[x]
So if Natural Mechanism is true, and if Huxley’s physicalist reduction of mental facts to naturally mechanistic fundamental physical facts is also true, then all of us rational human animals or real human persons are really nothing but fleshy deterministic or indeterministic real-world Turing machines, biochemical puppets, and moist robots, that at best merely epiphenomenally, self-deceptively, and tragically dream that we are free agents. But in fact it is metaphysically problematic enough even if it is just really and truly the case that we are fleshy real-world Turing machines, biochemical puppets, and moist robots, without physicalist reduction, as I will argue in sections 4.4 and 4.5. For the truth of Natural Mechanism is incompatible with the existence of real free agency.
Relatedly, it is crucially important to recognize that the free agency worry about Natural Mechanism is subtly distinct from, and goes beyond, although it still obviously is importantly related to, and indeed includes, the free agency worry about Universal Natural Determinism. Put very simply, if Universal Natural Determinism is true, then either The Big Bang distally necessitates all my choices and actions, or some other more local environmental physical state of the world or process proximally necessitates them, and thus something else really does all the things I seem to choose and do myself, not me. But if Natural Mechanism is true, then even if the real causal source of my choosings and doings is indeterministic and spatiotemporally coincides with me, and even if I thereby have the illusion that I am the ultimate source of my choosings and doings, nevertheless I am not the ultimate source. That is because if Natural Mechanism is true, then in fact the creature that spatiotemporally coincides with me in that context, and does the relevant causing, is really and truly a fleshy deterministic or indeterministic real-world Turing machine, a biochemical puppet and moist robot, and not me, a rational human animal or real human person. A naturally mechanical causal source, whether deterministic or indeterministic, is not a real agentive causal source and not a real personal causal source, because it is not a real living organism. So it is one thing for something that is merely made out of human flesh, but is really and truly a fleshy deterministic or indeterministic real-world Turing machine, to be an efficacious causal source, as such, and another thing altogether for someone with a real agentive life of her own, a real living organism with capacities for consciousness, intentionality, and caring, whose inner and outer life has meaning, for better or worse, who is a rational “human, all too human” animal or real human person, to be an ultimate efficacious causal source. A causally efficacious real-world Turing machine is categorically not the same as a causally efficacious living rational human animal or real human person.
Granting that characterization of Natural Mechanism, and also paying full attention in this context to the point that rational animals or real persons strictly speaking need not all be human, then the fully generalized problem of free agency is this:
How can rational animals or real persons really and truly choose or do things, or refrain from so choosing or so doing, with negative freedom, positive freedom, and also causal and deep (non-)moral responsibility, in a physical natural world in which Natural Mechanism is prima facie really possible?
[i] See F. Jackson, “Epiphenomenal Qualia,” Philosophical Quarterly 32 (1982): 127-136.
[ii] L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans.C.K. Ogden (London: Routledge, 1981), pp. 109 and 181.
[iii] Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, pp. 183, 185, and 187.
[iv] Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, vol. 2, p. 743.
[v] See Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, esp. chs. 1 and 6.
[vi] See, e.g., J.M. Fischer, Deep Control (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012); Fischer and Ravizza, Responsibility and Control; M. McKenna, Conversation and Responsibility (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012); and P. Strawson, “Freedom and Resentment,” in Watson (ed.), Free Will, pp. 72-93.
[viii] This slightly fussy two-part formulation, “really and truly, and perhaps also nothing but,” captures both non-reductive physicalist and reductive physicalist versions of Natural Mechanism.
[ix] Turing, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entsheidungsproblem.”
[x] T. Huxley, “On the Hypothesis That Animals are Automata, and Its History,” in D. Chalmers (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 24-30, at pp. 29-30.
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