The Rational Human Condition 3, Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics, Section 4.3–The Three Standard Options, Natural Mechanism, and The Fourfold Knot of Free Agency.

“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

Section 1.0  What It Is

Section 1.1  Bounded in a Nutshell

Section 1.2  Rational Anthropology vs. Analytic Metaphysics, the Standard Picture, and Scientific Naturalism

Section 1.3  Philosophy and Its History: No Deep Difference

Section 1.4  Works of Philosophy vs. Philosophical Theories: Presentational Hylomorphism and Polymorphism

Section 1.5  Analytic Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Rational Anthropology

Section 1.6  What is a Rational Human Animal?

Section 1.7  An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply

Section 1.8  The Biggest Windmills


The Complete, Downloadable Text of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1


THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 2 

COGNITION, CONTENT, AND THE A PRIORI: A STUDY IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND KNOWLEDGE

The Complete, Downloadable Text of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 2


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  

1.0 Natural Libertarianism and Minded Animalism

1.1 Incompatibilistic Compatibilism

1.2 Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity

1.3 The Central Claim of this Book, and Previews                                      

2.  Beyond Mechanism: The Dynamics of Life

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Immanent Structuralism

2.2 Natural Mechanism, Computability, and Anti-Mechanism

2.3 Kant’s Anti-Mechanism, Kantian Anti-Mechanism, Vitalism, and Emergentism

2.4 On the Representation of Life

2.5 Kantian Non-Conceptualism and the Dynamicist Model of Life

2.6 Inverted Life, Suspended Life, and Non-Local Life: How Life Does Not Strongly Supervene on the Physical, and Why

2.7 Conclusion                                                                                                                  

3.  From Biology to Agency          

3.0 Introduction

3.1 Two-Dimensional Rational Normativity

3.2 Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom

3.3 Practical-Freedom-in-Life: Kantian Non-Intellectualism

3.4 The Rationality of the Heart: Principled Authenticity

3.5 Conclusion                                                                                                       

4.  Neither/Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism

4.0 Introduction                                                                                                                 

4.1 The Intuitive Definition of Free Will

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

4.9 Conclusion                                                                                                        

5.  Either/Or: Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity          

5.0 Introduction

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

5.4 Conclusion                                                                                                       

6.  Minded Animalism I: What Real Persons Really Are

6.0 Introduction

6.1 From Deep Freedom to Real Persons

6.2 Real Persons

6.3 Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Real Personhood

6.4 Conclusion                                                                                                       

7.  Minded Animalism II: From Parfit to Real Personal Identity          

7.0 Introduction

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

7.4 Conclusion        


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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 4.3  The Three Standard Options, Natural Mechanism, and The Fourfold Knot of Free Agency

In the contemporary philosophical debate about the problem of free will, what I call “The Three Standard Options” are these:

Hard Determinism: Free will and Universal Natural Determinism are mutually inconsistent,[i] free will is impossible, and Universal Natural Determinism is true.

Soft Determinism: Free will and and Universal Natural Determinism are mutually consistent, free will exists, and Universal Natural Determinism is true.

Classical Libertarianism: Free will and Universal Natural Determinism are mutually inconsistent, free will exists, and Universal Natural Determinism is impossible, 

either (i) because free will exists as an essential property of a special agent-substance, existing outside the natural causal order or inside that order (classical agent-causationism), 

or (ii) because some indeterministic processes exist in nature and free will is among them (event-causal indeterminism), or (iii) because some indeterministic processes exist in nature and free will is not among them because it exists over and above natural processes (non-causal indeterminism).

As I mentioned in section 1.1, the thesis that free will and Universal Natural Determinism are mutually logically or metaphysically consistent is classical Compatibilism. So Soft Determinism is a form of classical Compatibilism. Strictly speaking, classical Compatibilism does not require asserting either the existence of free will or the truth of Universal Natural Determinism. These are further substantive metaphysical theses that need to be fully explicated and defended. As a matter of fact, however, most contemporary Compatibilists are also Soft Determinists. But it is worth remembering that classical Compatibilism on its own is only a modal metaphysical thesis about mutual consistency, and furthermore that Soft Determinism does not follow just by conceptual-logical entailment from classical Compatibilism.[ii]

One way of seeing this important dialectical point is the recognition that Soft Determinism is in fact a version of deflationary Libertarianism, since it postulates the actual existence of a certain metaphysically non-robust and indeed merely psychological and/or epistemic kind of free will, whereas classical Compatibilism is not, in and of itself, a version of any kind of Libertarianism. Classical Compatibilism is, rather, only the thesis that Universal Natural Determinism and some or another kind of free will, no matter how deflationary or inflationary this conception of free will might be, are mutually consistent.

As I also mentioned in section 1.1, the thesis that, on the contrary, free will and Universal Natural Determinism are mutually inconsistent is classical Incompatibilism. Like classical Compatibilism, classical Incompatibilism on its own is only a modal metaphysical thesis. So Hard Determinism and Classical Libertarianism are both forms of classical Incompatibilism, yet also involve further substantive metaphysical claims that need to be fully explicated and defended.

There is a contemporary view closely related to Soft Determinism, defended by John Martin Fischer, which says that although free will and Universal Natural Determinism are mutually inconsistent, nevertheless moral responsibility[iii] and Universal Natural Determinism are mutually consistent, Universal Natural Determinism is true, and moral responsibility exists even if free will is impossible. This is Semi-Compatibilism.[iv]

Correspondingly, there is a contemporary view closely related to Hard Determinism, defended by Derk Pereboom, which says that free will and Universal Natural Determinism are mutually inconsistent, that free will is conceptually-logically or metaphysically possible but not actual, and that, given the truth of contemporary physics, it follows that one or another of the three mutually exclusive disjuncts of Natural Mechanism is true. This is Hard Incompatibilism.[v]

And finally, there is also another contemporary view closely related to both Soft Determinism and Hard Incompatibilism, defended by Manuel Vargas, which says that despite the fact that classical Compatibilism is true, nevertheless our cultural, intellectual, and social history strongly inclines us to believe in classical Incompatibilism, and then we feel and act accordingly, on the basis of a cognitive illusion: so, rationally, we ought to revise our concepts in order to conform with the compatibilistic facts, and then feel and act accordingly. This is Revisionism.[vi]

Of course there are many other significant recent or contemporary views about free will:[vii] I have been trying, and will continue to try, to address all or at least most of these along the way, in the main text or at least in the footnotes. But for the present purposes, the most important point is that the view about free will that I am proposing and defending, Natural Libertarianism, is essentially distinct from each of The Three Standard Options, from Semi-Compatibilism, from Hard Incompatibilism, and from Revisionism too. The essential distinctness of Natural Libertarianism ultimately depends on three factors.

First, as I spelled it out in section 1.1, Natural Libertarianism critically challenges our commitment to the all-too-familiar and seemingly exhaustive dichotomy between classical Compatibilism and classical Incompatibilism, and instead postulates the two specially restricted theses of Non-Local Compatibilism and Local Incompatibilism. As we will remember, Non-Local Compatibilism tells us that some or even most, but not all, of physical nature is made up of deterministic natural automata or machines, whereas Local Incompatibilism tells us that at least some but not all of physical nature is made up of free agents who are themselves nothing more and thing less than human conscious, intentional, caring, rational animals or real persons, that is, far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic, finegrainedly normatively attuned thermodynamic systems, which in turn are categorically not deterministic natural automata or machines. According to Natural Libertarianism, very simply put, free agency is just the following two-part fully natural fact:

(i) not every dynamic system is either a deterministic or indeterministic natural automaton, and

(ii) at least some of those non-mechanical dynamic systems are living systems, but not merely living systems, and also conscious, intentional, and caring systems, but not merely conscious and caring, intentional systems, because they are also rational animals, according to the Two-Dimensional Rational Normativity conception, and, correspondingly, they have real personal lives of their own, created by their deep freedom.

Natural Libertarianism also challenges our commitment to the all-too-familiar and seemingly exhaustive trichotomy between The Three Standard Options of Hard Determinism, Soft Determinism (i.e., Deflationary Libertarianism), and Classical Libertarianism (including its classical agent-causal, event-causal indeterminist, and non-causal sub-versions). This is because Natural Libertarianism thereby also indirectly raises its own deeply important, leading, and provocative “revisionist”—really, a philosophical liberationist—question:

How and why did we ever manage to lock ourselves culturally, intellectually, aesthetically, morally, socially, and politically into this false dichotomy and this false trichotomy; and in what ways would we believe differently, and then feel and act accordingly, if we simply gave them up, liberated ourselves, and became not only “natural pietists,” but also “incompatibilistic compatibilists,” and thus defenders of Natural Libertarianism?

This philosophical liberationist question, in turn, corresponds directly to D.R. Griffin’s late 20th century re-formulation of Schopenhauer’s 19th century philosophical clarion-call, that I have quoted twice already, but is so important that it bears repeating at least one more time:

There is an absolute contradiction between the freedom we all presuppose in practice and the implications of ideas that are widely accepted as established scientific fact. Philosophy has no higher calling than to try to resolve this contradiction at the heart of contemporary culture.[viii]

Second, Natural Libertarianism is a non-classical version of Libertarianism that is neither inflationary, by postulating the existence of more than is metaphysically necessary to explain deep freedom, nor deflationary, by postulating the existence of less than is metaphysically necessary to explain deep freedom. As being at once non-inflationary and also non-deflationary about free will, Natural Libertarianism hits the just-right metaphysical mean. This is because:

(i) Natural Libertarianism situates deeply free will fully inside nature, in organismic living processes, which is turn are situated fully inside non-equilibrium thermodynamic systems, 

and also (ii) it postulates its irreducibility to either deterministic or indeterministic natural processes, 

alongside (iii) postulating its locally incompatibilistic causal relevance and causal efficacy, 

together with (iv) postulating its non-local compatibilistic integration with deterministic and indeterministic natural processes,

while at the same time combining all of them in a way that effectively vindicates both the causal responsibility and also the deep (non-)moral responsibility of rational animal agents.

Third, Natural Libertarianism bears a special adversarial metaphysical relationship to Natural Mechanism. What is that relationship?

I have defined Natural Mechanism in three slightly different but still necessarily equivalent ways: first, in section 2.1, as the thesis that all biological facts and properties are explanatorily and ontologically necessarily determined by the causal behaviors, functions, and operations of fundamentally physical facts and properties; second, also in section 2.1, as the thesis that every causal behavior, function, or operation in nature, including all the conscious experiences and behaviors of rational animals or real persons, has all its causal powers necessarily determined by the general causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, together with all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang, and is Turing-computable from that basis; and then finally third, in section 4.2, as the disjunctive thesis that either Universal Natural Determinism is true, or Universal Natural Indeterminism is true, or else 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. Natural Libertarianism explicitly rejects Natural Mechanism in all of its guises.

Now it is quite true, on the one hand, as Kim has pointed out, that an explanatory and ontological appeal to the contemporary natural sciences counts strongly against any version of substance dualism or property dualism.[ix] But on the other hand, Natural Libertarianism explicitly rejects both substance dualism and property dualism.

Indeed, even beyond that, defenders of Natural Mechanism cannot rightly claim that their views are inherently more conformable to the contemporary natural sciences than Natural Libertarianism is. This is because Natural Libertarianism is specifically designed to be fully conformable to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, under the non-deterministic interpretation of it offered, e.g., by Prigogine,[x] and correspondingly Natural Libertarianism is fully conformable to chemistry, biology, and the cognitive neurosciences, insofar as these are all construed in terms of the non-deterministic interpretation of non-equilibrium thermodynamics and liberal naturalism. In other words, Natural Libertarianism takes natural science seriously too.

More specifically, it is not scientifically unserious to be a liberal naturalist and hold that non-equilibrium thermodynamics, comprehending both physics and chemistry, and biology, especially including organismic biology and ecosystemic biology, and finally cognitive neuroscience, are all anti-mechanistic. Why must all the basic sciences be interpreted in accordance with Natural Mechanism? After all, Church and Turing show us that logical truth in every system at least as rich as classical first-order polyadic quantified predicate logic with identity, aka “elementary logic,” cannot be determined by Turing-computable algorithms, and therefore cannot be naturally mechanized; and Gödel’s incompleteness theorems show us that every mathematical system at least as rich as Peano arithmetic cannot be naturally mechanized.[xi] Yet no one regards elementary logic and Peano arithmetic as somehow less than seriously scientific. If formal piety about logic and mathematics, directly based on the work of Gödel, Church, and Turing, is fully intelligible and defensible, as they surely are, then by the same token, so too is natural piety about physics, chemistry, biology, and cognitive neuroscience, not to mention the classical “moral sciences.”

What defenders of Natural Mechanism can rightly claim at best, is that their view conforms closely to a contemporary physicalist (whether non-reductive or reductive, both of which entail the strong supervenience of everything on the fundamentally physical) conception of nature and the natural sciences. Yet apart from its elective affinity with physicalism, which is a philosophical theory, and not itself a scientific theory, it is hard to know what else could be plausibly said in favor of Natural Mechanism. But in any case, physicalism about logic and mathematics are clearly false.[xii] So if one can be fully serious about logic and mathematics without holding either Natural Mechanism or physicalism about them, then by the same token one can fully serious about physics, chemistry, biology, and cognitive neuroscience without holding either Natural Mechanism or physicalism about them, since all of them presuppose logic and mathematics. In particular, if the non-deterministic interpretation of non-equilibrium thermodynamics, together with Church’s and Turing’s discoveries about logic, together with Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, are all true, then Natural Mechanism and physicalism are both false even of physics, and yet we can still be fully serious about logic, mathematics, and physics. Natural Libertarianism clearly meets this theoretical standard.

Back now to Schopenhauer. He evocatively called what he regarded as the three-way fundamental identity between

(i) the subject of consciousness, intentionality, and cognition,

(ii) the subject of caring, choosing, and willing, and

(iii) the subject’s phenomenal living body as a proper part of the natural world,

the “world-knot” (Weltknoten).[xiii] His basic thought was that the phenomenal living human body is nothing more and nothing less than the noumenal Will incarnate:

As the being-in-itself of our own body, as that which this body is besides being object of perception, namely representation, the will, as we have said, proclaims itself first of all in the voluntary movements of this body, in so far as these movements are nothing but the visibility of the individual acts of the will. These movements appear directly and simultaneously with those acts of  will; they are one and the same thing with them, and are distinguished from them only by the form of perceptibility into which they have passed.[xiv]

Leaving aside Schopenhauer’s flamboyant subjective-idealist metaphysics, however, the core of the world-knot worry is this: how can the mental subject, the willing subject, and the subject’s phenomenal living body as a proper part of the natural world be literally fundamentally identical to one another? Correspondingly, and now translating Schopenhauer’s worry into contemporary philosophical terms, it seems to me that the problem of free agency is the deepest of all metaphysical problems, precisely by virtue of its being inseparably knotted up in a fourfold way with the three other deepest metaphysical problems: the mind-body problem, the problem of mental causation, and the problem of action.

The mind-body problem, as I will understand it here, is this:

What accounts for the existence and specific character of conscious, intentional, caring minds in a physical natural world?

The problem of mental causation, as I will understand it here, is this:

What accounts for the causal relevance and causal efficacy of conscious, intentional, caring minds in a physical natural world?

And the problem of action, as I will understand it here, and again paying attention in this context to the point that not necessarily all rational animals or real persons are human, is this:

What accounts for the categorical difference between the things that rational animals or real persons consciously, intentionally, and caringly do, or perform, and the things that merely happen to them?

Then the fourfold knot of the free agency problem gets twisted up in the following way. We can start with the mind-body problem. Since the physical world is also the natural world of causally relevant and causally efficacious events in spacetime, then if conscious, intentional, caring minds can be shown to exist and have their specific character in the physical natural world, it follows that conscious, intentional, caring minds must also be causally relevant and causally efficacious in that same physical natural world. That fully invokes the problem of mental causation. Mental causation, in turn, is a necessary condition of intentional action. Mental causation is clearly not sufficient for intentional action, however, because there can be internal psychic compulsions—e.g., nervous tics or intrusive voices—that mentally cause behavior and unintentional actions, but do not intentionally cause them. That, in turn, fully invokes the problem of action, since it follows that mental causation is required for the things that rational animals or real persons consciously, intentionally, and caringly do, but does not itself determine the difference between the things that real persons perform and the things that merely happen to them.

Rational animals or real persons have conscious, intentional minds, and above all they care about all sorts of things, other persons, and themselves. So if we cannot explain the existence, specific character, causal relevance, and causal efficacy of conscious, intentional, caring, rational minds in a physical natural world, and if we cannot explain the difference between the things that rational animals or real persons consciously, intentionally, and caringly do, or perform, and the things that merely happen to them, then we certainly also cannot explain how a rational animal’s or real person’s choosings and doings can ever be negatively or positively free, or include deep moral responsibility. Or more generally, we cannot explain how she can ever be the ultimate source of her choices and acts, so that something is really up to her; and thus we cannot explain how she can ever really be deeply free in a natural world that, at least on the face of it, could be naturally mechanized from top to bottom. At the end of the day, therefore, what we ultimately need to know is the solution to what I called The Fourfold Knot of Free Agency:

What accounts for the existence, specific character, causal relevance, and causal efficacy of the conscious, intentional, caring minds of rational animals or real persons, insofar as there is a categorical difference between the things that they consciously, intentionally, and caringly do, or perform, and the things that merely happen to them, and insofar as they really and truly choose and do things with negative freedom, positive freedom, and also causal responsibility and deep (non-)moral responsibility, in a physical natural world in which Natural Mechanism is prima facie possible?

In turn, it seems to me that the key to an adequate solution to The Fourfold Knot of Free Agency is just this:

Necessarily, if Natural Libertarianism is true, then Natural Mechanism is false. And Natural Libertarianism is true. So Natural Mechanism is false, biological anti-mechanism is true, and our free agency and our real personhood are the same as our freedom-in-life.

More precisely, then, in order to untangle The Fourfold Knot of Free Agency, we need to be able to understand how conscious, intentional, caring, rational animals, or real persons, especially including of course all the human ones, who are deeply free, who are the ultimate sources of their choices and intentional acts, whose choices and acts are thereby up to them, whose choices and acts are more less principled, and more or less wholehearted, are fully-embedded inhabitants of a physical natural world that is not entirely filled with deterministic or indeterministic natural automata, or real-world Turing machines, precisely because it contains some far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic, finegrainedly normatively attuned thermodynamic systems—amongst which are rational human animals or real human persons, free agents all.

Here is another crucial point that needs to be emphasized before going on. Let us assume for a moment the truth of Natural Libetarianism. Even assuming that, it is also true that all far-from-equilibrium, asymmetric, complex, self-organizing thermodynamic systems, including free agents like us, can, under some special conditions, accidentally or extrinsically and temporarily approximate, or resemble, the behavior, functions, and operations of deterministic or indeterministic natural automata in those contexts. For example, I can fall off a step-ladder, and be temporarily in the grip of the law of gravity; or I can spin around like a top until I fall down, just like a collapsing puppet with its controlling strings broken; or I can suffer a minor seizure, and be temporarily in the grip of chance or random brain events. In other words, even assuming the truth of Natural Libertarianism, sometimes our activities still approximate to the activities of classical deterministic equilibrium thermodynamic systems; sometimes they still approximate to the activities of thermodynamic systems undergoing “deterministic chaos”;[xv] and sometimes they still approximate to the throwing of dice. But even fully granting those facts, it does not thereby follow that rational human animals or real persons like us are ever inherently either deterministic or indeterministic natural automata.

This is for two reasons.

First, as I noted in section 1.1, and again in section 2.2, there is, in the nature of things, a fundamental and fully general Kantian distinction between:

(i) an activity’s being merely in conformity with (i.e., being merely consistent with, acting merely according to) a law or rule, and

(ii) its being strictly governed by (i.e., being strictly entailed or necessitated by, acting strictly from or for the sake of) a law or rule.

And as I also noted in section 2.2, this distinction applies directly and specifically to real-world digital or Turing machine computation, such that there is a basic distinction between:

(i) what is merely correctly describable or can be simulated in Turing-computable terms, and

(ii) what strictly encodes or inherently implements a real-world-Turing-computable process that flows from all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially The Big Bang, together with the general causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws.

Therefore, it would be a serious non sequitur to argue from the mere fact that I can be temporarily in the grip of the law of gravity, or temporarily in the grip of “deterministic chaos,” or temporarily in the grip of chance or random brain events, to the conclusion that my behaviors, functions, or operations strictly encode, inherently implement, or really incorporate Turing-computable processes in that context or in any other context. Indeed, precisely to the extent that my behaviors, functions, and operations do approximate or resemble Turing-computable processes, then those behaviors, functions, and operations are thereby directly proportionally approaching their being categorically not things that I consciously, intentionally, and caringly do, or perform, but instead they are things that merely happen to me.

Second, as I argued in section 2.6, if we assume the truth of immanent structuralism about properties, my contemporary Kantian theory of mental representation, representational anti-mechanism, and the dynamicist model of life, then it follows that organismic life is both explanatorily and ontologically irreducible to naturally mechanized, Conservation-Law determined, Big-Bang-caused, Turing-computable processes. And since I am a conscious, caring, intentional, rational living organism, it follows that my behaviors, functions, and operations are not inherently naturally mechanized, Conservation-Law determined, Big-Bang-caused, Turing-computable processes.

So I can fall off a step-ladder, and thereby accidentally or extrinsically and temporarily conform to the general causal laws of gravity and falling bodies, break my leg, curse, clutch it, try to stand up, spin around like a top, fall down like a puppet with its controlling strings broken, then faint from the pain, and thereby accidentally or extrinsically and temporarily conform to the activities of classical deterministic equilibrium systems, deterministically chaotic systems, and indeterministic brain events. But those behaviors, functions, and operations are not expressions of my nature as a rational human animal or real human person. In this way, my fall off that step-ladder, my spinning-round like a top and falling down like a broken puppet, and my fainting fit are only constrained or parameterized, and thus necessarily causally enabled, by the complete set of general causal laws governing inherently deterministic and/or inherently indeterministic physical events. Then both the existence and the specific phenomenal characters of my subjective experience of falling off the step-ladder, breaking my leg, cursing, clutching it, etc., and and my own egocentrically-centered point of view on all this, together with all the specific intentional body movements I make along the way, together with the specific non-moral and moral values of my accident, whatever those values may be, are all strictly non-mechanical, non-dualistic facts about my fall, my discomfort, and my fainting fit. They are not causally entailed or necessitated by all the general deterministic or indeterministic causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, together with all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang, and real-world Turing-computable from that base. For if they had been, then they would not have been my events and my specifics, that is, events and specifics for which I am causally or deeply (non-)morally responsible, by virtue of my consciousness, my intentionality, my caring, my rationality, and my free agency. On the contrary, however, I myself spontaneously bring all those specific phenomenal characters, intentional body movements, and deep (non-)moral values into existence, for better or worse. They are all up-to-me. They are all literally nothing more and nothing less than specific forms of my own real personal life as a free agent, that all grow naturally in my living organismic body.

NOTES

[i] I am leaving it open here whether this inconsistency is logical or metaphysical, and if metaphysical, whether it is weakly metaphysical (logical or analytic) or strongly metaphysical (i.e., non-logical or synthetic) inconsistency.

[ii] Many thanks to Kristin Mickelson for emphatically making this point to me in conversation and in her PhD dissertation,  Free Will Fundamentals: Agency, Determinism, and (In)Compatibility (Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, 2012). The point is that Soft Determinism is not metaphysically cheap. It takes substantive metaphysical work, and more specifically, substantive metaphysical work in the philosophy of mind, to explain it.

[iii] Like most contemporary philosophers of free will and agency, Fischer does not distinguish between deep and shallow moral responsibility, and focuses exclusively on shallow responsibility.

[iv] See J. Fischer, “Frankfurt-type Examples and Semi-Compatibilism,” in Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, pp. 281-308; and J. Fischer, My Way (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006).

[v] See Pereboom, Living without Free Will; and Pereboom Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life.

[vi] See M. Vargas, “Revisionism,” in Fischer, Kane, Pereboom, and Vargas, Four Views on Free Will, ch. 4, pp. 126-165.

[vii] See, e.g., the various views featured in Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, esp. parts VI and VII. And see also M. Balaguer, Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010); D. Hodgson, Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012); Ismael, How Physics Makes Us Free; E.J. Lowe, Personal Agency (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008; and Steward, A Metaphysics for Freedom.

[viii] Griffin, Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciousness, Freedom, and the Mind-Body Problem, p. 171.

[ix] See, e.g., Kim, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough.

[x] See, e.g., Prigogine, The End of Certainty.

[xi] See, e.g., Boolos, and Jeffrey, Computability and Logic.

[xii] See Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature, ch. 6; R. Hanna, “Logic, Mathematics, and the Mind: A Critical Study of Richard Tieszen’s Phenomenology, Logic, and the Philosophy of Mathematics,” Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 50 (2009): 339-361; and Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, esp. chs. 6-8. For an opposing view, Maddy, Second Philosophy, part IV.

[xiii] A. Schopenhauer, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, trans. E.F.J. Payne (New York: Open Court, 1974), §42. See also See also B. O’Shaughnessy, The Will, 2 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.Press, 1980); B. O’Shaughnessy, Consciousness and the World (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000);  Griffin, Unsnarling the World-Knot; and H. Putnam, The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2001).

[xiv] Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, vol. 1, §20, p. 106.

[xv] See, e.g., Prigogine, The End of Certainty, chs. 3-4.


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