“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
5. Either/Or: Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity
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 5 Either/Or: Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity
Section 5.2 From Frankfurt Back to Kierkegaard: How to Have a Live Option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or, Without Alternative Possibilities
In his seminal 1969 paper, “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility,” Harry Frankfurt offered a famous argument against PAP, which he defined as follows:
This principle states that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise.[i]
Frankfurt’s argument mainly consists in providing an intuitive counterexample to PAP, involving a conceivable set of causal-interventionist counterfactual conditions, i.e., CICCs, which can then be easily generalized to a class of “Frankfurt-style counterexamples”:
Suppose someone—Black, let us say—wants Jones4 to perform a certain action. Black is prepared to go to considerable lengths to get his way, but he prefers to avoid showing his hand unnecessarily. So he waits until Jones4 is about to make up his mind what to do, and he does nothing unless it is clear to him (Black is an excellent judge of such things) that Jones4 is going to decide to do something other than what he wants him to do. If it does become clear that Jones4 is going to decide to do something else, Black takes effective steps to ensure that Jones4 decides to do, and that he does do, what he wants him to do. Whatever Jones4’s initial preferences and inclinations, then, Black will have his way…. Now suppose that Black never has to show his hand because Jones4, for reasons of his own, decides to perform and does perform the very action Black wants him to perform. In that case, it seems clear, that Jones4 will bear precisely the same moral responsibility for what he does as he would have borne if Black had not been ready to take steps to ensure that he do it…. This, then, is why the principle of alternate possibilities is mistaken. It asserts that a person bears no moral responsibility—that is, he is to be excused for having performed an action, if there were circumstances that made it impossible for him to avoid performing it. But there may be circumstances that make it impossible to avoid performing an action without those circumstances in any way bringing it about that he performs the action.[ii]
So PAP is false.
Sometimes it is argued that even if PAP is false, nevertheless there is still a weakened version of it that could be accepted by defenders of classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism, which depends on the idea that this following counterfactual could be true in a universally naturally deterministic world:
Had a person wanted to choose or do otherwise, then she could have chosen or done otherwise.
In other words, this spells out a specifically counterfactual-conditional notion of alternative possibilities, which leads on naturally to a counterfactual-conditional version of PAP:
The Principle of Alternative Possibilitiescc, aka PAPcc: A person is morally responsible for what she chooses or does only if, had she wanted to choose or do otherwise, then she could have chosen or done otherwise.
What about PAPcc? The problem is that it has some Frankfurt-style counterexamples too. Suppose that someone is a “willing drug addict” who is fully self-committed to her addiction, and also fully addicted.[iii] It is true of her now that even if she had wanted to stop taking the drug, she could not stop taking the drug. Her drug-taking choices and acts are causally overdetermined by her full addiction. So she does not even have counterfactual-conditional alternative possibilities with respect to taking the drug. Yet she is (deeply) morally responsible for her addiction, for better or for worse. So PAPcc is false.
Frankfurt-style counterexamples to PAP and PAPcc, it might seem, are fully consistent with the truth of Universal Natural Determinism, and also, it might seem, are fully consistent with the truth of either a partial version of Natural Indeterminism or Universal Natural Indeterminism. So someone whose prima facie intuitions tell him about these apparent consistencies might well conclude from Frankfurt-style counterexamples that (deep) (non-)moral responsibility is fully consistent with Universal Natural Determinism and with Natural Mechanism, and that either Compatibilism/Soft Determinism, Semi-Compatibilism, or Revisionism is true.
But both of these conclusions would be non sequiturs. Frankfurt-style counterexamples to PAP always postulate the actual contextual presence of some special set of causal-interventionist counterfactual conditions, i.e.. of some CICCs, or another. But the actual contextual presence of some CICCs does not in fact entail Universal Natural Determinism or powerful manipulation in the actual event-sequence. So the presence of some CICCs does not in fact entail Compatibilism/Soft Determinism.
In this connection, David Widerker[iv] and others have correctly pointed out that Frankfurt-style counterexamples cannot work without presupposing the existence of some uncompelled and unmanipulated volitional powers in the agent (in the original example, “Jones4”). That is because the intervening manipulator (in the original example, “Black”) cannot intervene until the agent has started to deviate (or, as per some post-Frankfurtian examples, until some mechanism detects the neurobiological beginnings of such a deviation) from the manipulator’s plan, in the counterfactual sequence of events. In the actual sequence of events, by contrast, the intervening manipulator never has to intervene, because, as Frankfurt puts it (with underlining added):
Jones4, for reasons of his own, decides to perform and does perform the very action Black wants him to perform.
It is assumed by Widerker and many others that these uncompelled and unmanipulated powers of the agent must also be indeterministic, and that they therefore, somehow or another, reinstate PAP. Of course, we already know that indeterminism deeply threatens free will too; and like Frankfurt I am also deeply skeptical about PAP and PAPcc alike. So I think that it is a serious mistake to claim that the uncompelled and unmanipulated powers of the agent are indeterministic. Correspondingly, I want radically to strengthen Widerker’s objection in such a way that it entails neither the oxymoronic notion of indeterministic free will, nor PAP, nor PAPcc. According to Natural Libertarianism, then, the uncompelled and unmanipulated powers of the agent are not what Fischer and others have called an indeterministic “flicker of freedom.” Instead these powers are a far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, finegrainedly normatively attuned thermodynamic growth spurt of non-deterministic, non-indeterministic, naturally purposive or teleological, naturally creative deep freedom, in the specific form of an actual exercise of the capacity for self-commitment to a live option, in the actual sequence of events.
More precisely, it is absolutely clear that all Frankfurt-style counterexamples to PAP presuppose that agent has already self-committed to a live option, whether in the form of a decision X or course of action X, in the actual sequence, when, again,
for reasons of his own, [the agent] decides to perform and does perform the very action [the counterfactual intervening manipulator] wants him to perform.
This is because the counterfactual intervening manipulator cannot intervene until it is also a fixed element in the counterfactual sequence alone that the agent has self-committed to a live option Y rather than to X, and that it is X and not Y that the counterfactual intervening manipulator wants. The counterfactual intervening manipulator then brings it about in the counterfactual sequence alone that X is the only thing that the person can choose or do, which shows that PAP is false. So Frankfurt-style counterexamples all presuppose our capacity to self-commit to a live option in the actual sequence, and thus they all presuppose the Kierkegaardian Either/Or, even if, because of the actual contextual presence of a special set of causal-interventionist counterfactual conditions, some CICCs, we could not have chosen or acted in a way that is different from what we are already self-committed to.
Therefore, in Frankfurt-style counterexamples to PAP, at the very least, the rational animal or real person, the free agent, always has the live option of choosing X or not choosing X (according to either of the null choice options of failing to choose or refusing to choose) such that X would never happen (or: would not have happened) in the actual sequence if the agent were not to choose (or: had not chosen) X, even if, in context, she lacks any alternatives in the classical sense of branching futures, and the future is temporarily not open. Again, the uncompelled and unmanipulated powers of the agent in Frankfurt-style cases are nothing more and nothing less than the non-deterministic, non-indeterministic growth spurt, in the actual sequence, of the agent’s exercise of the constantly present capacity for self-commitment to a live option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or, that inherently belongs to deep freedom.
Similar points can be made about Martin Luther’s famous expression of his freely willed and almost paradigmatically (deeply) morally responsible choice of religious iconoclasm, often cited as further support for Compatibilism, e.g., by Dennett:[v] “Here I stand. I can do no other.” It is true that, on the face of it, this sounds like Luther is asserting the compatibility of moral responsibility and Universal Divine Determinism. But on deeper and further reflection, and refusing to beg the question—notice that Luther did not say: “Here I stand, I can do no other than God made me do”—we can recognize that the best interpretation of what Luther is expressing, is a proto-Existentialist self-commitment to his live option of religious iconoclasm. On this interpretation, Luther is saying that if he had either failed or refused to choose this live option (= the null choice options), then he would have been untrue to himself, that is, inauthentic. Or as Kierkegaard would put it, Luther would have failed to “choose himself.” So on this interpretation, it is clearly not correct to say that Luther had no options at all, or that he was causally determined. On the contrary, he might have not chosen and done what he actually chose and did, according to either of the null choice options, and thereby he might have failed to live up to his own highest moral principles and values. So, on this interpretation, Luther fully exercised his capacity for self-commitment to a live option, i.e., he fully engaged in a Kierkegaardian Either/Or, even if, in that context, he lacked any alternative possibilities in the classical sense of indeterministic branching futures and the future was temporarily not open.
—Due, for example, to the actual contextual presence of some CICCs created by an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent Protestant God, briefly taking a rest on Sunday from His actual-sequence Divine Determinist labors, by instead, in this context, merely playing the role of Frankfurt’s counterfactual intervener, Black, in order to guarantee Luther’s compliance to the dictates of his own conscience. Therefore, all non-question-begging Luther-type counterexamples to PAP also presuppose the capacity for self-commitment for a live option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or.
But then it follows that it is the capacity for self-commitment to a live option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or, as a constituent condition of deep freedom , together with the other constituent conditions of real causal spontaneity and ownership, as metaphysically embedded in a larger structure that includes the capacity for principled authenticity, that is the collectively necessary and sufficient condition of (deep) (non-)moral responsibility in the Frankfurt-style and non-question-begging Luther-type examples, and in all other cases of (deep) (non-)moral responsibility too. As Fischer has aptly and indeed profoundly put it, the “moral” of the Frankfurt-style counterexamples is that if Universal Natural Determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility, then this incompatibility is not because the intentional agent lacks alternative possibilities.[vi] The defender of Natural Libertarianism will fully agree with the truth of this negative conditional statement. But it does not follow from this true negative conditional claim, as Fischer thinks, that either Compatibilism or Semi-Compatibilism is true. So what the defender of Natural Libertarianism will then say in response to Fischer’s profoundly apt point is this:
“You say that the moral of the Frankfurt-style counterexamples is that if Universal Natural Determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility, then this incompatibility is not because the intentional agent lacks alternative possibilities. That is absolutely right, although not in the way you intended. For, contrary to what you yourself think, the antecedent of your conditional is true. Universal Natural Determinism is locally incompatible with (deep) (non-)moral responsibility. This, in turn, is precisely because Universal Natural Determinism is locally incompatible with deep freedom with respect to Natural Mechanism. And this, in turn, is ultimately because Universal Natural Determinism is locally incompatible with the online capacity for self-commitment to a live option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or.”
Otherwise put, the notion of the capacity for self-commitment to a live option, or the Kierkegaardian Either/Or, which according to Natural Libertarianism captures a necessary proper part of deep freedom, is not metaphysically consistent with Universal Natural Determinism, precisely because local incompatibilism with respect to Natural Mechanism is true, as I argued in section 4.5 above, and also because deep freedom requires real causal spontaneity.
Fischer’s “deep control,” for all its epistemic depth, is nevertheless, from the point of view of Natural Libertarianism, metaphysically shallow and normatively hollow, yielding at best shallow, hollow moral responsibility, and neither deep moral responsibility nor deep non-moral responsibility. But sharply on the contrary, we are, for better or worse, the creative natural artists of our own lives, and deeply (non-)morally responsible for them, not their crafty poker-players, like Sinatra and his pals in the Rat-Pack movies, “doing it my way.” So Frankfurt-style and Luther-type counterexamples do not demonstrate the compatibility of (deep) (non-)moral responsibility with Universal Natural Determinism, even if they do indeed effectively undermine PAP and PAPcc. That is the second and deepest moral of the Frankfurt-style counterexamples.
Again, and now to conclude this part of the discussion, according to Natural Libertarianism, it is deep freedom, as essentially including the capacity for self-commitment to a live option, or the Kierkegaardian Either/Or, as embedded in a larger metaphysical structure that includes the agency-constituting capacity for principled authenticity, that is necessary and sufficient for deep (non-)moral responsibility. Alternative possibilities are both metaphysically irrelevant and epistemically irrelevant for free agency—even if they do remain epistemically relevant for classical liberal, neoliberal, or libertarian politics. The crucial mistake made by defenders of PAP and PAPcc alike was to confuse the genuine necessity, for deep freedom and deep (non-)moral responsibility, of actual sequence optionality, with the illusory necessity of an array of indeterministic branching, open futures, aka “open doors.” As Locke’s famous example shows, and Frankfurt-style counterexamples reinforce with modal-metaphysical subtlety, there might be either no open doors in the actual sequence (Locke) or else doors that wouldn’t open only if you were to change your mind and want to leave the room (Frankfurt). On the contrary, all that is required for deep (non-)moral responsibility is at least one live option and the capacity for self-commitment to a live option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or, when it is embedded in the larger free-agency-constituting metaphysical structure of deep freedom and principled authenticity.
[vi] J. Fischer, “The Frankfurt Cases: The Moral of the Stories,” Philosophical Review 119 (2010): 315-336; also reprinted in Fischer, Deep Control, pp. 33-52. A similar point is made by Lowe in Personal Agency, pp. 156-157 and 196-197.
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