Class Notes and Reading Schedule - MRFW Spring 2021

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Contents

Return to Moral Responsibility and Free Will

1: JAN 20

First Day of Class Information

  • Introduction to the Course
  • Welcome - personal introduction and welcome. (Some student introductions.)
  • About the Course (Overview of course focus. Detail to follow.)
  • Course Websites: SharePoint, Wiki & Courses.alfino.org
  • Overview of Teaching Approach.
  • 1. Student choice in work and grading scheme - Your "grading scheme" (the assignments you will be graded on) has both required and optional elements. You can customize up to 30% of your grading scheme to suite your learning style or motivations in the course.
  • 2. Transparency grade information and student work - You will see most of the writing and scoring for required writing assignments. This will require the use of pseudonyms.
  • 3. Opacity of grade information, peer comments, and student identity - Like blind review in academic life
  • 4. Writing Enhanced - Students participate in reviewing and evaluating student writing. This also requires the use of pseudonyms. (Some student introductions.)
  • Succeeding in the Course:
  • Prep Cycle - view reading notes as you are reading, read, note, quiz, evaluate preparation. Hierarchy of skills and goals.
  • Reading - Keep track of the time you spend reading for the course. Mark a physical text. Contact me if your reading quiz scores are not what you expect.
  • Writing - Try to learn the rubric, read other students' writing and compare scores, discuss your writing with me, especially during office hours.
  • Keep in mind course research questions Course Research Questions - MRFW Spring 2021 (Some student introductions.)
  • Required Assignments and Default Grade Weights for your Grading Scheme
  • 1. Points 45-75% default = 65%
  • 2. Final Paper 25-40% default = 35%
  • More About the Course (Orientation, Content, major research questions)
  • 1st Day Survey of Views about Moral Responsiblity and Free Will - Please take this short survey any time today. It is completely anonymous. You will, of course, see results. I have also asked the Philosophy faculty to take the survey, so we may have some comparative data from them.
  • Why we are discussing moral responsibility today (view course research questions).
  • Major Units.
  • Zoom
  • Video on/off
  • Synchronous attendance. Send excuses for absence prior to class, if possible.
  • If you miss class, please try to view the recorded class within 24 hours.
  • Try think of ways to personalize the virtual experience: examples from last semester - put up a pic for video off. Share something about where you are. Dogs, cats, music, etc.
  • First Day TO DO list:
  • make sure you can find the three course websites and that you understand what information and tools each provides.
  • Browse the top links on the course wiki page
  • Find reading for next class on wiki and pdfs from courses.alfino.org
  • Buy Daniel Dennett, Freedom Evolves
  • Keep an eye out for Moral Responsibility and Free Will News!
  • Sign up for in person attendance. Feel free to sign up for three or four classes at a time. If that crowds others out we might need limit signups to each next class.

2: JAN 25 Unit One: Introduction to MRFW problems

Assigned

Practice Quiz today

  • Follow this link to the practice quiz: [1]

Radio Lab Episode on Blame and Moral Responsibility

  • Segment 1: Story of Kevin and his wife, Janet. Kevin is arrested for child pornography.
  • 15 years earlier. Epilepsy seizures returned after surgery two years earlier. Can't drive so he meets Janet from work, who drives him to work. Romance... Still more seizures. Another surgery. Music ability in tact. But then his food and sexual appetite grew, played songs on the piano for hours. Disturbing behavior. Really disturbing behavior.
  • Reporter tries to get at who it was who did it. Kevin claims compulsion. downloads and deletes files.
  • Orin Devinsky: neurologist testified in court that it wasn't Kevin's fault.
  • Neurological dive: deep parts of our brain can generate weird thoughts, but we have a "censor". Maybe Kevin lost that part of his brain. Observed in post-surgery monkeys.
  • Lee Vartan -- Can't be impulse control. porn at home, but not at work. He must have known that it was wrong. Teret's can be circumstantially triggered even though it is clearly neurological. Poignant exchange with Janet about staying in the relationship. Kluwer-Bucy. Months before sentencing. Medication makes him normal, but eliminates his libido. 5 yrs. - home arrest. Judge ackn. prosecutor's point. You could have asked for help. (Reflect on this a bit. Consider the
  • The T. J. Hooper Case) 26 months federal prison 25 months of house arrest. 2008-2010.
  • Do you agree with prosecutor Vartan's point? What about the Judge's "liability/answerability" argument? Why or why not? What would your sentence have been? (We'll do a small group discussion on this, after adding the information from Nita Frahany below.
  • Segment 2: Blame - person or brain.
  • Nita Frahany - neurolaw professor (law and philosophy!). Might be lots of cases. (argument: isn't this just like blame everything else for what you do wrong? Isn't it too easy?). Thought experiment: deaf person, child in burning building. "emotional inability" would also be damage to a physical structure (as in the ear).
  • David Eagleman, neuroscientist - makes critical point: neuroscience isn't so precise. New technologies will show us how experience is written in our brain. (Back to Descartes. wrong.) Slippery slope, the brain is always involved. Blameworthiness might be the wrong question. Person vs. biology doesn't really make sense anymore. The "choosey" part of the brain (the homonculus!). 36:00 minutes. Funny exchange. Self-modification comes up.
  • Claim: Legal system should drop moral blame. Adopt utilitarian approach. Predict recidivism. Point system exists. Better than people (50% accurate). System 70%. Currently there is appearance bias for example.
  • A point system might be very predictive, but you might not want to convict someone of a future crime. Would it be?
  • Frahany - Blame might serve social function of articulating norms.
  • Frahany thinks there are lots of cases of the criminal justice system punishing unfairly. Are you persuaded? If so, does a utilitarian approach (with or without the point system) make sense?
  • Segment 3: Dear Hector
  • Bianca Giaver (producer) - Hector Black. Hector's backstory - joins civil rights movement, adopts Patricia, a neglected child. Patricia's story (becomes a beautiful and productive person) -- Patricia is murdered. Hector considers whether he wishes the death penalty for him. Hector's statement -- 48min. Writes a letter of forgiveness to the murderer. Ivan's story - son of schizophrenic mom, beat him, horror. Do we still blame Ivan the same way. Hector tells his story. Many letters exchanged. A strange bond. Hector has self-doubts - sending care packages to Ivan???. (Maybe he's just a weird guy.)
  • Ivan tells the original story of Patricia's murder. Ivan hears a voice that sometime comes to him. Commits the murder. Can't make sense of it.
  • Does Ivan's story change your view of the kind of threat he poses -- one from choosing evil/failing a responsiblity vs. compulsion?

3: JAN 27

Assigned

  • RQ1: Reading Quiz #1
  • Sapolsky, Robert. Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (580-613)
  • Henrich, Joseph, "Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism" from The WEIRDEST People on Earth p. 146-148, (2)

Reading Quiz

Henrich, Joseph, "Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism"

  • This excerpt from The WEIRDEST People in the World comes in the context of a section on "universal moralizing gods" which characterize the major world religions (though Buddhism requires some discussion). H's theory is that this cultural innovation in religions allows societies to grow, solving the problems associated with living with so many strangers, something our evolved psychology did not really prepare us for.
  • The three innovations of moralizing religions are:
  • contingent afterlife:
  • free will: encouraged follower to believe they could comply with moral code by acts of choice and will.
  • moral universalism:
  • The rest of the excerpt goes into evidence of the effects of each feature on social life. The research related to free will is at top of p. 148. Specifically, belief in FW is correlated with:
  • less likely to cheat on math test.
  • less likely to take unearned cash payments
  • more likely to resist temptation, help strangers, and solve problems creatively.
  • Also, "priming" for moral universalism suppresses cheating and raises charitable donations..
  • Discussion Area 1: What consequences, if any, does this research have for our thinking about the modern problems of free will and moral responsibility?
  • Henrich -- 148
  • Generalizing, consider the following inferences:
  • (Close inference) -- Free will has its origins in psychological adaptations that allow us to live in large societies.
  • (Medium generalization) -- Cultural variants on ways of thinking about agency make real differences in social morality...
  • (A challenge to coherence of explanation) -- The philosopher's concern with the metaphysical problem of free will is hard to reconcile with the cultural utility of a belief in free will. If free will (and contingent afterlife and moral universalism) were inculcated in the West by the Church over six centuries, what does it mean for philosophers and theologians to come to the lectern and declare its metaphysical reality? (Holy cow!) One possibility:
  • Discussion Area 2: Do these lines of thought strengthen or weaken (or leave unchanged) our commitment to moral responsibility as justifying retribution?

Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will

Tear ducts and guilty animals

  • Discusses professional interaction between biologists and legal scholars that may have started “neurolaw”.
  • Radical claim: Current criminal justice system needs to be replaced. (Not talking about policing, right?)
  • Things outside his focus: science in courtroom, min IQ for death sentence, cognitive bias in jurors, cognitive privacy.
  • 583: historic example of scientific evidence disrupting criteria for guilt in witches trials, mid-16th century. Older women might not be able to cry.

Three Perspectives

  • Takes a middle position between believing we are always free and never free.
  • no one now disputes that we sometimes are not free (epilepsy example). Yet medieval europe tried animals for guilt. (Sounds weirder than it is. Just imagine it's about the act, not criminal intent.)

Drawing Lines in the Sand 586

  • endorses a broad compatibilism and the idea of “moral failure”. He develops the competing concept, “Mitigated free will,” read at 587-588.
  • Ultimately, Sapolsky will try to show that this view doesn’t hold up, in part because it depends up arbitrary use of a “homunculus” to explain things. But he's still a compatibilist on free will.
  • 1842: M’Naghten. Rule at 587. Mentally ill murderer. Many objected to his not being found guilty. John Hinckley.
  • "mitigated free will" - homunculus view: we all more or less think this way and then the problem of responsibility comes down to figuring out what to expect from the humunculus. What is it capable of or should it have been capable of?

Age, Maturity of Groups, Maturity of Individuals

  • 2005 case Roper v. Simmons. Age limit of 18 on executions and life terms. Follow debates on this. 590. Note, in particular, O'Connor and Scalia's dissenting argument. (Note also, that the need to draw these lines at all follows from the commitment to "mitigated free will".)
  • 2010 and 2012 cases on rehab for juvies. age related bounds on free will (in the justice system).
  • ”grossly impaired rationality”. Neurolaw critic Stephen Morse concedes that destruction of deliberative centers in frontal cortex defeats MR. Especially relevant to the high correlation bt violent offenders and physical child abuse. (Horrible.)
  • Gazzaniga’s view: responsibility compatible with lack of free will. Responsibility is a social level concern. Time course of decision making. (Sapolsky has trouble with this, but it's really the first interpretation and that's just "illusionism" for philosophers of MR.)
  • disputes about the maturity of adolescents: APA has spoken both ways in court: not mature enough for criminal resp., but mature enough to make an abortion decision. But Sapolsky cites Steinberg: aborition decisions and decisions to shoot occur on different time scales.
  • Causation and Compulsion -- not everything that causes us to act is a compulsion, but for some, it is.
  • works through example of schizophrenic hearing voices. Not all cases would be compulsion. "If your friend suggests that you mug someone, the law expects you to resist, even if it's an imaginary friend in your head." “thus in this view even a sensible homunculus can lose it and agree to virtually anything, just to get the hellhounds and trombones to stop.” 593
  • Starting a behavior vs. halting it. ("free won't")
  • Libet experiment, 1980s, EEG disclosure of “readiness potential” — activity measured before conscious awareness of will. .5 second delay might just be artifact of experiment design. Time it takes to interpret the clock. Libet says maybe the lag time is the time you have to veto the action your body is preparing you for (“free won’t”)
  • Sapolsky’s view is that these debates reflect a consensus about the interaction of biology and free will, whatever that is.
  • ”You must be smart” vs. “You must have worked so hard” - research of Carol Dweck, 90s, saying that a kid worked hard to get a result increases motivation.
  • 596: we tend to assign aptitude to biology and effort and resisting impulse to free will. Sapolsky seems very skeptical that we can justify assigning character (impulse control anyway) to non-biological factors (fairy dust). "Of all the stances of mitigated free will, the one that assigns aptitude to biology and effort to free will, or impulse to biology and resisting it to free will, is the most permeating and destructive." 598.
  • some evidence that pedophilia is not freely chosen or easily resisted.
  • chart showing how we divide things between biology and “homoncular grit”. — Long list of ways out biology influence the items on the right.
  • Conclusions: “worked hard/must be smart” are equally grounded in our physical nature.

But does anything useful actually come of this?

  • Grounds for skepticism about using neuroscience in the courtroom: Stephen Morse. Neurolaw sceptic, ok with M’naugton rule and diminished capacity, but thinks cases are rare. Reviews valid criticisms he makes: 1. Juries might overvalue neuroscience images, 2. Descriptive vs. Normative.
  • Morse supports a strong distinction between causation and compulsion. Causation is not itself an excuse. But Sapolsky argues that this still involves walling off a “homonculus” and that’s not plausible.
  • Acknowledges an apparent problem. Neuroscience typically can’t predict individual behavior very much. Fictional exchange with prosecutor. 600
  • Explaining lots and Predicting Little
  • But is the lack of predictive power a problem in the argument? S. works through some cases in which probability of prediction decreases, but it's still biology. Claim: it's not biology vs. non-biology, but qualitatively different aspects of our biology. 601
  • 602: Important methodological point: There's no less biology in the leg fracture vs. the other disorders, but level of biological explanation is different. Leg fractures are less connected to culture. Behavior is multifactorial and heavily cultural. (Oh god, another Henrich digression. Free will has a history.) Example: how much does biology predict depression? Factors are diverse biological mechanisms, including cultural factors. (But, point is, someone can be disable by depression, just like the leg fracture.)
  • Marvin Minsky, “Free will: internal forces I do not understand”. Sapolsky adds “yet”.
  • Neat charts showing historic trend to connect social behavior and biology in research journals. 604-605.

How They will know us (A view from history given the trends.)

  • If you still believe in mitigated free will:
  • case of Dramer and Springer and the spiritual explanation for epilepsy. Biblical version with Jesus.
  • Sapolsky imagines an Inquisitor (witch burner). Must be puzzled occasionally by fact pattern. Mom has epilepsy.
  • growth of knowledge argument 607-608. read list. Most likely option is that our kids will look at us as idiots about moral responsibility and culpability.
  • 608: practical outcomes. Not about letting violent criminals free. On the biological view, punishment can’t be an end in itself (restoring balance). Retributive punishment is an end in itself.
  • mentions Josh Greene and Cohen's article on Neuroscience and the law (In your links.) Specifically (with respect, Sapolsky misses this one), the make the point that neuroscience might not change the law so much as change our intuitions about how to view people who screw up.)
  • Culpability judgements vs. Punishment judgements: Brain imaging suggests culpability judgements activate the cool and cognitive dlPFC, but punishment judements activate more emotional vmPFC. “A frothy limbic state”. Makes sense that punishment is costly. But we need to overcome our attachment to punishment. It is involved in a lot of unjustified suffering. "Punishment that feels just feels good." (Recount Milan incident 2018.)
  • Recaps the transition we've made with epilepsy 610. Very nice point on 611 about the likely moral seriousness of 15th prosecutors of epilepsy.
  • Car free will. A kind of reductio argument. Car free will means "forces I don't understand yet."

Postscript on reassessing praise

  • (always the undertreated topic in this field). Complimenting someone's cheekbones or their ability to detect ripe fruit. Both are biologically dialed in, but we understand the latter less well.

4: FEB 1

Assigned

  • Nadelhoffer, Thomas. "Introduction - Moral Responsibility has a Past - Has it a future?" (16)
  • Waller. Bruce. "Moral Responsibility is Morally Wrong" (15)

Rubric Training

  • We will look at some writing by my Fall 2020 Ethics students. In this case, they were writing about a different chapter of Sapolsky, in which he lays out how evolution explains evolved behaviors. Here's the prompt for this 600 word writing exercise:
  • "Topic: In "The Evolution of Social Behavior," Robert Sapolsky reviews the resources in evolutionary theory for explaining social behaviors like cooperation and group behavior. In a 600 word essay, answer this question: "Drawing on resources from this chapter, how does an evolutionist explain how cooperation and other moral behaviors start and are sustained in a human community?" Give examples of processes which promote or impede moral behaviors. Be sure to consider how humans both fit and do not fit evolutionary patterns which apply to other animals. How does Sapolsky explain this?"
  • Browse the Assignment Rubric - Note the importance of sensitivity to the prompt.
  • Explain the structure of a peer assessed assignment. Note your SW1 coming soon on Waller. Review that. Writing (possible 21 points), peer review and assessment, my evaluation, back evaluation of your evaluator (additional 10 points).
  • Look at some peer reviews and scoring of Whale (10), Egret (12), Macaw (15). Then the writing.
  • Take 4 minutes to "audit" one to two pieces from this assignment. Note helpful and unhelpful peer comments. See if you agree with the assessments.

Nadelhoffer, Thomas. "Introduction - Moral Responsibility has a Past - Has it a future?"

  • Example of 9/11 crimes -- arguably launched retribution on big scale. War in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo. Man hunt and execution of bin Laden.
  • global skepticism about MR -- "no one is responsible" vs. local. External vs. internal (revisionism).
  • sources: theoretical argument vs. empirical evidence.
  • Summary of Waller reading. 1. Problems with "hitting back". 2. Connected to BJW. 3. Faith in self-making powers. Cross cultural analysis to show superiority of non-retributive system.
  • Summary of Nagel's Luck argument. Luck pincer. bt. constitutive and present luck, no MR. Caruso and the quarantine/public health model.
  • Summary of Lemos. While an event causal libertarian, Lemos argues that given the bad alternatives of abandoning MR, and the lack of certainty about free will, we should act as it we have it. This requires replying to the "hard heartedness" of punishment with desert.
  • Summary of Shaw. Legal reform arguments. Social protection approaches.
  • Summary of Coates: Background to Coates: "Manipulation arguments" for incompatibalism try to show that determinism compromises MR as much as manipulation. Original arguments from Mele and Perboom (p. 25). Soft compatibalists accept that manipulation compromises MR, but not that determinism does. Coates uses possible world semantics to make the distinction. The idea is that in a near possible world that is indeterministic, the agent would have the same desires and goals, and his behavior would be likee the determined self on this world.
  • Summary of Vargas: Instrumentalist - Revisionist. How does MR system benefit us ind/socially? Argues that MR-system is part of how we navigate social space and become a full member of a moral community. Revisionist side argues that we can jettison problematic folk psych theories or metaphysical underpinnings of MR and focus on justifying practices.

Waller. Bruce. "Moral Responsibility is Morally Wrong"

  • MR: atavistic holdover, obsolete, fules retribution, populist punitivism, undermines right, promotes shaming, distorts FW, blocks understanding of behavior, comforts privileged, afflicts the poor.
  • Example of libertarian theorist who ack. limits of theory, but advocates pretending. Waller considers this damning evidence, but we will read a more sympathetic accounting of this position.
  • Peter Van Inwagen considers MR denial "absurd" - character in philosophy, ND. Quote from SEP, "MR Skepticism, p. 39": "I have listened to philosophers who deny the existence of moral responsibility. I cannot take them seriously. I know a philosopher who has written a paper in which he denies the reality of moral responsibility. And yet this same philosopher, when certain of his books were stolen, said, “That was a shoddy thing to do!” But no one can consistently say that a certain act was a shoddy thing to do and say that its agent was not morally responsible when he performed it. (1983: 207) "An Essay on Free Will" (With all due respect to this famous philosopher, what's wrong with this answer?)
  • MRS (MR system): assumed, need excuses to leave it, "strike back desire" suggests with the "Larry, Mo and Curly" comment that MRS promoted hierarchy and dominance.
  • Central Park 5 case as example.
  • 3 features: desire to pass along pain, belief in just world (BJW), belief in self-making.
  • BJW related to "secondary victimization" (35). ex. blaming rape victims. But History of Philosophy (and C. Church) line up for BJW. But even Dennett, who denies BSW, defends the ultimate "fairness" of differences in capacity. "luck averages out in the long run" (Really? The Son Also Rises. Feeds ideology of "try harder"
  • p. 37- begins historical discussion of problem of evil and problem of free will.
  • Is God's punishment of us just?
  • Renaissance Answer 1 - Lorenzo Valla - yes, because you are evil and evil deeds are punished.
  • Renaissance Answer 2 - Pico della Mirandola - quote on our Protean nature. Special powers of self-making. Not at all Valla's answer. Rather, Pico is saying, "It's a good thing about us (our self-making/free will) that merits punishments.
  • St. Paul seems to me to be invoking the argument that we cannot know God's ways. If it's coming from god, it must be just.
  • "people make their choices from characters that are self-made" Note the "humunculus" problem here. "Who is doing the making?" We must read the Nietzsche quote.
  • Dennett's version: "I have created and unleashed an agent who is myself". (note the sense in which that is intuitively true. "OMG, what have I done!" (Note concession at p. 39)
  • "folk metaphysics account of agency" -- transparency of csness, everyone has delib. reason. Cites standard view in psychology: System 1 and System 2.
  • "The skill and fortitude and optimism and confidence with which you "play the cards that were dealt you" are ultimately among the cards that were dealt you."
  • Example of the "chronic cognizer" (Cassandra) and "cognitive miser" (Laura) --
  • Effects in CJ system: Foreshadows Caradino reading.

5: FEB 3

Assigned

  • SW1: Preliminary Assessment of Waller's position
  • Sie, Maureen. "Free Will, an Illusion?" (15)
  • RQ2: Reading Quiz 2

Brief return to Waller's historical argument

  • revised notes
  • Comments from Colby

Quiz

Small group discussion about Waller Writing

  • In groups, share your ideas about how to assess Waller. How did you divide up his argument, what did you find particularly hard or easy to agree with? What will you focus on in your writing?

Moving to a Seminar Discussion Model

  • We can start to mix the "taught class" style with more elements of a seminar style, in which we develop a common reading and critical discussion more collaboratively. Here's a pattern we might try to follow:
  • 1. Let's start by getting a "reading" or interpretation of the reading or problem under disscussion. (Rather that me reviewing my notes in lecture format.)
  • 2. As we get a consensus on an interpretation, we could then move to raising specific questions, affirmations, or objections.
  • 3. At some point you should feel comfortable making deeper assessments, including affirming the author over objections or making deep and more complicated criticisms.

Sie, Maureen. "Free Will, an Illusion?"

  • Pragmatic sentimentalist approach. Avoiding metaphysics of FW problem. Approached pragmatically, MR & FW solve practical coordination problems.
  • Pragmatic sentimentalist: drawing on Strawson, concept of free will does not precede moral practices, but naturally arises in a practice that is characterized by certain reactive attitudes that we take toward each other. 274
Outline of the paper:
  • 1. social function of MR -
  • 2. this gives rise to a "space of reasons" - how it functions - we adjust ourselves to it and vice versa.
  • 3. evidence from science: we lack transparency, sometimes mistake in our understanding of our actions. That's relevant to free will when the reasons we give:
  • a. fail to cite the causes we have evidence for, like biases, stereotypes, etc.
  • b. cite reasons we have evidence for denying. situationists, reasons as reputation polishing.
  • given that MR and FW has these functions, it isn't an illusion.
  • Section 1: The social function of MR ascriptions
  • coordination of shared practices leads to normative expectations (NE).
  • In Western culture, we put the task of satisfying these expectations on the individual to discover, rather than from pressure or coercion.
  • metaphor of "space of reasons" -- the ongoing discussion of NEs.
  • Arno and the bike pump
  • Section 2: Does scientific evidence of the ability to manipulate choices (and implicit bias, biases, etc.) undermine the "space of reasons"?
  • A list: manipulated choice, implicit bias, cognitive biases, emotional influences on decisionmaking (could be stronger claim), lack of introspective access, confabulation
  • "subjective mistinterpretation" and "agential intransparency" Sometimes we read the situation wrong, and we not aware of that.
  • Sie: This view explains elegantly how SM and can occasionally occur and case distortions in the space of reasons. (Not a strong inference?)
  • Also: we could improve our conversations about reasons by incorporating knowledge of bias, etc. (Good point.)
  • Responses to situationists and research on "moral hypocrisy" (really, environmental psychology research showing, for example, that rates of cheating can be manipulated by enviromental conditions. Ariely). Sie ties this to "fundamental attribution error". Not a perfect comparison.
  • Free Will, an Illusion?
  • we need to let scientific evidence influence our pragmatic understanding of the S of R.
  • Interesting final argument: She presents Haidt's more radical challenge to the "rationalist delusion" (his phrase) of philosophers. Let's track her response at bot 286.

SW1: Assessing Waller

  • Stage 1: Please write an 800 word maximum answer to the following question by Monday February 8, 11:59pm.
  • Topic: Critically evaluate Bruce Waller's main arguments for concluding that the moral responsibility system is morally wrong. Be sure to represent his arguments before or as you critically evaluate them.
  • Advice about collaboration: I encourage you to collaborate with other students, but only up to the point of sharing ideas, references to class notes and readings, and your own notes. Collaboration is part of the academic process and the intellectual world that college courses are based on, so it is important to me that you have the possibility to collaborate. It's a great way to make sure that a high average level of learning and development occurs. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to NOT share text of draft answers or outlines of your answer. Keep it verbal. Generate your own examples.
  • Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way:
  1. Do not put your name in the file or filename. You may put your student id number in the file. Put a word count in the file.
  2. In Word, check "File" and "Options" to make sure your name does not appear as author. You may want to change this to "anon" for this document.
  3. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  4. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "WallerEvaluation".
  5. Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the Points dropbox.
  • Stage 2: Please evaluate four student answers and provide brief comments and a score. Review the Assignment Rubric for this exercise. We will be using all four areas of the rubric for this assignment. We will tie specific elements of the prompt to the content assessment, so be sure to consider that in composing your answer! Complete your evaluations and scoring by Sunday, February 15, 11:59pm.
  • Use this Google Form to evaluate four peer papers. The papers will be on the Sharepoint site under Student Writing.
  • To determine the papers you need to peer review, I will send you a key with saint names in alphabetically order, along with animal names. You will find your saint name, look to the right for your animal name, and review the next four (4) animals' work in the list, going to the top of the list if necessary.
  • Some papers may arrive late. If you are in line to review a missing paper, allow a day or two for it to show up. If it does not show up, go ahead and review enough papers to get to four reviews. This assures that you will get enough "back evaluations" of your work to get a good average for your peer review credit. (You will also have an opportunity to challenge a back evaluation score of your reviewing that is out of line with the others.)
  • Stage 3: I will grade and briefly comment on your writing using the peer scores as an initial ranking. Assuming the process works normally, I will give you the higher of the two grades.
  • Stage 4: Back-evaluation: After you receive your peer comments and my evaluation, take a few minutes to fill out this quick "back evaluation" rating form: [2]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. You will receive 5 points for doing your back evaluations and up to 5 points, from the back evaluation score (averaged and divided by 2).
  • Back evaluations are due Wednesday, February 24, 11:59pm.

6: FEB 8

Assigned

  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 1. Freedom Evolves. (15)

Tracking Possibilities

  • Some possibilities in our research so far:
  • Free will is real, and pretty much what we think it is.
  • Libertarian / non-causal theory.
  • Free will is real, but not what we thought it was.
  • not dependent on question of determinism (compatibilists, Dennett)
  • has pragmatic reality (Sie)
  • Free will is an illusion
  • A bad one (Waller, Blackmore)
  • A necessary one (Optimist illusionists)
  • Why is FW an illusion?
  • based on bad metaphysics
  • the effect of the Church's "marriage and family plan" (Henrich)
  • cognitive illusion like consciousness.
  • Libet and Wegner --
  • Agency is real, FW is a culturally specific version of it.

Some notes on Susan Blackmore's, "Living without FW"

  • Blackmore agrees with Dennett's analysis (but thinks his book should be called "Choice Evolves"), but thinks FW is an illusion.
  • She considers two possibilities: "Living 'as if'" and "Rejecting the Illusion" - favors the latter.
  • "Rejecting the Illusion" -
  • 166: "sitting by the fire" example
  • William James - getting out of bed on cold morning
  • Blackmore 167: going out on a cold night.
  • Thought experiment to her students: "But if I don't have free will why would I get up in the morning? Why would I do anything?" Go ahead try it!
  • Blackmore thinks of consciousness more as events than a place in your head where things "enter into conscious awareness". Likewise, maybe, with free will.

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 1. Freedom Evolves

  • Chapter 1: Natural Freedom
  • Giorelli quote.
  • introduces evo perspective on consciousness. Goal of book to show that our responsibility and control do not lie in a soul, but this does not lead to the view the "Nothing matters" or "we don't have fw".
  • 2: "Not a single one of the cells that compose you knows who you are, or cares."
  • 3: mini-evo history - eventually organisms that "know" (where supper is, for example). then language, then growth of self-knowledge: we are mammals, we evolved, etc.
  • I am who I am
  • story of guy who leaves his child in a hot car. OMG, Could I do that?
  • historically, we have thought that the question of whether life has a point is threatened by determinism. So, the Epicurean "swerve" or quantum "indeterminacy". James' "How can I have any character that will stand still long enough for praise or blame to be awarded?" (Dennett wants to answer this rhetorical question.)
  • The Air we Breathe
  • The traditional problem of free will is a distractor. 10: We think of FW as a "background conditon" (like math and physics), but it evolved, it is our "conceptual atmosphere" (evolved like the atmosphere). Neither are guaranteed to exist.
  • 11: illusionists: Whether you believe you have FW or not, you would (if you were the dad who left his kid in the car) have something to regret. Even illusionists can't help caring.
  • 13: Summary of theses in the book. Read
  • Dumbo's Magic Feather and the Perils of Paulina
  • 14: story of Dumbo the elephant the feather that makes him believe he can fly. Origin of "Stop that crow!" (don't spoil the illusion or Dumbo won't be able to fly). Two points: he's a bit like the crow you would want to stop and free will isn't really because you believe in it. (So no need to "Stop that crow!")
  • 15: naturalism introduced; philosophy in partnership with science, philosopher's job to build integrative theories. Tom Wolfe's anti-science take is wrong.
  • story of Paulina Essunger - AIDs example, but similar to public health issues with the virus. What is the truth about an AIDs cure had a bad public health effect because people let their guard down? Similar to the "Stop that Crow!" crowd that includes some biologists (Lewontin) and religious thinkers. (Really, he's just complaining about the public rhetoric of debates about naturalism.) example: Wright saying that Csness=brain states "means" "Csness doesn't exist".

7: FEB 10 Unit Two: Traditional Approaches

Assigned

  • Nagel, Thomas. "Moral Luck" (1979) (10)
  • Frankfurt, Harry. "Alternative Possibilities and Moral Responsibility" (1969) (10)

More thoughts on helpful peer commenting

  • You are only asked to write two or three sentences of comments, so choose wisely!
  • "gentle criticism"
  • "I'm having trouble understanding this sentence" vs. "This sentence makes no sense!"
  • Wrap a criticism with an affirmation or positive comment
  • General and specific -- Ok to identify general problem with the writing, but giving examples of the problem or potential solutions.

Nagel, Thomas. "Moral Luck"

  • famous Kant quote: good will is good apart from nature.
  • but in ordinary moral judgment we do not seem justified in blame people for what is out of their control.
  • cases: atttempted murder, heroism succeeding or failing, not being in Germany in 1930's
  • 2: proposal: separate luck from moral judgement "look for a more refined condition of control". He rejects this proposal - not a hypothetical question
  • Four types of luck:
  • constitutive
  • circumstantial
  • luck in how one is determined by antecedent causes
  • luck in how one's actions turn out (case of the bird taking the bullet)
  • negligence might do some work here, but it's irrational that whether we are found negligent might also be subject to luck, even after the event! (Digress on "felony murder" a strict liability standard for criminal conduct.)
  • decisions under uncertainty - outcomes of revolutions determine whether one is a hero or scoundrel. Problem: sometimes the outcome defines the moral action.
  • Major thesis p. 5: The existence of moral luck undermines the idea that responsibility is dependent on control. 8: "the area of genuine agency ... shrinks .. to an extensionless point."

Frankfurt, Harry. "Alternative Possibilities and Moral Responsibility" (1969)

  • Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP): a person is MR for an act only if he could have done otherwise. (Suggests that MR is incompatible with determinism.)
  • PAP is false. "A person may do something in circumstances that leave him no alternative to doing it, without these circumstances actually moving him or leading him to do it."
  • Jones Coercion cases
  • 1. Jones is threatened to do X, but Jones had already decided to do X. Jones is MR. (But this isn't a counterexample to PAP or the principle that "coercion excuses")
  • 2. Jones feels the threat, he may have already decided to do X, can't even remember, but he does X because of the threat. Jones is not MR.
  • 3. Jones feels the threat and it would have been powerful enough to coerce him, but he already decided to do X. MR pretty unclear in this case.
  • Jones3 does not necessarily challenge the principle that "coercion excuses" because it's not clear that he was coerced. But whether we say he was coerced or not, the doctrine that coercion excuses is not a particularized version of PAP (In other words, when we excuse a person who is coerced we are not doing it because he/she "couldn't have done otherwise"(PAP). So MR is compatible with determinism.
  • Section IV - Goes further to show that PAP is false.
  • You might object that that Jones3 does not pose a threat to PAP because strictly speaking, coercion doesn't exclude the alternative poss of acting in spite of the threat.
  • We could get into a discussion of what "could have done otherwise" really means, but Frankfurt thinks he has a new case that will show PAP is false.
  • Jones4: Black wants Jones to do X, but he's a subtle manipulator. Only acts to steer Jones if he's not on course to do X. If Jones does X without Black intervening, he is MR even though "he couldn't have done otherwise." PAP plays no role in the explanation of his behavior.
  • Revised PAP: A person is not morally responsible for what he has done if he did it only because he could not have done otherwise. Revised PAP makes sense of Jones1-3.

8: FEB 17

Assigned

  • Strawson Galen. "The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility" (1994) (23)

Strawson Galen. "The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility" (1994)

  • Imagines a scenario of choice between buying a cake and giving to Oxfam. Seem up to you, but the Basic Argument says no.
  • Section 1 - Three versions of the argument
  • Basic Argument Conclusion: "We can never be truly or ultimately morally responsible for our actions."
  • Causa sui version: To be MR, you have to be causa sui
  • 10 step version: adds in
  • "What one does is a function of how one is, mentally speaking"
  • "To be truly MR, one must have brought it about that one is the way one is.."
  • "To be MR for the way one is, "in any respect at all", you must have "principles of choice" P1. But one must have chosen P1, by P2, but then to be MR for P2, you need to have chosen P2 by some P3....
  • 3rd version - genetics and experience limit our ability to remake ourselves.
  • Section 2 - What is "true" or "ultimate" MR?
  • Defines MR in terms of possibility of fair punishment (without an pragmatic justification)
  • Clearly affirms (top of 44) the experience of free will. we literally can't give up belief in true or ultimate MR. (really?)
  • "situations of choice" are the "experiential rock" on which belief in MR is built.
  • citation of authorities: Sartre, Kant, Kane, Koorsgaard
  • at 45, he seems to say that if we identify with a trait, we are "in control" or "answerable" (2 diff things) for how we are. (Really seems to tie the "inescapability of freedom and self-creation" to MR, even while arguing that it is impossible.)
  • Section 3 - Another restatement of the Basic Argument
  • gets at "certain mental aspects" "mentally speaking". Acknowledges that basic facts about us are not in our control. Focus on intentionality. You must be MR for your mental life, especially your intentionality. Later, "you must have intentionally brought it about that you are the way you are." 47.
  • Premise 2: "To be truly MR for what you do you must be truly responsible for the way you are - at least in certain mental respects."
  • Premise 3: "But you can't be truly resp. for the way your are so you can't be truly responsibile for what you do."
  • Compatibilists reject 2. Libertarians reject 3.
  • Section 4: Responses to the Basic Argument
  • Compatibilists: Compatibilists consider an action under your control under normal circumstances and without compulsion, etc. So they reject Premise 2 since they are not looking for ultimate responsibility. (He makes it sound like a compatibilist can't be an MR skeptic, but that's not true. -Alfino)
  • Libertarian/Incompatibilist: Kane's "undetermined self-forming actions" (SFAs). But the old objection remains: How can 'indeterminism' help the libertarian. Isn't that luck?
  • Third response: p. 50. You could appeal to a picture of the self, determined or not, which captures MR. Defines the CPM (character, personality, motivations) and then Self as "in some way independent of one's CPM" (note this is the homunculus again). S "incorporates a power of decision" (humuncular grit). But Strawson rejects this response. S is still responding to CPM. Not enough to say we are "fully self-consciously aware of oneself as an agent facing choices". Still working with material that you aren't MR for.

SEP Notes on Strawson's Argument, "Skepticism about MR" p. 16-18

  • Critics
  • Some criticize the definition of "ultimate responsibility" (connecting it to fair punishment)
  • Escape from the regress by offering a sufficient account of "self-creation"
  • Attack the claim that our mental states have to be up to us for our actions to be. (break the connection)
  • Defenders
  • The Basic Argument still works with a weaker connection bt action and source:
  • doesn't rely on the premise that an agent can be MR for an action only if she is responsible for every factor contributing to the action.
  • contra critics who want to "break the connection", it is counterintuitive to say that an agent is MR for A when no factor contributing to that action is up to that agent.

9: FEB 22

Assigned

  • Seminar Topic: Assessing Traditional Approaches
  • Today's class will be a true seminar on these three approaches, as well as aspect of our topic that you want to raise for discussion. There are no assigned readings for today's class. To prepare for the class, review your notes from the approaches we have been reading and then identify some areas of agreement, concern, questioning, doubt, or disagreement that might help you develop your theory.
  • Then do some reading based on some searches. Consider the reference articles from SEP (text searchable) and Philosopher's Index. Feel free to stray from the actual authors we have read, especially if you are pursuing a question of importance to your developing theory. Alternatively, you could spend your time developing your own thinking and take a point or two to put before the seminar.
  • In class we will here from most or all of you, but you should write up your notes either before or after class and post a 2-3 page summary of your thoughts both as a record and in case we do not get to your issues. You will receive 10 points for posting your Seminar notes within two days of the Seminar.

10: FEB 24 Unit Three: Contemporary MR Skepticism

Assigned

  • Waller, Bruce. Chapter 1. "Moral Responsibility," Against Moral Responsibility (16)
  • Reflective prompt. Waller's first chapter might be a bit redundant for us, so I would like you to focus on the theme of "retributive desires", which he treats in Chapter 1. Specifically, how do you assess arguments about the value of retributive desires and emotions, along with the actions that express them. I'll bring in some of the evidence from "public good games", and a little cultural evolutionary research, but there are lots of ways of assessing retributive emotions or desires. Are retributive emotions justified on their own terms?

Some evidence from public goods games

  • Review of Public Goods games and typical results with and without "punishment".
  • Without punishment, cooperation, measured by investments in each round, drops to zero
  • Note "punishment" here means "penalizing behaviors". The behavior in question is voluntary, but the penalty is independent of a blame condition.
  • So, this might support the idea that MR is distinct from accountability and MJ.

Waller, Bruce. Chapter 1. "Moral Responsibility," Against Moral Responsibility

  • Claim: Denial of MR is compatible with MJ (moral judgements). Waller acknowledges that this is disputed.
  • Can you still make moral judgements about people (and yourself) if you eliminate the MR system?
  • Goes through a list of philosophers and other who endorse MR in various ways. How should we hold our retributive emotions: Enthusiastically? Righteously (doing justice)? With a sense of resignation (like the Inquisitionist in Sapolsky)? (this is a broader version of our reflective prompt above.) p. 9 for examples.
  • internal vs. external arguments. internal arguments are question begging.
  • no pragmatic solutions: thought experiment. still have to ask if it is just? can't just be efficacious.
  • MR and MJ -- Claim: Accountability is not central to MR. People's accounts are often mistaken (research at p. 6), and when correct, often do not involve MR. So MR and Accountability are separate.
  • Waller's discussion of emotional and use of evolution (I'll elaborate on this in class.)
  • In general, Waller talks about retribution as emotions, but technically, an intuition to punish is an inference supported by an emotion. Emotions are often precursors to action.
  • When is does get to evolution, he is correct about the general point that evolution is retrospective.
  • But his treatment of "tit for tat" is off. p. 12: tit for tat. not exactly the same as "strike back", but also not ineffective.

11: MAR 1

Assigned

  • Waller, Bruce. Chapter 2. "The Basic Argument against Moral Responsibility," Against Moral Responsibility (23)

Waller, Bruce. Chapter 2. "The Basic Argument against Moral Responsibility," Against Moral Responsibility

  • This chapter gives a more detailed account of Waller's "fairness argument".
  • Framing the argument: p.20: MR requires supernaturalism. MR incompatible with naturalism/determinism.
  • Note the reconstruction of Dennett's view: naturalists who believe in limited MR. "MR skepticism arises from misplaced search for an absolute ideal: total before-the-eyes-of-God guilt.
  • Waller: naturalists should be incompatibalists and reject MR. But Dennett will disagree.
  • Comparative Unfairness 23
  • Karen and Louise: Karen calls out the racist remark, Louise doesn't. four possibilites:
  • 1. chance
  • 2. first causes
  • 3. situational
  • 4. they were shaped by forces beyond their control.
  • (p. 26: It seems like he is saying that to account for "effort" you need miracles....?)
  • (Karen and Louise really present a version of Strawson's argument a comparative form to see "unfairness". This is a pretty good innovation, regardless of our views of the issue.)
  • (p. 27: note inference: Because we are the products of evolution, we cannot be ultimately responsible for how we are. Try this version: Evolution gave us agential capacities for avoiding certain outcomes that make us moderately responsible (mr, not MR) for some of our behaviors.) p. 27 "intermediate self-making"
  • Mele's criticism of Strawson's Basic Argument: MR doesn't require us to have "chosen" the way we are. Strawson commits us to an impossible psychological regress. Rather, practical freedom is an emergent property (30). Example of Betty and her fear of the basement. "intentional self-modification" (ISM) is possible.
  • Waller: (uses his "unfairness" framing device). Imagine Betty and Benji. Benji fails at ISM. Is it unfair to blame him? (Let's pause on this and consider other cases beside fear of basements)
  • research on "cognitive misers" vs. "chronic cognizers".
  • Kane's Libertarianism. dual control responsibility.
  • Waller's "unfairness" framing device again. Betty and Barbara

12: MAR 3

Assigned

  • Dennett, Daniel. Review of "Against Moral Responsibility, Naturalim.org (10)
  • Clark, Tom. "Exchange on Waller's 'Against Moral Responsibility"(12)

13: MAR 8

  • Review Group Assessments of Waller

14: MAR 10: Free Will and Culture

Assigned

  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 2: "A Tool for Thinking about Determinism" Freedom Evolves. (300) (25-63)

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 2: "A Tool for Thinking about Determinism" Freedom Evolves.

  • Chapter 2: A tool for thinking about determinism
  • people go wrong in thinking about determinism.
  • toy version of determinism problem: Laplace's demon -- first modern expression of scientific determinism, idea of being able to predict all future states of a system from knowing the position and movement of everything at some moment.
  • 29: starts to complicates the possibility implicit in Laplace's demon
  • a democratean universe -- but only some versions of this are deterministic. How would you know? You can sort them into deterministic and non, but only on the basis of regularities that have probabilities at (det) or below (non) 1.
  • Brings in Conway's Life World simulations to show that a deterministic universe can have a design level which instantiates "evitability" and other properties.
  • 43: the birth of avoidance 46: there are life worlds in which there are Universal Touring Machines.
  • 53: A process with no foresight can invent a process with foresight.
  • 59: we change "anticipated" outcomes, not real ones.
  • 60: determinism is the friend of those who dislike inevitability.

15: MAR 15

Assigned

  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 3: "Thinking about Determinism" Freedom Evolves. (300) (63-97)

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 3: "Thinking about Determinism" Freedom Evolves

  • Chapter 3: Thinking about Determinism
  • 63: introduces "possible worlds" as a way of making sense of talk about the way things "could have gone" (wants to sever the implication we draw between this talk about indeterminism)
  • 64: thesis: Det. compatible with the assumptions that govern out thinking about what is possible.
  • introduces poss. worlds defs for necessary, posibile,
  • 70: causation -- in poss. worlds language. 71: linguistic analysis of what we mean by "inevitable" "unavoidable" to cash out "causal sufficiency"
  • 75: Three major confusions about poss and causation have prevented a good account of free will.
  • 1. Fear that determinism reduces our possibilities. Austin's putt. Seems about determinism limiting poss, but not if you use p-world talk.
  • 2. The determinism implies that we could not do otherwise. 84: Determinism is about causal sufficiency, not necessity.
  • 85: coin flip is, in one sense determined, but has no necessary cause, only sufficient.
  • 86: false assumption that the only way for an event not to have a cause is for it to be strictly undetermined, to have no sufficient condition, no matter how complex and uninteresting (like the coin fliP)
  • 89: our thinking about causation is connected to anitcipation and avoidance, not to
  • 3. That every event has a cause and that our natures are fixed. 91: in some deterministic worlds a thing's nature changes over time.

16: MAR 17

Assigned

  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 4: "A Hearing for Libertarianism" Freedom Evolves. (300) (63-97)

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 4: "A Hearing for Libertarianism" Freedom Evolves.

17: MAR 22

Assigned

  • SW3: Assessing claims about determinism and free will.
  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 5: "Where Does all the Design Come From?" Freedom Evolves. (300) (141-170)

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 5: "Where Does all the Design Come From?" Freedom Evolves

18: MAR 24

Assigned

  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 6: "The Evolution of Open Minds" Freedom Evolves. (300) (170-193)

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 6: "The Evolution of Open Minds" Freedom Evolves

19: MAR 29

Assigned

  • Henrich, Joe. "The Dark Matter of History" The WEIRDEST People on Earth. (469-489)

Henrich, Joe. "The Dark Matter of History" The WEIRDEST People on Earth.

20: MAR 31

Assigned

  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 7: "The Evolution of Moral Agency" Freedom Evolves. (300) (193-221) (28)
  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 8: "The Evolution of Open Minds" Freedom Evolves. (300) (221-259) (38)

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 7: "The Evolution of Moral Agency" Freedom Evolves

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 8: "The Evolution of Open Minds" Freedom Evolves

21: APR 7

Assigned

  • Today we may have some reports from students on Dennett and/or a general assessment of naturalism and cultural evolutionary theory for our research questions.

22: APR 12: Proposals and Applications

Assigned

  • Start work on final paper.
  • Greene, Joshua and Jonathan Cohen. "For the Law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything" (20)
  • Vargas?

Greene, Joshua and Jonathan Cohen. "For the Law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything"

23: APR 14

Assigned

  • selection from Moore, Placing Blame? Other retributivists?

24: APR 19

Assigned

  • Cavadino, Michael and James Dignan. "Penal policy and political economy". (17)

Cavadino, Michael and James Dignan. "Penal policy and political economy"

25: APR 21

Assigned

  • Caruso, Gregg. "The Public Health-Quarantine Model" (22)

Caruso, Gregg. "The Public Health-Quarantine Model"

26: APR 26

Assigned

  • Shaw, Elizabeth. "Justice Without Moral Responsibility" (15)

Shaw, Elizabeth. "Justice Without Moral Responsibility"

27: APR 28

Last Class Meeting

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