SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Natural Emotional Roots of Free Will Skepticism and Compatibilism: Reframing the Free Will Debate
(Ethics, )

A I propose a sentimentalist way of framing the free will problem, according to which both skepticism and compatibilism about free will are founded on separate and conflicting moral intuitions. Building on Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations theory, I suggest that each side identifies a different kind of fairness, which pick out different aspects of our agency. Naturalist (also called Strawsonian) compatibilists correctly identify the fittingness conditions of the attitudes that motivate what Haidt calls "fairness as proportionality": the retributivist motivation to punish or reward agents based on whether their actions express good or bad regard towards others. On the other hand, skeptics base their arguments on intuitions of "fairness as social equality". This is the powerful moral intuition that people should be treated equitably: burdens and benefits should be distributed in a way that reflects people's effort. Skeptics argue that the causal chains of our actions extend back to spheres outside of our control (such as our genes, environment, and perhaps pure chance) and that because of this, it would be unequitable to retributively punish some and reward others. Punishment and reward can only be justified for other, mostly consequentialist reasons. Seeing both compatibilist and skeptical intuitions as in some sense valid and carrying moral weight, I suggest that neither can be ignored; the two must be balanced against each other. Hence, the free will problem can be reframed: it is not a theoretical problem having a binary yes/no answer, but a practical problem arising out of emotional ambivalence about responsibility.

Chair: Stephen Müller
Time: 11:20-11:50, 11 September 2021 (Saturday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: (Online Talk)

Alexander Veichkov  
(Lund University, )



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