Free Will and Moral Responsibility I. Basics



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Free Will and Moral Responsibility
I. Basics
Meeting time: Wednesday 2:30-5pm(ish)

Meeting place: Henson Hall (HH) 311

Professor: E.J. Coffman

E-mail address: ecoffma1@utk.edu

Course website: http://online.utk.edu

Office: 816 McClung Tower

Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 2-3pm; Wednesday 5-6pm; by appointment
II. Texts
A. Required

1. Peter van Inwagen, An Essay on Free Will (Oxford UP, 1983 [reprinted 2002])

2. Alfred Mele, Free Will and Luck (Oxford UP, 2006)

3. Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will, 2nd Edition (Oxford UP, 2003)

4. Course packet at Online@UT (UT Blackboard [Bb]) [http://online.utk.edu]
B. Recommended
1. Robert Kane, A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will (Oxford UP, 2005)

2. Laura Ekstrom, Free Will: A Philosophical Study (Westview, 2000)

3. John Fischer, Robert Kane, Derk Pereboom, Manuel Vargas, Four Views on Free Will

(Blackwell, 2007)


III. Course Overview
This graduate-level course doubles as the Proseminar and an ELMS seminar. We have two goals:
▪ To explore recent work on philosophical questions about metaphysical freedom (roughly, having a choice about some of what you do) and moral responsibility (roughly, deserving praise or blame for some of what you do).
▪ To significantly improve our overall ability to do Philosophy, both in writing and in public.
We’ll devote most of our time in class to identifying, clarifying, and evaluating the most important and interesting parts of assigned readings. Course requirements (§IV) are designed to improve certain research and writing skills that are essential to success in graduate school and beyond.
Our course has three main parts:
Part 1: We’ll focus first on freedom. We’ll consider prominent arguments for Fatalism—the view that the concept of freedom is incoherent or contradictory. After assuring ourselves that the main arguments for Fatalism fail (miserably!), we’ll explore a perennial question about freedom: What must a world be like in order to have some free inhabitants? What sorts of universes can include people who are free?
We’ll examine two main arguments for Freedom/Determinism Incompatibility, which says that freedom is logically incompatible with physical (or causal) determinism—the thesis that at any given time there’s only one physically possible future. We’ll then examine a series of arguments for Freedom/Determinism Compatibility, which says that freedom is logically compatible with determinism—in other words, that there could (at least “in principle”) be a deterministic world some of whose inhabitants are free.
Part 2: After focusing on freedom in Part 1, we’ll turn to questions about two pervasive “freedom-related” phenomena: deliberation (roughly, the act of trying to decide what to do) and moral responsibility. We’ll start by considering an argument from an alleged requirement on deliberation to the conclusion that you can’t coherently believe you’re not free (alternatively: if you believe you’re not free, then you hold some inconsistent beliefs).
We’ll then explore recent work on the relations among freedom, determinism, and moral responsibility. We’ll examine arguments for Responsibility/Determinism Incompatibility, which says that moral responsibility is logically incompatible with determinism—in other words, that there could not (even “in principle”) be a deterministic world some of whose inhabitants deserve praise or blame for what they do.
Next, we’ll consider some of the most important thought experiments in recent work on moral responsibility: so called Frankfurt Cases (introduced in a 1969 paper by Princeton University philosopher Harry Frankfurt). As we’ll see, these intriguing cases play at least two different but complementary dialectical roles in recent work on moral responsibility. Some philosophers use Frankfurt Cases to defend Responsibility/Determinism Compatibility from certain arguments against it. And some philosophers use Frankfurt Cases to construct a positive argument for Responsibility/Determinism Compatibility. We’ll think hard about whether invoking Frankfurt Cases can help achieve either of these argumentative goals (simply defending vs. establishing R/D Compatibility).
Part 3: Having explored some key features of the concepts of freedom and responsibility, we’ll close by examining one main theoretical approach to freedom and responsibility that tries to honor all the clearest findings of work studied in Parts 1 and 2. According to the Libertarian approach to freedom, freedom exists and is incompatible with determinism. After considering a main argument for Libertarianism, we’ll assess three competing species of (what’s often called) Standard Libertarianism, which says a given act is free only if the act was not logically entailed by the immediate past and physical laws—in other words, an act is free only if its nonoccurrence was logically compatible with the immediate past and physical laws. We’ll consider a challenging recent objection to all species of Standard Libertarianism: the so called Luck Argument. We’ll try to figure out how serious a threat this objection is to Standard Libertarianism in particular, and the Libertarian approach to freedom in general.
Here’s an outline of our course’s content:
Part I: Freedom, Determinism, & Indeterminism
A. Fatalism
B. Arguments for Freedom/Determinism Incompatibility
1. The Consequence Argument

2. The New Argument


C. Arguments for Freedom/Determinism Compatibility


1. The Paradigm Case Argument

2. Conditional Analysis Arguments

3. The Mind Argument

4. “Deep Self” Analysis Arguments


Part II: Deliberation and Moral Responsibility
A. Deliberation & Belief in Freedom
B. Moral Responsibility, Freedom, & Determinism
1. The Standard Argument for Responsibility/Determinism Incompatibility
2. Frankfurt Cases and Responsibility/Determinism Compatibility

a. Defensive Use

b. Offensive Use
3. Two More Recent Arguments for Responsibility/Determinism Incompatibility

a. Van Inwagen

b. Warfield
Part III: The Viability of Standard Libertarianism
A. The Responsibility Argument for Libertarianism
B. Three Species of Standard Libertarianism
1. Reductive

a. Noncausalism

b. Causalism
2. Nonreductive
C. The Luck Argument against Standard Libertarianism

IV. Requirements
A. Proseminar requirements
▪ “Purpose-sensitive” outline of each required reading [20% of final grade]
▫ For each required reading, you’ll make an outline of it that’s sensitive to the author’s overall argumentative goals. You’ll first figure out what the author’s main argumentative goals are. You’ll then make an outline of the reading that (i) provides informal yet clear summaries of parts essential to achieving the author’s main goals while (ii) only briefly describing parts tangential to achieving those goals.
▫ I’ll provide a sample “purpose-sensitive” outline of Chapter 1 of van Inwagen’s An Essay on Free Will. I’ll also provide outlines of articles I read for the paper(s) I plan to write alongside the course.

▫ You’ll submit your outline of a given reading electronically (via e-mail or Bb) around the time of the meeting where we discuss that reading.


▪ Two short (750-1,000 words) expository papers [7.5% of final grade X 2 = 15% of final grade]
▫ These assignments will ask you to reconstruct—first informally and then formally—an important argument from a notoriously obscure but highly influential recent work on issues related to freedom and responsibility. These assignments will be available at Bb soon.
▪ Two research bibliographies (3 items each) [5% of final grade X 2 = 10% of final grade]
▫ You’ll select two broad topics related to freedom and responsibility (I’ll suggest six topics; you can propose others). For each topic, you’ll use Philosopher’s Index to find three recent (i.e., published within the last few years) articles on that topic in “top-tier” Philosophy journals (see journal rankings material at Bb site). You’ll then make and share “purpose-sensitive” outlines of your three articles.
▪ Two short (15-20 minutes) presentations [10% of final grade X 2 = 20% of final grade]
▫ In your first presentation, you’ll explain a key recommended reading to the class (I’ll tell you which one you’ll present). Most presentations will involve “de-formalizing” a fairly formally-written paper; a couple will involve “formalizing” a fairly informally-written paper.
▫ In your second presentation, you’ll present the main parts of your term paper prospectus (see below). Your colleagues and I will provide constructive criticism to help you continue developing your initial ideas into an excellent term paper.
▪ Term paper (2,500-3,000 words) [30% of final grade]
▫ Here, you’ll use all the individual research and philosophical abilities cultivated throughout the course. I hope that all your hard work results in a paper that (after suitable revisions and polishing) you can proudly submit to a professional or graduate conference. There are four main steps to this course’s term paper process:
(i) Before starting serious work on a full draft of your term paper, you’ll construct a prospectus that you’ll submit to me (due: 5pm Friday November 7th) and then present to the class (this is your second presentation).
(ii) You’ll then work up a full draft of your paper in light of feedback you get on your prospectus from me and your peers.
(iii) I’ll then pair you with one of your colleagues, who will provide you with written constructive comments on a full draft of your paper.
(iv) Finally, after revising your paper in light of your colleague’s written comments, you’ll submit your paper to me (due: 7am Tuesday December 9th). I’ll evaluate it, providing you with more written comments.
▫ I urge you to consult with me—both informally (e.g., office chats) and formally (e.g., submit some writing for my comments)—at any and every stage of developing your term paper. That’s what I’m here for. Don’t be a stranger!
▪ Miscellaneous small “pro-research” activities [5% of final grade]
▫ Prepare handout of advice on philosophical writing (group project for Proseminar students only)
◦ At Bb, you’ll find six papers that address the issue of good philosophical writing. Working together, Proseminar students will boil those six papers down to a handout (one sheet of paper) on good philosophical writing.
▫ Subscribe to a handful of relevant (to your main philosophical interests) journal updates.
▫ Find a handful of relevant (to your main interests) blogs.
▫ Find a handful of relevant (to your main interests) “resource” websites (e.g., a prominent philosopher’s homepage, a key philosophical society’s homepage, etc.).
▫ Identify three non-APA professional or student conferences to which you could submit a revised version of your term paper.
B. ELMS seminar requirements
▪ Two research bibliographies (4 items each) [7.5% of final grade X 2 = 15% of final grade]
▪ Four Critical Commentaries (750-1,000 words) [10% of final grade X 4 = 40% of final grade]
Each of your CCs will be between 750-1,000 words, and will earn a grade of ‘Exemplary’, ‘Satisfactory’, or ‘Unsatisfactory’. An Exemplary CC will raise—and maybe attempt to answer—a handful of objections to and/or questions about central parts of some or other required or recommended reading(s). All CCs must (i) be typed, (ii) include a word count, and (iii) be submitted by the last class meeting.
▪ Term paper (3,000-4,000 words) [40% of final grade]
The final draft of your term paper will be due by 7am Tuesday December 9th. You’ll submit some “preparatory” writing to me by 5pm Friday November 7th. This initial submission can be as short as a 2-page prospectus, or as long as a full draft. In any case, I urge you to discuss ideas with me before starting your “preparatory” writing, so that I can be maximally helpful to you and your term paper.
▪ Miscellaneous small “pro-research” activities (minus the group project for Proseminar students) [5% of final grade]
V. Important Dates
8/20 (W): First class meeting

10/9-10/10 (R-F): Fall Break



10/24 (F): Writing Handout (Proseminar) and Bibliographies due [by 5pm]

11/7 (F): Term paper prospectus (Proseminar) / preparatory writing due [by 5pm]

11/19 (W): Prospectus presentations in class

11/24 (M): Prospectus presentations in class; last class meeting (?)

12/9 (T): Term papers due [by 7am]

VI. Tentative Reading Schedule ( = you must read it; ◊ = you could read it; WA = in Watson Anthology [Free Will]; CP = in Course Packet [at Bb])


Part I: Freedom, Determinism, & Indeterminism
A. Fatalism
 Peter van Inwagen (PvI), An Essay on Free Will (EFW)—Chapters 1 & 2

 Trenton Merricks, “Truth and Freedom” (forthcoming in Philosophical Review) [CP]


B. Arguments for Freedom/Determinism Incompatibility
1. The Consequence Argument
 PvI, EFW—Chapter 3

 David Lewis, “Are We Free to Break the Laws?” [WA]

 Michael Huemer, “Van Inwagen’s Consequence Argument” [CP]

◊ Joseph Campbell, “Free Will and the Necessity of the Past” [CP] (Presentation #1 = J. Cervantez)

◊ PvI, “Freedom to Break the Laws” [CP]

◊ David Widerker, “On an Argument for Incompatibilism” [CP]

◊ Erik Carlson, “Incompatibilism and the Transfer of Power Necessity” [CP]
2. The New Argument
 Ted Warfield, “Causal Determinism and Human Freedom are Incompatible” [CP]

◊ Dana Nelkin and Samuel Rickless, “Warfield’s New Argument for Incompatibilism” [CP] (Presentation #2 = M. Minuk)


C. Arguments for Freedom/Determinism Compatibility
1. The Paradigm Case Argument
 PvI, EFW—Chapter 4.1-2
2. Conditional Analysis Arguments
 PvI, EFW—Chapter 4.3
3. The Mind Argument
 PvI, EFW—Chapter 4.4-5

 Ted Warfield and Alicia Finch, “The Mind Argument and Libertarianism” [CP]

◊ Dana Nelkin, “The Consequence Argument and the Mind Argument” [CP] (Presentation #3 = D. Nelson)
4. Arguments from “Deep Self” Theories
 Harry Frankfurt, “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person” [WA]

 Gary Watson, “Free Agency” [WA]

 Susan Wolf, “Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility” [WA]

◊ Christopher Hill, “Watsonian Freedom and Freedom of the Will” [CP] (Presentation #4 = E. Thompson)


Part II: Deliberation and Moral Responsibility
A. Deliberation & Belief in Freedom
 PvI, EFW—Chapter 5.1-2

◊ Bruce Waller, “Deliberating about the Inevitable” [CP] (Presentation #5 = L. Uhl)


B. Moral Responsibility, Freedom, & Determinism
1. The Standard Argument for Responsibility/Determinism Incompatibility
 Roderick Chisholm, “Human Freedom and the Self”—§§1-4 [WA]
2. Frankfurt Cases and Responsibility/Determinism Compatibility
a. Defensive Use (against Standard Argument for R/D Incompatibility)

b. Offensive Use (to establish R/D Compatibility)


 Harry Frankfurt, “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility” [WA]

 PVI, EFW—Chapter 5.3-7

 David Widerker, “Libertarianism and Frankfurt’s Attack on the Principle of Alternative Possibilities” [WA]

 Derk Pereboom, “Alternative Possibilities and Causal Histories” [CP]

 John Fischer, “Frankfurt-style Compatibilism” [WA]

 Ted Warfield, “Metaphysical Compatibilism’s Appropriation of Frankfurt” [CP]

◊ John Fischer, “Recent Work on Moral Responsibility” [CP]

◊ David Widerker, “Frankfurt’s Attack on the Principle of Alternative Possibilities: A Further Look” [CP]


3. Two More Recent Arguments for Responsibility/Determinism Incompatibility
a. Van Inwagen’s Argument

 PvI, EFW—Chapter 5.8-9


b. Warfield’s Argument
 Ted Warfield, “Determinism and Moral Responsibility are Incompatible” [CP]

◊ Eleonore Stump and John Fischer, “Transfer Principles and Moral Responsibility” [CP] (Presentation #6 = TBA)




Part III: The Viability of Standard Libertarianism
A. The Responsibility Argument for Libertarianism
 PvI, EFW—Chapter 6

◊ Saul Smilansky, “Van Inwagen on the ‘Obviousness’ of Libertarian Moral Responsibility” [CP]


B. Three Species of Standard Libertarianism
1. Reductive
a. Noncausalism

b. Causalism


 Carl Ginet, “Reasons Explanation of Action: An Incompatibilist Account” [CP]

 Robert Kane, “Responsibility, Luck, and Chance” [WA]

◊ Timothy O’Connor, “Indeterminism and Free Agency: Three Recent Views” [CP]

Randolph Clarke, “Modest Libertarianism” [CP]


2. Nonreductive (“Agent Causation”)
 Roderick Chisholm, “Human Freedom and the Self”—§§5-13 [WA]

 Timothy O’Connor, “Agent Causation” [WA]

 Randolph Clarke, “Toward a Credible Agent-Causal Account of Free Will” [WA]
C. The Luck Argument against Standard Libertarianism
 Alfred Mele, Free Will and Luck—Chapters 1, 3-5

◊ Jennifer Lackey, “What Luck is Not” [CP]



 Proseminar students needn’t submit a “purpose-sensitive” outline of EFW Chapter 1.





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