Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The disconnect problem

There is a certain well-known problem facing libertarians–the so-called "luck problem." If an event is undetermined, then it is random, and random events are not within anyone's control. A tad more carefully, if an event is undetermined then it is not determined by the agent's reasons, and this disconnection has the consequence that it is just luck when an undetermined event appropriately corresponds to the agent's reasons. That, in turn, seems to have the consequence that the undetermined event is not something that the agent controls or for which the agent is responsible. There is a standard response to this problem–an agent can control her actions by virtue of her reasons "influencing without determining" her decisions. I will propose that if some influencing is good, then a little more influencing is always better. I will further propose that that leaves the libertarian with no explanation for why influencing is good but determining is bad. 

The disconnect problem can be stated thus: if an event E is undetermined, then it is not sufficiently connected to A's reasons to qualify as being within her control, up to her, or something she has a choice about. 

Her resulting behavior would look just like what she should have done on her own, but it would not be in her control because it was coming from "without". It is this externality to the self that is carried over through Case 7. If the start of a chain leading to a volition is disconnected from Agent A's character, then moving that start inside the head will not stop it from being disconnected. 

We need to distinguish different ways in which one might lack free will–different ways in which it might not be possible for one to perform an act. The difference I have in mind has to do with the counterfactual effectiveness of my deliberation…If I were to believe that I lacked free will with respect to which door to exit through on the grounds that I believe that one of the doors is locked, then I would not and should not deliberate about which door to exit through. The deliberation would be pointless. Regardless of the outcome of the deliberation, my exit would be through the unlocked door.

…The determinist chain that produces that action produces it by way of the deliberation. Determinism is not fatalism. If I were to deliberate to a different outcome or fail to deliberate at all, my action would be different. As long as deliberation makes a difference it is not pointless. Mark Heller, "The Disconnect Problem and the Influence Strategy," John. Keller, ed. Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter Van Inwagen (Oxford 2017), chap. 5. 

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