Kane, after all, has produced one of the more robust models of libertarian free will.
There is, first of all, the problem of explaining why such a condition (an ability to do otherwise--ed.) should be regarded as necessary for free will at all.I don't find that issue particularly distressing. It seems obvious to me that the ability to do otherwise, or the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, provides the freedom. Entity x with the ability to access outcomes A xor ~A ("xor" means either but not both) obviously has greater freedom than entity y with the ability to access only A. And that type or freedom ties into moral responsibility via agent causation and rational thought. But maybe it's trickier than it looks!
And, second, there is the problem of explaining how a theory of free will can accommodate a condition of this kind without making free choices arbitrary, capricious, and irrational.Personal experience forces me to agree with Kane to the extent that skeptics of libertarian free will hold tightly to the notion that it much be capricious or irrational. The term I most often encounter is "random."
Some awkward consequences do seem to follow, If the agent might either make a choice or do otherwise, given all the same past circumstances, and the past circumstances include the entire psychological history of the agent, it would seem that no explanation in terms of the agent's psychological history, including prior character motives and deliberation, could account for the actual occurrence of one outcome rather than the other.Kane's worry here reminds me of an objection lodged at the Center for Inquiry's message board. It was suggested that the conditions prior to a decision included all deliberations. Thus, if the deliberations suggested a leaning toward A, the outcome ~A would represent a disjunction between intention and outcome--or at least an disjunction between deliberation and the resulting intention. I consider that approach ridiculous, and Kane's statement seems to show an exaggerated deference to skeptics. I see no reason at all why alternative possibilities could not include deliberations of varying length and content. The initial conditions, after all, remain the same prior to any differences in the deliberation. The problem only arises, as I see it, if we allow an assumption of causal determinism to create an expectation that the deliberations must be identical stemming from the same initial conditions.
I can understand how the outcome of my deliberation may have been different, if I had known other facts, considered other consequences, imagined other scenarios, etc. But what I cannot understand is how I could have reasonably chosen to do otherwise, how I could have reasonably chosen B, given exactly the same prior deliberation that led me to choose A, the same information deployed, the same consequences considered, the same assessments made, and so on.Mr. Kane, why not consider other consequences or scenarios? You are not causally determined to follow any one method of deliberation. Take an extra 10 seconds to ponder, if you like. Indeterminism certainly permits that.
This way of stating the argument shows what is at stake in the charges of arbitrariness, irrationality, etc., made against the indeterminist condition. If the choice of A was the reasonable outcome of my deliberation, then the choosing otherwise (the choice of B), which may have occurred given the same past circumstances, would have been "arbitrary," "capricious," "irrational," and "inexplicable," relative to my prior deliberation.Yes, if the choice of A was the reasonable outcome then choosing B would appear capricious and inexplicable and all that. But many (most, I would think) scenarios include more than one reasonable option depending on the valuation placed on the various factors during deliberations. Following an example I gave during a critique of Saul Smilansky, Mr. Brown might trample his neighbor's petunias out of dislike for his neighbor. Or he might refrain from stomping the flowers based on his conviction that the action would be morally wrong. Either option is rational, and either might win out in deliberations.
Kane worries a bit too much.
The article has Richard Double weighing in to amplify Kane's concerns, so I will have an excuse for another sequel.