Still, there is no great harm in repeating the exercise. It always remains possible that some element in the explanation will either add to the earlier argument or add to my perception of that earlier argument.
So without further ado, Smilansky's brief presentation of the Strawsonesque argument:
The reason why libertarian free will is impossible, in a nutshell, is that the conditions required by an ethically satisfying sense of libertarian free will, which would give us anything beyond sophisticated formulations of compatibilism, are self-contradictory, hence cannot be met.That sets forth Smilanksy's position, so he continues with the rationale:
This is so irrespective of determinism or causality. Attributing moral worth to a person for her action requires that it follow from what she is, morally. The action cannot be produced by a random occurrence and count morally. We might think that two different things can follow equally from a person, but which one does, say, a decision to steal or not to steal, again cannot be random but needs to follow from what she is, morally. But what a person is, morally, cannot be under her control. We might think that such control is possible if she creates herself, but then it is the early self that creates a later self, leading to vicious infinite regress.The first key point:
"Attributing moral worth to a person for her action requires that it follow from what she is, morally."
I believe the LFW advocate should agree with this proposition, with the caveat that what a person "is" need not be the result of causal determinism. Smilanksy suggests that the argument hold regardless of "determinism or causality"--an odd thing to mention since the LFW position is an incompatibilist one. After all, if determinism is true, then we have reason to expect that LFW is impossible.
The second key point:
"The action cannot be produced by a random occurrence and count morally."
As with Strawson's argument, I detect a concept that requires some explanation. What is a "random" occurrence? A LFW model would (ironically) predict unpredictable outcomes except perhaps in terms of probabilities.
For example, suppose we were to model the decision to steal or not to steal according to LFW. LFW would suggest that an infinite number of trials under identical conditions would produce at least one trial unlike the others. If we have 999,999 trials where the subject steals and a single trial where the subject refrains from stealing, we can claim some element of "chance" in the outcome. But is the outcome random any more than the other 999,999?
On this point, I attempt to clarify the issue by distinguishing between random/chance cause and random/chance outcome. If Smilansky does not detect randomness by mapping outcomes then he appears to have it tucked into his assumptions--or else I should expect an explanation as to how he determined its presence.
Developed further, this idea turns into the notion that who the subject is may well amount to "an individual who steals under conditions x 999,999 times out of a million." This appears to satisfy the qualification that the cause of the outcomes was not random as well as the stipulation that the individual acted according to "what she is."
On to the third key point:
"But what a person is, morally, cannot be under her control."
We might well ask how that follows, and Smilansky obliges, albeit in brief:
We might think that such control is possible if she creates herself, but then it is the early self that creates a later self, leading to vicious infinite regress.I think that both Strawson and Smilansky overlook the fairly elegant libertarian solution to the problem. Libertarians do not regard individuals as responsible for their own ultimate existence. However, libertarian models appear to allow an individual to create what a person is, morally, subsequent to being created.
For example, suppose we have "Alex," a newly created entity with a non-deterministic will. Alex has a 50/50 chance of stealing/not stealing under conditions x by default. That is how Alex was created, and we do not hold Alex responsible for that state. In addition, Alex has a 50/50 chance of choosing a morally superior lifestyle. If Alex chooses moral improvement, it increases the not stealing probability by one percentage point. The result? Alex is in at least partial control of having a 49/51 chance of stealing/not stealing, and in full control of having the 49/51 figure instead of 50/50. If this decision does not reflect personal responsibility, then at least the subsequent decision not to steal under conditions x does reflect personal responsibility.
If I'm correct, then Smilansky's third statement is simply false, and his argument fails.
I imagine that figures like Smilansky and Strawson do not view things this way because they have a tendency to model things in terms of determinism. There is a determined outcome and anything else has to be random and therefore beyond individual responsibility.
Saul Smilansky: Libertarian free will is impossible Pt. 2
Saul Smilansky: Libertarian free will is impossible Pt. 3