Does criticism of the turner thesis seem valid

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Notice that the former ability is outlandish; it would require magical powers. But the latter ability is, at least by comparison, uncontroversial. It merely indicates that a person who acted a certain way at a certain time possessed abilities to act in various sorts of ways.

Had she exercised one of those abilities, and thereby acted differently, then the past leading up to her action would have been different. To illustrate how comparatively mild such a claim about an agent's ability and the past might be, think about a logically similar sort of claim that is simply about what would be required for an agent to act differently. Certainly this claim does not mean at least not given my dancing skills that if I go to the French Riviera to dance, I will thereby be made richer.

It only means that were I to have gone there to tango, I would have to have had a lot more cash beforehand in order to finance my escapades. Some compatibilists e. But, these compatibilists maintain, the first premise is falsified when interpreted with a milder notion of ability. Other compatibilists have argued against the first premise of the Consequence Argument by attempting to show that a person can act in such a way that a law of nature would not obtain.

As with the distinction drawn regarding ability and the past, consider the difference between a person who has the ability to act in such a way that she violates a law of nature , as opposed to a person at a deterministic world who has the ability to act in such a way that, if she were to so act, some law of nature that does obtain would not.


Notice that the former ability would require magical powers. According to the compatibilist, the latter, by contrast, would require nothing outlandish. It merely tells us that a person who acted a certain way at a certain time possessed abilities to act in various sorts of ways. Had she exercised one of those abilities, and thereby acted differently, then the laws of nature that would have entailed what she did in that hypothetical situation would be different from the actual laws of nature that did entail what she did actually do.

This latter ability does not assume that agents are able to violate laws of nature; it just assumes that whatever the laws of nature are at least at deterministic worlds , they must be such as to entail, given the past, what an agent will do.

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If an agent acts differently in some possible world than she acts in the actual world, then some other set of laws will be the ones that entail what she does in that world. Some compatibilists most notably Lewis,, but see also Graham, and Pendergraft, , fixing upon ability pertaining to the laws of nature, have argued that incompatibilist defenders of the Consequence Argument rely upon the outlandish notion of ability in the first premise of their argument.

But, these compatibilists maintain, that first premise is falsified when interpreted with an uncontroversial notion of ability. Michael Slote attempted to refute the Consequence Argument by showing that the inference principle upon which the argument relies is invalid. According to Slote, one cannot draw the desired incompatibilist-friendly conclusion even if the Consequence Argument's premises are all true.

Let us work with the idea of unavoidability. It is unavoidable for me, for instance, that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, or that most motor vehicles now run on gasoline. Nothing about my agency — about what I can do — can alter such facts. This suggests that unavoidability is misapplied when it concerns aspects of a person's own agency.

But notice that in the Consequence Argument unavoidability or power necessity trades between a context in which the notion is appropriately applied, and one in which, according to Slote, it is not. In the Consequence Argument, the first premise cites considerations that have nothing to do with a person's agency — facts prior to her birth, and the laws of nature. It is claimed that these facts are unavoidable for a person, but from this a conclusion is drawn that the very actions a person performs are unavoidable for her.

And this, Slote and other compatibilists such as Dennett, a; McKay and Johnson, have suggested, is to draw incompatibilist conclusions illicitly from reasonable claims regarding unavoidability. Suppose that one compatibilist reply or another proves that the Consequence Argument is unsound. It would merely mean that one argument for the incompatibility of determinism and regulative control is untenable. But that is consistent with the incompatibility of determinism and regulative control. Some argue for this incompatibility without relying upon the assumptions at work in the Consequence Argument Fischer, ; and Ginet, , Furthermore, even if the compatibilist were in a position to discredit all current arguments for the incompatibility of determinism and regulative control, some might argue that she would, nevertheless, still need a positive argument demonstrating the compatibility of determinism and regulative control.

Otherwise, so the objection might go, she would still face the intuitive conflict between a Garden of Forking Paths model of control and the claim of determinism.


This conflict is encapsulated in the second premise of the Classical Incompatibilist Argument: If determinism is true, no one can do otherwise than she does see section 2. Hence, it might be contended, supposing the Consequence Argument is defeated, compatibilists wishing to defend regulative control such as Bernard Berofsky, , , ; Joseph Campbell, ; Dana Nelkin, ; and Kadhri Vihvelin, still have their work cut out for them.

Recently several compatibilists have set out to do the hard work of giving a positive account of regulative control e. Smith, ; and Vihvelin, , A first hurdle these compatibilists must overcome is to show how their view is an improvement over the conditional analysis of ability to do otherwise made use of by the classical compatibilists see section 3.

Recall the case of Danielle and her inability to pick up the blond puppy due to a pathological aversion to blond dogs section 3. Her aversion made it so that she was unable even to want to touch a blond haired dog. Yet it was true that if she wanted to, she would have. The analysis, however, had it that she was free to pick it up, and so the analysis failed. According to Kadri Vihvelin, the classical compatibilists made one right move, and then a wrong one , pp.

The right move was to account for pertinent agential abilities in terms of dispositions. The wrong move, Vihvelin argues, was then to analyze dispositions in terms of simple counterfactual conditionals, which were then readily open to the sorts of counterexamples adumbrated here. Given that dispositions are demonstrably compatible with determinism, what is needed, Vihvelin contends, is a more nuanced appeal to dispositions. Both Michael Fara and Michael Smith have also argued in roughly the same manner.

Call the view these compatibilists advance, the new dispositionalism. Advancing a compatibilist thesis, Fara proposes a dispositional analysis of the ability to do otherwise. Vihvelin speaks of the ability to do otherwise and especially choose otherwise in terms of a bundle of dispositions , p. For Fara, Vihvelin, and Smith, we assess claims about the disposition constitutive of the ability to do otherwise, or the dispositions in the bundle, or the possibilities in the raft, by attending to the intrinsic properties of an agent in virtue of which she acts when she tries Fara, , p.

How so? Fara does not say, though it seems likely he would agree to something like the proposals offered by Vihvelin and Smith. According to them, we hold fixed the relevant causal base or underlying structure of an agent's disposition to, say, wave hello to a friend, or tell the truth under interrogation, and we consider various counterfactual conditions in which that causal base or underlying structure operates unimpaired.

Does the agent in an appropriately rich range of such counterfactual conditions wave hello or tell the truth? If she does, then even if in the actual world she does not wave hello or tell the truth, she was able to do so. She had at the time of action the pertinent agential abilities or capacities.

And this is true even if that world is determined see, e. Because there is no basis for contending that when we test the relevant dispositions at other possible worlds, we have to restrict the worlds to ones in which we hold fixed the past and the laws. Note how the problems with the classical compatibilists' counterfactual analysis are circumvented. If we are attending to the causal base of the relevant dispositions, we can easily see how Danielle's relevant causal base is ill-equipped for picking up blond haired dogs. How does the new dispositionalism fare? Do we have here a compelling positive account of the ability—and so the freedom—to do otherwise that is compatible with determinism?

One slippery matter has to do with the way the relevant worlds are identified in the preceding paragraph. We have to restrict our attention to possible worlds in which the causal base of, or underlying structure for, the ability operates unimpaired. Some will claim that this restriction is not dialectically innocent. Consider a Frankfurt example section 4.

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Suppose Jones freely shoots Smith, but if he were about to do otherwise, Black would cause Jones to do so against his Jones's will. When Jones shoots Smith on his own, he does so freely and is morally responsible, despite the fact that, due to Black's presence, he was not free to do otherwise.

Fara , pp. They say Jones could have done otherwise, was able to do otherwise, and was free to do otherwise when he shot Smith on his own. Roughly, because if we fix on the underlying causal structure implicated in Smith's shooting Jones on his own, and if we go only to other worlds in which that causal structure operates unimpeded, we will rule out worlds in which the counterfactual intervener Black is at play.

Then we will be able to specify a range of true counterfactuals in which an agent had some reason, for instance, to do otherwise, and she did otherwise. The delicate question here, one which I will not attempt to resolve, is whether in accounting for the freedom to do otherwise the new dispositionalists are entitled to restrict attention only to worlds in which the relevant casual base operates unimpeded.

But in doing so, they only mean to explain the nature of the freedom or control exhibited in how the agent did act—that is, her guidance control.

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In striking contrast to how the new dispositionalists reason, they do not think they are thereby entitled to claim that an agent in a Frankfurt example is free to do otherwise. So it is possible that what the new dispositionalists have identified with the pertinent counterfactuals they fix upon is not the freedom to do otherwise, but instead, a freedom located in what an agent does do which is a matter of guidance control, not regulative control.

This, at least, is how compatibilists like Fischer and Ravizza would reason. Perhaps the most widely recognized form of contemporary compatibilism is Harry Frankfurt's hierarchical mesh theory More precisely, Frankfurt explains freely willed action in terms of actions that issue from desires that suitably mesh with hierarchically ordered elements of a person's psychology. The key idea is that a person who acts of her own free will acts from desires that are nested within more encompassing elements of her self.

Hence, Frankfurt develops a Source model of control to explain how it is that, when a freely willing agent acts, her actions emanate from her rather than from something foreign. Frankfurt distinguishes between first-order and second-order desires.

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  • This serves as the basis for his hierarchical account. The former desires have as their objects actions, such as eating a slice of cheesecake, taking in a movie, or gyrating one's hips to the sweet sounds of B. The latter are desires about desires. Amongst the first-order desires that a person has, some are ones that do not move her to action, such as one's unsatisfied desire to say to her boss what she knows that she should not.

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    Other first-order desires, however, do move a person to action, such as one's satisfied desire to follow through on her boss's request. Frankfurt also distinguishes between different sorts of second-order desires. Some are merely desires to have first-order desires, but not that those first-order desires would comprise her will. Frankfurt uses the example of a psychotherapist who wishes to experience a desire for narcotics so as to understand a patient better. The therapist has no wish that this desire be effective in leading her to action , pp.

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    She wants to know what it is like to feel the craving for the drug; she has no wish to take it. On the other hand, other second-order desires that a person has are desires for effective first-order desires, desires that would comprise her will, and would thereby be effective in moving her all the way to action. For instance, the dieter who is constantly frustrated by her sugar cravings might desire a more effective desire for health, one that would be more effective in guiding her eating habits than it often is.

    Turner's Thesis

    These second-order desires Frankfurt calls second-order volitions.

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    does criticism of the turner thesis seem valid Does criticism of the turner thesis seem valid
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    does criticism of the turner thesis seem valid Does criticism of the turner thesis seem valid

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