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09/23/2015

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Sounds plausible enough to me!

Back at the inaugural SPA meeting (I think it was the inaugural meeting, anyway), I gave a talk about just this question. And, I think I drew on some crowd-sourced feedback from folks on the blog at the time. Alas, the links seem to be all dead at this stage. Anyway, a draft of those remarks can be found here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/kvmlgcfzrdsvlw2/After%20the%20Free%20Will%20Renaissance.pdf?dl=0

The talk is more polemical than I'd put it now, but the idea that the terrain is shifting in unpredictable ways right now still seems to me to be right.

I think its extremely likely that scepticism will be more prevalent. Much of it will be ill-motivated, but it won't be the first time that people have accepted the right conclusion for the wrong reasons.

Here's my predictions:

1. You will see much more research on constitutive luck, the executive self, and the deep self. Research by people like G. Strawson (the Godfather), Neil Levy, Kristin Demetriou, Chandra Spirada (from the compatibilist perspective), and Nichols & Knobe (from the experimental side) will become far more important.

1A. Philosophers will start to integrate arguments about constitutive luck in the area of free will with parallel arguments in political philosophy (i.e., Rawls' Veil of Ignorance).

1B. You will see more research integrating arguments about constitutive luck with scientific research on the feeling or sensation of "authorship" or self-ownership. Galen Strawson mentions this research in a recent op-ed "I Am Not A Story."

1C. You will see more research on how people use the normative concept of "goodness" to define the true self, per the earlier research by Knobe and others (as I recall). This proves to be a key feature in both (A) framing the question of constitutive luck and (B) defining more progressive and humane criminal justice systems based on updated views of freedom and responsibility. Compatibilists and others will question whether we *should* use the concept of goodness to define the true self, even if people seem to do so instinctively.

B. You will see science slowly encroaching on a macro-deterministic view of the brain in terms of neurons firing analogous to transistors. Quantum fluctuations will slowly be ruled out as relevant to agency. Professors in law schools and psychology departments will embrace this view without necessarily having much expertise in earlier philosophy.

C. Philosophical libertarianism (and its bedfellow religion) will recede back farther in the U.S.

D. Skeptics like will grow slightly in proportion (compensating in part for receding libertarianism). More importantly, they will integrate their arguments around a centralized Argument, which will be a more sophisticated form of the Basic Argument. A key feature of this argument will concede that free will, so characterized, is incoherent and logically impossible, because self-creation is impossible. The headliner Pereboom will eventually concede this or be seen as a curious outlier.

E. Compatibilists will focus their ammunition on arguments that the concept of constitutive luck appears to make sense on the surface, but actually is nonsense and cannot survive scrutiny. These arguments will be surprisingly powerful.

F. The ability to transform ourselves, and recreate ourselves, through more and more powerful technology (virtual reality, genetic engineering, robot bodies, brain augmentation, super-pharmaceuticals) will bring questions about free will and constitutive luck to the forefront. They will seem more salient and important than previously, when we were basically stuck with ourselves, the way we were born. We will realize that (A) we can radically change ourselves and (B) we will only change ourselves in the ways that our original, given selves would do, creating a concept of brittleness of tainted-ness.

G. Concepts of no-responsibility, weakened responsibility, decriminalization, and medicalization will become more politically popular, regardless of developments in academia. The spread of modern liberalism and nonjudgmentalism will eventually embrace deterministic, skeptical, and weak compatibilist views of behaviors that result in less punishment, more forgiveness, and more rehabilitation. Some local or state governments will start experimenting with Pereboomian quarantines as replacements for jails and prisons. Some of these ventures will prove to be premature and result in criminal backlashes.

H. There will be less interest in the question of whether a particular labeled term, like "free will," exists. Instead, scientists, and increasingly philosophers, will start to agree that (A) some things exist and some things don't and (B) what we label those things is not terribly important. A vocal minority will persist on focusing on the accurate use of the labels, mostly to feed their egos.

The future of free will 10 years from now will be primarily dependent on what neuroscience is able to prove – that’s my best guess.

If neuroscience is able to show that our thoughts are emergent entities which are caused by (but not solely determined by) complex neural-waves (vs. our thoughts exist from a direct add of lower level neural activity), and neuroscience combines that discovery with the argument that based upon personal experience, it’s reasonable to believe that our thoughts interact with one another (i.e., our thoughts exert real control), then we may find ourselves in totally new territory. In other words, during the next ten years, science may realize that our thoughts are a form of life (along with the realization that life is fundamentally indeterministic in nature), and our thoughts exert new emergent forces which affect the path forward, thereby being the source of our ambitious free will.

Here is the version of skepticism I expect to be defending in 2025: A kind of skepticism driven by folk incompatibilism. Here are the nuts and bolts of the view. Most people are incompatibilists, dualists, and indeteterminists (data collected and analysis forthcoming). Work in social psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence weaken these views--what I call the threat of shrinking agency. This is a view that will slowly creep into the ordinary view. Regardless of whether more philosophers are skeptical about free will, more lay persons will be skeptical by the time 2025 rolls around. This is partly an anthropological view and partly a philosophical view. By 2025, we will have ten years of data (between now and then) that will show whether or not I am right. If not, I will abandon the view! If so, Eddy (and other folk compatibilists) will abandon their view.

I predict most of our predictions will turn out to be inaccurate. But it will be fun to have a time capsule (10 years is nothing, though, so I predict few big changes, just as there haven't been many big changes in the last 10; I wish we were aiming for 30 years or something).

First, I agree with much of what Kip says, especially F, G, and H. Drawing on H, we will better recognize that to the extent that dualist, libertarian views suffuse our MR concepts (as Thomas says, still an open question), these views are icing and not cake. ("Earth" being defined as the center of the universe is icing not cake, which is why we were not eliminativists about "Earth" post-Copernicus; same with "life" post-vitalism, and for that matter, "meaning" and "morality" post-God.) Hence, the compatibilist/revisionist/eliminativist combination will scrape off that icing, define the scientifically-amenable targets more precisely, and scientists and philosophers can study the degree to which we actually have our cake (of self-knowledge, self-control, rational planning, imaginative capacities, etc.), what threatens it (other than universal threats to non-existent icing), who has how much of it and who doesn't, and what might enhance it. But 10 years is not enough for the science to figure out much of this most complicated cake yet, much less how to improve it, and it's not enough time for the legal system to change much either. Philosophers can lead the way, however.

These developments will not, I predict, eliminate (among philosophers or folk or our moral and legal practices) notions of desert or retributive justice/punishment. Hopefully, we'll get clearer on these notions, though.

Oops, it looks like I'm following the trend of predicting my own hopes. So, I hope my first prediction is inaccurate.

Personally, I'm inclined to think that the majority of (at least) the most prominent defenders of FW skepticism, agent causation, or any other view, will probably still defend their view in 2025 (even if the specific details of their theories will be modified in response to objections), as long as they're still working 10 years from now (and a good percentage of them will be).

I also predict that someone in the free will debates will, in the next 10 years, refer to this: http://freewillbrewing.com/

I dare not make predictions, but here are some areas/topics I believe will be at the forefront of the debate:

-The role of reference in the free will debate. Shaun Nichols has done some great work in this area and I have argued for a more eliminativist take (Phil Studies 2015), but I believe this debate is an important one.

-Empirical work on folk compatibilist/incompatilism will continue to be important but this will only highlight how significant the debate over reference really is. Lets assume Thomas is correct that folk incompatibilism and indeterminism will win the day (as I believe it will), questions over what we should conclude from this will remain. *Even* if our folk notions are erroneous there will be debate over whether we should adopt eliminativism or preservationism. (I think eliminativism will win the day but this will become the focus of a new debate.)

-The connection between consciousness and FW/MR will remain at the forefront of the debate. Are Neil and I correct in defending the consciousness thesis? Does work in psychology and social psychology on automaticity, situationism, and implicit bias restrict the realm of morally responsible action? Are real self and control based accounts of MR committed to something like the consciousness thesis? Etc.

-As free will skepticism continues to grow (a prediction I second), debates on its implications will continue to grow in importance. More focus will also be given to retributivism and its alternatives. (Hopefully ten years from now everyone has given up retributivism and adopted my public health-quarantine model but that is unlikely ;)

-More good work will have been done on the phenomenology of free agency.

Skepticism will take a firmer hold on the field in both FW and MR forms, especially among younger philosophers, but especially MR skeptics will need a partner to deal with the real world, and pragmatism will extend a willing, if not exactly free willing, hand.

Since most people here seem to be on roughly same page (skepticism about FW will be in ascendance, libertarianism on further decline), I can't help it...The holographic principle will be verified (our universe is a hologram), predictions of gauge lattice quantum chromodynamics will be verified (space-time is constructed on a computational grid, qua computer simulation), quantum wave-function violations will be observed in human brains (indicating libertarianism FW in a higher reference-frame), all of which leads us to realize the truth: we're living in a videogame. Not that I have any dog in this fight. ;)

Angra said it. FWIW: I don't think Libertarianism will decline. It will continue to be a minority position, to be sure, but it will continue to receive support. In fact, I bet in the next few years, we'll several very good monographs defending libertarianism.

Angra is surely right that folks will keep defending their views and this fact always provides a degree of stability to a literature. Still, literatures do tend to shift their emphases over time, and what is perceived as more and less important to resolve definitely changes even if some folks keep grinding away at the same project for decades.

Like most folks on this thread, I'm drawn to predicting that my preoccupations will become yours, and to acknowledging that my predictions are probably mostly worthless. Still, I do think that the place to look for future interests of a field is in the preoccupations of younger folks in the field (alas, a group of which I am hardly a member of any more).

Anyway, here's a prediction: the literatures on free will and moral responsibility will grow further apart. Folks worried about moral responsibility will focus more and more on normative issues, and the features of agency required to sustain responsibility practices will look like they are less centrally bound up in the kinds of issues folks have worried about in the context of free will. Relatedly, I suspect the free will literature moves towards formulations that are less entwined with concerns about moral responsibility. So, a focus on whether beliefs about ourselves under deliberation are true, maybe the phenomenology of agency, and the idea that we are causal origins will become increasingly central to characterizations of the stakes in debates about free will.

If that's right, it might provide an interesting sort of accommodation for skeptical views—i.e., there will be less "cost" to skepticism about free will, making it more palatable to folks, but (to many) also making it less interesting of a view.

Although neither might agree with them, these thoughts are, I take it, potentially compatible with both what Al White says, and with Thomas' prediction about the prominence of folk-conceptual incompatibilism. Indeed, it might turn out that moral responsibility is another area where normative preoccupations gain a certain degree of recognizable separation from folk thinking.

Manuel, if I am still defending my view 10 years from now, you my permission to slap me hard. Its not that I think I'll change my mind. Rather, I fervently hope I will have something new to say about something different.

Neil,

Sorry to step in, but I realize I may not have been clear before, so I'd like to clarify that I didn't mean to suggest that most philosophers who defend a view probably will not come up with new, interesting ideas, or that they will continue to dedicate the same amount of time and/or effort to the defense of the views they are defending presently.

Rather, I meant to focus on the - in my assessment - stability of philosophical views, in the context of Al's suggestions in the OP, in particular (3), (4) and (6), and to a lesser extent (5) and (2).

Oh my. I thought everyone would recognize that my statement of my "first thoughts" was a joke. I certainly found it amusing.

Well Al at least *this* Al got it! Right from (1). . .

But I must admit this has been an interesting exercise. But that's a pretty intimidating chapter to write! But maybe push out the prediction window to 2030--a year after Kurzweil's says machines will become our intelligence overlords, and the very year he says we'll incorporate AI into our own heads. FW scholars will have a lot--or maybe nothing--to say about all that!

Sorry, my bad.

I'll venture to semi-contradict Manuel on the disappearance of the Consequence Argument into what he calls the Event Horizon, which is a gradual fade-out. I predict something closer to what happens at a real, physical event horizon: a violent burst of visible light and X-ray energy from matter accelerating into oblivion. Because physics.

No, seriously and literally: because physics. Some really smart physicists (http://preposterousuniverse.com/eternitytohere/) have recently explained why time and causation "flow" in one direction locally, but not necessarily globally. And some really smart philosophers have picked up on this (http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/2225/1/CausalPerspectivalism.pdf , http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/#DetHumAct , http://www.jenanni.com/published-papers#Decision%20and%20the%20Open%20Future , http://www.jenanni.com/published-papers#Causation,%20Free%20Will,%20and%20Naturalism). And before another decade passes, I expect that it will become impossible to ignore. The "fixity of the past" won't be a thing of the past then, but the visible photons of its death spiral will shine.

Sorry, forgot how bad the parsing is. A parenthesis got in there. Corrected website links:

http://preposterousuniverse.com/eternitytohere/

http://www.jenanni.com/published-papers#Causation,%20Free%20Will,%20and%20Naturalism

Thanks to everyone for all the useful feedback!

Hello, Dr. Mele. Good to see you around these parts again! How is your new Templeton project going?

http://philosophyandscienceofself-control.com/

I was enormously pleased to hear that you were heading this. You did such great work with the Big Questions in Free Will Project! I check the Web site for the current project from time to time. The recent grant announcements are quite interesting. One of the studies that caught my eye was this one:

Efficient intentions: How control-beliefs shape self-control ◾Marcel Brass, Davide Rigoni, and Mario De Caro

I'm familiar with Marcel Brass, and I don't recall his being a part of your last project. But he did have quite an interesting study years ago that looked at Libet's Free Won't and the idea of a conscious veto. His partner in the study was Dr. Simone Kuehn. Interestingly enough, she and Patrick Haggard just completed another study in the past few years on the whole idea of Free Won't. Just wondering, will either of these two folks be part of your new project? And what about Peter Tse? Does he have any role? Thanks!

Hi Jeff,

All the funds for the integrated science / philosophy part of the project have been allocated. The project page is up to date on that. We're reviewing letters of intent now for the second round of philosophy awards. Thanks for your kind words and your interest in the self-control project.

Philosophy appeared unable to create clarity and consensus about free will over the last 2000 years. It seems humorous to me, to ask philosophers about the change on this item in within the coming 10 years. A better question might be, will philosophe within 10 years find the courage and ability to discuss the grounds of its incapability in this. However, I fear to read the answer in 2025.

I think, real change has to come from young philosophers who have the guts to discuss the feeble aspects of their science in this, to transform these into new strength. Philosophers wo have the capacity to conjoin hand-on with the outside world of psychology, sociology, neuroscience, biology etc. As I read some of the Flickers of Freedom comments they may be there already. We meet again in 2025.

OK. Thanks, Dr. Mele. I'll be sure to keep regular tabs on your project. What I've seen of it so far has been pretty exciting and interesting stuff! And thanks again for all your great work.

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