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Thanks Gregg, a typically well-organized, well-delivered and on target presentation, if you ask me. Re determinism, I find I'm not affronted by it (as is Honderich, at least a little apparently) since I don't see how being an exception to it could add to my power, control or life hopes. So I share your optimism in this and other respects. Moreover, it seems to me sheer egoism to want, or think one has, the sort of control derived from what Honderich calls origination. That kind of "standing" really needs to be let go of.

Thanks Tom! Much appreciated.

Some of the arguable negative consequences of determinism can be found described in (from p.26):

Resurrecting the Causal Theory of the Excuses
Anders Kaye

Given the prevalence of religious beliefs in the world, and the importance attached to them, that side of things is presumably worth considering. What impact would a deterministic view have on religion? e.g. wouldn't the free will defence require a strong conception of free will? Will it create a problem to directly attribute all human moral evil to God? There are some avowedly deterministic believers; but the goodness of such a deity is quite controversial when it comes to the question of human sin and divine punishment for it.

Not everyone would worry about such things, but religion is hardly a minor thing in the world and so if determinism is maybe going to be a wrecking ball through various religious worldviews it isn't a small detail.

It believe it's being suggested, not merely that retributive punishment wouldn't make sense without free will, (I could agree with that), but rather something like, "It's a good thing with positive consequences if we can get rid of it anyway".

And to me it looks like the free will skeptic position is a far darker thing. If you are going to punish someone, then I think ideally they should deserve it. Someone commits a crime. They are responsible. They deserve punishment. You give them the punishment they deserve. That all seems fine and moral enough. It's maybe unfortunate that we have moral wickedness in the world, but I don't see the problem with punishing people in that case.

If, however, we are going to take people that carried out a crime--but we don't think they are genuinely responsible because of our view on free will--and we punish them anyway for the good of society as a deterrent to others, then how is that not a dark and terrible thing? It may be that we have to do it, because the practical consequences for society are too important; but it seems little different to the punishment of the innocent and it appears to use people that have already been unlucky in what the universe has dealt them.

We can perhaps give up the language and idea of "punishment" and speak instead of detaining them for public safety; but again, if people are ultimately innocent and you are locking them up I can't see that this picture of the world should be considered a happy one as compared to just normally treating people as moral agents who can deserve punishment and blame. Treating people as moral agents seems to me to go in the direction of treating them in a "humanizing" way, as compared to the dehumanization of treating someone as a wild animal that needs to be contained or a thing to be punished for the good of society in general. I also doubt that detaining people for public safety can be a complete answer to crime. I suspect we would need to use additional measures and that basically means we would be back to punishments.

You could throw in the idea that you are also trying, where possible, to rehabilitate for the good of the offender themselves. That makes it more humane. But retributive punishment, although quite distinct from rehabilitation, is however perfectly compatible with rehabilitation i.e. "Now we have you locked up to punish you we also think it's good if we can possibly reform you". So both positions could support rehabilitation.


I think it's widely agreed (and correctly) that the Free Will Defence in theodicy requires an incompatibilist, libertarian account of free will. So yes, a lot of religious views are in trouble under determinism. But you don't need determinism: compatibilism will also doom the free will defense. And in my view, compatibilism is more probable than determinism (obviously, both could be true, but the probability of the inclusive disjunction still comes more from the compatibilism side).

In the long run, I see a change in religious views away from the Free Will Defense as a good thing. There may be a rough road to travel between people's current theology and a more enlightened view - but luckily, only a few percent of the population is likely to be in that rough spot at any one time.


I doubt that the truth of compatibilism would be a problem for the free will defence; or at least it depends on exactly what you mean. The mere fact of some version of freedom being compatible with determinism wouldn't be enough to undermine it. Of course "compatibilist freedom" is not really the same concept of free will as many others would use. So it would depend on whether you can have a stronger version of free will, that is both coherent and also has some value above and beyond what you would get with compatibilist freedom. In that case, a deity could ignore compatibilist freedom even if it's true in some sense.

I'm not 100% sure what you are thinking of by a "more enlightened view"; but if you mean switching to a different type of religion, well determinist religion is often at the worst end of the spectrum. It's Calvinist style predestination that would be the known thing in the Western world anyway. Determinism (or mostly determinism with some trivial randomness thrown in) would be undermining many of the more (relatively) liberal versions of religion.


You're right of course that if we actually have both compatibilist freedom and an additional incompatibilist kind that "has some value above and beyond", then the Free Will Defense stands. But the "actually have both" is important. A mere logical possibility isn't good enough, just as a mere logical possibility that determinism could be false (and who wouldn't grant that?) wouldn't help the FWD if in the actual world determinism is true. So in this context, please take "compatibilism" in my comments above to mean "compatibilism about all the types of freedom that we actually have."

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