Lectures with Helen Beebee and Michael McKenna

Two additional video recorded lectures from the Gothenburg Responsibility Conference 2016 has now been published. Watch the keynote lectures by Professor Helen Beebee (University of Manchester) and Professor Michael McKenna (University of Arizona) from August 25th and August 26th.

Leeway and Sourcehood

In recent years, incompatibilists have increasingly backed away from thinking of the ability to do otherwise as the requirement on acting freely that justifies incompatibilism. Correspondingly, source incompatibilism, according to which it is lack of causal determination rather than the existence of alternative possibilities (APs) that imposes the requirement of indeterminism on acting freely. The perceived failure of viable responses to Frankfurt that justify some kind of AP requirement on acting freely has been largely responsible for this shift amongst incompatibilists. Beebee argues that this is a mistake: there are viable incompatibilist responses to Frankfurt available that preserve the idea that APs are central to acting freely.

Watch Professor Helen Beebee's talk "Leeway and Sourcehood" here.

Basic Desert, Blame and Free Will

A familiar claim in the free will debate is that the freedom in dispute between compatibilists and incompatibilists is the type required for an agent to deserve blame for moral wrongdoing. More precisely, it is the type required for an agent to deserve blame in a basic sense of desert. In this sense, the ground for a claim of desert does not flow from some more fundamental normative considerations, such as those pertaining to consequentialist or contractualist principles; the claim of deserved blame is normatively basic. In other recent work, Conversation and Responsibility (2012), McKenna articulated a conception of blame. Drawing upon that conception, McKenna argued for a basic desert thesis for blameworthiness. In what follows, McKenna shall build upon his earlier work by responding to a criticism of it. He advances a basic desert thesis for blame by reference to a distinctive sort of noninstrumental good—one that involves harming a blameworthy wrongdoer. Nevertheless, the noninstrumental good upon which McKenna relies is not an intrinsic good; it’s an extrinsic one. There is a worry that the good McKenna identifies is really a variety of a consequentialist good, and so is, despite his contention, not merely an extrinsic but also an instrumentalist good that depends upon some more basic normative considerations. If so, his account fails as one promising a basic desert thesis. In this paper, McKenna respond to this challenge. Finally, McKenna shall consider whether the free will debate is as intimately tied to the notion of basic desert as many seem to suppose. He does not think it is. While McKenna's proposal for a basic desert thesis for blame is available to those working on the free will problem, as he sees it, the relevance of what is at stake regarding the freedom of the will survives even if no basic desert thesis does. There are other candidate normative grounds for the aptness of blame, such as fairness, that might credibly give rise to traditional philosophical worries about free will.

Watch Professor Michael McKenna's talk "Basic Desert, Blame and Free Will" here.

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