Workshop on Scepticism, Dualism, and Illusionism: Themes On Smilansky

Department of Philosophy
Lund University
LUX Building, Room B538
6th October, 2017
10:00-12:00 Saul Smilansky (University of Haifa) - "Rethinking Illusionism"
14:00-16:00 Gregg Caruso (SUNY/Aberdeen) "Free Will Skepticism and Criminal Behavior: The Public Health-Quarantine Model"
7th October, 2017
10:00-12:00 Gunnar Björnsson (Stockholm University/GLRP) - "Responsibility, Blame, and Illusions of Undermined Responsibility"
14:00-16:00 Paul Russell (UBC/GLRP) - "Responsibility, Illusion and Metaphysical Attitudes"
16:30-18:30 Matt Talbert (West Virginia University) - "Attributionism's Half-Hearted Blame Skepticism"
Gunnar Björnsson: Responsibility, blame, and illusions of undermined responsibility
Notably, attributions of responsibility, blame, and credit in various domains of skill seem relatively untouched by worries about determinism or luck. In this talk, I suggest that we should be no more worried in the moral domain. In the first part, I sketch a general account of non-moral attributions of responsibility, characterizing their form, function, and correctness conditions. In the second part, I explain how this account extends to corresponding attributions of moral responsibility, and how basic differences in the subject matter between domains explain differences between moral and other sorts of blame. In the third part, I further explain how this account can explain why skeptical worries about responsibility are particularly likely to arise in the moral domain. In the fourth, finally, I provide reasons to think that intuitions driving such skeptical worries are best seen as conceptual illusions.
Gregg Caruso: Free Will Skepticism and Criminal Behavior: The Public Health-Quarantine Model
In recent years, a number of contemporary philosophers have advanced and defended versions of free will skepticism. These philosophers maintains that what we do, and the way we are, is ultimately the result of factors beyond our control and that because of this we are never morally responsible for our actions in the basic desert sense—the sense that would make us truly deserving of praise and blame, punishment and reward. Critics fear that adopting such a view would have dire consequences for society, morality, meaning, and the law. One of the most frequently voiced criticisms of free will skepticism is that it is unable to adequately deal with criminal behavior and that the responses it would permit as justified are insufficient for acceptable social policy. This concern is fueled by two factors. The first is that one of the most prominent justifications for punishing criminals, retributivism, is incompatible with free will skepticism. The second concern is that alternative justifications that are not ruled out by the skeptical view per se face significant independent moral objections. In this talk I will argue that these fears are overblown and that life without free will is not only possible but also preferable. After briefly sketching my arguments in favor of free will skepticism, I will discuss some recent work in moral and political psychology that points to the potential dark side of belief in free will. I will then conclude by introducing and defending my non-retributive approach to criminal behavior, which I call the public health-quarantine model. I will argue that the model not only provides a framework for justifying the incapacitation of dangerous criminals but is also more humane than retributivism, preferable to other non-retributive alternatives, and more systematic and holistic in its approach to addressing criminal behavior.
Saul Smilansky: Rethinking Illusionism
Nearly thirty years ago I began arguing for Illusionism on free will, the view that illusion is central and in many ways positive in the free will context. The false belief in libertarian free will, in particular is, I argued, likely to be a 'positive illusion'. In my talk I will attempt to review the issue after a generation. I will go over the basic arguments for Illusionism, map some varieties of Illusionism, and explore some of my more recent thoughts. Towards the end I will reflect on why Illusionism has not found more support in the debate.
Matt Talbert: Attributionism's Half-Hearted Blame Skepticism
On the attributionist theory of moral responsibility, we are open to blame when actions, omissions, beliefs, or attitudes are attributable to us in such a way that they reflect morally objectionable judgments on our part about the reasons we have for action, for belief formation, or for feeling a certain way. This paper begins with a discussion of the grounds on which attributionists reject arguments in favor of skepticism about moral responsibility. The attributionist’s basic point in this context is that these skeptical arguments give us no reason to suppose that our actions (etc.) regularly fail to be attributable to us in the sense of expressing our normative commitments, which the attributionist takes to be sufficient for blameworthiness. Thus, attributionism rejects global skepticism about moral responsibility, and rightly so, on my view. However, it seems to me that attributionists should embrace a more limited form of (epistemic and substantive) skepticism about blameworthiness. I shall argue that in many instances of garden-variety wrongdoing it is not possible to confidently attribute to the wrongdoer the types of judgments and attitudes that ground moral blame on the attributionist’s account. Yet common moral practice often regards the wrongdoers I have in mind as blameworthy. Thus, the paper concludes with some speculation as to why common moral practice yields erroneous judgments in these cases.
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