Thanks for your thoughtful reaction.
I do agree that compatibilism does create a new set of rules, specifically with regard to our legal system.
New set of rules? I don’t think so. Compatibilism gets rid of ‘ultimate responsibility’, so if a legal system still sees some people as really evil, and therefore deserve to suffer, yes, then you are right. For the rest however, I think our legal system (at least as it is in Western Europe, and probably Canada) does not need any reformation. Society shows that it abhors of certain actions, but also aims at reintegrating criminals.
We do find people guilty all the time and compatibilism is clearly the best way to explain why we do it.
But, that doesn’t mean it accurately describes the true nature of our universe. I guess it depends on how much of a reductionist one is.
Well, I am a reductionist. But not a naive, or vulgar reductionist. Atoms are simple objects with simple causal (and partially non-causal) relationships, they can build up to molecules that can have complexer relations with their environment, molecules to cells that can replicate (which atoms never can!), molecules to organisms. On every level behaviour becomes more complex, and the objects have more possible relationships with the environment. On the other side, of course they can never override the causal relationships that their constituents have. So there definitely is no room for LFW: it would override the causal relationships of our constituents. (This is the point I think where you and VYAZMA suspect me of introducing some magic in the system. I don’t.)
It does seem like reasoning allows us to choose from a number of options, but it would be wrong to assume we could have done otherwise.
But we have options! But the options, as I wrote before, are from the perspective of the ‘reasoning system’. It is true that what this system will do is fixed, but the reasoning can only be about the possible options, the different ways a system can go from the situation where it is in. If not, what is reasoning then? What is reasoned about, when not about the possible options?
Take Stephen’s chess computer: say black stands mate. There are three possible moves which bring him out of mate. So these are three options. It depends on the evaluation of the subroutines what move the computer will do. But of course it is determined what the computer will do. But that does not mean that there are not three options! And if the move turns out to be a bad one, we can say ‘it could have done otherwise’, meaning ‘there was another, better option’.
It is also illustrative what are not options: e.g. to move the king from one side of the board to the other side. That is against the ‘physics of the chess universe’.
Same with us. For example, I only have 10 minutes to catch a train. My options are to take a bus or a taxi. I evaluate the advantages of both (the cost, the risk that the bus comes late, etc. etc.) and then I choose for one. I take the bus and I come too late. The train is gone. Then it is perfect legitimate to say ‘I could have taken a taxi’, because it was an option. Even if it was determined that I would take the bus.
Contrast this again with another ‘option’: run as fast as possible. A simple calculation shows that I should run 10 km in 10 minutes, so 60km/h. This is not possible, so this is not an option. It is against the real physics of our universe (or biology if you want).
So there is a perfectly logical use of options in a determined universe. We should just not fall in the pit of thinking that these options are real options in the meaning that under exactly the same circumstances (same body, same brain state, same taxis and buses etc) I could have done otherwise. When the starting conditions are the same, exactly the same will happen. There will be the same options (bus or taxi) and my brain will come to the same conclusion. There lies the chimera of LFW.
PS Just discovered that on the same web site that I linked above is a great article about free will. If my English would have been better I could have written it…