I think you might find reading this worthwhile: http://www.believermag.com/issues/200303/?read=interview_strawson
Quotations are from the article.
From the introduction of the interview with Galen Strawson:
Imagine for a moment that instead of Timothy McVeigh destroying the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, it had been a mouse. Suppose this mouse got into the wiring of the electrical system, tangled the circuits and caused a big fire, killing all those inside. Now think of the victims’ families. There would, of course, still be enormous grief and suffering, but there would be one significant difference: There would no resentment, no consuming anger, no hatred, no need to see the perpetrator punished (even if the mouse somehow got out of the building) in order to experience “closure.” Why the difference? Because McVeigh, we think, committed this terrible act out of his own free will. He chose to do it, and he could have chosen not to. McVeigh, then, is morally responsible for the death of the victims in a way that the mouse would not be. And our sense of justice demands that he pay for this crime.
Well, there is a big difference between a mouse and a human: a human normally understands the moral rules of our society. We expect from him to conform to these rules. So to say the least, we will act differently with the mouse as with McVeigh. The capability to evaluate reasons to act, which McVeigh had (I assume) constitute what ‘we compatibilists’ call ‘free will’.
THE BELIEVER: You start out your book Freedom and Belief by saying that there is no such thing as free will. What exactly do you mean by free will?
GALEN STRAWSON: I mean what nearly everyone means. Almost all human beings believe that they are free to choose what to do in such a way that they can be truly, genuinely responsible for their actions in the strongest possible sense—responsible period, responsible without any qualification, responsible sans phrase, responsible tout court, absolutely, radically, buck-stoppingly responsible; ultimately responsible, in a word—and so ultimately morally responsible when moral matters are at issue. Free will is the thing you have to have if you’re going to be responsible in this all-or-nothing way. That’s what I mean by free will. That’s what I think we haven’t got and can’t have.
Right. He denies the existence of libertarian free will. I fully agree. Shouldn’t we tell everyone that this concept is a non-starter?
(1) You do what you do—in the circumstances in which you find yourself—because of the way you are. (2) So if you’re going to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you’re going to have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are—at least in certain mental respects. (3) But you can’t be ultimately responsible for the way you are (for the reasons just given). (4) So you can’t be ultimately responsible for what you do.
Great. Again against ultimate responsibility, the all time companion of libertarian free will.
BLVR: And the illusion that he and others were morally responsible for their actions?
GS: Yes, but I just want to stress the word “ultimate” before “moral responsibility.” Because there’s a clear, weaker, everyday sense of “morally responsible” in which you and I and millions of other people are thoroughly morally responsible people.
Aha, the companion of compatibilist free will exists!
Strawson even goes further than I would do when he discusses evil:
People in themselves aren’t evil, there’s no such thing as moral evil in that sense, but evil exists, great evil, and people can be carriers of great evil. You might reply, Look, if they’re carriers of evil they just are evil, face the facts. But I would have to say that your response is in the end superficial. After all, we don’t call natural disasters evil.
And then Strawson continues stressing compatibilist conceptions of free will and responsibility:
The old rule, older than the Old Testament, that says “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” is almost universally misunderstood. It’s not an intrinsically vengeful idea. It was intended as a counsel of restraint, of moderation in retaliation. Take an eye for an eye, it says, but no more. Measure for measure. No escalation.
An then Strawson even puts his ideas on firm Buddhist ground!
I like what the psychologist Eleanor Rosch says in a talk she gave in San Francisco last August called “What Buddhist Meditation has to Tell Psychology About the Mind.” At one point she was discussing the Buddhist doctrine of the endlessly ramifying interdependence of everything, and observed that “an understanding of [this] interdependence has clinical significance. It can provide people who suffer from guilt, depression, or anxiety with a vision of themselves as part of an interdependent network in which they need neither blame themselves nor feel powerless.
Yes, we are caused, but we ourselves are also causes, and there morality and responsibility come into play.
Now very interesting, the interviewer comes with my ‘free will pet’:
[P F Strawson] claims that when you adopt the objective attitude towards another human being, you lose some essential features of interpersonal relationships. You’ll start to see this person as an object of social policy, a subject for “treatment”—some Orwellian scenarios come to mind—but you can no longer see them fully as a person. But if we’re going to accept the belief that there is no free will, no DMR, it seems we’ll have to take the objective attitude towards all people, including those closest to us. Are the implications of this as cold and bleak as your father suggests?
In his answer Strawson makes an error, shifting the meaning of the word ‘objective’:
GS: No, I don’t think so. I disagree that regularly taking the objective attitude to someone means giving up on treating them fully as a person. In fact I think it’s essential to the closest human relations. I think that it is rather a beautiful capability that we have. It is deeply involved in compassion and love. I don’t think love is blind. I think love sees all the faults and doesn’t mind.
This is funny, for somebody who (or at least his father) stands in the tradition of philosophy of language. ‘Seeing as an object’, is not the same as ‘taking a neutral standpoint’, which is the meaning of ‘objective’ as Strawson uses it.
And now comes exactly the point I am making all the time in all the free will metastacis in this forum:
Suppose you arrive at a shop on the evening of a national holiday, intending to buy a cake with your last ten-dollar note to supplement the preparations you’ve already made. Everything is closing down. There’s one cake left in the shop; it costs ten dollars. On the steps of the shop someone is shaking an Oxfam tin—or someone is begging, someone who is clearly in distress. You stop, and it seems quite clear to you—it surely is quite clear to you—that it is entirely up to you what you do next—in such a way that you will have DMR for what you do, whatever you do. The situation is in fact utterly clear: You can put the money in the tin (or give it to the beggar) or you can go in and buy the cake. You’re not only completely, radically free to choose in this situation. You’re not free not to choose. That’s how it feels. You’re condemned to freedom, in Sartre’s phrase.
(Italics by me. Sorry Doug, Sarte is French… :red: )
This is the experience that, all other factors staying the same, that what will happen next depends on me only. That is an empirical experience. But I do not have the experience that I could have chosen differently, that is the libertarian chimera of free will.
And then he shows even his spiritual side:
The Indian mystical thinker Krishnamurti reports that the experience of radical choice simply fades away when you advance spiritually: “You do not choose,” he says, “You do not decide, when you see things very clearly . . . Only the unintelligent mind exercises choice in life’. A spiritually advanced or “truly intelligent mind simply cannot have choice,” because it “can … only choose the path of truth.” “Only the unintelligent mind has free will”—by which he means experience of radical free will.
To be short: If I had everything so nice on files as Strawson (and my English would be better), I could have given the interview, just with this one exception: I would not deny free will in general as he seems to say on the surface, but clearly deny libertarian free will.
And literary he is right here:
And the great Dutch philosopher Spinoza extends the point to God. God cannot, he says, “be said…to act from freedom of the will.” In which case he cannot think or feel that he does so, because he is after all omniscient.
But it does not quite breath what Spinoza wants to say (in my humble opinion):
That thing is called free, which exists solely by the necessity of its own nature, and of which the action is determined by itself alone. On the other hand, that thing is necessary, or rather constrained, which is determined by something external to itself to a fixed and definite method of existence or action.
Appendix of Chapter 1:
In the foregoing I have explained the nature and properties of God. I have shown that he necessarily exists, that he is one: that he is, and acts solely by the necessity of his own nature; that he is the free cause of all things, and how he is so; that all things are in God, and so depend on him, that without him they could neither exist nor be conceived; lastly, that all things are pre-determined by God, not through his free will or absolute fiat, but from the very nature of God or infinite power.
From the Ethica.