Section 3.1: Freedom as Chance


Is HD right? Let's return to their shortened argument:

1*. CD is true
2*. If CD is true, then there is no free will (FW).
3*. There is no FW.
4*. If (3*) is true, then no one can be held responsible for what they do.
5*. (3*) is true.
6*. So, no one can be held responsible for what they do.

According to this argument, there are only two ways in which we could argue against HD. We can either reject (1*), or we can reject (2*). Obviously, since HDs are incompatibilists, they will not reject (2*). So the only thing left to do, to reject HD, is to reject (1*). But can we? Is causal determinism true?

There are two main arguments against (1*), one from Kant and one from Quantum Mechanics.

The argument from Kant is simple. Kant, writing in the late 1700s, suggested that our minds are constructed in such a way that if we experience something, it must, to be intelligible to us, obey deterministic laws. Kant's suggestion here is not that the world does obey such laws, but rather that we have no choice but to interpret the world in that way. This, of course, leaves open the interesting possibility that the world is not the way it appears to us. So the fact that it looks deterministic doesn't mean that it is.

The second, and more damaging, argument against (1*) comes from quantum physics. According to QM, the world is "divided" into two spheres -- the microscopic and the macroscopic. The microscopic is the world at the level of fundamental particles like quarks or perhaps atoms and molecules. The macroscopic world is the world of familiar objects like tables and chairs.

According to QM theory, CD is false of the microscopic world, as it suggests that fundamental particles act in ways that do not obey deterministic laws of physics. Some behavior of such particles is random, or happens "by chance." If QM is right, then the world does not really unfold like falling dominoes at all. In fact, in certain situations we Laplace's Demon would have no idea what will happen next, since some of the events will occur by chance.

There have been two replies to the QM "challenge" to CD and its connection to FW.

Reply #1: Application of QM Commits the Fallacy of Composition

Composition errors occur when we assume that because the parts P of a whole W have some property X, then W must also have X. Obviously, while this is sometimes true, it is not always true. So to assume it must follow is composition.

Here, in this case, the error goes this way:

1. Quarks compose everything in the macroscopic world
2. Quarks have the property of sometimes acting randomly.
3. So, things in the macroscopic world sometimes act randomly.

Schick and Vaughn counter this argument with the "Bombadier" TE, where events at the microscopic world will inevitably (in the TE) produce an effect that will also occur in the macroscopic world.

Reply #2: Macroscopic Indeterminacy Cannot Secure Control

Let's assume that the Bombadier TE does in fact show that QM indeterminacy can affect the macroscopic world. Even if it could, how would this help with the problem the HD has identified? The most immediate problem is this: random action almost certainly seems to imply meaningless action. Taylor's "Unpredictable Arm" TE is meant to illustrate this, by drawing a distinction between intentional action and reflex action. Reflex actions, we typically think, are out of our control. Intentional action is the kind of self-directed action that we want free will to apply to. So if I lift my leg because I wanted it to raise, then this is an intentional action. If my leg raises because a doctor hits me on the knee with a hammer, it did not raise because I wanted it to. It raised as a reflex.

Now the challenge becomes: how can a desire or volition that is randomly occuring be one that gives us control or free will? It seems that by definition intentional action cannot be random action. This is because

1. An intention that is randomly caused seems to appear "out of nowhere" and so wouldn't give me control, though it would make my action unpredictable.
2. An intention that randomly causes an action would not seem to make sense (and would be meaningless). So, if I formed the intention to buy a soda, but this intention randomly caused me to start jumping up and down, my behavior would not be under my control in any meaningful sense.

Is there any way for the LT to escape these objections? Schick and Vaughn do not develop this further, and leave LT dead in its tracks. Instead, I will present the most recent theory to attempt to solve this dilemma.