Incompatibilist Arguments and Compatibilist Rebuttals

  • Wai-sing FOOK (Speaker)

Activity: Talks or PresentationsOther Invited Talks or Presentations


The issue concerning the compatibility between free will and determinism has long been a hotly debated topic in philosophy. The debate matters because free will is believed to be intimately related to moral responsibility. My research aims at providing a rough picture of the landscape of one philosophical position on this debate... incompatibilism. Incompatibilism is the doctrine that suggests free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism. A major part of this thesis is a critical survey of three of the most influential (types of) arguments for incompatibilism; they are the Consequence Argument, the Transfer of Non- responsibility Argument, and the Manipulation Argument. Compatibilist rebuttals that have been proposed for dealing satisfactorily with these incompatibilist arguments are thoroughly examined. After sufficiently outlining the core rationale behind these incompatibilist arguments and the rebuttals to them, I argue that the Consequence Argument is the most tenable argument that incompatibilists should rely on since it illuminates the incompatibilist intuitions best, and that the genuine debate always hangs on the relation between determinism and alternate possibilities since the shortcut a generation of Frankfurt-influenced compatibilists attempt to make actually never exists. In the end, I switch to briefly discuss the Significance Question (i.e. Why do we, or should we, desire to have a kind of freedom that is incompatible with determinism?). I explain why the Significance Question in the free will debate is not just a factual or conceptual issue, but a value issue as well, and how the bottom-line disagreements between compatibilists and incompatibilists reflect differences about value, about what is or is not important. In light of this, I conclude that faithful compatibilists are seldom persuaded to climb over the fence to incompatibilism.
Period14 Apr 2023
Held atDepartment of Philosophy