UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Agentive experience compatibilism Deery, Oisin


Libertarians, who think that freedom is incompatible with determinism and we are free, claim that their view is descriptively right about how we view ourselves as agents who are free to do otherwise. Much of what compatibilists, who think that freedom is compatible with determinism, have written in recent years about the freedom to do otherwise has consisted in attempts to deflate these sorts of libertarian claims. Philosophers on each side thereby make claims about the nature of our experience and beliefs. These are empirical claims, which can be illuminated by empirical methods. In experiments that I ran with Matt Bedke and Shaun Nichols, our participants described their experience of being free to do otherwise as incompatibilist across a range of conditions. Compatibilists may dismiss these results by insisting that people are mistaken in their introspective judgments. Or they might insist that people only seem to have incompatibilist beliefs about freedom and determinism; in fact, these beliefs are about the compatibility of freedom and fatalism. I argue that both these compatibilist claims are false, at least in the forms that they currently take. Instead, I argue that compatibilists should concede that people's experience and beliefs are in part libertarian, but can still be accurate if determinism is true. First, I assume that experiences of being free to do otherwise have phenomenal content that is inaccurate if determinism is true, just as libertarians claim. Then I argue that such experiences also have phenomenal content that is accurate if determinism is true. So an experience with libertarian content can be accurate under determinism. Second, I argue that implicitly libertarian beliefs can be accurate, even assuming determinism. Only when one makes an explicit incompatibility judgment is one's belief false. Thus, implicitly libertarian beliefs are not incompatibilist. My view does not provide a full compatibilist theory of the ability to do otherwise. Still, on my view our experiences and beliefs concerning such freedom are consistent with determinism. My view also explains any temptation we may feel to judge our experience and beliefs as inconsistent with determinism.

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