Mackie: Mumford and Anjum on Incompatibilism, Powers, and Determinism

A summary of Mackie, Penelope. “Mumford and Anjum on incompatibilism, powers, and determinism.” Analysis 74.4 (2014): 593 – 603. A reply to Mumford and Anjum (2014). Recovered from an old comment I’ve posted elsewhere.


Recall the core argument in Mumford and Anjum (2014):

  1. If causal determinism obtains, then all events are necessitated.
  2. If all events are necessitated, then there are no powers.
  3. Free will consists in the exercise of an agent’s powers.

Therefore, if causal determinism obtains, then there is no free will.

Mackie focuses her attention on the defense of (2) from the “Possibility of Interference,” arguing that not only do Mumford and Anjum fail to adequately defend (2), but in addition that what they say elsewhere seems to incompatible with it. Recall that Mumford and Anjum object to (2) on the grounds of their account of dispositional modality, which rests between strict necessity and pure contingency, to the effect that causes themselves never necessitate their effects, an argument they tie to the ever-present possibility of interference, as discussed above. Mackie is puzzled by this move from the possibility of interference to the incompatibility of necessitation with powers, since they allow elsewhere for a result to be necessitated even if not by its causes simpliciter – in effect, they seemed to accept before that causal determinism and powers were compatible. It’s worth quoting both passages Mackie cites here, in full:

Dispositionality is thus never a source of the necessity of something in the world, even if it exists alongside it. In the deterministic case, for instance, where it is necessary that Fa, that is not because there was a disposition towards it. What delivers the necessity in claim B is that, somehow, everything got fixed. That will include the fixedness of all the background conditions –including which dispositions do, and which do not, act to produce the necessitated outcome – but it was not those powers that necessitated that outcome.

Mumford, Stephen and Rani Lill Anjum. Getting Causes from Powers. Oxford: OUP, 2011. pp. 178-179.

Given what has been said about B, therefore, claim D should not be read as saying that necessity and dispositionality are incompatible absolutely. Rather, it needs to be read as disposing towards F is never the necessitating of F, even if F is for some other reason, necessitated.

Mumford, Stephen and Rani Lill Anjum. Getting Causes from Powers. Oxford: OUP, 2011. p. 179.

(For background context, these citations come from chapter 8, where Mumford and Anjum develop their account of dispositional modality. Claim B is that if a has a disposition to F, then it is non-necessary that a F’s and D is the contrapositive, such that if it is necessary that a F’s, then a does not have a disposition to F)

Is there then a reason to hold that a powers-based view of causation cannot accommodate causal determinism – that is, to uphold (2)?

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Franklin: Powers, Necessity, and Determinism

A summary of Franklin, Christopher Evan. “Powers, Necessity, and Determinism.” Thought 3.3 (2014): 225-229. A reply to Mumford and Anjum (2014). Recovered from an old comment I’ve posted elsewhere.


Recall the core argument in Mumford and Anjum (2014):

  1. If causal determinism obtains, then all events are necessitated.
  2. If all events are necessitated, then there are no powers.
  3. Free will consists in the exercise of an agent’s powers.

Therefore, if causal determinism obtains, then there is no free will.

Franklin principally charges Mumford and Anjum (2014) as to equivocating on the scope of necessitation between premise (1) and premise (2), such that there is no consistent reading in which both premises are true. With respect to the phrase, “all events are necessitated,” Franklin holds that there are two ways to understand it.

The first interpretation is such that the phrase “all events are necessitated” means that for any event E, there exists some event E* such that E* causes E and in every possible world at which E* obtains, E* causes E. In other words, every world at which the cause occurs is one where it brings about its effect.

The second interpretation is such that the phrase “all events are necessitated” means that for any event E, there exists some event E* such that E* causes E and in every possible world with the same past and laws, E* causes E. In other words, every world with the same past and laws where the cause occurs is one where it brings about its effect.

Franklin’s charge is that, per the first interpretation, (2) is true but (1) is false, and per the second intepretation, (1) is true, but (2) is false. He tackles them in reverse order.

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Mumford and Anjum: A New Argument Against Compatibilism

A summary of Mumford, Stephen and Rani Lill Anjum. “A new argument against compatibilism.” Analysis 74.1 (2014): 20-25. Recovered from an old comment I’ve posted elsewhere.


The core argument of Mumford and Anjum is that:

  1. If causal determinism obtains, then all events are necessitated.
  2. If all events are necessitated, then there are no powers.
  3. Free will consists in the exercise of an agent’s powers.

Therefore, if causal determinism obtains, then there is no free will.

They note their argument is principally aimed against philosophers who have a sympathy for a powers-based approach, with an eye towards recent powers-based compatibilistic accounts as opposed to powers-based libertarian accounts.

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The Knowability Paradox

In Frederic Fitch’s “A Logical Analysis of Some Value Concepts,” Journal of Symbolic Logic 28.2 (1963): 135 – 142, Fitch provides an argument to the effect that if every truth is knowable, then every truth is in fact known. Here is a standard presentation of the argument as seen on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Let “KT” denote the “Knowability Thesis,” that all truths are knowable. In other words,

(KT): ∀p (p → ◊Kp)

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A Rough Sketch of an Argument For Necessitarianism

Necessitarianism is the view that there are no metaphysical possibilities apart from actuality – the world could not have been a different way. Actuality, possibility, and necessity are all interchangeable and the fact that Obama became the US President in 2008 and 2012 is just as much a necessary fact as the fact that 2 + 2 = 4. The view is also sometimes known as modal fatalism or Megarian actualism.

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Quine: On What There Is

A summary of Quine, W.V.O. “On What There Is.” The Review of Metaphysics 2.5 (1948): 21 – 38.


“A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put in three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: ‘What is there?’ It can be answered, moreover, in a word – ‘Everything’ – and everyone will accept this answer as true. However, this is merely to say that there is what there is. There remains room for disagreement over cases; and so the issue has stayed alive down the centuries.” (Quine 1948: 21)

Quine seeks to diagnose the issue of ontological commitment and proceeds to view the issue through two perennial ontological debates: first, the problem of negative existentials, and secondly, the problem of universals. Quine introduces the idea of a conceptual scheme to analyze how ontological disputes arise in the first place.

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Oppy: The Best Argument Against God

A summary of Oppy, Graham. The Best Argument Against God. Palgrave Pivot, 2013. 96pp.


 

A summary of G. Oppy’s points are in standard font. My comments are in italics.

INTRODUCTION

Oppy says that while the discussion in his book suggests what he takes to be a very powerful cumulative case argument against theism, he says that he does not defend it. Comment: ???

PRELIMINARIES

Minimal Theism: God, an agent, is the source of the natural world.

Standard Theism: God, an omnipotent omniscient morally perfect agent, is the source of the natural world.

Minimal Naturalism: There are no fundamental supernatural causal properties. Causal reality is natural reality – the entire space of causes is exhausted by natural entities and processes. This entails atheism. Comment: What is the natural / supernatural distinction? Couldn’t we scientifically investigate ghosts if they exerted measurable effects on the world? One tends to get the impression that by “natural,” Oppy means “physical,” but there is an additional worry about how “physical” is supposed to be cashed out. For more on this, see recent work on panpsychism and physicalism by D. Chalmers, D. Stoljar, G. Strawson, and others.

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