Skip to navigation – Site map

The compatibilist fallacy

Jaap Hage
p. 97-118

Abstract

Some believe that humans lack a free will, that free will is a necessary condition for responsibility and that therefore humans cannot be responsible for their doings. Others, so-called ‘compatibilists’, believe that humans can be, and normally are, responsible for what they do and in support of this belief they assume that free will is not necessary for responsibility. This article argues that compatibilists are right in their claim that responsibility is compatible with the absence of free will, but wrong in assuming that compatibility can be founded on our social practice. This assumption would involve the ‘compatibilist fallacy’. The argument is based on the starting point that there are two fundamentally different ways of looking at humans as agents and their acts. The ‘phenomenological’ view starts from the way in which people subjectively experience their acts, including their own role as agents who perform these acts. The ‘realist’ view starts from the facts as they can be established by the sciences, facts which are assumed to be independent of our knowledge of them or the way we experience them. The main message is that these two views are hard to combine, but that a separation is not well possible.

Top of page

Excerpt

In open access from November 2018.

Outline

1 Introduction
2 The realist view
3 The phenomenological approach
4 The paradox of determinism
4.1 Determinism
4.2 Determinism and the mind
4.3 If determinism is irrelevant
4.4 The dilemma
5 Compatibilism
6 Dworkin’s argument
6.1 Causal control and capacity control
6.2 Interpretation
6.3 The naturalist fallacy
7 The capacity approach
7.1 What is a capacity?
7.2 Possible worlds and constraints
7.3 The relativity of capacity
7.4 Concerning the capacity approach
8 Conclusion

First lines

1 Introduction

There is an issue with free will and responsibility. Some believe that humans lack free will and that free will is a necessary condition for responsibility. The conclusion they validly draw from these two premises is that humans cannot be responsible for their doings. Others believe that humans can be – and normally are – responsible for what they do, and in support of this belief they either assume that humans do have the free will necessary for responsibility, or that free will is not necessary for responsibility. The latter are called ‘compatibilists’, because they assume that responsibility is compatible with a lack of free will.

The main conclusion of this article is that compatibilists are right and wrong at the same time. They are right in their claim that responsibility is compatible with the absence of free will, but they are wrong to assume that compatibility can be founded on our social practices. Their assumption involves the naturalistic fallacy, and the ...

Top of page

References

Bibliographical reference

Jaap Hage, « The compatibilist fallacy », Revus, 32 | 2017, 97-118.

Electronic reference

Jaap Hage, « The compatibilist fallacy », Revus [Online], 32 | 2017, Online since 01 November 2018, connection on 21 September 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/revus/3861 ; DOI : 10.4000/revus.3861

Top of page

About the author

Jaap Hage

Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Maastricht

E-mail: jaap.hage@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Top of page

Copyright

All rights reserved

Top of page
  • OpenEdition Journals