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Do Deep Self Views Provide An Adequate Account Of Free Will And Moral Responsibility?

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Do "Deep Self Views" provide an adequate conception of free will and moral responsibility?

Incompatibilists claim that causal determinism and human free will are mutually exclusive. If determinism obtains, then every event is inevitable. Incompatibilists conclude that all human actions are unavoidable and therefore there is no free will or moral responsibility. Compatibilists deny that there is a conflict between determinism and free will. Intuitively, is seems sound to suppose that alternate possibilities are necessary for free will and moral responsibility. If a person "could not have done otherwise" then surely he cannot be free or morally responsible. Compatibilists argue against this incompatibilist intuition. It is litigious as to whether they succeed, though this is not the focus of this paper. Compatibilists must also provide the debate with an adequate alternate account of free will and moral responsibility that is not threatened by determinism.

Traditional compatibilist arguments of philosophers like Hobbes fail to present a sufficient testimony of free will. The majority of the newly developed compatibilist accounts of free will and moral responsibility are either based upon theories of "hierarchical motivation", as pioneered by Harry Frankfurt, or written in opposition to them. Ð''According to hierarchical theorists like Frankfurt, classical compatibilism is deficient because it gives us only a theory of freedom of action (being able to do what we will), but not a theory of freedom of will (being able to will what we will, so to speak).' Wolf refers to the account of Frankfurt and similar compatibilist arguments as "Deep Self Views" because they assert that a person has free will when he is acting from his deep or true self. The distinction between the various brands of Deep Self Views is how each philosopher chooses to define a person's true self. This paper will demonstrate the failure of Deep Self Views to provide an adequate account of free will and moral responsibility; not only do they encounter numerous objections to the practical application of the theories, but they fail to placate the suspicions people have about the dichotomy between moral responsibility and determinism. In order to establish these deficiencies it is necessary to illustrate the consistent limitations of several variations of the Deep Self theme. Although it is clear that Deep Self Views are an improvement for compatibilist theories of free will, they are ultimately unsuccessful.

Although Frankfurt never explicitly wrote from the compatibilist perspective, his model of free will provided the foundations for many who do. He aimed to create a conception of free will that would be Ð''neutral with regard to the problem of determinism.' In his seminal paper "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" Frankfurt highlights the distinction between freedom of action and freedom of will. Crucially, to be free an agent must have the ability to be self-reflective. A creature who lacks this ability is a "wanton". A wanton has no interest in which of his desires are effective in prompting him to act. Whilst a wanton may rationalize between different inclinations, he lacks the capability to truly reflect upon them. A "person", the opposite of a wanton, has the ability to be evaluative about his desires. The division is clear: Ð''when a person acts, the desire by which he is motivated is either the will he wants or the will he wants to be without. When a wanton acts, it is neither.'

Frankfurt illustrates a distinction between first-order and second-order desires. First-order desires are basic urges to act in a certain way or to have a particular commodity. These are experienced by persons and wantons alike. Second-order volitions are a person's reflections on the desires that motivate him to act, and are elemental in being a person in Frankfurt's terms. For example, let us suppose that Anuj is experiencing conflicting first-order desires concerning whether or not to commit tax evasion; he wants commit the crime, but he also wants to refrain from committing it. Yet, Anuj also wants a particular one of these conflicting desires to be effective, and not simply the one that creates the strongest urge within him. As a person, Anuj is reflective about his desires: he has the second-order volition never to break the law. This evaluative desire represents Anuj's deep self. The theory states that a person is free if he is capable of keeping his actions consistent with his deep self. Therefore, if Anuj acts in accordance with his second-order volition, he refrains from committing tax evasion, then he is free.

Frankfurt's theory maintains that unfree people may have freedom of action. However, they cannot be held morally responsible for their actions because they lack freedom of the will. They are unable to control the desires which motivate them to act. Ð''It is in securing the conformity of his will to his second-order volitions, then, that a person exercises freedom of the will.' Frankfurt argues that it is a person's ability to act upon their own self-reflection about their desires (second-order volitions) that grounds ascriptions of moral responsibility. In this way, Frankfurt has improved on the classical compatibilist theories of free will because he accounts for our intuitions concerning the lack of freedom of people suffering from compulsive disorders like kleptomania or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Furthermore, a person does not need to have freedom of action to be morally responsible. Even if it is impossible for a person to act in any other way, if the action is in accordance with his second-order volitions then he is still morally responsible. Frankfurt's theory requires that a person is free and responsible when his actions conform to the first-order desire that his second-order volitions support. However, it is not required that any of these desires or volitions be undetermined. As long as a person has the will that he wants to have, and is capable of actualising it, then he is free and morally responsible regardless of whether his higher-order volition for that will is determined or not.

Frankfurt's theory of hierarchical motivation was a groundbreaking improvement for the proponents of compatibilism in the 1970s because it recognises the need to account for freedom of the will but allows for the possibility of determinism. Frankfurt's theory aims to create a model of free will that is acceptable to incompatibilists and is not threatened by the possibility that determinism obtains. However the theory is met with several practical objections.

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