Here’s the latest in my series of increasingly dangerous concessions to Strawson-style compatibilism.
Assume (plausibly) that theories of moral responsibility hinge on our all-things-considered intuitions or judgments about the proper conditions for deserving blame, praise, punishment and reward.Now imagine a person, call him Jack, who finds hard incompatibilist arguments intuitively compelling all things considered, and therefore accepts that no one can be morally responsible for their behavior. (He even publishes a couple of articles defending that view.) But then Jack thinks of a scenario in which someone deliberately, willfully harms his daughter.The offender in the imagined scenario meets all normal compatibilist conditions, but not the incompatibilist conditions that Jack believes are necessary for desert.
Were this scenario to occur, Jack would feel that the offender deserved to suffer for the act— he would feel this more strongly than just about anything else. In fact, he thinks it would be obscene of him to apply incompatibilist principles to this case, to worry about whether the guy was causa sui, or whether the factors that trace back beyond his control led him to harm his daughter. If someone said "but what about the TNR principle?" he would say “F*ck the TNR Principle!” More importantly, even now, just imagining the scenario, Jack believes that this is the right or appropriate response—that it would be wrong not to feel this way. Lastly, Jack realizes that he wouldn’t feel that response to be appropriate if the offender didn't meet certain basic compatibilist conditions.If the man was completely crazy, or manipulated into performing the act, he doesn’t think that it's wrong not to feel retributive towards that person. (He might feel retributive anyway, but now, upon reflection, he sees that as more irrational.)
Now Jack is fully aware of his incompatibilist commitments.He finds the four-case argument and the basic argument no less compelling.He is also aware that his retributive attitude in this case has deep psychological roots that trace back to his evolutionary history, kin selection etc. But he doesn’t care. He still thinks it would be deeply inappropriate to favor his incompatibilist intuitions over the intuition that the guy who harmed his daughter deserves to suffer for that crime. And he cannot see why the same reasoning shouldn’t apply to other people’s daughters (and relatives, friends etc.) as well.Since intuitions are the ultimate arbiters for theories of responsibility, and the force of this latter intuition is greater that the intuitions that favors incompatibilist principles, does Jack has reason to rethink his all-things-considered rejection of compatibilism?