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The Solution to the Problem of the Freedom of the Will Author(s): John Dupré Reviewed work(s): Source: Noûs

, Vol. 30, Supplement: Philosophical Perspectives, 10, Metaphysics, 1996 (1996), pp. 385-402 Published by: Wiley Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2216253 . Accessed: 01/03/2013 16:24
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This content downloaded on Fri, 1 Mar 2013 16:24:45 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1996 PhilosophicalPerspectives, Metaphysics, 10,


JohnDupre BirkbeckCollege, Universityof Londonand Universityof Exeter It has notoriously been supposed that the doctrine of determinism conflictswith the belief in humanfreedom. Yet it is not readilyapparent makeshumanfreedomany how indeterminism, denialof determinism, the less problematic.It has sometimesbeen suggestedthat the arrivalof quantum mechanicsshould immediatelyhave solved the problemof free will and determinism.It was proposed, perhapsmore often by scientiststhan by philosophers,that the brainwould need only to be fitted with a device for amplifying indeterministic quantumphenomenafor the bogey of determinism to be defeated. Acts of free will could then be those that were initiated by such indeterministicnudges. Recently there has been some inclinationto revive such a story as part of the fallout from the trend for chaos theory. Chaotic systems in the brain, being indefinitelysensitive to the precise details of initialconditions,seem to providefine candidatesfor of the hypotheticalamplifiers quantumevents. But this whole idea is hopeless. I need only recall that the interestin establishingfree will is not the convictionthat humansare randomaction generators, but a concern that human autonomyis inconsistentwith the possibilityof fully explaininghumanactionsin termsthat have no apparent connection with the wishes and beliefs of the human agent.' Standard causalexplanacompatibilist claimsthat humanautonomyandmechanistic tion are not mutually exclusive may or may not be defensible. But the attempt to reconcile human autonomywith the complete randomnessof humanactionsis surelyhopeless.2At firstsight it appearsthat, despitethe makes the conceptionof initialworriesabout determinism,indeterminism freedomof the will even less tenable.3 Despite the untenabilityof the ideas just mentioned, my aim in this paperwill be to show that the solutionto the problemof the freedomof the To will does lie, nevertheless,with the truthof indeterminism. see how this is so, it is necessary first to distinguish two very different grades of indeterminism. The indeterminism entailedby the commonunderstanding of quantummechanics,while it denies that the causalupshotof a situation

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386/ John Dupre is a determinatefunction of any fact about that situation,still insists that there is a complete causal truth about every situation. It is just that this truth is in the form, not of a unique outcome, but of a rangeof outcomes with specificprobabilitiesattachedto their occurrence.Thussituationsare still conceived as evolving accordingto laws, just laws of a somewhat differentkind. I shall refer to both determinism,and this brandof moderate indeterminism, versionsof the thesis of causalcompleteness.Even if as determinism false, causalcompletenessrequiresthattherebe some quanis titativelyprecise law governingthe developmentof every situation.If we maintainthe doctrineof causal completeness,then the only retreatfrom physical determinationof our actions is in the directionof more or less unreliability, hardlya desirablephilosophicalgoal. However, the indeterminismthat I wish to advocateis somethingquite different,the denial of causal completeness. I shall maintainthat few, if any, situationshave a complete causal truth to be told about them. Causalregularityis a much rarerfeatureof the worldthan is generallysupposed.And the real solution to the problem of freedom of the will, I shall argue, is to recognizethat humans,far from being putativeexceptionsto an otherwiseseamlessweb of causalconnection, are in fact dense concentrations causalpower in a of worldwhere this is in short supply. The solutionto the problemof humanautonomythat I propose, then, is a complete reversal of traditionalnon-compatibilist approaches.Such solutionshave assumedthat the non-human worldconsistsof a networkof causal connections, the links in which instantiatelawlike, exceptionless generalizations,but tried to show that humans,somehow,lie outside, or that causalorderis partiallyoutside this web.4By contrast,I am suggesting everywherepartial and incomplete. But humans,by virtue of their enormously complex but highly ordered internal structure,provide oases of order and predictability.Thus the significanceof recognizing indeterminismis not at all to show that humanactionsare unreliableor random.It is ratherto show that the causalstructure that impingeson a humanbeing, whetherexternallyfrom macroscopic causalinteraction,or internally, from constitutivemicrostructural processes,is not suchas to threatenthe natural intuition that humans are, sometimes, causally efficaciousin the world aroundthem. This picture immediatelyaccordswith some obvious empiricalfacts: amongthe most apparently orderlyfeaturesof the externalworld, such as straightroads and verticallystable edifices, not to mention complex machines, are products of human action; and among the most predictable entities in the world, as Hume, to a ratherdifferentpurpose, argued,are people. Planscan be coordinatedamongmanypeople, andcomplexhuman institutionscan function,becausehumanbehavioris to a substantial degree if reliable. All of this is quite unproblematic we see humansas sourcesof causal order ratherthan either as exceptionsto a universalexternalorder

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or as insignificantcomponents of some all-encompassing cosmic order. Thus a radicalrejectionof the traditional mechanistic assumption causal of completenessdoes indeed defuse the traditional problemof free will. I shall expand on these claimsat variouspoints in this paper. Priorto that, however, the main task of the paperwill be to renderits presuppositions plausible.In the next partof the paperI wantto arguethat determinism, specifically microphysicaldeterminism,really is a problem for an adequate account of human autonomy. Thus I reject the post-Humean compatibilismthat holds no amountof determinismto provide any difficulty for freedom of the will. In the third section, I shall argue that we have, fortunately,no reason to believe in determinism-or even causal completeness, whether microphysical any other kind. The paper will or conclude with some furtherdiscussionof how I conceive the rejectionof causal completeness to provide a way out of the traditionalproblem of free will. Else of Microphysical Determinism the CausalInefficacy Everything and entitiesundecomposable Supposethat there is some set of microscopic into any smallerconstituents,andof whichall largerentitiesare composed. Assume that all putativeentities that might appearnot to be composedof anything (numbers, abstract objects, universals, etc.) are either wholly dependentfor theirexistenceandbehavioron objectsmadeof these microscopic entities, or non-existent.Thoughthese suppositions could certainly be questioned, I believe that they would be widely accepted among the many philosopherswho think of themselvesas physicalists.Now suppose that we also have a fully deterministicaccount of the behaviorof these microscopicentities. Althoughheroicattemptshave sometimesbeen made to deny it, it seems to follow inevitablyfromthis set of assumptions the that behavior of everythingis fully determinedby the laws at the microlevel. This seems to follow immediatelyfrom the assumptionthat objects at higher levels are composed entirely and exhaustivelyof the microscopic it objects. For, given the assumptionof determinism, is true of every individual microscopicobject that its behavioris fully determinedby the laws governingmicroscopic objects. And surelyif the behaviorof everyconstituent of a thing is determined,so is the behaviorof that thing. This point can be made more graphicby thinkingof a constituentof a humanbeing, say an electron in my finger.I might be inclinedto explain the movementof that electronby saying,for example,that I was reaching for a glass of water, and my hand broughtthe electron along with it. But clearlythis explanationis going to have to be consistent,at the very least, laws actingon the elecwith the explanationin terms of the microphysical tron. If we now consider the same condition applyingto all the various electrons and suchlikein my arm, it would appearthat only cosmiccoinci-

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388/ John Dupre dence or some kind of dependenceof the higherlevel on the processesat The the lower level could insurethis overallcompatibility. bold concludeat this point that eitherthe higherlevel phenomenaarereducible,in the sense of derivable,fromthe lower level phenomena,or they cannotreallyexist at The more cautiousfall backon claimsof supervenience, all (eliminativists). with a modest retithough as far as I can tell this is merely reductionism cence about the capacityof humansto carryit out. At any rate, none of level.5 these positionsallowsany genuineautonomyto the higherstructural The importanceof emphasizingthe concept of causal completeness is alteredin the ratherthan merelydeterminism that nothingis significantly to precedingargumentby moving from a deterministic an indeterministic but complete systemof laws at the microlevel.Given my intentionto drink from the glass of water in front of me, the probabilitythat the electron referredto in the precedingparagraph move in a certaindirectionis will very high. Again there must be some parallelexplanationat the microlevel that also attributesa similarhigh probabilityto such a move. And again, when we aggregateall the particlesthat compose my arm, some explanation is requiredof the apparentlyextraordinary coincidencebetween the phenomenaat the two levels. My general point is just that causal completenessat the microlevel appearsto entail reductionism,at the very least in the sense of the superAnd even supervenience, venienceof everythingelse on the microphysical. I claim, is sufficientto deny any real causal autonomyto higherstructural levels. The alternativepictureI would like to advocatedenies causalcompletenessat any level. Objectsat many,probablyall, levels of the structural hierarchyhave causalpowers. One of the reasonswhy these causalpowers is are never displayedin universallaws (deterministic probabilistic) that or exercise of objects at other levels often interfere with the characteristic these powers.f I take it that the exampleof the electronin my handis best seen as such a case.7If that is right,then the behaviorof microlevelobjects is very frequentlyconsequentialon processesat higherstructural levels. As a simple example in the opposite direction, a person'splans can be seriously impeded by a dose of radiation. Elsewhere I have also advocated structural levels againstthe essentialism ontologicalpluralismat particular that tries to insist on a uniquelyprivilegedpositionfor one set of kinds.My present claim is that the same ontological tolerance should be accorded wholesthey between structural levels. As objects are unitedinto integrated acquirenew causalproperties(perhapsthat is exactlywhatit is for a whole to be-more or less-integrated). I see no reason why these higherlevel wholes should not have causalpropertiesjust as real as those of the lower But level wholes out of whichthey are constructed. of coursemanyphilosophershave seen manysuch reasons, all grounded,I suggest,in the conceptual nexus that links determinism(or at least causal completeness) and reductionism.I believe that both of these doctrinesare inherentlyimplausi-

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ble, but because the formeris more widely,or at least explicitly,believed, and becauseit is moreclosely andtraditionally associatedwiththe question of human freedom, in this paper I shall focus exclusivelyon causal completeness. To this, the centraltask of this paper,I shall now turn.8 CausalIncompleteness The thesis of this section of the paper is that there is no plausible I groundfor the belief in determinism. shall addressmost of the argument to the doctrineof determinism,but I intendthat everything say will apply I equally to indeterministic versionsof causalcompletenessunless I explicitly differentiatethe two cases. Later in the paper I shall say something about how I conceive of causalrealityin the absenceof the assumptionof causalcompleteness.The basicstrategyof my argument be as follows. will Presumablydeterminismis a very strong metaphysicalassumption. To claim that everythingthat happenedhad to happen, given the totality of priorconditions,is to impose an enormouslystrong-indeed the strongest possible-restriction on the possible evolution of the universe.And even the claimthat the state of the universeat any time fully determinesa set of objective probabilitiesfor its subsequentstate is a strong assumption.My point is then that such strong assumptionsrequire persuasivereasons if they are to have any plausibility.I do not take seriously the idea that determinismmightbe establishedby means of a transcendental argument of some kind, simplybecause, as I shall explainbelow, an indeterministic, causallyincomplete, world seems to me entirelypossible. Thus my queswith the tion will be whetherthere is any basis in our empiricalinteraction world for supposingthat it is causallycomplete. My answerwill be in the negative. There are two main kinds of experiencethat might be held to legitiwith scientificlaws mate a belief in determinism.These are our familiarity and our everydaycausalexperience.An important specialcase of the latter is our experience of highly organized systems, especially machines and organisms.I shall deal with these topics in turn, but reservingthe special cases of machinesand organismsto a separatesection. First, then, do the resultsof scientificinvestigationlend supportto the idea that the world is or deterministic, at any rate causallycomplete?Here I mustfirstdisposeof an importantred herring. It is often claimed that science must assume determinismas a methodologicalimperative.The idea is that it would be sheer defeatism, when confrontedwith a phenomenonanomalousin the light of currentbelief, to assumethat this was simplya phenomenonoutside the causal nexus. We naturallyand correctlyattemptto broadenour of understanding the rangeof phenomenain questionso as to remove the of appearance anomaly.But that, it is claimed,is to assumethatthe anomalous phenomenonis in fact part of a uniformand complete causal nexus.

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390/ John Dupre Thus it mightbe suggested(and this is the non sequitur)that science must assume determinism;and then perhaps,that the successesof science prodeterminof vide evidence that the presuppositions science, in particular ism, mustbe true. But of courseto say that scienceaimsto explainphenomena does not entail that all phenomenacan be fully explained.And to say successeshardlyimpliesthat everythat science has had some explanatory universal thingthat happenscan be fullyexplainedas partof an underlying regularity. So do the actualresultsof scientificresearchprovidemore directeviThe most compellingsuch results,for the reasons dence for determinism? spelled out in the precedingsection, wouldbe those thatprovidedevidence for casualcompletenessat the microlevel.But clearlythere is no such evidence. Althoughcertainvery specializedphenomenain extremelycarefully controlled conditions do exhibit some impressiveregularities,this is the lateron, the fact entireextentof suchevidence.(As shouldbecomeapparent that these regularitiesare produced in extremely elaborate machinesdesignedfor the very purposeof producingthese machinespainstakingly regularities-is of great significance.)Evidence for causal completeness complexsystemsof physicalparticlescould would requirethat increasingly be shown to be amenableto causalexplanationin termsof the laws said to govern individualparticles, evidence, that is to say, for general reductionism. I cannot here go into the general difficultiesthat confront the But projectof reductionism. I do not need to do so. No one hasclaimedto be able to explain the behavioreven of very small collectionsof particlesin the even of relatively particles; reduction termsof the behaviorof individual simple parts of chemistryto physics is now looked on with considerable skepticism;and even physicsitself is acknowledgedto consist of laws the of relationsbetweenwhichareobscure,thoughat leastthe unification physgoal. At anyrate, ics is still looked upon by some physicistsas an attainable the view that every physicalparticlehas its behaviorfully determinedby it laws microphysical mustderiveanyplausibility hasfromsome sourceother than the developmentof microphysics.9 determinismmust be motivated, It appears then that microphysical in somewhatparadoxically view of the connectionsbetween determinism level. But beforeturnand reductionism,by experienceat the macroscopic we ing to our everydayexperienceof causalregularities mightconsiderthe possibility that microphysicaldeterminismcould be motivated by our laws. The obvious candidates,since they reknowledgeof macrophysical of main the most widely admiredparadigm scientificknowledge,would be the laws of Newtonianmechanics.But here we encounterexactlythe same difficultythat we saw at the microlevel.Whereasscientistshave been able to subsumevery simplesystemssuchas the solarsystemunderimpressively reliableregularities,the abilityto applyNewtonianlaws to more complex systems has proved severely limited. The notorious failure to solve the

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three-, let alone N-, body problem marks this failure. Thus we have no empiricalevidencefor the generaltruthof Newtonianmechanicsas applied to complexsystemsof bodiesunlesswe are prepared countenanceinducto tions groundedon one kind of case (verysimplesystems)to all cases, most of which are very differentfrom those empiricallystudied. Moreover,to reiterate a point emphasizedby Nancy Cartwright (1983), we know that laws such as those of Newtonian mechanicsare true only under a very stringentceteris Paribus condition, a condition we know to be generally false. Thus, far fromknowingthat these laws are universally true, we know that they are generallyfalse. The assumptionthat the laws of Newtonian mechanicsare, in some sense, carryingon regardlessunderthe overlayof increasingly manyinterferingandcounteracting forcesis sheerspeculation. Thusthis can hardlybe a good empirical groundfor the allegeduniversality of microphysical laws.10 The other common idea, mentioned above, is that determinismis evident from our everydayexperienceof causality.This assumption be can seen in classical regularitytheories of causality from David Hume to outsidethe Hume appearedto take determinism J.S.MillandJ.L.Mackie.11 human sphere to be so obvious as not to need much discussion.He was more concernedto show, with well-knownexamplessuch as the sure and of swift appropriation a purse of gold abandonedat CharingCross, that humanswere subject to regularitiesjust as immutableas those governing the naturalworld. Mill was a good deal more sensitiveto the complexities of regularitiesof the latter kind, realizingthat the regularities common of experiencecould easily enough be defeatedby eitherthe absenceof necessary backgroundor auxiliaryconditions,or by the presenceof interfering conditions.Thus a lightedmatchthrownonto a pile of drystrawwill always start a fire-unless, that is, there is no oxygen, or a fire extinguisheris simultaneouslydirected at the straw, etc. While thus acknowledging the complexityof everyday causal regularities,Mill appearsto have thought that with sufficientcare to includeall the relevantauxiliary conditionsand exclude all possible blockingconditions,a trulyuniversalregularitycould be discovered. This idea reached its most sophisticatedexpressionwith Mackie'sanalysisof an everydaycause as an insufficient non-redundant but condition.The partof an unnecessarybut sufficientcondition,or an "inus" sufficientconditionin this analysisis the cause with all the auxiliary conditions and the negationof possibleinterfering conditions.The non-necessity of such conditions points to Mackie's additionalrecognitionthat there might be many such complex sufficientconditionsof which none, therefore, wouldbe necessary(a bolt of lightningmightequallywell have ignited the pile of straw). Many objections can be raised against this picture, at least if it is assumedthat it intendsone to take seriouslythe universality the implied of laws ratherthan merely to illuminatethe relationsbetween miscellaneous

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392/ John Dupre items of causallore. One may well doubt, to begin with, whetherthere is any definitelimit beyond humanimaginationto the numberof conditions that we mightneed to addto producea fullyuniversal generalization. More seriously,the more conditionsare added, the furtherthese putativeregularities recede from any possibilityof empiricalsupportor refutation.Indeed the reason we are forced to move from simple regularities(e.g. lightedmatchescause firesin flammable materials)to increasingly complex and qualifiedregularities simplybecausewe recognizethe generalfalsity is of the simplerones. But as we move to such ever more complexregularities, first, the amountof evidence even bearingon the truthof the regularity will rapidly decline; and second, in keeping with the process that brought us the complex regularityin the first place, were we to find an exceptionto the complexregularity wouldpresumably we respondby looking for a furtherinterferingconditionratherthan by rejectionof the entire regularity. This suggeststhat the Mill/Mackie program mightbetterbe seen as embodyinga methodologicalratherthan a metaphysical conceptionof determinism. A second kind of objectioncastsdoubton the empirical basisof everyday causaldeterminism froma ratherdifferentperspective.Manyeveryday phenomenagive no superficialappearanceof being deterministic even or nearly deterministic.Consider,for example, a tossed coin. Now it is often deterministicphenomenon, and the asserted that this is a fundamentally only reason we are unable to predict the outcome is that we have an insufficientlyprecise knowledge of the initial conditions. It is much less it clear why this is asserted.Presumably mustbe becausethe kindsof laws involvedin such a process(mainlyNewtonian)are assumedto be deterministic. But I have alreadyconsideredthe weaknessof that line of thought. The present case, since it is one in whichwe cannotin fact make any such predictions,providesfurthersupportfor the argument againstbasingdeterminismon macroscopic scientificlaws. At anyrate, the thesisthat everyday causalexperience,suitablyrefinedin the style of Mill andMackie,provides groundsfor the belief in determinism,simplyignoresthe fact that a great deal of our experience, whether of gamblingdevices such as tossed coins and roulette wheels, or just of seeminglyquite erraticnaturalphenomena such as fallingleaves or swirlingsmoke, providesno such grounds. The finalargumentI shall mentionis perhapsthe mosttelling. It is that if there is causalindeterminism anywhere,it will surelybe (almost)everywhere. Suppose, as is sometimesratherbizarrelysuggested,that the only locus of indeterminismis in quantummechanics.But surely-and here phenomena such as hypothetical quantum amplifiersin the brain have genuine significance-it must be impossibleto insulatethe indeterminacy of quantumevents so fully from consequencesat the macroscopiclevel. Consideragain, for instance, the tossed coin, and suppose that its trajectory deterministically produces-ceteris paribus-its final outcome. Sup-

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pose the coin is at a point at whichit is about to land heads. And suppose finallythat a collision with a fast-movingair molecule is sufficientto reverse this outcome and producea toss of tails. If the situationis sufficiently delicatelybalancedthis mustsurelybe possible.Assumingthatthe molecular trajectory is a sufficientlymicroscopicevent to be subject to some degree of quantumindeterminacy, then we can easily see that the claimto determinacy the coin-tossingevent cannotbe sustained.We cannottreat of this as merelyanotherdeterministically interacting factor,becausewhether or not it has any effect on the finaloutcome cannotbe determinedby any amountof knowledgeof the initialconditions. It is a furtheradvantageof this examplethat a coin toss is the kind of event that might imaginablyhave massivelyramifying consequences.Perhaps the last degenerate scion of some aristocraticline is wageringhis affect the lives of fortune on this coin toss. The outcome will dramatically his dependents, servants, creditors, etc. and their fortunes will have an increasingcascade of consequences.(This sort of thing will be familiarto readers of Victorian novels.) The general point that this argumentis intended to illustrateis that indeterminism anywhere,by virtueof the variety of causalchainsthat mightbe initiatedby an indeterministic event, is liable to infect putatively deterministicphenomena anywhere. It is significant that this applies equally within and acrosslevels of structural complexity. discussed One finalpoint will concludethis section. The last argument is an argument against determinism,but not necessarilyagainst causal completeness.In the case of the coin toss, providedonly thereis no correlation between interferingmolecularevents and outcomes,we shouldexpect that these would be equallylikely to change heads to tails and vice versa. with no law even So even if these interfering events occurredin accordance of a statisticalnature, they mightnot renderincompletethe supposedlaw that coins of a certainkind come up heads 50% of the time. On the other hand the precedingarguments,based ultimatelyon the lack of empirical supportfor determinism,seem if anythingeven more pressingagainstan version of causal completeness.For any investigationof a indeterministic range of phenomenawill providestatisticalfacts. That, for some x, x% of events of type A are followed by an event of type B, is a matterof logic. But for this very reason, even if we have excellent groundsfor believing to that As reallydo have a tendencyto produceBs, it is difficult see whywe shouldbe led to believe thatthereis anyx suchthatit is a law thatx% of As produce(or are followed by) Bs. The most plausiblebasisfor such a belief, I suppose, would be microphysical reductionism,a topic about which I have said as much as I have space for here. We might better ask, What wouldit mean for there to be a law of this kind, as opposedto there merely being a tendency of As to produce Bs, and a statisticalcorrelationof a certainstrengthbetween As and subsequentBs? Ignoringfor the present purposes a range of widely explored subtleties concerningspurious and

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394/ John Dupre genuine correlations,joint effects of a common cause, and so on, which would be requiredfor a detailedanswerto this question,the simpleanswer which is sufficientfor my presentpurposesis just that a precisecausallaw shouldlicenseus to expectthat the proportions measuredin a suitablylarge numbers of trials should be (approximately)repeated in the future. It seems to me, on the contrarythat in practicesuch an expectationwould often be foolhardy. In real life, the degree to which we treat statisticalexperience as a guide to futureexpectationswill varyfrom almostzero to almostunity.No doubt many explanationscould be given of the reasonablenessof such a perspective, some consistent with causal completeness.The explanation whichseems to me most consistentwith both investigative practiceand the experience of causal regularity,however, has nothing to do with laws or statistical uniformitiesat all. Correlationsreveal, I believe, (subject to well-knownqualifications) causalpowersof certainobjectsor events to the produce particulareffects. Whetherwe expect the productionof such effects to occur with a fairly constantfrequencydepends whetherwe think thatthe frequencyof otherrelevantcausalfactorsis likelyto remainreasonably stable. But withoutsome apparently quite arbitrary of privileging way a particular constellationof background conditions,there is no such thing as the quantitatively precise, constantand timelesstendencyof As to produce Bs ceterisparibus. Otherthingscan be a particular way, and they can be more or less reliablythatway.But exceptin the verysimplestcases, as in Newtonianmechanicswherewe imaginethere being only two bodiesin the universe, and everythingelse is supposednot equal but absent, I do not know what everythingelse being equal even means. Thus once we have fully appreciated the complexity of the causal nexus, the thesis of causalcompletenessis seen to be not only devoidof empiriindeterministic cal support,but even to be of dubiousintelligibility. Machinesand Organisms As I have tried to show in the precedingsection, I do not think that directreflectionon our (extremelylimited)knowledgeof universal regularities lends much supportto the idea of a universewith a complete causal intuitionsderivemore structure.Howeverit maywell be that deterministic from reflectionon complexand highlyorganizedstructures, especiallymavisionout of chinesandbiologicalorganisms.Sincethe overallmetaphysical to whichthe whole problemof free will aroseis aptlyreferred as mechanism, thathave somehowcome it is certainlyappropriate considerthe artefacts to of notorito providea model for the universe;the consideration organisms, ously liableto be treatedas a kindof naturally occurring machine,will bring us backto the topicwithwhichthispaperbegan,the causalstatusof humans. It is easy enough to see why machinesshould have some tendencyto

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inspire deterministicintuitions. Machines, good ones anyhow, are extremelypredictable.I am confidentthat the text I type into my computeris exactly what will eventuallycome out of my printerwhen I connect them up in the right way. (Though not so confidentthat I do not occasionally make a hard copy; and some people, I am told, even make back-upsof their computerfiles on disks.) But a little furtherreflectionmakes it very puzzlingthat somethinglike this, rightlyadmiredas one of the great triumphsof moderntechnology,shouldbe taken as a model for the universe of that is characteristic a good computer in general. If the sort of regularity or car were typical of the universeit would, one mightimagine, be fairly easy to make, or perhapseven just find, suchthings.But it is not at all easy, are whichis why such technologicalachievements admired.If the universe is a machine,it is far from obviouslyso. Perhaps a more sympatheticinterpretationof the tendency for mawere true is chinesto inspiredeterminism the idea that only if determinism would it be possible to make reliable machines.And since we can make whatseems is reliablemachines,determinism provento be true. Underlying to me a greatexaggerationin the firstpremisethereis, nevertheless,a very interestingquestion:what degree of order must exist in the world for the kinds of reliable machineswe possess to be possible?The beginningof a moretemperateanswerto this questionthanthe immediateappealto determinism is the observationthat no machinesare completelyreliable, and some are very unreliable.The point of this observationis not to insistthough strictlyspeakingit is no doubt true-that there is some possibility, howeverremote, that when I type the word "type"on my computera fourletter obscenitywill instead appearon the screen;or that when the spark of ignitesin the combustionchamber mycarthe gasolineinsideit willspontaneouslyliquefy.RatherI wantto focuson the question,whatis it thatmakes machinesmore or less reliable.And of coursethe answeris not, at anyrate, that reliable machineshave accessto more universallaws. a Consider,then, what is by modernstandards fairlysimple machine, an internalcombustionengine. If we ask how such a machineoperateswe may be content with a very simple story: a mixtureof air and gasoline is exploded in a cylinder,pushinga piston down the cylinder;the cylinderis connected to a shaft which is rotated by the movingpiston. A numberof similarcylindersare connectedto this shaft, and a sequenceof explosions keeps the shaft rotatingcontinuously.It seems to me that this is, roughly speaking, a correct answer to the question how an internalcombustion engine works. But if, on the basis of this explanation,someone lined up some coffee cans partiallyfilled with gasoline on the kitchen floor, stuck toilet plungersin the cans andtied the ends of the plungersto a broomstick, and then posted lighted matches through little holes in the side of the coffee cans, they would certainlynot have built an internalcombustion engine (thoughI supposethe broomstickmightjumpabout a bit).

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396/ John Dupre I suggest that it is useful to think of how a machine works in two stages. First there is the question what makes it even possible for the machineto do what it is supposedto do. A slightlymore elaborateversion of the answersketched in the previousparagraph might be an answerto this questionfor an internalcombustionengine. Havinggot that far, however, most of the details of the internal combustionengine concern the more or less ingenious auxiliarydevices that make sure it really does do what it is intendedto do ratherthan one of the may other thingsit has an initial capacityto do. So, for instance,the cylindermust be strongenough when the gasoline explodes;the crankshaft to avoid simply disintegrating must be extremely strong and rigid if it is to reliably convert the linear momentumof the cylindersto rotationalmotion; piston-rings preventthe energy of the explosion from being dissipatedbetween the piston and the cylinder;oil must be providedto preventthe cylindersgettingso hot as to seize in the cylinder,or for that mattermelt; some way must be found to dissipateexcess heat from the runningengine; and so on. Even a Trabant has the capacityto run, and sometimes does so. The differencebetween this and a well designedcar is that the behaviorof the partsof the latteris so tightlyconstrainedthat it can do nothingbut what it is designedto dothough eventually,of course, even the best designed machinewill break free of its constraints.My point so far is just that this kind of constraintis not somethingcharacteristic naturegenerally,but somethingthat engiof neers devote enormousefforts to attempting,never with total success, to achieve. Of course, this accountof the reliabilityof machinesdoes assumethe reliabilityof variouscausalrelations. Gasolineand air mixturesinvariably explode when sparked;heat will flow from a hot engine to cooling water circulatingover it; and many others. It is interestingthat many such regularitiescan be seen as reflectingthe overallupshotof very largenumbersof similarthough indeterministic processes at the microlevel,which suggests the hypothesisthat it is just those macrolevelprocessesthat can be roughly reducedin this way that reveal this near determinism. I do not want to But insist on this here. While machinescould presumablynot work without such as those just mentioned,the exploitingextremelyreliableregularities regularitiesthat characterize machinesthemselves,as with manyother the causalregularities only moreor less reliable.Reflectionon are macroscopic how good machinesare engineered, far from makingus think of mechanism as generallycharacteristic the world, should make us realize how of difficultit is to turn even little bits of the world into bits of mechanism. Turningnow to organisms,it is a familiaridea, especiallyfollowing Descartes, that organisms are machines.Naturaltheologyuntilthe late just nineteenthcenturyconsideredorganismsquite explicitlyas the productsof a divine mechanic.No doubt there are aspectsof organisms whichthis for analogyis illuminating.Indeed the complexbut highlystereotypedperfor-

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The Freedom of the Will / 397

mances of many insects in, for example, constructingand provisioning burrowsfor egg-layinghave manyof the characteristics a well-designed of machine. To the extent that the analogyis appropriate same remarks the that I made about machineswill applyto the relevanceof organisms the to prevalenceof causalregularity. Looking, however,at the other end of the organic scale, and most especially at humans,the parallelwith machines has seriouslimitations.12 The fact that when, for example, I intend to walk down the garden path, my legs move in just the rightway to maintainmy balanceandpropel me forwardis, I suppose, somethingthat could be explainedin a manner stronglyanalogousto the performance a machine,thoughperhapsmore of complex than any machinewe have yet managedto construct.I suppose that the physiology and cell-chemistryof muscle tissue explains how the physical movements are obtained, and a variety of sensory and neural mechanismsbringit about that the motion is steady and in the rightdirection, and that a verticalpostureis maintained.Althoughthis seems significantly analogous to the account I offered of the workingof the internal combustionengine, we should now note that an internalcombustionengine is in realitynot a machinebut a partof a machine.If we thinknow not classof featureshas yet just of an engine but of an entire car, an important to be mentioned. I am thinking of such things as the ignition key, the steeringwheel, and the brakepedal, those devicesby whichthe machineis made to act in a way conducive to the ends of its human operator. A reliable car, as opposed to a reliable engine, the latter of course being a necessarybut insufficient componentof the former,is one in whichthere is a reliablecorrelationbetween inputsto these controlsand the behaviorof the whole machine. Thus machinesare not sources of causal autonomy; for the they are, at most, instruments furthering causalautonomyof their users. The superficial,and I think also deep, disanalogybetween humans and machinesis that humanshave no controls. It may rightlybe objected at this point that insectswith simplestereotyped behaviorshave no controlseither, yet I have claimedthat they are closely analogousto machines.There are two possible responses.First, a stereotypical performance mightsimplybe producedin responseto nothing at all. More typicallyand interestingly,a kind of behaviormight be triggered by some sensoryinput, the sense organsthus servingas devices for to This is priproducingbehaviorappropriate the externalcircumstances. marilywhat I have in mind in talkingof the stereotypicand machine-like behaviorof certaininsects:a certainstimulustriggersa sequenceof behavior. Thereis, of course, a traditionof psychological of investigation humans that applies just this model to humans. Though in it crudest behaviorist versions it has been almost wholly rejected, the idea that sensory inputs, somehowelicit the apmediatedby "information-processing mechanisms," of propriate"emission" behavioris still widely,perhapsgenerally, pursued.

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398/ John Dupre This is a mechanisticmodel, though one in which the complexityof the machineis such that we as yet have no idea whatit is designedto do in the innumerablesituationsit encounters.13 Againstthis model, I propose that we should recognize that we were not designed at all, and consequently there is nothingwe were designedto do in any situation. Between two views that I have rejected, that we are randomaction generatorsand that we are machines,can be found the view that makes sense of humanautonomy.Manypartsof humanshave just the characteristics of machines that I have emphasized in the preceding discussion, namely complex constraintsthat insure the predictableexercise of some capacityof an organ or physiologicalsystem. But humansare fundamentally differentfrom machinesin that they have no controls.Self-control,in the sense of the absence of externalcontrols,is of course nothingbut the autonomy,or free will, that was the originaltopic of this paper.I have not attemptedto refutethe idea that sense organsmightsometimesfunctionas controls,in the sense that the inputto sense organsmightdetermine,via a complex intermediatecausal chain, the behaviorof the whole organism. This is presumablyroughlytrue of simple organisms.But it does not appear to be true of ourselves, except perhapsin purely reflexive actions, such as duckingto avoid a flying object. The reason we are so liable to think of ourselves in this machine-likeway is because we are tempted by determinism.If the world is deterministicthen my behavior is causally necessarygiven the stimulithat impingeon me; and presumably most the importantstimuliare sensoryones. The point of all the complexmachinelike parts of me would then have to be just to make sure that the causally elicited behavior was appropriateto the circumstances disclosed by my sense organs.But the rejectionof causalcompletenessallowsa more natural view of things. My complexityof structuregives me a vast arrayof causalpowers, a rangeof powersthat would be inconceivable withoutthat intricatemachine-likeinternalstructure.But the exerciseof those powers, I though obviouslyinfluencedby the circumstances perceive myself to be in, ultimatelydepends on an autonomousdecision-making process. Once we see causalorder as somethingspecialratherthan somethinguniversal, there is no obstacle to seeing the humanwill as an autonomoussource of such order.
Some Concluding Remarks

My reference at the end of the last section to the humanwill leaves, needlessto say, some questionsunresolved.However,it is not my goal here to offer a detailed accountof the will. Rather,my more modest aim is to show that, contraryto a notorioustraditionof philosophical a controversy, reasonablemetaphysicsof causalitypresentsno special difficultiesfor the idea of humanautonomy,and requiresneitherghostlynor randomnudges

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The Freedom of the Will / 399

of the physicalcausal order. In order to give,a little more positive philosophical substance to the view I shall, in this final section, very briefly relate what I have said to some very famousviews on the subject, those of Hume and of Kant. Although it may well remain the dominant view of the subject, Hume'sattemptto reconcilehumanautonomywitha classically deterministic structureof causal relationsseems to me unconvincing.14 the other On hand Hume was surely right that exercisesof humanfreedomwere much better understood as instances of causalitythan of its complete absence. His problem,in my view, was his commitmentto a universalistic regularity theoryof causality.Given such an accountof causality,any departure from The solutionI have advocated determinismis a failure of causalityitself.15 requiresespousingan ontology of causalpowersof the kind that Hume so famouslyattacked.16 causalstructure Kant also appearsto have thoughtthat a deterministic was compatiblewith human autonomy,though the metaphysical excesses have convincedalmost to which he was led in effecting this reconciliation no one. However his conception of human autonomy might providethoughhere I end on a more speculativenote-a vital and finalpiece in the picture that I wish to present. My point at the end of the last section was that human decision could be a real source of causal order in the world. However, this claim may seem shallowwithoutsome furtheraccountof the if originsof this order. In particular one traceshumandecisionsultimately can to contingenthumandesires, desireswhichpresumably themselvesbe traced either to our biological heritage or our upbringing,human autonomy seems at best a focus ratherthan a source of order. And just such a has conceptionof humandecision-making been cultivatedfor a centuryby economists and more recently by exponents of so-called rational choice theories in a variety of disciplines.Some more interestingaccountof the ultimatespringsof humanbehaviorthan the economist'sstandardrefrain, "tastesare exogenous," is needed if we are to providea deeper and more interestingconceptionof humanautonomy. Without going into what I take to be the deficienciesof the economistic vision of human behavior,it is clear that somethingmore than an unexplainedappeal to particulartastes or preferencesis requiredto give interest to the account of human autonomy suggested in this paper. It seems to me that Kant's account of human action suggests a promising directionin which to go. Kant, notoriously,distinguished sharplybetween action motivatedby desire and action motivatedby principle.Havingdispensed with the deterministicframework,it is possible to emphasizethis distinction without either the extreme moralisticdistinctionin favor of action motivated by duty, or the metaphysicallymurky appeals to the noumenal world, which have combinedto cast deep suspicionon Kant's conception.

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400/ John Dupre In a world where order is a local and incompletephenomenon, the importanceof principle as a source of human action is easily stated: it explains how ideas, the creative acts of the humanmind, can change the world. Unlike Kant, I do not make a fundamental distinction here between moral and more mundaneprinciples.I conceive of the principle,"Follow the architect'sblueprintsin determiningwhere to build the wall," as as genuine a source of autonomousaction as "Do whateveris necessaryto end hunger." But despite this moderation of the Kantian position, the enormous importanceof moral principlesin this context should not be downplayed. The most fundamentalreason why we should care about human autonomy is that it holds out the hope that human action might producea betterworld. And what thatrequiresis actiongroundedin moral principles.This is somethingI believe we are free to choose; and making this choice, I claim, can make a difference. I conclude with one furtherspeculativeand perhapsparadoxical suggestion. Principles, I take it, are essentially linguisticphenomena. And languageis essentiallysocial. Thusthe conditionfor genuinelyfree individual action is the embeddingof the individualin society.This will not seem to surprising those who take seriouslythe fundamental biologicalfact that Homo sapiensis a social animal.It may,however,be an unwelcomesuggestion for the traditionthat connects human freedom with the profoundly individualisticsocial philosophy and metaphysicsdominantin contempoculture.That, however,is not my concern.'7 raryEnglish-speaking
Notes 1. No doubt the belief in such indeterministic events was often also connected with the inchoate hope that these might be sufficiently loose and microscopic that even an immaterial soul might have a chance of subtly influencing them. Though this make the idea less absurd from the point of view of understanding human autonomy, it introduces new absurdities that I cannot attempt to address here. 2. This point was clearly stated by C. D. Broad (1952). 3. And presumably for this reason the possibility of indeterminism does not figure largely in recent discussions of the problem of free will. In a recent anthology on the topic (Fischer 1986), I could find only one extended discussion of the topic, in the paper "Asymmetrical Freedom" by Susan Wolf. However even this discussion concerns only the failure of determinism at the psychological level, and remains agnostic about the relation of this to underlying physical determinism. Because of this difference in focus, I shall not try to relate the present discussion in any detail to recent philosophical work on the topic. 4. A classic statement of such a position is that of William James (1884/1956). 5. This is at the basis of Kim's well-known arguments against non-reductive physicalism (Kim1993, especially essays 14 and 17). Kim shows that such a position

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The Freedom of the Will I 401 requires "downward causation" the causal influence of macroscopic on microscopic entities. I accept the argument but, as will be clear below and as I have explained elsewhere (1993), I see no problem with downward causation. As of course may objects at the same level. This kind of objection to universal regularities has been emphasized by Cartwright (1983). It will be objected-and may already have been objected-that the electron will be pushed by the microscopic object or objects immediately behind it and will push those in front of it, and thus all the particles are moving in response to microlevel forces. I do not mean to deny this: certainly it would be absurd to suppose that my intention independently acted on each particle in my arm. The real issue is whether all these arm-particles are moving as part of a much wider set of microphysical events (photons bouncing of the glass, hitting my retina, stimulating my brain, etc.) on which my intention to drink the water is ultimately a mere epiphenomenon, or whether, rather, the fundamental explanation for all those particles pushing one another in a certain direction is that I am thirsty and see a glass of water I plan to drink. Evidently I prefer the latter view. The various theses referred to briefly in this paragraph are defended in detail in my book, The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science (1993). Part 1 of that work addresses essentialism, part 2 provides a detailed critique of physicalist reductionism, and part 3 provides a more extended version of the arguments against causal completeness developed in the following section of the present paper. It is of course true that microphysical laws purport to apply to indefinitely complex systems, in the sense that they determine how the formalism should, in principle, be applied to such systems. But in practice they certainly cannot be so applied. And one need hardly be a radical skeptic about induction to resist extrapolation from a very narrow and limited set of data to every phenomenon whatever that could in principle be subsumed under the purported regularity. See Suppes (1994) for a more detailed argument complementary to the present one. See principally Hume (1748), Mill (1875), and Mackie (1974). I focus here only on what I take to be the extremes of the animal scale. I assume that higher mammals, birds, and perhaps higher molluscs, are more like humans than they are like the most machine-like of insects. But I shall make no attempt to here to draw any more specific lines between different kinds of organisms. Sociobiologists, evolutionary psychologists, and other extreme enthusiasts for explanations in terms of natural selection believe that we have been designed to survive and reproduce. The crudity of attempts to explain human behavior in any detail on the basis of this thesis has been well documented-if inadequately appreciated-and will not detain us here. I cannot begin to discuss the enormous literature on this question. Strawson's (1974) classic paper perhaps brings out as clearly as possible the consequences of taking physical determinism fully seriously. Recently there has been a prominent movement to provide regularity theories

6. 7.



10. 11. 12.




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402 / John Duprd of indeterministic causality (e.g. Eells 1991). I think there are deep internal problems with such a position (see Dupre and Cartwright 1988; Duprd 1993, ch.9); and in defence of my commitment in the present paper to address causal completeness more generally than in its deterministic version, I think that such a position is fatally lacking in empirical backing. 16. A detailed response to the Humean view of causality would be beyond the scope of this paper. Some recent advocates of causal powers include Harre and Madden (1975), Cartwright (1991), and Dupre (1993, ch.9). 17. I am indebted to Regenia Gagnier, John Perry, and Debra Satz for comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Cartwright, Nancy. 1983. How the Laws of Physics Lie. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cartwright, Nancy. 1990. Nature's Capacities and their Measurements. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dupre, John. 1993. The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Dupre, John and Nancy Cartwright. 1988. "Probability and Causality: Why Hume and Indeterminism Don't Mix." Nous 22: 521-536. Eells, Ellery. 1991. Probabilistic Causality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fischer, John Martin (ed.) 1986. Moral Responsibility. Harre, Rom and E. H. Madden. 1975. Causal Powers. Oxford: Blackwell. Hume, David. 1748. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Reprint, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1977. James, William. 1884/1956. "The Dilemma of Determinism." In The Will to Believe. New York: Dover. Kim, Jaegwon. 1993. Supervenience and Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mackie, J. L. 1974. The Cement of the Universe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mill, J. S. 1875. System of Logic. 8th. Edition. London: Longmans. Strawson, P. F. 1974. "Freedom and Resentment." In Freedom and Resentment. London: Methuen. Suppes, Patrick. 1993. "The Transcendental Character of Determinism." Midwest Studies in Philosophy 18: 242-257.

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