The median dropped back to 5 but not too bad overall. Click through to see…

• Question 1

Option B (“Gene only”). Only a minority got this.

Recall that the question asks whose statements, if true, would imply that Tess is morally responsible?

Dave’s statement, if true, basically says that Tess has fulfilled a necessary condition for moral responsibility. This won’t imply that she is morally responsible.

Gene’s statement, if true, basically says that Tess has fulfilled a sufficient condition for moral responsibility (“…if Tess chose to say that word, then she is morally responsible for doing so. And she definitely chose to say it.”) This implies that she is morally responsible.

This one wasn’t meant to be hard–everything you needed was already in the question, plus understanding the difference between a necessary, vs. a sufficient condition. Yes, you were supposed to notice that if, e.g., Gene’s statement is true, then both the Standard Argument and the Basic Argument are unsound.

• Question 2

Option C (“Lena only”). Most of you (93%) got this.

Dave’s statement is not an accurate representation because the Basic Argument does not rely on determinism to be true, or not (see Slide #35).

One part of Tess’s statement is accurate–when she says that Hurley thinks the condition for us to be responsible for an action isn’t the same as the condition for us to be responsible for the way we are behind the action (see Slide #40). However, the other part is inaccurate–she got the condition for action vs. the way we are behind the actions reversed.

Lena’s statement is accurate because while Hurley’s proposal does entail an infinite regress of hypothetical choices, meeting that requirement isn’t impossible the way an infinite regress of actual choices would (see Slide #40).

• Question 3

Options A, B, and D. A majority (65%) of you got this–well done!

Dave is correct because that is just what Premise 2 of the Standard Argument is saying. Lena is correct because the Classical Compatibilists think that we can still have free will even if the world is causally deterministic. Gene is wrong because even if Classical Compatibilism is false, Will can still be morally responsible if Modern Semi-Compatibilism is true (see Slide # 22). Finally, Tess is correct because. Even if the arguments against moral responsibility are sound, this need not stop people from feeling that they are morally responsible. Recall Strawson himself making this observation? This is what he says–“Does this argument [his Basic Argument] stop me feeling entirely morally responsible for what I do? It does not. Does it stop you feeling entirely morally responsible? I very much doubt it. Should it stop us? Well, it might not be a good thing if it did…” Note also that Tess isn’t saying that those argument won’t stop people from feeling a certain way–she’s only saying that some people–Will for instance–“can still at least feel morally responsible” even if they had five successful arguments against moral responsibility.

• Question 4

Option B (“Lena only”). Most of you (87%) got this.

Dave is wrong because the soundness of the Standard Argument is not a necessary condition for us to conclude that we have no moral responsibility for any of our actions. We could have drawn the same conclusion without agreeing that the Standard Argument is sound–e.g. we have thought that the Standard Argument is unsound but Strawson’s Basic Argument is sound. Lena is right because if the Basic Argument, then we aren’t morally responsible for any of our actions.

Finally, notice that unlike the others, Gene isn’t saying something like “P is a necessary/sufficient condition for Q”. Rather, he is saying something like this: “Believing that P is a necessary/sufficient condition for believing that Q”. Whatever the true logical relationship between the soundness or unsoundness of the Standard Argument and the Basic Argument, there’s no reason to think that believing one of them is a necessary or sufficient condition for believing the other–as if people are always so perfectly rational and informed. If he had said that rationally believing one is a necessary/sufficient condition for rationally believing the other, then there won’t be as much of a difference between the kind of claim he is making compared to the others (given a suitable interpretation of what it means to “rationally believe” something). (In my hurry to get the debrief out I missed this point; now updated.)

Additional point inspired by a student’s email. Conceivably, one might think that in order for the Standard Argument to be sound, the Basic Argument has to be unsound–so that it’s at least possible for the premises in the Standard Argument referencing moral responsibility to be true at all. (Because otherwise, it will be dealing with something “essentially impossible”, or so goes the thought.) I’m sympathetic to this. However, this also not obviously true–because keep in mind that the Basic Argument itself makes reference to the concept of moral responsibility in its own premises, and in order for the Basic Argument to be sound, it’s premises has to be true… I suspect what’s happening is that if the Basic Argument is sound, then moral responsibility is shown to be an “impossible concept”–but not in the sense that every statement referencing it will automatically be false. Rather, what’s ruled out is any statement which implies that something actually is morally responsible–because that would be impossible. If we take things this way, then the Standard Argument is safe even if the Basic Argument is sound since none of its premises actually imply that something is morally responsible.

• Question 5

Options A and D only.

, and likewise, most (95%) can see that D is correct.

Dave is correct because Causal Determinism is a theory about how each event in the universe is determined–it only describes how the universe is, and not how anything ought to be. Most (81%) of you can see this.

Tess is also correct because it all depends on whether you accept or deny Premise 3 of the Standard Argument. And again, most of you (95%) can see this.

Lena is wrong because whether humans have moral responsibility–and so deserving of praise or blame for our actions–might depend on whether causal determinism is true. That is, if causal determinism is true, then one might have reason to believe that free will does not exist, and that we humans don’t deserve to be praised/blamed for our actions. That is, even though causal determinism is–by itself–a purely descriptive thesis about the universe, it can imply a conclusion about how we ought to be with the help of connecting principles, e.g., something like Premise 2 of the Standard Argument. Most of you (92%) can see that this is incorrect.

Gene is wrong because causal indeterminism only requires that: “Some things that happen are not causally determined by prior happenings”. Whether those happenings are also objectively random occurrences depends on whether you accept Premise 3 of the Standard Argument, for instance. In fact, just because causal indeterminism is true, it doesn’t even follow that our actions or choices are the indeterministic happenings. A good number (46%) are distracted by this one.

• Question 6

Option D (“Neither Will nor Gene”), and most of you (84%) got this.

Will is incorrect because even if Dave is a morally responsible creature, it doesn’t follow that he is morally responsible for everything he does or happens in his vicinity. There could be other conditions that aren’t fulfilled. For instance, suppose you think that something like the Naïve Theory is true, then (conceivably) Dave would deserve blame if he broke Lena’s phone because he chose to do so (and the act of breaking Lena’s phone screen is wrong). But what he he did it accidentally and so didn’t really “choose to do so”–even morally responsible creatures can do things accidentally some times.

Gene is incorrect because there might be other reasons for Dave to pay for Lena’s phone that have nothing to do with whether Dave deserved to be blamed, or thought he deserved to be blamed. For instance, he might agree to pay to preserve his friendship with Lena, or to escape other people’s untoward attention, or to look good in front of other onlookers, etc.

• Question 7

Option C, and most of you (89%) got this.

Option A is wrong since we don’t know if Premise 2 of the Standard Argument–or on the opposing side, Compatibilism or Semi-Compatibilism–is true.

Option B is wrong since we don’t know if Premise 3 of the Standard Argument–or on the opposing side, Libertarianism–is true.

Option C is correct–it basically applies the Semi-Compatibilist position to what Lena said.

Option D is wrong because the information provided does not amount to a sufficient condition for Dave to be morally responsible for breaking Lena’s screen.

• Question 8

Option B (“Tess only”). A plurality (49%) got this. Many (41%) distracted by Option C (“Tess and Lena only”). (Update: We’ll accept Option D as well. See below.)

Will is wrong because given what we know about Hurley’s Strawson-Proof theory, a necessary condition for being morally responsible for doing something is that one would have chosen to be the way behind one’s doing it if one could choose. This necessary condition is not violated just because one doesn’t know whether he/she would have chosen to be the way behind his/her doing it if one could choose. Most of you can see this.

Tess is right–given her supposition (i.e., that Hurley’s Strawson-Proof Theory is right, but we can never know whether we would have chosen to be the way we are behind our actions, if we could choose), it will follow that we can never know for sure if we are morally responsible or not. And one way that can work out is that we could be morally responsible without knowing that we are morally responsible. Note that Tess is not actually committed to whether we can or cannot know. But suppose we cannot know… then the implication follows.

Update: A student wrote in to say that he read Tess’ statement a different way–

Tess: “I think that’s too quick. Suppose Hurley’s Strawson-Proof Theory is right, but we can never know whether we would have chosen to be the way we are behind our actions (if we could choose). What follows is that we could be morally responsible without knowing that we are morally responsible.

He thought that the highlighted part isn’t also governed by the “suppose”. This isn’t exactly a natural reading, but it’s not ungrammatical. If the highlighted part is taken to be outside the scope of that “suppose”, then, technically, Tess has gone beyond what we’ve reason to accept (in the highlighted bit). I’ll give students the benefit of the doubt here and give the point to the 39 students who selected Option D (“Neither Will, Tess nor Lena”) as well. Will update in Gradebook.)

Lena is wrong because one cannot conclude that someone is morally responsible using Hurley’s Strawson-Proof theory. Again, remember that as presented, Hurley’s theory only contains the necessary conditions for moral responsibility.

Do revise necessary vs. sufficient conditions from “A Short Lesson”.