Philosophy Word of the Day – Compatibilism

Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.

Via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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5 thoughts on “Philosophy Word of the Day – Compatibilism

  1. Hi there.

    As a hard incompatibilist – one that thinks free will is incompatible in a deterministic universe (all events causal) as well an an indeterministic universe (some acausal events) – I do not think the compatibilist thesis a sound one. One can derive a moral or ethic deterministically, but responsibility is not compatible. Needless to say this does not mean we should not prevent people from doing unethical things.

    Thanks,
    ‘Trick Slattery
    http://www.TrickSlattery.com
    http://www.breakingthefreewillillusion.com

    • Hi Trick,
      I agree with you that real moral responsibility isn’t compatible with determinism. For that reason, I don’t believe it makes sense to talk about ethics or morality on determinism, either. Moral responsibility requires the freedom to choose, which we don’t have on determinism.
      Chris

      • “For that reason, I don’t believe it makes sense to talk about ethics or morality on determinism, either.”

        Why? There is a large difference between determining a moral and offering an ethical prescription based off of that moral, and holding someone responsible that acts unethically. It certainly makes a lot of sense to talk about ethics and morality for causal alignments with ethical prescriptions. I prefer a consequentialist approach.

        “Moral responsibility requires the freedom to choose, which we don’t have on determinism.”

        You used the word “responsibility” here, which I agree. One ought not be held responsible as the could not have chosen otherwise (though they did make a “choice” between option – but the other options were not viable ones), or they could not have done so of their own accord (if an acausal event pushed it). It is incorrect, however, to conflate moral or ethical responsibility with deriving a moral or ethic, as well as prescribing one.

        Take care,
        ‘Trick Slattery

  2. Heard D.A. Carson in a lecture define it like this:

    Compatibilism teaches that the following two propositions are both true and mutually compatible, even if we can’t fully reconcile them:

    1. God is utterly sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions to mitigate human responsibility.
    2. Human beings are morally responsible creatures, but their moral responsibility never functions to make God absolutely contingent.

    • Hi Barry,
      That’s a nice formulation. I also think he’s right to say that we can’t reconcile the two. It’s a deep mystery, isn’t it?

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