Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-br6r8 Total loading time: 1.214 Render date: 2022-11-29T15:53:30.009Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Chapter 3 - Free Will Skepticism and Its Implications: An Argument for Optimism

from Part I - On the Practical Implications of Free Will Skepticism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 August 2019

Elizabeth Shaw
Affiliation:
University of Aberdeen
Derk Pereboom
Affiliation:
Cornell University, New York
Gregg D. Caruso
Affiliation:
Corning Community College, State University of New York
Get access

Summary

This chapter considers the practical implications of free will skepticism and discusses recent empirical work that has just begun to investigate the matter. It argues that there are good philosophical and empirical reasons for thinking that belief in free will, rather than providing the pragmatic benefits many claim, actually has a dark side; i.e., it is too often used to justify punitive excess in criminal justice, to encourage treating people in severe and demeaning ways, and to excuse and perpetuate social and economic inequalities. After addressing recent empirical findings in social psychology that purport to show that diminishing one’s belief in free will increases antisocial behavior – findings that are overblown and questionable – the chapter discusses contrary findings in moral and political psychology that reveal interesting and troubling correlations between people’s free will beliefs and their other moral, religious, and political beliefs. It concludes that we would be better off without the notions of free will and just deserts.

Type
Chapter
Information
Free Will Skepticism in Law and Society
Challenging Retributive Justice
, pp. 43 - 72
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Alicke, M. D. (1994). Evidential and extra-evidential evaluations of social conduct. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 9, 591615.Google Scholar
Alicke, M. D. (2008). Blaming badly. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 8, 179186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alicke, M. D., Buckingham, J., Zell, E., and Davis, T.. (2008). Culpable control and counterfactual reasoning in the psychology of blame. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 13711381.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Altemeyer, R. A. (1981). Right-Wing Authoritarianism. Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.Google Scholar
Altemeyer, R. A. (1996). The Authoritarian Specter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Altemeyer, R. A. (2003). Why do religious fundamentalists tend to be prejudiced? International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 13,1728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aspinwall, L. G., Brown, T. R, and Tabery, J.. (2012). The double-edged sword: Does biomechanism increase or decrease judges’ sentencing of psychopaths? Science, 337, 846849.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Barna Research Group Survey. (1999). U.S. divorce rates for various faith groups, age groups, and geographic areas. Available at www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm (last accessed 22 June 2009).
Barna Research Group Survey. (2007). Atheists and agnostics take aim at Christians. Available at www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/102-atheists-and-agnostics-take-aim-at-christians (last accessed 22 June 2009).
Baumeister, R. F. (2008). Free will, consciousness, and cultural animals. In Bear, J., Kaufman, J., and Baumeister, R., eds., Are We Free? Psychology and Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 6585.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Baumeister, R. F., Masicampo, E. J., and DeWall, C. N.. (2009). Prosocial benefits of feeling free: Disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(2), 260268.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Berg, K. S., and Vidmar, N.. (1975). Authoritarianism and recall of evidence about criminal behavior. Journal of Research in Personality, 9, 147157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brinkerhoff, M., Grandin, E., and Lupri, E.. (1992). Religious involvement and spousal violence: The Canadian case. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 31,1531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carey, J. M., and Paulhus, D. L.. (2013). Worldview implication of believing in free will and/or determinism: Politics, morality, and punitiveness. Journal of Personality, 81(2), 130141.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Carey, B., and Roston, M.. (2015). Three popular psychology studies that didn’t hold up. The New York Times. Retrieved from: www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/08/28/science/psychology-studies-redid.html.
Caruso, G. D. (2012). Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
Caruso, G. D. (2016). Free will skepticism and criminal behavior: A public health-quarantine model. Southwest Philosophy Review, 32(1), 2548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caruso, G. D. (2017a). Public Health and Safety: The Social Determinants of Health and Criminal Behavior. London: ResearchLinks Books.Google Scholar
Caruso, G. D. (2017b). Free will skepticism and the questions of creativity: Creativity, desert, and self-creation. Ergo, 3(23), 591607.Google Scholar
Caruso, G. D. (2018). Skepticism about moral responsibility. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-moral-responsibility/
Caruso, G. D. (2019a). The public health-quarantine model. In Nelkin, D. and Pereboom, D., eds., Oxford Handbook on Moral Responsibility. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Caruso, G. D. (2019b). A defense of the luck pincer: Why luck (still) undermines free will and moral responsibility. Journal of Information Ethics, April/May Issue.
Caruso, G. D., and Morris, S.. (2017). Compatibilism and retributivist desert moral responsibility: On what is of central philosophical and practical importance. Erkenntnis, 82, 837855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, T. (2013). Experience and autonomy: Why consciousness does and doesn’t matter. In Caruso, G. D., ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 239254.Google Scholar
Clark, C. J., Ditto, P. H., Shariff, A. F., et al. (2014). Free to punish: A motivated account of free will belief. Attitudes of Social Cognition, 106(4), 501513.Google ScholarPubMed
Corrado, M. L. (2013). Why do we resist hard incompatibilism? Thoughts on freedom and punishment. In Nadelhoffer, T., ed., The future of punishment. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 79106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crick, F. (1994). The Astonishing Hypothesis. New York: Scriber.Google Scholar
Crone, D., and Levy, N.. (2018). Are free will believers nicer people (Four studies suggest not). Open Science Framework, January 10. Retrieved from: osf.io/m9sreCrossRef
Dalbert, C., and Yamauchi, L.. (1994). Belief in a just world and attitudes toward immigrants and foreign workers: A cultural comparison between Hawaii and Germany. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 16121626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Death Penalty Information Center. (2008). Regional murder rates, 2001–2007. Available at: www.death-penaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-1996-2007 (last accessed 22 June 2009).
Earp, B. D., Everett, J. A. C., Nadelhoffer, T., et al. (2018). Determined to be humble? Exploring the relationship between belief in free will and humility. PsyArXiv. Available at: https://psyarxiv.com/3bxraCrossRef
Efran, M. G. (1974). The effect of physical appearance on the judgment of guilt, interpersonal attraction, and severity of recommended punishment in a simulated jury task. Journal of Research and Personality, 8, 4554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellison, C., Burr, J. and McCall, P.. (2003). The enduring puzzle of southern homicide. Homicide Studies, 7, 326352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Epley, N., and Dunning, D.. (2000). Feeling “holier than thou”: Are self-serving assessments produced by errors in self or social prediction? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 861875.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Everett, J. A. C., Luguri, J. B., Clark, C. J., et al. (2018). Free to blame? Political differences in free will belief are driven by differences in moralization. Available at: https://psyarxiv.com/nx9rj/
Fajnzylber, O., Lederman, D., and Loatza, N.. (2002). Inequality and violent crime. Journal of Law and Economics, XLV, 140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fox, J. and Levin, J.. (2000). The Will to Kill. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
Furnham, A. (2003). Belief in a just world: Research progress over the past decade. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 795817.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Furnham, A., and Gunter, B.. (1984). Just world beliefs and attitudes towards the poor. British Journal of Social Psychology, 15, 265269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gazzinga, M. (2011). Who’s in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
Greene, J. D., and Cohen, J.. (2004). For the law, neuroscience changes nothing, and everything. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B 359, 17751785. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2004.1546 (accessed 26 October 2012).Google ScholarPubMed
Hardcastle, V. (2018). The neuroscience of criminality and our sense of justice: An analysis of recent appellate decisions in criminal cases. In Caruso, G. D. and Flanagan, O., eds., Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 311332.Google Scholar
Harper, D., and Manasse, P.. (1992). The just world and the third world: British explanations for poverty abroad. Journal of Social Psychology, 132, 783785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jensen, G. F. (2006). Religious cosmologies and homicide rates among nations. The Journal of Religion and Society, 8, 113.Google Scholar
Jost, J. T. (2006). The end of the end of ideology. American Psychologist, 61, 651670.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jost, J. T., Blount, S., Pfeffer, J., and Hunyady, G.. (2003). Fair market ideology: Its cognitive-motivational underpinnings. Research in Organizational Behavior, 25, 5391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lagnado, D. A., and Channon, S.. (2008). Judgments of cause and blame: The effects of intentionality and foreseeability. Cognition, 108, 754770.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lerner, M. J. (1965). Evaluation of performance as a function of performer’s reward and attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 355360.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lerner, M. J. (1980). The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion. New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lerner, M. J., and Miller, D. T.. (1978). Just world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 10301051.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lerner, M. J., Miller, D. T., and Holmes, J. G.. (1976). Deserving and the emergence of forms of justice. In L. Berkowitz and E. Walster, eds., Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, pp. 134–162.CrossRef
Lerner, M. J., and Simmons, C. H.. (1966). Observer’s reaction to the “innocent victim”: Compassion or rejection? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 203210.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Levy, N. (2011). Hard Luck: How Luck Undermines Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levy, N. (2012). Skepticism and sanctions: The benefit of rejecting moral responsibility. Law and Philosophy, 31(5), 477493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lewis, C. S. (1971). The humanitarian theory of punishment. In his, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, pp. 287294.Google Scholar
MacKenzie, M. J., Vohs, K. D., and Baumeister, B. F.. (2014). You didn’t have to do that: Belief in free will promotes gratitude. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, DOI: 10.1177/0146167214549322.CrossRef
Milam, P-E. (2016). Reactive attitudes and personal relationships. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 46(1), 102122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Montada, L. (1998). Belief in a just world: A hybrid of justice motive and self-interest. In , L. M. and Lerner, M., eds., Responses to Victimizations and Belief in the Just World. New York: Plenum, pp. 217245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Monterosso, J., Royzman, E. B., and Schwartz, B.. (2005). Explaining away responsibility: Effects of scientific explanation on perceived culpability. Ethics and Behavior, 15, 139158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Monterosso, J., Royzman, E. B., and Schwartz, B.. (2012). Did your brain make you do it? New York Times. July 27, 2014.
Morris, H. (1968). Persons and punishment. The Monist, 52, 475501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nadelhoffer, T. 2006. Bad acts, blameworthy agents, and intentional actions: Some problems for juror impartiality. Philosophical Explorations, 9(2), 203219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nadelhoffer, T. 2011. The threat of shrinking agency and free will disillusionism. In Nadel, L. and Sinnott-Armstrong, W., eds., Conscious Will and Responsibility: A Tribute to Benjamin Libet. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.173188.Google Scholar
Nadelhoffer, T., and Goya Tocchetto, D.. (2013). The potential dark side of believing in free will (and related concepts): Some preliminary findings. In Caruso, G. D., ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 121140.Google Scholar
Nadelhoffer, T., Nahmias, E., Ross, L., Shepard, J., and Sripada, C.. (2014). The free will inventory: Measuring beliefs about agency and responsibility. Consciousness and Cognition, 25, 2741.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Nadelhoffer, T., and Wright, J. C.. (2018). Humility, free will beliefs, and existential angst: How we got from a preliminary investigation to a cautionary tale. In Caruso, G. D. and Flanagan, O., eds., Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 269297.Google Scholar
Neimeth, C., and Sosis, R. H.. (1973). A simulated jury: Characteristics of the defendant and the jurors. Journal of Social Psychology, 90, 221229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nichols, S. (2011). Is free will an illusion? Scientific American Mind, 22, 1819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nussbaum, M. (2011). Creating capabilities: The human development approach. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oldenquist, A. (1988). An explanation of retribution. Journal of Philosophy, 85, 464478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Open Science Collaboration. (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349(6251), aac4716: DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4716.
Paul, G. S. (2005). Is the Baylor religion study reliable?: An analysis from the council for secular humanism. Available at: http://ga1.org/center_for_inquiry/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=11076763.
Paulhus, D. L., and Carey, J. M.. (2011). The FAD-Plus: Measuring lay beliefs regarding free will and related constructs. Journal of Personality Assessment, 93, 96104.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pereboom, D. (2001). Living Without Free Will. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pereboom, D. (2013a). Optimistic skepticism about free will. In Russell, P. and Deery, O., eds., The Philosophy of Free Will: Selected Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 421449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pereboom, D. (2013b). Skepticism about free will. In Caruso, G. D., ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 1940.Google Scholar
Pereboom, D. (2013c). Free will skepticism and criminal punishment. In Nadelhoffer, T., ed., The Future of Punishment. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 4978.Google Scholar
Pereboom, D. (2014). Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pereboom, D. (2017). A defense of free will skepticism: Replies to commentaries by Victor Tadros, Saul Smilansky, Michael McKenna, and Alfred R. Mele on Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life. Criminal Law and Philosophy, 11(3), 617636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pereboom, D., and Caruso, G. D.. (2018). Hard-incompatibilist existentialism: Neuroscience, punishment, and meaning in life. In Caruso, G. D. and Flanagan, O., ed., Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 193222.Google Scholar
Pizarro, D., Ulhmann, E., and Salovey, P.. (2003). Asymmetry in judgments of moral blame and praise: The of perceived metadesires. Psychological Science, 14, 267272.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Powers, M. and Faden, R. (2006). Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Rubin, Z., and Peplau, L. A.. (1975). Who believes in a just world? Journal of Social Issues, 31, 6589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schlenker, B. R. (1980). Impression Management: The Self-Concept, Social Identity, and Interpersonal Relations. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
Sen, A. (1985). Commodities and Capabilities. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
Sen, A. (1999). Development as Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Shariff, A. F., Greene, J. D., Karremans, J. C., et al. (2014). Free will and punishment: A mechanistic view of human nature reduces retribution. Psychological Science, June 10, 1–8.CrossRef
Sie, M. (2013). Free will, an illusion? An answer from a pragmatic sentimentalist point of view. In Caruso, G. D., ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 273290.Google Scholar
Smilansky, S. (2000). Free Will and Illusion. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Smilansky, S. (2013). Free will as a case of “crazy ethics.” In Caruso, G. D., ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 103120.Google Scholar
Snyder, C. R., Higgins, R. L., and Stuckey, R. J.. (1983). Excuses: Masquerades in Search of Grace. Clinton Corners, NY: Eliot Werner Publications.Google Scholar
Sorrentino, R. M., and Hardy, J.. (1974). Religiousness and derogation of an innocent victim. Journal of Personality, 42, 372382.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sosis, R. H. (1974). Internal-external control and the perception of responsibility of another for an accident. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 393399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stillman, T. F., and Baumeister, R. F.. (2010). Guilt, free, and wise: Belief in free will facilitates Learning from self-conscious emotions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 951960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stillman, T. F., Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Lambert, N. M., Fincham, F. D., and Brewer, L. E.. (2010). Personal philosophy and personnel achievement: Belief in free will predicts better job performance. Social Psychological and Personal Science, 1(1), 4350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strawson, G. (1986). Freedom and Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Strawson, G. (1994). The impossibility of moral responsibility. Philosophical Studies, 75(1), 524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strawson, G. (2010). Freedom and Belief, Revised edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strawson, G. (2018). Things That Bother Me: Death, Freedom, the Self, etc. New York: New York Review Book.Google Scholar
Tabandeh, A. P., Gardoni, P., and Murphy, C.. (2018). A reliability-based capability approach. Risk Analysis, 38(2), 410424.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tonry, M. (2004). Thinking About Crime: Sense and Sensibility in American Penal Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Vilhauer, B. (2010). Persons, punishment, and free will skepticism. Philosophical Studies, DOI: 10.1007/s11098-011-9752-z.CrossRef
Vilhauer, B. (2013). The people problem. In Caruso, G. D., ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 141160.Google Scholar
Vohs, K. D., and Schooler, J. W.. (2008). The value of believing in free will: Encouraging a belief in determinism increases cheating. Psychological Science, 19, 4954.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wagstaff, G. F. (1983). Correlates of the just world in Britain. Journal of Social Psychology, 121, 145146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waller, B. (2011). Against Moral Responsibility. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waller, B. (2013). The stubborn illusion of moral responsibility. In Caruso, G. D., ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 6586.Google Scholar
Waller, B. (2014a). The culture of moral responsibility. Southwest Philosophical View, 30(1), 317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waller, B. (2014b). The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waller, B. (2015). Restorative Free Will: Back to the Biological Base. Lanham, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
Weiner, B. (1993). On sin and sickness: A theory of perceived responsibility and social motivation. American Psychologist, 48, 957965.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Zuckerman, P. (2009). Atheism, secularity, and well-being: How the findings of social science counter negative stereotypes and assumptions. Sociology Compass, 3/6, 949971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zwaan, R. (2013). The value of believing in free will: a replication attempt. March 18, 2013. Retrieved from: https://rolfzwaan.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-value-of-believing-in-free-will.html.
2
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×