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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 5 HT08

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 5 HT08
Start Date 11th Feb 2008 4:30pm
End Date 11th Feb 2008 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Richard Holton (MIT), 'Determinism, Self-Efficacy and the Phenomenology of Free Will' to be held in the Lecture Room, 10 Merton Street, Oxford - Seminars in Moral Philosophy webpage


Some recent studies have suggested that belief in determinism tends to undermine moral motivation: subjects who are given determinist texts to read become more likely to cheat or to go in for vindictive behaviour. One possible explanation is that people are natural incompatibilists, so that convincing them of determinism undermines their belief that they are morally responsible. 

I suggest a different explanation, and in doing so try to shed some light on the phenomenology of free will. I contend that one aspect of the phenomenology is our impression that maintaining a resolution requires effort—an impression well supported by a range of psychological data. Determinism can easily be interpreted as showing that such effort will be futile: in effect determinism is conflated with fatalism, in a way that is reminiscent of the Lazy argument used against the Stoics. If this interpretation is right, it explains how belief in determinism undermines moral motivation without needing to attribute sophisticated incompatibilist beliefs to subjects; it works by undermining subjects’ self-efficacy. It also provides indirect support for the contention that the awareness of the exertion of effort is one of the sources of the phenomenology of free will.

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