Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Consciousness of one's choices

Here is a plausible thesis:

  1. Consciousness of one’s choice is necessary for moral responsibility.

I go back and forth on (1). Here is a closely related thesis that is false:

  1. Knowledge of one’s choice is necessary for moral responsibility.

For imagine Alice who on the basis of a mistaken interpretation of neurosience thinks there are no choices. Then it could well be that Alice does not know that she is making any choices. But surely this mistake does not take away her moral responsibility for her choice.

Alice presumably still has consciousness of her choice, much as the sceptic still has perception of the external world. So Alice isn’t a counterexample to (1). But I wonder if (1) is very plausible once one has realized that (2) is false. For once we have realized that (2) is false, we realize that in Alice’s case the consciousness of her choice is not knowledge-conferring. And such consciousness just does not seem significant enough to matter for moral responsibility.


ASBB said...

Two things.

When hypothetical views get as bizarre as this, I’m tempted to still say that Alice does know her choices, and that she just holds contradictory beliefs. She doesn’t know that she knows her choices however. (For example, I’m tempted to think that Graham Priest and JC Beall do know that modus ponens is universally valid and that contradictions are impossible. Even if they don’t know they know this).

Secondly, could we say that Alice knows her choices, but she just does not know that her choices are choices? (As opposed to purely biochemical behaviour causing events)?

Alexander R Pruss said...

It may be that Priest and Beall believe that contradictions are impossible. But do they know it? It seems like their beliefs provide them with a defeater to the justification of that belief. And we can imagine that Alice sees the arguments against free will as so strong that they defeat the justification of her belief in choice.

The second suggestion seems quite interesting. I am not sure what to say.