Adina Roskies (Dartmouth College)


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Freedom, awareness, and the challenge from cognitive science

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Adina Roskies (Dartmouth College)

  1. 1. FREEDOM, AWARENESS, AND THE CHALLENGE FROM THE COGNITIVE SCIENCES Adina Roskies Dartmouth College Princeton University Center for Human ValuesWednesday, May 9, 2012
  2. 2. FREEDOM AND AWARENESS • In folk psychological views, awareness plays an important role in decision and action: • In order to be free and responsible for action A, we must consciously will to perform action A. • To consciously will is to be conscious of willing A, i.e. conscious of intending to A • In order to be responsible for our actions we must be aware of the real (i.e. causally efficacious) reasons for our actionsWednesday, May 9, 2012
  3. 3. PRESSURE FROM THE BRAIN/ COGNITIVE SCIENCES • Challenge 1: The brain sciences highlight the problem of determinism for freedom by showing that brains are deterministic • False • Challenge 2: The brain sciences show that conscious will is inefficacious • Challenge 3: The brain sciences show that we act automatically, are moved by causal forces of which we are unaware, and invent reasons for action post hocWednesday, May 9, 2012
  4. 4. CLAIMS 2 AND 3 CONCERN FREEDOM AND AWARENESS • The role of awareness in decision and action • Conscious will is inefficacious: Awareness of intention • Libet and the challenge to conscious will • Modern-day analogues: Reading intentions • We are not responsible for our actions: Awareness of reasons • The challenge from the cognitive and social sciencesWednesday, May 9, 2012
  5. 5. LIBET-STYLE EXPERIMENTSWednesday, May 9, 2012
  6. 6. SUMMARY OF RESULTS ON SUBJECTIVE TIMING (Banks and Pockett, 2007)Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  7. 7. WHAT LIBET STUDIES MEASURE STOP! STOP! Conscious Will? Awareness of Conscious WillWednesday, May 9, 2012
  8. 8. SUMMARY OF RESULTS ON SUBJECTIVE TIMING (Banks and Pockett, 2007)Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  9. 9. DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN CONSCIOUS INTENTION AND CONSCIOUSNESS OF INTENTION W C of I ?? (modified from Banks and Pockett, 2007)Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  10. 10. PROBLEMS WITH LIBET-LIKE STUDIES • Not clear what the RP is an indication of: • it may not indicate that a decision has been made • it may be a precursor to conscious will • Experimental and interpretive difficulties in measuring time of awareness limit the conclusions that can be drawn about efficacy of conscious will. • In particular, these studies may say more about time of awareness of conscious intention, a metaconscious state, than about the time of conscious intention. We typically are not conscious of our intention when we freely act.Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  11. 11. READING INTENTIONS (Haynes et al., 2007)Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  12. 12. FMRI VERSION OF LIBET (Soon et al, 2008)Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  13. 13. THE UPSHOT FROM INTENTION-READING STUDIES • Some studies suggest that there is decodable brain information when an intention is consciously held in mind, but this is no challenge to conscious will. • Other studies suggest that some causal factors detectable prior to decisions influence those decisions. But there is no evidence that is an intention. • Indeed, as physicalists, we would expect nothing else. • No studies show that brain activity determines action prior to and independently of awareness.Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  14. 14. PRESSURE FROM THE BRAIN/ COGNITIVE SCIENCES • Challenge 1: The brain sciences highlight the problem of determinism for freedom by showing that brains are deterministic • False • Challenge 2: The brain sciences show that conscious will is inefficacious • False • Challenge 3: The brain sciences show that we act automatically, are moved by causal forces of which we are unaware, and invent reasons for action post hocWednesday, May 9, 2012
  15. 15. THE CHALLENGE TO “NEW COMPATIBILISM” • Sie and Wouters (2009) • Traditional Compatibilism: Freedom is the ability to do otherwise • The “New Compatibilism”: Freedom is the ability to act for reasons • The Challenge: “Research in the BCN sciences ...indicates that it is not as obvious as it seems that the ability to act for reasons can serve as an unproblematic basis to justify our daily practices of responsibility.”Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  16. 16. THE COMPETING PICTURES • FOLK PICTURE • SCIENTIFIC PICTURE • aware of our reasons • aware of some of our reasons • reasons enter into explicit • many other factors (implicit deliberation reasons/situational factors) of which we are unaware also drive action • free actions, those for which we can be held responsible, issue from and • we justify our reasons for acting only from deliberation in which we post hoc, but do not have access to are conscious of all our operative the actual causal factors of our reasons actions • free actions?Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  17. 17. THE “NEW COMPATIBILISM” • The “new compatibilism” is a version of the capacity view; the notion that acting freely is having certain metaphysically unproblematic capacities (i.e. sanity (Wolf,1987)); moral competence; the ability to act for reasons). • It highlights the capacity of being appropriately reasons- responsive • However, the claim is that the brain/cognitive sciences undermine the notion that we act for reasonsWednesday, May 9, 2012
  18. 18. WHY DOUBT REASONS- RESPONSIVENESS? • Our actions are largely determined by automatic processes, not processes of reason • Situationism suggests lack of robust dispositions • Demonstrably mistaken inferences from phenomenology • Confabulation and post hoc rationalizationWednesday, May 9, 2012
  19. 19. THE SITUATIONIST CHALLENGE • Milgram experiment •A huge proportion of normal people will torture someone if ordered to do so by an authority figure • 1/10th of 1% expected to comply; 62% went all the way.Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  20. 20. THE SITUATIONIST CHALLENGE • Situational factors affect moral behavior • Darleyand Batson’s Good Samaritan experiment • Even seminary students don’t help if in a hurryWednesday, May 9, 2012
  21. 21. THE SITUATIONIST CHALLENGE • Emotion can drive moral judgment • Disgust and hypnosis (Wheatley and Haidt, 2005) • Dirty desk (Schnall et al, 2008)Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  22. 22. UPSHOT OF SITUATIONIST PSYCHOLOGY • What do these experiments show about acting for reasons? • features of situations play an important role in generating behavior • situations provide reasons we may not acknowledge • we often are unaware of all the reasons that affect our behaviorWednesday, May 9, 2012
  23. 23. MISLEADING PHENOMENOLOGY • Wegner: the experience of willing is a retrospective inference; our phenomenology can be misleading • we do not have access to the causal chains between action and experience of action • we can be fooled about whether we or external forces initiate actionWednesday, May 9, 2012
  24. 24. CONFABULATION • Confabulation and post-hoc rationalization: • Gazzaniga split-brain studies: • we routinely confabulate to rationalize our actions • Upshot: People are not aware of the real causes of their actionsWednesday, May 9, 2012
  25. 25. REASONS AND CAUSES “The mistakes indicate that the process of providing reasons is quite different from what it seems and only loosely connected to the processes that generate the actions. Initially one might think that when we give reasons we recollect the motives that drove our actions. The fact that people can make real errors in reporting reasons (errors that are neither the result from conscious or unconscious distortion of what they perceived, nor of an unwillingness to perceive their motives) shows that we have no direct access to our motives and, hence, that we do not recollect our motives when asked for reasons, but infer them on the basis of the information we do have.”(S&W, 127)Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  26. 26. WHAT THESE EXPERIMENTS DO AND DO NOT SHOW: • These experiments show that we are not aware of all the causes of our actions • These experiments do not show that conscious states are not causes of actions • These experiments show that we are sometimes in error about the reasons for our actions • Errors do not show that we are always in error • Error in reporting does not mean that the causes are not reasons for which we actWednesday, May 9, 2012
  27. 27. HOW DO RESULTS FROM COGNITIVE/SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY CHALLENGE REASONS-RESPONSIVENESS? • Potential challenges: • Lack capacity to act for reasons • Lack capacity to control our behavior • Lack capacity to have knowledge of our reasons • Lack capacity to assess the goodness of reasonsWednesday, May 9, 2012
  28. 28. CAPACITY TO ACT FOR REASONS? • Is awareness of reasons necessary for acting for reasons? • NO: • When you are driving and talking and stop at a red light • Are you aware of the reason that you stop? Or aware of the light? And are you even aware of the light in the sense of explicitly conscious of it? Many governing causes of responsible action are automatic (see, e.g. studies by Bargh).Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  29. 29. CAPACITY TO CONTROL OUR BEHAVIOR • Is awareness of reasons necessary for control? • No - take traffic light again. Automatic processes kick in and you slam on your breaks without deliberating at all. • We are not unaware of the behaviors we produce. That is the awareness we must have to exert conscious control. Not the underlying causes of those behaviors.Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  30. 30. CAPACITY FOR KNOWLEDGE OF CAUSES? • Must we be aware of or be able to correctly identify the determining influences to be responsible for our behavior? Must we have knowledge of internal causes of behavior? • Certainly not true in general: in all action we are unaware of many of the causes of our actions (i.e. neural activity, genes). That does not mean we lack responsibility for our behavior. • What causes are the causes we must have knowledge of? Reasons? All reasons? Just some reasons? Governing reasons? External forces? Internal forces? None of these seem like necessary conditions for responsibility for behavior.Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  31. 31. REASONS-RESPONSIVENESS: THE CAPACITY • Fischer and Ravizza (1982) • Reasons-responsiveness is the capacity to be appropriately (behaviorally) sensitive to reasons • What does this mean? • Behavior will alter appropriately as reasons for action change • Counterfactual situations provide information about capacity in actual situationWednesday, May 9, 2012
  32. 32. REASONS-RESPONSIVENESS: EVALUATION • Importantly, sensitivity to reasons does not require awareness of reasons; it requires an appropriate pattern of counterfactual dependency • Does sensitivity to the right reasons require awareness of those reasons? • Perhaps in some cases, such as when both good and bad reasons are present and competing, but not as a rule • But it does not seem that explicit evaluation and/or accurate evaluation of goodness of reasons is necessary for free action or for responsibilityWednesday, May 9, 2012
  33. 33. THE EPISTEMIC PROBLEM • There is an epistemic problem: • Science suggests that many actions for which agent gives reasons are automatic responses to factors unknown to the agent • How do we distinguish automatic actions for a reason from automatic actions not for a reason? • How do we determine whether agents should be expected to act in opposition to automatically-influenced actions? • Deciding when an agent should be held responsible for actions is a hard problem. But it is not a new hard problem!Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  34. 34. SUMMARY OF CHALLENGES TO THE NEW COMPATIBILISM • Experiments suggest that we are often influenced by factors of which we are unaware, and that we may not have direct access to the reasons for our actions • These experiments do not show that we are not reasons-responsive, that we do not act for reasons, that we are unable to control our actions, or that we are unable to access reasons for our actions. • Reasons responsiveness is a notion that depends not on reporting accurately, but counterfactual sensitivity. • However, the cognitive sciences do suggest that assessing responsibility in individual cases may be difficult.Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  35. 35. SUMMARY OF ROLE OF AWARENESS IN FREE WILL • Science does not show that conscious will is inefficacious • Science does not show that in general we lack awareness of our reasons for action • Moreover, consideration of cases suggests that awareness of reasons for action is not necessary for acting for reasons, for reasons-responsiveness, or for control. The biggest impact appears to be on our position as assessors of responsibility.Wednesday, May 9, 2012
  36. 36. THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSCIOUS ATTENTIONWednesday, May 9, 2012
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