Peter van Inwagen is a personality I’ve had on my radar, but I haven’t spent any time with him because he is a referenced influence of Robert Kane or Derk Pereboom, who hold positions I disagree with.
Still, I was interested, so I thought watching a short 13-minute video interview might introduce me to him. I’ve enjoyed other Closer to the Truth content, so I gave it a go. I feel that Peter sets up the problem perfectly. No faults whatsoever. As I see it, the same problem and solution proposal arises that Galen Strawson adopts, yet this is where I disagree with them both.
As noam chomsky has speculated maybe our minds are just put together in the wrong way to find this fault we got a certain set of cognitive modules tossed up to us in our evolutionary history maybe we got the wrong ones for thinking about this problem— Peter van Inwagen
Unless I decide to unpack the rest, I’ll cut to the chase. The argument is as follows:
- Humans are somehow hardwired to blame. (I do not know if this is universally true, but let’s accept this premise as being true.)
- Without the notion of free will (or at least human agency), we cannot assign blame.
- Therefore, in order to assign blame, free will has to be true.
I don’t disagree with this syllogism. However, in ‘free will has to be true’ , there are ostensibly two possibilities.
- Free will exists as a fact in nature—a priori
- Free will is a construction—a posteriori
Of course, the general consensus for proponents of free will is that it exists a priori. My contention is that this is not the case. Free will is an a posteriori construction.
Inwagen is falling into a heuristic trap: It feels like it’s true, so it’s obviously true. Borrowing from Daniel Kahneman, he and others are relying on System I and failing to trigger System II, where System II is required. Moreover, I take this position because I don’t think System II has what it needs to accurately analyse and assess the situation holistically. We can’t get outside of the system, so we make up a story that presumably serves our purposes.
I am not one who believes ‘the universe is a simulation’, but I do believe it serves as an apt metaphor. We are player characters in the game and we can’t see outside of it.
I like to sum it all up with the expression, the future can be different, just not because of you.