Kane there considers the Consequence Argument:
(1) There is nothing we can now do to change the past.As he notes, many critics of this argument object to the move from the premises to (5). The underlying (implicit) principle here is something like:
(2) There is nothing we can now do to change the laws of nature.
(3) There is nothing we now do to change the past and the laws of nature.
(4) If determinism is true, our present actions are necessary consequences of the past and the laws of nature.
(5) Therefore, there is nothing we can now do to change the fact that our present actions occur (i.e., we cannot do otherwise than we actually do).
Transfer of Powerlessness Principle or TP: If there is nothing anyone can do to change X, and if Y is a necessary consequence of X (if it must be that, if X occurs, Y occurs), then there is nothing anyone can do to change Y.The objections often come down to the analysis of what it means to say that an agent "can" or "has the power" to do something. As Kane points out, one might opt for a notion of ability or power that is hypothetical or conditional. On this approach, to have an ability simply means something like "if one wanted (or tried) to do X, then she would do X." So, to say that I could have (had the ability, power, etc.) to eat shrimp for dinner last night is just to say that, had I wanted to eat shrimp for dinner, I would have.
As Kane points out, this critic (let's call her the hypothetical compatiblist) will insist that the Consequence Argument is invalid--because the premises could be true while the conclusion is false. The conclusion is false, on this view, because there is a sense in which we can do otherwise than we actually do. It's the hypothetical or conditional sense--had we wanted to do otherwise, we would have. The fact that what we do is determined (by the laws and past) does nothing to undermine our freedom. In other words, determinism doesn't rule free will. So we can admit that we can't change the past, that we can't change the laws, that our present actions are the necessary consequences of the past and laws, all while denying we cannot do otherwise. Of course, this is all just to say that compatbilism is true.
Kane is a bit quick in discussing replies to this maneuver. He notes that some incompatiblists will respond by charging the hypothetical compatibilist with begging the question--since the hypothetical analysis was rigged from the beginning to make freedom compatible with determinism. Kane rightly explains that the compatiblist can offer a similar retort and charge the incompatibilist with begging the question--since the notion of ability that she has in mind is rigged from the beginning to make freedom incompatible with determinism.
What do you make of this seeming impasse? Is there a way out? What should we make of the hypothetical analysis of ability? Surely we can assess its merits independently of the Consequence Argument. Can you think of any arguments for/against it that seem compelling? What do you think about TP? Is it true? Can you think of any arguments for/against it that seem compelling?