Herewith our forum hosting the lost 2020 Pacific APA session of the author-meets-critics session on Al Mele’s book Manipulated Agents: A Window to Moral Responsibility. Al’s precis is here. Click the following links for the criticisms: Carolina Sartorio, and Gunnar Bjornsson. (And below are Carolina’s and Gunnar’s abstracts of their remarks.) Finally, Al’s response to Carolina and Gunnar is here. Please join in on the discussion, even if you haven’t read the book!
Carolina Sartorio: I discuss the implications that Al’s book has for compatibilist views of free will. I make two comments. The first is a friendly remark on the historical condition of responsibility that the book advances. Given that this is a purely negative condition, there is the worry that any condition of that kind will fail to be illuminating, or that it will fail to capture the true nature of freedom. I suggest a way in which such a worry could potentially be addressed, by drawing an analogy with personal identity and views of that concept that incorporate a “closest continuer” condition. My second comment is more critical, in that it questions the reliability of the specific intuitions about cases on which the view relies. I suggest that those intuitions could be tainted by the fact that the cases involve agential manipulation (instead of natural influences), and temporary (not permanent) character transformations.
Gunnar Bjornsson: Al Mele’s Manipulated Agents: A Window to Moral Responsibility (OUP 2019) is an extraordinarily careful and clear little book. A central recurring element is the use of examples of radical value reversals due to manipulation. In this commentary, I discuss the relevance of these examples to a simple quality of will account of blameworthiness without explicit historical conditions. Such an account, I suggest, can fairly straightforwardly explain how value reversals might mitigate blameworthiness. But I also suggest that the intuition that they completely remove blameworthiness should instead be explained away.