Taking Free Will Skepticism Seriously



An apparently increasing number of philosophers take free will skepticism to pose a serious challenge to some of our practices. This must seem odd to many—why should anyone think that free will skepticism is relevant for our practices, when nobody seems to think that other canonical forms of philosophical skepticism (for example, skepticism about induction or other minds) are relevant for our practices? Part of the explanation may be epistemic, but here I focus on a metaethical explanation. Free will skepticism is special because it is compatible with ‘basic moral reasons’—moral reasons acknowledged by all mainstream ethicists—and other minds and induction skepticism are not. One example is our reason not to intentionally harm others. Practical seriousness about other minds and induction skepticism undermines this reason, but practical seriousness about free will skepticism only undermines a potential overrider of this reason, that is, the reason of retribution.