i solved the free will/determinism/moral responsibility problem last night. sheesh! that was a long few millennia. here's a wee slice, super-rough, from entanglements:
I think we should experiment with the notion of detaching moral responsibility from freedom. First of all, we should appreciate that our practices of blame are quite equivocal in this regard. As research in a variety of areas proceeds, and just as a matter of human common sense, we know that the more carefully you examine the antecedents of an action and the agent who performed it, the less free it appears, and in general that the sort of agency constructed in certain legal and philosophical segments of Western culture does not appear very aptly to describe things such as ourselves. We keep learning about the effects of geneology or environment on the formation of character, for example. Then we might approach the question of responsibility from the point of view of the configuration and connections of the agent: does the act emerge in the right way from the right sort of self? Only I want to emphasize that if we start in this direction, I will not tolerate an account of the right sort of self according to which it consists of a rational commander and a slave body. Freedom might be one dimension to explore, but it is not the only dimension. I do think, as well, that we had better reconceive psychological afflictions as well as capacities as at least often intrinsic to the person who possesses them, even in cases where they eventuate in 'compulsive' action; in such cases, it seems to me, a person should be deemed responsible for the acts that eventuate.
I myself on a bad day more or less blame everything for everything. I often blame information-processing devices, and informally atribute to them a malevolent agency bent on thwarting my desires. I often hold plumbing fixtures or cabinetry responsible for various balky or malfunctioning episodes, and I often punish such things by smacking them. It's often said that no one is stupid enough to blame inanimate objects for things, but I doubt I am alone in doing just that. Now presumably the sticky silverware drawer is not directing the various physical parts of itself by a rational will etc. Still I do not think blaming stuff for shit is entirely wrong or irrelevant. I blame the drawer for being what it is: old, shoddy, flimsy, and so on. It doesn't strike me as evil, only as configured so as to frustrate the function for which it was manufactured. I blame and punish it for that, and I may even have to go to Home Depot in a serious effort at rehabilitation. If I judge the drawer incorrigible, I might even issue a death sentence. The other day I rodneykinged my vacuum cleaner, which after having wrestled with the damned thing for three years I found extremely satisfying. It constituted a kind of justice.
One thing I would like to articulate as an important principle of my philosophy: things are at fault. Things suck. They are constantly getting in the way. Things wear you down, you know? This is meant as a cure for the tendency, manifested in the ontology chapter, to treat the material univese like a beautiful and holy thing. Perhaps or certainly so, and yet much of the material universe is almost unbelievably stupid. The idea that we don't hold things, or maybe time and so on, responsible, because those things aren't agents because those things can't do otherwise than they do is just silly. We do it all the time. Maybe we oughtn't. But I think we are in fact well within our purview. But then this suggests in the most radical way that moral responsibility needs to be detached from the whole complex of freedom, agency, action, goal, decision, deliberation. Now, I do not want to suggest that this detachment of responsibility from freedom rests on the claim that inanimate objects are responsible for stuff; it's a queston of about human moral responsibility. Still the first move is usually just a perfunctory appeal to our intuitions, as in the 'argument' that knowledge requires something more than true belief. And I am saying that the inanimate object case shows that our actual practices are very far from what philosophers represent as our obvious intuitions. To some extent, their account of out intuitions is captured in our practices: in the murder statutes that require deliberation for maximum culpability, for example. But that an intuition is enforced does not necessarily show it to be widely shared, and I'm not sure that, all things considered, an impulsive serial killer will be regarded by most folks as less culpable than a serial kiler who is a master of Aristotelian practical rationality.
When I moved into my little schoolhouse here in Adams County, I realized I had a rather serious poison ivy problem: there were vines growing up into the trees, up the walls of the house, crawling out of the underbrush into the yard with those glossy green leaves. I came to think of the thing as one huge organism or vine that had my house in its clutches like a hand. I fought back with Roundup, but the thing delivered many rashes. The skirmishes continue. I'm at war with the brown marmorated stinkbugs yet again this year: stupid agents, but sort of relentless. My car deserves the junkyard. In short, we or at least I blame all sorts of things for all sorts of things, or on the other hand credit them for their smoothness or slickness or effectiveness or their goodness after their kind. We credit them with beauty or hilarity or strangeness, in virtue of being what they are.
And I think that, fundamentally, this is what we do to each other. If you were a victim of sexual abuse, do you think that the alleged fact that the action was compulsive actually make you blame the perpetrator less? Now that we've learned that you're a psychopath, it's no less rational, putting it mildly, to blame and punish you more rather than less harshly in virtue of what you are; but maybe psychopathy is more instrinsically connected to personality than some other mental conditions, at least it is in the sense that there don't seem to be good treatments so far. Our practices are at least equivocal in this regard. So the fact that one is an alcoholic, even where this is supposedly exclusively conceived on a disease model, is not a defense against a charge of drunk driving. Now maybe this is just meant to have a utilitarian deterrent effect, but it's also not out of keeping with our actual practices of holding people responsible.
Various philosophers - Chisholm, for example - have argued that people who are 'naturally' good, generous without effort, and so on, are less praiseworthy than those for whom generosity is a terrible struggle. I just don't think that lines up with our practices, and a naturally good person is a kind of saint, and is liable to be widely admired and credited with her good works. He quotes Thomas Reid quoting the Roman historian Velleius Paterculus on Cato the Younger: "He never did a right action solely for the sake of seeming to do the right, but because he could not do otherwise" (Loeb p. 126). Chisholm approves Reid's remark that this "strictly, is not the praise of Cato, but of his constitution, which was no more the work of Cato than his existence" (Chis in Pereboom 145, Essays on the Active Powers of Man, essay iv, ch. 4). Obviously, however, Velleius Paterculus uses this as the highest praise imaginable, and indeed in a Cato-style Stoic worldview, the moral praiseworthiness of one's actions cannot depend on their voluntariness. Indeed, I would think that the idea that Cato is not morally praiseworthy because his character is not his own doing is something that would only occur to someone laboring under a theory; it surely does not correspond at all to our natural reaction or our practice with regard actyually to dealing out praise.
We are not constantly pressing people whom we praise or blame for the antecedents of their actions or proof that they are free much less for proof that they are responsible for the excellence of their own character - and I just do not think that freedom plays the sort of role in attributions of responsibility that various philosophers believe it does. We might entertain the idea that there are many sources of responsibility, or many circumstances under which we attribute responsibility, or many factors that are relevant to the question of whether someone is responsible and to what degree and for what exactly. Chisholm's view of free will - which is sort of beautiful in its reactionary perversity - is sometimes called the 'agent causation' view: an act is free and the agent responsible for it when the agent is the cause of the action, when the agent genuinely chose the action and brought it about. And then Chisholm distinguishes the agent from the agent's beliefs and desires; if the agent is caused to act, even by her own beliefs and desires, she is not acting freely. There is insight at the heart of this: one is responsible in part in virtue of how the self is configured at the time of action. Or: if the self is the right sort of causal factor in the act, then one is responsible for it. But on my view we need not pass the relation of agent-causation through the concept of freedom: all we need for moral agency is responsibility, and the two can be severed.
Now, on my view, the human self is a real thing that has real causal effects. I think it is a material thing, if it is anything, and I think that it is volatile, and I think that it is composed of other things. Now, I do think that whatever the human self is doing at any given time is whatever all the pieces of that self are doing at that time, but the reduction of the self to particles or faculties or whatever is no more or less justified than the production of the self out of particles, and the particles are no more real causal agents than is the whole self/situation. So I think in some cases human selves are real causal factors in events, and if they are the right sort of factors, then those selves can be held responsible. There may be no entirely clear or systematic way of characterizing the circumstances under which a self is in the right sort of configuration and relations, or there may be a wide variety of such configurations and relations that could support a reasonable attribution of of the act to that self, or any particular degree of responsibility for it.
But I want emphatically to distinguish the sort of self I am countenancing or declaring myself to be from Chisholm's, which has the problem we see arise again and again: the self is always receding, is an extensionless point: in short, is a soul, monad etc. My self is a congeries, no more or less a single real thing than a table or possibly a heap. And obviously I am not going to trace any causal chain in some ultimate sense to an origin in a self, conceived thinly or thickly; the self I am saying I am is fully, entirely embedded in the ongoing flood of physical causation. The question isn't whether the causal chain originates in the agent; the question is whether it runs through the agent in the right ways, whether the action was indeed something you did.
In other words, more or less accepting some form of determinism or at least declaring it to be obscure how freedom actually does or could emerge in a natural universe, it is open to us what approach to take. We could start to suggest that our attributions of responsibility should be attenuated or even eliminated. They are not necessary, for example, to a utilitarian justification of punishment, and in any case toning down the blame might be appropriate. This actually does seem to be proceeding in many arenas including the criminal law, which is in a slow transformation to what we might think of as a medical model or the self as beset by illnesses and treatable by pharmaceuticals, for example. Or one could take the compatibilist approach of continuing to regard responsibility as important and even as underlain by freedom, but a freedom compatible with physical causation. Or one could take the approach of decoupling responsibility from freedom, as I am suggesting.
This reflects, as I have said, for one thing a desire to myself take responsibility even for acions in which I did feel compelled; I think that even if certain sorts of compulsion constitute legitimate excuses, others do not. In the familiar way (familiar at least since Austin's "Plea for Excuses") we need to carefully distinguish different sorts of cases. Perhaps doing somehing because you're being blackmailed and doing it by accident, by sheer inadvertence in the prosecution of your normal activities have in common that you could not have done otherwise, sort of, but that doesn't mean they are the same sort of case or that either should be expanded willy-nilly to include all 'involuntary' acts. As the Frankfurt cases tend to show, the question turns on whether the agent has the right sort of relation to the act, not on whether various counter-factuals obtain.
 "Rocket" Rod Chisholm, "Human Freedom and the Self," anthologized, for example in Free Will, Derk Pereboom, ed. (Indianapolis, Hackett: 1997), 144.