Free Will Skepticism in Law and Society: Challenging Retributive Justice // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame

Caruso’s and Waller’s contributions have the dual merits of identifying pragmatic consequences largely overlooked in the standard free will literature thus far, as well as offering persuasive and nuanced suggestions for where to look for non-retributive alternatives that may make us significantly better off as a more egalitarian and compassionate society. Perhaps one worry worth flagging, though, is that the conclusions drawn regarding the relation between belief in free will and obviously problematic just world beliefs are too strong. While Caruso and Waller make persuasive cases for the relevant correlation, it is far from obvious that belief in free will plays a role in generating just world beliefs, or that it is a necessary condition for adopting them. If, for example, we have reason to think that the vast majority of non-skeptics — especially the ordinary folk comprising the data that Caruso and Waller cite — believe that we do have free will, then mere correlation won’t tell us much at all. If the belief that we have free will turns out to be a near-universal background assumption of the folk, then we should expect it to correlate with any number of independently problematic beliefs. While the correlation cited does intuitively suggest a tighter causal connection underlying it, explicit argument in support of the latter would further strengthen the force of these arguments.

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