Friday, January 27, 2006

I Wanna Have Control

Here's a point that came up recently following a talk by Arché visitor Dean Zimmerman on Molinism.

It can't be sufficient, to count as having control over someone else's actions, that their actions vary counterfactually with yours - that were you to F they would F, and were you to G they would G, etc.. For if this were the case we could have symmetric control. It might also be that were they to F you would F too, and so on. (Suppose that, necessarily, you F iff they do.) But you can't each be controlling the actions of the other - control is an asymmetric relation.

So what do we need in order to explicate the notion of control? It doesn't help to specify that exactly one of them is aware of the counterfactual relationship between his actions and the other guy's, and say the controller is the one who's aware. For one can perfectly well be aware that one's actions are being controlled by someone else (who is not aware of the fact).

Unsurprisingly, I think what we need to appeal to here is probably explanation. What matters is whose actions explain those of the other. You are in control just in case your actions explain the other guy's. Explanation brings with it the right kind of asymmetry, as well as making sense of the feeling that the controllee's actions depend upon the controller's.

Monday, January 16, 2006


I'm just about to start work on the final draft of my new paper on Fitch's Knowability argument, so I'm posting the current draft here to invite comments. The earlier Fitch paper of mine which I refer to can be found here and the forthcoming Kvanvig paper I talk about is online here.