I've been thinking about a few legal quotes that have initiated my investigation into whether or not choice actually exists:
A "universal and persistent" foundation stone in our system of law, and particularly in our approach to punishment, sentencing, and incarceration, is the "belief in freedom of the human will and a consequent ability and duty of the normal individual to choose between good and evil." - United States v. Grayson, 438 U.S. 41 (1978)
Our concept of blameworthiness rests on assumptions that are older than the Republic: "man is naturally endowed with these two great faculties, understanding and liberty of will." "[H]istorically, our substantive criminal law is based on a theory of punishing the viscious will. It postulates a free agent confronted with a choice between doing right and wrong, and choosing freely to do wrong." Central, therefore, to a verdict of guilty is the concept of responsibility. - United States v. Lyons, 739 F.2d 994 (5th Cir. 1984)
It seems to me from my reading of "The Secret Politics of the Compatibilist Criminal Law" (2007) by Anders Kaye that the current American legal system derives its notion of "choice" under the paradigm of the compatibilist framework.
Despite reading that compatibilism is involved, I am skeptical of that the American legal system relies on compatibilism being true. What does seem legitimate is that there is a reliance on concepts, such as the "will" and "choice."
From what I've read from various sources, my interpretation of what the U.S. Supreme Court was arguing in relation to "will" and "choice" is that if (1) I have a desire and (2) I act on that desire by way of causing (not via libertarian free will) from within myself (by way of using my "will") a volition to seek out satisfaction of that desire, then I have chosen to satisfy that desire.
- An agent has a desire
- The agent acts upon the desire by way of causing its will into causing voluntarily movement in order to satisfy the desire.
- The desire either either becomes satisfied or not satisfied.
This appears to be an argument for agent-causation occurring while working under the philosophy of compatibilism. I'm not sure if that's the proper interpretation of what the legal system is arguing as the philosophical framework for "choice," but it appears that such is the case. I am strongly under the impression that the Supreme Court was implying that an agent causes the will to bring about volition via agent-causation. That's not explicitly argued anywhere, but I can't perceive how it is being argued "access" of the will comes about in order to cause a volition. Maybe its being implicitly argued by the Supreme Court that realization of a desire through it completely neurobiologically manifesting (if at all) causes the will to cause a volition.
My reading of "AGENT CAUSATION AS THE SOLUTION TO ALL THE COMPATIBILIST’S PROBLEMS" by Ned Markosian makes me seriously question how to interpret these matters. It appears that for a person to be held criminally liable that a "type" of agent causality under compatibilist thought must be occurring, namely agent-causation without external influence.
The first thing that is obviously suspect to this notion of having "freely" (without external constraint, as per compatibilist thought) made a choice is that desires exist. I'm not sure if desires exist, and eliminative materialism may be applicable to this situation.
The second thing that is suspect to this notion of having "freely" made a choice is that agent-causation occurs is true (my presumption is that agent causation is necessary for a will to be used). Agent causality appears dependent on an immaterial mind with the ability to cause the volition to satisfy the desire (such as a desire to commit good or evil, moral relativism aside). Whether or not such is actually physical, it is presumed that it is a will (not necessarily above the constraints of the deterministic universe) that brings about causation for a volition to undergo.
It appears to me that to think that choice exists (as per the compatibilist paradigm), then I need to concede that (1) desires can exist and (2) agent causation via a will can occur.
There is not a lot in I've found through Google that covers this matter. I've looked through Google's search engine to resolve my question, but I've not found anything that sufficiently ties the notions of agent causality, compatibilism, voluntariness, and choice together.
As far as I got on the matter was a 2022 article that follows, for which it appears to concede that agent-causation does not exist yet appears to defend that the notion of it be kept around on a definition of what agent-causation is interpreted to be:
The idea of agent causation—that a system such as a living organism can be a cause of things in the world—is often seen as mysterious and deemed to be at odds with the physicalist thesis that is now commonly embraced in science and philosophy. - "Naturalising Agent Causation" (2022) Henry D. Potter and Kevin J. Mitchell
I realize that the way my post's title has been worded this kind of brings this matter into the realm of science, but I think the question of my post can still be constrained to what kind of things I would have to concede to as existing in order to concede to "choice" existing, as the U.S. Supreme Court uses the concept of choice in the quoted material.
For example (to move away from agent causation, as it seems from responses so far that it is not implied to be involved), it appears that if I (1) concede that desires exist, (2) concede that the will exists, and (3) concede that the complete manifestation of a desire in a person can cause the will to cause a volition to satisfy that desire if no external constraints are present, then I should concede that choice (as the term is used by the Supreme Court) exists.