This essay proposes that Arnhart's conservatism fails for a more fundamental reason: it implies determinism of the human mind such that human beings are incapable of the kind of free will necessary for meaningful morality, including conservative morality. Arnhart's allegiance to Darwinism--with its sole reliance on material-efficient causes and rejection of human telos and essentia--fails to ground 'genuine' free will. But without free will, morality and traditional values become meaningless. Thus the proposed union between Darwinism and conservative beliefs cannot be sustained.
In a footnote to this statement, Dilley writes: "The notion of 'free will' used in this essay will be clarified below." In my recent post, I noted that he never fulfills his promise to explain what he means by "free will." I said that "it's hard to know how to respond" to his criticisms without this explanation.
Now, in his most recent statement, he complains that it's not right for me to ask for this explanation, because he is making a purely negative argument against me that does not require any positive argument from him. He even says that he wants to keep it a secret as to whether he really believes in free will: "nothing in my article implied that I personally accept 'agent causation' or 'uncaused causes.'"
So, in effect, Dilley is saying: I want you to respond to my criticism that your position implies "that human beings are incapable of the kind of free will necessary for meaningful morality," but I am not going to give you any definition or explanation of what I mean by "free will."
Well, if these are the rules of the debate, then I might as well surrender.
All that I can do is to point to what I have said about "natural freedom" in Darwinian Natural Right (83-87) and in various posts on this blog. My fundamental claim in these remarks is that "free will" as "uncaused cause" makes no sense in application to human beings. Whatever comes into existence must have a cause. Only what is self-existent from eternity--God--could be uncaused. Against the incomprehensible claim that human beings have the free will to act as divine uncaused causes, I argue that the common-sense notion of human freedom is the power to act as one chooses regardless of the cause of the choice. We are free when our actions and thoughts are determined by our deliberate choices.
Against this conception of natural freedom, Dilley assmes a radically reductionist view of causal determinism: when a human being chooses what to do or think based on his beliefs and desires, "he no more chooses his actions than a domino chooses its action in a falling line." So, for Dilley, the causal determinism of our deliberate choices is no different from the causal determinism of falling dominoes. Apparently, for Dilley, the only escape from this reductionist determinism is "free will," but then he's not going to tell us what he means by "free will," or even whether he believes there is "free will."
One possible explanation for Dilley's secrecy is that while he believes morality is meaningless without "free will" as "uncaused cause," he doesn't believe there is such "free will." In that case, he would be a moral nihilist, and he would be criticizing me for not facing up to the truth of moral nihilism.