On The Garden of Forking Paths, Niel Levy, in response to Coffman’s and Warfield’s paper, ‘Deliberation and Meatphysical Freedom’ presents a counterexample to the Belief in Ability Thesis (BAT), which states the following: “If S tries to decide which of (mutually excluding actions A1 …An to perform, then S dispositionally believes of each of A1 …An that he is metaphysically free to perform it.” The counterexample is as follows:
Suppose that Sally finds herself in a room with two doors. She knows that one of the doors is locked and the other unlocked, but she doesn’t know which is which. She also knows that the unlocked door is the door that an alien superscientist, who has a perfect record at predicting the decisions of human beings, has predicted that Sally will choose.
He claims that BAT is false, since, although Sally knows that she is not metaphysically free to open either door, “she seems free to deliberate about which door to pass through”.
Perhaps I can be faulted for not feeling the force of this counterexample, but I simply don’t share this intuition. Even if Sally knows that she will choose the open door, since Sally knows that one door will remain locked, whichever she chooses, then any act of deliberation is causally inefficacious (i.e., it won’t have any effect on what door she eventually walks through). If Sally genuinely understands that thinking about which door to choose is futile, then it doesn’t seem that she could rationally deliberate about her action. Perhaps I am missing something here, but this just doesn’t seem to be a genuine counterexample to BAT.