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Are we less free with God?
Posted: 10 January 2012 11:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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TimB - 10 January 2012 03:18 PM

... nobody is ultimately moral responsible… You are the hapless victim of being you. Moral responsibility needs to be compatible with that.

Stephen

I think I understand what you’re saying.  As I believe that my wants and beliefs are shaped by the circumstances that I have been exposed to in my lifetime, and as I believe that my behavior is a product of my wants plus the repertoire of respondant behavior that I was born with, plus the behaviors that I have learned by virtue of exposure to the circumstances of my life, it is difficult for me to reconcile using the word “free” in regards to my choices. 

But I have come to think it can make sense within a limited operational definition of free will such as Doug espouses.  I think the definition has to include non-coercion by an agent and has to include that my thinking and decision making abilities are intact and the definition also has to include that if my circumstance and the circumstances of my life are the controlling factors in my actions that my actions are still considered “free” if they match with my wants and beliefs. Given all that, one could make a determination of whether I acted “freely”.  If I did act freely, then I was responsible.  Whether my action was moral to others, would have to be decided according to some societal set of morals. (It was probably moral to me because I acted with free will, which by definition includes that I acted in accordance with my belief system, unless my wants outweighed my personal sense of morals at the time that I acted.)

Yep, I’m a compatibilist (I think) Tim. But I’m one who thinks belief in contra causal free will and ultimate responsibility is bad because it denies that we are unfortunate or fortunate, as the case may be, to find ourselves in the internal and external circumstances we are in and therefore fortunate or unfortunate to find ourselves doing whatever we happen to be doing.

I’ll quote from Sam Harris The moral Landscape:

The men and women on death row have some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad ideas and bad luck – which of these quantities, exactly, were they responsible for? No human being stands as author to his own genes or own upbringing, and yet we have every reason to believe that these factors determine his character throughout his life. Our system of justice should reflect our understanding that each of us could have been dealt a very different hand in life…The urge for retribution…seems to depend upon our not seeing the underlying causes of human behavior. (109)

Stephen

[ Edited: 10 January 2012 11:26 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 11 January 2012 12:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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I’ll quote from Sam Harris The moral Landscape:

The men and women on death row have some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad ideas and bad luck – which of these quantities, exactly, were they responsible for? No human being stands as author to his own genes or own upbringing, and yet we have every reason to believe that these factors determine his character throughout his life. Our system of justice should reflect our understanding that each of us could have been dealt a very different hand in life…The urge for retribution…seems to depend upon our not seeing the underlying causes of human behavior. (109)

Stephen

Hard to argue with that.

TIm

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 12:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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TimB - 11 January 2012 12:04 AM


Hard to argue with that.

TIm

And no need to, getting free will right means denying the damaging version of free will and affirming the healthy version.

Stephen

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Posted: 11 January 2012 12:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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dougsmith - 10 January 2012 12:25 PM

Generally speaking I don’t like an analysis that ends us up with two separate terms where we only had one to begin with. Occam’s Razor, and all, unless you can demonstrate that both are necessary, and in this case I don’t think you have.

I understand that, but you brought in as criterion that a concept of free will should be as close to the daily use as possible. I think I just did that, in the following way:

- my concept of free² reflects the element of choice, that even exists in the gunman example. You called defying the gunman a free action (free¹ and free² I would say…), and I do not see why drinking dirty water would not be a free² action (of course it is not a free¹ action)
- free² can be used in other contexts then of morality and responsibility. It is a rather overstretched meaning of those concepts to say that I bear responsibility for my choice of vanilla ice cream
- free² (or better its opposite) can also be used in situations where actions that I am used too are blocked by natural causes (Barrier example)

dougsmith - 10 January 2012 12:25 PM

To be clear, I do think that free will only applies in questions of responsibility, though there are various sorts of responsibility, (viz. legal, moral, causal, etc.) and it would be difficult and complex to hash out precisely how free will relates to each of them.

Causal responsibility? Then gravity is causally responsible for the earth orbiting the sun? If the barrier system is broken should we punish the system? This seems a kind of overstretching of the concept of responsibility, especially when we say that some retarded people are not responsible because they lack the ability to reflect on their actions. If some people are not capable of being responsible, why should a barrier be?

In other words, we both are redefining certain daily concepts to get a correct understanding of causation, free will, coercion, and responsibility. One could say you introduce different kinds of responsibility, responsibility¹ (moral) and responsibility² (causal). Is there more behind the discussion than a matter of taste?

[ Edited: 11 January 2012 02:09 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 11 January 2012 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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GdB - 11 January 2012 12:54 AM

Causal responsibility? Then gravity is causally responsible for the earth orbiting the sun? If the barrier system is broken should we punish the system? This seems a kind of overstretching of the concept of responsibility, especially when we say that some retarded people are not responsible because they lack the ability to reflect on their actions. If some people are not capable of being responsible, why should a barrier be?

In other words, we both are redefining certain daily concepts to get a correct understanding of causation, free will, coercion, and responsibility. One could say you introduce different kinds of responsibility, responsibility¹ (moral) and responsibility² (causal). Is there more behind the discussion than a matter of taste?

You’re making an issue where none exist, GdB, and I expect that you’re aware of it. We talk about causal responsibility all the time. We say the broken hinge was responsible for the door getting stuck, or the plaque buildup was responsible for the heart attack.

We also say that Jones should be punished because he is responsible for the murder of Williams.

Clearly this is not the same sort of responsibility. Or better put, the latter sort of responsibility assumes the former, but adds something, an element of moral desert.

When I say that “Generally speaking I don’t like an analysis that ends us up with two separate terms where we only had one to begin with”, wI am not saying that we should always end up with one term in our analysis where there is one in ordinary language. Clearly not, since ordinary language has many words that have multiple meanings. What I am saying is that we need some good, theoretical reason for doing so. In the case of responsibility, this is clear. X can be (causally) responsible for Y without being (morally) responsible for it, as in the case of the hinge in the door. Moral responsibility is a sub-class of causal responsibility.

I don’t see anything like the same reason in the case of freedom. Talking of two sorts of free action is otiose.

When we talk about billiard balls, free will does not come into it, though responsibility does: causal responsibility. The eight ball was responsible for knocking the five into the pocket. But to get moral responsibility what we need is a moral sense, which requires at the very least the capacity of having beliefs and desires. That is precisely what we require for free will as well: that beliefs and desires be causally responsible for actions, in certain specified ways.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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dougsmith - 11 January 2012 05:05 AM
GdB - 11 January 2012 12:54 AM

Is there more behind the discussion than a matter of taste?

You’re making an issue where none exist, GdB, and I expect that you’re aware of it. We talk about causal responsibility all the time. We say the broken hinge was responsible for the door getting stuck, or the plaque buildup was responsible for the heart attack.

I take that as ‘no’, even if you do not seem to be happy with that. Of course I am aware of this use of the word ‘responsibility’. But for me that is metaphorical use of the normal, moral, use of the term. Looking in the Oxford Dictionary, the closest to your meaning is:

being the primary cause of something and so able to be blamed or credited for it

(Italics by me, of course)

I think our ways of seeing are equivalent. It is like quarreling over if we should first multiply and then divide, or the other way round: the result is the same ( (6 x 2)/3 = 4, but (6/3) x 2 = 4). Call it a non-issue if you want, but it leads me to a different answer on your OP: God’s existence would not make any difference.

Maybe the whole topic is a non-issue. We both take it for granted that God does not exist.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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GdB - 11 January 2012 06:10 AM

Of course I am aware of this use of the word ‘responsibility’. But for me that is metaphorical use of the normal, moral, use of the term. Looking in the Oxford Dictionary, the closest to your meaning is:

being the primary cause of something and so able to be blamed or credited for it

(Italics by me, of course)

I have something very akin to this definition as being the first in my dictionary (“the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something”).  I take it that the causal use is the primary, the moral is the secondary. I see no reason for assuming that there is a “metaphorical” usage here.

GdB - 11 January 2012 06:10 AM

I think our ways of seeing are equivalent. It is like quarreling over if we should first multiply and then divide, or the other way round: the result is the same ( (6 x 2)/3 = 4, but (6/3) x 2 = 4).

Well, I don’t agree. I don’t think you’ve demonstrated the need for two terms for “free will”, and neither have you demonstrated that there is one, moral meaning of the term “responsibility” from which the causal account is a metaphor.

OTOH I think I have demonstrated a simple account of free will which makes sense of our ordinary intuitions, and a dual sense for “responsibility” where the moral references are a subset of the causal references.

GdB - 11 January 2012 06:10 AM

Call it a non-issue if you want, but it leads me to a different answer on your OP: God’s existence would not make any difference.

Maybe the whole topic is a non-issue. We both take it for granted that God does not exist.

Sure, I think we both know I take it for granted that God does not exist. The point of the OP is to reveal an interesting corollary for theists.

As for your claim about God’s existence not making any difference, far as I can see it would make a difference to one of your meanings of ‘free’ and not the other. I don’t think that’s an elegant solution, but there it is.

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Posted: 05 February 2012 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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“It occurs to me that on this definition, if God exists we are less free than if God does not exist”.

Yes. Judicial free will is based on law therefore presumes a law maker. It would seem a choice that has pertinence is one which was made in the midst of a battle between opposing laws. 

Without a god, the problem with us existing at all aside for this argument, we would be making choices with an end to serve our own purposes which would include human law. Some believe that a spiral to self annihilation would be our destiny.

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Posted: 05 February 2012 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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I’ll admit to not reading through all this thread, since philosophical arguments are hard for me to follow for some reason. But I can say from personal experience that I have never felt as free as the day I walked out of a Sunday School class and vowed never to darken the door of a church again. I always found it ironic that the church I attended talked a lot about “freedom in Christ” despite the fact that they placed a lot of restrictions on what was considered to be acceptable behavior.

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Posted: 02 January 2013 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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I don’t think we are free with or without god. if God exists with the attributes commonly assigned to him, like foresight, intervening, answering prayers, performing miracles, etc… then we cannot be free. God’s attribute of foresight alone suggest there is but one path that will be taken which god already knows. Also, If a god were to answer prayers, perform miracles, meddle in the affairs of man and nature, alter events that would have otherwise turned out differently had it of not of intervened, the consequences of such interactions are much more far reaching and significant then just a momentary revision of a single event. For every action, there is a reaction. You change one thing, then you have changed the course of all events that follow it. This affects everyone. The change ripples down through causality and eventually affects everyone. For a god to answer a prayer or to perform a miracle, it is not a single change, but a change in everything that would infringe of the free-will of all men.
Would this make us less-free than now in what I perceive to be a godless deterministic environment? I’m not sure if it would be less free, but It would be at least just as unfree.

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Posted: 02 January 2013 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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Is God free—yes no,  are we trying to free God—yes no,  so God can be free—yes no;

What (practice) has to be free in me for God to be free?

[ Edited: 27 February 2013 01:39 PM by arnoldg ]
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