I intentionally posted this in the Humanism forum rather than the Philosophy forum because I want this discussion to be pragmatic rather than philosophical. My question is this:
Does it really matter to my everyday life if human free will technically exists or not? And if so, how?
My feeling at this point is that it does not matter. Whether my actions are predetermined or not, I operate from the perspective that my actions are my own responsibility.
I believe the subject is of great pragmatic importance freeInky. I think, before saying why, a little philosophical backround is necessary.
Firstly, as you realise, it’s all about moral responsibility. Free will is the thing that we have to have to be morally responsible.
So are we morally responsible? To answer that we need to answer what it is to be morally responsible.
What just about everybody thinks, feels and believes, is it’s to deserve blame, to deserve praise, to deserve punishment, to deserve reward and so on.
So the question is, is that possible?
The highly unpopular, but almost certainly correct answer is no it is not.
Deserved praise or blame is a relic of religious thinking. The idea is bad stuff happens to some, good stuff happens to others it must be deserved, it must be fair, why else would it be happening.
But no, in fact it’s a lottery, we have one future we can get to from our past (assuming determinism) and what that past is, is out of our control. (hope your past was OK. )
Some religious people will even say, victims of a tsunami must have deserved it, it must be fair.
The point is, although some get the blame, get the praise, get the guilt, get the reward, get to be in a tsunami and so on, it is not deserved, there is nothing fair about it.
We’ve made a terrible mistake. We’ve imagined our emotional reactions are based on something rational, that those we praise deserve it etc.
So is this of pragmatic importance?
Yes, I think it is.
The immediate response to this is if people are not responsible for anything in the deserved sense, how can we hold them responsible? why should we take responsibility?
The answer is we should because it’s the best thing to do.
There are practical reasons for blaming, praising, taking responsibility, holding responsible and so on.
So we have no need to reject these practical reasons, just because we are not responsible in the deserved sense.
But does it matter that people don’t deserve it?
Yes, how we think and feel and behave does change on realising this and to the extent that’s for the better it matters.
I think you might find reading this worthwhile: http://www.believermag.com/issues/200303/?read=interview_strawson