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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 16 April 2012 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 151 ]
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traveler - 11 April 2012 04:53 AM

It only matters to the extent that a person wastes time thinking about it.  smile

It matters at least to the extent that belief in Libertarian free will is harmful, traveler

Stephen

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Posted: 16 April 2012 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 152 ]
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dougsmith - 16 April 2012 07:07 AM

It may be more like the tip of the iceberg rather than the iceberg itself.

Consciousness explained.  wink

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Posted: 16 April 2012 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 153 ]
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dougsmith - 16 April 2012 06:24 AM
FreeInKy - 16 April 2012 05:53 AM

Well shit.

If you’re REEEEEALLLy opposed I can move it back, but this I think was never destined to become anything other than a philosophy discussion ....  red face

That was more about what happened to the thread than about your moving it. I still think we could have a practical discussion about this, but hardly anyone wants to, so… oh well.

Ironically, I just started reading Sam Harris’ book Free Will last night. I’m only on the third chapter and so far no major insights. But at least his discussion style is more what I had in mind.

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Posted: 16 April 2012 08:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 154 ]
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FreeInKy - 16 April 2012 07:52 AM

But at least his discussion style is more what I had in mind.

OK, feel free to bring that style back here in another thread if you like. We can try to police it, but I’m not sure how effective that will be.

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Posted: 16 April 2012 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 155 ]
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FreeInKy - 16 April 2012 07:52 AM
dougsmith - 16 April 2012 06:24 AM
FreeInKy - 16 April 2012 05:53 AM

Well shit.

If you’re REEEEEALLLy opposed I can move it back, but this I think was never destined to become anything other than a philosophy discussion ....  red face

That was more about what happened to the thread than about your moving it. I still think we could have a practical discussion about this, but hardly anyone wants to, so… oh well.

Ironically, I just started reading Sam Harris’ book Free Will last night. I’m only on the third chapter and so far no major insights. But at least his discussion style is more what I had in mind.

FreeInky,

What he is saying is in line with what I said in my post 100 on this thread and to you on the purposeless torture thread.

It’s about the importance of accepting the implications of determinism, which are that in order to make good choices and receive rewards, you need luck. You need the luck that making those choices is the one possible future you can get to from your past.

What Sam thinks is we need to be mindful of this when making moral judgements and that things do change if we are.

He thinks this is beneficial. Many have seen this as beneficial, Einstein being one notable example

He is against Libertarian free will because as good a definition of it as any is it is the denial of this “luck” .

His objection to compatibilism is yes we have all the freedom “worth wanting” as Daniel Dennett says but lets pay a bit more attention to belief in the freedom positively not worth wanting, Libertarian free will and what harm it does.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is more useful to you than the book: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free-will-and-free-will

edit:

Fans of Dan’s account—and there are many—seem to miss my primary purpose in writing about free will. My goal is to show how the traditional notion is flawed, and to point out the consequences of our being taken in by it.

Stephen

[ Edited: 16 April 2012 09:50 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 16 April 2012 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 156 ]
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Thank you, Stephen—that post by Harris was indeed helpful.

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Posted: 16 April 2012 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 157 ]
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FreeInKy - 16 April 2012 08:56 AM

Thank you, Stephen—that post by Harris was indeed helpful.

Glad to help.

Stephen

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Posted: 16 April 2012 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 158 ]
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My own feeling is that we should ask CFI to start another forum devoted only to Free Will/Determinism and move ALL of these threads there so the people who are interested in posting on that topic won’t be bothered by other, extraneous topics.  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 16 April 2012 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 159 ]
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Occam. - 16 April 2012 11:38 AM

...other, extraneous topics.  LOL

There are other topics here?

big surprise

Which ones?

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Posted: 16 April 2012 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 160 ]
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Something about exploding buildings?  shut eye

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Posted: 16 April 2012 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 161 ]
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FreeInKy - 16 April 2012 11:59 AM

Something about exploding buildings?  shut eye

LOL

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Posted: 17 April 2012 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 162 ]
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FreeInKy - 11 April 2012 04:51 AM

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.

Another attempt.

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. grin)

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

Stephen

[ Edited: 17 April 2012 01:25 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 17 April 2012 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 163 ]
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The compatibilist definition of free will, as I understand it, does not directly attribute an act of free will as being moral or not or deserving of praise or disdain.
It simply says that a person acted in accordance with their personal wants and/or beliefs. 

The greater society assigns morality to an action or decides what is “deserved”.  If my wants and beliefs are at odds with those of the greater society, then my free will is likely to get me into trouble. The actions I am likely to take will be deemed immoral or deserving of punishment. Stephen, I think, would emphasize that this is not rational, since one’s wants and beliefs are determined.  I tend to agree.  Still, the practicalities for a functioning society hold sway. 

If my wants and beliefs are in accordance with those of the greater society, but I do something counter to those wants and beliefs, then by the compatiblilist definition, I am not acting according to my free will, thus even from society’s perspective and the practicalities involved, I should not me held deserving of punishment.

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“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb… We are bound to others, past and present… And by each crime and every kindness… We birth our future.”  Sonmi, 2144.

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Posted: 18 April 2012 12:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 164 ]
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TimB - 17 April 2012 02:49 PM

The greater society assigns morality to an action or decides what is “deserved”.  If my wants and beliefs are at odds with those of the greater society, then my free will is likely to get me into trouble. The actions I am likely to take will be deemed immoral or deserving of punishment. Stephen, I think, would emphasize that this is not rational, since one’s wants and beliefs are determined.  I tend to agree.  Still, the practicalities for a functioning society hold sway. 

 

Hi Tim,

The point to get regarding the pragmatic reason to drop desert is it is bad to tell people they are being punished because they deserve it. It’s bad to tell people they deserve their rewards.

There are no good practical reasons to do that and in fact the reverse is true. Tell people why we need penalties and why we need to hold people accountable for practical reasons. Tell people why it’s important to reward certain behaviour.

I think we’ll all respond much better to that.

And we’ll be better at limiting the penalties to what is necessary to achieve the result and limiting the rewards.

And last but not least, how many violent crimes are committed because of hateful emotions which are falsley believed to be based on deserved suffering of the victim.

Belief in desert is a nightmare Tim.

That’s what almost everybody misses, for some reason. And of course I have to admit they might be right but it does not seem reasonable to think that. And usually sceptics would agree, an erroneous belief about such an important matter is likely to be harmful.

The stubborness of sceptics on this one is very queer.

I’m glad to say it looks like the tide is slowly turning.

Stephen

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Posted: 18 April 2012 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 165 ]
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Stephen, once again I find your comments very helpful. You are helping me work through this.

I’m slowly warming to the idea that this is very important after all. Also as I read more I am coming to realize that, although it doesn’t get discussed much in science circles, there seems to be almost zero evidence out there for the existence of anything like what we intuitively think of as free will. That is kind of a shock to me. I had always thought that this was either unsettled or irrelevant to hard science.

I had also thought that if we ever gave up on the notion of free will, it would be the downfall of society but I see that it doesn’t have to be so. It seems that, as long as we focus on desirable behavior and not moral qualities, there is very good reason for society to take a strong interest in dealing with people who misbehave. The sociopath may not “deserve” to be punished for his anti-social behavior, but it is still the right thing to do if it results in changed behavior and/or as a deterrent to others.

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