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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 18 April 2012 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 166 ]
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This also fits nicely with my liberal ethic that informs me that I am no better than the person who is too lazy to work and no worse than the person who achieves great things.

It also makes god to be even more of an asshole than I thought.

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Posted: 18 April 2012 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 167 ]
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FreeInKy - 18 April 2012 07:24 AM

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.

Cool, I’m pleased.

Stephen

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Posted: 19 April 2012 03:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 168 ]
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StephenLawrence - 18 April 2012 12:07 AM

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.

Somehow I have the feeling you mean me as well? I think we once, a long, long time ago, in some other thread (not too far away since Doug moved this thread to the philosophy forum wink), we agreed that we are more or less on the same line, we are battling on the on the same side, but on different fronts. Your front is that of exaggerated punishments, based on ultimate free will and ultimate responsibility and on the idea of desert, and of social injustice, and mine is that of denying free will and responsibility as a whole, being a thread to humanist and democratic ideals. As inhabitant of a part of the world, where mitigating circumstances are counted for in juridical procedures, and where we do not let people starve to death because it is their own fault that they are poor, your front is not my front (but of course I have to keep my eyes open for tendencies in the wrong directions…).

I am criticising you not because of where you stand in the battle about free will and responsibility, but because I think you are partially using the wrong weapon: metaphysics. I do agree with you that there is no such thing as ultimate responsibility, and that believing in at can be very malign. But to deny free will and responsibility completely is just as inhuman as believing in ultimate responsibility, just in another way.

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Posted: 19 April 2012 04:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 169 ]
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StephenLawrence - 17 April 2012 01:19 PM

Yes, how we think and feel and behave does change on realising this and to the extent that’s for the better it matters.

Yes, it might matter, but only when not thought through thoroughly. If we see ourselves really as determined, then the discussions about free will are determined too.

The way we think may indeed have influence on our feelings about free will and responsibility: we may become fatalists, accept injustice as given, and nothing can change that. But it is a wrong conclusion, following from a wrong way of seeing what free will really is. It is not a (meta)physical category (‘real different possibilities’, or a hole in a causal universe). Our colleagues that have fallen for scientism deny this (meta)physical category (which is correct), but they have not denied what free will really is: the way our beliefs and wishes are connected with my actions. And because no neurologist can find this out without identifying what beliefs and wishes are in the first place, he can discover nothing about free will or responsibility. The only thing a neurologist can discover is what the neural correlates of free and responsible actions are. Take this parallel: how can a neurologist explain seeing, without knowing first what we mean by seeing? Understanding the mechanism of eyes, nerves and the brain does not mean that they have explained seeing away.

[ Edited: 19 April 2012 04:10 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 19 April 2012 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 170 ]
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GdB - 19 April 2012 03:46 AM
StephenLawrence - 18 April 2012 12:07 AM

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.

Somehow I have the feeling you mean me as well? I think we once, a long, long time ago, in some other thread (not too far away since Doug moved this thread to the philosophy forum wink), we agreed that we are more or less on the same line, we are battling on the on the same side, but on different fronts. Your front is that of exaggerated punishments, based on ultimate free will and ultimate responsibility and on the idea of desert, and of social injustice, and mine is that of denying free will and responsibility as a whole, being a thread to humanist and democratic ideals.

Well, as I’ve said I’m not particulary concerned with the justice system. I think nearly every man, woman and child believing in praise and blame etc in the deserved sense, is a monumental disaster.

Sort that out and I expect the judges would have a lot more time on their hands. grin

I can’t see much problem with denying free will, I don’t see that we need it, just like BP doesn’t need free will to be held responsible,

We are not morally responsible in the deserved sense. We can hold each other responsible for practical reasons.

If that’s the best thing to do why not do it?

So why do you feel the need to defend free will, to argue that’s the best thing to do?

Just say why you think it’s best.

And this people will understand.

No need to confuse the issue by bringing free will in to it.

On taking responsibility and holding people responsible, yes we’re on the same side, we agree.

But then again, who doesn’t? Most who deny free will agree with you too. Do you know of anybody who doesn’t?

Stephen

[ Edited: 19 April 2012 09:54 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 19 April 2012 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 171 ]
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StephenLawrence - 19 April 2012 09:52 AM

We are not morally responsible in the deserved sense. We can hold each other responsible for practical reasons.

If that’s the best thing to do why not do it?

I do that. But it also presupposes a practical concept of free will. And that is exactly what the compatibilist concept of free will is.

StephenLawrence - 19 April 2012 09:52 AM

So why do you feel the need to defend free will, to argue that’s the best thing to do?

Just say why you think it’s best.

Because of my front. A total denial of free will could lead to Soviet psychiatry.

StephenLawrence - 19 April 2012 09:52 AM

On taking responsibility and holding people responsible, yes we’re on the same side, we agree.

But then again, who doesn’t? Most who deny free will agree with you too. Do you know of anybody who doesn’t?

Yes, this is funny, isn’t it? Sam Harris and Galen Strawson plead against free will but practically seen they are compatibilists. They plead for seeing people as responsible, and so there are reasons to punish them, just not with the motivation they (metaphysically?) deserve it. That’s fine. I do not believe in metaphysical free will either. But I do believe in practical free will, i.e. we can very well distinguish between free actions and coerced actions, between people that are moral capable people and those who aren’t. And the fact that we are determined does not change that even one little bit.

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Posted: 19 April 2012 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 172 ]
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GdB - 19 April 2012 11:05 AM

Yes, this is funny, isn’t it? Sam Harris and Galen Strawson plead against free will but practically seen they are compatibilists.

Of course.

Free will means more than one thing GdB.

They are against the version of free will that is supposed to make us morally responsible in the deserved sense.

They are not against holding people responsible for practical reasons.

Why should they be?

Stephen

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Posted: 19 April 2012 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 173 ]
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GdB - 19 April 2012 11:05 AM

Because of my front. A total denial of free will could lead to Soviet psychiatry.

How would the reasoning go?

Stephen

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Posted: 19 April 2012 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 174 ]
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StephenLawrence - 19 April 2012 01:15 PM
GdB - 19 April 2012 11:05 AM

Yes, this is funny, isn’t it? Sam Harris and Galen Strawson plead against free will but practically seen they are compatibilists.

Of course.

Free will means more than one thing GdB.

They are against the version of free will that is supposed to make us morally responsible in the deserved sense.

They are not against holding people responsible for practical reasons.

Why should they be?

Stephen

I think that you two are essentially in agreement about this topic.  But I imagine that you will not let that get in the way of continued debate.

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Posted: 19 April 2012 02:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 175 ]
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TimB - 19 April 2012 01:55 PM
StephenLawrence - 19 April 2012 01:15 PM
GdB - 19 April 2012 11:05 AM

Yes, this is funny, isn’t it? Sam Harris and Galen Strawson plead against free will but practically seen they are compatibilists.

Of course.

Free will means more than one thing GdB.

They are against the version of free will that is supposed to make us morally responsible in the deserved sense.

They are not against holding people responsible for practical reasons.

Why should they be?

Stephen

I think that you two are essentially in agreement about this topic.  But I imagine that you will not let that get in the way of continued debate.

I dunno Tim? Of course there are practical reasons to hold people responsible.

Is that really all the compatibilists are arguing for re moral responsibility?

It doesn’t seem very likely to me.

Stephen

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Posted: 20 April 2012 12:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 176 ]
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StephenLawrence - 19 April 2012 01:15 PM

Free will means more than one thing GdB.

They are against the version of free will that is supposed to make us morally responsible in the deserved sense.

They are not against holding people responsible for practical reasons.

Why should they be?

Then we agree, don’t we?

StephenLawrence - 19 April 2012 01:43 PM
GdB - 19 April 2012 11:05 AM

Because of my front. A total denial of free will could lead to Soviet psychiatry.

How would the reasoning go?

See here and some of the following posts, and here, and here.

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Posted: 20 April 2012 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 177 ]
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StephenLawrence - 17 April 2012 01:19 PM

I think you might find reading this worthwhile:  http://www.believermag.com/issues/200303/?read=interview_strawson

Quotations are from the article.

From the introduction of the interview with Galen Strawson:

Imagine for a moment that instead of Timothy McVeigh destroying the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, it had been a mouse. Suppose this mouse got into the wiring of the electrical system, tangled the circuits and caused a big fire, killing all those inside. Now think of the victims’ families. There would, of course, still be enormous grief and suffering, but there would be one significant difference: There would no resentment, no consuming anger, no hatred, no need to see the perpetrator punished (even if the mouse somehow got out of the building) in order to experience “closure.” Why the difference? Because McVeigh, we think, committed this terrible act out of his own free will. He chose to do it, and he could have chosen not to. McVeigh, then, is morally responsible for the death of the victims in a way that the mouse would not be. And our sense of justice demands that he pay for this crime.

Well, there is a big difference between a mouse and a human: a human normally understands the moral rules of our society. We expect from him to conform to these rules. So to say the least, we will act differently with the mouse as with McVeigh. The capability to evaluate reasons to act, which McVeigh had (I assume) constitute what ‘we compatibilists’ call ‘free will’.

THE BELIEVER: You start out your book Freedom and Belief by saying that there is no such thing as free will. What exactly do you mean by free will?

GALEN STRAWSON: I mean what nearly everyone means. Almost all human beings believe that they are free to choose what to do in such a way that they can be truly, genuinely responsible for their actions in the strongest possible sense—responsible period, responsible without any qualification, responsible sans phrase, responsible tout court, absolutely, radically, buck-stoppingly responsible; ultimately responsible, in a word—and so ultimately morally responsible when moral matters are at issue. Free will is the thing you have to have if you’re going to be responsible in this all-or-nothing way. That’s what I mean by free will. That’s what I think we haven’t got and can’t have.

Right. He denies the existence of libertarian free will. I fully agree. Shouldn’t we tell everyone that this concept is a non-starter?

(1) You do what you do—in the circumstances in which you find yourself—because of the way you are. (2) So if you’re going to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you’re going to have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are—at least in certain mental respects. (3) But you can’t be ultimately responsible for the way you are (for the reasons just given). (4) So you can’t be ultimately responsible for what you do.

Great. Again against ultimate responsibility, the all time companion of libertarian free will.

BLVR: And the illusion that he and others were morally responsible for their actions?

GS: Yes, but I just want to stress the word “ultimate” before “moral responsibility.” Because there’s a clear, weaker, everyday sense of “morally responsible” in which you and I and millions of other people are thoroughly morally responsible people.

Aha, the companion of compatibilist free will exists!

Strawson even goes further than I would do when he discusses evil:

People in themselves aren’t evil, there’s no such thing as moral evil in that sense, but evil exists, great evil, and people can be carriers of great evil. You might reply, Look, if they’re carriers of evil they just are evil, face the facts. But I would have to say that your response is in the end superficial. After all, we don’t call natural disasters evil.

And then Strawson continues stressing compatibilist conceptions of free will and responsibility:

The old rule, older than the Old Testament, that says “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” is almost universally misunderstood. It’s not an intrinsically vengeful idea. It was intended as a counsel of restraint, of moderation in retaliation. Take an eye for an eye, it says, but no more. Measure for measure. No escalation.

An then Strawson even puts his ideas on firm Buddhist ground!

I like what the psychologist Eleanor Rosch says in a talk she gave in San Francisco last August called “What Buddhist Meditation has to Tell Psychology About the Mind.” At one point she was discussing the Buddhist doctrine of the endlessly ramifying interdependence of everything, and observed that “an understanding of [this] interdependence has clinical significance. It can provide people who suffer from guilt, depression, or anxiety with a vision of themselves as part of an interdependent network in which they need neither blame themselves nor feel powerless.

Yes, we are caused, but we ourselves are also causes, and there morality and responsibility come into play.

Now very interesting, the interviewer comes with my ‘free will pet’:

[P F Strawson] claims that when you adopt the objective attitude towards another human being, you lose some essential features of interpersonal relationships. You’ll start to see this person as an object of social policy, a subject for “treatment”—some Orwellian scenarios come to mind—but you can no longer see them fully as a person. But if we’re going to accept the belief that there is no free will, no DMR, it seems we’ll have to take the objective attitude towards all people, including those closest to us. Are the implications of this as cold and bleak as your father suggests?

In his answer Strawson makes an error, shifting the meaning of the word ‘objective’:

GS: No, I don’t think so. I disagree that regularly taking the objective attitude to someone means giving up on treating them fully as a person. In fact I think it’s essential to the closest human relations. I think that it is rather a beautiful capability that we have. It is deeply involved in compassion and love. I don’t think love is blind. I think love sees all the faults and doesn’t mind.

This is funny, for somebody who (or at least his father) stands in the tradition of philosophy of language. ‘Seeing as an object’, is not the same as ‘taking a neutral standpoint’, which is the meaning of ‘objective’ as Strawson uses it.

And now comes exactly the point I am making all the time in all the free will metastacis in this forum:

Suppose you arrive at a shop on the evening of a national holiday, intending to buy a cake with your last ten-dollar note to supplement the preparations you’ve already made. Everything is closing down. There’s one cake left in the shop; it costs ten dollars. On the steps of the shop someone is shaking an Oxfam tin—or someone is begging, someone who is clearly in distress. You stop, and it seems quite clear to you—it surely is quite clear to you—that it is entirely up to you what you do next—in such a way that you will have DMR for what you do, whatever you do. The situation is in fact utterly clear: You can put the money in the tin (or give it to the beggar) or you can go in and buy the cake. You’re not only completely, radically free to choose in this situation. You’re not free not to choose. That’s how it feels. You’re condemned to freedom, in Sartre’s phrase.

(Italics by me. Sorry Doug, Sarte is French…  red face )
This is the experience that, all other factors staying the same, that what will happen next depends on me only. That is an empirical experience. But I do not have the experience that I could have chosen differently, that is the libertarian chimera of free will.

And then he shows even his spiritual side:

The Indian mystical thinker Krishnamurti reports that the experience of radical choice simply fades away when you advance spiritually: “You do not choose,” he says, “You do not decide, when you see things very clearly . . . Only the unintelligent mind exercises choice in life’. A spiritually advanced or “truly intelligent mind simply cannot have choice,” because it “can … only choose the path of truth.” “Only the unintelligent mind has free will”—by which he means experience of radical free will.

To be short: If I had everything so nice on files as Strawson (and my English would be better), I could have given the interview, just with this one exception: I would not deny free will in general as he seems to say on the surface, but clearly deny libertarian free will.

And literary he is right here:

And the great Dutch philosopher Spinoza extends the point to God. God cannot, he says, “be said…to act from freedom of the will.” In which case he cannot think or feel that he does so, because he is after all omniscient.

But it does not quite breath what Spinoza wants to say (in my humble opinion):

Definition 7:
That thing is called free, which exists solely by the necessity of its own nature, and of which the action is determined by itself alone. On the other hand, that thing is necessary, or rather constrained, which is determined by something external to itself to a fixed and definite method of existence or action.

Appendix of Chapter 1:
In the foregoing I have explained the nature and properties of God. I have shown that he necessarily exists, that he is one: that he is, and acts solely by the necessity of his own nature; that he is the free cause of all things, and how he is so; that all things are in God, and so depend on him, that without him they could neither exist nor be conceived; lastly, that all things are pre-determined by God, not through his free will or absolute fiat, but from the very nature of God or infinite power.

From the Ethica.

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Posted: 21 April 2012 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 178 ]
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This is why the free-will discussion is best in the philosophy forum.  Whereas I and others posited that an actual reasoned scientific approach could be had from this concept, some wish to use the free-will discussion to support a subjective dialectic.
I wanted to also retort-“what a horrible waste of time!”(in the sense that this has gone on for 100s of pages with no conclusive constructs.), but who can I blame? It’s in the philosophy forum.

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Posted: 21 April 2012 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 179 ]
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VYAZMA, you don’t know what the different domains of science and philosophy are. The question of free will is not a scientific question. It is a question of conceptual analysis, not of science. Obviously you treat science as religion. The agitation and shallowness of your postings clearly show this.

Oh, btw, this thread was originally in the humanist forum, where it surely had its place, when it would have stayed on topic.

[ Edited: 21 April 2012 09:26 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 21 April 2012 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 180 ]
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Of course free will is a scientific problem. That’s why you redefine free will as “libertarian” free will and “freedom” now becomes the new free will, which allows you to treat it as a philosophical problem. It’s the same tactic as the one of the theologians (viz. the G-0-D thread).

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