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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 21 April 2012 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 181 ]
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George - 21 April 2012 10:58 AM

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).


I think you are close to right George.

When people wanna know whether we have free will or not, we know what they mean.

They mean are we responsible for our actions in the desert based sense.

Of course the answer is simply no we are not.

That doesn’t mean people don’t ever use the term free will in a sense compatible with determinism, they do. So I wouldn’t quite say it’s redefining it. 

We all know that there are practical reasons for holding each other responsible and taking responsibility. So the idea that compatibilists are defending free will just to argue that there are these practical reasons doesn’t seem likely to be correct.

The pragmatic reason not to believe in free will is that dropping this desert based responsibility for actions, whilst retaining the practical reasons to hold people responsible and take responsibility is beneficial (to put it mildly)

My hope is you’ll see the benefits, so that rather than simply arguing against free will, ocassionally, you will also see that the erroneous belief in it is harmful. Just like you do regarding other erroneous beliefs. (we’ll see which way the big bang, banged)

I’m glad that FreeInKy, who wanted this pragmatic discussion, has started to see the pragmatic importance of disbelieving in Libertarian Free will.

Stephen

[ Edited: 21 April 2012 01:06 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 22 April 2012 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 182 ]
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George - 21 April 2012 10:58 AM

It’s the same tactic as the one of the theologians (viz. the G-0-D thread).

No, it’s not. Questions of responsibility and morality are in the core of society. And the interesting thing is that those neurologists that think we should change our judicial system because of their ‘discoveries’ do this also on moral grounds: punishing somebody for what he can’t help doing is not fair. Or punishing is not the best method and we should treat criminals instead. But then you must decide who is a criminal: how can you do that if you have no idea about ethics? Are these neurologist analysing their own brain, or from those who are acclaimed as perfect ethicists? And on what criteria do we decide who is a perfect ethicist? Analysing the brains of those who vote for the perfect ethicist?

George - 21 April 2012 10:58 AM

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.

No. Conceptual analysis shows that libertarian free will is an illogical construct, that therefore cannot exist. Then the question becomes what we mean with ‘free will’. In the end, we are using a concept free will in our daily lifes. The question of how these concepts are used is more of a sociological or psychological question. The questions if these concepts are justified are already ethical questions.

So what can neurologists discover? They will not discover that we are determined, because the only way to do science is to use the principle of causation, i.e. presuppose determinism. The only thing they can discover is what happens in the brain when we are doing a free action, and see how these differ from coerced actions. But both are determined, that is not a question.

[ Edited: 22 April 2012 06:20 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 22 April 2012 06:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 183 ]
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GdB - 22 April 2012 12:05 AM

No. Conceptual analysis shows that libertarian free will is an illogical construct, that therefore cannot exist. Then the question becomes what we mean with ‘free will’. In the end, we are using a concept free will in our daily lifes.

Yeah, to provide a rational bases to emotional reactions that in fact does not and as you say cannot exist.

That is how we get to deserved blame, deserved guilt etc.

And that’s the problem.

Stephen

[ Edited: 22 April 2012 07:21 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 22 April 2012 06:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 184 ]
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GdB - 20 April 2012 12:58 AM
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.

I can’t see the reasoning.

What is the line of reasoning that goes from we don’t have free will to therefore we should “treat” rather than “punish”

I’m interested because we don’t need to argue for free will to argue that it’s better to punish than to treat.

Stephen

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Posted: 22 April 2012 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 185 ]
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StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 06:42 AM

Yeah, to provide a rational bases to emotional reactions that in fact does not exist.

That is how we get to deserved blame, deserved guilt etc.

And that’s the problem.

You are too emotional, Stephen wink.

I just plead for what Galen Strawson does (simplified): an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But nothing more.

And it’s not the problem, it is a problem.

StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 06:49 AM

I’m interested because we don’t need to argue for free will to argue that it’s better to punish than to treat.

Well, yes. Not rigidly maybe, bit we need it somehow. Punishment, not as irrational beating somebody up while not knowing why, but giving reasons for why somebody is punished, means that we still see persons as moral agents. With treating we have given this up. We declare somebody psychologically ill, and then treat him. At least partially we will not listen to his arguments, because they are just simply symptoms of his illness. This is different from a defendant in a court: there we listen to him, and evaluate his argument why he is less/not guilty. Many people do not want to be treated as psychologically ill, because it means we do not treat him as consciously acting agent, but as an irrational acting person.

Imagine you are picked up from the street, because you protested against high bonuses of bankers, and this would be seen as sign of you having a psychological illness, which need to be treated?

What would you do with Breivik?

[ Edited: 22 April 2012 07:31 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 22 April 2012 07:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 186 ]
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GdB,

Since this is supposed to be the “pragmatic” discussion on free will I’ll only comment on that point. No, nobody is a perfect ethicist nor do we need one to be a perfect ethicist to decide which acts are to be considered immoral. All that we need is a large population and the rest will take a care of itself. The only reason why Cuba is still a communist country is because it’s a small island isolated from everybody else, allowing a small group of strong individuals to do as they please. The same thing goes for North Korea or any native tribe in the middle of the Brazilian jungle.

It’s extremely difficult for any one person or a small group of people within a large population to decide what is or isn’t moral. I am actually more inclined than ever before to agree with Doug that morality may in fact follow some kind of a universal law which seems to dictate what is objectively wrong and good. This is also why I tend now to agree that the Iraq war may in the end show to be a good thing or why a few rich individuals in the US should not be allowed to have such a huge effect on the outcome of the presidential elections.

Our goal should be democracy where everybody’s voice is heard and the rest will take take of itself. In such a world it would be extremely difficult for a group of neurologists to decide what may be ethical. In our society the vast majority already believe that rape, for example, is wrong and I don’t think anyone here would mind one bit if they came up with a treatment to treat the “disease of wanting to rape.” Would you?

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Posted: 22 April 2012 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 187 ]
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And perhaps this doesn’t belong here, but the fact that our world is getting to be a better place is precisely because we now have so many people. I say we need more people, not less. If we figure out the GW problem, maybe we can all one day live in society as the one on Star Trek.

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Posted: 22 April 2012 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 188 ]
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GdB - 22 April 2012 07:24 AM

I just plead for what Galen Strawson does (simplified): an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But nothing more.

 

Gulp.

That’s cetainly a helpful way to limit suffering GdB.

But I sincerely hope you aspire to limit it further than that.

Stephen

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Posted: 22 April 2012 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 189 ]
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GdB - 22 April 2012 07:24 AM
StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 06:42 AM

Yeah, to provide a rational bases to emotional reactions that in fact does not exist.

That is how we get to deserved blame, deserved guilt etc.

And that’s the problem.

You are too emotional, Stephen wink.

The concept of blame being deserved is the concept that it’s fair to those that lose the lottery that they lose the lottery and visa versa.

You simply fail to get how bad for us it is to believe this.

Stephen

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Posted: 22 April 2012 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 190 ]
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GdB - 22 April 2012 07:24 AM

Well, yes. Not rigidly maybe, bit we need it somehow. Punishment, not as irrational beating somebody up while not knowing why, but giving reasons for why somebody is punished, means that we still see persons as moral agents.

It makes sense to look at the sufficient an necessary conditions of being a moral agent. There is no need to add a further concept.

The conditions are that the prospect of being held responsible can alter their behaviour and others like them.

This is so, so simple, stop at this point, because every moral agent can get this.

Why add complication?

Imagine you are picked up from the street, because you protested against high bonuses of bankers, and this would be seen as sign of you having a psychological illness, which need to be treated?

I’d be frightened.

What would you do with Breivik?

I’ll be honest, I dunno who he is.

But if I had to decide, I’d need to think about what I’m trying to deter and how best to do it with minimum suffering.

I would also consider it very important to realise all suffering is bad but very sadly some may be necessary as the lesser of two evils.

I would also think it important to consider what the circumstances were that produced Breivik, as if I’m just about to make him suffer (gulp) this is fundamentally unfair to him, there is nothing that can make it fair that he is the loser of the lottery and so we need to pay much more attention to not producing these losers in the first place.

Which we would be if we didn’t think they derved their bad fortune and we deserved our good fortune.

Stephen

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Posted: 22 April 2012 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 191 ]
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Thanks for this thoughtful reaction, George.

George - 22 April 2012 07:53 AM

Our goal should be democracy where everybody’s voice is heard and the rest will take take of itself.

I agree with this, except one just a small remark: if everybody’s voice is heard there is no rest…

George - 22 April 2012 07:53 AM

In such a world it would be extremely difficult for a group of neurologists to decide what may be ethical.

Right. I like the ‘extremely difficult’. It does not mean ‘impossible’. It means we should be very careful applying any treatments.

George - 22 April 2012 07:53 AM

In our society the vast majority already believe that rape, for example, is wrong and I don’t think anyone here would mind one bit if they came up with a treatment to treat the “disease of wanting to rape.” Would you?

That’s a good question, and I do not have an immediate answer. To me it might be a limiting case. A few examples that for me clearly are beyond the limit are lust murderers or paedophiles who cannot resist their drives. But the second example has already an interesting aspect: some paedophiles want to be treated, because they cannot live with their sexual drives, either because they rape children and know they eventually have to suffer the consequences, or so to speak every child confronts them with their lust, but they know they cannot act according to them. These people suffer. That might be a reason to treat them. But can we treat them if they do not want this?

Now what should we do with less extreme criminals? I once read a aphorism that went something like this: ‘In its justice the law treats everybody equally: stealing a loaf of bread, or sleeping under bridges is forbidden for everybody, it does not matter if he is rich or poor.’ Where fits a treatment here? Isn’t a lot of criminality a ‘side effect’ of the legal drive of everybody to try to get rich?

And how is this with rape? Rape can be viewed (only partially!) as a side effect of our biological, sexual drive. May we ‘turn off’ this drive, without consent of the rapist? Or should we let him choose: treatment or punishment (life long if he repeatedly raped women)?

Sorry, I have no definite answer here, only some thoughts.

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Posted: 22 April 2012 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 192 ]
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StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 08:11 AM

That’s cetainly a helpful way to limit suffering GdB.

But I sincerely hope you aspire to limit it further than that.

Yes I do. I don’t want people to get killed because they did. Death penalty just tastes too much like ‘he deserved it’.

StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 08:13 AM

The concept of blame being deserved is the concept that it’s fair to those that lose the lottery that they lose the lottery and visa versa.

Is acting in way that you know that people abhor of your action a lottery?

StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 08:13 AM

You simply fail to get how bad for us it is to believe this.

Maybe you should tell me how bad. I am certainly inclined to take consequence of the thought that people are not responsible for who they are, but I do not see this as an excuse for consciously wrongdoing. People can be taken as responsible, in the mild sense, for their actions. To say it a bit simplistic again: no ultimate responsibility, so no ultimate punishment.

StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 08:28 AM

It makes sense to look at the sufficient an necessary conditions of being a moral agent. There is no need to add a further concept.

The conditions are that the prospect of being held responsible can alter their behaviour and others like them.

This is so, so simple, stop at this point, because every moral agent can get this.

If you like: but I do not see how somebody can make moral considerations without being conscious. And I cannot see how we can make somebody responsible if he cannot act according to his beliefs and wishes.

StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 08:28 AM

Imagine you are picked up from the street, because you protested against high bonuses of bankers, and this would be seen as sign of you having a psychological illness, which need to be treated?

I’d be frightened.

Just frightened? Or would you think that this is wrong.

StephenLawrence - 22 April 2012 08:28 AM

What would you do with Breivik?

I’ll be honest, I dunno who he is.

But if I had to decide, I’d need to think about what I’m trying to deter and how best to do it with minimum suffering.

I would also consider it very important to realise all suffering is bad but very sadly some may be necessary as the lesser of two evils.

I would also think it important to consider what the circumstances were that produced Breivik, as if I’m just about to make him suffer (gulp) this is fundamentally unfair to him, there is nothing that can make it fair that he is the loser of the lottery and so we need to pay much more attention to not producing these losers in the first place.

Which we would be if we didn’t think they derved their bad fortune and we deserved our good fortune.

See, we are really not that different. I do not want to bring more suffering in the world, but we must have a long term view on this. We cannot just have pity on Breivik. For me it is clear that he is only partially responsible. His views seem to be coloured by a mild form of paranoid schizophrenia. On the other side, he knew he would be punished for this, that our society would not accept these killings. So, yes, punishment, and treatment.

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Posted: 22 April 2012 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 193 ]
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GdB - 22 April 2012 07:24 AM

What would you do with Breivik?

Ok, now I’ve looked him up. knew of the event, of course, but not the name of the person.

these are just thoughts as they arise.

My first reaction is that deterrent isn’t applicable, people like him just aren’t deterred by the prospect of being held responsible.

So then my thoughts go to protecting people from him, locking him up.

Haven’t really thought what to do whilst he’s locked up.

Then I think, well if he can’t be deterred he’s not a moral agent.

Also I think I was too hasty about deterrent not being applicable. Although people very like him won’t be deterred, there are many just a few steps away, who indeed are deterred by not wanting that to happen to them, who will identify with him.

Stephen

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Posted: 22 April 2012 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 194 ]
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GdB - 22 April 2012 08:50 AM

[
See, we are really not that different. I do not want to bring more suffering in the world, but we must have a long term view on this.

True Gdb.

I just think the pragmatic point that you don’t take very seriously is the suffering belief in deserved suffering and rewards etc causes. And as I often point out I’m much more focused on every person interacting with every other person, than limited cases of the judicial system.

People like me see lack of belief in deserved sufering as a part of what makes people better at avoiding suffering.

So it’s a big, big deal that in fact almost everybody believes in the wonky concept.

We cannot just have pity on Breivik.

Yes Gdb, but of course, of course, of course, that’s why it’s hard to see why you feel the need to say this. And actually that’s not quite true we can forget the consequences of not deterring behaviour but just say don’t forget we need to deter behaviour. grin

For me it is clear that he is only partially responsible. His views seem to be coloured by a mild form of paranoid schizophrenia.

OK.

On the other side, he knew he would be punished for this, that our society would not accept these killings. So, yes, punishment, and treatment.

Again yes but again saying he knew he would be punished if caught, is just to satisfy the condition of this acting as a deterrent.

And actually ,interestingly, ignorance of the law is no defence, so all that’s required is was able to find out, rather than he knew.

Stephen

[ Edited: 22 April 2012 09:11 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 22 April 2012 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 195 ]
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Okay, GdB, “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer. Nothing wrong with that. The reason, though, why I am really not bothered by any answer you could have given me here, is because I don’t think it really matters what we think as individuals. Indeed, my point is that I believe it is our collective (!) thought that is making a difference. Since the “invisible hand” seems to be steering us in the right direction I remain optimistic that crime will keep declining. I believe that the treatment of criminal behaviour and that of bioengineering in general will play a big role in our society one day and it will be a role producing positive outcomes.

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