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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 04 April 2013 04:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 256 ]
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Additional studies couldn’t repeat the same results, GdB. I couldn’t care less either way, but I thought you might since you keep bringing this up.

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Posted: 04 April 2013 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 257 ]
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George - 04 April 2013 04:33 AM

Additional studies couldn’t repeat the same results, GdB. I couldn’t care less either way, but I thought you might since you keep bringing this up.

OK. Thanks for the info.

My first point mentioned still stands, and is the more important one.

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Posted: 04 April 2013 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 258 ]
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Lois - 03 April 2013 12:44 PM
dougsmith - 11 April 2012 04:56 AM

It matters to the law whether or not an action was your responsibility. Notions of personal responsibility just are notions of free action.

No, they’re not. We’re all determined to place blame and exact revenge. So you never have to worry about your society falling into complete chaos because no one will hold anyone responsible for anything. The rest of society’s actions and attitudes are just as determined as those of the person committing a “bad” act. The only possible change in society that accepting determinism rather than free will might do is to lead people to be more humane in their responses to bad acts. It isn’t going to stop people from holding people responsible.

Ok that’s great.  Unfortunately I’ve never gotten a response to this point when I’ve made it several times. Great point Lois.
The responsibility and desserts argument is a useful sidetrack in this debate when it is looked upon evenly. 
From what I’ve seen the people using the responsibility and desserts argument are subjectively using it to make a point about perceived justice.
Which of course completely derails the conversation about the mechanics of human consciousness.

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Posted: 04 April 2013 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 259 ]
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GdB - 04 April 2013 01:41 AM

Addition for Stephen: as long as we do not believe in ultimate free will, in which we are made completely responsible for what we are and everything we do.

.                                                           

Which we do on mass.

Stephen

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Posted: 20 August 2013 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 260 ]
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Laws and penalties are in place to condition us to act a certain way, if one doesn’t act that certain way anyways because other conditions have determined them not to, then they are determined to face the penalties. Them having to face the penalties is designed to reinforce and strengthen the stimuli to increase the conditioning effectiveness of these laws for others. When a person is found guilty, they are guilty of breaking a law in which they had no choice but to break (no free-will). The real failure is on the deterrence systems part as the conditions set in place didn’t work. However, even the systems failure was determined, so it can’t be blamed either. The result is that when the law punishes someone, the person being punished is just collateral damage in a cause that has a greater agenda then just the individual.
Take one who has murdered another. In a deterministic environment, the murderer didn’t choose to think those thoughts nor choose to act on them. The thoughts were determined by the conditions of his environment, and the determined thoughts determined his actions. “He” is just the product of his biology’s reaction to his accumulated experiences with his environment. We can’t blame him for being determined to that course. What we are in effect doing with laws and consequences is conditioning people to behave in a way we have deemed appropriate. If they act against the conditions we’ve set forth anyways, we know that there were conditions greater then the ones we’ve put in place that caused that individual to behave the way they did. By making them face the consequences we strengthen the effect of the conditions we’ve put in place as it serves as a model for others and that individual for future incidents. But was he really to blame, probably not.
This is how laws function from a determinist point of view. However, as you can see in court, People are held responsible for their actions as though they had free-will, as if they had a choice. Some people are thought to be bad people, while others are thought to be good or ordinary people who simply carried out “bad” actions. Carry out too many “bad” or “very bad” actions (“bad” as determined by society) and you may be considered an entirely “bad person.” Because, you are thought to of had control, had free will to choose to be good or bad.

Where from a deterministic point of view, there are no good or bad people or good or bad actions, just actions and reactions, no value. Just as your being came to exist as determined by the conditions of the environment, your action are determined by the conditions of the environment. Everything moved by cause and effect. Not by some mysterious, uninfluenced, uncaused, personally controlled free-will.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 261 ]
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You are mixing two different kinds of discourse, Morgantj.

In the discourse of laws of nature, of bouncing and reacting atoms, there are not even actions, so it is useless to apply categories like ‘bad action’, ’ moral responsibility’, and surely not ‘free action’.

However, in the discourse where persons and their actions exist, these concepts have meaning, and our deliberations have causal powers, even if they are determined themselves. You are using the word ‘environment’ a bit too often. A lot of what we do is only very indirectly caused by the environment, and takes an enormous detour via our memories, convictions, knowledge, values, and the discourse in which we grew up. As member of a the community who lives by this discourse, I understand what persons, actions, bad actions, coercion and free actions are. And the use of these concepts affect the causal flow of events.

I once wrote a mini-story in a posting about it, here. Maybe you get the idea.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 262 ]
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Your story makes no sense, GdB. “Messages are exchanged between humanoids on the planet, and these are processed in a deterministic way.” As opposed to what? Everything everywhere is processed in a deterministic way. The one way your story could perhaps make sense would be if people on Earth II never developed the trait of confabulating. But then, such people could never be taught any “joyful news” about some “new discourse elements.”

Science fiction stories have to make some sense. It’s like writing a story about aliens who evolved their eyes on the soles of their feet and calling it a science fiction. When science fiction makes zero logical sense, we call it fantasy—like the Lord of the Rings, for example. And since nobody can learn anything from fantasy stories, it’s probably not a good idea to use it in support of your argument.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 263 ]
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George - 20 August 2013 10:59 AM

“Messages are exchanged between humanoids on the planet, and these are processed in a deterministic way.” As opposed to what?

As opposed to the idea that people seem to have that for free will we need non-deterministic processes. Maybe I should have written ‘but the processing of the messages was of course just as deterministic as everything else’?

The story was just meant as an illustration that the concepts of persons, actions, good or bad, free or coerced, belong to the causal fabric of the universe. If the illustration doesn’t work for you, then be it so. In hundreds of postings about free will I made my points in a more argumentative way.

The whole problem boils down to the fact that you and many others only accept the existence of physical objects and processes. If you do that, then, and I repeat myself, you must deny the existence of everything not-physical: laws, states, meaning of words and sentences, the contents of books, science… Existing does not necessarily mean existing physically. But all these are of course implemented in physical systems. A book is a physical object, but its essence is the content: the story in it, or the theories explained in it.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 264 ]
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I already told you that I don’t see free will as states and sentences, but as optical illusion. States and laws do exist, sun doesn’t rise.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 08:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 265 ]
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George - 20 August 2013 01:45 PM

I already told you that I don’t see free will as states and sentences, but as optical illusion. States and laws do exist, sun doesn’t rise.

And I already told you that libertarian, uncaused, free will is an optical illusion. And I have no idea how you can make sense of laws without free will. E.g. your are not convicted for a crime in which you were coerced to do it. Not being coerced is what free will is.

Not some naive metaphysical notion of ‘being self-caused’ or so. That is an illusion.

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Posted: 21 August 2013 01:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 266 ]
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GdB - 20 August 2013 08:59 PM

E.g. your are not convicted for a crime in which you were coerced to do it. Not being coerced is what free will is.

It does no more good to insist free will is compatible with determinism than it does to insist it isn’t. Clearly free will has more than one meaning.

And I have no idea how you can make sense of laws without free will. E.g. your are not convicted for a crime in which you were coerced to do it. Not being coerced is what free will is.

It’s not at all clear we need the term free will for compatibilist freedom. What we need is conditions of moral responsibility to be met. I’m not sure why we’d also need to talk about conditions of having free will being met as well. And if free will = uncoerced then we don’t seem to need the term free will since we have the word uncoerced. We also have other words like voluntary, volition, intention etc.

Not some naive metaphysical notion of ‘being self-caused’ or so. That is an illusion.

But there is more to libertarian free will. It is that we have some way of overcoming the luck of determinism that makes us deserve what happens to us as a result of our choices. Whilst actually we are merely fortunate or unfortunate that circumstances beyond our control were as they were.

It’s the desert based moral responsibility which is supposed to follow from libertarian free will which is the problem and you’ll do nothing to help with that by simply insisting free will is compatible with determinism.

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Posted: 21 August 2013 02:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 267 ]
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StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 01:59 AM
GdB - 20 August 2013 08:59 PM

E.g. your are not convicted for a crime in which you were coerced to do it. Not being coerced is what free will is.

It does no more good to insist free will is compatible with determinism than it does to insist it isn’t. Clearly free will has more than one meaning.

Yes, it has more than one meaning. But libertarian free will is an incoherent concept, end saying that science ‘discovered’ that we have no libertarian free will is forcing an open door. And surely by ‘discovering’ this, the compatibilist meaning is not touched at all.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 01:59 AM

It’s not at all clear we need the term free will for compatibilist freedom. What we need is conditions of moral responsibility to be met.

Good remark: but as long as there are people who say that science has ‘discovered’ we have no free will, and therefore we are not responsible for our actions, we need some strategy. In the end, the hard determinists use the naive formula ‘no free will, therefore not responsible’. So there are two strategies: showing that this formula is not valid, or showing there is a meaning of the concept of ‘free will’ that fits to our societal praxis of blaming, praising, ethics, punishing and rewarding. I prefer the latter, so we can stick to our practical use of the concept of ‘free will’. However, I agree that we would better use ‘free action’ instead of free will. If we want to use the term ‘free will’ then it should mean something like ‘being capable of free action’, or ‘a person that can act according to his wishes and believes’. The concept of ‘free will’ suggests that it must be ‘free of causes’, i.e. libertarian free will, but as said, that is a nonsensical concept.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 01:59 AM

But there is more to libertarian free will. It is that we have some way of overcoming the luck of determinism that makes us deserve what happens to us as a result of our choices. Whilst actually we are merely fortunate or unfortunate that circumstances beyond our control were as they were.

You are in search for an absolute, metaphysical justification of punishment. Such a thing does not exist.

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Posted: 21 August 2013 02:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 268 ]
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GdB - 21 August 2013 02:27 AM

Yes, it has more than one meaning. But libertarian free will is an incoherent concept,....

I disbelieve in libertarian free will because it is an incoherent concept, there is no but.

end saying that science ‘discovered’ that we have no libertarian free will is forcing an open door. And surely by ‘discovering’ this, the compatibilist meaning is not touched at all.

It is not an open door. Almost everybody believes in libertarian free will.

And surely by ‘discovering’ this, the compatibilist meaning is not touched at all.

When you get into it the compatibilist meaning is very unclear, but of course if compatibilism fits with a scientific understanding of the brain it is untouched.

Good remark: but as long as there are people who say that science has ‘discovered’ we have no free will, and therefore we are not responsible for our actions, we need some strategy. [

And the strategy is that’s true we don’t have free will and are not morally responsible in the desert based sense. This can be quickly followed up with the need for deterrents etc,etc.

So there are two strategies: showing that this formula is not valid, or showing there is a meaning of the concept of ‘free will’ that fits to our societal praxis of blaming, praising, ethics, punishing and rewarding.

But our practices are far from perfect and a big part of the reason is people believe in ultimate responsibility. Dropping belief in libertarian free will does make us positively less blaming and punitive. And what is often forgotten is this applies to the criminals, how many would be less inclined to violence if they understood others didn’t have libertarian free will?

It’s not an either or situation. It’s vital to deny we have libertarian free will and the desert based responsibility which is supposed to follow. You can do that and affirm we have compatibilist free will. There is no such thing as ‘justified revenge’ which is what so many bad acts are based upon.

You are in search for an absolute, metaphysical justification of punishment. Such a thing does not exist.

Of course not, it’s the damage that belief in it does which is the problem.

Stephen

[ Edited: 21 August 2013 03:15 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 21 August 2013 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 269 ]
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StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 02:53 AM

It is not an open door. Almost everybody believes in libertarian free will.

Libertarian free will cannot stand a proper analysis of what it is supposed to be. So there is nothing for science to ‘discover’. Whatever everybody believes.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 02:53 AM

And the strategy is that’s true we don’t have free will and are not morally responsible in the desert based sense.

What is ‘the desert based sense’? Metaphysical responsibility? No, that does not exist. But as society we abhor of certain actions, and therefore we punish people. Even when it does not necessarily works as deterrent. The only other possibilities is to do nothing, or to declare a criminal mentally ill, i.e. not taking him serious as a person.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 02:53 AM

Dropping belief in libertarian free will does make us positively less blaming and punitive.

I also assume so. So we must show the nonsensical character of libertarian free will.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 02:53 AM

And what is often forgotten is this applies to the criminals, how many would be less inclined to violence if they understood others didn’t have libertarian free will?

I don’t think so. “It was ma bad youth, my honour, I really could not help it.”

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 02:53 AM

You are in search for an absolute, metaphysical justification of punishment. Such a thing does not exist.

Of course not, it’s the damage that belief in it does which is the problem.

Sorry, I was not clear. What I meant was you think that to be justified in punishing somebody we need a metaphysical justification.

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Posted: 21 August 2013 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 270 ]
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GdB - 21 August 2013 03:33 AM

Libertarian free will cannot stand a proper analysis of what it is supposed to be. So there is nothing for science to ‘discover’. Whatever everybody believes.

We know that libertarian free will is the idea that we have some way of overcoming the luck of determinism. We also know that consciousness or the soul is what people believe plays this role. Science does have something to say about these things.

What is ‘the desert based sense’? Metaphysical responsibility?

The desert based sense is the ordinary sense which people are brought up believing in. It fits with the idea that god could punish or reward us after we are dead for what we have done because we deserve it. Whilst actually god would see that we were merely lucky or unlucky to get the pasts we got. Yes metaphysical responsibility if you like. People do not need to be brought up with belief in god or believe in god to believe in this kind of moral responsibility.

No, that does not exist. But as society we abhor of certain actions, and therefore we punish people.

I have no idea why that follows. We should not harm people unless we have no better moral option. It’s belief they “deserve it” that intensifies and lengthens the desire for their suffering.


Even when it does not necessarily works as deterrent.

Why? If it doesn’t work don’t do it.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 02:53 AM

Dropping belief in libertarian free will does make us positively less blaming and punitive.

I also assume so. So we must show the nonsensical character of libertarian free will.

Good. Well this is what it’s all about. Yes show it’s nonsense but also be clear that therefore it does not exist and be clear that compatibilism leads us to a different sense of moral responsibility.

The trouble with compatibilism is it blurs all this so people get the impression there is no practical difference.

I don’t think so. “It was ma bad youth, my honour, I really could not help it.”

Would he have had such a bad youth if the people around him didn’t believe he could deserve to suffer? This is an all pervasive belief, it’s everywhere from moment to moment, not just when he gets to court. He doesn’t need to believe in free will, he needs to understand the reasons why society has a need for deterrents.

Sorry, I was not clear. What I meant was you think that to be justified in punishing somebody we need a metaphysical justification.

Again of course not. It can be justified in cases in which it is our best moral option for consequential reasons.

But how often it really is justified by that I don’t know. This is part philosophy and part science, we need to understand much better the consequences of punishment and how much it could be safely reduced. (in other words how much of it is ineffective and/or counter productive)

Stephen

[ Edited: 21 August 2013 05:24 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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