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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 21 August 2013 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 271 ]
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StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

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.

But even if we had souls as basis for free will, the concept of libertarian free will would still be incoherent. It would just move the problem to soul-level. And I think we do not even need science to conclude we have no soul, but that is another matter.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

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.

Right. But I think the real ground to believe in ‘metaphysical responsibility’ is self-righteousness. It is not a philosophical reflected position at all.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

We should not harm people unless we have no better moral option.

Yes. Now give the better moral option. If you haven’t one, then you are done. Of course I would like to convince people that they don’t do evil to anybody, but that surely nearly never works.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

It’s belief they “deserve it” that intensifies and lengthens the desire for their suffering.

That may be true.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

Even when it does not necessarily works as deterrent.

Why? If it doesn’t work don’t do it.

As said, if you have a better alternative, let’s hear it.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

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

The problem for me is people who say we have no free will and therefore we are not responsible for our actions.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

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.

I do not see how you can do that without reference to some form of free will at all. At least we need the difference between coerced actions and free actions. For the latter you might be blamed or punished.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

It can be justified in cases in which it is our best moral option for consequential reasons.

Then what is all the fuzz about?

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

But how often it really is justified by that I don’t know.

It can be justified in the context of a moral discourse, in reference to the values a society has.

StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

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)

Yeah. But that is another question. First we must look if something would be a crime. Then we must look if the actor is responsible, i.e. if his action was coerced or not. And then we must decide about the action we take.

[ Edited: 21 August 2013 09:19 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 13 October 2013 03:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 272 ]
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GdB - 21 August 2013 06:26 AM
StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

It can be justified in cases in which it is our best moral option for consequential reasons.

Then what is all the fuzz about?

The fuss is about what belief in deserved punishment based on libertarian free will does. It’s like asking what’s the fuss about homeopathy? The answer is obvious, belief in it has consequences.

If we didn’t generally believe in libertarian free will, we would be much more interested in limiting harm, even to those who have done bad things. We would be much more interested in circumstances that produce those people, since they can’t simply free will themselves to behave differently.

Belief in libertarian free will makes us dysfunctional about all this.

And it’s not just about punishment, it’s going on all around us. Dysfunctional managers, for instance (and this is common) instead of producing a nuturing, encouraging atmosphere that produces happy healthy good workers, there is a culture of negativity and blame which does the opposite. And yes I do think this is due to belief in Libertarian free will, that the workers can just do what is expected of them what ever the circumstances.

I think it’s a massive problem that people believe in Libertarian free will, as you know. And to ask what the fuss is about is just the problem with compatibilism because it’s to say since we have compatibilist free will it doesn’t make much difference that we don’t have libertarian free will.

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Posted: 13 October 2013 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 273 ]
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This may only be tangently connected, but I saw a medical program on TV, where a 30 something lifelong deaf person was able to hear sound for the first time.

I tried to mirror the experience that person must have felt, discovering a sensory experience for the first time. Her expression was of such emotional delight that my eyes clouded over, trying to experience her feelings.

I then wondered what this experience would do to her mind, which was obviously not prepared to process such information coherently.  So what is our mind, the aggregate of sensory inputs resulting in a coherent thought and emotional experience?

What different decisions would she make from here on? Instead of hurrying through the park in silence, would she stop and listen to the birds. Where in the past she would have seen steam coming from a train whistle, would the addition of a sound associated with that visual allow her to experience the train whistle at a deeper level? And if so, what levels of perception does the mind possess?

[ Edited: 13 October 2013 05:37 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 13 October 2013 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 274 ]
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StephenLawrence - 13 October 2013 03:15 AM
GdB - 21 August 2013 06:26 AM
StephenLawrence - 21 August 2013 05:18 AM

It can be justified in cases in which it is our best moral option for consequential reasons.

Then what is all the fuzz about?

The fuss is about what belief in deserved punishment based on libertarian free will does. It’s like asking what’s the fuss about homeopathy? The answer is obvious, belief in it has consequences.

If we didn’t generally believe in libertarian free will, we would be much more interested in limiting harm, even to those who have done bad things. We would be much more interested in circumstances that produce those people, since they can’t simply free will themselves to behave differently.

Belief in libertarian free will makes us dysfunctional about all this.

And it’s not just about punishment, it’s going on all around us. Dysfunctional managers, for instance (and this is common) instead of producing a nuturing, encouraging atmosphere that produces happy healthy good workers, there is a culture of negativity and blame which does the opposite. And yes I do think this is due to belief in Libertarian free will, that the workers can just do what is expected of them what ever the circumstances.

I think it’s a massive problem that people believe in Libertarian free will, as you know. And to ask what the fuss is about is just the problem with compatibilism because it’s to say since we have compatibilist free will it doesn’t make much difference that we don’t have libertarian free will.

Steve, I agree with everything you say here. Those are the mechanics of human thinking.  And those are generally the results of “libertarian free-will”
behavioral/thought processes.
This discussion has been going on this thread for awhile now.
In reading your latest post here, I realized a better way to highlight your position:

In recognizing the above described mechanics, you are viewing the causality of “libertarian free-will” on society.(ie punishment or management).
In viewing it, you are inevitably assuming your own libertarian course to “correct” it.

[ Edited: 13 October 2013 10:04 AM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 13 October 2013 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 275 ]
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FreeInKy - 11 April 2012 07:40 AM
traveler - 11 April 2012 07:14 AM
dougsmith - 11 April 2012 06:58 AM

Sure, you can live your life very well without investigating any of these things with any depth or seriousness. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t in so doing simply accepting one or another account. It’s like math: you don’t need to understand complex mathematics to live a complete life. But much of what you do depends upon it in one way or another.


I like that, I think. The only thing that seems incongruent (to use a math term) between the two is that mathematics can clearly be shown to be attached to the physical world. Philosophy is not even “sure” what that means.

Exactly. I don’t mean to rag on philosophy. I know many here—especially you Doug—are very devoted to it. When I say that it is not something I see a lot of practical value in, I don’t mean to dismiss it’s pursuit altogether. It’s just not something I have much interest in. And while I also don’t understand complex math, I very much see the benefits of it. I don’t, in the same way, see the practical benefits of knowing whether or not free will exists.

The very fact that you say you don’t care about it is a philosophical position, so you are, indeed, also engaging in philosophy, whether you see any practical value in it or not.  You can’t escape it. You might as well try to make some sense of it.

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Posted: 14 October 2013 12:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 276 ]
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Stephen,

I think your anti-libertarian fanaticism blinds you for the fact that our practical positions might not defer very much.

I plead to treat people as responsible as possible. Nobody in his right mind would like to deny himself of being responsible: it would mean that you say “Don’t take me serious, today I say A, but tomorrow I do B, I cannot be trusted, don’t blame me when I do not keep my promises”. You see, that is the other side of the medal of seeing people as determined.

On the other side, we know that we are not of our own making. We are ‘thrown’ into the world with the body and biography that we are for the biggest part not responsible for. When we consider that, it is clear that we cannot be too harsh, not with ourselves, and not with others. We might all like to be completely responsible, and so show that we have our life in our hands, but if we are honest, we see that we fail regularly.

For me, finding the correct punishment for crimes must include a consideration about how far somebody succeeded in being responsible. The better somebody is, the harder the punishment can be (of course in proportion to what the crime was). When it shows that somebody cannot take responsibility he pays a price too: not being a full member of our society, because responsibility belongs to the fabric of our society.

So if you think about consequences, then you must take this all into account. For me the question is, how do we react on crimes so that we maximise the chance of people taking responsibility for their behaviour, and behave morally. At least this part of the answer is clear to me: just treat them as determined, meaning ‘not responsible’, is not the correct way. We should treat other people at least as having some form of free will.

VYAZMA - 13 October 2013 10:01 AM

In recognizing the above described mechanics, you are viewing the causality of “libertarian free-will” on society.(ie punishment or management).
In viewing it, you are inevitably assuming your own libertarian course to “correct” it.

VYAZMA is right here. Arguing for justice presupposes free will. Any change in behaviour because of arguments pro or contra free will means practically admitting free will exists. Doing otherwise is a ‘performative (self-)contradiction’ (or is self-defeating): saying you believe not-A, your argument can only be given assuming that A is true.

[ Edited: 14 October 2013 06:37 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 14 October 2013 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 277 ]
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StephenLawrence - 13 October 2013 03:15 AM

If we didn’t generally believe in libertarian free will, we would be much more interested in limiting harm, even to those who have done bad things. We would be much more interested in circumstances that produce those people, since they can’t simply free will themselves to behave differently.

Belief in libertarian free will makes us dysfunctional about all this.

Stephen,

Throughout the societies of the world, people believe we all have a will of our own which governs our actions, and they have set up laws and courts to punish those who behave against what society dictates.  If you believe evolution and natural selection are the forces responsible for who and what we are as people, then this is what those processes have instilled in us.  You say that if only people didn’t believe we have free will, then “we would be much more interested in limiting harm.”  My question is how you know that?  That’s only a guess on your part.  The processes that created us put in us the feeling of free will, and now you’re saying that process made a mistake and we should not feel like we have free will.  You’re saying that you, as a man who is the product of these creative forces, now knows better than the forces that created him.

You admit that circumstances help to produce who people are.  How do you know that what we as societies use as punishment for behavior outside what a society is willing to accept is not a circumstance that just may influence the behavior of those in the society?  How do you know that if a society realizes there is no free will and a person is programed to behave as he does that society will not simply kill those who are a drag on it since they have no hope of changing their behavior?

My point is that we are products of a creative process that made use who we are and react as we react.  How do you now feel that you have the ability to take over that creation process and improve on it when you are simply a product of it?  Do you really think you know all the consequences of making fundamental changes in the mind of mankind?

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Posted: 14 October 2013 05:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 278 ]
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Can someone explain what “libertarian free will” is and how it differs from run of the mill free will? I’m a a loss to know the difference.

Lois

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Posted: 14 October 2013 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 279 ]
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Probably similar to the holy trinity vs. allah.  Neither libertarian F-W nor plain F-W exist, but F-W-ists want to argue about which is a) more powerful, b) more correct, c) more existent.  LOL

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Posted: 14 October 2013 10:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 280 ]
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Lois - 14 October 2013 05:32 PM

Can someone explain what “libertarian free will” is and how it differs from run of the mill free will? I’m a a loss to know the difference.

Wikipedia:

Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false.

Rare exceptions aside, nobody on these forums defends libertarian free will, so don’t bother to argue against it.

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Posted: 15 October 2013 01:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 281 ]
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LilySmith - 14 October 2013 02:19 PM

The processes that created us put in us the feeling of free will, and now you’re saying that process made a mistake and we should not feel like we have free will. 

These processes are evolution and (cultural) upbringing. Feelings as if we are sole originators of our actions are just regulative ideas, with no scientific support. Quite the opposite: the processes in our brains are just as determined as the rest of the world, there is no ‘causal hole’ in our brain. Feeling as if we have (libertarian) free will is a byproduct of our abilities to picture our environment and our position in it, to anticipate the future, and the fact that our consciousness has no access to the physical layers of the brain. Based on our abilities we evaluate options for actions, we are so to speak ‘state machines’, fully determined.

Your ‘processes’ also once let us believe in witchcraft, astrology, Thor etc. Science helped unmasking all these as false beliefs, and there is no reason to stop for the ideas of libertarian free will or a Christian God doing miracles.

LilySmith - 14 October 2013 02:19 PM

How do you know that if a society realizes there is no free will and a person is programed to behave as he does that society will not simply kill those who are a drag on it since they have no hope of changing their behavior?

Of course there is no guarantee for that. The best option for creating a humane society is to show that living in such a society is best for us all. However there are a lot of people who stick to some funny forms of metaphysics, and draw inhumane consequences from it. Stephen and I happen to stand on two different fronts: Stephen opposes those who believe everyone is completely responsible for all his actions; I oppose those who say there is no free will at all, and therefore we also have no responsibility at all. The danger of building a humane society on metaphysical ideas is that people tend to sticking to the metaphysics part, and not the humanistic part. This leads easily to suppression of people with other world views. You see this e.g. in the idea that atheists would have no basis for morality, or one step further, even are immoral. Isn’t it absurd that an atheist in America has no chance to be elected as president?

[ Edited: 15 October 2013 02:31 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 15 October 2013 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 282 ]
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GdB - 15 October 2013 01:07 AM

Your ‘processes’ also once let us believe in witchcraft, astrology, Thor etc. Science helped unmasking all these as false beliefs, and there is no reason to stop for the ideas of libertarian free will or a Christian God doing miracles.

The practice of witchcraft and astrology still exist and some people still believe in it.  The Norse gave up their belief in Thor and the Romans their belief in Zeus when they converted to Christianity, not because of science.  And science has no way to explore outside the confines of our universe to see it there’s a God who can influence our existence.  We’ll just have to wait on that.

The best option for creating a humane society is to show that living in such a society is best for us all. However there are a lot of people who stick to some funny forms of metaphysics, and draw inhumane consequences from it.

You assume that people without religious beliefs will draw humane conclusions to problems facing their societies.  That’s a completely unfounded conclusion not based on any evidence or fact, and I would say, in fact, ignoring past behavior of recent Communist societies which were atheist.  They were far from humane.

Stephen and I happen to stand on two different fronts: Stephen opposes those who believe everyone is completely responsible for all his actions; I oppose those who say there is no free will at all, and therefore we also have no responsibility at all. The danger of building a humane society on metaphysical ideas is that people tend to sticking to the metaphysics part, and not the humanistic part. This leads easily to suppression of people with other world views. You see this e.g. in the idea that atheists would have no basis for morality, or one step further, even are immoral. Isn’t it absurd that an atheist in America has no chance to be elected as president?

History teaches us just the opposite.  The US has a largely Christian population where everyone enjoys equality and Constitutional rights.  The former Soviet Union, on the other hand, rejected religion and any metaphysical ideas and was very oppressive to those with “differing opinions” killing and imprisoning millions of them.  Your conclusions are wishful thinking, not anything based on evidence.

Atheism doesn’t have a moral code.  That’s beyond the definition of atheism.  That doesn’t mean an atheist cannot have a moral code he lives by from whatever source he chooses or from his upbringing and the society in which he lives.  It is not at all absurd that an atheist in America has little chance of being president.  You’re playing the victim card and I abhor that.  First, the percentage of atheists in America is small, making few available to even run for president.  Second, the president is a representative of the people.  Why would people who are religious vote for a man who does not represent their views as their representative?  That would be silly.  When was the last time you voted for a fundamentalist Christian as your representative in government?  I would guess never.  Should I then play the victim card to guilt you into voting for someone who wouldn’t truly represent you?  No, I won’t do that.

My point to Stephen is that punishment via a court system is a deterrent to many people who live in our societies.  It is a circumstance under which they live, whether by free will or not.  There are many who commit crime anyway, and they must be removed from society if we are to maintain order.  The question is:  Will removing punishment via a court system in favor of “reeducation” maintain the deterrent to the people it now influences away from crime?  People are crafty.  They will weigh the consequences of their actions, and if the consequence isn’t that great, they may just commit the crime they wouldn’t otherwise do if the consequence were greater.

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Posted: 15 October 2013 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 283 ]
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Lois - 14 October 2013 05:32 PM

Can someone explain what “libertarian free will” is and how it differs from run of the mill free will? I’m a a loss to know the difference.

Lois

Libertarian free will is what you call “run of the mill free will.”

But it’s important to distinguish between that and compatibilist free will.

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Posted: 15 October 2013 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 284 ]
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LilySmith - 14 October 2013 02:19 PM

Throughout the societies of the world, people believe we all have a will of our own which governs our actions, and they have set up laws and courts to punish those who behave against what society dictates.  If you believe evolution and natural selection are the forces responsible for who and what we are as people, then this is what those processes have instilled in us.

Yes.

You say that if only people didn’t believe we have free will, then “we would be much more interested in limiting harm.”

Important to distinguish between free will compatible with being determined (by our nuture and nature) and libertarian free will.

My question is how you know that?

When we think someone could have done otherwise in the actual situation and it was entirely up to them, that makes us more blaming than when we realise that they were merely unlucky to have the past they had which led to their actions.

That’s only a guess on your part.

Much more than a guess but I accept we need much more empirical research.

The processes that created us put in us the feeling of free will, and now you’re saying that process made a mistake and we should not feel like we have free will.

We are mistaken because we imagine that could have done otherwise, means could in the actual situation. We know that isn’t true from examples. We combine this with the idea that choices are up to us to produce the illusion that choices are entirely up to us, since nothing else would have to be different to make a different choice

You’re saying that you, as a man who is the product of these creative forces, now knows better than the forces that created him.

I know we don’t have libertarian free will. It doesn’t make sense to say that means I know better than the forces that created me.

You admit that circumstances help to produce who people are.  How do you know that what we as societies use as punishment for behavior outside what a society is willing to accept is not a circumstance that just may influence the behavior of those in the society?

Read that three times, can’t understand it.

How do you know that if a society realizes there is no free will and a person is programed to behave as he does that society will not simply kill those who are a drag on it since they have no hope of changing their behavior?

Because it doesn’t follow from determinism that there is no hope of changing behaviour.

  Do you really think you know all the consequences of making fundamental changes in the mind of mankind?

It’s not fundamental. Libertarian free will is only composed of a couple of errors, which is the idea of could have done otherwise in the actual situation and the choice being entirely up to us.

Belief in that is hardly likely to be benign.

[ Edited: 15 October 2013 02:34 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 15 October 2013 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 285 ]
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LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

My point to Stephen is that punishment via a court system is a deterrent to many people who live in our societies.  It is a circumstance under which they live, whether by free will or not.  There are many who commit crime anyway, and they must be removed from society if we are to maintain order.  The question is:  Will removing punishment via a court system in favor of “reeducation” maintain the deterrent to the people it now influences away from crime? 

This is an argument for consequentialism. I’m a consequentialist so I don’t disagree.

But I think the consequences of belief in libertarian free will is that we are less compassionate, over punitive and less concerned about changing the circumstances that produce bad behaviour, since people could just free will themselves to behave differently and it’s entirely their fault if they don’t.

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