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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 11 April 2012 05:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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No fair, Occam. You’ve been around here a lot longer than me. Next time warn a guy, huh? LOL

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“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”—Edith Sitwell

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Posted: 12 April 2012 12:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Just to explain my position a bit more:

I think if we start to prefer treating criminals instead of punishing them, we betray the ideals of the Enlightenment, which in fact is the birthplace of modern science and modern society.

In Kant’s wording:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity (“Unmündigkeit”). Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another.

Wikipedia remarks:

“Unmündig” also means “dependent” or “unfree”, and another translation is “tutelage” or “nonage” (the condition of “not [being] of age”).

Treating criminals would mean that we don’t take them as mature subjects anymore, who can take responsibility, and also can get the chance to defend their deeds with arguments. Instead of a judicial procedure would come a diagnosis in which arguments given by the ‘criminal’ are at most symptoms of his digression, not as claims for moral correctness.

One of the ideas of the Enlightenment is that knowledge will help to free us: by applying the laws of nature that we discover we increase our spectrum of actions. We learn how we can reign nature. But when we apply this to ourselves, or better, our fellow human beings, we exactly oppress their autonomy. Rationality should not be restricted to cognition, but always to ethics too.

See for a classical account Dialectic of Enlightenment. Here is the complete main chapter. (Press the button “Chapter 1”). It’s no easy read!
(I know Doug, this is continental philosophy…)

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Posted: 12 April 2012 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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FreeInKy - 11 April 2012 04:51 AM

I intentionally posted this in the Humanism forum rather than the Philosophy forum because I want this discussion to be pragmatic rather than philosophical. My question is this:

Does it really matter to my everyday life if human free will technically exists or not? And if so, how?

My feeling at this point is that it does not matter. Whether my actions are predetermined or not, I operate from the perspective that my actions are my own responsibility.

Thoughts?

I’m not sure that this discussion can ignore philosophy - but what the hell, let’s try!  I think it would depend on what type of life a person leads, in order to determine if the existence of free will matters or not.  Surely it matters in regards to the legal system, it matters if you are in a position to be responsible for other peoples lives e.g. caregivers, parents, doctors, military officers, law enforcement.  Outside of that, maybe it doesn’t matter a lot;  the messed up thing is that, science can demonstrate that uncaused free will does not exist - it is a magical concept, no different than believing that you can bring the dead back to life by dancing around a fire.  Our legal system will accept most scientific evidence, but not this; it makes people (who follow it) lose respect for the legal system and accuse it of hypocrisy.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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GdB - 12 April 2012 12:47 AM

Just to explain my position a bit more:

I think if we start to prefer treating criminals instead of punishing them, we betray the ideals of the Enlightenment, which in fact is the birthplace of modern science and modern society.

<snip>

See for a classical account Dialectic of Enlightenment. Here is the complete main chapter. (Press the button “Chapter 1”). It’s no easy read!
(I know Doug, this is continental philosophy…)

Yes. My main problem with continental philosophy in a nutshell is that it betrays the ideals of the Enlightenment.

But you know it better. Perhaps you can explain why it (or at least this particular citation) does not.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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I see the ideals of the Enlightment as relevant as the those of the Founding Fathers or the Bible. Who cares what people had thought in the past? And I don’t believe that the Enlightment was the birthplace of the modern society anyway.

We will end up correcting criminals, just like we will one day end up genetically correcting our children. Enligtment, shmenlightment.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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George - 12 April 2012 04:50 AM

I see the ideals of the Enlightment as relevant as the those of the Founding Fathers or the Bible. Who cares what people had thought in the past? And I don’t believe that the Enlightment was the birthplace of the modern society anyway.

I see it as relevant as Darwin. Why did you read the Origin of Species? Why should I not refer the Enlightenment as the first explicit formulation of getting rid of the dominance of religion by means (amongst others) empirical sciences? Don’t you subscribe to that?

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Posted: 12 April 2012 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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What does Darwin have to do with the Enlightenment? Darwin found a law that will never change. Natural selection will always be a natural selection. Our moral sense, OTOH, changes all the time and it changes because of biology. I already said it before, but the Enlightenment was merely a symptom of what was going on in those times, (just like the Bible used to be such a thing at one time), and I see no reason why I should trouble myself with, well, what primitive people (when I look at it from my point of view) used to think hundreds of years ago.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 05:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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dougsmith - 12 April 2012 03:01 AM

Yes. My main problem with continental philosophy in a nutshell is that it betrays the ideals of the Enlightenment.

I assume you mean that continental philosophy is not science oriented? (Sorry, for some aims a nutshell is too small…).

dougsmith - 12 April 2012 03:01 AM

But you know it better. Perhaps you can explain why it (or at least this particular citation) does not.

Well, in my interpretation this is about using reason and critical inquiry, instead of just believing what some self-proclaimed king or bishop is saying.

In Habermas’ terminology: in the different domains of the human ‘Lebenswelt’ we should be able to justify our validity claims, be it in scientific context, be it in moral context. This is just the same as the adagio that ‘we cannot derive an ought from an is’, just bent in the direction of actual discourses in science and ethics. To declare morality as a scientific topic (which is not the same as a historical, evolutionary explanation why we have ethics) as Harris does, or declare it as sheer nonsense because ethics is not scientific, are just wrong turns, and eventually opens new forms of oppression. As you said: the more power we have, the more danger we present when using it unethically.

To exaggerate: do we declare the ‘destruction of the Jews’ during WWII as reasonable, because it was well organised? (Regards from Mike Godwin). From which view point can we say that it was all just one horrible action? By reference to evolution?

Just to be sure: I have nothing in common witch post-modernism, neither has Habermas.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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George - 12 April 2012 05:56 AM

I see no reason why I should trouble myself with, well, what primitive people (when I look at it from my point of view) used to think hundreds of years ago.

Then again, why did you bother to read Darwin? That is also more than 100 years ago.
And do you think it OK when religion gets dominance again? Is it not modern anymore to oppose power justified by some god?

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Posted: 12 April 2012 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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GdB - 12 April 2012 05:59 AM

Just to be sure: I have nothing in common witch post-modernism, neither has Habermas.

Right, this is my issue in a(nother) nutshell. I tend to identify continental philosophy with post-modernism. In general that’s how it’s thought of in analytic philosophy departments, perhaps unfairly. There is analytic philosophy and there is continental philosophy, otherwise known as post-modernism.

I would be interested to know how you distinguish continental from post-modernism. (I mean, apart simply from Habermas, whose work I barely know).

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Posted: 12 April 2012 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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GdB - 12 April 2012 06:31 AM
George - 12 April 2012 05:56 AM

I see no reason why I should trouble myself with, well, what primitive people (when I look at it from my point of view) used to think hundreds of years ago.

Then again, why did you bother to read Darwin? That is also more than 100 years ago.
And do you think it OK when religion gets dominance again? Is it not modern anymore to oppose power justified by some god?

I am not really sure why you keep asking me this. Most of what Darwin had said will hold true for millennia to come. Kant’s babble on self-incurred immaturity is already irrelevant today.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Doug,

Postmodernism is French.  wink

SEP has an article about Habermas.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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George - 12 April 2012 07:12 AM

Kant’s babble on self-incurred immaturity is already irrelevant today.

Your statement here proves the opposite.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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GdB - 12 April 2012 07:22 AM

Postmodernism is French.  wink

Is it that simple? smile

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Posted: 12 April 2012 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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dougsmith - 12 April 2012 07:25 AM
GdB - 12 April 2012 07:22 AM

Postmodernism is French.  wink

Is it that simple? smile

Well, you filter out a lot of rubbish if you leave out French authors.

Since Habermas opened the discussion with the analytical philosophers, it has opened the eyes not just of him. So many German philosophers see they have to react on the critique of analytical philosophers, which has improved their philosophy. In fact so much that more and more Americans get interested in continental philosophy (minus Postmodernism…)

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