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Free to choose
Posted: 23 December 2006 07:32 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Do people here believe we are free to choose?

For the record I do as long as choose means: pick one out as the best from previously considered options.

What does free to choose mean to you?

The reason I ask is that I just read this article.

http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8453850

The writer seems to think that if we don’t have free will then we are not free to choose but why?


Stephen

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Posted: 24 December 2006 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I know that Doug disagrees with me, but I’ll reiterate my earlier position.  By the law of cause and effect, everything that we do, every decision we make, was caused by prior events including genetic ones.  However, those events and their interactions are usually so complex that we cannot identify what the causes of our behavior were. 

As social beings we learn a set of moral and legal behavior through which we filter our desires.  If we behave immorally or illegally, even if caused by a complex of hidden events, we have to be judged on that behavior for the good of society.

We may be able to understand that the serial rapist and killer was caused to do those things by earlier events and have the utmost compassion for him as we administer the lethal injection. 

Unfortunately, most of these causes are not as easily identified or easily repaired as was the pedophiliac brain tumor.  So, while not really precisely correct, we have to assume free will and treat people’s decisions as if they made them freely.

Occam

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Posted: 24 December 2006 09:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hello Occam

It is interesting to know your position on free will. My position is slightly different to yours and I may well go on to explain why in future but I didn’t start this thread to discuss whether we have free will or not and how we should behave if we don’t.

The writer of the article in the economist seems to believe that if we don’t have free will then we are not free to choose.

I think most people think the same thing.

But why?

If somebody offers me red or white wine I am free to choose but of course that has nothing to do with free will. I can do this if I have free will or not.

What I’m trying to find out is why people believe that if we didn’t have free will we wouldn’t be free to choose.

Stephen

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Posted: 25 December 2006 03:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Seems to me that freedom of the will and freedom of choice amount to the same thing. In what way do you (or does the Economist) see them as different?

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Posted: 25 December 2006 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Though not a specialist in philosophy, I’ve always understood “free will” to be synonymous with “free to choose.” Perhaps there is a technical distinction among philosophers, but I don’t see the distinction, nor do I see one implied in the article linked above.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 03:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]Though not a specialist in philosophy, I’ve always understood “free will” to be synonymous with “free to choose.” Perhaps there is a technical distinction among philosophers, but I don’t see the distinction, nor do I see one implied in the article linked above.

There isn’t such a technical definition among philosophers that I’m familiar with. Now, philosophers are prone to make all kinds of nuanced views, so who knows, but this is certainly not a standard one, if it exists at all.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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No, we aren’t ultimately “free to choose”, but yes we still have to be held accountable. Freedom doesn’t really matter in the subject of criminality, only the action itself. People who have a tendency towards violence, even though it may be genetic and beyond their control, still need to be locked up.

In addition, punishment is one of the factors that plays into decision making, even though its no “free” decision making. It’s a piece of data that the computer called our brains uses to make choices, this we have to have punishment in order to direct the decisions that people make.

We need punishment precisely because we don’t have free will.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]We need punishment precisely because we don’t have free will.

I have to disagree.  The guy who had a brain tumor which overwhelmed any other moral beliefs he may have had and forced him to become a pedophile certainly didn’t have free well at that point.  Rather than punishment, the tumor was removed and the pedophiliac tendencies also disappeared.  It doesn’t make sense to punish someone who was forced into antisocial behavior by something like a tumor (that is not having free will) when the solution was to remove the tumor.

Occam

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Posted: 27 December 2006 12:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Hi Doug

[quote author=“dougsmith”]Seems to me that freedom of the will and freedom of choice amount to the same thing. In what way do you (or does the Economist) see them as different?

 

The freedom in freedom of choice does not normally refer to the word choice, it refers to the circumstances people find themselves in.

So if there is only one supplier of a particular service or product we have no freedom of choice, where if we have a free market the increased competition can often be of benefit to the consumer, leading to lower prices and better service.( It is too idealistic to think this is always a good thing but that is a different matter.)

The thing about this freedom of choice is that it makes no difference if we have free will or not, we still have or don’t have this depending on the circumstances we are in.

The writer in the economist appears to be confused about this.

Note the article was not entitled freedom of choice but was called free to choose.

Free to choose is less ambiquous because it is clear that free does not refer to the word choice. the word does not refer to the nature of choice but just whether we are free to make a choice.

When my daughter is offered brussel sprouts she is free to make a simple choice between two alternatives. to have brussel sprouts on her plate or not.

Isn’t that what being free to choose means to all of us?

and yet clearly my daughter is in the circumstances where she has this freedom, regardles of whether she has free will or not.

She can only pick one option and it must be the one she prefers.


So as explained freedom of choice or being free to choose are things we sometimes can have with or without free will and does not “amount to the same thing” as free will at all.

That is how I see being free to choose or freedom of choice.

I don’t know how the writer of the economist and most people look at it, which is what I am hoping to find out.

One reason is that the writer sees not having free will as a negative thing and I wonder if it is his belief about what free to choose means that is the reason for it.

Stephen

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Posted: 27 December 2006 01:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]Though not a specialist in philosophy, I’ve always understood “free will” to be synonymous with “free to choose.” Perhaps there is a technical distinction among philosophers, but I don’t see the distinction, nor do I see one implied in the article linked above.

Hi Brennen

I’ll go on to answer about free to choose but start with the concept of free choice.

I think free will and free choice are synonymous with one another.

I think many philosophers do not and wish to distance themselves from this idea, as free choice is the religious theology that is a strong part of Christianity and Judaism. It is an illogical construct to explain how a good God creates people who do bad things and is what justifies his punishing them.

Free choice is the concept that when you make a choice, that you could equally well have made another choice and had the power to do that at the time. so when Adam eat from the tree of knowledge, he had the power to not be eating from the tree of knowledge and therefore deserved punishment.

Being free to choose is different to free choice (free does not refer to the nature of choice), it is simply an everyday occurance like when somebody has a choice to make, over which house they wish to buy. 

This occurs regardless over whether the nature of choice is free or not and we will of course continue to do this even if everybody stops believing in free will.

Stephen

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Posted: 27 December 2006 01:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Hi

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]No, we aren’t ultimately “free to choose”

So your position is that if we do not have free will then we are not free to choose, as the writer in the economist thinks.

What I’m trying to find out is why you think that?

I define choose as pick one out as the best from previously considered alternatives.

We are often free to do this and it has nothing to do with free will.

So when you say we are not ultimately free to choose, what do you mean?

Stephen

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Posted: 27 December 2006 02:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]The freedom in freedom of choice does not normally refer to the word choice, it refers to the circumstances people find themselves in.

So if there is only one supplier of a particular service or product we have no freedom of choice, where if we have a free market the increased competition can often be of benefit to the consumer, leading to lower prices and better service.( It is too idealistic to think this is always a good thing but that is a different matter.)

The thing about this freedom of choice is that it makes no difference if we have free will or not, we still have or don’t have this depending on the circumstances we are in.

Hmmm ... This sounds to me like a confusing use of language. One issue has to do with freedom of the will (which is also standardly described as “freedom of choice”), and another has to do with which options are open to us to choose from. The latter is an important question: some people may have more options than others, due to their status in society, the amount of money they have, etc. And all of us have more choices open to us in certain circumstances than in others. But it is a different issue from the issue of freedom of the will.

I’ll get round to reading the article sooner or later ...

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Posted: 27 December 2006 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I define choose as pick one out as the best from previously considered alternatives.
We are often free to do this and it has nothing to do with free will

So, it sounds like the distinction you’re making is between the having of choices available (free to choose) and the issue of whether we are free to make choices among alternative behaviors (freedom of choice), with the latter possibly having some implications for moral responsiblity, legal culpability, etc. In that case, I would agree there is no reason being free to choose (having alternatives available) would be predicated on having free will/freedom of choice. I’m not sure I see how such a fine semantic distinction is useful, though.

 

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Posted: 27 December 2006 04:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Oops! :oops:  Reversed the quote and response to it above. Sorry about the newbie mistake!

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Posted: 27 December 2006 07:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]

So, it sounds like the distinction you’re making is between the having of choices available (free to choose) and the issue of whether we are free to make choices among alternative behaviors (freedom of choice), with the latter possibly having some implications for moral responsiblity, legal culpability, etc. In that case, I would agree there is no reason being free to choose (having alternatives available) would be predicated on having free will/freedom of choice.

I also think I am free to make choices between alternative behaviours without free will.

If I see somebody drop 50 I can choose between picking it up and putting it in my pocket or going after them and giving it to them. 

I have freedom of choice in this instance.

I’m not sure I see how such a fine semantic distinction is useful, though.

When we use the word choice or choose, I think we often use it automatically to mean that we could do otherwise at the time, often without realising we are doing it.

An example"You had a choice therefore you deserve punishment”

I think we interchange the word choice with free choice or free will, as could do otherwise is a definition of free will. I think this is much more than a matter of a fine semantic distinction.

This causes a great deal of confusion.

1. because it makes people believe that if you had a choice you had free will.

2. Because it makes people think that if we dont have free will we can’t make choices.

Stephen

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Posted: 28 December 2006 12:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]If I see somebody drop 50 I can choose between picking it up and putting it in my pocket or going after them and giving it to them. 

I have freedom of choice in this instance.

I thought that on your system if you picked it up then you had no other choice but to pick it up, and mutatis mutandis for if you left it on the ground. How exactly are you going to make sense of this “freedom of choice” without freedom of the will?

You can’t have it both ways. Seems to me you are just confused here.

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