Oh man, so many confusions…
as gdb said, this usually comes in the form of a soul. However, many secularites still think in terms of ‘vestigial dualism’—particularly, many believe in a ‘self’ that is ‘trapped’ by determining factors, including the factors which more rightly *are* the self.
To start with the positive. This is true as true can be. Many of those incompatibilist determinists see it this way: there is ‘self’, and this self is ‘forced’ by the natural laws to do as it does. To state it very clear: natural laws do not force anything. They describe how nature runs.
A stone running downhill is not ‘forced’ to do so. This is metaphoric speech. Nature is just as it is, stones move in the direction of the centre of gravity. Why, one could even say the stone ‘wants’ to run downhill.
saying there is no ‘self’ is a lot like saying there is no free will. Both are terms for useful concepts.
Yep, that was tricky of mine to say that. My answer to this: where there is no self, there are no ‘coercion’ and no ‘free will’. Only when there is a ‘self’ these concepts mean something. One cannot ‘coerce’ a stone to roll down. One can also not ‘convince’ a stone to roll down.
Now the problem of the incompatibilist determinists is that they apply concepts that do not work together: talking about determinism, and a self that is determined, is mixing two discourses that do not mix. The opposite of ‘free’ is ‘being coerced’, not ‘determined’.
So this is flat wrong:
—My contention is that we cannot, we only think we can. It’s ALL coerced. A decision to marry is similar to our stomach digesting food, except we are not kidding ourselves that we are in charge of digestion. We will marry or not depending on determining factors, whether that thought disturbs us or not. And we will insist that it was our free will that made the decision because that’s how our minds work.
On the level of determinism, nothing is coerced. Events happen as they do, and we can describe them with help of laws of nature and initial conditions. Part of what our brain does, is evaluating feelings and arguments, which does not happen with digestion. Of course, this evaluating feelings and arguments runs on a determined state machine. So, yes, we are determined. (I must repeat this again and again, people seem to miss this.) So the idea we are an independent, uncaused, self that has command over what we do, is definitely wrong. But that our brain processes on higher level constitute feelings, wishes, beliefs, reasons and consciousness etc. makes it possible to distinguish between free and coerced actions: free actions are actions in accordance with our wishes and beliefs; coerced when they are not.
I would very much prefer that people stop arguing as if I defend libertarian free will. Saying “You are wrong, we are determined!” is just not an argument against my position. Saying “But Libet!” neither: as said earlier, this is an experimental proof of something we know already: that the concept of libertarian free will is incoherent.
The ‘slogan’ version of my position is: free will means you can do what you want, but it is logical absurd to say it means you can want what you want.
We will be exactly as responsible as our determining factors make us, no more and no less. If you’re determined to feel guilty for a bad decision you will feel guilty and you will “try” to do better next time, but you have no actual choice.
So feeling guilty is the basis of responsibility? What about a criminal we sentence to jail, who does not feel guilty at all? Was he not responsible for his action? Don’t we say “Your action was based on the wrong reasons, and because you acted according to them, we punish you?” Was he ‘coerced’ to rob the bank? And therefore we punish him?