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Freedom and ethics (principles of universal morality)
Posted: 18 July 2014 11:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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GdB - 18 July 2014 11:29 PM

Lois,

For somebody who has shown not even to understand what it is all about, you have pretty strong opinions.

You do not even understand what compatibilists are saying, so you have never given any relevant argument against combatibilism. You keep saying that determinism and free will do not go together, without ever touching the concept of compatibilist free will.

What do you think compatibilists are saying?

There can be no such thing as compatibilist free will because free will has never been shown to exist. You can put any adjective in front of free will that you can think up. Free will is still an unfounded concept. 

Would you posit a compatibilist god? A compatibilist angel? Compatibilist space aliens?

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Posted: 19 July 2014 02:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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LoisL - 18 July 2014 11:45 PM

What do you think compatibilists are saying?

See here and here.

Oh, and here:

http://philosophyfortheeveryday.blogspot.ch/search/label/Free Will 

(Copy/paste the link into your browser).

Your argument ‘we are determined so we have no free will’ does not work for this conception of free will. If you can show that this compatibilist version of free will does not suffice for our practice of assigning responsibility and our idea of ‘could have done otherwise’ then show me. But you should argue against what I wrote there, and not just repeat that ‘free will has never been shown to exist’.

LoisL - 18 July 2014 11:45 PM

You can put any adjective in front of free will that you can think up.


If you define the earth as the flat surface in the middle of the universe, then the earth does not exists. If you give a definition that fits to the findings of science, then of course the earth exists. Same with compatibilism: there exists a useful concept of free will (that differs from what people like you think free will should be) that is perfectly in sync with ‘scientific determinism’, and that is a basis for our daily practice of praising and blaming other people for their actions.

Start understanding what it is about Lois. Then we can discuss. Until now you have just been venting ungrounded opinions, and not been arguing against the position of compatibilism.

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Posted: 19 July 2014 09:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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GdB - 15 July 2014 10:54 PM
BugRib - 15 July 2014 11:24 AM

It seems to only work if one redefines Free Will (note the caps) in a way that is contrary to the views of the vast majority of the population.  Most people are dualists…

Yes, of course. But we know they are wrong, isn’t it? So to be logically consistent, we must redefine free will. If you define ‘earth’ as the flat surface in the middle of the universe, we do not live on the same earth as did most people from ancient times. Should we therefore not redefine earth as the 3 planet revolving around the sun?

I think that’s a poor analogy.  The earth is what it is no matter how you “define” it.  I could “define” my brother as a green triangular alien from the moon, but that would be objectively, factually wrong.  (I put “define” in scare quotes because such delusions as a flat earth or my brother as an alien are not so much wrong definitions of concepts as wrong descriptions of physical objects.)

“Free Will” on the other hand is an abstract concept (rather than a physical object) that gets it definition from, well, how the people define it—kind of like the word “square”.

If the vast majority of people—including philosophers and theologians, historically—define something a certain way, and then a subset (compatibilists) of a very tiny subset (philosophers) of society comes along and says “no, the unwashed masses don’t know what they mean when they use a word that has always meant what they foolishly think it means because we have a better idea of what this word should mean that is rather different that what it has always meant to nearly everyone”, then in my opinion those philosophers are engaging in pure redefinitional* sophistry born out of desperation to save a concept they hold dear.

*not actually a word.  Apologies.

GdB - 15 July 2014 10:54 PM
BugRib - 15 July 2014 11:24 AM

I think Sam Harris, in his book Free Will, makes a pretty airtight case that Free Will—as the vast majority of the population thinks of it—is an illusion.  In fact, I think he shows that it is not even a coherent concept.

Sam Harris’ pamphlet ‘Free Will’ is inconsistent. If you look how he still defends morality and ethics, it becomes clear that he is just a compatibilist as Dennett is: he only refuses to call ‘Free Will’ ‘free will’.

I don’t know what you mean.  What does defending morality and ethics have to do with being a compatibilist?

GdB - 15 July 2014 10:54 PM

But that’s just my humble opinion.  wink

I appreciate your humility.  wink

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Posted: 20 July 2014 05:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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BugRib - 19 July 2014 09:38 PM

I think that’s a poor analogy.  The earth is what it is no matter how you define it.  I could define my brother as a green triangular alien from the moon, but that would be objectively, factually wrong.  (I put define in scare quotes because such delusions as a flat earth or my brother as an alien are not so much wrong definitions of concepts as wrong descriptions of physical objects.)

The difference between your green brother and the earth as the flat surface in the centre of the earth is that people believed in it for ages. But of course, such comparisons might not work to the end.

BugRib - 19 July 2014 09:38 PM

Free Will on the other hand is an abstract concept (rather than a physical object) that gets it definition from, well, how the people define it kind of like the word square.

Yeah, right, that’s true. But if we discover that a concept used by the majority of the people cannot stand a critical logical analysis, then it is just wrong. Libertarian free will is such a concept: it has no coherent meaning at all. Define free actions as movements that are not caused by previous events: then they are random. If ‘we’ are doing it, i.e. ‘we’ can change the course of nature with our will, then we are causes. But that means actions are caused. By what? The soul? Besides that science has done away with the idea of a soul, what would motivate a soul to its intentions, uncaused? No, libertarian free will is a conceptually empty concept.

BugRib - 19 July 2014 09:38 PM

If the vast majority of people including philosophers and theologians, historically define something a certain way, and then a subset (compatibilists) of a very tiny subset (philosophers) of society comes along and says no, the unwashed masses don’t know what they mean when they use a word that has always meant what they foolishly think it means because we have a better idea of what this word should mean that is rather different that what it has always meant to nearly everyone, then in my opinion those philosophers are engaging in pure redefinitional* sophistry born out of desperation to save a concept they hold dear.

No. Compatbilist Free Will (CFW) contains everything we normally connect to the idea of free will, except that it is uncaused.

1. CFW describes free will as being able to do what you want (or a little bit more technical that wishes and beliefs are causes of actions). I think everybody will subscribe to this.

2. CFW shows how the modal meaning of ‘could have done otherwise’ fully covers the meaning we attach to it also in the context of free will. It is a conceptual misunderstanding of ‘could have done otherwise’ to take it as ‘could have done otherwise’ in exactly the same circumstances, including the brain being in exactly the same state.

3. Higher animals, especially human animals, are able to anticipate the consequences of their actions. They can picture themselves and their environment in the future, dependent on which action they will take. There is no reason to think that such an evaluating entity cannot be implemented in a determined system, like the brain. A chess computer is also a ‘possibility evaluating system’, for every move it has different possibilities. But it is a determined system.

4. Societies can, by connecting consequences to actions (praising, rewarding, blaming, punishing, etc), take influence on people, and so form a basis for ethics and our judicial system. People can discuss this rationally by evaluating arguments, because they are ‘evaluting machines’.

5. Having free will does not mean being uncaused, but that I am not following the wishes and beliefs that are my own, i.e. that I am coerced to my action, that I am intentionally falsely informed etc. Therefore such actions can be excluding grounds for guilt in court cases.

The illusion of libertarian free will can arise because we have no access to our hardware layer, the neurons. We do not observe how we are determined. Thoughts and feelings seem to pop up from nowhere, and in the meantime we still feel that our feelings, thoughts and actions are ours, that we are the independent author of these. That gives the feeling of not being caused. The illusion of libertarian free will is the companion of feeling as an entity seperate from our environment, even from our bodies. Give up this idea, and CFW logically pops up as the only meaningful sense of what free will is.

BugRib - 19 July 2014 09:38 PM

I don’t know what you mean.  What does defending morality and ethics have to do with being a compatibilist?

If you are a hard determininist, then you deny the existence of free will alltogether. Then you have no basis anymore to praise or blame people for their actions: one should not punish criminals, but treat them as disfunctional objects. Because Harris doesn’t do this, and still makes a distinction between actions that are morally culpable and those that aren’t, he shows that he is a closet compatibilist.

[ Edited: 20 July 2014 05:54 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 20 July 2014 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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GdB - 20 July 2014 05:47 AM

1. CFW describes free will as being able to do what you want (or a little bit more technical that wishes and beliefs are causes of actions). I think everybody will subscribe to this.

That’s not technical enough. That’s not even “a little bit more technical”. Today science can get more technical than that.

If you are a hard determininist, then you deny the existence of free will alltogether. Then you have no basis anymore to praise or blame people for their actions: one should not punish criminals, but treat them as disfunctional objects.

From what point of view are you saying we have “no basis”?
How can you say we have no basis? You see, this is interesting because it sheds light on your own personal conception of how people should think.
Then you take this “basis” and clothe it in your own definition called-compatibilism.
We do have a basis. Hard determinists do praise and judge. And we know why we do.
Is there any difference between punishing and treating something as a dysfunctional object? Of course not! That’s the very basis of punishment.
Let’s not get carried away with your term “object” either. Object is a person or animal in this case. You used the term “object” to color your impassioned plea for compatibilism.
We have already discussed the evolutionary basis for punishment and rewards a dozen times on this forum.
That’s one basis.
Another is that a determinist recognizes the illusion of free-will or the “moral” cause of punishment and reward.
We recognize the “theater” that is going on in our minds regarding these “apparent” choices or wishes or desires.
That theater is one thing that is not fully recognized or understood by science…yet.

Aside from all of this GdB, it’s quite obvious that you need to package this all up in your own defined version and terminology.
That’s ok. If that’s what works for you.
I’ve argued that this “compatibilist” step is a useless step. It’s just a term that some need to use as a last tether between free-will and determinism. To a determinist it makes no sense and seems redundant.
I mean here we are again and all I can understand in your post above is how you need to label certain steps in a causal chain as having more significance than others.(hmnnn…I wonder why?<sarcasm> Especially when these are the steps that nexus at the mind and regard a human perception of past, present and future!)
GdB, you personally need to box up these concepts in a package that makes sense for you. You like categorizing and labeling.
That’s fine.

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Posted: 20 July 2014 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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GdB - 19 July 2014 02:42 AM
LoisL - 18 July 2014 11:45 PM

What do you think compatibilists are saying?

See here and here.

Oh, and here:

http://philosophyfortheeveryday.blogspot.ch/search/label/Free Will 

(Copy/paste the link into your browser).

Your argument ‘we are determined so we have no free will’ does not work for this conception of free will. If you can show that this compatibilist version of free will does not suffice for our practice of assigning responsibility and our idea of ‘could have done otherwise’ then show me. But you should argue against what I wrote there, and not just repeat that ‘free will has never been shown to exist’.

LoisL - 18 July 2014 11:45 PM

You can put any adjective in front of free will that you can think up.


If you define the earth as the flat surface in the middle of the universe, then the earth does not exists. If you give a definition that fits to the findings of science, then of course the earth exists. Same with compatibilism: there exists a useful concept of free will (that differs from what people like you think free will should be) that is perfectly in sync with ‘scientific determinism’, and that is a basis for our daily practice of praising and blaming other people for their actions.

Start understanding what it is about Lois. Then we can discuss. Until now you have just been venting ungrounded opinions, and not been arguing against the position of compatibilism.

We will never be able to discus it because in my opinion you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to free will. You have proven it overwhelmingly with every post on the subject. You seem to think that attacking my understanding makes points for you.  It doesn’t. It just makes you look like a fool.  I will not argue free will with you again because you don’t understand that it has never been shown to exist, but you will continue to beat the same broken drum and to make ad hominem attacks—the perfect indication that you have no valid argument.

[ Edited: 20 July 2014 07:23 PM by LoisL ]
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Posted: 20 July 2014 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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VYAZMA - 20 July 2014 06:44 AM
GdB - 20 July 2014 05:47 AM

1. CFW describes free will as being able to do what you want (or a little bit more technical that wishes and beliefs are causes of actions). I think everybody will subscribe to this.

That’s not technical enough. That’s not even “a little bit more technical”. Today science can get more technical than that.

If you are a hard determininist, then you deny the existence of free will alltogether. Then you have no basis anymore to praise or blame people for their actions: one should not punish criminals, but treat them as disfunctional objects.

From what point of view are you saying we have “no basis”?
How can you say we have no basis? You see, this is interesting because it sheds light on your own personal conception of how people should think.
Then you take this “basis” and clothe it in your own definition called-compatibilism.
We do have a basis. Hard determinists do praise and judge. And we know why we do.
Is there any difference between punishing and treating something as a dysfunctional object? Of course not! That’s the very basis of punishment.
Let’s not get carried away with your term “object” either. Object is a person or animal in this case. You used the term “object” to color your impassioned plea for compatibilism.
We have already discussed the evolutionary basis for punishment and rewards a dozen times on this forum.
That’s one basis.
Another is that a determinist recognizes the illusion of free-will or the “moral” cause of punishment and reward.
We recognize the “theater” that is going on in our minds regarding these “apparent” choices or wishes or desires.
That theater is one thing that is not fully recognized or understood by science…yet.

Aside from all of this GdB, it’s quite obvious that you need to package this all up in your own defined version and terminology.
That’s ok. If that’s what works for you.
I’ve argued that this “compatibilist” step is a useless step. It’s just a term that some need to use as a last tether between free-will and determinism. To a determinist it makes no sense and seems redundant.
I mean here we are again and all I can understand in your post above is how you need to label certain steps in a causal chain as having more significance than others.(hmnnn…I wonder why?<sarcasm> Especially when these are the steps that nexus at the mind and regard a human perception of past, present and future!)
GdB, you personally need to box up these concepts in a package that makes sense for you. You like categorizing and labeling.
That’s fine.

Hooray! Sense at last.

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Posted: 20 July 2014 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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GdB - 20 July 2014 05:47 AM

Yeah, right, that’s true. But if we discover that a concept used by the majority of the people cannot stand a critical logical analysis, then it is just wrong. Libertarian free will is such a concept: it has no coherent meaning at all. Define free actions as movements that are not caused by previous events: then they are random. If ‘we’ are doing it, i.e. ‘we’ can change the course of nature with our will, then we are causes. But that means actions are caused. By what? The soul? Besides that science has done away with the idea of a soul, what would motivate a soul to its intentions, uncaused? No, libertarian free will is a conceptually empty concept.

The problem with this is that I don’t think you would support Dennett and the compatibilists if they used the exact same rationale to argue that “God does indeed exist.  It’s just that all these theists have wrongly defined God as the omnipotent/scient/benevolent being that created the universe, when in fact God simply is the Universe.” 

GdB - 20 July 2014 05:47 AM

1. CFW describes free will as being able to do what you want (or a little bit more technical that wishes and beliefs are causes of actions). I think everybody will subscribe to this.

2. CFW shows how the modal meaning of ‘could have done otherwise’ fully covers the meaning we attach to it also in the context of free will. It is a conceptual misunderstanding of ‘could have done otherwise’ to take it as ‘could have done otherwise’ in exactly the same circumstances, including the brain being in exactly the same state.

3. Higher animals, especially human animals, are able to anticipate the consequences of their actions. They can picture themselves and their environment in the future, dependent on which action they will take. There is no reason to think that such an evaluating entity cannot be implemented in a determined system, like the brain. A chess computer is also a ‘possibility evaluating system’, for every move it has different possibilities. But it is a determined system.

4. Societies can, by connecting consequences to actions (praising, rewarding, blaming, punishing, etc), take influence on people, and so form a basis for ethics and our judicial system. People can discuss this rationally by evaluating arguments, because they are ‘evaluting machines’.

5. Having free will does not mean being uncaused, but that I am not following the wishes and beliefs that are my own, i.e. that I am coerced to my action, that I am intentionally falsely informed etc. Therefore such actions can be excluding grounds for guilt in court cases.

The illusion of libertarian free will can arise because we have no access to our hardware layer, the neurons. We do not observe how we are determined. Thoughts and feelings seem to pop up from nowhere, and in the meantime we still feel that our feelings, thoughts and actions are ours, that we are the independent author of these. That gives the feeling of not being caused. The illusion of libertarian free will is the companion of feeling as an entity seperate from our environment, even from our bodies. Give up this idea, and CFW logically pops up as the only meaningful sense of what free will is.

So in other words, CFW is just a new definition of “Free Will” that is different than how the vast majority of the population and most philosophers historically have defined it.

Also, number 5 in your list is an equivocation.  That is not Free Will in the philosophical sense.  That is simply “freedom”, a very different concept than Free Will.  The phrase “of my own free will” is an anomalous use of the term.

GdB - 20 July 2014 05:47 AM

If you are a hard determininist, then you deny the existence of free will alltogether. Then you have no basis anymore to praise or blame people for their actions: one should not punish criminals, but treat them as disfunctional objects. Because Harris doesn’t do this, and still makes a distinction between actions that are morally culpable and those that aren’t, he shows that he is a closet compatibilist.

Actually, I think you have that backwards.  Unlike Dennett and all the other compatibilists, Harris is not changing the definition of Free Will to suit his purposes.  In fact, the only difference between Dennett and Harris is how they define “Free Will”.  It’s purely an argument over semantics.  There is absolutely no substantive difference between what Dennett and Harris believe about determinism or how the “mind” works.  So there is no reason why Harris’s view of Free Will should lead one to any different conclusions about morality than Dennett’s view.

IMHO, Dennett and the compatibilists are simply being intellectually dishonest in order to protect a cherished illusion called “Free Will” for the masses.  Watch Dennett give a talk about compatibilism and you might notice he spends half his presentation talking about how if people don’t believe in Free Will, they will act less morally.  He even cites studies that he thinks show this to be true (they show no such thing, and I think Dennett know that—not that it matters).  It seems obvious to me what his real motives are for redefining Free Will.

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Posted: 20 July 2014 07:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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BugRib - 20 July 2014 06:05 PM
GdB - 20 July 2014 05:47 AM

Yeah, right, that’s true. But if we discover that a concept used by the majority of the people cannot stand a critical logical analysis, then it is just wrong. Libertarian free will is such a concept: it has no coherent meaning at all. Define free actions as movements that are not caused by previous events: then they are random. If ‘we’ are doing it, i.e. ‘we’ can change the course of nature with our will, then we are causes. But that means actions are caused. By what? The soul? Besides that science has done away with the idea of a soul, what would motivate a soul to its intentions, uncaused? No, libertarian free will is a conceptually empty concept.

The problem with this is that I don’t think you would support Dennett and the compatibilists if they used the exact same rationale to argue that “God does indeed exist.  It’s just that all these theists have wrongly defined God as the omnipotent/scient/benevolent being that created the universe, when in fact God simply is the Universe.” 

GdB - 20 July 2014 05:47 AM

1. CFW describes free will as being able to do what you want (or a little bit more technical that wishes and beliefs are causes of actions). I think everybody will subscribe to this.

2. CFW shows how the modal meaning of ‘could have done otherwise’ fully covers the meaning we attach to it also in the context of free will. It is a conceptual misunderstanding of ‘could have done otherwise’ to take it as ‘could have done otherwise’ in exactly the same circumstances, including the brain being in exactly the same state.

3. Higher animals, especially human animals, are able to anticipate the consequences of their actions. They can picture themselves and their environment in the future, dependent on which action they will take. There is no reason to think that such an evaluating entity cannot be implemented in a determined system, like the brain. A chess computer is also a ‘possibility evaluating system’, for every move it has different possibilities. But it is a determined system.

4. Societies can, by connecting consequences to actions (praising, rewarding, blaming, punishing, etc), take influence on people, and so form a basis for ethics and our judicial system. People can discuss this rationally by evaluating arguments, because they are ‘evaluting machines’.

5. Having free will does not mean being uncaused, but that I am not following the wishes and beliefs that are my own, i.e. that I am coerced to my action, that I am intentionally falsely informed etc. Therefore such actions can be excluding grounds for guilt in court cases.

The illusion of libertarian free will can arise because we have no access to our hardware layer, the neurons. We do not observe how we are determined. Thoughts and feelings seem to pop up from nowhere, and in the meantime we still feel that our feelings, thoughts and actions are ours, that we are the independent author of these. That gives the feeling of not being caused. The illusion of libertarian free will is the companion of feeling as an entity seperate from our environment, even from our bodies. Give up this idea, and CFW logically pops up as the only meaningful sense of what free will is.

So in other words, CFW is just a new definition of “Free Will” that is different than how the vast majority of the population and most philosophers historically have defined it.

Also, number 5 in your list is an equivocation.  That is not Free Will in the philosophical sense.  That is simply “freedom”, a very different concept than Free Will.  The phrase “of my own free will” is an anomalous use of the term.

GdB - 20 July 2014 05:47 AM

If you are a hard determininist, then you deny the existence of free will alltogether. Then you have no basis anymore to praise or blame people for their actions: one should not punish criminals, but treat them as disfunctional objects. Because Harris doesn’t do this, and still makes a distinction between actions that are morally culpable and those that aren’t, he shows that he is a closet compatibilist.

Actually, I think you have that backwards.  Unlike Dennett and all the other compatibilists, Harris is not changing the definition of Free Will to suit his purposes.  In fact, the only difference between Dennett and Harris is how they define “Free Will”.  It’s purely an argument over semantics.  There is absolutely no substantive difference between what Dennett and Harris believe about determinism or how the “mind” works.  So there is no reason why Harris’s view of Free Will should lead one to any different conclusions about morality than Dennett’s view.

IMHO, Dennett and the compatibilists are simply being intellectually dishonest in order to protect a cherished illusion called “Free Will” for the masses.  Watch Dennett give a talk about compatibilism and you might notice he spends half his presentation talking about how if people don’t believe in Free Will, they will act less morally.  He even cites studies that he thinks show this to be true (they show no such thing, and I think Dennett know that—not that it matters).  It seems obvious to me what his real motives are for redefining Free Will.

 

If determiism is true, it wouldn’t make any difference whether they believe in free will. Dennet, of all people, should know that people can’t decide to believe or not believe in anything, even if free will exists.

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Posted: 20 July 2014 11:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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I don’t have the time to react on all of you, so I try to make one or two central points to each of you.

@Vyazma
Punishing is treating a person as a responsible subject, who has done wrong. In court a defendant can give his arguments why he is not guilty, a judge must give his arguments for his judgement. Treating as an object is not listening to the ‘criminal’ at all and correct his behaviour by neurosurgical or chemical ways. Arguments do not count.

Evolution produced future anticipating animals. So yes, punishment and rewards are evolutional products too. But they work because we assign free will and responsibility to each other. The fact that we are determined is no ground to change that practice: the fact that we do it is determined, of course, but therefore does not support the idea that because of that we should change our moral way of thinking.

@Lois
Several people on the forum noticed that you don’t get it, like Bryan and Doug. Many other participants agreed with my viewpoints on free will. And of course you’ve read Honderich, Harris, Swartz, Dennett (‘Freedom evolves’, ‘Elbow room’), Kane, Menzinger, Bieri etc on free will? And you know of course that the majority of those who study free will are compatibilists? Right or wrong, compatibilism is a serious viewpoint.
And I very well have arguments, but I notice you have no arguments against them, mostly based on the fact that you do not even understand them (O why, adjectives…). It is no use to go on endlessly, and I stop with the conclusion that you are not a serious discussion partner on this topic.

@Bugrip
Which of the points 1 to 4 are no are not part of the definition of free will?
And about point 5: if a robber points a gun at you and forces you to give your money, did you do this out of free will? When not, why would that not be a part of the definition of free will?

Yes, Harris uses this concept, but he should know it is an empty concept. There exists no metaphysics in which the idea of libertarian free will can be applied consistently. Why should we stick to a concept of which we know it is wrong, just because the majority thinks that libertarian free will means something?

And compatibilist free will is so close to our normal use of the concept, that it is better to heal people from their wrong conception that our will is uncaused, then yelling that we have no free will. That is a gigantic difference with defining God as ‘the universe’: such a God does not interfere with the universe, does not hear prayers, did not have prophets or messiahs, has no intentions, is not a basis for morality or defining good and evil, gives no meaning to life etc etc. For short it has next to nothing to do with the God people believe in. And also: compatibilism can explain why people feel as if they have an uncaused free will.

[ Edited: 21 July 2014 05:08 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 20 July 2014 11:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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LoisL - 20 July 2014 07:36 PM

If determiism is true, it wouldn’t make any difference whether they believe in free will. Dennet, of all people, should know that people can’t decide to believe or not believe in anything, even if free will exists.

Yes, Dennett thinks we are determined. Very good, Lois, at least you understand one point of compatibilism. Do you?

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Posted: 21 July 2014 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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LoisL - 20 July 2014 07:36 PM

If determiism is true, it wouldn’t make any difference whether they believe in free will. Dennet, of all people, should know that people can’t decide to believe or not believe in anything, even if free will exists.

I think you’re confusing determinism with fatalism.  Even if the universe is deterministic (possibly with some quantum randomness thrown in), believing in Free Will or not could still make a difference in someone’s behavior.  Causes still have effects in a deterministic universe.  Even if everything is totally predetermined, it’s still important to try our best to make the world a better place.

I’m somewhat with you on people’s ability to consciously decide what they believe.  But Dennett, concerned with the effect on people’s moral behavior if they don’t believe in Free Will, is trying to convince them that Free Will is compatible with a universe that is a combination of deterministic and random—neither of which is compatible with Free Will as nearly everyone thinks of it.

His and other compatibilists’ tactics remind me of 16th Century theologians like John Calvin who attempted to reconcile God’s omniprescience with the assertion that He gave us free will.  How could we be said to have Free Will if God already knows everything we will ever do?  How could God Himself have Free Will for that matter?  Those theologians’ desperate attempts to reconcile this paradox was a fool’s errand then and it’s a fool’s errand now…IMHO.

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Posted: 21 July 2014 03:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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BugRib - 21 July 2014 01:14 AM
LoisL - 20 July 2014 07:36 PM

If determiism is true, it wouldn’t make any difference whether they believe in free will. Dennet, of all people, should know that people can’t decide to believe or not believe in anything, even if free will exists.

Even if the universe is deterministic (possibly with some quantum randomness thrown in), believing in Free Will or not could still make a difference in someone’s behavior.  Causes still have effects in a deterministic universe.  Even if everything is totally predetermined, it’s still important to try our best to make the world a better place.

That is a good point. Those majority of people who think we have libertarian free will might confuse determinism with fatalism: as if we don’t have moral responsibility anymore when our wishes and beliefs, and actions, are caused, and our thinking makes no difference. That’s why they are prepared to believe in the empty concept of libertarian free will.

BugRib - 21 July 2014 01:14 AM

I’m somewhat with you on people’s ability to consciously decide what they believe.  But Dennett, concerned with the effect on people’s moral behavior if they don’t believe in Free Will, is trying to convince them that Free Will is compatible with a universe that is a combination of deterministic and random—neither of which is compatible with Free Will as nearly everyone thinks of it.

Dennett only needs determinism. Without determinism free will would be impossible, all our actions would become mere randomness. Randomness doesn’t add to free will: it disturbs at most.

BugRib - 21 July 2014 01:14 AM

His and other compatibilists’ tactics remind me of 16th Century theologians like John Calvin who attempted to reconcile God’s omniprescience with the assertion that He gave us free will.  How could we be said to have Free Will if God already knows everything we will ever do?  How could God Himself have Free Will for that matter?  Those theologians’ desperate attempts to reconcile this paradox was a fool’s errand then and it’s a fool’s errand now…IMHO.

It is one of the reasons why we have this funny concept of libertarian free will. I am not sure, but I have heard there are cultures who don’t know such a concept.

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Posted: 22 July 2014 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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GdB - 21 July 2014 03:07 AM
BugRib - 21 July 2014 01:14 AM

I’m somewhat with you on people’s ability to consciously decide what they believe.  But Dennett, concerned with the effect on people’s moral behavior if they don’t believe in Free Will, is trying to convince them that Free Will is compatible with a universe that is a combination of deterministic and random—neither of which is compatible with Free Will as nearly everyone thinks of it.

Dennett only needs determinism. Without determinism free will would be impossible, all our actions would become mere randomness. Randomness doesn’t add to free will: it disturbs at most.

This is an interesting and counterintuitive point (which, of course, doesn’t make it wrong).  I do understand Dennett’s argument that determinism doesn’t undermine Free Will, that it is, in fact, essential to it (because the alternative is randomness, which is even worse for the idea of Free Will).  I just don’t agree with it.

Whether they realize it or not, most people intuitively believe that there is a bizarre third option to determinism and randomness, and that is Free Will.  Since most people are dualist (including, interestingly enough, a lot of atheists), this third option must come from the mystical realm where the soul resides.  This idea may be incoherent, as both Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett demonstrate, but it is nonetheless how the vast majority of people define Free Will.  I don’t know how it could be any more clear that Dennett is simply redefining the term in order to make it fit into his framework.  That is usually a big no-no in philosophy.  I guess the compatibilists think they should get an exemption from this rule.

To make a point I already made:  If Dennett thought that not believing in God would lead people to act less morally (which is what he believes about Free Will), wouldn’t it bother you if he redefined the word “God” to simply be synonymous with the term “The Universe” in an attempt to make non-believers more moral?  If so, why doesn’t his redefinition of “Free Will” bother you?

To me, it just absolutely smacks of philosophical sophistry.

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Posted: 22 July 2014 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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LoisL - 18 July 2014 11:45 PM

Would you posit a compatibilist god? A compatibilist angel? Compatibilist space aliens?

Exactly.  Using compatibilist logic, why not simply redefine “God” as “The Universe” in order to rescue the concept of God (basically pantheism)?  See my previous post.

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