But first let me say that, since Dennett and Harris are pretty much in complete agreement about the nature of reality and the workings of consciousness and decision making, there really is no disagreement between them at all—except whether to rescue the term “Free Will” from the dustbin of history by redefining it. It’s a purely semantic argument.
Yep. That was my main point with these two questions (even if I did not necessary meant it in the context of the Harris - Dennett ‘discussion’).
But there also comes the critical point: there are many neuroscientists who think that we should change our practice of making people responsible for their actions, based on… Yes, on what? That there is no ghostly homunculus in the brain? Is that a serious discovery? But that is all what they found! They found out better and better how the brain works, and that there is no room for an immaterial homunculus, yes, even that what people consciously feel and do has a causal history in the brain! Wow! How naive are they to present Libet’s discovery as a discovery that a conscious decision has a causal history in the brain. Who did expect something else? Naive believers in the soul maybe? The same people that believe in Libertarian Free Will? Or should we clear them up about their naive conceptions of what feelings, thoughts and feeling really are, and they do not need an independent res cogitans, and that therefore Free Will is also something different than they thought?
So if this really is a semantic argument, then why all the fuzz?
All Harris is saying is that this does not fit anybody’s conception of Free Will, so when compatibilists proclaim that this still fits the definition of Free Will, it is nothing more than a confusion.
No. The confusion arises when people say we have no Free Will, and therefore we must change or judicial system. The therapy for the confusion is to show that Compatibilist Free Will can bear the burden of everything we associate with it, except the naive idea that an immaterial soul that is uncaused in itself, can interfere with the causal fabric of the universe.
Dennett is therefore not just redefining “Free Will”, he is (unwittingly?) redefining the “I”/“self” to include non-conscious functions of the brain. I don’t know of anyone who overtly define’s the “I”/“self” as including non-conscious functions of the brain/body.
Unwittingly? You really underestimate him.
And Dennett doesn’t even disagree with that! He just disagrees with the way Free Will is defined by the vast majority of the population!
Yes. Because it is wrong. It is connected to naive notions of the soul, that are scientifically unsustainable.
And because it cannot help to solve the intelligibility problem of responsibility and determinism.
As Sam Harris says, this is actually a reason to be more compassionate towards “evildoers”, since they are ultimately not responsible for their actions.
Ultimate responsibility is a none-concept that people should drop. That also follows from CFW. We still punish people, but take into account how culpable for punishment they are. Should we not punish Madoff, because we are compassionate with him? Or did he very well know that society would not approve of his Ponzi scheme?
In practical terms, we can still assign personal blame and responsibility to people, even though in a deep philosophical sense, they may not really carry any blame or responsibility.
Yeah, that is the joke of it all: there is no deep meaning (see here). All we need is ‘agents’ that are capable of anticipating the future, and act because of reasons. Blame, responsibility, praise and Free Will are social constructs based on these capabilities. Where 99.9999% of the population thinks we need LFW for that, we know we don’t.
In other words, the only difference it makes is that it means there is no logical reason to punish “evildoers” for punishment’s sake. “Punishment” should serve a utilitarian purpose—primarily deterrence and protection of society by separating those likely to cause harm from the rest of us.
Exactly. Practically, Dennett and Harris are not that different.
Did that help?