I think I reacted already on these kind of points for months. Please look them up here.
Oh, btw, did you read the article that started this thread? I really would like to know what you think of it.
I did read it and found it unimpressive for the same reason I find compatibilism unimpressive and intellectually dishonest (desperate?).
I’ll take on all of the points made in the article below:
>>>¶4 ... central problem: these scientists are employing a flawed notion of free will.<<<
Is he talking about the notion held by the vast majority of the population, and the vast majority of philosophers and theologians historically? In other words, THE definition?
>>>¶5 When Haggard concludes that we do not have free will “in the sense we think,” he reveals how this conclusion depends on a particular definition of free will. Scientists’ arguments that free will is an illusion typically begin by assuming that free will, by definition, requires an immaterial soul or non-physical mind, and they take neuroscience to provide evidence that our minds are physical. ...<<<
By “particular definition”, does he mean..? Well, see above…
>>>¶6 We should be wary of defining things out of existence. Define Earth as the planet at the center of the universe and it turns out there is no Earth. ...<<<
This is an astonishingly poor analogy. I’m not even sure it qualifies as an analogy at all. If the entire definition of the word “Earth” was “planet at the center of the universe”, then it would indeed be an incoherent concept that should be abandoned. However, the word “Earth” primarily has always meant “the world where humans live”. Whether it’s flat or round, whether it circles the sun or the sun circles it, whether it’s at the center of the universe or somewhere off to the left, these are all factual details about “the world where humans live” that can and should be revised whenever knew data comes in.
Free Will, on the other hand, has pretty much meant one thing to pretty much all people, philosophers, and theologians throughout history: the special ability of humans—whether because of souls or some special property of the brain—to act in a way that is neither determinied nor random—an intuitively powerful but completely nebulous idea. So what the compatibilists are doing is not updating the concept to be consistent with new facts we’ve learned about it (like learning that the sun does not orbit the Earth), but simply redefining it so that they can claim that it actually exists. That’s the very definition of either poor thinking or intellectual dishonesty.
>>>¶7 The sciences of the mind do give us good reasons to think that our minds are made of matter. But to conclude that consciousness or free will is thereby an illusion is too quick. It is like inferring from discoveries in organic chemistry that life is an illusion just because living organisms are made up of non-living stuff. ...<<<
Sheesh! Another example of an absurd analogy. First off, it is people like Dennett who claim that consciousness is an illusion, not neuroscientists like Harris. The analogy used is actually a good one for discrediting Dennett’s claims about consciousness and the self being illusions (although I especially like yours about the magician and his imaginary audience). But it has absolutely nothing to do with Free Will because Free Will (as the vast majority of the population defines it) is simply logically incoherent; organic chemistry and it’s ability to produce life, minds, and consciousness is not.
>>>¶8 Our brains are the most complexly organized things in the known universe, just the sort of thing that could eventually make sense of why each of us is unique, why we are conscious creatures and why humans have abilities to comprehend, converse, and create that go well beyond the precursors of these abilities in other animals. ...<<<
>>>¶9 ... understand free will as a set of capacities for imagining future courses of action, deliberating about one’s reasons for choosing them, planning one’s actions in light of this deliberation and controlling actions in the face of competing desires. ...<<<
In other words, let’s redefine Free Will as free will, as in “acted of her own free will”—a special use of the term that has a quite different meaning than the deep philosophical concept of Free Will. I think I’ll start calling the compatibilists the redefiners.
>>>¶10 These capacities for conscious deliberation, rational thinking and self-control are not magical abilities. They need not belong to immaterial souls outside the realm of scientific understanding ...<<<
>>>¶15 However, the existing evidence does not support the conclusion that free will is an illusion. First of all, it does not show that a decision has been made before people are aware of having made it. It simply finds discernible patterns of neural activity that precede decisions. If we assume that conscious decisions have neural correlates, then we should expect to find early signs of those correlates “ramping up” to the moment of consciousness. ...<<<
Irrelevant. The findings of neuroscience are not main reason we should abandon the concept of Free Will. We should abandon it because it is logically incoherent.
>>>¶16 This is what we should expect with simple decisions. Indeed, we are lucky that conscious thinking plays little or no role in quick or habitual decisions and actions. ...<<<
“conscious thinking plays little or no role in quick or habitual decisions and actions.” And this he calls Free Will?!!! Also, irrelevant.
>>>¶17 ... We should not begin by assuming that free will requires a conscious self that exists beyond the brain (where?), and then conclude that any evidence that shows brain processes precede action thereby demonstrates that consciousness is bypassed. Rather, we should consider the role of consciousness in action on the assumption that our conscious deliberation and rational thinking are carried out by complex brain processes, and then ...<<<
>>>¶19 ... It would mean that whatever processes in the brain are involved in conscious deliberation and self-control — and the substantial energy these processes use — were as useless as our appendix, that they evolved only to observe what we do after the fact, rather than to improve our decision-making and behavior.<<<
>>>¶21 If we put aside the misleading idea that free will depends on supernatural souls rather than our quite miraculous brains, and if we put aside the mistaken idea that our conscious thinking matters most in the milliseconds before movement, then neuroscience does not kill free will. Rather, it can help to explain our capacities to control our actions in such a way that we are responsible for them. It can help us rediscover free will.<<<
In other words, if we simply put aside the definition of Free Will that has always been and then just redefine it, that somehow means Free Will actually does exist. Hurray!
I guess I could use the same argument to say unicorns exist: If we just put aside the notion that unicorns are magical horses with horns, and redefine them as simply being horses, hey, now unicorns do exist! Hurray for little girls everywhere! Thank goodness for unicorn compatibilists! (And that’s actually an appropriate analogy, unlike those used by Eddy Nahmias.)
Sadly, Dennett makes many of the same mistakes and uses similarly poor analogies in his criticism of Harris’ Free Will. He also make several bewildering factual errors in his criticism of Harris, for instance calling him a hard determinist (a person with average reading comprehension skills who has read Free Will would know he is not since he talks at length about quantum indeterminacy), and he conflates Harris’ soft determinism with fatalism, which is such a rookie mistake that I’m bewildered Dennett would make it. Like I said before, Dennett’s criticism of Harris comes across like a fragile ego recklessly lashing out.
Well, I have to end this post at some point, so how about right now?