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Free Will in theodicy
Posted: 27 September 2007 06:45 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi,

Free will is usually given as an explanation to the problem of evil.

I think it is a bad idea for the following reason :

Not all our actions are bad because of choice. Sometimes we are delluded, and it brings to suffering just because of that.

For example, when muslims are brainwashed about virgins in heaven, that influences their choice.
Or, when people are taught that certain people are “just animals” and given false information to prove that.
Or when people are mislead by the government, and don’t have enough critical faculties to think for themselves.

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Posted: 28 September 2007 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Wandering,

wandering - 27 September 2007 06:45 PM

Hi,

Free will is usually given as an explanation to the problem of evil.

I think it is a bad idea for the following reason :

Not all our actions are bad because of choice. Sometimes we are delluded, and it brings to suffering just because of that.

For example, when muslims are brainwashed about virgins in heaven, that influences their choice.
Or, when people are taught that certain people are “just animals” and given false information to prove that.
Or when people are mislead by the government, and don’t have enough critical faculties to think for themselves.

People who believe in free will (the common all garden type) think this makes no difference, as you excercise control over what it is that you believe and you can simply choose not to act upon the belief in any case.

Stephen

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Posted: 28 September 2007 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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wandering - 27 September 2007 06:45 PM

Hi,

Free will is usually given as an explanation to the problem of evil.

I think it is a bad idea for the following reason :

Not all our actions are bad because of choice. Sometimes we are delluded, and it brings to suffering just because of that.

For example, when muslims are brainwashed about virgins in heaven, that influences their choice.
Or, when people are taught that certain people are “just animals” and given false information to prove that.
Or when people are mislead by the government, and don’t have enough critical faculties to think for themselves.

I’m not sure I follow your argument, wandering. What do you think is a “bad idea” and why?

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Posted: 28 September 2007 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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wandering - 27 September 2007 06:45 PM

Hi,

Free will is usually given as an explanation to the problem of evil.

I think it is a bad idea for the following reason :

Not all our actions are bad because of choice. Sometimes we are delluded, and it brings to suffering just because of that.

For example, when muslims are brainwashed about virgins in heaven, that influences their choice.
Or, when people are taught that certain people are “just animals” and given false information to prove that.
Or when people are mislead by the government, and don’t have enough critical faculties to think for themselves.

One who believes in free will, will also believe that people are ultimately responsible for their actions. Given this, If someone does an “evil” deed, they must be responsible for that evil deed, no?

But to say that “free will is responsible for evil” is like saying that guns kill people, instead of saying that people kill people.

What’s amusing is that even your average person that believes they have free will, when they do wrong, will often try to place the blame elsewhere, like on their circumstances, or an outside source.

[ Edited: 28 September 2007 10:00 AM by morgantj ]
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Posted: 28 September 2007 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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morgantj - 28 September 2007 09:53 AM

One who believes in free will, will also believe that people are ultimately responsible for their actions. Given this, If someone does an “evil” deed, they must be responsible for that evil deed, no?

But to say that “free will is responsible for evil” is like saying that guns kill people, instead of saying that people kill people.

What’s amusing is that even your average person that believes they have free will, when they do wrong, will often try to place the blame elsewhere, like on their circumstances, or an outside source.

I understand why the theologians, people like Augustine, created the concept of libertarian free will: it was supposed to get God off the hook for human evils. The story is that God can’t cause us to do what we do. When we act, we do so totally free of all antecedent causes up to the time of the action. So what we do is entirely caused by us. So if we murder someone, that wasn’t caused by God, but by a totally “spontaneous” free action on our part, so the blame is entirely on us and not on God.

Again, it’s an attempt to get God off the hook. But it doesn’t work. First of all, the whole notion of libertarian free will is incoherent. Free acts are acts caused by our antecedent beliefs and desires. Secondly, even if we allow for libertarian freedom, God would still be responsible for so-called “natural evils” like earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, viruses, birth defects, et cetera.

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Posted: 01 October 2007 10:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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dougsmith - 28 September 2007 10:10 AM

Free acts are acts caused by our antecedent beliefs and desires.

(“Free” was indented by me).


That was my intention, you phrased it much more concisely than I did.

Do you agree that libertarian free-will is problematic, even if we don’t think about the body-mind problem? (The reason is your quote. Acts that are influenced by beliefs are not free but influenecd.)

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Posted: 01 October 2007 10:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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wandering - 01 October 2007 10:19 PM

Do you agree that libertarian free-will is problematic, even if we don’t think about the body-mind problem?

Yes. Libertarian free will is incoherent. That is, it doesn’t make any sense. There is no way that an uncaused act can be free. The paradigmatic uncaused acts are random twitches and jerks. If we look to some sort of uncaused quantum fluctuation, it would cause a twitch, not an action.

It simply makes no sense to describe anything uncaused as an action. Bodily movements are actions when they are caused by beliefs and desires.

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Posted: 01 October 2007 10:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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dougsmith - 01 October 2007 10:21 PM
wandering - 01 October 2007 10:19 PM

Do you agree that libertarian free-will is problematic, even if we don’t think about the body-mind problem?

Yes. Libertarian free will is incoherent. That is, it doesn’t make any sense. There is no way that an uncaused act can be free. The paradigmatic uncaused acts are random twitches and jerks. If we look to some sort of uncaused quantum fluctuation, it would cause a twitch, not an action.

It simply makes no sense to describe anything uncaused as an action. Bodily movements are actions when they are caused by beliefs and desires.

Hm… The ideas you say are a bit new to me.

Can you elaborate on the last paragraph?

And - who are the philosophers writing about it, besides Dennet?

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Posted: 01 October 2007 10:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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dougsmith - 28 September 2007 08:08 AM

I’m not sure I follow your argument, wandering. What do you think is a “bad idea” and why?


I understand “free” to mean “uninfluenced by anything”. And then I tried to show, that if it is so, our actions can’t be “free”, since they are influenced.

Explained?

 

 

I like calling the idea I don’t agree with “ULTIMATE moral responsibility”.When we think like this, we blame people in the following way - ‘you are responsible for it, you and only you! Nothing influenced your decision! You had the complete choice to do otherwise”.

Which seems wrong. Our “evil choices” are influenced by such mundane things as stomach-digestion, by such mundane things as the amount of sleep we had, and by such factors not in our control as the weather.

Hm… Is it clear?

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Posted: 02 October 2007 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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wandering - 01 October 2007 10:51 PM

Can you elaborate on the last paragraph?

Our bodies behave in certain ways, that is, they move. Some movements are meaningful, e.g., when I signal for a cab, or when I reach for a bottle of milk on the shelf. Those sorts of movements we call “actions”. Other movements aren’t meaningful, e.g., when I have a twitch, or when my leg jerks while I am asleep.

What makes a bodily movement an action is that it is caused by my beliefs and desires, my intentions.

wandering - 01 October 2007 10:51 PM

And - who are the philosophers writing about it, besides Dennet?

Eh, there are lots of philosophers writing about action, about intention; fewer write about free will. I do think your best source for material on free will is Dan Dennett (in particular his Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves). Then if you are still interested in the topic use his bibliography for further readings. But much of the material he cites is much denser.

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Posted: 02 October 2007 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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wandering - 01 October 2007 10:55 PM


I like calling the idea I don’t agree with “ULTIMATE moral responsibility”.When we think like this, we blame people in the following way - ‘you are responsible for it, you and only you! Nothing influenced your decision! You had the complete choice to do otherwise”.

Which seems wrong. Our “evil choices” are influenced by such mundane things as stomach-digestion, by such mundane things as the amount of sleep we had, and by such factors not in our control as the weather.

Hm… Is it clear?

You are right Wandering, blaming each other in this way is a mistake.

The compatibilist idea of a free action, I think is useful but does not give us the ultimate responsibility people actually believe in and does not address the problems the belief causes.

Stephen

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Posted: 02 October 2007 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Doug, and what do you mean by

“It simply makes no sense to describe anything uncaused as an action. “?

Stephen, do you see any justification for a juridicial system, and what would a juridicial system that would not be based on UFM (ultimate free will) look like?

Stephen - do you know any others beside Dennet?

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Posted: 02 October 2007 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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wandering - 02 October 2007 09:18 AM

Doug, and what do you mean by

“It simply makes no sense to describe anything uncaused as an action. “?

What is an example of an uncaused event? The only sorts we encounter are in quantum mechanics, for example, with radioactive decay. If the halflife of an atom is ten seconds, that means that in ten seconds there is a 50% chance that that atom will decay. But the fact that this decay happened at one time rather than another time is uncaused. It’s totally random. There is nothing further we can say about why it happened then except to give the probability.

An action, on the other hand, is teleological: it is directed at an end, for a reason, at a certain time. There is always a causal explanation as to why someone did a particular action.

If you ask why a person twitched, there is also a causal explanation (of a sort), although it does not involve intentions, beliefs, desires or other mental states. To put it another way, a twitch could have been caused by a quantum mechanical fluctuation of some sort in the right motor neuron. An action could not have been. And that’s the case even if the twitch and the action look entirely the same from the outside.

Let’s take two cases: one where Jones raises his arm to call a taxi (= an action).
Another where Jones has a quantum-mechanical fluctuation in the motor neuron responsible for moving his shoulder, and so his arm swings upward (= twitch)

These behaviors might look the same from the outside, but in fact one was an action, and the other one was not. One was intentional, directed at an end (calling a taxi); the other was unintentional and not end-directed.

Indeed, the first one was done freely, the second wasn’t.

The first one makes you morally responsible for what happens, the second one does not. (Although, of course, it would be impossible for an outside observer to tell the difference without some very sophisticated instrumentation!)

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Posted: 02 October 2007 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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dougsmith - 02 October 2007 09:40 AM


The first one makes you morally responsible for what happens, the second one does not. (Although, of course, it would be impossible for an outside observer to tell the difference without some very sophisticated instrumentation!)

If you mean this in the totally mundane sense that there is absolutely no point in holding people responsible for random twiches, as it will prevent none of them, whilst there is a point to holding people responsible for actions they intend, as the input to the environment may deter others, then we agree.

I read something by Stephen Pinker which suggested it may be beneficial to keep such a notion of free will. 

But I have the strong impression that compatibilists like you and Dennett actually believe in something beyond this mere practical free will, as if it could really have become our fault that we act upon our intentions or that we have an intention.

In which case this free will is nothing more than a deception to replace the incompatibilist myth.

Stephen

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Posted: 02 October 2007 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I know I sound like a broken record, but what is Free Will?  Yes, I’ve heard the religious talk about this, but I have no clue, because we ourselves decide our own actions (unless we have some sort of illness that prevents us from doing so) and WE are responsible for our actions.  There is no theocracy or theodicy to it.  Now religious dogma, IMHO, takes this freedom of action/choice/belief from us.  There is no longer freedom of anything when one subscribes/submits to a religious group, creed, dogma, and/or doctrine.  So what is Free Will?

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Posted: 02 October 2007 02:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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isnt it funny? some people cite free will to get God off the hook while others cite destiny to get themselves off the hook.

I got a fish hook caught in one of my fingers once. so I guess I can understand. It hurts…

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