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What the Heck is Free Will, Anyway?
Posted: 14 March 2006 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Barry, I would suggest that if you want to call our attention to long essays, especially those written by other people, better to provide us with a URL rather than copying and pasting long articles here in the forum.

They tend to kill discussion.

And it would be nice if you could include some original commentary on the pieces that you recommend. Why is this essay so important?

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Posted: 14 March 2006 04:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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On Free Will essay

Hi Doug:

I will consider posting such long essays a URL lins from now on.  I sometomes send such essays to inspire dicussion and to bring out other points of view (from the original people who had them) because I think our own ideas are based on so many ideas which came before us.. and also, it is good to share ideas beyond our own.

I think this essay was very good because it talks about the Myth of Free Will in a plain way (something Dennett does not do), and does so for a humanist audience who have already given up other related Myths like God or Immortality.

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Posted: 14 March 2006 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Re: On Free Will essay

[quote author=“Barry”]I will consider posting such long essays a URL lins from now on.  I sometomes send such essays to inspire dicussion and to bring out other points of view (from the original people who had them) because I think our own ideas are based on so many ideas which came before us.. and also, it is good to share ideas beyond our own.

I think this essay was very good because it talks about the Myth of Free Will in a plain way (something Dennett does not do), and does so for a humanist audience who have already given up other related Myths like God or Immortality.

Hi Barry,

It is always great to get other ideas in the forum, yes. I read through the essay very quickly, but it looks like I am in general agreement ... Dennett (at least in Elbow Room) tries to motivate the idea that the theological notion of free will is nonsensical and that that need not worry us. To that extent I think he’s on the right path.

But really, free will only is an interesting philosophical concept if it gets God out of trouble ... i.e. only in a theological context. Otherwise the notion of free will is pretty uninteresting ... at least that’s my take from a naturalistic perspective.

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Posted: 14 March 2006 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Free will just good to get God out of the way?

Doug:

I do not agree.  Yes, getting God out of the way is a first step in America, but it is ONLY the first step.  Where Determinism (vs Countra-Causal Free Will) really gets interesting is in real life!

For instance, Thomas Clark of the Center for Naturalism talks about a whole slew of ways to apply non-Free Will Naturalism (the only kind) to social issues.  For instance, take crime and punishment.  If we beleive in Free Will (but not God), we may still blame the “criminal” for choosing to commit a crime, lock him up in a sub-human way, act agaisnt him on the bases of revenge, and even justify the death penalty (which is anti-humanistic). 

For more ways to see how the talk of Free Will (elimating it from our human vocabulary) really becomes interesting… AFTER God is put aside… look here: http://www.naturalism.org/applied.htm


Barry F. Seidman

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Posted: 15 March 2006 05:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Free Will and Motivation

Doug:

I wonder if this idea of motivation does not make my point. 

A question:  If someone murders someone (not by reacting to an offense, in other words, in pure defense), and that person’s action is based on his genetic disposition and everything which happend to him (environment) from birth to that last moment when he pulled the trigger, then what could be his motivation?

Barry

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Posted: 15 March 2006 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Re: Free Will and Motivation

[quote author=“Barry”]A question:  If someone murders someone (not by reacting to an offense, in other words, in pure defense), and that person’s action is based on his genetic disposition and everything which happend to him (environment) from birth to that last moment when he pulled the trigger, then what could be his motivation?

I’m not sure I understand. In general, the motivation would be case-specific. If as you say this was done “in pure defense” then presumably his motivation was (to put it very roughly) self defense.

As I understand the law, there are many circumstances where one can kill someone in self defense and not commit any crime.

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Posted: 19 March 2006 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I find it hard to swallow the idea that the concept of free will originated with religion. Free will is something that seems obvious to each individual. I don’t see how we can blame religion for this unscientific idea. The existence of free will is naturally part of the world view for all people barring deeper analysis.

As free will fades into the background, a new problem arises. What about criminals who justify thier actions by pointing to their upbringing and other problems? They might have a point, yet their awareness has given them a justification to continue their crimes. Their awareness effects their future actions.

I guess my question is, can people handle knowing this emerging reality concerning free will? Once we start passing laws with the premise that free will is an illusion, how will this effect the general public, including potential criminals?

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Posted: 04 April 2006 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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[quote author=“dmoreau”]I find it hard to swallow the idea that the concept of free will originated with religion. Free will is something that seems obvious to each individual. I don’t see how we can blame religion for this unscientific idea. The existence of free will is naturally part of the world view for all people barring deeper analysis.

I wouldn’t say that in general the concept of free will started with religion ... (If I did, I should be more careful :wink:). But rather, a particular vision of free will as being like an “uncaused cause” originated with religion: a particular branch of Catholic Christianity if I remember correctly.

We all have a sort of nave idea of free will, that we use to distinguish cases: like the difference between someone tied up in a chair versus someone not tied up. Or like someone under a drug-induced or psychological compulsion versus someone not so compelled. In the first sort of case we say the person was in some sense “unfree” or “fettered”. In the latter sort, we say the person was free.

But this nave idea says nothing about determinism or the causal antecedents to our actions.

[quote author=“dmoreau”]I guess my question is, can people handle knowing this emerging reality concerning free will? Once we start passing laws with the premise that free will is an illusion, how will this effect the general public, including potential criminals?

Hmmm ... I guess I don’t entirely follow where you’re going here. I don’t think that our revelations about free will need to have any particular impact on our laws. It’s not that we have the wrong laws (in general), it’s rather that we have the wrong philosophical interpretation of what makes someone free.

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Posted: 26 May 2006 05:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Let me invite everyone who wants to discuss the reality of free will to come over and join our discussion under Humanism (Secular and Otherwise) entitled “Progressive Humanism is Not About Free Will”.

ROBERT GULACK

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