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Free Will (Merged)
Posted: 28 December 2010 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2911 ]
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Write4U - 28 December 2010 02:12 PM

Questions,
If the universe is deterministic, then is an evil act also not deterministic? Is there a choice at all? Or can we choose Not to do evil, in spite of a deterministic causality? Or can there be conflicting causalities, which allows us to choose between one or the other? Where does that fall in the scheme of Free Will?

I think we do what we are going to do anyway.

Calling whatever we did, are doing, plan to do, “evil” is a judgment on how things ought to have been/be that makes it seem like we should of had/have a choice.

Bottom line I don’t blame people for being who they are but I got to deal with them if they happen to be A-Holes just the same.

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Posted: 28 December 2010 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2912 ]
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Write4U - 28 December 2010 02:12 PM

Questions,
If the universe is deterministic, then is an evil act also not deterministic? Is there a choice at all? Or can we choose Not to do evil, in spite of a deterministic causality? Or can there be conflicting causalities, which allows us to choose between one or the other? Where does that fall in the scheme of Free Will?

Well if you have the stomach to read through this thread you’ll see the answers to your questions. Of course, we can choose not to do an evil act. If we don’t want to do it, or don’t believe that doing it would be to our benefit, then we won’t choose to do it. (Other things equal, of course).

If we do something evil it’s presumably because either we don’t believe it’s evil, or because we want to do it anyway because we believe it’ll provide us some benefit. Both of those are completely causal stories, and they involve complete freedom of the will. (Or all that freedom of the will could ever be).

To repeat for the n-th time, free will is just doing what you want to do. Of course we have free will, all of us, virtually all the time. And that has nothing to do with an incoherent notion of uncaused causation.

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Posted: 28 December 2010 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2913 ]
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dougsmith said:

If we do something evil it’s presumably because either we don’t believe it’s evil, or because we want to do it anyway because we believe it’ll provide us some benefit. Both of those are completely causal stories, and they involve complete freedom of the will. (Or all that freedom of the will could ever be). . . . [F]ree will is just doing what you want to do. . . . [which] has nothing to do with an incoherent notion of uncaused causation.

Well, the rider in parentheses is probably the root cause of this thread - and the free will discussion in general - going on and on. For that parenthetical rider doesn’t make my will sound *free* at all. It *seems*, Sir, you’ve just re-defined ‘free will’ as ‘doing what you desire’ - and why not then stop talking about free will *at all*? So imo talking about ‘compatibilist’ free will is just a fancy way to say ‘there’s no free will’ - there’s only *will*, desire.

Besides the problem of definitional *anschluss* there’s a more ordinary problem: compatibilism cannot easily explain how we choose to change our *desires*. We don’t just want things, we want certain states of being too, such as desires themselves. (I might choose to get rid of my desire to run from the sight of blood, for example.) That doesn’t make libertarian(ish) versions of free will likely just on that ground, i hasten to add, but it does mean they are back in play if the most promising alternative has its own deep troubles. We might talk about ‘wanting’ certain desires, but that seems at least to give us two levels of desires - and that’s half-way to talking about a set of ‘desires’ that are not what we ordinarily call desires in biology and psychology.

Doug mentioned ‘libertarian’ free will but there are other stripes of free will that are stronger than compatibilism. Aquinas’ notion, for example, seems to be that while you cannot be free of one desire or another, you can choose from among your desires (whether your will is strong enough to be successful in particular situations is a different matter.) You might think of Thomistic freedom of will as like a man playing with a windup car: the car’s mechanism means it’s always running in one direction or another so long as it’s wound, but the man can point it in different directions as he chooses. Duns Scotus had the more modern libertarian notion: the force of one’s desires can, in principle, be completely suspended. I happen to think the thomistic notion is better than the scotistic one; i suspect the latter is in a sense inhuman, truly supernatural.

As to the numbered objections from the original post, I’ll try to compose a pretty ordinary answer to it later. As usual, tho’, i urge readers to look up a summary of the extensive literature on it. Free will has been discussed heavily since Augustine’s theodicy, and many religious philosophers have denied free will (the Calvinists spring to mind) - something missed in this thread.

Chris Kirk

[ Edited: 28 December 2010 04:05 PM by inthegobi ]
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Posted: 28 December 2010 04:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2914 ]
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inthegobi - 28 December 2010 03:59 PM

dougsmith said:

If we do something evil it’s presumably because either we don’t believe it’s evil, or because we want to do it anyway because we believe it’ll provide us some benefit. Both of those are completely causal stories, and they involve complete freedom of the will. (Or all that freedom of the will could ever be). . . . [F]ree will is just doing what you want to do. . . . [which] has nothing to do with an incoherent notion of uncaused causation.

Well, the rider in parentheses is probably the root cause of this thread - and the free will discussion in general - going on and on. For that parenthetical rider doesn’t make my will sound *free* at all. It *seems*, Sir, you’ve just re-defined ‘free will’ as ‘doing what you desire’ - and why not then stop talking about free will *at all*? So imo talking about ‘compatibilist’ free will is just a fancy way to say ‘there’s no free will’ - there’s only *will*, desire.

Sir?

Well, if by free will you mean some incoherent notion of action without cause, then of course there’s no such thing, but then there never could be (not one that acted towards ends, and so given that action is always action towards an end, not one that involved action at all. QED).

The problem is that so much free will discussion is run off the rails by incoherencies of this sort, which are puffed up into Great Notions. What’s needed is to get back to brass tacks. Look at an action that is paradigmatically free (as I’ve done time and again in this thread and elsewhere). What’s it that makes it free? Not that it’s caused by some uncaused thingy. I don’t even know what that could be. But rather that it’s caused by what one wants and believes.

inthegobi - 28 December 2010 03:59 PM

Besides the problem of definitional *anschluss* there’s a more ordinary problem: compatibilism cannot easily explain how we choose to change our *desires*. We don’t just want things, we want certain states of being too, such as desires themselves. (I might choose to get rid of my desire to run from the sight of blood, for example.) That doesn’t make libertarian(ish) versions of free will likely just on that ground, i hasten to add, but it does mean they are back in play if the most promising alternative has its own deep troubles. We might talk about ‘wanting’ certain desires, but that seems at least to give us two levels of desires - and that’s half-way to talking about a set of ‘desires’ that are not what we ordinarily call desires in biology and psychology.

It can’t easily explain how we change our desires because nothing can easily explain how we do so. One cannot willfully change beliefs and desires, not willy-nilly anyhow. If you want to change your desire for Coke, you need to undergo something of a lengthy treatment.

inthegobi - 28 December 2010 03:59 PM

Doug mentioned ‘libertarian’ free will but there are other stripes of free will that are stronger than compatibilism. Aquinas’ notion, for example, seems to be that while you cannot be free of one desire or another, you can choose from among your desires (whether your will is strong enough to be successful in particular situations is a different matter.) You might think of Thomistic freedom of will as like a man playing with a windup car: the car’s mechanism means it’s always running in one direction or another so long as it’s wound, but the man can point it in different directions as he chooses. Duns Scotus had the more modern libertarian notion: the force of one’s desires can, in principle, be completely suspended. I happen to think the thomistic notion is better than the scotistic one; i suspect the latter is in a sense inhuman, truly supernatural.

I don’t mean to be dismissive of these kinds of moves—clearly Aquinas, Scotus and an enormous raft of philosophers have nuanced versions of libertarian and compatibilist free will, and they are doubtless worthy of discussion and debate on their own terms. But for the purposes of this discussion they don’t amount to a hill of beans. Because they assume one or the other.

My course on Aquinas’s free will was a very long time ago indeed, but my vague recollection of his position is that it was firmly compatibilist. The will is not itself an uncaused cause, which is all we really need. If I’m wrong about that, it hardly matters though. If Aquinas’s will is libertarian in the relevant sense, then it’s incoherent. An uncaused cause cannot actively point. It can only twitch. And a twitch is not an act.

[ Edited: 28 December 2010 06:40 PM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 28 December 2010 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2915 ]
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I should add that if you mean the compatibilist can’t make easy sense of the desire to change desires, then the charge is simply false. One can model a (second order) desire to change a (first order) desire as easily in a compatibilist system as any.

And at any rate this is all placeholding for the correct properties that will be discovered by cognitive science, neuroscience, etc.

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Posted: 31 December 2010 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2916 ]
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dougsmith said:
Well, if by free will you mean some incoherent notion of action without cause . . .
Without what kind of cause? Unless you assume naturalism, there are *prima facie* more kinds of cause than efficient causation. I don’t believe that the will must be efficiently caused in order to act.

What’s needed is to get back to brass tacks. Look at an action that is paradigmatically free (as I’ve done time and again in this thread and elsewhere). What’s it that makes it free? Not that it’s caused by some uncaused thingy. I don’t even know what that could be. But rather that it’s caused by what one wants and believes.
This confuses grounds for acting (freely) with having *determinants* which force you to act. Of course a typical act of will involves desire and belief - else the act, while it may be free, will be irrational. One interesting property a free will is that neither desires nor beliefs *determine* its action, which seems obviously true in typical cases. Ex: The menu had tree different meals I equally like, maybe even for different reasons, but i can only choose one - and i choose. What particular desire or belief dictated my actual choice? Not the original, general desire ‘I want *something* from the menu’, because that doesn’t determine which something. Chance? It was wholly random? Suppose i decide by closing my eyes and sticking my finger into the menu. That’s not chance, that’s me, freely deciding to use chance in my decision.

As for an uncaused cause, that may be wrong, but it’s not incoherent. It’s an application of what a ‘principle’ or ‘foundation’ or ‘source’ is. These all contain the notion of being in a special position not shared by the other parts of whatever we’re talking about. (A hi-rise cannot just be storey after storey, there must be a foundation and a roof; the beginning or principle of a line-segment is not a line; etc.)
I don’t want to bore you, but *I* don’t see how free will must be incoherent - in the traditional sense of ‘being able to choose otherwise’ - without assuming naturalism. And why the heck must i adopt that first just to answer questions about will and desire?

[Compatibilism] can’t easily explain how we change our desires because nothing can easily explain how we do so. One cannot willfully change beliefs and desires, not willy-nilly anyhow. If you want to change your desire for Coke, you need to undergo something of a lengthy treatment.
Sure. But we can compare views and maybe decide which does the less-absurd job.

I don’t mean to be dismissive of these kinds of moves . . .
No?

My course on Aquinas’s free will was a very long time ago indeed, but my vague recollection of his position is that it was firmly compatibilist.
That’s probably false - in fact it’s probably not a good idea generally to back-project modern terms like compatibilism onto pre-modern philosophy, without heavy riders and conditionals. pre-modern philosophy often cuts across modern categories - sometimes for the better. (IMO, because pre-modern philosophers typically see human beings as compounds of natural and non-natural (to use modern terms roughly), and so their problems don’t usually involve the problems generated by substantial Cartesian souls or Ryle’s haunted biological machines.

My general beef with compatibilism is that ‘doing what you want’ is twofold. (O1) It confuses freedom of *will* with freedom of *action*. Thus a thief’s free will would be suddenly decreased when caught, which is absurd. (O2) ‘doing what you want’ in compatibilism just isn’t what ordinary people mean when they point to typical cases of free will. It’s just *will*, desire. If that’s all there is, well, okay, but then we ought to *stop calling it free will*. That’s what I mean by verbal anschluss.

An uncaused cause cannot actively point. It can only twitch. And a twitch is not an act.
To repeat my first objection in different words, this confuses a lack of efficient cause with a lack of any cause whatever.

Lastly, a general point. If one has a prior, heavy commitment to naturalism, then one has little choice (heh heh) but to reject libertarian stripes of free will - but so what? We already knew *that*: the naturalist finds all sorts of ordinary things and qualities offensive to his over-delicate nose. But it’s highly problematic to solve philosophical problems by adopting a master-world-view like naturalism (or non-naturalism, for that matter) and then derive all our answers therefrom. Unlike non-naturalism tho’, naturalism has to involve heavy ‘revisionism’ of our common beliefs, and that’s a weakness of naturalism in general and specifically here, rejections of free will.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 31 December 2010 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2917 ]
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Chris,

Maybe you should first read the whole thread (woops…!). You should see that all arguments are repeated again and again ad nauseam. I will just make a few small remarks, and leave it to you to find these arguments in detail in this thread…

there are *prima facie* more kinds of cause than efficient causation

Like final causation? This is a way of understanding something in a functional context. But a naturalistic program cannot stay there. Until now the naturalistic, and reductionist program was quite successful, no reason to stop here. Do you know about ‘final causes’ that will be unable to be resolved with efficient causes?

“Grounds” are another way of looking at some systems, like humans and chess computers. Of humans we know that they act on grounds. But do their neurons do too? If not, where does the ‘ghost enter the machine’?

I strongly second Doug’s case about the typical examples of free will. These are not the cases where choices are difficult, or random, but where there is a clear line from believes and wishes to actions. If you can do what you want you are free. The expression “freedom of will” is a logical chimera. A person is free when he can do what he wants. To add to it that he must be free to want what he wants is an absurdity. If you do not think so then please explain what “freedom of will” means: where are the grounds for the will, when not the will itself?

Unlike non-naturalism tho’, naturalism has to involve heavy ‘revisionism’ of our common beliefs, and that’s a weakness of naturalism in general and specifically here, rejections of free will.

So what? People have adapted to a spherical earth revolving around its axis and around the sun, no? And compatibilism does not reject free will, it rejects the funny notion of non-caused, libertarian free will.

GdB

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Posted: 31 December 2010 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2918 ]
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inthegobi - 31 December 2010 06:33 AM

dougsmith said:
Well, if by free will you mean some incoherent notion of action without cause . . .
Without what kind of cause? Unless you assume naturalism, there are *prima facie* more kinds of cause than efficient causation. I don’t believe that the will must be efficiently caused in order to act.

I don’t know what you mean. What is action without efficient causation?

inthegobi - 31 December 2010 06:33 AM

What’s needed is to get back to brass tacks. Look at an action that is paradigmatically free (as I’ve done time and again in this thread and elsewhere). What’s it that makes it free? Not that it’s caused by some uncaused thingy. I don’t even know what that could be. But rather that it’s caused by what one wants and believes.
This confuses grounds for acting (freely) with having *determinants* which force you to act. Of course a typical act of will involves desire and belief - else the act, while it may be free, will be irrational. One interesting property a free will is that neither desires nor beliefs *determine* its action, which seems obviously true in typical cases. Ex: The menu had tree different meals I equally like, maybe even for different reasons, but i can only choose one - and i choose. What particular desire or belief dictated my actual choice? Not the original, general desire ‘I want *something* from the menu’, because that doesn’t determine which something. Chance? It was wholly random? Suppose i decide by closing my eyes and sticking my finger into the menu. That’s not chance, that’s me, freely deciding to use chance in my decision.

Your grounds for acting precisely are the determinants which force you to act.

There are more sophisticated treatments of the will in which the will is distinguished from other desires by being a set of desires that are presented in a certain way to the mind (e.g., in Denny Stampe’s stuff). I am glossing over that here because it’s been awhile since I looked at it all, but a compatibilist won’t strictly say that there is no difference between will and desire. A somewhat more complex and sophisticated treatment is necessary.

(And again, these will of necessity be placeholders until the correct account of the will and action production is provided us by work in cognitive neuroscience).

At any rate the will can only choose by being impinged upon by beliefs and desires, and there is no other sense to “impinge” in this context but causally.

I am aware that people talk of other kinds of impinging, but it’s unconvincing. It amounts to causal impinging that is given a different name for rhetorical convenience.

inthegobi - 31 December 2010 06:33 AM

As for an uncaused cause, that may be wrong, but it’s not incoherent. It’s an application of what a ‘principle’ or ‘foundation’ or ‘source’ is. These all contain the notion of being in a special position not shared by the other parts of whatever we’re talking about. (A hi-rise cannot just be storey after storey, there must be a foundation and a roof; the beginning or principle of a line-segment is not a line; etc.)
I don’t want to bore you, but *I* don’t see how free will must be incoherent - in the traditional sense of ‘being able to choose otherwise’ - without assuming naturalism. And why the heck must i adopt that first just to answer questions about will and desire?

Again, I don’t know what you mean. The incoherency of libertarian free will is that the will can point in a given direction in some way that is uncaused and yet point reliably and rationally. Either the will works causally or it works randomly. If the former then compatibilism is true. If the latter then the will cannot act, since twitches are not acts. There is no third option.

inthegobi - 31 December 2010 06:33 AM

I don’t mean to be dismissive of these kinds of moves . . .
No?

No, because there is room for competently done history of philosophy. I only dismiss the moves when they are intended not as an argument for some historical point but rather as a move in an argument about the way things (a-historically) are. In the latter case it doesn’t really matter who said what. All that matters is the strength of the argument itself.

inthegobi - 31 December 2010 06:33 AM

Lastly, a general point. If one has a prior, heavy commitment to naturalism, then one has little choice (heh heh) but to reject libertarian stripes of free will - but so what? We already knew *that*: the naturalist finds all sorts of ordinary things and qualities offensive to his over-delicate nose. But it’s highly problematic to solve philosophical problems by adopting a master-world-view like naturalism (or non-naturalism, for that matter) and then derive all our answers therefrom. Unlike non-naturalism tho’, naturalism has to involve heavy ‘revisionism’ of our common beliefs, and that’s a weakness of naturalism in general and specifically here, rejections of free will.

One doesn’t simply choose naturalism willy-nilly. Naturalism is an outcome of a general epistemological program which puts evidence and reason above all other methods of gaining knowledge (viz., tradition, revelation). If you are going to begin an argument by rejecting that epistemological program and the results it has provided, then we’re no longer arguing rationally.

Or to put it another way, if there is anything to tradition and revelation, they will be upheld by evidence and reason. But evidence and reason have shown these methods of gaining knowledge to be either weak (tradition must itself be upheld by evidence and reason) or bankrupt (in the case of revelation).  As GdB says, naturalism does require us to revise some of our common beliefs. We no longer believe that lightning is a force of the gods, or of demons. We no longer believe that illness is caused by witches. (Indeed, we no longer believe in witches).

When it comes to freedom of the will, however, the only thing we are forced to do is to become aware that the alternative never made sense anyhow. It was always an incoherent notion that an uncaused cause could point us in some particular direction. It was always an incoherent notion that an uncaused cause could point me at a glass of water when I’m thirsty. That never made the slightest sense, and those who thought otherwise were under the thrall of a broken metaphysical program.

Another point, which I haven’t stressed enough: not only is libertarian free will incoherent, it is also soon to be demonstrated empirically false. Once we have a good mapping of how the brain works, any room for uncaused causes among the neurons will go the way of motor souls in the planets. Either way it’s a program without a future.

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Posted: 31 December 2010 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2919 ]
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Chris,

inthegobi - 31 December 2010 06:33 AM

*I* don’t see how free will must be incoherent - in the traditional sense of ‘being able to choose otherwise’ -

I think able to choose otherwise is a good definition of free will. But able in what sense is the question. I think it turns out the correct sense is compatible with determinism and that it’s true that any version incompatible with determinism is incoherent in that it adds nothing to the compatibilist version.

I think the easiest way to explain what I mean by adds nothing is in terms of moral responsibility. Free will is the thing we have to have to be morally responsible and if we can get no more moral responsibility out of CHDO incompatible with determinism than CHDO compatible with determinism then free will is compatible with determinism.

So what does able to have done otherwise mean? (just using past tense as it’s easier)

The first thing is that compatibilists and libertarians agree that the actiion results from the will.

So say someone had the will to drink tea and drank tea. We can all agree that otherwise doesn’t mean able to choose to drink coffee given the will to drink tea.

So it means (for starters) able to have done otherwise if the will had arisen.

The thing to note here is that this is already a counterfactual analysis, even the libertarian doesn’t mean in the precise same circumstances, though often we are told that they do.

The next question is how could a different will arise?

Well if we think about choices we made and give our reasons for making the choice it doesn’t seem to make sense to say we could have had the same will given the same reasons. People report choice making as a weighing up process, we notice the connection between the action and the weighing up process and that’s why we think we make choices in the first place.

So it seems clear that the weighing up process would have needed to be different in some way in order for s different will to arise. so we have two counterfactual conditionals.

Back to our definition “able to have done otherwise if the will had arisen” what does the able part mean? It means nothing to prevent, we are aware of numerous things that we are able to do if the will arises, go for a walk make a cup of tea etc etc. We are able to do these things for two reasons 1) is because nothing external impedes us. In the case of making a cup of tea, there is water, the kettle works, the door to the kitchen is unlocked etc etc. But also it’s about our competence. Take the case of being able to drive to town if the will arises. I am able because I am competent to drive a car having been trained. so if the will arises and I attempt to drive to town I will very probably get there. But say my 12 year old daughter makes the attempt. She’s had no training, never driven a car, she will almost certainly fail, so she is not able for those reasons.

This analysis of able to do otherwise, and I’m sure there is much more detail to be added is compatible with determinism.

Also the link between this and moral responsibility is understandable. Being morally responsible is being apt target of praise and blame. Praise and blame influence the will and so we can see that we are interested in the sorts of cases in which it’s possible to influence the will and in which doing so can result in a successful attempt at the willed action. 

Stephen

[ Edited: 31 December 2010 12:33 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 31 December 2010 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2920 ]
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inthegobi - 31 December 2010 06:33 AM

dougsmith said:
Well, if by free will you mean some incoherent notion of action without cause . . .
Without what kind of cause? Unless you assume naturalism, there are *prima facie* more kinds of cause than efficient causation. I don’t believe that the will must be efficiently caused in order to act.

In other words the “self” acts as an agent able to make an arbitrary choice which is not initiated by any external cause?

This seems the apparent reality of decision making. However, more likely is that other circumstances which never reach a level of conscious awareness influence(cause) the final decision. Not you are not aware of these unconscious influence at the point of making a decision make them any less causal. However looking back in time at the event it may seem that you made a decision that was not efficiently because of your lack of awareness of these sub-conscious causes.

There may not be scientific proofs available for these sub-conscious mechanism involved in the decision making process however, the explanation doesn’t require the existence of an agent capable of making non-efficiently caused decisions. 

You can of course hypothesize such an agent, however one is not necessary to reach a reasonable explanation.

This confuses grounds for acting (freely) with having *determinants* which force you to act. Of course a typical act of will involves desire and belief - else the act, while it may be free, will be irrational. One interesting property a free will is that neither desires nor beliefs *determine* its action, which seems obviously true in typical cases. Ex: The menu had tree different meals I equally like, maybe even for different reasons, but i can only choose one - and i choose. What particular desire or belief dictated my actual choice? Not the original, general desire ‘I want *something* from the menu’, because that doesn’t determine which something. Chance? It was wholly random? Suppose i decide by closing my eyes and sticking my finger into the menu. That’s not chance, that’s me, freely deciding to use chance in my decision.

What caused you to decide to use chance? Perhaps a lack of desire or preference of any particular meal. Your lack of preference being the cause of your decision to leave it to chance.

As for an uncaused cause, that may be wrong, but it’s not incoherent. It’s an application of what a ‘principle’ or ‘foundation’ or ‘source’ is. These all contain the notion of being in a special position not shared by the other parts of whatever we’re talking about. (A hi-rise cannot just be storey after storey, there must be a foundation and a roof; the beginning or principle of a line-segment is not a line; etc.)
I don’t want to bore you, but *I* don’t see how free will must be incoherent - in the traditional sense of ‘being able to choose otherwise’ - without assuming naturalism. And why the heck must i adopt that first just to answer questions about will and desire?

People generally assume causality because for most overt actions a obvious cause is known and can be seen on it’s re-occurrence, to result in the same action. If A acts on B then C is always the result. Even if one were to posit a supernatural element to the universe one would natural accept this supernatural element as being causal. However once you enter the realm of the supernatural you are free to speculate on the existence of anything you can imagine to exist without the need of proof or the ability to disprove. Like a supernatural agent capable of initiating actions without efficient cause.

Sure. But we can compare views and maybe decide which does the less-absurd job.

I suspect nothing is absurd outside the realm of supernaturalism.

My general beef with compatibilism is that ‘doing what you want’ is twofold. (O1) It confuses freedom of *will* with freedom of *action*. Thus a thief’s free will would be suddenly decreased when caught, which is absurd. (O2) ‘doing what you want’ in compatibilism just isn’t what ordinary people mean when they point to typical cases of free will. It’s just *will*, desire. If that’s all there is, well, okay, but then we ought to *stop calling it free will*. That’s what I mean by verbal anschluss.

There is the desire to act -will and the freedom to act. One can have the desire to act without the freedom. One can have the freedom to act without the desire. A person in prison may still have desires but is not free to act on them. At least not all of their desires. Their free will is obviously restricted, how is this absurd? In compatibilism free will requires both the desire(will to act) and the freedom to act.

Lastly, a general point. If one has a prior, heavy commitment to naturalism, then one has little choice (heh heh) but to reject libertarian stripes of free will - but so what? We already knew *that*: the naturalist finds all sorts of ordinary things and qualities offensive to his over-delicate nose. But it’s highly problematic to solve philosophical problems by adopting a master-world-view like naturalism (or non-naturalism, for that matter) and then derive all our answers therefrom. Unlike non-naturalism tho’, naturalism has to involve heavy ‘revisionism’ of our common beliefs, and that’s a weakness of naturalism in general and specifically here, rejections of free will.

Chris Kirk

It is not offensive, it is just not necessary. “Ordinary” people assume a supernatural agent is necessary for the explanation of free will. However naturalism is quite capable of explaining the existence of free will without the need of any supernatural agent,

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Posted: 01 January 2011 01:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2921 ]
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Gnostikosis - 31 December 2010 03:33 PM

In other words the “self” acts as an agent able to make an arbitrary choice which is not initiated by any external cause?

This seems the apparent reality of decision making.

No it doesn’t, not at all. This view doesn’t match the experience or the way we tend to view the world.

Firstly it seems like nuture and nature play a role. If they didn’t how could we be adapted to our environment??

Secondly of course choices don’t appear arbitary, that would make choice making pointless and useless.

Thirdly, it doesn’t appear like the causes are all within ourselves. We can see that if we were in different external circumstances we would make a different selection. of course external circumstances are influencing the choice .

fourthly why do we thank others when we get recognised for our achievments? It’s because we know they played a role, without them it would not have been possible, is what we say.

So this whole idea that libertarian free will matches the experience is nonsense, it doesn’t.

What it does, or rather is aimed at doing but fails, is match the sense of moral responsibility we intuitevely believe in. Certainly not our everyday experience of choice making.

Stephen

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Posted: 02 January 2011 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2922 ]
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I thought this might be of interest .

http://www.naturalism.org/roundup.htm#Harris

Firstly a couple of excerpts from sam Harris’ book “The Moral Landscape”

Clearly, we need to build prisons for people who are intent on harming others. But if we could incarcerate earthquakes and hurricanes for their crimes, we would build prisons for them as well. The men and women on death row have some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad ideas and bad luck – which of these quantities, exactly, were they responsible for? No human being stands as author to his own genes or own upbringing, and yet we have every reason to believe that these factors determine his character throughout his life. Our system of justice should reflect our understanding that each of us could have been dealt a very different hand in life…The urge for retribution…seems to depend upon our not seeing the underlying causes of human behavior. (109)

Despite our attachment to the notion of free will, most of us know that disorders of the brain can trump the best intentions of the mind. This shift in understanding represents progress toward a deeper, more consistent, and more compassionate view of our common humanity – and we should note that this is progress away from religious metaphysics. It seems to me that few concepts have offered greater scope for human cruelty than the idea of an immortal soul that stands independent of all material influences, ranging from genes to economic systems. (110)

And from the same page a bit about Dennett developing a consequentialist conception of moral desert.

In between are those such as Daniel Dennett, who has long been wary of any revolution in criminal justice that substitutes cures for punishment, saying that “A world without punishment is not a world any of us would want to live in” (quoted here). However, in his seminar on free will he’s been developing a strictly consequentialist conception of moral desert, the logic of which suggests (at least to me) that were effective non-punitive alternatives to punishment available that fully respected human rights and personal autonomy, he might prefer them.

I think Sam Harris is right about retribuition but that also that Dennett might be right too. I think desert or deservedness can be “naturalised” but it’s not going to include the thing that we lose when we accept the underlying causes of human behaviour or accept that we might have been born in different circumstances in which it would be us being punished.

Desert needs to shift and it’s that shift, that exact bit that many of us think needs to go that is what the argument over free will and moral responsibility is all about.

Stephen

[ Edited: 02 January 2011 04:27 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 02 January 2011 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2923 ]
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Oh and here’s more from Sam Harris in the Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/a-new-years-resolution-fo_b_802480.html

To make matters more difficult, Americans have made a religious fetish of something called “self-reliance.” Most seem to think that while a person may not be responsible for the opportunities he gets in life, each is entirely responsible for what he makes of these opportunities. This is, without question, a false view of the human condition. Consider the biography of any “self-made” American, from Benjamin Franklin on down, and you will find that his success was entirely dependent on background conditions that he did not make, and of which he was a mere beneficiary. There is not a person on earth who chose his genome, or the country of his birth, or the political and economic conditions that prevailed at moments crucial to his progress. Consequently, no one is responsible for his intelligence, range of talents, or ability to do productive work. If you have struggled to make the most of what Nature gave you, you must still admit that Nature also gave you the ability and inclination to struggle. How much credit do I deserve for not having Down syndrome or any other disorder that would make my current work impossible? None whatsoever. And yet devotees of self-reliance rail against those who would receive entitlements of various sorts—health care, education, etc.—while feeling unselfconsciously entitled to their relative good fortune. Yes, we must encourage people to work to the best of their abilities and discourage free riders wherever we can—but it seems only decent at this moment to admit how much luck is required to succeed at anything in this life.

Stephen

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