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Progressive Humanism is not about Free Will
Posted: 18 June 2007 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 91 ]
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Ok, well you seem to have expanded the definition of simple beyond where I would go to accomodate making Occam’s Razor the only “criterion for factual truth,” as you say. Since your epistemological criteria appears carved in stone, and since I cannot seem to agree with it, we seem to be at an impasse. How, exactly we go on to discuss what is true or false in any other sphere from this point is beyond me.

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Posted: 19 June 2007 12:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 92 ]
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Of course, I don’t admit I have “expanded” the definition of the Razor beyond that which appears in any encyclopedia.
BOB

[ Edited: 19 June 2007 12:28 AM by Robert Gulack ]
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Posted: 19 June 2007 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 93 ]
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“To show that our ordinary account of “deserved punishment” is based on a very doubtful factual assumption, and thus to show that no punishment ought to be imposed solely on the basis that it is “deserved.” Among other things, I believe this would lead us to abandon capital punishment, and to place greater emphasis on economic justice in our own country, and around the world.”

No relationship. You can execute a murderer and still end poverty, why not do both? Or bring back the lash and let them choose that- might be more effective- it was for two millenia…

Responsibility can never be pushed to the back burner, whether it’s being held responsible for crimes, or left alone with one’s personal responsibility, without oppressive regulation. Let junkies die, don’t regulate them, don’t execute them. If they steal- see above.

Educate the young, then set them free. It’s all we can do, and a great place to start in with a new round of free will.

Dwight

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Posted: 19 June 2007 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 94 ]
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I recommend that Mr. Jones read my essay, “How to Tell Right From Wrong” at ethicalfocus.org.  He does not appear able to tell right from wrong.
BOB GULACK

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Posted: 19 June 2007 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 95 ]
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Robert Gulack - 19 June 2007 12:58 PM

I recommend that Mr. Jones read my essay, “How to Tell Right From Wrong” at ethicalfocus.org.  He does not appear able to tell right from wrong.
BOB GULACK

It’s true that I don’t reduce matters to such simple dialectics. Assigning actions and events to the category “wrong” means you have ceased any attempt at understanding, are moralizing, and you had might as well go ahead and term it evil and be carried down the street in adulation on the shoulders of christians.

What is curiouser is your statement

“.. that no punishment ought to be imposed solely on the basis that it is “deserved.”

 
postulates that there is no wrong - here we wear our mercy hats I guess- now why would I want to distinguish things from such a chimera?

I don’t believe that assigning wrong, blame, and similar pathological denigrations to human actions and ideas has any function beyond self-aggrandizement. They are of course the bread and butter of “ethics” gurus.

What was it Dylan said -

Dr. Filth he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup.

Dwight

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Posted: 20 June 2007 12:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 96 ]
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If Mr. (“you know something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is”) Jones quotes DESOLATION ROW to me one more time, I will call him and sing him the entire song, accompanying myself on guitar.  It happens to be one of my favorite songs.

That being said, would anyone care to make a reasoned argument on either the subject of determinism or its ethical consequences?

BOB GULACK

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Posted: 20 June 2007 10:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 97 ]
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If ‘free will’ is a valid idea, but also that a fetus does not yet have a ‘free will’, at what point in the development does free will exist?
I’ve worked in clinical settings with the retarded and pathological. Nobody thinks they have ‘free will’. But even an alzheimers, may from time to time, have a ‘good day’, and sorta “be there” for a while.

“Free will” assumes there is a rational evaluation process of what to do next. But from what we know now of the neurology, the biochemistry of the mind, and the limits imposed by group think, such as those whose faith tells them they have ‘free will’, whatever freedom exists is mixed with innumerable random factors. Dendrites, the basic unit of the logical calculation process, can be triggered by cosmic rays. And when that happens at the right instant, it can avalanche, so that ideas really do ‘pop into your head’.

A lot of these intractable issues can be handled with a different definition of the divine. The original Aryan myth had it that Chaos was the primordial substance. Anyone who has studied computer code knows there are difficulties in generating random numbers forever, and understands perfectly well how a string can, and at some point inevitably will, become a self-replicating sequence. That original sequence was called, among other things, “Gaia”.

But there is no ‘divine plan’. she is just winging it.

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Posted: 21 June 2007 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 98 ]
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Good question as to when and how “free will” allegedly appears and disappears over a human lifetime.
For that matter, how did “free will” appear during the course of evolution?  If “free will” is genetic, how is metaphysical freedom encoded into our genes?  Could it be spliced into other species?  If “free will” is not genetic, why are we so sure that only people have it—after all, the human race is a species defined by its genes, isn’t it?
BOB GULACK

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Posted: 21 June 2007 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 99 ]
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Some spotty thoughts (I haven’t read the whole thread):

I think it has been assumed that “free will” is some known (or knowable) quantity, and that this known quantity is always present in human beings (implied here by there being a physical form of it in a gene), while the truth is that it is almost always absent.  It only appears upon reflection, and most people do not reflect on most of what they choose or do, they simply choose and do.  Free will seems only to come up when a problem arises - that is, we don’t seem to notice freedom until we lack it for some reason.  Otherwise, at other times, free will is not an issue.  (I think that the whole question is backwards: it ought to be answering what the nature of restraint is.  It is interesting that the exercise of free will usually seems to be posited in connection to ethics, which is to say in terms of using one’s freedom, and reason, to limit one’s choices, i.e., the proper use of freedom is to limit freedom.)

The evolutionary aspect might be found in what allows for reflection, and the development of the habits of mind (psychology if you prefer) that lead to our questioning our lack of ability to do anything we want whenever we want.  Habits of mind depend not only on the physical, material brain, but the evolution of culture that allows the kind of thought that ends up being self-contemplating, that can create a self, in the mind, to contemplate.  That capacity is not innate, but arises from interaction of minds, and the interaction that produces self-reflection depends on culture to exist.  I say that self-reflection appears only with interaction on the evidence of what becomes of people who do not interact, especially in the case of “feral” children, but also of other people denied human interaction - even established self-conception appears to be eroded by a lack of interaction.

Put differently, free will depends on my realizing that I have free will, which in turn depends on my realizing that I am an “I”.  In turn, I recognize that I am an “I” because I interact with others who appear to recognize “I"s of their own, and me as another “I”.  In explaining why they do what they do, and why I do what I do, I have recourse to this idea of free will, which is at first a recognition that you can do otherwise than you do, and that I can do otherwise than I do, at least in principle.  This, in turn, leads to the idea of responsibility - that you must answer for what you do, because I presume you choose to do it freely (of course, in your response, you can educate me as to what the actual choice was, and that perhaps your freedom was limited in some way I was not aware of).

As for other species, if you ask whether a dog has free will, you can answer that he does, because he can choose where to lie down, whether to drink some water or not, and so on, so that to the extent that a dog makes choices that are free that the dog has free will.  But we usually attach some kind of awareness of the free will as a part of the definition.  That seems like a bit of a dodge to me.  A dog that is used to some kind of freedom - an open gate, or lack of a leash, e..g - which is then denied that freedom might be agitated, and give use evidence that it is aware of it’s former freedom.  But who could know what’s really on a dog’s mind?

I suppose I am falling back on the pragmatist definition of what a concept of something “is” - “Consider what effects that might conceivably have practical bearings you conceive the objects of your conception to have. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object.”  That is, when we think of “free will”, what we mean by it is defined by the practical effects that our idea of “free will” has in the world.  So considered, I don’t think anyone can really deny that there is some freedom to the will of anything that we consider as having any will at all.

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Posted: 21 June 2007 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 100 ]
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Bob/Daybrown, you’re overthinking this point. Free will is, apart from the theolgoical notions associated with it which most or all of us here reject, just the ability to make choices, to deliberate among options and pick one. As such, it is a quality of reason and consciousness and exists when and if the brain of the person or creature in question is capable of those things. Now we haven’t nailed down the precise relationship between structures in the brain and the act of choosing, but our understanding grows all the time. I think it is reasonable to say that people with a certain level of dysfunction in their brains may very well not have free will. This doesn’t require all the metaphysical speculation about genes and embryos above be resolved, it simply requires recognizing that the capacity for reason and choice is a property of some brains and not others. The determinist arguments against free will are more difficult to resolve, though I’ve made my points about those above and in related threads so I won’t bother going over that stuff again.

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Posted: 05 September 2007 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 101 ]
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Let’s pretend that the arguments of the philosophical determinists are completely valid and there is no such thing as free will.

To them I say, “I believe in free will and I believe that my choice to believe in free will is a manifestation of my free will.”

What caused me to believe this way?

*****

Mr. Gulack seems to reject the idea of free will because, in his mind, some people who believe in free will will use that belief as an excuse for captial punishment. I don’t find that argument any more compelling than rejecting evolution because some people are Social Darwinists.

I can’t figure out how there can be any meaning the term “responsibility” if there is no meaning in the term “free will.” If humans do not have free will at all, then the only responsibility we have is the same as the responsiblity of the avalanche that crushes a village or a tsunami that washes over the coast.

[ Edited: 05 September 2007 08:24 PM by WattaQuestion ]
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