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Tom Clark - Scientific Naturalism and the Illusion of Free Will
Posted: 20 July 2009 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Balak - 20 July 2009 08:07 AM

I certainly enjoyed this interview. The threatened and defensive tone of some of the responses suggests to me exactly the prevalence of certain, less direct forms of magical thinking that prevail in the skeptical community. Far from being abstract or ‘symantic’, the philosphical issue here points to so many concrete social and historical manifestations, which I find more interesting.

Going back to another recent podcast - Michael Shermer’s fetishization of laissez-faire capitalism, for example, seems very much based on religiously-grounded conceptions of ‘individual responsibility’ derived from, and harmonizing with christian protestantism/evangelism. I wish DJ had honed in more closely on the issue of criminal law… The staggering incarceration figures in the U.S., compared to anywhere else on the planet are certainly a product of this unique heritage combining aspects of protestant ‘free will’ theology and the institutions derived from black chattel slavery.

If you get rid of the ‘homunculus’ notion (‘contra-causal free will’), I wonder how much of the philosphical rationalization for private property in the means of production goes with it?

To me this quest for “true” ethics based on certain philosophical premises is close to religious thinking. This concept of lack of free will is non falsifiable philosophical theory.  In this theory free will is actually defined as almost impossible supernatural speculation and conclusion are then derived from the definition. There are of course other ways you can define free will. It also should be pointed out that it is NOT a part of scientific method to derive ethical stances from the observation of nature.

If you consider yourself as some kind of a skeptical champion you can look upon those lesser skeptics, I would consider it appropriate that you would point out to real scientific data in your analysis of criminality in United States and the rest of the world. 

You clearly are a Marxian. Correct me if I am mistaken. Marxism is not scientific thinking. On it’s philosophical roots and it’s concrete manifestations in communist countries, Marxism is a pseudo scientific mystical world view. Anyway the podcast surely wasn’t about Marxism. Of that I’m sure.

I don’t understand why you felt the need to attack your fellow skeptics in order to make your point.

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Posted: 20 July 2009 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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VYAZMA - 20 July 2009 09:22 AM

Always good input from Balak. Everyone wants to take what they can from a given Ideology, or philosophy, and not apply it to other reactionary elements contained within their own beliefs. grin

Precisely everyone. Naturalists are no exception.

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Posted: 20 July 2009 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Eero T. Eloranta - 20 July 2009 09:37 AM
VYAZMA - 20 July 2009 09:22 AM

Always good input from Balak. Everyone wants to take what they can from a given Ideology, or philosophy, and not apply it to other reactionary elements contained within their own beliefs. grin

Precisely everyone. Naturalists are no exception.

I won’t argue with you there Eero. As I told the other libertarian here, We probably have way more in common then what we don’t agree on. I realize the Ends you wish to achieve, I just can’t see the means working out. I’m sure you and I desire the same end.
grin  Roughly. grin

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Posted: 20 July 2009 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Eero T. Eloranta - 20 July 2009 09:32 AM

To me this quest for “true” ethics based on certain philosophical premises is close to religious thinking. This concept of lack of free will is non falsifiable philosophical theory.  In this theory free will is actually defined as almost impossible supernatural speculation and conclusion are then derived from the definition.

I don’t see the problem with this, this is the free will people usually actually believe in and is what is used to justify harming people because they deserve it. This is a religious concept to explain how a good God could send people to hell and to explain the problem of evil.

There are of course other ways you can define free will.

Of course but non of these can give us the type of deserved responsibility, blame etc which people usually actually believe in and feel we have, which is the point you miss and yet is the point of the podcast.

Stephen

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Posted: 20 July 2009 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Eero,

I think, on the question of ethics, this philosophy is not about what we should or shouldn’t do, except that we shouldn’t harm people with the justification that they deserve it, as that takes CCFW, something we both agree is ridiculous.

It’s about understanding that once you come to your particular understanding of what we should and shouldn’t do, a person who does what they shouldn’t do, doesn’t have a magical ability to do otherwise (CCFW)

The naturalised ability to do otherwise is in the counterfactual sense i.e if the circumstances had been appropriately different.

Stephen

[ Edited: 20 July 2009 12:39 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 20 July 2009 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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StephenLawrence - 20 July 2009 09:53 AM
Eero T. Eloranta - 20 July 2009 09:32 AM

To me this quest for “true” ethics based on certain philosophical premises is close to religious thinking. This concept of lack of free will is non falsifiable philosophical theory.  In this theory free will is actually defined as almost impossible supernatural speculation and conclusion are then derived from the definition.

I don’t see the problem with this, this is the free will people usually actually believe in and is what is used to justify harming people because they deserve it. This is a religious concept to explain how a good God could send people to hell and to explain the problem of evil.

There are of course other ways you can define free will.

Of course but non of these can give us the type of deserved responsibility, blame etc which people usually actually believe in and feel we have, which is the point you miss and yet is the point of the podcast.

I agree. The point being that the specific religiously derived ideologies of a personal god, individual salvation/responsibility/retribution and reward serve specific purposes in the political culture… particularly (I would add) to uphold the position of the ruling class, the empire, the coercive apparatus of the state (cops, prisons, courts)... generally underlining the ‘rightness’  of the rulers in the minds of the ruled.

As the authority of revealed religion is undermined in certain sectors of the population, the ruling class finds ways to reenforce its legitimacy through secular and ‘scientific’ arguments (e.g. free-market economics, scientific racism, ‘social Darwinism’ in its various guises etc) for the status quo. I don’t really see anything controversial here.

‘Science’ has always found arguments either to support or oppose the prevailing order of things (depending on the sympathies of the scientist). Why would skeptics be any different than any other group - i.e. divided ultimately according to material interest and/or class loyalty?

[ Edited: 20 July 2009 12:52 PM by Balak ]
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Posted: 20 July 2009 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Good show. Tom was arguing for the same sort of compatibilist picture of free will that I’ve been trying to articulate here on the forum ...

wink

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Posted: 20 July 2009 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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dougsmith - 20 July 2009 01:50 PM

Good show. Tom was arguing for the same sort of compatibilist picture of free will that I’ve been trying to articulate here on the forum ...

wink

Yep and if you hadn’t spent as long as you did and put as much effort as you did into articulating it, I’d have never understood it.

Oh and I also would not have understood that was a causal claim.

And that.

Thanks grin

Stephen

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Posted: 20 July 2009 02:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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dougsmith - 20 July 2009 01:50 PM

Good show. Tom was arguing for the same sort of compatibilist picture of free will that I’ve been trying to articulate here on the forum ...

wink

Yes, but he did say that compatibilism has very little to do with free will. Which I always though to be the case. He then talked about two different free wills which I thought was very confusing.

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Posted: 20 July 2009 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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George - 20 July 2009 02:00 PM
dougsmith - 20 July 2009 01:50 PM

Good show. Tom was arguing for the same sort of compatibilist picture of free will that I’ve been trying to articulate here on the forum ...

wink

Yes, but he did say that compatibilism has very little to do with free will. Which I always though to be the case. He then talked about two different free wills which I thought was very confusing.

I don’t think he said that compatibilism had very little to do with free will. You may have misunderstood his point during that part of the interview (At least, I don’t remember him saying anything like that). ... FWIW, it struck me (and perhaps DJ can refute this if he reads the thread) that they did a bit of editing and pruning of the interview, and might have edited out a few back-and-forths. There were a few jumps in the conversation that seemed sort of strange.

The two different ideas of free will are compatibilist and contra-causal. I would go a bit farther than he was willing to on the podcast and say that contra-causal free will is incoherent. (I’ve made that point ad nauseam in the free will threads ...)

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Posted: 20 July 2009 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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George - 20 July 2009 02:00 PM

Yes, but he did say that compatibilism has very little to do with free will. Which I always though to be the case. He then talked about two different free wills which I thought was very confusing.

I don’t see why it’s very confusing to talk about two (perhaps more) different concepts of free will.

I think we are all aware of two of the different concepts. I chose freely, no one had a gun to my head.

And I chose freely, I had some magical, non random way, of selecting any of the options in the circumstances.

Stephen

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Posted: 20 July 2009 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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StephenLawrence - 20 July 2009 01:55 PM

Yep and if you hadn’t spent as long as you did and put as much effort as you did into articulating it, I’d have never understood it.

Oh and I also would not have understood that was a causal claim.

And that.

Thanks grin

You’re very welcome! Glad it was of some service.

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Posted: 20 July 2009 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Free will?  Anything with the word “free” in it sounds like it would be a good thing but personally I’m glad free does not actually exist.  It is good to point this out because as more people realize that free will is actually a myth, it will help the ongoing campaign against ultimate accountability.  Perhaps your local District Attorney has not yet reached this particular enlightenment but there are some high level (chiefly appointed) Judges who are already figuring things out this way.  The down side is that we still need to figure out what do do about all the bad behaviour when it is society itself which is ultimately responsible for it.

Do we need to argue semantics as to “ultimate”?

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Posted: 20 July 2009 04:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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dougsmith - 20 July 2009 02:09 PM

The two different ideas of free will are compatibilist and contra-causal.

Right. The problem, IMO, is that the compatibilist free will has actually nothing to do with free will. We, of course, agree on the contra-causal free will. The way I see it, there are two possible problems with compatibilist free will:

1.) If I desire ice cream, and again we agree that I am indeed not free to cause the desire, it matters very little if I’ll actually get to eat the ice cram — as in the case of being prevented by another person to eat it. By “it matters very little” I mean that it has nothing to do with the subject of free will, but rather freedom.

2.) If, however, I am told that another person preventing me from acting upon my desires and beliefs is relevant to free will, I must object that since the person who is preventing me from acting upon my desires and beliefs (e.g., eating ice cream) is also acting upon his desires that he was not free to choose. And we are back to contra-causal free will.

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Posted: 20 July 2009 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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StephenLawrence - 20 July 2009 02:09 PM
George - 20 July 2009 02:00 PM

Yes, but he did say that compatibilism has very little to do with free will. Which I always though to be the case. He then talked about two different free wills which I thought was very confusing.

I don’t see why it’s very confusing to talk about two (perhaps more) different concepts of free will.

I think we are all aware of two of the different concepts. I chose freely, no one had a gun to my head.

And I chose freely, I had some magical, non random way, of selecting any of the options in the circumstances.

Stephen

I don’t see the example of not having a gun at my head as having anything to do with free will.  It doesn’t limit my choices at all.  It may add consequences to my choices, but choices always have consequences.

I think he is conflating freedom with free will and that just muddies things.

Sam

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