Thread: Free Will
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Unread February 11th, 2006, 10:06 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Free will is a tricky topic... Dare I say... It is especially tricky for the non-philosopher. That is because in philosophy... One acquires a tool-kit for conceptual analysis... There are distinctions that non-philosophers tend not to make. Those distinctions have been devised by philosophers precisely because... the absense of them... results in conceptual confusion. I shall try my best to be as clear as possible. But it is hard. And I don't have it all worked out yet either...

When people are debating whether it is possible for people to have free will or not... The first thing you need to be clear on is 'what is free will'?

The libertarian conception of free will is often considered to be most in line with people's pre-theorietical conception of free will (which is to say before they have thought hard about it and seen what sorts of contradictions they are going to end up indorsing). There is no such thing as libertarian free will. I'm prepared to argue for that... In fact I shall argue (briefly) for that near the end. If you are prepared to grant that there is no such thing as libertarian free will (which I think you are) then we are faced with two choices as to what moral we take:

1) there is no such thing as free will (your line)
2) the libertarian conception of free will does not tell us what free will really is. free will must be a little different from what we had supposed (hence the title of Dennett's book: Elbow Room: Varieties of free will worth wanting). This latter line... Is my line (and the line of the majority of current philosophy consensus - I think that is fair to say - amongst philosophers who take science seriously).

>> Given their environment and their genes they could not have done otherwise from what they did in fact do. No libertarian free will allowed...

> Hmmm. On another read of your post, I focused on this statement. It seems like you're saying that they had no choice (they didn't choose their environment or genes) but they are responsible for their choice. This is a contradiction that truly confuses me.

If free will requires that we could have done otherwise from what we did in fact do (as the libertarians maintain) then... it follows that there is no such thing as free will. I want to say that free will does not require that we could have done otherwise from what we did in fact do. This is counter-intuitive to be sure. It takes a bit to get your head around. But... Isn't freedom worth the effort? I mean... Think what is at stake ;-)

Pre-theorietically... People seem to think that a caused act cannot be a free act. But then if my act is not caused by my beliefs and desires, then how is it MY act? It seems that for an act to be MY act it must be caused by ME. But ME... Was caused by factors outside my control (my environment and my genes). What I want to say is... Yup. We don't choose our environment or our genes. We don't choose our beliefs and our desires. BUT... (very roughly) our action must be caused by my beliefs and desires in order to be MY act. But... That is not the end of the story... It is not...

The confusion / contradiction comes from persistently trying to read 'free will' as meaning 'libertarian free will'. I have already granted you that there is no such thing as libertarian free will. The question now becomes... We typically consider acts of type one (I hope I remember this the correct way) free. We typically consider acts of type two not free. So why is this? What do the acts we typically consider free have in common? In other words... Look at the range of phenomena in the world that we typically consider free... And given what we know about the world... What on earth might freedom be?

That is the real question. What could freedom be? And a constraint on the theory... Is that it should take science seriously. And it might well turn out to be the case that this world has deterministic laws (though I think you should be careful here because at this point it might well turn out to be the case that the world has an irreducible probabilistic element to it too...)

> So, it seems like your 'free will' is just rhetoric to lessen the blow to those that 'feeeeeeeel' like they're making a choice, even though you agree that there is no chouce.

What they will choose is determined by their beliefs and desires.
Their beliefs and desires are determined by their environment and their genes.
Their choice determines their action...

There is choice. But the choice is determined. There is no contradiction unless you thump on the table and say 'but choice isn't allowed to be determined by definition!!!!!'.

> But, please tell me, maybe in 10 words or less, with what is Mr. X choosing??? When you realize that you can't answer this question without going supernatural on me, you'll be faced with the choice of either being a 'hard' determinist or a non-determinist; there really is no compatibility that I can see. Yet.

Mr X's choice is determined by his beliefs and desires. those in turn were determined by his environment and his genes. his choice determines his behaviour. 'with what is he choosing'? his choice is based (most proximally) on his beliefs and desires. That isn't supernatural... And throughout I"ve assumed determinsim to be true. So... Compatibilism...


regarding the 'maybe free will can arise from quantum indeterminicies' idea. Sorry... but that is a bad idea...

how can a random event result in MY choice?
i don't choose the random event.
a random event isn't caused by me.
randomness doesn't help.
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