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Unread July 17th, 2006, 10:00 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 106
Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

I agree with your characterisation of moral responsibility. In those cases I cited before (tied to a chair / not tied to a chair etc) then you would make 'morally responsible' and 'not morally responsible' judgments. I agree. We could both go one step further and say that the reason why the person is morally responsible in one case is because their actions were determined (or caused) by their beliefs and desires, whereas in the other case the person is not morally responsible because their action was not caused by their beliefs and desires (there was outside causation that prevented that from happening). I go one step further, though, and say that the person who was morally responsible was free and the person who was not morally responsible was not free. You resist attaching the label 'free' to appropriate causation. You thus ask people to revise their beliefs about how free will is required for moral responsibility.

>> The dispute is solely verbal.
> OK, but your perspective can easily be twisted to support religious views.

I can't be answerable / responsible for what conclusions people reach when they 'twist' my view into something it is not. That being said I'd like my view to be agnostic (neither requiring nor denying God) for the reason that... There might just be a supernatural force behind the world. I'd also like to convert both atheists, religious folk, and the rest to my view rather than alienating myself from groups of people.

> in fact, it's hard not to.

Points of difference:

- Most (though not all) religious folk have a libertarian conception of free will that requires that one 'could have done otherwise' in the sense that determinism is incompatible with free will. I've made it clear I don't agree with that.
- Most (though not all) religious folk have a libertarian conception of free will that requires that a free act is uncaused. I've made it clear I don't agree with that.
- Most (though not all) religous folk have a notion of this non-physical / immaterial substance (the soul) that can cause changes in the physical world and that is the seat of our free will. I've made it clear that we do not need to posit an immaterial soul (and indeed I haven't posited one).

To twist my view into an endorsement of those things would be to twist it indeed...

> There's nothing concrete about 'emergent properties' stemming from 'complicated neural patterns' or whatever effects any freedom in will.

I'll tell you what I mean by an 'emergent property'. It is a property that an object has that none of its parts has when considered in isolation. An analogy. Water is H2O. It is a structured arrangement of H2O molecules. If you consider an H2O molecule it does not have the property of liquidity. If you have a bunch of H2O molecules with certain kinds of bonds then the resulting substance has the emergent property of liquidity, however. Liquidity is a physical property, but it is also an emergent property. Beliefs and desires are also emergent properties of our neurons in the sense that they are physical properties that no particular neurone has when considered in isolation but something (along the lines of a pattern of activation) exhibits the emergent property of being a belief. A shop is also an emergent property. So is money. They are all physical properties so there is nothing mysterious going on. If we know all the microphysical facts about the world and all the laws of nature we can deduce the emergent properties (well we could if we were ideally rational with unbounded cognitive capacity). Hey, maybe that is how God does it :-O

> You may then want to call the decisions that we appear to make (all of which are completely dependent on the current state of the brain) 'free will' but that's something I can not do. It's just not intellectually honest to me.

Some would consider it intellectually dishonest to say that one can have moral responsibility without free will. Intellectual honesty / dishonesty aside (it isn't about that really) it comes down to a choice as to how we are going to use our terms.

> It's better that people understand the truth: there but for a different brain go I. It sure helps me not to hate anyone. It helps me not to envy anyone. It helps me not to blame anyone. It helps me keep everything in perspective.

I grant you all of that. But for a different brain go I. I agree. Your view gives me that the same as my view gives me that. Our world views are the same. It is just that your reccomendation calls for significant revisions in how we use language if we want to speak truthfully. People say things all the time (in courts of law as well) such as 'so and so acted freely' and 'so and so did not act freely'. You would have us say that all claims of the form 'so and so acted freely' are false. I can allow us to distribute truth conditions as usual. I can also allow us to keep our 'free will is required for moral responsibility' as a true belief. On my view we just need to rethink what we mean by freedom (in the way I have outlined). On your view language needs a more radical overhaul and I can't see what your view buys us that mine does not but yours calls for a more considerable review of language than mine does. Hence... Mine makes the best sense. I mean sure scientists could have said 'turns out that there isn't any such thing as the sun, 'cause everything revolves around the sun but really everything doesn't revolve around that'. But so much simpler to say we have learned something new about the sun. Scientists could have said (about 'all swans are white' upon discovering a black swan) 'wow we have discovered a new species of animals and now we shall revise a lot of our beliefs about species in terms of being related and interbreeding and so on and so forth'. But so much more consistent with current theorising to say 'we have learned something new about swans - some of them are black'.

> Whether you 'decide' to agree with me or continue to disagree; the future of humans depends directly on that 'choice'...

But it is a dispute over a name. It would be like scientists arguing (about black swans) lets call that a naws, it is a new species vs lets say that swans can be black after all. They aren't really arguing about how the world is, they are arguing about what to call a certain part of it. Nothing hangs on it but... A name. And... A reccomendation for future linguistic practices (and how truth values should be distributed over sentances involving 'free will' or 'swan' or 'species' or whatever.

> Hopefully, each of us 'decides' to leave a better future as our legacy.

I agree. Except in my case... I can leave out the scare quotes...
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