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Unread July 10th, 2006, 10:35 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 106
Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Hey. There are a number of considerations or reasons for thinking that we have free will. Here is one of them:

> I like this idea because... Whether determinism or indeterminism turns out to be true I can still have free will and moral responsibility.

> My hardened beliefs are based on what I can prove; the rest of what I believe is based on my minimalist bent.

Sure, why multiply entities beyond necessity? If we can show free will to be 'nothing but' entities / processes that you thought existed already then we wouldn't be departing from minimalism, however. With respect to proof abductive explanations are often used with good scientific results. For example... Genes were postulated to play a role in theory well before scientists 'discovered' them. Here theory drives scientific investigation... It is easier to find something when you have some idea what you are looking for. We use arguements to the best explanation all the time... And as for faith... You have no reason whatsoever to believe the future will continue to be like the past. The only evidence you could possibly have would be from the past (and you can't appeal to the past to justify your beliefs about the future because that is precisely what is being called into question). Hume's paradox of induction... Shows that we often believe things that we cannot prove... I believe the sun will rise tomorrow... I believe the seasons will continue to flow... I believe I'll go to work tomorrow... All these are inductive. We figure the best explanation we have for observed past regularities is that there are underlying mechanisms / laws that will continue unchanging into the future. But isn't it just as rational to believe that those laws / mechansims will simply break down at midnight tonight or at any other time you care to name? No proof anyway... Scientists have to have faith as well... Just not (typically) faith in the supernatural.

Another consideration for why we want to have free will is because a fair few people think that free will = moral responsibility. What do they mean by moral responsibility? The notion here is that we can / should PUNISH people who do such things as rape and murder because they freely choose to do that and we should punish them for their choice. Some people think that if there is no free will then there is no moral responsibility so then we can't really blame or condemn anyone for raping and murdering etc.

That argument conflates a fair few related though distinct concepts... I believe in moral responsibility (in the sense that the weather vane is free when it is appropriately caused). I believe that people are responsible for their actions but I also believe in rehabilitation and not retribution. But anyway...

My main point here is that when you deny that free will exists you must mean something very specific by free will. What can happen is that people define their terms differently and proceed to talk past each other. Fun in its own way I guess... But In order for progress to be made...

By analogy... Behaviourists defined mental states in such a way... Then proceeded to show that there weren't any such things.

> I can't reconcile a belief in 'nothing supernatural' with something indeterministic. We can do nothing but what our brains tell us to do.

Our behaviour is caused by the state of our brain, sure. How would it be MY behaviour if it wasn't caused by the state of our brain lol. I should be extra explicit I am NOT trying to say that free will arises from quantum indeterminacies. My point with the quantum stuff was to say that you CAN'T derive anything for free will that wasn't present in the determinist world view. Quantum indeterminacies don't really help with free will. Hence better to stick to the determinist picture and see how free will fits into that.

> WHAT ELSE IS THERE? And where does it reside?

Well... Most theorists consider that there isn't anyTHING else... While most philospohers are materialists (the facts about consciousness can be deduced from the facts about the physical / material world) those who are dualists are property dualists rather than substance dualists. That is just to say that they don't think there is this immaterial non physical stuff that is the mind / soul. Rather they think that there are phenomenal properties (the feeling of pain, the experience of redness etc) that can't be deduced from a complete physical description of our world (including our brains and their relations to our world).

Where are these phenomenal properties? Well... They are thought to be non physical properties of the brain. So... They are in our brains. But it is true that they are experienced as being in the world. Have you heard of projection? Some people think we project the properties onto the world... Another way of looking at it is that the phenomenal properties are representational in the sense that the experience of a red tomato represents the world such that there is a red tomato in front of me. red1 is phenomenal red a property of my brain. red2 is the typical cause of red1 in normal observers under normal conditions. red2 has something to do with the surface spectral reflectance of the tomato. red2 is an objective property of the tomato, red1 is a phenomenal property of my brain.

> So, you can not prove you have free will, no matter how much you want one. But you do have a responsibility toward our collective social instincts, if you don't want to be locked up.

So we have moral responsibility.

As for proof...

Do you think you can prove the existence of the external world?

Should I have to prove teh existence of the free will comperably to how one can prove the existence of the external world?

I think both of us will appeal to argument to best explanation (abductive reasoning)
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