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  #31  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 02:40 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
TomJ: And, again, a thorough understanding of determinism makes one more hopeful for the future, not buried in helplessness.
I’ve heard similar sentiments from Presbyterians/Calvinists and various religious fundamentalists, although they call it predestination—the absolute sovereignty of God as opposed to your atheistic absolute sovereignty of the (unconscious, purposeless) forces of nature . . . amusing that religious fundamentalism and atheism have that commonality, and probably why I often find both camps to be equally annoying, not to mention arrogant and foolish.

BTW Tom, regarding your “social animals” concerns, I understand you can “have friends” in prison too, especially if you enjoy anal sex . . . and if that’s something you’ve not yet experienced, I understand it only hurts the first time.
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  #32  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 02:56 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

And you still think your wife's problem with your "perspectives on things" is irrational? Do you call her 'arrogant' and 'foolish' when she's right, too?

It's time to up your meds and/or have Shelley edit your postings, again...
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  #33  
Unread July 15th, 2006, 10:44 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

. . . how clever . . . it’s not the heat, it’s the banality.
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  #34  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 07:41 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Clarification of points of difference (I do find these useful!)

YOU: It is too counter-intuitive to say that we have discovered that free will requires causation, we are better off saying that we have discovered that there is no such thing as free will.

ME: It does sound a little odd, but it is not really so different from finding out that the sun isn't the centre of the universe after all, and that there are black swans, and that the speed of light in a constant. Theories change over time.

YOU: It doesn't matter so much that we don't have free will because we can have moral responsibility without having free will.

ME: Now how counter-intuitive is that? Now you are asking us to revise our concept of moral responsibility! I would say that that is every bit as counter-intuitive as saying that we should revise our concept of free will! So why do things my way rather than yours? Because it allows us to agree with all the judgments that the folk make about certain acts being free, while certain other acts are not free whereas you want us to make the 'not free' judgement in every single case which is very counter-intuitive indeed.

Our view of the world is the same. We seem to agree on the causal processes in the world. The causal process from genes + environment to inner mental states to other inner mental states to behaviour. We seem to agree that that causal process is determined by microphysical properties of the world and the laws of nature that will come to be unearthed by physics. Our view of the world is the same.

What we are getting hung up on is what term to use to refer to part of it.

I say 'lets call that free will' and you say 'lets not'.

The dispute is solely verbal.
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  #35  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 08:47 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Great posts, thanks!
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
YOU: It doesn't matter so much that we don't have free will because we can have moral responsibility without having free will.

ME: Now how counter-intuitive is that? Now you are asking us to revise our concept of moral responsibility!
I would say we have 'genetic' responsibility to at least to humans. We wouldn't have gotten this far if we didn't have some genetic predisposition to the survival of our species. And banding together as social animals requires us to have 'rules' (we couldn't sleep at night, otherwise); those breaking the rules are called 'immoral'.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
The dispute is solely verbal.
OK, but your perspective can easily be twisted to support religious views; in fact, it's hard not to. There's nothing concrete about 'emergent properties' stemming from 'complicated neural patterns' or whatever effects any freedom in will. Sounds just like 'spirit' to me because I see no basis in physics. Sure, intelligent minds argue this but I think it comes from the same source: some unwillingness to stick with just the facts, for whatever reasons. In the meantime, honest people hear the illusion and attribute that to the supernatural.

We have these brains that give us the illusion of choice, but there is no other power beyond the firing of neurons; to that you agree. 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.

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.

Whether you 'decide' to agree with me or continue to disagree; the future of humans depends directly on that 'choice', and every other 'choice' you and I make. The future depends on us all making the decisions that we will make, and a better future depends on us making better decisions. If that thought causes one person to realize that the future is in their hands, rather than based on the whims of some imaginary 'god' then my decision to write those words affected the brain of that person, which set the future on it's predermined course, since I was destined to write those words.

Hopefully, each of us 'decides' to leave a better future as our legacy.
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  #36  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 09:55 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
Tom: It doesn't matter so much that we don't have free will because we can have moral responsibility without having free will.

Alex: Now how counter-intuitive is that? Now you are asking us to revise our concept of moral responsibility!
Yeah Alex, but you’re being kind when you say it’s “counter intuitive”—it’s actually intellectual dishonesty, or possibly schizophrenia.
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  #37  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 10:00 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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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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  #38  
Unread July 18th, 2006, 09:29 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Great post, I agree with almost everything you wrote; no, that's not why I think it's a great post .
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
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.
But, we can understand that the molecule's structure makes it polar, thus the extra attraction that gives it liquidity. I'd love to see an analog for the emergent property of free will; then I'd believe it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
But it is a dispute over a name

I can't see what your view buys us that mine does not
I think it brings us a lot of clarity: people are not ultimately responsible for their actions but we must react to and control some of their actions for the sake of the future. Plus, we can think of someone as being unfortunate rather than evil.

Finally, I think it is right, will is simply not free. You could say something about will being free from 'outside' influences, if you did, I'd have to consider it. I'd be able to agree with you if it truly was free, but you're not even arguing that. You want to be able to say "free will" for historical purposes when we now know that there is no soul or spirit that could effect that freedom; if someone loses the regret module in their brain, their character, soul, spirit is instantly changed. You want to talk about a free will that's not free.

If people understand that there is no free will, they are much closer to believing the truth (as far as we know it): that there is no god. As long as scientists use the term "free will", and don't show its ultimate cause, even I am apt to insert 'soul'.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
I'd like my view to be agnostic (neither requiring nor denying God)
I, too, am an uncommitted atheist (I got slammed by an atheist for calling myself an agnostic). The original dictionary definition was something like "one who believes that god is unknowable", it may have been redefined since.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
I can leave out the scare quotes...
I prefer to call them 'so called' quotes .
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  #39  
Unread July 18th, 2006, 08:10 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
TomJ: I think it brings us a lot of clarity: people are not ultimately responsible for their actions but we must react to and control some of their actions for the sake of the future. Plus, we can think of someone as being unfortunate rather than evil.
Alex, do you see what I mean by Tom's intellectual dishonesty, his utter lack of any kind of rigor—by Tom’s reckoning here, Hitler and Stalin were “not ultimately responsible for their actions,” and they were “unfortunate rather than evil” . . . next he’ll spray Pine-Sol on a turd and insist it’s a Christmas tree.

Also Alex, if you’re still wondering why I “post these kinds of posts,” it’s b/c, at least in this case, no one is calling Tom on the obvious and ugly implications of his half-ass “rationalizations.”
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  #40  
Unread July 18th, 2006, 08:56 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

I invite the reader to observe the high emotion expressed in Fred's post. IMO - whenever this happens it is almost given that someone's strongest identity beliefs have been challenged and probably insulted.

Fred's posts are often emotionally charged (as are mine sometimes) and provide good examples for my premise.

I think this also illustrates the strong need of those who are psychologically conservative to hold others "to account" for whatever bad things they percieve to happen in the world - as if dire and painful punishment is the only balm that could erase whatever damage has been done - that could make the world right again.

Fred refuses to acknowledge Tom's qualifying term "ultimately". To acknowledge that, Fred would have to allow some blame to be lost - and another chance to make the world right would be squandered.

What Tom is saying is that if a dog were raised under a brutal master, intimidated, beaten, taught to be vicious, and rewarded only when it attacked - and if that dog were to injure someone some day, then ultimately the dog could hardly be blamed in terms of right and wrong. Perhaps, for the good of others the dog may need to be euthanized but the concept of evil does not exist for the dog.

But, that's how Tom means "ultimately" in this context. Ultimately, the dog can not be held morally accountable for its actions. The concept of human free-will allows Fred to escape such analyses where people are concerned. He may even admit that dogs can't be evil - but he is absolutely certain that people can. Because, they have free-will.

Tom is just saying, and I would agree, that people may do bad things, but ultimately they can only do what their minds dictate. Every behavior decision is the result of some negotiations that occur between the neurons and chemicals in the brain - and those are there because of genetics and that person's experiences in life - just like that dog's are. There is no ghost in the machine that we can blame. We can call bad people evil and we can punish them, we can even execute them. Tom may even agree that some terrible killer should be executed for the practical good of society.

But, I'm sure that Tom (and I) would say that that was unfortunate. It was unfortunate that a person's mind devoloped in such a way that they did such terrible things - and that at some point, according to the rules set up by our society, they had to be executed. I imagine that Fred would likely say that it was good that the world was set right by such a dire consequence and the killer deserved it.

I think this illustrates an important break in the psychological development of human minds - the conservative / liberal break. My purpose is not to say that Fred is wrong and Tom is right. Instead, I'd just suggest that such a psychological bias exists in most of us. It causes us to develop our belief systems in certain predictable ways. Those belief systems then generate the reliably conservative or liberal emotions that determine how we see the world and the conclusions we come to about things. Those emotions are what ultimately guide our behavior. And we're all pretty good at using our brains to justify that behavior.

Added on edit: I think it's important to add that we often compartmentalize our belief system. We might see capital punishment as wrong, a fairly liberal position. At the same time we might see same sex marriage as immoral, a socially conservative belief. I suspect this happens when specific learning experiences are strong enough (such as strong emotional experience when we were young) to overcome a general bias we may have developed in one direction or the other.

My apologies to both Tom and Fred if I mischaracterized either of your views on these things.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 19th, 2006 at 01:28 AM.
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