• Hello Human
    63
    When libertarian free will was a widely held belief unexamined by philosophy and Plato convinced much of philosophers that you ought to do what is right by definition, moral philosophers searched to know what is right while rarely examining metaethical questions.

    However, when the Enlightenment brought hard determinism into the spotlight, the question of whether or not hard determinism entails that ethics is irrelevant became increasingly important, and the fact that free will is presupposed by our justice systems only made the question more important.

    Some, such as David Hume, have settled on a soft determinism to avoid the question, while others have answered by proposing that the non-existence of responsibility entails the non-existence of right and wrong.

    My view is that hard determinism does not make ethics irrelevant, because right and wrong are also about justification, more specifically, justification of an action, that is, ethics is also about whether an action is justified or not, and free will is irrelevant to justification, therefore we can continue asking moral questions.

    Anyway, what do you think ?
  • SolarWind
    127
    I don't think it matters to punish or to treat offenders. The only important thing is that offenders never harm society again, if possible. As far as I'm concerned, they can also be banished to a beautiful island. The punishment would be to distance them from the rest of society.

    Free will, which is nonsensically defined anyway (free from what?), plays no role in this.
  • 180 Proof
    5.6k
    If hard determinism, then one adopting a morality is determined; therefore, every evaluation of "moral and immoral", "good and bad", "right and wrong", is determined (i.e. justified), no?

    Both agreements and disagreements with said evaluations are determined too?

    And also determined is one believing whether or not one has "free will"?
  • NOS4A2
    4.9k


    If you justify an action before committing it, doesn’t that imply free will? If you cannot justify it, you act in a different manner.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    938
    Hello.

    We distinguish between 2 types of good and evil: external (sometimes also called physical) and moral. External good and evil are ones that come to you; moral good and evil are ones that come from you, that are intended, or willed, which implies a free will.

    Without free will, moral good and evil cannot exist. Granted, external good and evil remain, and an ethics can indeed still be based solely on that; but we could not judge people as being morally good or evil. E.g. we could say that Hitler's actions were bad for society (he produced a lot of external evil), but if all his acts were determined, then we could not say he is himself evil ... which sounds absurd.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    938
    Free will, which is nonsensically defined anyway (free from what?), plays no role in this.SolarWind
    Hello.

    Free will means that our intentions are partially free from the laws of physics (I say partially because we may not have free will when we are dead or unconscious). E.g. if you tie me up, then I am not free to walk around, but I am still free to intend to walk around.

    Free will plays a role in ethics because it makes a difference between an accidental homicide and an intended murder. The latter is more severe because it is willed; the former is less severe because it is not willed.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    938
    If you justify an action before committing it, doesn’t that imply free will? If you cannot justify it, you act in a different manner.NOS4A2
    Hello.

    I'd say not necessarily. Justifying means "having a good reason", and we can have a good reason without having free will. E.g. killing someone out of self-defense is justified, and compatible with hard determinism.
  • Enrique
    584
    I don't think it matters to punish or to treat offenders. The only important thing is that offenders never harm society again, if possible.SolarWind

    I think the evidence justifies some level of rehabilitation and social reform in all but rare cases (of course there are thousands of rare cases). Most crimes are committed because of circumstances that could have in principle been altered by healthier relationships and more competent social planning. The law doesn't tend to hold root causes responsible, but instead considers retribution along with the interests of enforcers as paramount, a perspective that typically does long-term harm. Reform and satisfactory relationships are not easy though, requiring much effort and planning, with complications that society has not come close to resolving. Basically, in terms of justification, culture inclines to be a disaster that rubs off on everyone. Punishment and isolation from the rest of the population can be necessary, but should in general be held to a minimum because of the degrading effects on human motivation.
  • Hello Human
    63
    what I mean by justified is that there are sufficient reasons to perform that action. For example, some people say that killing is wrong because you shouldn't kill other people.
  • 180 Proof
    5.6k
    Okay. Another, in fact, ineluctable "justification" in this context is one has no choice and yet does not feel compelled because all conduct is hard/pre- determined.
  • Hello Human
    63
    a lack of free will does not justify the action. If a man is forced to kill another by one of his friends, does that mean that the murder was justified ? No, but does that mean that the person who was forced was responsible? No, he was not responsible. We can determine the morality of an action regardless of the responsibility of anyone, one could for example say that the murder was wrong because of the consequences, or because it violated the integrity of a rational agent, or because it was not virtuous, but notice that in all of those previous propositions responsibility is not mentioned. What is moral or immoral is the action, not the fact that the agent was morally responsible or not.
  • SophistiCat
    1.7k
    what I mean by justified is that there are sufficient reasons to perform that action. For example, some people say that killing is wrong because you shouldn't kill other people.Hello Human

    That doesn't really clarify anything. What are sufficient reasons? Who makes the determination? If someones determines to do something upon deliberation, they judge there to be sufficient reasons for doing it. Or, to take a completely different tack, if something happened in a deterministic world at time T, you could say that any earlier or later state of the world contained within itself sufficient reasons for the that thing to happen at T.
  • Hello Human
    63
    Yes, it doesn't clarify what is a sufficient reason. But to propose what reasons are sufficient would be doing normative ethics, a consequentialist would say that an action is justified because it causes more utility, a Kantian would something else, and all the others too. This discussion is focused on metaethics. I do not know what kind of reason is sufficient or necessary, just like all human beings. But I'd say that the justification should be logical, such that the morality of the action is required or suppported by the premises, and the premises must be true.
  • SophistiCat
    1.7k
    That's trivially easy. Premise "A is (im)moral" entails the conclusion "A is (im)moral". I don't see where that gets us.
  • 180 Proof
    5.6k
    If hard determinism is the case, then your (any!) argument is merely determined and no other consideration matters. Only if hard determinism is the case (re: thread topic).
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    938
    But to propose what reasons are sufficient would be doing normative ethics, a consequentialist would say that an action is justified because it causes more utility, a Kantian would something else, and all the others too. This discussion is focused on metaethics.Hello Human

    There are only 2 types of justifications or causes: efficient cause (what causes the effect), and final cause (the end goal or intention). If you exclude normative ethics from the discussion, which pertains to final cause, then this leaves only the efficient cause. And to @SophistiCat's point, there is always a sufficient efficient cause, otherwise the act would not have occurred.
  • Hanover
    6.9k
    You miss @180 Proof's point. The moral problems associated with hard determinism pale in comparison with the epistemological ones. If HD is assumed true, you accept its validity and I reject its validity as a matter of deterministic decree, not by force of persuasion by those who argue for it. You can tell me why you're a determinist all day long, but the real reason you are is because you lacked the power not to be.

    To better understand, if HD is true, your position on the deterministic nature of the world is the result of the cosmic computer algorithm that forces you to be, and your presentation of argument for or against is just you reciting your required predetermined outputs.

    I see free will as a necessary precondition for any human understanding consistent with a Kantian pure intuition, which is an idea I've heard attributed to Thomas Reid, and which I'd be grateful if someone could confirm or deny.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k


    According to Strawson, less than you might think.
  • Joshs
    1.9k
    I see free will as a necessary precondition for any human understanding consistent with a Kantian pure intuitionHanover

    I’m not sure than Kantianism avoids its own sort of determinism (fixed categories , ethical universality and an empirically rational universe).
  • Cheshire
    911
    Choices are funny things. Maybe we don't get to pick our ideas, but maybe we do get to pick from a few options. Sometimes people do seem compelled and other times they step back from the ledge. The perception alone of what things we're told not to do could help "determine" our actions. Even with hard determinism and a pragmatic understanding of probablistic circumstances it's within reason to suppose there's a feedback loop that results from the assumption of responsibilty.
  • TheMadFool
    11.9k
    free will is presupposed by our justice systemsHello Human

    This is where all the action takes place.

    Justice is sought for:

    1. Retribution (an eye for an eye).

    2. Deterrence (to discourage would-be criminals).

    3. Rehabilitation (to reeducate criminals).

    4. Sequestration/Isolation (take the criminal out of circulation).


    Even if we don't have free will, criminals will still need to be imprisoned to achieve sequestration/isolation.. Since, all of 1, 2, 3, and 4 are implemented in correctional facilities and any one of them, singly or in some combination is considered sufficient warrant to punish an offender, it makes no difference whether a criminal committed a crime of his own volition or not; either way, fae lands up in gaol.

    In the absence of free will, retributive, deterrent, and rehabilitative arms of justice don't make sense but sequestration/isolation is still in the game, a live issue, in a manner of speaking.
  • Hello Human
    63
    then your (any!) argument is merely determined180 Proof

    Could you please clarify that statement? Is it that me making that argument is determined or is it that the existence of the argument itself



    Talking about normative ethics cannot be done until we have established whether it is possible or not to even do normative ethics, using normative ethics to establish whether normative ethics are possible is a fundamentally flawed way to approach the problem.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    938
    Talking about normative ethics cannot be done until we have established whether it is possible or not to even do normative ethicsHello Human
    Sure. I have attempted to answer this question here.

    using normative ethics to establish whether normative ethics are possible is a fundamentally flawed way to approach the problem.Hello Human
    Of course, this would be circular. But that was not my point. My point here was that we cannot have a justification without first having a normative ethics.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    938
    Hello.
    This is close to my view. I would however correct you here:

    In the absence of free will, retributive, deterrent, and rehabilitative arms of justice don't make senseTheMadFool
    I think deterrent and rehabilitative are still applicable without free will. Most of us would agree that a dog does not have free will; yet we can use processes to deter and rehabilitate.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    938
    Hello.

    You can tell me why you're a determinist all day long, but the real reason you are is because you lacked the power not to be.Hanover
    Of course, if everything is determined, then everything is determined. But we can still talk about things being true or false, and good or bad. E.g. Even if I am forced to state that "2+2=3", it is still a false statement. Likewise, even if I am forced to kill an innocent man, it is still a wrongful act (according to most ethics).
  • 180 Proof
    5.6k
    You are determined to make the argument. No "choice" is involved.
  • litewave
    569
    Even with determinism, pain is still painful and joy is joyful, and we all want to avoid the former and have the latter, by definition. But the world is complicated and it is not always clear how to achieve that. What we expected would bring joy actually brought pain, and what we expected to bring pain brought joy. Sometimes it may be necessary to endure some pain in order to achieve joy. It seems that relationships and society need to be regulated by certain rules, formal or informal, in order to be joyful rather than painful. Joys and pains of different individuals affect each other. The concept of "responsibility" is a tool to help us pay attention to the social rules and follow them. The appeal to "free will" is a tool to help us internalize the rules (accept them as our own) rather than taking them as imposed on us, because internalized rules motivate us more effectively and autonomously. I see ethics as a theory of how to maximize joy and minimize pain in relationships between sentient beings. Determinism pushes us to learn that theory, based on the fact that we want joy rather than pain.
  • TheMadFool
    11.9k
    ↪TheMadFool Hello.
    This is close to my view. I would however correct you here:

    In the absence of free will, retributive, deterrent, and rehabilitative arms of justice don't make sense
    — TheMadFool
    I think deterrent and rehabilitative are still applicable without free will. Most of us would agree that a dog does not have free will; yet we can use processes to deter and rehabilitate.
    Samuel Lacrampe

    I humbly beg to differ. Deterrence and rehabilitation require the ability to change, change one's way of thinking or resist one's urges and to oppose one's innate proclivities; free will is a must for that. Sans free will, these aspects of justice are N/A.
  • Mww
    2.7k
    I see free will as a necessary precondition for any human understanding consistent with a Kantian pure intuition (...) which I'd be grateful if someone could confirm or deny.Hanover

    I shall deny, albeit second-handedly.

    “....This pure form of sensibility I shall call pure intuition..... (A20/B35)
    “....it will be found that there are two pure forms of sensibility, or, pure intuitions, namely, space and time.... (A22/B36)
    .....The sphere of phenomena is the only sphere of their validity, and if we venture out of this, no further use can be made of them....” (A39/B56)

    Freedom of the will is a necessary precondition of some human understanding, but not any human understanding consistent with pure intuitions. That which takes the place of pure intuitions operating under speculative empirical conditions, are the so-called hypothetical or categorical imperatives, which legislate in the same manner but under practical moral conditions alone. The former has to do with what is, the latter with what ought to be.

    “...Now morality does not require the speculative cognition** of freedom; it is enough that I can think it, that its conception involves no contradiction, that it does not interfere with the mechanism of nature. But even this requirement we could not satisfy, if we had not learnt the twofold sense in which things may be taken; and it is only in this way that the doctrine of morality and the doctrine of nature are confined within their proper limits....” (Bxxix)
    (** absolutely requiring the pure intuitions of space and time)

    For whatever all that’s worth......
  • Hanover
    6.9k
    Do you take this to mean that free will is required for all knowledge other than moral?

    Freedom of the will is a necessary precondition of some human understanding, but not any human understanding consistent with pure intuitions. That which takes the place of pure intuitions operating under speculative empirical conditions, are the so-called hypothetical or categorical imperatives, which legislate in the same manner but under practical moral conditions alone. The former has to do with what is, the latter what ought to be.Mww

    Do you have a direct reference to Kant for support of this claim? It's what I was getting at and it seemed to follow from my very imperfect understanding of Kant, but do you know where he specifically asserts that the "speculative cognition of freedom" is required for judgment or something along those lines?
  • Mww
    2.7k
    Do you take this to mean that free will is required for all knowledge other than moral?Hanover

    By this I’m guessing you’re referring to:

    Freedom of the will is a necessary precondition of some human understanding, but not any human understanding consistent with pure intuitions.Mww

    If so, then no, I take that to mean freedom of will is required for understandings other than empirical. Pure intuitions are the necessary prerequisites of knowledge a posteriori, or, experience. Moral understandings, with respect to Kantian moral philosophy at least, and deontology in general, are never derived from experience, but are given as a fundamental human condition, iff the transcendental conception of freedom is subjectively granted, not as the determinant of moral law, which arises from pure practical reason alone in the form of imperatives, but as merely sufficient logical causality for the possibility of such determinations.

    where he specifically asserts that the "speculative cognition of freedom" is required for judgment or something along those lines?Hanover

    Actually, Kant says just the opposite, as quoted from Bxxix above, in that morality, the only proper employment of the will in the first place, does NOT require speculative cognition of freedom. This follows from the theoretical procedures incorporated in his epistemological and moral theses, insofar as judgements, which are merely procedural constituents, are far down the line from antecedent conditions from which they arise. It is then the case that freedom is not required for judgements, as such, at all, but only as an unconditioned causality for that which is to be judged. What is to be judged are our actions; our actions are judged as to their correspondence to our will; our will determines the actions autonomously; the will’s autonomy is given by the transcendental idea of freedom, insofar as the will is free to determine what the action ought to be, in order to sustain the moral constitution of the individual subject to whom the will belongs.

    It’s like, say....necessity. We cannot cognize necessity, but only that which is necessary. Same for freedom, in that we cannot cognize freedom, but only that which is free.

    There is, on the other hand, this, which says freedom is a necessary attribute, but not that it must be cognized as such:

    “...Now I affirm that we must attribute to every rational being which has a will that it has also the idea of freedom and acts entirely under this idea. For in such a being we conceive a reason that is practical, that is, has causality in reference to its objects. Now we cannot possibly conceive a reason consciously receiving a bias from any other quarter with respect to its judgements, for then the subject would ascribe the determination of its judgement not to its own reason, but to an impulse. It must regard itself as the author of its principles independent of foreign influences. Consequently, the will of a rational being must regard itself as free, that is to say, the will of such a being cannot be a will of its own except under the idea of freedom....”
    (Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, Sec 3, Para. 4)

    Lotsa weeds way down here in the swamp of proper philosophy. Most don’t like getting their feet that wet. Might ruin their post-modernist analytic Gucci’s, doncha know.
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