• litewave
    408
    1) A free act must be intentional, which means that the act must be influenced by the agent's intention to do the act.

    2) To the extent that the intention does not influence the act, the act cannot be free - because to this extent the act is unintentional.

    3) To the extent that the intention influences the act, the act cannot be free either - because the intention is not freely chosen and thus the act is influenced by something that is not freely chosen. (Libertarians would agree with this point but compatibilists would disagree.)

    4) So the act is to the full extent unfree (in libertarian sense).

    Point 3 might need some explanation. Why is an intention not freely chosen (in libertarian sense)? Because to freely choose an intention would be a free and therefore intentional act, and an intentional act must be influenced by the agent's intention to do the act (point 1); in this case it would be an intention to choose an intention. But the intention to choose an intention would have to be freely chosen too and therefore would have to be influenced by another intention, and so on - ad infinitum. Obviously, no one can work through an infinite chain of intentions and so our intentional acts must start from an intention that is not freely chosen.

    Libertarian free will is characterized by the first three points while compatibilist free will is characterized by the first two points and the negation of the third point.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    All this shows is the limitations of the rational mind to understand freedom. Freedom cannot be determinately modeled in 'causal' terms, because that would be a contradiction. Whatever can be modeled could thus never be freedom. Belief in freedom is fundamental, and you are, in fact, incapable of not believing in your freedom; whatever you might manage to convince your rational mind of to the contrary.
  • litewave
    408
    Belief in freedom is fundamental, and you are, in fact, incapable of not believing in your freedom; whatever you might manage to convince your rational mind of to the contrary.John

    I can believe in the compatibilist notion of freedom - I am free when I can do what I want. What other freedom can we have?
  • Janus
    5.9k


    That's not the kind of freedom that makes sense of moral responsibility, and of praise and blame in general.
  • Fafner
    365
    Why cannot an intention be freely chosen (in libertarian sense)? Because to freely choose an intention would be a free and therefore intentional act, and an intentional act must be influenced by the agent's intention to do the act (point 1); in this case it would be an intention to choose an intention. But the intention to choose an intention would have to be freely chosen too and therefore would have to be influenced by another intention, and so on - ad infinitum. Obviously, no one can work through an infinite chain of intentions and so our intentional acts must start from an intention that is not freely chosen.litewave

    One way to block the regress is to say that an intention to act is not a separate event from the free act itself, and so there is no need to postulate a second order intention to explain the first, and so on.

    In other words, when you act freely, it is not because there's a distinct event which is your intention to act freely, that somehow causes your action; but rather the intention is an aspect or a property of the action itself, and thus not a separable entity.
  • JupiterJess
    110
    If you're convinced of this why waste your time convincing others it is not real?
    What use would it bring?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    If you're convinced of this why waste your time convincing others it is not real?
    What use would it bring?
    JupiterJess

    Because it's a fair topic for philosophical discussion? Also, the goal might not be convincing others but rather to test out some ideas in view of reaching a better understanding.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    In other words, when you act freely, it is not because there's a distinct event which is your intention to act freely, that somehow causes your action; but rather the intention is an aspect or a property of the action itself, and thus not a separable entity.Fafner

    This is my view also. Following Elizabeth Anscombe, it has become much more common to view intentions that occur prior to the initiation of actions on the same model as intentional actions (or intentions in actions as John Searle calls them). This is consistent with Aristotle's claim that actions are the conclusions of acts of practical deliberation. Or, as John McDowell puts it, when one intends to do something, one is thereby doing it, just not right now.

    This view of intentions being constitutive parts of the actions that they govern indeed avoids some of the regress problems that afflict voluntarist conceptions of action that picture acts of the will as mental events separate from the actions that they allegedly cause.
  • Fafner
    365
    Right, I think that I picked this idea from McDowell, and it is interesting to know that it goes way back to Aristotle.
  • Fafner
    365
    Or, as McDowell puts it, when one intends to do something, one is thereby doing it, just not right now.Pierre-Normand
    Can you explain the "just not right now" part?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    Right, I think that I picked this idea from McDowell, and it is interesting to know that it goes way back.Fafner

    Has a philosopher ever had a good idea such that Aristotle hadn't already beaten them to the punch ;-) Maybe some Pre-Socratic...
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    Can you explain the "just not right now" part?Fafner

    Yes. The idea is that the formation of an intention amounts to the (practical) rational determination of an orientation of the will. It is akin to the endorsement of a plan that structures behavior, and behavioral dispositions, from then on (and until such a time when what one intended to do has been done, or one has changed one's mind about doing it). On Anscombe's account, acting and reasoning practically aren't separate activities since actions are internally structured by means-end relations. So, as you are acting intentionally, you are determining what you are doing (the component parts of your action), in accordance with the overarching intention, as means to realizing it or of progressing towards the achievement if its goal.

    In view of this, an action can be viewed as furnishing the reasons why an agent is performing the component parts of her action. Hence, if I intend to go to Cuba for my next vacations, the fact that I intend to go to Cuba may motivate me to shop for plane tickets, or to decline an invitation elsewhere. When asked why I am shopping for plane tickets, or declining the invitation, I may reply that's because I am going to Cuba next month. I need not say that it's because I will be going to Cuba next month. Effectively, the fact that I'm going to Cuba next month already is structuring my action right now through means-end relationships. So, it's similar to saying that I'm breaking eggs because I'm making an omelet. However, when I'm breaking eggs, I've thereby already started making the omelet. But when I'm buying tickets because I'm going to Cuba next month, I'm not going there right now. I'm intending to go next month. But since I'm right now structuring my behavior in view of that end, there also is a clear sense in which my action (i.e. going to Cuba) is present. And this is what motivates the use of the present tense when one is invoking intentions for the future in justifying what one is doing right now.

    I hope this isn't too confusing. The main lesson is that although I am not going to Cuba right now (I think McDowell's phrase was "I am doing it... only not yet", this action has as its constitutive parts present component actions and/or present dispositions that already are structured by it.

    On edit: I just found the following quote: "Intention for the here and now is, if you like, a kind of thought. But it is practical in the sense that assenting to such a thought just is beginning to act in a certain way, for instance starting to cross a street; and continuing to assent – not revoking one’s assent – is continuing to act, for instance continuing to cross the street. An intention for the future is, by all means, a thought of the same kind, apart from the time difference. But the way to accommodate that is not to distance intention for the here and now from acting, on the ground that intending purely for the future is not acting, but to conceive an intention for the future as a potential action biding its time." -- John McDowell, Some Remarks on Intention in Action (my emphasis)

    That's a nice way to put it! An intention for the future is a potential action that is biding its time.
  • Rich
    3.2k

    An act of will is a choice to move in a particular direction. That is all that it is. Perception are virtual actions or possible direction of movement. There is nothing free but there is choice.
  • litewave
    408
    &

    One way to block the regress is to say that an intention to act is not a separate event from the free act itself, and so there is no need to postulate a second order intention to explain the first, and so on.

    In other words, when you act freely, it is not because there's a distinct event which is your intention to act freely, that somehow causes your action; but rather the intention is an aspect or a property of the action itself, and thus not a separable entity.
    Fafner

    I suppose this means that the intention does not influence the intentional act and thus denies point 1 of my argument? If an intention does not precede the act then there is no time for the intention to influence the act.

    The problem with such an intentional act seems to be that we lose control of the act and thus the act is not free. I think we control our intentional acts through our intentions - by influencing them by our intentions - but if intention does not influence the act then we cannot control the act. The intention then seems to be just an epiphenomenon that is formed along with the act, a feeling of agreement with the act even though we don't have control over the act (and over the intention).
  • litewave
    408
    That's not the kind of freedom that makes sense of moral responsibility, and of praise and blame in general.John

    I think the feeling of moral responsibility arises from compassion, which is another feeling. Compatibilist freedom allows that.

    Praise and blame can be seen as psychological motivators that evolved thanks to their usefulness. Praise evokes pleasant feelings and thus encourages an action while blame evokes unpleasant feelings and thus discourages an action.
  • litewave
    408
    An act of will is a choice to move in a particular direction. That is all that it is. Perception are virtual actions or possible direction of movement. There is nothing free but there is choice.Rich

    You mean a choice such as the choice of a robot to move to the left rather than to the right because it is programmed to move to the left?
  • Janus
    5.9k


    That's as it may be, but I'm not talking about the feeling or moral responsibility; I'm taking about the rational justification of the idea of moral responsibility. Without the assumption of radical freedom the notion of moral responsibility is incoherent; a human being responsible for an act reduces to the same kind of responsibility that natural phenomena and animals are thought to have for their acts.
  • Terrapin Station
    3.7k
    1) A free act must be intentional,litewave

    Support?
  • Fafner
    365
    I suppose this means that the intention does not influence the intentional act and thus denies point 1 of my argument? If an intention does not precede the act then there is no time for the intention to influence the act.litewave
    I think that what really matters for free will is not that your 'intentions' must control your action, but that you should control what you do. And when people control what they do, we say that they behave intentionally, but this doesn't mean that we have to postulate the existence of a distinct psychological state that accompanies actions which is called the intention.

    The problem with such an intentional act seems to be that we lose control of the act and thus the act is not free.litewave
    This doesn't follow, because you still have the agent himself who can perfectly well control his actions, only not by a mediation of distinct events of 'intention'. You intentionally control your actions simply by doing them.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    I suppose this means that the intention does not influence the intentional act and thus denies point 1 of my argument? If an intention does not precede the act then there is no time for the intention to influence the act.litewave

    It does indeed negate the first point, but not because there is no time for a prior intention to influence the action. It is rather because, on my view (which appears to be similar to Fafner's), prior "intentions to act" -- or intentions for the future, we may call them -- stand to intentional actions in the same sort of causal relation that intentions in action stand to with respect to the intentional actions that manifest them. And this form of causation is quite different from event-event-causation where something that occurs at a time causes something else to occur at a later time (or maybe at the very same time) by virtue of some natural law.

    So, on the alternative view, acts of the will aren't mental acts that occur prior to intentional actions (or instantaneously at the same time when the action begins). Rather the intentions themselves are manifestations of our acts of will. As Eric Marcus has put the point, it makes sense to say that, in the case of intentional actions, the whole is the cause of the parts. For instance, the fact that you are making an omelet (which is a manifestation of the orientation of your will at that time) can explain why you are breaking eggs. What is it, then, that explains the fact that you are intentionally making an omelet? The explanation for this can not be: because you formed the intention to do so. That would be a dummy explanation. ("Why are you making an omelet?" -- "I was caused to do so by my prior intention to make an omelet.")

    Rather, when asked why you are doing something, the chain of explanation terminates with your mention of the considerations that, by your own lights, makes it reasonable for you to do it. The mention of those reasons make it intelligible why you are doing it in a manner that is quite different from mentioning prior causes of an event.

    That is not to say that mention of prior causes can't be explanatory as well. In order to act for some reason, it must be the case that you were suitably inclined to be moved by some rational considerations, or that you were suitably informed of the relevant features of your practical situation. But such contrastive explanations lay out some of the necessary or enabling conditions for your having exercised your ability to rationally decide what to do. They don't necessarily constitute restrictions on your freedom. This is a point compatibilists usually get right. Where compatibilists often go wrong may be in thinking that such prior conditions necessitate the actual action.

    When we turn from the search for necessary conditions for human actions to sufficient conditions for them, then we must inquire into the reasons why the agent is doing what she is doing and such an inquiry into the intelligibility of her behavior is entirely different from the first inquiry. It isn't looking for antecedent "causes" in the past.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    You mean a choice such as the choice of a robot to move to the left rather than to the right because it is programmed to move to the left?litewave

    A robot it's programmed, a human isn't. A human programs the robot, at that point choices are being made.
  • litewave
    408
    That's as it may be, but I'm not talking about the feeling or moral responsibility; I'm taking about the rational justification of the idea of moral responsibility.John

    The idea of moral responsibility must involve feelings, or else no one would care about it (to care means to have feelings) and it seems to me those feelings ultimately boil down to compassion. We regard a person as morally responsible for a sentient being when we feel compassion for that being and expect that person to feel such a compassion too and to benefit that being.

    Without the assumption of radical freedom the notion of moral responsibility is incoherent; a human being responsible for an act reduces to the same kind of responsibility that natural phenomena and animals are thought to have for their acts.John

    Humans have a higher level of consciousness than animals, so we expect humans to feel more compassion than animals and to be more able to benefit other humans or sentient beings. Hence we regard humans as having more moral responsibility than animals (if we assign any moral responsibility to animals at all).
  • litewave
    408
    Support?Terrapin Station

    Free will entails having control over your acts, which seems to be missing when your acts are unintentional. Like, slipping on a banana peel - an unintentional and therefore unfree act.
  • litewave
    408
    You intentionally control your actions simply by doing them, and hence you don't need an intermediary in the form of a separate 'intention'.Fafner

    Simply doing an action is not enough to intentionally control it. You may simply slip on a banana peel, and it is you who is doing the slipping, but without an intention to do the action you cannot control the action.
  • Fafner
    365
    Simply doing an action is not enough to intentionally control it. You may simply slip on a banana peel, and it is you who is doing the slipping, but without an intention to do the action you cannot control the action.litewave
    This is not so. On my understanding of 'action', what you described doesn't count as a genuine action. Slipping on a banana peel is not something that you do intentionally, it is something that simply happens to you outside of your control.

    I'm not committed to the claim that just any sort of behavior or a bodily movement counts as an action that we perform as agents.
  • litewave
    408
    prior "intentions to act" -- intentions for the future, we may call them -- stand in relation with intentional actions in the same sort of causal relation than intentions in action stand to intentional actions that manifest them. And this form of causation is quite different from event-event-causation where something that occurs at a time causes something else to occur at a later time (or maybe at the very same time) by virtue of some natural law.Pierre-Normand

    If the intention causes the action instantaneously via some different/timeless way of causation, we can still ask whether the act of forming the intention is caused (via this different/timeless way of causation) by an intention to form that intention, and if it is then the act of forming the intention is intentional too, but this leads us to an infinite regress of intentions in a timeless instant.

    Rather the intentions themselves are manifestations of our acts of will. As Eric Marcus has put the point, it makes sense to say that, in the case of intentional actions, the whole is the cause of the parts.Pierre-Normand

    Are you saying here that our actions cause our intentions to do the actions? In that case it is difficult to understand how we control our actions. It is more like our actions control us.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Free will entails having control over your acts, which seems to be missing when your acts are unintentional. Like, slipping on a banana peel - an unintentional and therefore unfree act.litewave

    There is no control over actions. There is an ability to attempt to move in a particular direction. Outcomes are always uncertain because of other constraints.

    In this case, a choice was made to move in a particular direction. The choice ofaction is taken, the movement is made, contact is made with a banana peel, and then the outcome.

    Choices are made, outcomes are always unpredictable.
  • litewave
    408
    Slipping on a banana is not something that you do intentionally, it is something that simply happens to you outside of your control.Fafner

    I agree but it is so because you don't have an intention to do it. If you do an action without an intention to do it, it is as if the action or event "happens to you", it is outside of your control.
  • Fafner
    365
    Now your are just arguing in circles.
  • litewave
    408
    So give an example of an action that you control without having an intention to do it.
  • litewave
    408
    There is no control over actions. There is an ability to attempt to move in a particular direction. Outcomes are always uncertain because of other constraints.Rich

    I don't necessarily mean complete control of the action, but the ability to influence the action.
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