• Robert Lockhart
    170
    Regarding the possible validity of the concept of Free Will, when we are moved to ask whether humans actually could have a capacity for free will we don’t ultimately mean to enquire whether we might have a capacity for amoral autonomy – like whether we could in principle decide with unqualified self-reference which sweet-meat to prefer for dessert – but rather whether humans could possibly posses a capacity of autonomy regarding morally relevant descions. In this regard it might be observed that moral ‘knowledge’ seems not to be apprehensible intellectually, and therefore acquirable vicariously, but in practice is perhaps a type of understanding that can be inculcated only through personal experience. As an example of this: The principle that there exists a fundamental distinction between happiness and pleasure is commonly received as an intellectual truth yet nonetheless we can presumably all accept that in practice most adherents to this precept paradoxically exhibit behavioural patterns seeming ostensibly oblivious of it. So it seems to be the same with the personal observation of, for example, the general moral precepts outlined in the biblical Ten Commandments: A morally informed perception of the nature of say, Theft, as an act for example, seems perhaps to be an entirely distinct thing from a merely intellectual acceptance of the iniquity of this transgression, inasmuch as in practice the latter type of acceptance routinely proves to be perfectly reconcilable with a capacity to commit the offence while the former type of concept, in contrast, frequently seems inimical to such a capacity, like as in another – albeit a bit clichéd example – how when sometimes a combat hardened soldier is found to avow that as a result of his experiences he knows himself to be fundamentally incapable of killing again. – There exists a theory that such ‘knowledge’ could enable a capacity for moral autonomy the validity of which need not in principle be regarded as contingent on establishing as a logical prerequisite a neurologically based capacity for amoral autonomy.
    The idea, again concerning the example of the combat-hardened soldier, is that his experience of killing as an act - being such that his training no matter how rigorous and sustained had not enabled him to anticipate - had conferred on him a moral knowledge that was inimical to being ‘bought’ and which enabled him to knowingly transcend the otherwise unconscious neural determinants constituted by external environmental influence thus enabling in him a capacity of moral autonomy which in practice constitutes an exemplification of acquired ‘Free Will’.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    when we are moved to ask whether humans actually could have a capacity for for free will we don’t ultimately mean to enquire whether we might have a capacity for amoral autonomy — Robert Lockhart

    In most cases, this is being asked, i.e. do humans have the ability to make choices. The question of what it's moral and immoral is a different question, which is ultimately ax subjective choice. However, a choice is a choice is a choice, however one wishes to describe it.
  • Robert Lockhart
    170
    - Could've made that rushed post of mine a bit more competent one way and another (like by indicating the seminal point that it's logically impossible to wilfully commit an act that you know - i.e. know in terms characterised by moral knowledge rather than intellectual acceptance - to be wrong & how the Free-Will question really is a problem related to the nature of morality rather than one of causality) but my excuse is I ran out of time! Annyway, to cut to the chase - Free Will and Moral Enlightenment are interchangable terms. - Over'n out!
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    This new topic of yours is excellent, as is your introductory post. I'll post a comment later today when I have more time on my hands since it merits thoughtful consideration. Did you really mean to make it into just one paragraph? Maybe if you could manage merely break it into two or three paragraphs it would make for a less intimidating block of text!
  • Nils Loc
    888


    Please do translate for us.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Free Will and Moral Enlightenment are interchangable terms. - Over'n out!Robert Lockhart

    It's every choice a moral choice? Is deciding whether to eat fruits or vegetables a moral dilemma? I believe that when one frames Choice as an intention of action in a direction, then it is possible to see that it can be without moral connection.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    It's every choice a moral choice? Is deciding whether to eat fruits or vegetables a moral dilemma? I believe that when one frames Choice as an intention of action in a direction, then it is possible to see that it can be without moral connection.Rich

    The OP's point seems to be, not that every choice is a moral choice, but rather that the issue of the freedom of choice doesn't arise for choices that boil down to mere personal preference. We don't generally inquire whether a dog can freely choose to eat a piece of raw meat over a raw turnip. So, the issue of the compatibility of free will and determinism arises in the context of human choice, but not in the context of (non-rational) animal choice because human actions involve something more than the blind pursuit of "self-interest". (I'll explain elsewhere why I am using scare quotes here).
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    Please do translate for us.Nils Loc

    Frankly, although I had to read the OP three times before it was clear to me, I am usure if I could much improve on the formulation without producing a much longer post. It seems to strike a just balance between concision and readability (although, as I said, I'd like to see it broken down into separate paragraphs). The topic is difficult, for sure, but maybe it will become clearer in the context of discussion.
  • Nils Loc
    888
    Edit: Deleted my post.

    How to compose a successful critical commentary:

    You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
    You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
    You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
    Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
    — Dennett on Rapoport's Rules
  • Nils Loc
    888
    Questions and stances embedded in the OP stated for the sake of brevity:

    Do humans posses a capacity of autonomy regarding morally relevant decisions?

    What is the difference between moral knowledge that is acquired intellectually (or culturally transmitted) and moral knowledge that is the result of experience?

    Claim: Experience yields a greater degree of autonomy compared with theory because one understands why something is bad rather than accepting someone else's word.

    Generally the exercise of autonomy, as exercising choice between many options and being able to tell good ones from bad ones, increases with experience. But we are leaving out intelligence. Someone who is very dumb but has loads of experience may not have much agency as someone who is very smart but lacks much life experience.
    ________________

    I gave the example last time. A person who is told not to touch a hot stove because it burns will not learn the significance of such advice until that person has touched a hot stove.

    A soldier who drills everyday with a patriotic view toward fighting in war may have a radically different view once war is experienced. I listened to adult sibling describe her brother as he had been before and after an experience in war and it brought me to tears. If it afforded her brother any greater moral autonomy beyond the "truth" of what war entails versus its myths I'm unsure. Some naive choices (if you can call them that) have grave consequences. He may be fit to give advice to more naive individuals, to increase the idea that there are other options open to young men.

    In highschool I witnessed a pig slaughter and butchery. They stuck a knife in it's throat and let it bleed for quite a while. I put my hand into the warm chest cavity and felt the organs. I had made up my mind that I was not going to eat its meat out of sheer disgust. The gamey smell of guts and singed hair was enough. Later I attended the cooking process and the smell changed completely (frying pork skin and fat) and my appetite was stimulated. There is the fact that such an experience is encoded in my memory when I think about the hidden processes which I'm apt to ignore. If the consequences of my choices are hidden, then the first-hand experience with any of those processes will inform my choices.
  • Robert Lockhart
    170
    If the question of the possible actuality of Free Will as a concept was essentially contingent on deciding the problem of whether human beings could be capable of validly assuming a capacity of autonomy regarding the dilemma beset them by the presentation of disparate choice as such then, in that ultimately the question as thus characterised would appear to be a problem of causality, it might therefore strike as paradoxical to consider that the methodology of philosophy as opposed to that of science – specifically neural science – could ever at all be appropriate to its investigation, the discipline of philosophy being, of course, concerned with questions primarily of a non-causal nature.

    In this regard it might therefore seem more logically consistent to consider that the investigation of the question of the possibility of autonomy of choice regarding amoral decisions – like for ex what wall-paper you might ‘decide’ to prefer for your apartment – is a subject the treatment of which is fundamentally more appropriate to the methodology of neural science rather than that of philosophy.

    It is only the possibility that there might exist such a concept as objective moral knowledge, with the implications of this idea for the possibility of moral autonomy - that such a capacity might in principle transcend the limitations of a putative neurologically based ability for amoral autonomy - that rescues the consideration that there may indeed exist a dimension to the Free Will question of a non-causal nature, the treatment of that idea being therefore more appropriate to the methodology of philosophy.

    (Regarding some justified comments - introduced more paras this time!) :)
  • Nils Loc
    888
    Daniel Dennett warns against promoting the denial of free on the grounds that it has behavioral ramifications. If we invoke determinism as a justification for bad acts, in alignment with our secret wishes, confirmation bias is at play. What might be the societal effects if the average person did not believe in free will?

    Does fear of punishment deter people from committing crimes? Yes.

    Does positive reinforcement (socially conferred rewards) promote types of behavior? Yes.

    There are likely societal situations were the fear of punishment is exaggerated to a point were it actually interferes with an average kind of agency. If I thought I was going to burn in hell for all eternity because of some small transgression in my past ( reinforced by parental fear mongering and threats) degrees of agency might be diminished, until it is overcome by some revolutionary crisis or not.
  • Robert Lockhart
    170
    It has been observed by some that the popular repuduation among philosophers of the idea of Free Will and their denigration of this concept as an illusion - based as it is on the ever accumulating scientific evidence regarding the involvement of unconscious psychological determinants in influencing human behaviour - nonetheless fails in this rejection to adequately recognise the fundamental distinction between the possibilities of a causally derived amoral autonomy and an experiential non-intellectual moral-knowledge derived autonomy.

    The latter concept of irreducible autonomy is reconciled with the principle of determinism by identifying individual personal experience as the required causal element capable of conferring a subsequent capacity of autonomy regarding morality. Similarly, disparity in the observance of moral precepts is considered by this theory to be contingent on disparities in personal moral ‘knowledge’ rather than neural/environmental factors. In this respect 'Evil' and 'Goodness' in individuals are considered to be manifeststions of disparate states of personal moral 'knowledge'.

    Of course, since the theory recognises the demonstrably chance roll of environment in creating the potential for a type of personal experience envisaged as capable of promoting an increase in moral knowledge -or moral awareness - effectively transcendant of neural limitations then, to that extent, it in itself is proposing a possible idea of free will which, in the most ultimate sense, must still be regarded as being conditional. - Some as a result of chance experience will acquire greater moral autonomy than others.
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