• Bitter Crank
    9.1k
    Would a philosopher be a better witness than, say, an observant horse or a skeptical cat crouching under the credenza?
  • Christoffer
    692


    Depends wether you work under a jury system or not. A jury system might not grasp many things, since philosophers tend to be very esoteric. However, if you are a defense lawyer and there is little hope of defense for the defendant, then a philosopher on hard determinism would be a good last resort. Someone that would talk about how no choice is acted out of nothing, that the choices made are always made because of causes, that the effects, the consequence is the result of many things; that they may not be in the control of their actions based on the situation they were given. In todays legal system, it's a very slim chance for defense, but it's a valid viewpoint and if that viewpoint is combined with the idea that if the defendant were given the chance to reprogram the reasons crimes are committed by them, they will function much better in the future, not just be doomed criminals. Only those who were given a chance to view their actions as the result of superficial causes they learned through life, tend to turn their backs to crime. Many view it as the hand they were given, but if given hope, they would rebuild the deterministic reasons to crimes that they've acted on their entire life.

    Hope of changing our lives comes from seeing the reasons for our actions in a new light, comes from an open door to an alternative. If the defendant has this door closed, they will continue doing crimes and any punishment will be a waste of time.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    1.4k

    I was indulging in irony, I'm afraid. I'm reasonably certain a philosopher wouldn't be allowed to testify.
  • StreetlightX
    6.7k
    Anyone who think ethics and law are related has never, one imagines, had to deal with the justice system.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    1.4k
    Anyone who think ethics and law are related has never, one imagines, had to deal with the justice system.StreetlightX
    "This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice."--O. W. Holmes

    I think most lawyers dread clients who go to court seeking justice; I do, in any case. Such clients are inflexible, incapable of understanding the wisdom of settlement, invincibly ignorant of the nature of the legal system, prolong litigation unnecessarily, and complain bitterly when things don't turn out as they think they should. I run from them as from a monster.
  • StreetlightX
    6.7k
    The justiceish system?
  • TheMadFool
    8.3k
    All I can come up with is limited free will. We can't choose what we want but we can choose how we satisfy our wants.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.1k
    That's pretty much my view.
  • bloodninja
    308
    "What are discussions of free will really about?"Bitter Crank

    Are they, at their core, meager attempts to articulate what is distinctive about us as an entity?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    All I can come up with is limited free will. We can't choose what we want but we can choose how we satisfy our wants.TheMadFool

    I don't quite see how one can consistently hold that view. If there is some generic end that you want to achieve, but that you can achieve in a variety of different ways, then you are going to do it in the way that you want to achieve it (after having pondered over the alternatives ways in which you can achieve it). But then, in that case, by your own premise, you will not be able to chose how (or in what way) to satisfy your generic want either.
  • Benkei
    4k
    I think the juxtaposition of free will and determinism is false and should be forgotten. Determinism means that for a given state at a certain time at the next moment only one possible new state can come about. Indeterminism would mean different new states can come about and we would not know beforehand what that state will be.

    That certain processes are understood as epistomologically indeterminate (e.g. QM) does not mean reality is indeterministic. It is only proof that the complexity of reality is such that we can only predict it by approximation in matters of probability. This has opened the door that reality could be indeterministic.

    Now, I believe reality is deterministic but that's neither here nor there with regard to free will.

    Free will has to be a deterministic process or it wouldn't be free will. If it weren't deterministic I wouldn't be making an informed choice when exercising my free will. If you offer me vanilla or chocolate icecream, I will choose the one I have a preference for. That preference is a result of my previous experience and it's not possible that the outcome could be equally chocolate or vanilla and decided by an ontologically random process an infinitesmal moment before my decision. It's going to be one or the other and it is one or the other based on pre-determined input that can result in only one choice.

    So long as people can't wrap their head around the idea that saying "indeterminism is necessary for free will to exist", really means that everything they decide is totally random as a result, we'll continue to have these discussions.
  • StreetlightX
    6.7k
    Free will has to be a deterministic process or it wouldn't be free will.Benkei

    :ok:
  • Bitter Crank
    9.1k
    your explanation is clear and understandable, and therefore compelling.

    Thank you.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    So long as people can't wrap their head around the idea that saying "indeterminism is necessary for free will to exist", really means that everything they decide is totally random as a result, we'll continue to have these discussions.Benkei

    The idea that lack of causal determination of actions (by laws of nature and prior events and/or states of affair) entails mere randomness is generally acknowledged as the luck objection to libertarianism. The problem of luck is well known and acknowledged by contemporary incompatibilist libertarians. Robert Kane, for instance, has a fairly sophisticated response to it, which, albeit not being entirely successful, on my view, has some good positive features.

    On the other hand, although compatibilist accounts of free will don't have to deal with the luck objection specifically, they have problems of their own. They must respond to the main arguments for incompatibilism such as Jaegwon Kim's causal exclusion argument or Peter van Inwagen's consequence argument. (On my view, dispositionalist accounts of compatibilist free will also suffer from a third problem which is that they tend to narrow the scope of freedom more narrowly than is required to account for our normal ascriptions of personal responsibility to mature human agents). So, it's not sufficient to acknowledge that some amount of causal determination is required for dealing with the problem of luck. In order to secure a satisfactory compatibilist account of free will, one also has to show how autonomous rational and moral agency isn't threatened by determinism just as much (although in different ways) as it would be by indeterminism.
  • Benkei
    4k
    The idea that lack of causal determination of actions (by laws of nature and prior events and/or states of affair) entails mere randomness is generally acknowledged as the luck objection to libertarianism. The problem of luck is well known and acknowledged by contemporary incompatibilist libertarians. Robert Kane, for instance, has a fairly sophisticated response to it, which, albeit not being entirely successful, on my view, has some good positive features.Pierre-Normand

    My argument is distinct from the luck argument I guess or Robert Kane misrepresents it in his paper. I'm not dealing with chance and luck but ontological indeterminism, which even means from one moment to the next natural laws can change and the impossible becomes possible. To base free will on the mere fact that not all processes are predictable is even a worse case of not understanding what we're talking about in my view. In that case free will is nothing more than allowing it to fill the gaps of what we cannot predict - in other words our free will shrinks as our predictive models improve. That would be truly sad.

    My first red flag with Robert Kane is therefore his equivocation of indeterminism and chance. That means he appears to be firmly in the territory of epistemological indeterminism which simply isn't interesting for the reason above. I'll read his full paper later but that's just a first few remarks to clarify my position based on his first two pages.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    My argument is distinct from the luck argument I guess or Robert Kane misrepresents it in his paper.Benkei

    What paper? Kane has written dozens of papers and, maybe, half a dozen books on this topic.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    To base free will on the mere fact that not all processes are predictable is even a worse case of not understanding what we're talking about in my view.Benkei

    Sure, but who does that?

    My first red flag with Robert Kane is therefore his equivocation of indeterminism and chance. That means he appears to be firmly in the territory of epistemological indeterminism which simply isn't interesting for the reason above. I'll read his full paper later but that's just a first few remarks to clarify my position based on his first two pages.Benkei

    Tell me what paper you're reading first. I'm not an advocate of Kane's libertarian conception of free will, myself, but as I've suggested, there are some good point that he is making while he is addressing the problem from luck. So, I'd be interested to hear your objections to his take. They may even coincide with mine.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    This paperBenkei

    Thanks. It indeed appears to be a good place to start with Kane's theory of ultimate responsibility and SFAs ("self forming actions"), in order to learn how he's dealing with the problem from luck.
  • Benkei
    4k
    Sure, but who does that?Pierre-Normand

    Most everyone when they think luck and change are relevant. It stems from an inability for most to properly understand QM theories, which, admittedly, I only understand at a limited conceptual level but enough to spot the mistake. Too many think QM theory is an example of ontological indeterminism. It isn't.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    Most everyone when they think luck and change are relevant. It stems from an inability for most to properly understand QM theories, which, admittedly, I only understand at a limited conceptual level but enough to spot the mistake. Too many think QM theory is an example of ontological indeterminism. It isn't.Benkei

    The question whether QM is fundamentally indeterministic at a fundamental level isn't really relevant to appraising responses to the luck objection to libertarian free will. Those responses avert to facts about human psychology and the processes of decision making that are quite independent of whatever physicists will ultimately disclose about the fundamental theories of particle physics or how the disputes regarding the interpretations of quantum mechanics will be resolved.

    Incidentally, I think Kane requires that the laws of physics be fundamentally indeterministic for his account of free will to work, but I disagree with his endorsement of this requirement for genuine freedom of action, and it isn't relevant to his response to the luck objection anyway. The luck objection also can be directed to theories that appeal to complexity, mere epistemic ignorance, and/or features of deterministic chaos.
  • Benkei
    4k
    The question whether QM is fundamentally indeterministic at a fundamental level isn't really relevant to appraising responses to the luck objection to libertarian free will.Pierre-Normand

    As I stated above, the luck objection seems to me different from what I meant and I personally don't find the actual answer all that interesting. We behave as if we have free will; good enough for me.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    As I stated above, the luck objection seems to me different from what I meant and I personally don't find the actual answer all that interesting.Benkei

    You were implying that whoever defends an incompatibilist version of free will (such that it requires indeterminism) ought to acknowledge that what they really believes, then, is that "everything they decide is totally random as a result". How is it a problem, in your view, that free actions would be totally random? Of course, I agree that it would be a huge problem. We couldn't be able to claim authorship of our "free" actions, or responsibility for them, if they were merely the random outcomes of indeterministic processes. In that case, whether we would be acting well or badly, in accordance with our wishes or against them, would be a matter of chance rather than an expression of our will and character. But that is precisely what the luck objection to crude versions of libertarian free will amounts to. If your objection is completely different from that, then I have no idea what your objection is.
  • prothero
    342
    What do you think about this?



    ABSTRACT—Does moral behavior draw on a belief in free will? Two experiments examined whether inducing participants to believe that human behavior is predetermined would encourage cheating. In Experiment 1, participants read either text that encouraged a belief in determinism (i.e., that portrayed behavior as the consequence of environmental and genetic factors)or neutral text.Exposure to the deterministic message increased cheating on a task in which participants could passively allow a flawed computer program to reveal answers to mathematical problems that they had been instructed to solve themselves. Moreover, increased cheating behavior was mediated by decreased belief in free will. In Experiment 2, participants who read deterministic statements cheated by overpaying themselves for performance on a cognitive task; participants who read statements endorsing free will did not. These findings suggest that the debate over free will has societal, as well as scientific and theoretical, implications

    I am not sure what the “free” in “free will” represents for different individuals. For me it means human behavior and pretty much the rest of the world as well is free from “hard determinism”, a future dictated precisely in every detail by events of the past.

    Of course human behavior like all events is not free from the past but is limited and constrained by numerous factors, some physical limitations, some cognitive limitations, etc.

    The choice is not “complete randomness” or “hard determinism” even in QM this is so. For the values obtained by observers (experiments) even in QM are limited and constrained to a certain number of allowed or possible values.

    Human choices are likewise constrained to a certain number of possible actions or choices but “choice” implies the ability to do/ or have done otherwise and we all conduct our affairs as if our choices affect our future.

    As the above paper shows our beliefs about these matters actually influence our behaviors and asserting that one could not have done otherwise has behavioral and social implications.

    And yes, it seems we are destined to have endless debates about will and determinism but our conclusions have implications beyond philosophy.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    What do you think about this?prothero

    Here is a link to the source.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    What do you think about this?prothero

    Before commenting, let me also point to this short video by Daniel Dennett, discussing this issue, and with which I am in broad agreement.
  • TheMadFool
    8.3k
    I don't quite see how one can consistently hold that view. If there is some generic end that you want to achieve, but that you can achieve in a variety of different ways, then you are going to do it in the way that you want to achieve it (after having pondered over the alternatives ways in which you can achieve it). But then, in that case, by your own premise, you will not be able to chose how (or in what way) to satisfy your generic want either.Pierre-Normand

    You're right. One's innate unchosen, ergo not free, desires arch over every single step between them and their fulfillment.

    However, primordial desire is nebulous, vague. For instance we feel thirst, a generic desire. This initial thirst may then be specifically satisfied with either water, coke, beer, pepsi, etc. Do you think this process from generic desires to specific fulfillment can accommodate some form of freedom of will?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    However, primordial desire is nebulous, vague. For instance we feel thirst, a generic desire. This initial thirst may then be specifically satisfied with either water, coke, beer, pepsi, etc. Do you think this process from generic desires to specific fulfillment can accommodate some form of freedom of will?TheMadFool

    Yes, because the way in which we are making our decisions isn't merely a process of instrumental specification from generic or blind desires that we are passively being straddled with. The strength of our various desires and inclinations can both potentially help, or hinder, in various ways, the actualization our capacity for practical judgement.

    We oftentimes act against our stronger raw inclinations when we judge that they ought not to be given voice in our practical deliberation in light of the rational or moral demands of the specific situation. It is a metaphysical prejudice to conclude that, whenever this occurs, and some of our raw inclinations are being silenced, it is because some other (and equally blind in point of rationality) raw inclination to do the contrary won out over them. The outcome of practical judgement (and hence what we decide to do) often is the outcome of our having concluded, on good rational and/or moral ground, that it is the desirable thing to do.

    If our normal inclinations, and our characters, are in good order, then we are more inclined to do the right thing effortlessly. In that case, what is the right thing to do tends to align with what appears to be the most desirable thing to do. If they aren't in good order, then, doing the right thing may require more effort, stronger external incitatives, and we are more likely to fail to make a correct practical judgement.
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