• Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    Is that not free enough for you? Do you insist that true freedom entails being sufficiently free to make a different choice given exactly the same set of deciding factors? That seems absurd - because it implies a freedom to make choices for no reason at all.Relativist

    I was just about to post a similar response/challenge to @Terrapin Station. On the one hand, I am myself a libertarian incompatibilist, just like TS. But my position is distinctive from what I like to call "rollback libertarianism'. Rollback libertarianism rests on one particular construal (which I dont endorse) of the principle of alternative possibilities (which I endorse!), but which is endorsed by many libertarian philosophers such as Robert Kane (with some caveats). Under this construal, it must be possible for a free agent who actually did A that she could have done something else (or merely abstained from doing A, or could have done A differently) in the exact same 'circumstances' in which she actually did A, where those 'circumstances' (so called) are construed as including her own actual mental states and proclivities up to the moment of decision. I think you are absolutely right that this sort 'contra causal' criterion for freedom seems to threaten the intelligibility of rational action and hence to undermine what it seeks to salvage.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    It is free, because it is a product of the agent's mental processes.Relativist

    But that's just changing what we're referring to in the conversation. No one in the debate was using "free" to refer to whether a choice is a product of the agent's mental processes or not.

    So it's not compatibilism, it's "redefining what the words are referring to so that we can use both of them in conjunction with each other."

    Could the agent have decided differently? Yes, if there were some difference in the factors contributing to his decision. This is sufficiently free to be classified as "free will," and sufficiently free to be held morally culpable.Relativist

    That's like saying, "Could nuclear bombs produce flowers instead? Yes, if atoms behaved differently."

    That seems absurd - because it implies a freedom to make choices for no reason at all.Relativist

    But that's what ontological freedom is.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    I think you are absolutely right that this sort 'contra causal' criterion for freedom seems to threaten the intelligibility of rational action and hence to undermine what it seeks to salvage.Pierre-Normand

    I don't see the point as trying to "salvage" anything. We're simply wondering whether ontological freedom obtains in relation to "will phenomena," so that more than one option is a possible consequent state given identical antecedent states. It seems to some of us that such ontological freedom does obtain. We're not campaigning for anything in this, not issuing value judgments about anything, etc.

    That's why I like to use for my decision examples options that I choose between a la flipping a coin. It seems as if I can make those sorts of choices.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    But that's just changing what we're referring to in the conversation. No one in the debate was using "free" to refer to whether a choice is a product of the agent's mental processes or not.

    So it's not compatibilism, it's "redefining what the words are referring to so that we can use both of them in conjunction with each other."
    Terrapin Station

    I wonder who you take to be the proper authority for the definition of the concept of freedom. Most people who are party to the conversation (which I take to include philosophers engaged in the debate about free will and determinism) acknowledge various conceptual and/or constitutive connections between the concepts of freedom, desire, rationality, belief, intention, praise and blame, responsibility, etc.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    You're barking up the wrong tree re asking me who I'd take to be a "proper authority" re something so broadly discussed.

    I'm simply referring to the conventional conversation re focusing on the ontological question re whether one sort of phenomena or another (can) obtain in conjunction with will.
  • Heiko
    189
    But that's just changing what we're referring to in the conversation. No one in the debate was using "free" to refer to whether a choice is a product of the agent's mental processes or not.Terrapin Station

    So you would call an act independent of and maybe even contrary to any conscious decisions an act of free will?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    No. It has to involve will (which is conscious), or we're just talking about ontological freedom in general.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    I don't see the point as trying to "salvage" anything. We're simply wondering whether ontological freedom obtains in relation to "will phenomena," so that more than one option is a possible consequent state given identical antecedent states. It seems to some of us that such ontological freedom does obtain. We're not campaigning for anything in this, not issuing value judgments about anything, etc.Terrapin Station

    Very well. But then very many philosophers might inquire whether such a very weak concept of 'ontological freedom' (which seemingly amounts to nothing more than the the mere indeterminism or randomness secured by quantum mechanics) has any connection at all with the traditional philosophical questions regarding rational agency and freedom of the will.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    What would be a "robust concept" of ontological freedom (versus determinism)?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    What would be a "robust concept" of ontological freedom?Terrapin Station

    "Ontological freedom" is your term. @Relativist and I had issued a challenge for your own conception of what it might be, since it appears to us to amount to nothing over and above mere indeterministic randomness in the production of bodily movements, while severing their connections with the will construed as a psychological faculty.
  • Heiko
    189
    No. It has to involve will (which is conscious), or we're just talking about ontological freedom in general.Terrapin Station

    I'm not sure I can follow this distinction. Even a quark jumping around wildly and a-causal cannot be called free without raping the concept. Trancendental freedom is defined in terms of subjectivity. Alledged or not.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    "Ontological freedom" is your term. Relativist and I had issued a challenge for your own conception is what it might be, since it appears to us to amount to nothing over and above mere indeterministic randomness in the production of bodily movements, while severing their connections with the will construed as a psychological faculty.Pierre-Normand

    It's not a term I invented, but "weak conception" was your characterization, so presumably you had some idea of a non-weak conception of ontological freedom.

    If we're talking about free will it's obviously not severed from will phenomena. But yes, the issue (freedom a la free will vs detereminism) is only coherent as wondering about whether it's possible for at least two different consequent states to follow the same antecedent state.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Even a quark jumping around wildly and a-causal cannot be called free without raping the concept. Trancendental freedom is defined in terms of subjectivity.Heiko

    What in the world? Obviously you'd have to explain "cannot be called free without 'raping the concept'" and "transcendental freedom (defined in terms of subjectivity)"

    At the moment those just look to me like random words thrown together.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    I'm simply referring to the conventional conversation re focusing on the ontological question re whether one sort of phenomena or another (can) obtain in conjunction with will.Terrapin Station

    Fair enough. But then, it would appear to be part of the conventional conversation about the will (conceived as the faculty that issues in intentional actions) that it involves some sorts of intelligible connections between antecedent mental states of agents and their subsequent actions. It is true that those connections generally are believed not to be fully determinative. But then, the challenge for the libertarian incompatibilist is to explain how the mere lack of full determination of actions by antecedent psychological states (and its replacement by mere randomness) is helpful at all to the ordinary conception of personal freedom.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    helpful at all to the ordinary conception of personal freedom.Pierre-Normand

    Ignoring whether there's some set of utterances, where we've empirically established the commonality of the same, that we're calling the "ordinary conception of personal freedom," the idea of any of this needing to be "helpful" towards it is exactly what I was talking about NOT doing re "not campaigning for anything, not suggesting value judgments or normatives" etc.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    If we're talking about free will it's obviously not severed from will phenomena. But yes, the issue (freedom a la free will vs detereminism) is only coherent as wondering about whether it's possible for at least two different consequent states to follow the same antecedent state.Terrapin Station

    I think it is obviously coherent. For instance, both the radioactive decay or the absence of radioactive decay of an atom are consistent with the same antecedent (non-decayed) state of this atom. Likewise, regardless of the indeterminacy of fundamental physical laws, the modelization of cognitive processes as coarse-grained outcomes of a chaotic dynamical system make different actions consistent with the very same (coarse-grainedly) defined antecedent mental states. Both those possibilities, which are intelligible from the physical point of view, seem not to secure the kind of freedom that we intuitively ascribe to the will.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    seem not to secure the kind of freedom that we intuitively ascribe to the will.Pierre-Normand

    What different sort of freedom would you say we intuitively ascribe to the will? (Do I do this if I don't know the answer to it)?
  • Heiko
    189
    Transcendental freedom is perceiving yourself as subject, which means - at least to some extend - perceived conscious control over youself. This freedom is reflexive and hence cannot be attributed to plain objects.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    What different sort of freedom would you say we intuitively ascribe to the will? (Do I do this if I don't know the answer to it)?Terrapin Station

    The common intuitive conception of free action, which seems to me to be broadly correct, rests on a form of agent causation rather than event causation. Agent causation tends to give Humean philosophers headaches, while Aristotelian philosophers account for it more easily. Free actions are actualizations of the powers of practical rationality possessed by mature rational animals. Hence, the causal antecedents of free actions are substances (e.g. rational animals) and their freely (and responsibly) endorsed reasons rather than fixed antecedent circumstances and blind laws of nature.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    Okay, that makes some sense, I suppose, although "perceiving" seems like a weird word to use, and "conscious control over yourself" seems redundant in a way that I don't think makes much sense.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    The common intuitive conception of free action, which seems to me to be broadly correct, rests on a form of agent causation rather than event causation. Agent causation tends to give Humean philosophers headaches, while Aristotelian philosophers account for it more easily. Free actions are actualizations of the powers of practical rationality possessed by mature rational animals. Hence, the causal antecedents of free actions are substances (e.g. rational animals) and their freely (and responsibly) endorsed reasons rather than fixed antecedent circumstances and blind laws of nature.Pierre-Normand

    Without getting into the many issues I have with that, it doesn't seem to be specifying a different sort of freedom, with a focus on what exactly "free" is referring to ontologically in different cases. It seems to be explaining all sorts of things but the "free" part.

    For example, free action via agent causation versus free action versus event causation. That's fine as a distinction re the source of the free action (ignoring analysis of how we got there in each case, at least), but it's not describing a different kind of freedom in each case, is it? If so, what's the difference in what's going on in the freedom part?

    For example, "Playing a CMa7 chord on a keyboard via a human pressing the keys versus playing a CMa7 chord on a keyboard via a sequencer triggering the sounds." There's a difference there, but not in the "playing a CMa7 chord" part.
  • Heiko
    189
    Sorry, English isn't my first language. But the point is to make: The subject appears sovereign to itself.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    Without getting into the many issues I have with that, it doesn't seem to be specifying a different sort of freedom, with a focus on what exactly "free" is referring to ontologically in different cases.Terrapin Station

    You may construe it as a recasting of the philosophical concept of freedom. It is indeed the very same intuitive concept of freedom of agency that grounds the reactive attitudes of ordinary people, but it is being recast away from its usual distortions by scientistic, crypto-Humean and crypro-Cartesian prejudices. It does not require rollback indeterminism (that is, the possibility that one may have done otherwise in the exact same antecedent 'circumstances'), but it doesn't accommodate determinism either since the antecedent 'conditions' (often construed as a set of atomic Humean 'events') of the agent become irrelevant to the determination of the agent's action by herself, in accordance only with her reasons, good or bad, for doing whatever she is doing.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    Let's try it this way.

    On your account, we have, in temporal order

    (a) the antecedent conditions of the agent

    (b) the agent's reasons for doing x

    (c) the decision based on (b)

    Now, was (c) determined by (b), or was freedom involved somehow between (b) and (c), and was (b) determined by (a), or was freedom involved somehow between (b) and (a)?




    (By the way, (b) is actually what I'm calling the "antecendent" and (c) is the consequent, but I'm guessing you know that and there's a reason you're inserting an extra step, which is fine)
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    (By the way, (b) is actually what I'm calling the "antecendent" and (c) is the consequent, but I'm guessing you know that and there's a reason you're inserting an extra step, which is fine)Terrapin Station

    Let me respond to this first, for the sake of clarity. When I'm speaking of "antecedent circumstances" I only mean to signify a temporal relationship between material states of affairs (or the so called 'state of the universe' at a time) and the agent's subsequent decision or action. The latter is being causally determined by the former, according to determinism.

    Let's try it this way.

    On your account, we have, in temporal order

    (a) the antecedent conditions of the agent

    (b) the agent's reasons for doing x

    (c) the decision based on (b)

    Now, was (c) determined by (b), or was freedom involved somehow between (b) and (c), and was (b) determined by (a), or was freedom involved somehow between (b) and (a)?
    Terrapin Station

    On my view both (a) and (b) can figure in the explanation of the agent's decision (or intentional action) albeit in different ways and for complementary explanatory purposes. (b) is, however, ineliminable as part of the explanation of the action as an intelligible occurrence in the life of a rational agent. It is also not something that can be construed as an event in time. It is rather a rational consideration that the agent can adduce in order to justify her action to herself or to others.

    Now, regarding the locus of freedom: (b) is fully determinative of (c), as long as (c) is an intentional action (or the formation of an intention). But since this determination occurs as the actualization by the agent of her own powers of practical reasoning, it isn't being determined by (a). There nevertheless are causal relations between (a) and (c) but they aren't determinative. On my view, the causal relations between (a) and (c) are best construed as enabling conditions. Some of those causal antecedents account for the agent having acquired practical rational abilities (or a free rational will) in the first place. Other causal antecedents account for the various opportunities and powers that the agent has prior to the moment of decision. But what it is that determines what the agent does, in those circumstances, is the agent herself on the basis of rational considerations (b), which may be good or bad, and hence make the agent liable to be praised or blamed (or proud or ashamed, or happy or regretful) for her decision.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    It is also not something that can be construed as an event in timePierre-Normand

    ?? On my view the idea of there being anything divorced from time (and space/location for that matter) is incoherent.

    So on my view it's incoherent to say that (b) isn't particular events in time, with a location in the world, and more specifically, that (b) isn't dynamic processes of material stuff (namely the agent's brain). It doesn't seem like you're talking about this, though. It sounds like on your view, the agent's rationality is some mysterious who-knows-what that's not part of the material world and that can somehow operate independently of it?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    ?? On my view the idea of there being anything divorced from time (and space/location for that matter) is incoherent.Terrapin Station

    You need not entirely divorce rational considerations (or numbers, say) qua abstract objects from space and time in order to place them in a different metaphysical category than either concrete material substances or material events. Rational considerations clearly relate to time, in a sense, since they can be entertained and evaluated by agents at specific times and not others. But that doesn't make them suitable to being themselves located in particular places or times (any more than numbers or premises of arguments can be). That would be a category error.

    So on my view it's incoherent to say that (b) isn't particular events in time, with a location in the world, and more specifically, that (b) isn't dynamic processes of material stuff (namely the agent's brain).

    I am acknowledging the existence (and necessity) of some such dynamical processes as enabling conditions (and hence part of (a)) for an agent grasping (b).

    It doesn't seem like you're talking about this, though. It sounds like on your view, the agent's rationality is some mysterious who-knows-what that's not part of the material world and that can somehow operate independently of it?

    Rational abilities aren't mysterious who-knows-what. They are abilities to appreciate and be motivated by rational considerations. They are abilities that are being inculcated though normal education just like, say the ability to count, to answer to one's given name or to play chess. But they are distinguishable from the material processes that implement them since they are defined abstractly by reference to what it is that they are abilities for and, furthermore, they are multiply realizable.
  • Jamesk
    172
    Is that not free enough for you? Do you insist that true freedom entails being sufficiently free to make a different choice given exactly the same set of deciding factors? That seems absurd - because it implies a freedom to make choices for no reason at all.Relativist

    Which is Hume's argument against the Libertarian definition of freewill. An undetermined will is a random will and if all of our acts are random then how can you be morally responsible?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    But that doesn't make them suitable to being themselves located in particular places or times (any more than numbers or premises of arguments can be). That would be a category error.Pierre-Normand

    You don't seem to be understanding that I don't agree that it's coherent to say that there is anything not located in particular places and times. That includes numbers and premises of arguments. The only category error there arises from a misunderstanding, or simply a lack of concern with, what numbers and premises of arguments are ontologically.

    I am acknowledging the existence (and necessity) of some such dynamical processes as enabling conditions (and hence part of (a)) for an agent grasping (b).Pierre-Normand

    I'm not sure what that has to do with the comment of mine it's following. "Enabling conditions" doesn't make it coherent to say that it somehow occurs non-temporally or not in a particular location.

    But they are distinguishable from the material processes that implement themPierre-Normand

    No, they are not. And abstractions are mental processes.
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