• Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    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.Terrapin Station

    It may be inconsistent with some strong doctrine of nominalism (of spatiotemporal particulars), but is it incoherent? Where is the number five located, in your view, and when did it go there? In any case, I already granted you that, in a sense, an agent's reasons for acting have some sort of a relationship to time since they can weigh with that agent's process of practical reasoning at some time and not at other times. For all that, an agent's reason for acting (which may be the same as another agent's reason for acting on a different occasion) isn't identical to the process whereby the agent grasps it and acts on its ground. And hence, those two things fulfill different causal-explanatory purposes.

    What I am relying on, in order to distinguish conceptually between your (a)-items and your (b)-items is the irreducibility of the latter to the former, and, in parallel to that, the irreducibility of (b*) rationalizing explanations of behavior to (a*) nomological-causal explanations of behavior in terms or 'psychological' laws (or neurophysiological laws). This irreducibility claim doesn't commit me to weird ontologies of abstract objects. It may even be rendered consistent with some reasonable form of nominalism, if you would insist on that.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    It may be inconsistent with some strong doctrine of nominalism (of spatiotemporal particulars), but is it incoherent? Where is the number five located, in your view, and when did it go there?Pierre-Normand

    I obviously think it's incoherent.

    Numbers are located at persons' brains when the person is thinking of the number in question.

    For all that, an agent's reason for acting (which may be the same as another agent's reason for acting on a different occasion)Pierre-Normand

    It's not literally the same (and yes, I am a nominalist).


    I have very little idea what you're saying either here:

    an agent's reasons for acting have some sort of a relationship to time since they can weigh with that agent's process of practical reasoning at some time and not at other times. For all that, an agent's reason for acting (which may be the same as another agent's reason for acting on a different occasion) isn't identical to the process whereby the agent grasps it and acts on its ground.Pierre-Normand

    Or here:

    What I am relying on, in order to distinguish conceptually between your (a)-items and your (b)-items is the irreducibility of the latter to the former, and, in parallel to that, the irreducibility of rationalizing explanations of behavior to nomological-causal explanations of behavior in terms or 'psychological' laws (or neurophysiological laws).Pierre-Normand

    When the agent is at (b), that's a series of events in the agent's brain, during a particular range of time.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    When the agent is at (b), that's a series of events in the agent's brain, during a particular range of time.Terrapin Station

    Suppose I show the written statement of a mathematical theorem to two different mathematicians, Sue and Pam. Both of them convince themselves that the mathematical proposition indeed is a theorem on the basis of a simple proof that they easily come up with. The events that occur in their brains may be very different but the occurrence of those events, in both cases, enable (or implement, if you will) the valid inference of the truth of the proposition on the basis of agreed upon axioms. We may say, then, that the fact that the proposition follows from the axioms explains why Sue and Pam hold it to be true. This fact isn't something that obtains in either Sam's or Pam's brains although it's something that they both grasp thanks to whatever occurs in their brains being in good order (that is, thanks to its being such as to enable correct mathematical reasoning in accordance with commonly endorsed mathematical-logical standards).
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    The problem with that is that on my view, propositions, meaning and truth only are particular events in particular persons' brains (at particular times, etc.)
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    The problem with that is that on my view, propositions, meaning and truth only are particular events in particular persons' brains (at particular times, etc.)Terrapin Station

    Why would that be a problem? What is it a problem for? It is a problem for the ascription of free will to rational agents? How?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    It's a problem for comments like:
    This fact isn't something that obtains in either Sam's or Pam's brainsPierre-Normand

    You were attempting to explain the earlier comments that I didn't understand, right?--with respect to (b)? But your explanation is positing stuff that I think is wrong and that really doesn't make much sense. (Even if it's a fairly common belief.)
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    It's a problem for comments like:
    This fact isn't something that obtains in either Sam's or Pam's brains
    Terrapin Station

    Why it is a problem? Is there no possible explanation, on your view, why Sue and Pam are agreeing (non-accidentally) on the truth of the proposition? If the explanation of Sam's belief merely refers to contingent processes occurring in her brain, and likewise in the case of Pam, then since those processes are different, and no appeal can be made (on your view) to the shared rational principles that govern them both, it would appear that their agreement is merely coincidental.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    It's not coincidental--coincidental means they're effectively "random" with respect to each other. That's not the case here. People interact, they influence reasoning, they influence expression, etc.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    It's not coincidental--coincidental means they're effectively "random" with respect to each other. That's not the case here. People interact, they influence reasoning, they influence expression, etc.Terrapin Station

    Yes. Hence, maybe, a hard determinist might argue that Pam and Sue are compelled to believe in the truth of the proposition owing to contingent cultural forces that they both are being passively subjected to (on the model of material nomological 'causal antecedents'). However, such an account, although popular in some circles, which stresses institution over constitution, seems to me to be blind to the existence of the autonomous abilities which rational individuals have to rationally criticize shared conventions and to convince their peers that they merit being overturned on the ground merely of the cogency of their criticisms. (And what makes it the case that a criticism of shared norms is cogent isn't something that is being nomologically determined by prior events).
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    I'm not saying anything about hard determinism (I buy free will--remember) or being compelled to believe something. It's not a coincidence because we're not talking about apparently "random," unconnected occurrences that have nothing to do with one another. None of that takes any of this outside of particular actions/events that have spatial and temporal locations.

    So when we're talking about particular actions/events with spatial and temporal locations, (a) is either connected to (b) (and (b) (C)) in a causally deterministic way or it is not. They're all a series of actions/events with spatial and temporal locations. So it's a matter of whether ontological freedom is possible anywhere in the system or not.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    I'm not saying anything about hard determinism (I buy free will--remember) or being compelled to believe something. It's not a coincidence because we're not talking about apparently "random," unconnected occurrences that have nothing to do with one another. None of that takes any of this outside of particular actions/events that have spatial and temporal locations.

    So when we're talking about particular actions/events with spatial and temporal locations, (a) is either connected to (b) (and (b) (C)) in a causally deterministic way or it is not. They're all a series of actions/events with spatial and temporal locations. So it's a matter of whether ontological freedom is possible anywhere in the system or not.
    Terrapin Station

    It is the attempt to insert (b) in between (a) and (c) in a linear chain of nomological event-causation that I am objecting to. It rests on a category error since the (b)-items don't have the proper logical form to figure as causal relata in event-event chains of nomological causation. This insertion is an attempt to collapse (or reduce) formal causation into 'efficient' event-event causation. This amounts to an oversimplification of causal explanation. When complex systems such as living things, animals, and human beings, are functionally organized, then, many features of their behavior can be explained by appeal to their specific powers, which are emergent (and multiply realizable) formal features that they have in virtue of the way in which they are internally organized. Looking at the aggregate of 'events' that occurred in the past, prior to them intentionally acting (or behaving), loses the important distinction between (1) those features of their past that generate external constraints on their behavior and (2) those features that enable their functional capabilities to channel their circumstances and opportunities into autonomously generated (and/or rationally intended) outcomes.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    It is the attempt to insert (b) in between (a) and (c) in a linear chain of nomological event-causation that I am objecting to.Pierre-Normand

    But I'm not attempting to insert it in a linear chain of nomological event-causation. That latter part is up to you. I'm just saying that it's there in a linear chain of spatio-temporal events, because anything else is incoherent. Whether those events are deterministic is up to you--that's what I'm asking you.

    (b)-items don't have the proper logical form to figure as causal relata in event-event chains of nomological causation.Pierre-Normand

    I haven't the faintest idea what this is saying, because I have no idea what the "proper logical form" would be in your view, or even why you'd think that we'd be talking about "logical form" per se. (Maybe it's not per se, though--I don't know.)

    When complex systems such as living things, animals, and human beings, are functionally organized,Pierre-Normand

    You have a tendency to drift towards terms, phrases, sentences, etc. where I haven't much of an idea what you're talking about. Here, for example, what's the difference between "functionally organized" and "organized" or not even bringing this up at all, since living things necessarily have some structure (so we wouldn't have to point that out as if some things do not have it)? That loses me, because I'm not sure what you're saying.

    many features of their behavior can be explained by appeal to their specific powers,Pierre-Normand

    Explained as in "what's going on ontologically" or explained as in "here's a set of words that some people take to sufficiently satisfy their wondering about this phenomena"?

    Re multiple realizability, I don't buy it in any literal sense. Again, I'm a nominalist.

    I also don't buy the idea of emergence really.

    (2) those features that enable their functional capabilities to channel their circumstances and opportunities into autonomously generated (and/or rationally intended) outcomes.Pierre-Normand

    I'd need to know what in the world the above is saying to care about "losing the distinction." The first problem is again the word "functional." I just don't know what it's doing there, what it's adding to the word "capabilities."

    The next problem is "channel their circumstances."

    And then re "autonomously generated," in terms of a free will discussion, that term would probably only make sense if you're claiming that freedom obtains.
  • Dfpolis
    538
    1. The natural reaction to hearing about the drunk driver killing the bicyclist is a reactive attitude that the driver is guilty. In most cases, a perpetrator has a feeling of guilt after recognizing a consequence of a bad choiceRelativist

    That is not in dispute.

    It is inconceivable that we would stop holding such people morally accountable, or stop feeling guilty, even if it were somehow proven that determinism is true.Relativist

    This is the very point in question. Personally, I hold no one responsible for actions in which they played no determining role. So, based on my contrary conception, factually, it is simply not inconceivable. As I recall, Clarence Darrow convinced one or more juries to acquit by convincing them that his clients were determined to act as they did. So, this claim is false.

    Indeed, the fact that we have these attitudes contributes to our behavior, because we generally prefer to avoid guilt and social approbation, and enjoy pride and respect.Relativist

    No one is disputing that feelings of responsibility help guide our behavior. The question is are such feelings well-founded. The argument fails to show that they are not.

    2. Could the drunk driver have done differently? Yes she could have, if she had held the strong belief that the risk of driving drunk was so great that it outweighed her impulse to do so. This could only have occurred had there been something different about the past (formation of that belief), but that's reasonable. If our choices aren't the result of our personal beliefs, dispositions, and impulses - what are they? Random?Relativist

    As it stands, 2 is not a compatibilist account of responsibility, but an argument for why a drunk driver should not be held responsible. One might decide to send her to jail to change their behavior, but that does not mean that she is responsible for what she did, only that we might, by this crude means, re-program her.

    No one is denying the role of experience or of beliefs in the decision making process. Practically everyone knows, intellectually, that drunk driving involves grave risks. The question is not about acquired knowledge, but about how the agent weighs the incompatible factors that motivate driving drunk or not. There is no numerical trade-off between the relevant factors, so despite utilitarian objections, no algorithmic maximization can determine the decision. I think we can agree, further, that the decision is made in light of a subjective weighting process -- one that is neither algorithmic nor syllogistically conclusive.

    Can't we also agree that how a person weighs such factors is not merely backward looking, not merely a matter of past experience and belief, but also forward looking -- a matter of what kind of person the agent wishes to be? And, if that is so, then the past is not fully determinative. We know, as a matter of experience, of cases of metanoia, of changes in past beliefs and life styles. While this does not disprove determination by the past, it makes it very questionable.

    As for being "random," that depends on how you define the term. If you mean not predictable, not fully immanent in the prior state, free acts are random in that sense. But, if you take "random" to mean "mindless," no account of well-considered decisions can hold they are random in that sense. Personal beliefs, dispositions, and impulses all enter proairesis, but they alone cannot be determinative because they are intrinsically incommensurate. They are materials awaiting the impress of form. It is not what we consider, but the weight we give to what we are consider, that is determinative. And, we give that weight, not in view of the past alone, but in view of the kind of person we want to emerge in shaping our identity.

    #1 and #2 are more or less independent, but in tandem they provide not only a coherent account of moral responsibility, they also explain why normal functioning people strive for generally moral behavior. We want to avoid guilt, fit in, and we want to avoid approbation by others.Relativist

    I don't think the arguments given do this. They begin by noting that we feel responsible, and show how this plays a role in our behavior -- none of which is in dispute. The question of why would we have a false belief in responsibility if we are not responsible is simply not addressed. Why couldn't we reprogram the drunk driver with prison or a scarlet "D" because reprogramming works (if it does), and not because of an irrelevant responsibility narrative?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    But I'm not attempting to insert it in a linear chain of nomological event-causation. That latter part is up to you. I'm just saying that it's there in a linear chain of spatio-temporal events, because anything else is incoherent. Whether those events are deterministic is up to you--that's what I'm asking you.Terrapin Station

    To clarify a bit, I think 'deterministic' is a predicate that is most suitably applied to systems rather than sets of events. That's because material systems governed by laws are defined with respect to sets of intrinsic properties of their constituents (such a physical predicates, like masses, positions and momenta) while other relational or systemic features of those constituents (and of the whole) are being abstracted away. Hence, looking at the behavior of a rabbit, say, construed purely as a physicochemical 'system'; its 'behavior' (viz. the set of the motions of its parts) may truthfully be said to be deterministic. But that's just because the 'events' that we are looking at are restricted to physical and chemical events, and those events indeed may be governed by deterministic laws (modulo quantum indeterminacies). But this abstract way of looking at the rabbit loses features of its biological organisation and is blind to those 'events' (viz. intentional behaviors and functional physiological processes) that physics and chemistry have nothing to say about.

    Some philosophers such as Jeagwon Kim have mustered arguments, such as the causal exclusion argument, in order to infer determinism at the supervenient level of description (such as the description of the rabbit in functional physiological and/or behavioral terms) from the determinism of the system being supervened upon (the set of the rabbit's inanimate material parts). I think those arguments are flawed, but Kim at least acknowledges the need for such an argument whereas you seem to take its conclusion for granted or just believe the denial of this conclusion to be incoherent.
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