• Bartricks
    1.1k
    Here's how some people reason:

    1. If I am morally responsible, then I have free will (if P, then Q)
    2. I do not have free will (not Q)
    3. Therefore, I am not morally responsible (therefore, not P)

    That argument is bad because although its first premise is well supported by our rational intuitions, its second one is not. It expresses beliefs rather than describing a representation of reason.

    Here is a much better argument:

    1. If I am morally responsible, then I have free will (if P, then Q)
    2. I am morally responsible (P)
    3. Therefore I have free will (therefore Q)

    That's better becasue both its first and second premises are well supported by our rational intuiitons. So only an irrational person would endorse the first argument over the second, other things being equal.

    It would seem, then, that the evidence is that we have free will rather than that we do not. Nevertheless, some are going to resist this on the basis of further bad arguments, such as this one:

    1. If I have free will, then not everything I think, desire and do has been determined by prior external causes (if P, then Q)
    2. Everything I think, desire and do has been determined by prior external causes (not Q)
    3. Therefore I do not have free will (therefore not P)

    But that's a bad argument because although its first premise has powerful support from our rational intuitions, its second premise has none. It is just another expression of conviction, not a description of a rational representation. And the argument's conclusion contradicts widespread representations of reason. So a reasonable person will conclude that premise 2 is false, not that 3 is true. That is, this is a better argument:

    1. If I have free will, then not everything I think, desire and do has been determined by prior external causes (if P, then Q)
    2. I have free will (P)
    3. Therefore, not everything I think, desire and do has been determined by prior external causes (therefore Q)

    Once more, only an irratonal person would endorse the former over the latter.

    It seems to me, then, that the only way to arrive at the conclusion that we lack free will and are not morally responsible is irrationally. That is, by preferring arguments with weaker premises to those with stronger ones.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    well supported by our rational intuitionsBartricks

    This is the heart of the matter for your approach, isn't it? I don't know what a "rational intuition" is, or at least I don't know what you mean when you say it. You've presented it as a black box without showing us its moving parts. Is it the same as self-evidence? I don't think it is self-evident that if I am morally responsible, then I have free will. That's an assumption, almost a definition. I don't think it is self-evident that I am morally responsible. That's a value judgment, one I share, but also one I recognize for what it is.

    So, what is a rational intuition?
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Self-evident is synonymous with intuitively clear, if intuitively clear means 'clear to our rational intuitions'. 'Self-evident' does not mean what you say. It means the same as 'evident to reason' (and, as that which is evident to our reason is made so by the fact we have rational intuitions that represent it to be the case, self-evident is also synonymous with 'clear to our rational intuitions').
    But we don't need to get into one of those pointless discussions about how words are used. For I agree that it is indeed self evident that if all As are Bs and all Bs are Cs, then all As are Cs (for this is something our reason represents to be the case)
    Bartricks

    I came across this in another thread. I think it provides a pretty good explanation of what you mean by "rational intuition." I've never really liked the idea of self-evidence except as, maybe, a moral statement. "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." As far as I can tell, it just means "seems to me," which is fine, but not enough.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k
    1. If I am morally responsible, then I have free willBartricks

    First, I think it would be very unusual for anyone to actually think this.

    What people tend to think instead is, "If I don't have free will, then I'm not morally responsible for my actions."
  • SophistiCat
    834
    So, what is a rational intuition?T Clark

    It's the point where reasoning stops and table-pounding begins.
  • khaled
    1k
    First, I think it would be very unusual for anyone to actually think this.

    What people tend to think instead is, "If I don't have free will, then I'm not morally responsible for my actions."
    Terrapin Station

    Isn’t that just the contrapositive though? I was surprised to notice that.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k
    Isn’t that just the contrapositive though?khaled

    Yes, and it's what people are likely to think rather than what he said.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    Here is a much better argument:

    1. If I am morally responsible, then I have free will (if P, then Q)
    2. I am morally responsible (P)
    3. Therefore I have free will (therefore Q)

    That's better becasue both its first and second premises are well supported by our rational intuiitons
    Bartricks

    You've put the effect before the cause.

    Also rational intuitions, although I like them a lot, have on most occasions put me I trouble.

    Moral responsibility to me rests on the foundation that ought implies can. If you can't choose freely then there's no ought and therefore no moral responsibility.
  • khaled
    1k
    if it’s a contrapositive doesn’t it mean that thinking one is identical with thinking the other? He just wrote it in a weird way?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k
    if it’s a contrapositive doesn’t it mean that thinking one is identical with thinking the other? He just wrote it in a weird way?khaled

    No. That something is equivalent logically doesn't at all mean that it's equivalent semantically, re the way that people think about something.

    That's a common mistake that's behind a lot of dubious philosophy, including many of the Gettier cases, for example.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    No it isn't. All arguments make appeal to intuitions. It is only by intuition that we know that an argument is valid. What you actually mean is that when someone shows that rational intuitions imply the truth of a thesis that you dislike, then you categorise the intuitions as table poundings rather than do something clever, like address the argument.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    Which premise are you disputing? Or do you think the argument is invalid?
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    And you made an irrelevant point in response.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k
    And you made an irrelevant point in response.Bartricks

    I don't know if it's irrelevant. I'm skeptical that anyone would state "If I am morally responsible, then I have free will" without actually running into that person.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    Ah shall we have another pointless exchange in which you make random assertions, fail to argue anything, and then make my personality the object of your attention instead? Go away Terrapin, you're not worth the trouble.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k


    "I'm skeptical that anyone would state 'If I am morally responsible, then I have free will' without actually running into that person" isn't random on any conventional definition of random. But I guess you're using some unusual definition.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k


    And if no one would state that, then arguing against it is arguing against a straw man of course.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    No it isn't. You don't know what a straw man is. Stop using terms you don't understand.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    Which premise are you disputing? Or do you think the argument is invalid?Bartricks

    Free will leads to real choice leads to moral responsibility. The causal chain flows ----> in that direction and not the reverse as you seem to be suggesting.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    I don't follow. Which premise are you disputing?
  • Pfhorrest
    159
    "If I am morally responsible, then I have free will" is definitionally true for some forms of compatibilism, like mine, for which freedom of will is just equivalent to the functional capacity to reason about what is the right course of action and to have that reasoning be effective on your behavior.

    From that it logically follows, as in the OP, that we can conclude that someone has free will if we know that they are morally responsible. People with free will are definitionally the ones that we hold morally responsible: those who are able to change their behavior in response to moral judgement.

    But "If I have free will, then not everything I think, desire and do has been determined by prior external causes" is only definitionally true on an incompatibilist view of free will. On any compatibilist conception, including modern ones, having free will is completely independent of nondeterminism, and may in fact be dependent on adequate determinism, in that any functional capacity relies on causation to operate reliably in order to function reliably.

    So you can conclude"I am morally responsible therefore I have free will" for one sense of "free will", and you can conclude "I have free will therefore determinism is false" for another sense of "free will", but you can't string them together to get "I am morally responsible therefore determinism is false" without conflating two different senses of the term "free will".
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    I agree that moral responsibility and free will can largely be used interchangeably. I don't think that's just something compatibilists would say - the terms are used interchangeably by most disputants. That is, when it comes to the contemporary debate over free will, the dispute is not over whether free will is required for moral responsibility - it is almost universally agreed that it is and that it is that kind of free will, the responsibility-grounding kind, that is what's under debate - but over what conditions need to be satisfied in order to be morally responsible/free.

    But "If I have free will, then not everything I think, desire and do has been determined by prior external causes" is only definitionally true on an incompatibilist view of free will.Pfhorrest

    No, that's not true. It would not matter if it was true, for a powerful argument does not require premises that are beyond all dispute, but premises that seem to have powerful support from reason - and that one does (hence why so many are persuaded that incompatibilism is true).

    But it isn't true. Logically speaking one could be a compatibilist and accept that if everything we think, desire and do has been determined by prior external causes we lack free will. For one could maintain that so long as we exist with aseity - that is, so long as we have not been created but have instead existed eternally - then the condition can be satisfied consistent with causal determinism being true.

    So, in fact that premise is neutral between compatibilism and incompatibilism. That is, it does not beg the question against compatibilsts.

    Like I say, it would not matter if it did - for it is bad reasoning to start out with a position (be it compatiblism or incompatbilism) and then reject premises that seem unfriendly to it.

    My point, then, is that people do tend to reason badly about free will and the form that bad reasoning takes is to form a theory first, and then filter what reason says through that filter.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment