• Robert Lockhart
    170
    The paradox of the idea of free will surely is that it envisages the possibility of human autonomy of choice in the context of the scientific finding that every aspect of our perception is determined by the electro-chemical constitution of the brain.

    Nonetheless, it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that the question of autonomy of choice with which philosophy is specifically concerned is that of moral autonomy of choice; The question of amoral autonomy, primarily appropriate to the discipline of neuro-science – ex: whether I could ‘choose’ to jump into a swimming pool - being of interest to philosophy only indirectly, on the basis of the hypothesis that the means by which any putative capacity of amoral autonomy were possible could conceivably then form the means by which a capacity of moral autonomy would be possible.

    However, since the question of moral as opposed to amoral autonomy might plausibly involve the additional consideration of the feasibility of a concept of moral knowledge, then the assumption that the possibility of moral autonomy could justifiably be predicated on that of amoral autonomy can hardly be considered self evident. Perhaps even, regarding the possibility of moral autonomy, there could conceivably exist a means by which the acquisition of objective moral knowledge would supersede the brain-dependent nature of human perception cited as acting to render the idea of amoral autonomy of choice logically meaningless. However of course, given the principle that the brain-dependant nature of our perception does act inescapably as a barrier to the possibility of amoral autonomy then, correspondingly, the feasibility of moral autonomy would seem to require the idea that moral knowledge be acquirable by a means independent of the material brain or, if such were to be proven to be acquirable solely via the material brain, then at least that, once it were rcquired, it be capable of conferring a subsequent independance of brain determined perception - ideas both controversial to put it mildly.

    Notwithstanding those objections though, given the validity in principle of the idea of objective moral knowledge, the means by which such a thing might then be acquirable remains an open question and, of course, there does in practice exist numerous assertions claiming to derive from practical experience to the effect that the idea is a meaningful one.

    Arguably therefore, it might be more appropriate to frame the free will question in a more reduced and specific form along the lines of, say, 'Do human beings possess a capacity for moral autonomy?
  • Echarmion
    2.2k
    Arguably therefore, it might be more appropriate to frame the free will question in a more reduced and specific form such as, ‘Do human beings possess a capacity for moral autonomy?Robert Lockhart

    I do think that this is an important angle, because it makes explicit the connection between freedom and morality.

    I am not sure Why this relies on the idea of objective morality though, especially since I do not know what object such a morality could be referring to.
  • NOS4A2
    4.8k


    Arguably therefore, it might be more appropriate to frame the free will question in a more reduced and specific form along the of, say, 'Do human beings possess a capacity for moral autonomy?

    This is an important question, of course, but I think at the very least the question “is an action self-caused?” Is more important to debate of free will. If an action is self-caused, it follows that nothing else decided or otherwise caused the action.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.6k
    I agree vehemently with the idea that free will is more related to moral issues than to metaphysical ones, but it sounds like you're also making a metaphysical issue of morality here. Correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like you're suggesting something like that there is a nonphysical realm of moral facts, and that that moral realm is causally effective on human thought and behavior, so that human thought and behavior is not determined solely by the physical realm of ordinary natural facts.

    If that's the case, then it seems that it doesn't really solve indeterminists' usual concerns about determinism undermining freedom, because everything is still completely determined, it's just determined by a combination of physical and nonphysical things. It also introduces this big thorny issue of what has been called "queerness" of moral facts, if you take a moral fact to consist in an accurate description of some kind weird nonphysical thing.

    Instead, my take on free will is that determinism is entirely irrelevant; rather, being determined in the right way is what matters, and indeterminism gives you nothing of value, at best undermining the valuable kind of determination that constitutes free will. A will, on my account, is a judgement about what is the best course of action, an intention that you do something, and a will is free when it is causally effective on you actually doing that action; in contrast to when something else causes you to do something despite the fact that you judge that not to be the best thing for you to do. That process of making judgements is essentially the capacity for moral reason, which I don't hold to be any kind of perception of nonphysical moral stuff, but that's a whole big metaethical can of worms to get into there. So freedom of will is essentially the power of moral reasoning to direct your behavior, over the influence of anything else that might influence your behavior. And that power of moral reasoning can be a completely deterministic physical mechanism, just like the ordinary kind of non-moral reasoning.

    This view is similar to those of philosophers like Harry Frankfurt and Susan Wolf, if you want to read more on them.
  • Mww
    2.6k
    it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that the question of autonomy of choice with which philosophy is specifically concerned is that of moral autonomy of choice.Robert Lockhart

    Moral autonomy.......absolutely. But then....the kind of choices moral autonomy is responsible for, depends on one’s philosophical leanings that can only arise from pure a priori conceptions. Otherwise, you’re talking nothing but objective cultural ethics, which is very far indeed from subjective moral autonomy.
    ——————-

    Arguably therefore, it might be more appropriate to frame the free will question in a more reduced and specific form along the (lines) of, say, 'Do human beings possess a capacity for moral autonomy?Robert Lockhart

    Again, absolutely. Upon this level of reduced form, however, I venture to say some further reduction should be considered, for even the granting moral autonomy still needs sufficient justification.

    As echarmion mentioned.......
  • Robert Lockhart
    170
    The point, I would say, is to distinguish what would properly be the nature of a philosophical enquiry regarding the problem of free will, i.e. that such an enquiry should concern the possibility of moral autonomy, from what would properly be the nature of a neuro scientific enquiry concerning same, i.e. that the latter type of enquirey should be confined to considering the question of amoral autonomy.

    Relatively little in principle is contingent on the answer to the latter question – apart maybe from some consequences relating to how, say, ad campaigns might more effectively be designed to manipulate behaviour and stuff like that. On the answer to the former question of course are contingent factors critically related to the meaningfulness or otherwise of our human condition.

    It could perhaps be asked what free will might ultimately consist in if not in a state of moral autonomy? Accordingly then - until an alternative answer is provided - the object of a philosophical enquiry concerning the free will problem should be to consider the feasibility of that concept.

    There is a school of thought which proposes that moral behaviour in any given individual derives fundamentally from the degree of their objective moral knowledge and that the latter, unlike intellectual knowledge, cannot be gained vicariously but is acquirable only via personal experience. The basic postulate of this theory is that it is logically impossible for a human being to wilfully assent to an act they objectively know to be morally wrong and that free will (i.e. moral autonomy) must ultimately consist in objective moral knowledge consequent on personal experience, the degree of free will characterising an individual being concomitant with their degree of moral knowledge.

    Accordingly this theory considers the free will problem, as it pertains to philosophy, to be a sub set of the problem of moral knowledge.
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