• Example24
    I'm asking whether the question of free will and its answeres are important in any way. Explain which definition of free will or determinism you're arguing with.
    Vote and discuss! I'll use this data for a school project (so please vote truthfully).
    1. Does the question of free will matter? (12 votes)
  • Qwex
    Only if you agree unrestricted humans have free will, to some extent, as some things are beyond our control. You don't choose to dream.

    It is not totally 'free' - write about that.
  • tim wood
    Does the question of free will matter?Example24
    What is the question of free will? What is free will? These not being made explicit, how will you know what anyone's vote means?
  • Relativist
    Yes, the question of free will matters - and that's because it serves as the basis for accountability. That doesn't imply accountability is only appropriate if there is LIBERTARIAN free will, it just means that we we are sufficiently free so that accountability is appropriate and makes a difference.

    Holding people accountable serves as a mechanism for encouraging proper behavior. That's true even if determinism is true. Our (deterministic) decision-making process will then tend to take the societaly imposed consequences into account.
  • Pfhorrest
    I voted Yes assuming a compatibilist definition of free will akin to Susan Wolff's or Harry Frankfurt's (my full view laid out here). Determinism is irrelevant to the kind of free will that matters; conversely, the kind of "free will" that just means freedom from determinism doesn't matter.
  • jgill
    On another forum, since expired, "free will" attracted quite a bit of attention. There seemed to be a minor consensus that, although scientific studies have implied many decisions are made subconsciously, we, as humans, have agency. That was part of a thread that received over 20K posts. :chin:
  • InPitzotl
    I'm voting no; it doesn't matter. For "the definition" of free will, I take the linguistic approach; which is to say, I don't define free will. Instead, I try to analyze how the term is actually used by native speakers of languages.

    That's where things start to fall apart here... people use the term differently. That per se isn't that bad; terms can have different definitions, but something's a bit off when it comes to this particular term. There are lots of "sub-theories" that slip into the free will range; misconceptions about determinism (confusing it with fatalism) for example. Compatibilist notions of free will are cleaner in this regard, but linguistically a fair amount of people disagree that such notions are what is meant by the term.

    To illustrate, picking on Relativist, he says free will matters, because it's the basis for a concept of responsibility; but he seems to lean towards compatibilism. Sam Harris argues, however, that free will is kind of a cruel religious hold back, and it matters that we get rid of the concept. He argues as far as I understand that determinism is true, and therefore we don't have free will. But, he also thinks that responsibility matters, but just doesn't require this hold back.

    But even under such analysis, "free will" is really a derived concept in a theory of mind. And that's where the second problem comes in. We're all agents; and we are imbued with a conscious mind. We can also introspect; and I'm all for introspection; I love exploring the subjective. The problem, however, is that introspection can only show you what introspection can show you. As social creatures, we fill in the gaps with socially collaborative theories, which works well for being functional and members of the human project, but I'm not quite sure we have a really good theory of minds. I think we should be a bit cautious and skeptic here, however; precisely because we're so familiar with our own agency, but only see the tip of the iceberg. The issue here is that familiarity can "feel" like expertise, and we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we know what we're talking about when in fact we're speaking complete nonsense.

    There are hints that something strange is going on. People can form opinions of and characterize other people in terms of core traits, for example, but such projected "properties" of the same person differ depending on who is measuring it. And control per se... as in that thing you do when you move voluntarily that you're not doing when moving involuntarily... is a real phenomena, but doesn't really fit precisely with the general notion of free will. Regarding the same, though, it turns out that control can happen both consciously and non-consciously; which suggests maybe choices can. I don't think the "conscious deliberation theory" of action holds any water... when introspecting it's obviously proven false fairly quickly; in practice, when we act, even morally, we don't pause and contemplate what we want to do every time consciously... in fact, we do that very rarely... quite often, there's just no time to do it. But I don't think equating "us" to our "conscious minds" is accurate either, for the same reason. Also, there's kind of a sliding door as to what we're trying to talk about when we speak of free will; a tick is definitely involuntary... breathing, can be controlled, sort of; sneezing controlled very slightly, occasionally. We seem to be capable of wanting and not wanting and not wanting to want the same thing simultaneously; there are habits, addictions, and compulsions... somewhere in this mix there's a theory of mind that explains why we do what we do when we do it, and it seems like a large portion of this is beyond that introspective firewall.

    I think if we want to figure this stuff out for real, and not just endlessly debate it, we should just ignore this linguistic level on top of our current lay theories and just investigate the raw why we do what we do when we do it, at levels deeper than what we have subjective access to. Then we might find room to define the free will problem properly; but it's possible we would simply outdate it with better theories instead. In the mean time, the actual free will problem doesn't seem all that useful IMO, because we're unqualified to say what exactly that problem is.
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