• RolandTyme
    47
    Alright,

    Been thinking a while about free will and consequentialism. I'm going to phrase this very roughly, then see how the conversation goes.

    If we don't have free will, then what the consequences of our actions are is predetermined - or at least not within our control, if the universe isn't predetermined itself. We may be good or bad, better or worse, do what's right or wrong, but ultimately none of it is up to the individual or society etc. in question. This might incline us to be more forgiving or it may not - again our reactions will be part of just what is going to happen, or could happen. The idea that people could fall short of what is required of them I think still makes sense, but the idea of imagining they could be otherwise is just that - imagining something, not something we could expect. Roughly, I see this as moving more back to how the ancient greeks, for example, used to assess action - not as, say, modern christians would.

    But if we have free will, it seems difficult for it to make sense of holding people account for their actions. People do things for reasons. But if they do them for reasons, then unless they are irrational, they will act on them. I've never been convinced that leaves much scope for choosing between what reason prescribes, and what we otherwise want to do, or have other but lesser reason to do or whatever. If we choose what we have most reason to do, then we are being guided by our rationality (for example). If we genuinely insist we have the power to choose between what is rational and what is irrational, then we must have the power to choose between following what reason says, or not following what reason says. But then do we have a reason for that choice? If we do, we are following what reason says ( one balance, let's assume). If we don't, we are choosing freely maybe, but arbitrarily. So we judge people (and ourselves) on actions chosen completely arbitrarily - they could have as easily gone completely the other way, on the same grounds.

    Anyway, let's assume we do have free will. If we do, how does consequentialism play out? As we can no longer talk about arranging society so as to direct (or even "nudge") people to maximise the good, or whatever. Everyone just reacts to what they face on their own free will. So the only good consequences we can really bring about are in the environment that other people (and animals, I would include). But let's think about if we act to harm another person. What is within their power in the reaction they have. We know that human beings don't have free will about feeling pain. But do they have free will over how they react to the pain? We might say no, but we cannot appeal simply to the fact that most people react badly to it, as we can as easily say that certain strict moral standards don't apply human beings, as most people don't abide by them. That's a fallacious argument, in itself.

    Anyway, my question - does anyone have a way that free will and morality go together in a non-arbitrary way? I would add I'm not sceptical about morality - I just think that the straightforward story connecting it to free will doesn't seem to be the whole picture.

    Thanks very much
  • ToothyMaw
    958
    But if we have free will, it seems difficult for it to make sense of holding people account for their actions. People do things for reasons. But if they do them for reasons, then unless they are irrational, they will act on them.RolandTyme

    It seems to me that if people have free will they can choose to act on reasons; reasons as far as I can tell don't directly compel one to act a certain way. Reasons can be both good or bad, but ultimately people can still choose and thus be held accountable for acting a certain way if one assumes free will. There is nothing compelling us to be rational; if rationality was ingrained in human nature such as that we always act rationally then free will would be kind of trivial I think. But humans are often irrational. That being said even irrational people usually act for reasons, even if not for good reasons, so I don't think that the potential to act irrationally automatically makes decisions arbitrary. Once again, there are both good and bad reasons.

    You first paragraph is right on I think, but I don't understand the third really.
  • Friendly
    7
    I believe we are not intrinsically molevelant creatures and that's the link between free will and morality. We are social creatures that are wired for reciprocal altruism which enables us to survive as a tribe, to share our spoils when the going is good safe in the knowledge when our chips are down, our neighbors will return the favour, this doesn't just relate to food. So free will or no free will, it's in our evolutionary biology to act morally.
  • Gnomon
    2.6k
    Anyway, my question - does anyone have a way that free will and morality go together in a non-arbitrary way? I would add I'm not sceptical about morality - I just think that the straightforward story connecting it to free will doesn't seem to be the whole picture.RolandTyme
    Excerpt from blog post : The Paradox of FreeWill
    I summarize my personal hypothesis of FreeWill Within Determinism as follows : Freewill is the ability of self-conscious beings to choose preferred options from among those that destiny (or subconscious) presents. In the complex (non-linear) network of cause & effect, a node with self-awareness is a causal agent. With multiple Pre-determined inputs, and many Potential outputs, the Self can choose from a wide range of Possibilities, creating local novelty within a globally-deterministic system. So, for an omniscient Creator, or an omnipotent Cause, to allow FreeWill (to fulfill personal wants & wishes) would require a side-road of statistical Chance to provide options and detours from strict Determinism. In that case, morally responsible free-agency is compatible with divine creation, but not with predestination. It is compatible with the weirdness of Quantum Indeterminacy, but not with the logical necessity of Quantum Mechanics. You might say that the “Laws” of Physics (and of Evolution) are interpreted according to the “Rules” of Randomness. Therefore, if you want to believe that you are a moral agent, feel free.
    http://bothandblog5.enformationism.info/page13.html

    Determinism is a long chain of cause & effect, with no missing links.
    Freewill is when one of those links is smart enough to absorb a cause and modify it before passing it along. In other words, a self-conscious link is a causal agent---a transformer, not just a dumb transmitter. And each intentional causation changes the course of deterministic history to some small degree.

    ___Yehya
    http://bothandblog2.enformationism.info/page68.html

    Rational Moral Progress : http://bothandblog2.enformationism.info/page63.html
  • RolandTyme
    47


    Thanks for your comments, Friendly.

    On your first comment: I don't see how whether we are intrinsically malevolent or benevolent links to whether we have free will or not. We can imagine creatures whose actions aren't freely chosen of both types.

    On whether we have evolved to act morally - I agree we must have, though I also say that we have evolved to act immorally. In a certain sense, anything human beings do is something they have evolved to do, given that as a species we are the products of natural selection. More specifically, however, we can ask what aspects of ourselves are the result of being selected for, and which simply came along with the way our ancestors (and our) gene's mutated, whether those mutations lead to survival benefits for ourselves or not. On the former characteristics, I agree that, to a degree, traits which helped the species survive in our typical society-based way will have been selected for, and many of those traits are associated with morality. Some of them are associated with immorality, perhaps, however, such as nepotism, for example. Finally, we can always ask the question, of any common human behaviour, whether it is immoral or not, or moral or not.
  • RolandTyme
    47


    Thanks for your comments Aleph Numbers, and thanks also as I don't think I was clear enough.

    "If people have free will, they can chose to act on reasons", as you write. But then we have to ask the question, do they so choose arbitrarily, or do they choose on the basis of said reasons. If they choose abitrarily, then presumably they could chose to something else equally abitrarily, and if free will is possible, then this kind of choice does nothing to militate against it. However, if they choose on the basis of those reasons, we can then ask whether they can choose otherwise. Perhaps their are come other separate reasons for taking another course of action? Let's call the first reason or set of reasons Reason A, and the second set Reason B. We now want to choose between Reason A and Reason B. If there exists a rational way to choose between them (let's call this, Reason C), then if we follow this, then ultimately we are choosing on the basis of Reason C. If this is our only choice, if we are to be rational, then we are left with a Hobson's choice. We choose, of course - choosing doesn't imply nor is incompatible with not having free will - it's just an aspect of being the kinds of creatures with the kind of psychology of whatever we have. Having a Hobson's choice isn't having free will. If the Reason A and Reason B can't be compared - if there is no rational way to choose between them - then the choice is arbitrary again. If the question is between someone acting on reasons, or acting in some way which has no reason for it (let's assume it's acting on some irrational desire), if you are rational you will act on the reason. If your free will stems from your rationality, your rationality is really only giving you one choice. If your free will isn't linked to being rational, then you can choose to act irrationally or rationally. But on what basis do you choose? Rationally, or on some other basis opposed to rationality? Whatever basis it is, if you choose on that basis, that basis won't sanction you choosing the other option, so again you aren't free to choose between these two options (on the basis of the reason you have chosen on). If there is no basis on which to choose between your options, you are choosing abitratirily again.

    More generally, it's not about whether people who freely choose act on reasons or not. And I don't think it's whether the basis of your action is some kind of alien force. You can completely identify with being a rational person, and hence choose the rational choice. Or you might just have a character which is, unreflectively, rational, and so always judge in favour of the rational choice. But none of this implies that you can freely choose between the rational choice and some other option and that choice not be arbitrary.

    You're right, my third paragraph is too condensed. Roughly, I was just trying to think through the consequences for consequentialism of having free will or not having free will. MY rough observation is that most people tend to think about consequentialism as if they have free will be other people in society don't. We talk about what actions will bring about the best outcomes - but how can we presume what the outcomes will be, if we can't know how people are going to behave, because we all have free will (the fact we seem to make sociological predictions about how large groups of people will behave which are often accurate perhaps tells against free will, perhaps not - we might expect more randomness, but in a certain sense, but is randomness the same as abitrariness in this context?)

    Thanks again for your comments. Hope this makes more sense.
  • RolandTyme
    47


    Thanks for your comment, Gnomon.

    Your position seems compatible with free will allowing an arbitrary choice between options. But how does morality become involved?
  • Gnomon
    2.6k
    Your position seems compatible with free will allowing an arbitrary choice between options. But how does morality become involved?RolandTyme
    Morality is not an arbitrary choice, but a deliberate decision to act in the interest of others. A freewill Agent acts in self-interest. A Moral Agent acts in Other's interest. :smile:
  • Mapping the Medium
    204
    Morality is not an arbitrary choice, but a deliberate decision to act in the interest of others. A freewill Agent acts in self-interest. A Moral Agent acts in Other's interest. :smile:Gnomon

    :clap: :ok: :cheer:
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