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Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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Can we have free will and moral responsibility?

Yes
13
65%
No
1
5%
Don't know
2
10%
Don't agree with how the question is presented
4
20%
 
Total votes: 20

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animist
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#161 Post by animist » April 12th, 2012, 12:02 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Compassionist wrote:Let's assume that someone has free will (I don't see how that would be possible but let's assume it for the sake of the discussion). Could he or she quit having the free will if her or she did not want to have free will?
no I don't think so. You don't really operate FW as some activity, it is just a feature to some degree of many activities. You could of course enslave yourself to something like a drug intentionally, knowing that your addiction would limit your future FW. Does that help?

Compassionist
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#162 Post by Compassionist » April 12th, 2012, 12:33 pm

animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:Let's assume that someone has free will (I don't see how that would be possible but let's assume it for the sake of the discussion). Could he or she quit having the free will if her or she did not want to have free will?
no I don't think so. You don't really operate FW as some activity, it is just a feature to some degree of many activities. You could of course enslave yourself to something like a drug intentionally, knowing that your addiction would limit your future FW. Does that help?
Yes, that helps. Thank you.

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animist
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#163 Post by animist » April 13th, 2012, 1:12 pm

Compassionist wrote:It is only later on that we become conscious of a choice. This means that neither I, nor anyone else, makes choices. We just become aware of choices that are made unconsciously. That's why the freedom to choose is an illusion. I don't feel free because I am not free. I am 'free' to post or not post in this forum but this freedom is illusory as the choice to post is made unconsciously and I just become aware of the choice later on. Do you understand what I am saying?
yes, but I don't accept the logical move from the fact that an unconscious "decision" instantaneously precedes what we call out conscious decisions to some devaluation of the latter, and certainly not that this in any makes us unfree. This is a blatant dualism which separates conscious and unconscious, and I think most people who do believe in FW (the vast majority) would not be at all suprised that conscious decisions have a neurological basis. I doubt that reading the book you mention will affect my views, but I will certainly try to get the book - I did not mean to sound dismissive about it

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animist
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#164 Post by animist » April 13th, 2012, 2:02 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:Imagine that JDH could not only could "see" MS's decisions before the latter was aware of them but that he could also change the colours (or variables, as Compo would say) which his screen associated with MS's decisions. MS would then presumably "choose" to do something which he had not originally intended - and without any knowledge of this intentional outside manipulation! This really would be a "choice" which was in fact an illusion.
Hmm. Sounds like the stuff of a (bad) sci-fi movie.
maybe, but good SF has used the general idea of manipulating minds, whether memories or whatever, eg "Total Recall" and the Philip Dick story on which it is based:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Recall

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#165 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » April 13th, 2012, 2:10 pm

animist wrote:
Emma wrote:That sees to be something rather different from a sense of agency, but I suppose a person brushing her teeth can easily move from doing it automatically to doing it consciously.
that is actually the reverse of what I meant. Surely one can consciously start to do something which seems good, then get into a habit of it.
Oh, yes, of course. OK, I understand what you meant now. I was a bit confused by "I was consciously aware of the good reasons for the habit, even if my getting into the habit was not exactly a conscous decision in the way you express this". And as you were talking about teeth-brushing, I was envisaging someone who had got into the habit of doing it when she was a child, not through a conscious decision but as a consequence of parental training. I would have thought that quite a lot of our habits are things we picked up as children, as a result of either deliberate or inadvertent training, or operant conditioning, or whatever you want to call it.
animist wrote:The conscious intentionality of this does not really disappear and will reappear if the person is asked why they are performing this semi-automatic action, but by definition the person will not have a conscious sense of agency on each and every occasion that they perform this action.
No. And even if the person did make a conscious decision to perform the action the very first time, they might not necessarily have made a conscious decision to get into the habit of doing it. And they might not have been aware of the consequences of getting into the habit of doing it.
animist wrote:I think I have said before that "ought" entails "can" - so yes, that is the principle on which MR requires FW.
OK. The whole "ought implies can" discussion is coming back to me now. I remember distinguishing between a hypothetical "can" and a categorical "can", but it's all a bit vague and I'll need to remind myself.
animist wrote:back to punishment, I see. I think that this issue is not quite as central to the FW debate as is blame, and that we probably agree about retribution. But I get the impression that you have shifted ground over blame, which IS central to FW and MR - is that so?
I don't think so. I think I've been pretty consistent in trying to distinguish between blame that is a matter of identifying those who have caused harm and a more morally loaded kind of blame, which, as I understand it, is significant precisely because it has implications about what a person's deserves. I've called that "moral blame" previously. And this is what I said last August: "Yes, I agree that the whodunnit kind of blame is not really simple, but it is simple compared to your type of blame, which seems to me to be extraordinarily complex, as well as fundamentally flawed. The kind of blame that many people (not you) seem to employ is associated with the belief that the person blamed deserves to suffer. That's why it is considered to be a necessary condition for retributive punishment. On reflection, your kind of blame does seem closer to my "functional" blame than to that kind of extreme moral blame. I would probably accept the idea of a moral blame that was a combination of identifying the causes and causal agents of an act and a moral assessment of that act, and I would even agree with you about the need for some kind of ethical agreement ... But when so many people (I think most people) use blame in the way that suggests that a person deserves to suffer for what he or she has done, I'm still very uncomfortable about using the word to mean something very different, unless it's obvious from the context. I think it's misleading, and I'd rather find other ways of expressing such things." I don't think I've shifted ground from that.

Emma

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animist
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#166 Post by animist » April 14th, 2012, 8:04 am

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:back to punishment, I see. I think that this issue is not quite as central to the FW debate as is blame, and that we probably agree about retribution. But I get the impression that you have shifted ground over blame, which IS central to FW and MR - is that so?
I don't think so. I think I've been pretty consistent in trying to distinguish between blame that is a matter of identifying those who have caused harm and a more morally loaded kind of blame, which, as I understand it, is significant precisely because it has implications about what a person's deserves.
Emma
I am sure that you have been consistent, and I find it hard enough to recall what I said months ago, let alone what you did! But "blame" does have a moral connotation most of the time, that's all, so I get confused if you use the word; isn't it difficult for all of us to discuss things like this when each of us means slightly different things by the same word? By the way, I have changed my ideas a bit about the definitional relationship between FW and what I called "simple" freedom (simple only in the sense that it does not include FW) - I tried to express this in the last long post, but was obviously not at all clear, and I have a lot of explaining to do. :laughter: Work deadline next week, tho'!

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#167 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » April 14th, 2012, 4:42 pm

animist wrote:I am sure that you have been consistent, and I find it hard enough to recall what I said months ago, let alone what you did! But "blame" does have a moral connotation most of the time, that's all, so I get confused if you use the word; isn't it difficult for all of us to discuss things like this when each of us means slightly different things by the same word?
But I've used the word only once in this recent exchange, in response to your using it with reference to my views, and I explained exactly what I meant by it (see page 5 of this thread), so I'm not sure why you got confused. :D
animist wrote:By the way, I have changed my ideas a bit about the definitional relationship between FW and what I called "simple" freedom (simple only in the sense that it does not include FW) - I tried to express this in the last long post, but was obviously not at all clear ...
Oh, maybe I didn't read that. Sorry. Er ... Which long post?
animist wrote:... and I have a lot of explaining to do. :laughter: Work deadline next week, tho'!
Talking of a lot of explaining, I've just written a 2,000 word message on the topic of freedom, which I realised was far to long to post here. It's an attempt to pin down the common ground that clearly exists between your views and mine, and I know I've attempted that in the past with little success, but I'm rather hoping I've made at least some progress this time. Trouble is, I don't know what to do with it. Maybe it's time to try to resurrect the blog again.

Emma

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animist
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#168 Post by animist » April 14th, 2012, 6:42 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:But I've used the word only once in this recent exchange, in response to your using it with reference to my views, and I explained exactly what I meant by it (see page 5 of this thread), so I'm not sure why you got confused. :D
that's probably just me getting easily confused :wink: - I thought you might have said something about blame when talking to Compo, but I probably imagined it!
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:By the way, I have changed my ideas a bit about the definitional relationship between FW and what I called "simple" freedom (simple only in the sense that it does not include FW) - I tried to express this in the last long post, but was obviously not at all clear ...
Oh, maybe I didn't read that. Sorry. Er ... Which long post?
I think you have seen it, the one where I mention Simon Pegg, but the relevant bit is later on, when mentioning Theologica. What I am thinking is that manipulation is what pertains more to FW, and constraint and coercion more to freedom of action - nothing very worldshattering about that, but I don't think that is what I said way back on the Free Will thread
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:... and I have a lot of explaining to do. :laughter: Work deadline next week, tho'!
Talking of a lot of explaining, I've just written a 2,000 word message on the topic of freedom, which I realised was far to long to post here. It's an attempt to pin down the common ground that clearly exists between your views and mine, and I know I've attempted that in the past with little success, but I'm rather hoping I've made at least some progress this time. Trouble is, I don't know what to do with it. Maybe it's time to try to resurrect the blog again.

Emma
as I said, I am changing a bit, so might be better to leave it for now - but phew, well done!
:smile:

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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#169 Post by George McFly » April 24th, 2012, 6:49 pm

The free will/determinism debate does my head in and the reason why is that we can not completely disentangle ourselves from our education, culture, class, race , nationality and so on. So these factors will build a case before we begin for determinism. So to prove free will is flawed from the outset. I believe that there is a case for both. Just as with evolution there is spontaneous mutation and adaption so there is free will though on the back of determinism.

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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#170 Post by Compassionist » April 26th, 2012, 11:25 am

How could the same variables produce a different choice? Could the captain of the Titanic have chosen to go slowly due to iceberg warnings given his confidence that Titanic was not in danger from icebergs? I think not. Choices don't occur free from variables but according to variables. If you examine the neural mechanism by which choices take place, you will see that there is no room for free will, only determinism. Causality rules!

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animist
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#171 Post by animist » April 26th, 2012, 11:41 am

Compassionist wrote:How could the same variables produce a different choice? Could the captain of the Titanic have chosen to go slowly due to iceberg warnings given his confidence that Titanic was not in danger from icebergs? I think not. Choices don't occur free from variables but according to variables. If you examine the neural mechanism by which choices take place, you will see that there is no room for free will, only determinism. Causality rules!
indeed, but you are using "could" in a tautological way that does not rule out FW. I explained this towards the end of the FW thread I think, but I am a bit busy at present so don't have the free will to back this up :wink:

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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#172 Post by stevenw888 » April 26th, 2012, 2:58 pm

From another thread
Dave B wrote:
Just a point, George, please do not be afraid to ask what you might think are silly questions on science or philosophical threads - the worst you will suffer is silly answers!
I feel empowered by Dave's comment on the "Introductions" thread to add to the current discourse on this thread.

How can we not have free will? I do not understand the argument that opposes this statement. I know nothing about philosophy or theology or indeed many other subjects touched upon in this thread, but I do know that when I get up in the morning, it's my decision as to whether I take my dog for a walk. It's not fate or any predestined fact.
Either a) I decide to walk her, or b) I decide not to walk her. This may or may not have anything to do with the weather. I then spend all day making choices, by exercising my free will. Shall I have soup for lunch or shall I have beans on toast? Shall I have a banana afterwards, or shall I have an orange? We eat out with my mother-in-law every Thursday evening, so later today I will make a decision - do we eat at the Black Horse or do we eat at the Hare and Hounds? These free will decisions may sound trite but these are decisions I make every day and no-one will convince me that I have anything other than free will in any and all of these decisions.

In 1989, I had to decide whether to stay with my existing employer, or start a new container haulage business with two colleagues. All external advice advised me that I would be better off staying put and continuing to work for my existing employer, since the salary was good and the prospects were excellent. However I made the decision to leave my employer and go into business with my two friends. This was free will in action!
"There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots." - From the film "Top Gun"

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Val
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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#173 Post by Val » May 1st, 2012, 9:30 pm

I used to find that if I exercised my free will and did not walk my two Old English Sheepdogs, they used to shit on the kitchen floor.

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Re: Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility?

#174 Post by Alan H » May 1st, 2012, 10:38 pm

They were just exercising their own free will, Val. :wink:
Alan Henness

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