I don't understand why the 'free will' thing keeps popping back up again and again. Either you don't have it or you do and it will not change the way you behave. If you suddenly learned that you do not possess 'free will' will you just out of a window???? Are you not going to put bad people in prison????? Or are you going to just continue doing what you have been doing???? What would the universe look like if it was not predictable or only predictable to a variable degree? Can you imagine such a universe? 

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Thanks! I accidently deleted that post a just before you replied. 

Actually I find humans pretty predictable with sufficient information. Not absolutely so of course, no more than I can absolutely predict any other system of sufficient complexity (I can't predict the weather all that well either :p), but I can do a pretty good job as people do. It's part of being a social species. Not the sum of our parts? I don't find any evidence to support such a claim. Good? Evil? Any objective definition of those terms that's generally accepted? Some people define homosexuality as "evil". People can "choose" not to be that way then? See the flaws in this definition? Why would anyone "choose" to be "evil"?  I understand your argument. It's part of the desire to see ourselves somehow apart or above the world around us, but we are very much involved, connected to, and dependent on it. We are the products of our physical composition and the natural laws that regulate the behavior of it. It's a happy dream though, and I'm just as guilty of immersing in it myself. :p

The Law of Indeterminacy (Heisenberg, et al.) is a well establish concept from physics. It forms a basis of quantum mechanics. 

I'm going to plagiarize Sam Harris here. At the neurological level, it seems clear that we are not in control of our minds, but that our minds are in control of us. If you were to trade places with a serial killer molecule for molecule, you'd be a serial killer. Nothing extra makes you different from a serial killer.

If we don't have free will then bad people aren't "bad people" but people who have, and may again do bad things. If that's the case one should not be allowed back into the situation where there is a chance they will repeat such an action not for the sake of punishment but for the sake of safety. Consequences are also a deterrent, and the tendency is that not being able to be in a situation to repeat some offence would be a consequence of a particular "bad" action.

Yes, but in your last paragraph you appear to talk as if the perpetrator may not have free will but that we do. If we don't have free will, then we will just do what it is in our nature to do, because of who we are, just as the criminal did what he did because of who he is.

I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying if we don't have free will then we wouldn't have prisons? We would dumbly follow laws of nature and never do anything but what some genetic programming gave us to do?

No, both the bad criminal and the good judge/jury do whatever they do because they can't do otherwise, so the entire concept of a world in which being free and responsible is actually a sham.

Many seem to confuse the feeling of having free will with non-determinism.  The two are unrelated, just as the feeling of love is unrelated to whether there is an objective, disembodied Spirit of Love that gives you that feeling.

The question of whether a bank robber robbed a bank "by choice" is almost nonsensical:  Given the precise structure and state of the bank robber's brain/body, and the precise context of the bank robber's world, the bank robber robbed the bank. If you rewind the universe and press play again, the bank robber will rob the bank again, because neither his brain/body nor the external context has changed.

The goal of a social system is to alter social behavior - to provide dis|incentives and resources that change the external context for human behavior.  If we rewind the universe but alter the bank robber's external context (different parents, different education system, different rewards/penalties, different laws, different friends, different phobias, etc.), then the bank robber may "decide" not to rob the bank.

Good, bad, free, determined - all irrelevant.  Maximizing social good by altering human behavior - highly relevant.  Debate about good and evil all you want, but if you want to reduce bank robberies, you have to alter the context in which people act: change the external environment and/or change the brain itself (through education, diet, etc.).

Good, bad, free, determined - all irrelevant.  Maximizing social good by altering human behavior - highly relevant.  Debate about good and evil all you want, but if you want to reduce bank robberies, you have to alter the context in which people act: change the external environment and/or change the brain itself (through education, diet, etc.).

But of course the thoroughgoing determinist points out that whether you do that or don't isn't really a choice you are free to make. You will or you won't. That's all.

But we do act and react.  And as a result of this we can enable people to act better.  I see it more as enabling since freedom doesn't exist.

excellent reply

The free will debate is mental masturbation.  And everyone enjoys wanking it.  But, after awhile you (should) come to realize that you need new material to wank to because the old material is really outdated and doesn't even apply to reality.  It is not unlike trying to determine human brain functions by discussing what would happen if you performed fMRI's on the ghosts of unicorns.  Only even that analogy lends too much credence to the whole farce.  Cut away all the philosophical BS in the context and framing of that debate and there is nothing left to mull over.

That's one escape hatch, I suppose. Have you tried using it in an actual philosophy class? Calling it "old material" is a fallacy appealing to a prejudice, not to any sort of proof that it's wrong. So, you leave us where we were before YOU masturbated.

I have no shame in admitting that I have mentally touched myself.  Everybody does it.


By "old material", I am referring to the fact that the whole idea and debate is moot in light of modern science.  It is an archaic argument and idea leftover from a time when we understood the world and ourselves much less than we do today. 

I have not argued it in a philosophy class and the thought of having to do so is painful.  I've seen the debate waged on these very forums dozens, if not hundreds, of times.  Early on I eagerly participated but began avoiding it at all costs.  Why I even jumped in now I have no idea (determinism?).

I have nothing personal against philosophy, but I tend to agree with people like Lawrence Krauss on the nature of philosophy and how it fits into a modern world. 


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