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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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. 

By "old material", I am referring to the fact that the whole idea and debate is moot in light of modern science.

I know something of modern science, and yet I can't see how it is moot. You aren't trying to find freedom in randomness (quantum mechanics), are you? Randomness doesn't rescue free will any more than determinism does.

As for your assessment of philosophy, attitudes aren't facts. You're attitude is irrelevant.

Quantum mechanical effects are arguably not random based on the precise definition of the word. They are just indeterminate. This is simply a consequence of our perceptual limitations that are defined by physical law. A random system's current state is independent of its prior states or surrounding conditions. An unpredictable system is one that an observer is simply unable to determine the next state of the system even if the system isn't actually random; the observer simply doesn't know the nature of the system well enough to figure it out. The common fallacy is to assume a system's nature to be random without any evidence to support that conclusion. 

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