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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The free will issue is actually incredibly important. Obviously, it is interesting to study, but this is peripheral. It is relevant because if free will does not exist (as I contend) then punishment for punishment's sake is immoral. That is not to say that putting someone in jail etc. is necessarily wrong, but it is morally necessary that it is done for the purpose of prevention or deterrence rather than true punishment. If there is reason to believe that any form of 'punishment', from a verbal rebuke to torture, will not lead to a change in behaviour, either from the individual or society at large, then it is immoral, even if the person has committed unspeakable crimes. This is the case because they never chose to commit these crimes. For example, if a child murderer and rapist could be isolated and society would never know of his existence, then he should not be punished, since he chose nothing and punishment will result in nothing beneficial. People rarely consider whether telling someone off, returning a prank, or whatever, will actually change behavior. The absence of free will rubbishes the notion of "an eye for an eye" which tends to be a foundation of many moral codes. 

Recognition of this is important in pursuing true justice, which never consists of punishment for its own sake.

Yep.  That's hitting the nail on the head.  No more scorn, no more hate is justified.  It is all unethical.  Personal responsibility becomes an illusion.

Well said and eloquently put. The difference between a world with free will and a world without is that with free will punishment will tend to be more about vengeance, whereas without free will it's about the consequences of a world governed by cause and effect. 

Given that formal research has shown that negative reinforcement (which punishment is) does not produce positive and lasting changes in behavior, arguments for its use as such is just unsupportable. Our punitive system was based on anger and vengeance seeking, NOT justice.

Yeah, the question is whether a world of mediocre, dissatisfying effects will produce more 'good' (I'm utilitarian, but perhaps something tantamount to 'good') than a world without them. I expect that punishment, although always immoral, is the lesser of two evils. As morally reprehensible and ineffective as 'punishment' is, I think it is an unfortunate moral necessity as a world of whimsical free rein could be a disaster. Of course, this is not the case when focused on vengeance seeking.

I disagree.  Choice is nothing other than mere measurement.  There is a reason why measuring is so important to us that we have confused the ends and means and attributed value to the measuring process of choice.

I would note that Tom mentioned that measures still need to be taken to protect people.  But the notion of retaliation or punishment can not play a role.  This is something I have been trying to convince people about for years.  It really can change the world.  And it is very much empowered by the simple focus on the notion that choice is mere measurement.  You only get one result per measurement.  Thus other possibilities are only illusions.

I am not entirely sure what you are getting at, but I agree that choice is not an end in and of itself. It is meaningless. It is, however, the determinant of actions, which lead to consequences, which are an end. If we can manipulate choice to meet this end, then why can the notion of retaliation or punishment not play a role? What's the alternative? Can choice be effectively controlled via other means?

Retaliation after the fact is the problem. Retaliation as part of self-defense or defense of others while a trespass (which a crime is) is taking place is effective. Restitution through fair proceedings (there is a mathematical proof that this is achievable) is also effective. Those are the alternatives. They have been well tested, proven, and have demonstrated effectiveness. 

I admit that it is immoral, but you don't think that the prospect of retaliation (exacted on those after the crime) is likely to act as a deterrent, thereby reducing the number of crimes committed? If the 'value' of that which is prevented outweighs the value of the unfair punishments, then it is a morally beneficial policy.

It's been a while since I've read the original studies, but the conclusion was definite. I've lost track of my original sources (it's been almost 15 years) so I'm not able to give you direct cite. It has no substantial deterrent effect. All it does is suppress the public form of the activity. Think about the "drug war" and prohibition for a case in point. The "you might get caught" has not been a reliable deterrent. Otherwise murder, theft, rape, etc. would continue to exist at any appreciable levels.

Certainly not reliable, but I think sufficient to be justified. Considering the incredibly small chance of being caught in the act, I think it is the preferable choice. I'm afraid without the study (and perhaps 50 more like it) I will never be convinced otherwise. 

Negative reinforcement does produce positive changes when coupled with positive reinforcement.  carrot and stick. The level of negative reinforcement is debatable. Their are also some members of humanity that will only respond to negative reinforcement and severe negative reinforcement at that. 


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