4 of 16
4
Sam’s new thoughts on free will
Posted: 11 September 2012 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  29
Joined  2012-06-29

Newton once complained: “To tell us that every species of thing is endowed with an occult specific quality by which it acts and produces manifest effects is to tell us nothing.”  The problem with the concept “free will” is that it tells us nothing—it’s an explanatory fiction.  “Why did this criminal commit a horrendous act?  Well, he chose to do it of his own free will!”—end of discussion, end of enquiry.  The question of free will may be debatable but the interaction of genetics and environment on behavior have been more than adequately demonstrated.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_analysis_of_behavior
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_behavior_analysis

In the words of one psychologist: “Two features of autonomous man are particularly troublesome.  In the traditional view, a person is free.  He is autonomous in the sense that his behavior is uncaused.  He can therefore be held responsible for what he does and justly punished if he offends.  That view, together with its associated practices, must be re-examined when a scientific analysis reveals unsuspected controlling relations between behavior and environment.”

[ Edited: 11 September 2012 04:42 PM by Wreck of M Deare]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 September 2012 05:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  800
Joined  2010-11-12
Wreck of M Deare - 11 September 2012 02:58 PM

Newton once complained: “To tell us that every species of thing is endowed with an occult specific quality by which it acts and produces manifest effects is to tell us nothing.”  The problem with the concept “free will” is that it tells us nothing—it’s an explanatory fiction.  “Why did this criminal commit a horrendous act?  Well, he chose to do it of his own free will!”—end of discussion, end of enquiry.  The question of free will may be debatable but the interaction of genetics and environment on behavior have been more than adequately demonstrated.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_analysis_of_behavior
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_behavior_analysis

In the words of one psychologist: “Two features of autonomous man are particularly troublesome.  In the traditional view, a person is free.  He is autonomous in the sense that his behavior is uncaused.  He can therefore be held responsible for what he does and justly punished if he offends.  That view, together with its associated practices, must be re-examined when a scientific analysis reveals unsuspected controlling relations between behavior and environment.”


It is not an option to hold or not hold people responsible for their (re)actions.

 

 

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 September 2012 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  152
Joined  2012-08-29

This is a very engaging post.  Thanks for the contribution.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Below I use “free will” as meaning “being able to make choices”, or simply “freedom”. This is the meaning of the word found in all moralistic sections of the “no free will” lierature. So I do not refer to theological ideas as “absolute free will” or “absolute freedom”. So let’s keep things simple: free will today means “conscious choice”.

No objection here.  I’ve also switched out ‘self’, ‘consciousness’, ‘choice’ and others in this forum, so far without objection.  Luckily, no one here seems to be confused about the topic so we can get on with the conversation without petty criticism of semantics. 

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

The denial of free will is no science. It is not a scientific theory apt to testing or falsification. Rather it makes falsifications “illusions”. It is an ideology spreading with suggestion, repetition, slapping on the back… and an accusation of “cognitive dissonance” for whoever goes astray.

Well said.  I agree - except that it is worth noting that Dr. Harris does not resort to this.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

It is metaphysics, and as every metaphysics it fits within a thousands of years old tradition: how to convince people that they are dum, and that they should accept the lead of insiders?

I get off the boat here.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

The thoretical denial of free will starts from a nineteenth century mechanical worldview, which says that everything happens because of little causal bumps. This worldview is outdated now that we onderstand dialectical materialism and darwinism. Today every biologist knows that those little bumps can come together in complex assemblies, with their own behaviour, no longer linear, but working by goals and assessments. After all, a poker player or petanque player can very well consider the situation and make tactical moves, undisturbed by little causal bumps wich do their self-effacing work silently.

I think you’ll find Dr. Harris’s position far more articulate and nuanced that this description.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Cases used to illustrate that free will does not exist (such as drug addicts, sleep walking,...) contradict the theoretical denial above. To say that addicted people have lost their free will, implies that non-addicted people have one, and consequently that free will exists.

I think you’ll find Dr. Harris’s arguments are not as easily dismissed as this one.  Let’s not have at any straw men.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

There are various positions on the social effect of the free-will denial ideology. Sometimes it is said that life goes on the same as always, even without free will. Sometimes (often in the same paper) it is said that justice and even democracy should be adapted to the new “knowledge”.

This comparison is a false choice fallacy.  It is possible for both statements to be true since one point addresses metaphysical considerations and the other addresses policy considerations.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

The most ridiculous suggestion is that we should just live on as if free will exists, while “knowing” it doesn’t.

I am ambivalent on the question of whether free will exists – but I have otherwise advocated this position.  I don’t see how it is ridiculous.  It seems to me perfectly reasonable to conclude that whether my free will turns out to be real or a convincing illusion, that determination will change nothing fundamental about my existence.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Less ridiculous, but if possible even more detrimental, is to bring back the old societal split between the initiated and the ignorant.

I think you are unfairly lumping Dr. Harris in with some less sophisticated advocates.  I doubt you’ll find any example of him saying you are ignorant if you don’t agree with him. He is overconfident in the amount of certainty he assigns to the question for sure, but I never felt belittled by his irrational exuberance. 

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

If it would be better to lie to children (as Sam Harris defends)

This is a gross mischaracterization of Sam’s point.  Be careful not to undercut your credibility with vitriol as so many of the anti-free will advocates you appear to have read must have done.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

then the next question is: when wil we tell them? Will we tell the retarded ever? The less educated?

As with every educational question, subject matter complexity should be appropriate to grade level.  I have a cousin with Down’s syndrome.  I seriously don’t think he will ever care about this question, even if it is finally proven one way or the other.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Will we ever dare to tell schoolbus drivers that it is not their fault if they cause an accident while driving drunk, while he knows it was his choice? Will we tell an engine driver that passing a red sign is not really his responsability, though he knows it was his choice?

These questions are addressed in Sam’s book.  His solution to these problems is to admit that, no, they don’t have free will, but that doesn’t mean we can’t punish people who violate the law.  This requires a shift from retributive justice to utilitarian justice.  There are good reasons to make that change in punitive policy, none of which require making statements about free will on insufficient evidence. 


My biggest fear in all of this is that Sam (a hero of mine) is advocating this position because he is enamored with so many of the logical consequences from a public policy and public discourse perspective.  That’s cheating.  We can’t accept propositions on insufficient evidence because we like the moral implications of the truth claim.  We are atheists after all. 

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 September 2012 08:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  152
Joined  2012-08-29
mormovies - 11 September 2012 10:35 AM

“I think that on balance, it could only produce a more compassionate, equitable, and sane society.”
Why and how?  One does not logically follow the other.  If there is never was free will,  how will the knowledge of its lack of existence make the world a utopia?

You aren’t doing Sam the service of digesting his arguments.  In his book, he goes into great detail about how the absence of free will can improve the world.  For one, it immediately removes the foundation for arguments of most serious religious apologists.  If you haven’t got free will, none of their arguments make sense.  Next, it eliminates all justification for retributive justice and forces us to move to utilitarian justice policy.  The last that I can recall out of hand is his point in the current blog post that it would be very useful in grief management would engender non-egocentric perspectives.

 

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 September 2012 08:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  800
Joined  2010-11-12
TheCoolinator - 11 September 2012 08:24 PM

This is a very engaging post.  Thanks for the contribution.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Below I use “free will” as meaning “being able to make choices”, or simply “freedom”. This is the meaning of the word found in all moralistic sections of the “no free will” lierature. So I do not refer to theological ideas as “absolute free will” or “absolute freedom”. So let’s keep things simple: free will today means “conscious choice”.

No objection here.  I’ve also switched out ‘self’, ‘consciousness’, ‘choice’ and others in this forum, so far without objection.  Luckily, no one here seems to be confused about the topic so we can get on with the conversation without petty criticism of semantics. 

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

The denial of free will is no science. It is not a scientific theory apt to testing or falsification. Rather it makes falsifications “illusions”. It is an ideology spreading with suggestion, repetition, slapping on the back… and an accusation of “cognitive dissonance” for whoever goes astray.

Well said.  I agree - except that it is worth noting that Dr. Harris does not resort to this.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

It is metaphysics, and as every metaphysics it fits within a thousands of years old tradition: how to convince people that they are dum, and that they should accept the lead of insiders?

I get off the boat here.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

The thoretical denial of free will starts from a nineteenth century mechanical worldview, which says that everything happens because of little causal bumps. This worldview is outdated now that we onderstand dialectical materialism and darwinism. Today every biologist knows that those little bumps can come together in complex assemblies, with their own behaviour, no longer linear, but working by goals and assessments. After all, a poker player or petanque player can very well consider the situation and make tactical moves, undisturbed by little causal bumps wich do their self-effacing work silently.

I think you’ll find Dr. Harris’s position far more articulate and nuanced that this description.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Cases used to illustrate that free will does not exist (such as drug addicts, sleep walking,...) contradict the theoretical denial above. To say that addicted people have lost their free will, implies that non-addicted people have one, and consequently that free will exists.

I think you’ll find Dr. Harris’s arguments are not as easily dismissed as this one.  Let’s not have at any straw men.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

There are various positions on the social effect of the free-will denial ideology. Sometimes it is said that life goes on the same as always, even without free will. Sometimes (often in the same paper) it is said that justice and even democracy should be adapted to the new “knowledge”.

This comparison is a false choice fallacy.  It is possible for both statements to be true since one point addresses metaphysical considerations and the other addresses policy considerations.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

The most ridiculous suggestion is that we should just live on as if free will exists, while “knowing” it doesn’t.

I am ambivalent on the question of whether free will exists – but I have otherwise advocated this position.  I don’t see how it is ridiculous.  It seems to me perfectly reasonable to conclude that whether my free will turns out to be real or a convincing illusion, that determination will change nothing fundamental about my existence.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Less ridiculous, but if possible even more detrimental, is to bring back the old societal split between the initiated and the ignorant.

I think you are unfairly lumping Dr. Harris in with some less sophisticated advocates.  I doubt you’ll find any example of him saying you are ignorant if you don’t agree with him. He is overconfident in the amount of certainty he assigns to the question for sure, but I never felt belittled by his irrational exuberance. 

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

If it would be better to lie to children (as Sam Harris defends)

This is a gross mischaracterization of Sam’s point.  Be careful not to undercut your credibility with vitriol as so many of the anti-free will advocates you appear to have read must have done.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

then the next question is: when wil we tell them? Will we tell the retarded ever? The less educated?

As with every educational question, subject matter complexity should be appropriate to grade level.  I have a cousin with Down’s syndrome.  I seriously don’t think he will ever care about this question, even if it is finally proven one way or the other.

Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Will we ever dare to tell schoolbus drivers that it is not their fault if they cause an accident while driving drunk, while he knows it was his choice? Will we tell an engine driver that passing a red sign is not really his responsability, though he knows it was his choice?

These questions are addressed in Sam’s book.  His solution to these problems is to admit that, no, they don’t have free will, but that doesn’t mean we can’t punish people who violate the law.  This requires a shift from retributive justice to utilitarian justice.  There are good reasons to make that change in punitive policy, none of which require making statements about free will on insufficient evidence. 


My biggest fear in all of this is that Sam (a hero of mine) is advocating this position because he is enamored with so many of the logical consequences from a public policy and public discourse perspective.  That’s cheating.  We can’t accept propositions on insufficient evidence because we like the moral implications of the truth claim.  We are atheists after all.

 

Alright…....we are back to the idea presented in the original post.
If we don’t have free will, there is no point in deliberating on what we should or shouldn’t do once that understanding dawns.
Why do we call it free will anyway?
Is there such a thing as unfree will?

 

 

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 September 2012 08:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  152
Joined  2012-08-29
Wreck of M Deare - 11 September 2012 02:58 PM

Newton once complained: “To tell us that every species of thing is endowed with an occult specific quality by which it acts and produces manifest effects is to tell us nothing.”  The problem with the concept “free will” is that it tells us nothing—it’s an explanatory fiction.  “Why did this criminal commit a horrendous act?  Well, he chose to do it of his own free will!”—end of discussion, end of enquiry.  The question of free will may be debatable but the interaction of genetics and environment on behavior have been more than adequately demonstrated.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_analysis_of_behavior
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_behavior_analysis

In the words of one psychologist: “Two features of autonomous man are particularly troublesome.  In the traditional view, a person is free.  He is autonomous in the sense that his behavior is uncaused.  He can therefore be held responsible for what he does and justly punished if he offends.  That view, together with its associated practices, must be re-examined when a scientific analysis reveals unsuspected controlling relations between behavior and environment.”

I don’t follow your point.  Are you advocating for retributive justice?  Are you pointing out that punishment can be justified even in the absence of free will?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 September 2012 10:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  286
Joined  2011-04-26

This requires a shift from retributive justice to utilitarian justice.

>> Not the kind of world I want to live in!  Utilitarianism sacrifices the individual for the sake of the many.  It’s too christian and statist for me.  What’s wrong with retributive justice even if free will doesn’t exist?

For instance…
As to one’s own happiness, says [John Stuart] Mill, the individual must be “disinterested” and “strictly impartial”; he must remember that he is only one unit out of the dozens, or millions, of men affected by his actions. “All honor to those who can abnegate for themselves the personal enjoyment of life,” says Mill, “when by such renunciation they contribute worthily to increase the amount of happiness in the world.”
>> Horrible nonsense IMO!

[ Edited: 11 September 2012 10:18 PM by mormovies]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2012 12:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  800
Joined  2010-11-12
mormovies - 11 September 2012 10:16 PM

This requires a shift from retributive justice to utilitarian justice.

>> Not the kind of world I want to live in!  Utilitarianism sacrifices the individual for the sake of the many.  It’s too christian and statist for me.  What’s wrong with retributive justice even if free will doesn’t exist?

For instance…
As to one’s own happiness, says [John Stuart] Mill, the individual must be “disinterested” and “strictly impartial”; he must remember that he is only one unit out of the dozens, or millions, of men affected by his actions. “All honor to those who can abnegate for themselves the personal enjoyment of life,” says Mill, “when by such renunciation they contribute worthily to increase the amount of happiness in the world.”
!

Ok….....I’ve decided that I am going to remember that I an only one unit out of billions of men and women affected by my actions.
Ok…...I think I’ve got that.
Oh my gosh…......I think I feel a little better already.
I hope that my feeling a little better affects those billions.

 

 

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2012 02:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  9
Joined  2012-09-11
toombaru - 11 September 2012 08:46 PM

Why do we call it free will anyway?
Is there such a thing as unfree will?

Good question. It is religious (augustinian) terminology. Since Descartes it became synonym for soul. The seminal scientific work on the subject (The Illusion of Conscious Will, D. Wegner 2002). dit not have “Free Will” in its title. The scientific terms he uses are “conscious will” or “free choice”.  Yet today Amazon offers 2,124 popular titles about “free will”, a real revival of a christian theme for which religious people should thank atheists.

I fully agree scientists should avoid the term “free will”, but when posting you have to line up as I did in my first post by stating explicitly to use “free will” as meaning “being able to make choices”.

Free Will is not the only disguise of the soul. Consciousness is another. A reaonable view to hold, at least until science establishes otherwise, is that consciousness is not a thing nor a substance, but something we occasionally do; and further, that the complex natural organisms we are, are able to make conscious choices.

[ Edited: 12 September 2012 02:26 AM by Siger]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2012 02:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2011-05-10

Let me briefly digest Sam’s newest ramblings about free will:

“I can well imagine that some people might use the nonexistence of free will as a pretext for doing whatever they want, assuming that it’s pointless to resist temptation or that there’s no difference between good and evil.”

No Sam, you can’t imagine that without being in total denial, because people without free will do not act, they do not do anything.

“...There is also the question of how we should raise children in light of what science tells us about the nature of the human mind.”

People without freedom do not act. Therefore, they do not raise children, a particular form of action. The whole question is rendered absurd under the pretext that free will doesn’t exist.

“It seems doubtful that a lecture on the illusoriness of free will should be part of an elementary school curriculum.”

Why not? Do you prefer lying to people over telling the truth? What difference does it make in the context of no free-will? How do you decide to lecture free will or not, if you cannot decide anything for lack of freedom?

“In my view, the reality of good and evil does not depend upon the existence of free will, because with or without free will, we can distinguish between suffering and happiness.”

Sure, we can suffer or be happy. But, without free will we cannot do anything about it, because we cannot act. Good and evil vanishes without free will, because a marionette is not responsible for its actions. Its like calling a stone evil because it dropped from the sky and killed someone.

“With or without free will, a psychopath who enjoys killing children is different from a pediatric surgeon who enjoys saving them.”

Sure, but neither the psychopath nor the pediatric surgeon share any responsibility for what they enjoy. This is merely a result of their genetic make up and environment.

“Whatever the truth about free will, these distinctions are unmistakable and well worth caring about.”

Why is it worth carrying about them, if we cannot do anything about it, because we cannot act?

“Might free will somehow be required for goodness to be manifest?”

Definitely, without free will neither good nor evil can become manifest!

“...How, for instance, does one become a pediatric surgeon? ... At some point you must decide to become a surgeon—a result, presumably, of first wanting to become one.”

But, a pediatric surgeon doesn’t make any decisions because he does not act. So again, you are presuming what your are trying to disprove.

“Will you be the conscious source of this wanting? Will you be responsible for its prevailing over all the other things you want but that are incompatible with a career in medicine?  No.”

Asking stupid questions won’t get you anywhere Sam.

“If you succeed at becoming a surgeon, you will simply find yourself standing one day, scalpel in hand, at the confluence of all the genetic and environmental causes that led you to develop along this line. None of these events requires that you, the conscious subject, be the ultimate cause of your aspirations, abilities, and resulting behavior. And, needless to say, you can take no credit for the fact that you weren’t born a psychopath.”

Again, you are presuming, what you are trying to prove. This is called circular reasoning.

“Of course, I’m not saying that you can become a surgeon by accident—you must do many things, deliberately and well, and in the appropriate sequence, year after year.”

Wrong Sam, without freedom, you can’t do anything! Can’t you get that into your clumsy mind? This is one of the most embarrassing texts you have ever written.

bla bla bla….

“If we cannot assign blame to the workings of the universe, how can evil people be held responsible for their actions? In the deepest sense, it seems, they can’t be. But in a practical sense, they must be.”

So non-free people are both responsible and not responsible for their “deeds”. That’s a perfect contradiction Sam. What “practical sense” are you talking about? Practical relates to decisions and choices. There is no practical if there is no free will.

“I see no contradiction in this.”

Yup, but only because you are holding your eyes shut with both of your hands. Only a total moron wouldn’t see a contradiction in this.

“In fact, I think that keeping the deep causes of human behavior in view would only improve our practical response to evil.”

There is no human response because humans do not act for lack of free will.

“The feeling that people are deeply responsible for who they are does nothing but produce moral illusions and psychological suffering.”

Really? Prove it Sam!

“Imagine that you are enjoying your last nap of the summer, perhaps outside in a hammock somewhere, and are awakened by an unfamiliar sound. You open your eyes to the sight of a large bear charging at you across the lawn. It should be easy enough to understand that you have a problem. If we swap this bear for a large man holding a butcher knife, the problem changes in a few interesting ways, but the sudden appearance of free will in the brain of your attacker is not among them.”

So what Sam! Why bother reflecting about a problem that you cannot do anything about? You cannot act without freedom!

bla bla bla…. And yet many people worry that it is necessary to believe in free will, especially in the process of raising children.

“This strikes me as a legitimate concern, though I would point out that the question of which truths to tell children (or childlike adults) haunts every room in the mansion of our understanding.”

The concern is absurd for someone who believes he is completely controlled by outside forces! Why worry about something, if you can’t make a difference? You cannot act!

“For instance, my wife and I recently took our three-year-old daughter on an airplane for the first time.”

Wrong Sam, you didn’t take her but the forces of nature took you!

“... And I would no more think of telling my daughter at this age that free will is an illusion than I would teach her to drive a car or load a pistol…”

Well Sam, since you think that lying to people is all right whenever it suits you and you feel is better for them, then why should we believe in your whole rant about the absence of free will?

“For instance, if you must undergo a medical procedure for which there is no reasonable alternative, I recommend that you not conduct an Internet search designed to uncover all its possible complications…”

What an extremely stupid recommendation. Before I make a decision, I should inform myself about the likelyhood of possible implications. As a consequentialist, this should be your number 1 concern. You cannot even decide whether there are reasonable alternatives without informing yourself about the implications of your decision.

“In fact, as I write this, it is absolutely clear to me that I do not have free will. This knowledge doesn’t seem to prevent me from getting things done.”

Sam, without free will, you are not doing anything! This prevents you from getting anything done! Your “acting” is performed by someone or something else! Not you! Wrap your brain around it!

“The negative effects that people worry about—a lack of motivation, a plunge into nihilism—are simply not evident in my life…”

Because you perform your life with the presumption that free will does indeed exist. Your non-free-will philosophy is only an intellectual game without any practical consequences in your life. You don’t take your own ideas seriously!

“We could forget about retribution and concentrate entirely on mitigating harm. (And if punishing people proved important for either deterrence or rehabilitation, we could make prison as unpleasant as required.)”

Wrong Sam. As a non-free person you cannot mitigate harm nor punish anyone, because you cannot act! You are a machine acting out the program someone or something else wrote.

“Understanding the true causes of human behavior does not leave any room for the traditional notion of free will.”

I think that this is your gravest concern. Freedom means that human behavior has no “causes”. In a way this is true, instead of causes there are motivations, which are different from causes. But, you can explain human behavior on the basis of motivations without thinking of deterministic causes. An explanation must not be a deterministic cause and effect relationship. Our most advanced scientific theories do not rely on deterministic cause/effect explanations.

 Signature 

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2012 02:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  9
Joined  2012-09-11
TheCoolinator - 11 September 2012 08:24 PM
Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Will we ever dare to tell schoolbus drivers that it is not their fault if they cause an accident while driving drunk, while he knows it was his choice? Will we tell an engine driver that passing a red sign is not really his responsability, though he knows it was his choice?

These questions are addressed in Sam’s book.  His solution to these problems is to admit that, no, they don’t have free will, but that doesn’t mean we can’t punish people who violate the law.  This requires a shift from retributive justice to utilitarian justice.  There are good reasons to make that change in punitive policy, none of which require making statements about free will on insufficient evidence.

OK, I assumed this topic was just about a blog of Dr. Harris. I did not read his book yet. I will order it right away and come back to this forum when I have read it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2012 02:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2011-05-10
Siger - 12 September 2012 02:24 AM
TheCoolinator - 11 September 2012 08:24 PM
Siger - 11 September 2012 02:27 AM

Will we ever dare to tell schoolbus drivers that it is not their fault if they cause an accident while driving drunk, while he knows it was his choice? Will we tell an engine driver that passing a red sign is not really his responsability, though he knows it was his choice?

These questions are addressed in Sam’s book.  His solution to these problems is to admit that, no, they don’t have free will, but that doesn’t mean we can’t punish people who violate the law.  This requires a shift from retributive justice to utilitarian justice.  There are good reasons to make that change in punitive policy, none of which require making statements about free will on insufficient evidence.

OK, I assumed this topic was just about a blog of Dr. Harris. I did not read his book yet. I will order it right away and come back to this forum when I have read it.

Don’t reward Sam Harris financially for the junk he writes by buying his book. If he cannot make a reasonable argument on innumerable blog posts and talks then he won’t be able to explain himself in this booklet.

 Signature 

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2012 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  286
Joined  2011-04-26

In defense of Sam, even though I think there is so much more to Free Will debate than he indicates, his book is excellent and if nothing it will spur conversations like this.  We need thinkers who will go out on a limb.  I’m confident Sam will modify his theories when more hard evidence becomes available.  Right now, it seems we need to re-define Free Will.  It’s definitely an emotion or perception that we have felt since man could first communicate.

“Ok….....I’ve decided that I am going to remember that I an only one unit out of billions of men and women affected by my actions.”
>>  think it was the Elephant Man who said, “I am not a unit!”  I agree.

[ Edited: 12 September 2012 05:48 AM by mormovies]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2012 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2011-05-10
mormovies - 12 September 2012 05:46 AM

...We need thinkers who will go out on a limb.

I agree, we need thinkers. But, Sam is not one of them. Otherwise he wouldn’t be publishing nonsensical posts, like these:

“If we cannot assign blame to the workings of the universe, how can evil people be held responsible for their actions? In the deepest sense, it seems, they can’t be. But in a practical sense, they must be.”

This is pure and unadulterated drivel and it is not the first time. Sam Harris is a serial driveler. I have lost my faith in Mr. Harris mental faculties.

mormovies - 12 September 2012 05:46 AM

.I’m confident Sam will modify his theories when more hard evidence becomes available…

I doubt that very much. Sam Harris appears to be just as impenetrable with rational arguments as the homicidal mujaheddin.

 Signature 

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2012 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  800
Joined  2010-11-12
kikl - 12 September 2012 02:23 AM

Let me briefly digest Sam’s newest ramblings about free will:

“I can well imagine that some people might use the nonexistence of free will as a pretext for doing whatever they want, assuming that it’s pointless to resist temptation or that there’s no difference between good and evil.”

No Sam, you can’t imagine that without being in total denial, because people without free will do not act, they do not do anything.

“...There is also the question of how we should raise children in light of what science tells us about the nature of the human mind.”

People without freedom do not act. Therefore, they do not raise children, a particular form of action. The whole question is rendered absurd under the pretext that free will doesn’t exist.

“It seems doubtful that a lecture on the illusoriness of free will should be part of an elementary school curriculum.”

Why not? Do you prefer lying to people over telling the truth? What difference does it make in the context of no free-will? How do you decide to lecture free will or not, if you cannot decide anything for lack of freedom?

“In my view, the reality of good and evil does not depend upon the existence of free will, because with or without free will, we can distinguish between suffering and happiness.”

Sure, we can suffer or be happy. But, without free will we cannot do anything about it, because we cannot act. Good and evil vanishes without free will, because a marionette is not responsible for its actions. Its like calling a stone evil because it dropped from the sky and killed someone.

“With or without free will, a psychopath who enjoys killing children is different from a pediatric surgeon who enjoys saving them.”

Sure, but neither the psychopath nor the pediatric surgeon share any responsibility for what they enjoy. This is merely a result of their genetic make up and environment.

“Whatever the truth about free will, these distinctions are unmistakable and well worth caring about.”

Why is it worth carrying about them, if we cannot do anything about it, because we cannot act?

“Might free will somehow be required for goodness to be manifest?”

Definitely, without free will neither good nor evil can become manifest!

“...How, for instance, does one become a pediatric surgeon? ... At some point you must decide to become a surgeon—a result, presumably, of first wanting to become one.”

But, a pediatric surgeon doesn’t make any decisions because he does not act. So again, you are presuming what your are trying to disprove.

“Will you be the conscious source of this wanting? Will you be responsible for its prevailing over all the other things you want but that are incompatible with a career in medicine?  No.”

Asking stupid questions won’t get you anywhere Sam.

“If you succeed at becoming a surgeon, you will simply find yourself standing one day, scalpel in hand, at the confluence of all the genetic and environmental causes that led you to develop along this line. None of these events requires that you, the conscious subject, be the ultimate cause of your aspirations, abilities, and resulting behavior. And, needless to say, you can take no credit for the fact that you weren’t born a psychopath.”

Again, you are presuming, what you are trying to prove. This is called circular reasoning.

“Of course, I’m not saying that you can become a surgeon by accident—you must do many things, deliberately and well, and in the appropriate sequence, year after year.”

Wrong Sam, without freedom, you can’t do anything! Can’t you get that into your clumsy mind? This is one of the most embarrassing texts you have ever written.

bla bla bla….

“If we cannot assign blame to the workings of the universe, how can evil people be held responsible for their actions? In the deepest sense, it seems, they can’t be. But in a practical sense, they must be.”

So non-free people are both responsible and not responsible for their “deeds”. That’s a perfect contradiction Sam. What “practical sense” are you talking about? Practical relates to decisions and choices. There is no practical if there is no free will.

“I see no contradiction in this.”

Yup, but only because you are holding your eyes shut with both of your hands. Only a total moron wouldn’t see a contradiction in this.

“In fact, I think that keeping the deep causes of human behavior in view would only improve our practical response to evil.”

There is no human response because humans do not act for lack of free will.

“The feeling that people are deeply responsible for who they are does nothing but produce moral illusions and psychological suffering.”

Really? Prove it Sam!

“Imagine that you are enjoying your last nap of the summer, perhaps outside in a hammock somewhere, and are awakened by an unfamiliar sound. You open your eyes to the sight of a large bear charging at you across the lawn. It should be easy enough to understand that you have a problem. If we swap this bear for a large man holding a butcher knife, the problem changes in a few interesting ways, but the sudden appearance of free will in the brain of your attacker is not among them.”

So what Sam! Why bother reflecting about a problem that you cannot do anything about? You cannot act without freedom!

bla bla bla…. And yet many people worry that it is necessary to believe in free will, especially in the process of raising children.

“This strikes me as a legitimate concern, though I would point out that the question of which truths to tell children (or childlike adults) haunts every room in the mansion of our understanding.”

The concern is absurd for someone who believes he is completely controlled by outside forces! Why worry about something, if you can’t make a difference? You cannot act!

“For instance, my wife and I recently took our three-year-old daughter on an airplane for the first time.”

Wrong Sam, you didn’t take her but the forces of nature took you!

“... And I would no more think of telling my daughter at this age that free will is an illusion than I would teach her to drive a car or load a pistol…”

Well Sam, since you think that lying to people is all right whenever it suits you and you feel is better for them, then why should we believe in your whole rant about the absence of free will?

“For instance, if you must undergo a medical procedure for which there is no reasonable alternative, I recommend that you not conduct an Internet search designed to uncover all its possible complications…”

What an extremely stupid recommendation. Before I make a decision, I should inform myself about the likelyhood of possible implications. As a consequentialist, this should be your number 1 concern. You cannot even decide whether there are reasonable alternatives without informing yourself about the implications of your decision.

“In fact, as I write this, it is absolutely clear to me that I do not have free will. This knowledge doesn’t seem to prevent me from getting things done.”

Sam, without free will, you are not doing anything! This prevents you from getting anything done! Your “acting” is performed by someone or something else! Not you! Wrap your brain around it!

“The negative effects that people worry about—a lack of motivation, a plunge into nihilism—are simply not evident in my life…”

Because you perform your life with the presumption that free will does indeed exist. Your non-free-will philosophy is only an intellectual game without any practical consequences in your life. You don’t take your own ideas seriously!

“We could forget about retribution and concentrate entirely on mitigating harm. (And if punishing people proved important for either deterrence or rehabilitation, we could make prison as unpleasant as required.)”

Wrong Sam. As a non-free person you cannot mitigate harm nor punish anyone, because you cannot act! You are a machine acting out the program someone or something else wrote.

“Understanding the true causes of human behavior does not leave any room for the traditional notion of free will.”

I think that this is your gravest concern. Freedom means that human behavior has no “causes”. In a way this is true, instead of causes there are motivations, which are different from causes. But, you can explain human behavior on the basis of motivations without thinking of deterministic causes. An explanation must not be a deterministic cause and effect relationship. Our most advanced scientific theories do not rely on deterministic cause/effect explanations.

 

If we don’t have free will, we can’t willfully decide to teach our children that they don’t have it.
To think that you actually select from the options that life presents is merely another form of self-centered vanity.
It is the ego that struts around the helm spinning the wheel barking orders to the crew.
It really believes that it is steering the ship…...but the wheel is not connected and the vessel is imaginary.
You think that the entire universe will bend around your fear-based decisions and accommodate your personal preferences.
Actually you don’t even do the thinking.
The sense of being a you emerges in the brain’s reactions to its perceptual input.
I know .......this is hard stuff to swallow.
To understand it means the annihilation of the entity that struggles everyday to keep its breathing tube above the current.
Without free will, you don’t exist.
And most will fight against the idea until the organism dies.
If you have free will, try choosing health and happiness for eternity.
Let us know how that turns out for ya.

 

Profile
 
 
   
4 of 16
4
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed