Aug 4, 2010

Free will, part I

This post was requested from a reader a long time ago, and it's been festering in my mind since then. I've got a few introductory articles before I try to really dive into the subject tomorrow.

Number one is Galen Strawson, arguing against moral responsibility in the NYT:
According to the Basic Argument, it makes no difference whether determinism is true or false. We can’t be ultimately morally responsible either way.

The argument goes like this.

(1) You do what you do — in the circumstances in which you find yourself—because of the way you then are.

(2) So if you’re going to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you’re going to have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are — at least in certain mental respects.

(3) But you can’t be ultimately responsible for the way you are in any respect at all.

(4) So you can’t be ultimately responsible for what you do.
Number two is William Egginton arguing the other way in the same place. He tries to cut the legs out from under Strawson in a subtle piece of reasoning:
In other words, we have no reason to assume that either predictability or lack of predictability has anything to say about free will. The fact that we do make this association has more to do with the model of the world that we subtly import into such thought experiments than with the experiments themselves.
Number three is Jonah Lehrer who contributes some psychological experiments and concludes, "My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will."

Chew on that and I'll be back tomorrow.

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