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08/29/2015

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Wow, that's a really good start.

I don't agree with everything, predictably, but I was surprised at how much agreement there was. The biggest exception: I propose, to challenge your conclusion 1, that there is a big ball of closely inter-related concepts and facts, including ability, evitability, choice, nomological laws, and the actual physics of human action. If this big ball has enough integrity and all goes together, so to speak, then free will goes with it.

To understand the first few concepts on my list we need to examine the values and practices of decision, and holding-responsible. Experimental philosophy might shed some light there.

Thanks Paul, glad you think this is somewhat on the right track.

It's important to get consensus on a naturalistic account of the capacities we have as agents, but I wouldn't want to call that free will, given the metaphysical and moral baggage attached to the term. If I'm tempted to say that someone acted of their own free will, I simply substitute "acted freely, voluntarily" etc. This lessens the chance of any misunderstanding.

Well, this is probably where the X-phi should step in. I don't think that concepts need to sink out of sight just because people attach metaphysical baggage to them to weigh them down. Big metaphysical bags have been attached to "life", "reason", "experience" ... that's too much linguistic carnage to allow. Sure, we can always find new words, but I think the baggage will just be transferred, and the struggle only postponed.

Well, our own Gregg Caruso argues, contra Shaun Nichols, that we'd be better off eliminating the concept of free will altogether, see http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11098-015-0453-x For my part, I'm happy to say that I signed a contract of my own free will, but beyond these unambiguous references to voluntary action we really have to define what we're talking about up front in terms of our capacities. This puts all the metaphysics and science on the table, so we can decide if it's plausible and evidence-based - that is, a live naturalistic possibility.

Having done that, what's the upshot of "free will" thus defined for practical matters like praise and punishment? For instance, how does one justify retributive punishment if we couldn't have done otherwise in an actual situation in way that is more up to us than it would be under determinism?

Tom, I agree with your advice to be as verbose as conditions allow/demand to communicate accurately. That goes for plenty of philosophically controversial terms, not just free will.

On punishment, I would begin by asking what kind of retributivism are we talking about - e.g., negative ( http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-retributive/#NegRet ) versus positive? Another complication: like many others, I find some versions of retributivism unacceptable for reasons having nothing to do with free will issues.

Paul, thanks for the link re varieties of retributivism. I posed the question about justifying it just as an example of how, after clearing the decks about free will, we can then explore the practical implications of a particular view of agency. I won't prolong this thread by attempting to answer the question (about which we've had lots of discussion here at Flickers and will undoubtedly have more), except to say I find both compatibilist and libertarian justifications of retributivism (in general) wanting. Getting clear about varieties of retributivism is now on my agenda, thanks!

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