New York Times hedges: Do You Have Free Will? It’s The Only Choice. I don’t know what that means either.
It covers the usual gamut of philosophers (excluding Buddhists, go figure), psychologists and physicists, with the consensus being that it’s an illusion but we have to act like it isn’t.
They invoke the murderer example: can Bill be held responsible if there’s no free will?
But in another way it makes perfect sense to hold Bill fully accountable for murder. His judges pragmatically intuit that regardless of whether free will exists, our society depends on everyone’s believing it does. The benefits of this belief have been demonstrated in other research showing that when people doubt free will, they do worse at their jobs and are less honest.
Right there is where the whole article and most of the popular debate goes wrong. It wants Bill not to have free will, but the judge to retain free will. The double standard: how do we have the free will to judge or not judge him?
If he was fated to kill, we were fated to judge.
Certainly I can’t solve the question of free will, but I can point out something about the way which we debate this question. Particularly interesting to me is the way in which modern writers (e.g. NYT) attempt to derive moral law from the existence or absence of free will, i.e. since there’s no free will, he’s not morally responsible, when, in centuries past it was done the other way around: starting from God, and then later a universal morality, and deducing the existence of free will. We can say that way is silly today, but there’s nothing (i.e knowledge/information) today that makes one direction of the argument more valid than the other.
A typical mistake is to confuse rational free will with determinism. When you say it’s predetermined, are you saying also that the existence of the dolphin’s lung was predetermined?
What’s the purpose of a dolphin’s lung? “To breathe.” That’s what it does, but what was it designed to do? Was it designed? To say its purpose is to breathe is an evolutionary description, not an explanation. Nothing about that lung is necessary, not its design, not its function. If there’s no free will, based on the arguments of determinism, then there’s (for example) no evolution.
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