Free will is a fairytale we tell ourselves so that we can ignore the bondage of our existence...kind of like god. The universe is causal, meaning every effect has a cause, and it is deterministic, meaning that the causes and effects can be broken down into fundamental laws. We will never know these laws, although we will contue to make finer and finer estimates of them, but the logical result of their consideration is that everything happening in the universe was set in motion and determined with the universe itself. I'm not responsible for that, and neither are you, so we are not responsible for anything we are doing now because our actions are only the effects of prior causes that could not have happened any other way.
No free will. No choice. No morality. No good. No bad. No right. No wrong.
I seek the nothing, the calm, the still
But I am moved against my will.
I am trapped outside my dreams,
And cannot be no thing, it seems.
The Moral landscape is next on my plie to read.
So I will refrain from commenting at the moment, but your post has got me thinking!!
Question - your profile picture made me smile........from my motherland!!
I now live near Nelson in the south island of NZ...a nice place. Only been in NZ 3 years, originally from the UK and your profile picture immediately reminded me of the homeland, dark gritsone hills and atmospheric sky. I think the picture is from the Saddlworth Moors area in the North of UK, about an hour or so from were I originated.
Not sure how religious NZ is, although there seems to be alot of churches, but the Kiwis generally seem pretty laid back.
Enjoyed your original post.
Thanks for posting this.
I am currently trying to sort out what is meant by 'free will' when people use the term. I do find myself struggling with the idea that whatever anyone does, they were helpless to do otherwise and therefore should be forgiven of whatever they do. Then, how can one non-free person rehabilitate another non-free person (unless of course the rehabilitator is helpless to do otherwise....?) What is the mechanism that makes the rehabilitation effective?
A further question of ethics for me is: why does a society need to invest time and resources into trying to rehabilitate all non-free "offenders" regardless of the depth of their anti-social environmental programming? Is there science-based evidence that this can be done? Do we really know how many "contact hours" a psychopath needs to have with therapists to be even partially rehabilitated?
We easily justify executing an "anti-social" bear or wild cat "before someone else gets hurt". It isn't retribution or meant as a deterrent to other bears. It is resource management.
(I am already wincing at the flame storm this post will trigger...)
Not at all, thanks for the interesting response. I'll give you my take on things. I take an organismic approach, which means a few things, but basically the idea is that organisms (groups) of any size succeed simply on naturalistic terms: whether they have enough power, motivation, etc. to overcome the obstacles it faces from the environment, competition with other organisms, etc. If you grant me that a social group behaves in just the same way as individual organisms, then all the same rules apply. The organism (individual or group) is healthy when it is motivated towards adaptive behaviors, and vice versa, so 1. the same mechanisms of rehabilitation are operating on the group as well as the individual. Just as we are made "good" individuals by being both internally operational (all our organs working harmoniously towards the health of the individual) and externally operational (working with others harmoniously towards mutual goals), a group of people is made "good" by having internal harmony and also being capable of cooperation with still other groups (when you get to the level of all humanity, I guess we are just one super-organism which itself can aim towards cooperation with all life on the planet, and beyond!). In other words, if an organism is lucky enough to be directed towards/motivated towards adaptive behavior, it already possesses what it needs to redirect enough of its member parts towards the goals of the entire organism. Otherwise the offending part is "lost" and the organism does well to find ways of expelling it.
2. I don't believe that there is necessarily a way to reform all people who are simply victims of their environment, so I agree with you that it becomes a matter of resource management for any given organism/social group. Even if it were possible, it might not be economically feasible, and the organism would still be justified, i.e. it would still be in its best interests, to "cut off" resources to the offenders. Whether a person is made offensive/sociopathic purely by negative nurture inputs or purely by negative nature inputs or by some combination thereof isn't important, it becomes important only whether it is possible to rehabilitate them and whether the cost of doing so outweighs the benefits of doing so (at which point we must delve into questions about what a person's "worth" is to a society, which is itself a fascinating question).
3. On all organismic levels then, the only questions are whether the members are properly motivated, or whether they are gifted with (sorry for the semi-religious connotation of such phrases) the necessary powers for living well. One group may have enough motivation/power to send some of its members into action to turn more of its malfunctioning parts into functioning parts, where another group simply may not have it in them. I would expect that the same processes of evolution would take place, and the groups better suited to its environment would manage to strike the proper balance between investing resources towards rehabilitation, sequestration, or simple tolerance of its malfunctioning parts. I think anyone who resorts to proclaiming that another person acted malevolently out of their "free will" and therefore is deserving of whatever punishment they have concocted is simply justifying their own perfectly natural organismic impulses to expel offensive behavior with an ultimately meaningless device, and they have not been capable of thinking things out in a purely naturalistic way. I am only left to wonder whether there is enough motivation present to reveal the nature of reality to such people so that they too might be rehabilitated of their nonsensical (and ultimately maladaptive) beliefs.
Sorry that was so long, it is almost 2 am... whew! And sorry for all the editing too!
"I do find myself struggling with the idea that whatever anyone does, they were helpless to do otherwise and therefore should be forgiven of whatever they do."
First, the terminology of "helpless to do otherwise" is not a very helpful one: that makes it sound as if the person is not acting in accordance with what they will. They absolutely are (usually), it's just that what they will is ultimately going to be the sum total of a large amount of antecedent factors.
People suffering from alien hand syndrome are helpless, because they literally cannot help do these involuntary movements, regardless of their will or what they consciously want to do. An indoctrinated soldier who kills someone he is taught to hate is not helpless in the same way, because he is doing what he wants to do.
All determinism says is that in both cases, what they ultimately want is going to be the sum total of a lot of antecedent factors. People still can and do act in accordance with their will.
"Then, how can one non-free person rehabilitate another non-free person (unless of course the rehabilitator is helpless to do otherwise....?) What is the mechanism that makes the rehabilitation effective?"
I find that a fairly short-sighted question. It's just not that complicated.
We're able to condition dogs quite well, we're able to teach children how to behave, etcetera... we can start thinking very philosophically about how miraculous it is that we can do this and how it could be possibly that we can change a dog's instinctual patterns and change them to something else... but in practice we know that this can be done (to an extent). We do it all the time.
"A further question of ethics for me is: why does a society need to invest time and resources into trying to rehabilitate all non-free "offenders" regardless of the depth of their anti-social environmental programming? Is there science-based evidence that this can be done?"
I'd say we don't have the data to answer that question. The idea that people have free will is a common (and probably innate one) and so punishment has always largely been focused on retribution and revenge. We've only very recently started to realise that the picture is not quite that simple, and people don't have this contra-causal magical component that retributionism assumes.
Because of this, research into how best to rehabilitate prisoners and criminals is meager at best. We just don't know how effective it is, to what extent it works, with who it can work and who it can't be, etcetera. Perhaps it will indeed turn out that people are unchangeable and that you can't "reprogram" people from criminal environments (unlikely though); in this case, we would have to think about isolating these people... but even in that case it's not going to be done with a revenge attitude in mind. It's going to be about protecting us, not taking revenge on them.
But we just don't know what the right alternative is yet. But I think we have a clear moral obligation to find out.