Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Does freedom evolve?

In spite of admiration for Dan Dennett's analysis of freedom in his book Freedom Evolves, Michael Shermer draws the correct bottom line from a consistent philosophical naturalism. We think we're free because we are ignorant of what causally determines our actions. HT: Ed Babinski.


exapologist said...

Here are my two cents on this:

I don't see what the big deal is supposed to be if determinism turns out to be true. Fischer's semi-compatibilism is a persuasive account of responsible action to me. I also think his "voting both" Frankfurt-example is compelling, and shows that we can be responsible without either the ability to do otherwise or to choose otherwise.

It's noteworthy, I think, that a number of libertarians (including Christian philosophers) have recently accepted that falsity of PAP.

In any case, I think Pereboom's hard incompatibilism is a nice consolation prize of a view if it turns out that Fischer is wrong.

My two cents, anyway.

exapologist said...

whoops -- voting booth, not voting both

Ilíon said...

Who determined/demonstrated that there is only one possible future? When was this done? How was this done?

Who (and when/how) determined/demonstrated that knowledge of "the future" ... even infallible knowledge ... determines what the future will be?

Is "the past" what it is because we know what happened (generally and imperfectly speaking, of course)? Did Washington cross the Delaware because I know he crossed the Delaware? Does my knowledge of what he did *really* remove his freedom to do or not to do as he freely wills?

If "the past" is not, after all, determined by our knowledge of it, how is it that "the future" is determined by God's "exhaustive foreknowledge?"

For that matter ... on the presumption that General Relativity is essentially correct ... then who (and when/how) determined and demonstrated that there even *are* such things as "the future" and "the past?"

Victor Reppert said...

PAP, I think is a corollary to the main thesis of incompatibilism, which is that we ought to trace responsibility back to originating causes.

I wonder if anyone has just bitten the bullet here by turning the Frankfurt intuition pumps on their heads: PAP is true, therefore, we must resist the temptation to suppose that people are morally responsible in Frankfurt situations.

Jim S. said...

Victor, I know you don't think the AFR is an argument against determinism per se, but I think it can be made into one with a few additional premises. As such, I think that determinism is self-defeating in the same way that physicalism is. As you know, much of the literature on the AFR is stated as an argument against determinism rather than physicalism or naturalism.

Mike Darus said...

Has anyone used Ezekiel 33 to evaluate Frankfurt methodology? Or evaluated Ezekial 33 with Frankfurt scenarios? There is a determined situation with apparently free choices that have definite moral implications. It even explores the difference between the immediate consequences of a choice and the affect of one choice on the choice of another.

Anonymous said...

I have Dennett's book and I plan on reading it. Shermer and other atheists can disagree between themselves just like Christians and politicians do. I, however, think a case for incompatibilism can be made if naturalism is true. My bet is that it'll take a lot of work to do this, but that someone will.

The main reason is that I have decision making power. Right now I can get out of my chair and decide to do any number of things, some absolutely insane and unpredictable. In fact, get yourself the newest supercomputer and calculate what it is I will do next (assuming all factors about me are in it), then tell me what that prediction is, and I’ll guarantee that all bets are off at that point. After you predict what I will do (an added piece of information for the supercomputer) then run those calculations one more time. That supercomputer will never be able to predict what I will do. Never. Because my goal will be to do something so strange the computer could never think of it at all.

Ilíon said...

Again, I ask the entirely rhetorical question: "Isn't 'promissory materialism' just the greatest thing since sliced bread?"

Victor Reppert said...

John: Your comment reminds me of a story about two horseback preachers, one a Calvinist and the other an Arminian. The Calvinist said "God has predestined that we should exchange churces this morning. The Arminian replied "Oh no he hasn't," and went back to preach in his own church.

exapologist said...

PAP, I think is a corollary to the main thesis of incompatibilism, which is that we ought to trace responsibility back to originating causes.

That has long been the view. However, some libertarians (e.g., Christian philosopher Eleonore Stump) have abandoned PAP. They're sometimes called 'Frankfurt-libertarians'.

Kevin Timpe defends your view that adherence to PAP is essential to libertarianism here.

Anonymous said...

Vic, I understand. I haven't read much of anything at all on this topic, I'll confess. I have independent reasons for thinking naturalism is the case, reasons which you disagree with, of course. But given that background belief I find it very difficult to explain every single decision I make as pre-programed inside of me. When, for instance, I want to show that I do have metaphysical freedom, all I have to do is something, anything, and that which I choose to do will never be predicted by any supercomputer containing all of the data of my life, much less when it predicts what I will do and then tells me what I'm about to do and then recalculates one last time before I do something. Why? Because there are potentially a million things I could do at that point, from picking my nose, to screaming, to nothing at all.