Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Dennett on Compatibilist Free Will

I wonder if he would agree with Dawkins' claim that blaming people for their actions is as silly as beating up Basil's car.

20 comments:

Matthew said...

Did you know that when you search YouTube for "Victor Reppert"

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=victor+reppert&search_type=&aq=f

you get videos from J.P. Moreland and Hugh Ross?

Even the churchlands, which defend a position of philosophy of minds which is only hold by two people (the churchlands ...) have whole playlists!

Victor Reppert said...

Now that's not true. Blue Devil Knight studied under the Churchlands, and, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, is an Churchland-style eliminativist. You can go in and do a search for "eliminative materialism" and follow the exchange we had.

Steven Carr said...

'I wonder if he would agree with Dawkins' claim that blaming people for their actions is as silly as beating up Basil's car.'

If you read 'Elbow Room'by Dennett, you would find out the answer to that question.

Matthew said...

Vic,
ah, you destroyed all hopes for my hyperbole to be realistic.
Does anyone have a link to that exchange? I looked but can't find it. Maybe I overlooked that.

Victor Reppert said...

I did read Elbow Room, and it is less than clear. The reason is that what Dawkins is talking about is blaming persons for their actions, based on the idea that you can deserve something bad for doing something bad. It may be that Dawkins wouldn't object to the sort of moral responsiblity that is geared to correcting a misguided behavior pattern.

The idea of beating the car is that you are doing something to the car that is ineffective in altering its behavior. When we punish people, I take it we are thinking of doing things that will effectively modify their behavior.

Victor Reppert said...

I suspect that both Dawkins and Dennett would agree that the kind of retributive punishment defended (without religious overtones, I might add) in "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" would be unacceptable.

Rasmus Møller said...

If brainwash could be done painlessly, would eliminative materialists have any arguments against doing it? (HT "The Abolition of Man" by C.S. Lewis)

Gregory said...

Quote from Dennet:

"You can make a living thing from parts that aren't living. Well, you can make a free thing from parts that aren't free, too. And for the same sort of reason. Freedom is a feature of the design of all those parts. If you put them together right, you've got something that has freedom in the most interesting way anybody could ever hope for. And that has nothing to do with physics. It has to do with design, and design comes from evolution."

Look everybody!! It's the miracle working universe. More incredible than the idea that "God created the heavens and the earth." Able to leap the parameters of rationality and physics in a single bound. Look, up there is the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it God?

No, dummy. It's evolution!!


Watch the incredible, "evolving" freedom automate the non-living at this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS5Q-9uNCLU

Dawn of the Dumb

Ilíon said...

Of course, Scott Adams claims (with him, as he's a cynic, you can never tell just whose chain he's yanking) to believe that humans are "meat robots" and that there is no such thing as free-will.

Steven Carr said...

VICTOR
When we punish people, I take it we are thinking of doing things that will effectively modify their behavior.

CARR
So there is no point in trying to train animals with carrots/sticks as they do not have libertarian free will and rewards/punishments are ineffective in modifying behaviour?

Does God punish people in Hell to modify their behaviour?

normajean said...

Carr, I'm under the impression that animals have freewill. Plantinga seems to be also.

normajean said...

checkout one of his "against materialism" audio lectures.

Ilíon said...

Please, guys! Mr Carr is just (as is his wont) once again playing stupid.


VR: "... The reason is that what Dawkins is talking about is blaming persons for their actions, based on the idea that you can deserve something bad for doing something bad. ...

The idea of beating the car is that you are doing something to the car that is ineffective in altering its behavior. ...
"

The thrust of Dawkins' "Basil's Car" argument, such as it was, was not that punishing people for their behavior may be ineffective in modifying their behavior, but rather that the concept of punishment is a category error. For, his argument starts with the assertion that human beings are not agents; and since (as he asserts) humans are not agents, then they logically cannot be morally responsible for their behaviours.

From the "Basil's Car" argument, it is clear that Dawkins would have no philosophic difficulty with inflicting upon "criminals" the sorts of conditions we already do ... just so long as it's not conceived as deserved punishment, but rather as therapy.


VR: "...The idea of beating the car is that you are doing something to the car that is ineffective in altering its behavior. When we punish people, I take it we are thinking of doing things that will effectively modify their behavior."

VR: "I suspect that both Dawkins and Dennett would agree that the kind of retributive punishment defended (without religious overtones, I might add) in "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" would be unacceptable."

Punishing (or, as we should say, "punishing") people for the primary purpose of "effectively modify[ing] their behavior" is exactly what Lewis is arguing against in "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment." To punish a miscreant because he deserves to be punished is to affirm that he is a moral and rational being (and that we all are); to subject persons to certain conditions for the express purpose of more "effectively modify[ing] their behavior" is to deny all humans' status as moral and rational beings; it is to subvert actual justice.


Once the immoral and unjust "therapeutic" model of "criminal justice" fully supplants the moral and properly just "retributive" model, there remains no philosophic hindrance to "punishing" some persons for "crimes" which they did not commit. For, after all, under the "therapeutic" model the philosophic rationale for the "punishment" is not actually to deservedly punish behavior which has occurred, but rather to deter behavior which has not occurred.

Ilíon said...

In case the reader is unfamiliar with Dawkin's "Basil's Car" argument, such as it is, it is here: Let's all stop beating Basil's car.

Likewise, here is Lewis' The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment.

Gregory said...

Carr:

You're caricature of "hell" missess the mark by presenting it as a type of place. There is no place called "hell".

Hell is, at least for some people, the eventual reality of being inescapably caught in the eternal presence of God's love.

Both the "righteous" and the "wicked" are both issued into His presence. The "righteous", through repentance and trust in God, experience the "fire" of God's love as though he/she were sitting next to a cozy fireplace, unconsumed by it....like Moses and the Burning Bush, or Daniel and his friends. The "wicked", on the other hand, through continued obstinance and refusal to repent and be purified in this life, will experience the "fire" of God's love like someone who's thrown into the fireplace!! (see Malachi 3:2; Hebrews 12:29; Ex. 3:1-3; 19:18).

Life is a series of opportunities for people to become inoculated with the "fire" of God's limited presence--insofar as we are able to endure it--until we are acclimated to His presence to such a degree that we can begin to enjoy and long for it fully and completely, rather than fear and loathe the initial discomforts. For there is coming a time when He will not hide His presence from men....but He does so, in the meantime, as a mercy to us.

As Lewis has noted: "Heaven is an acquired taste."

Yet, if those persons wanted to "repent" and turn to God, even in that miserable state called "hell", even then God is willing that they should turn back and enjoy His presence (2 Pet. 3:9; Eze. 18:23-32; 33:11). The problem and scary part is: is that some people aren't ever willing to turn (Matt. 23:37; Romans 10:21).

So, it's not that God punishes people, really. It's that people consciously choose to punish themselves. God is sort of like "Burger King"....you really do get things your way.

Am I absolutely certain which way I, or anyone else, will ultimately experience God? No. It's a "wait and see" situation.

Steven Carr said...

Plantinga says animals have free will?

Does a dog ever do anything immoral?

So Plantinga claims God has created beings with free will that never choose evil, and also that it is logically impossible for God to create beings with free will that never choose evil?

normajean said...

Steven Carr, I can't make sense of your comment.

Ilíon said...

NormaJean!

Mark Frank said...

I don't know whether Dennett would agree with punishment as retribution - but I am pretty sure he would say the issue is nothing to do with determinism. If free will means retribution is justified, then we have sufficient free will in a determinist world.

Gregory said...

Animals are not created in the "image of God"....nor are they entities for whom God died for. Nor are they subject to Divine justice. God was not incarnated as a fish, a bear, an eagle nor a snake. He was incarnated as a human.

God loves, has relationships with and redeems, mankind....and mankind alone!!

Animals might very well have freewill, but they most certainly don't have a conscience. That is because they aren't image bearers of God, Who is the Source of moral goodness. But, that very Source does, in fact, reside in the hearts and souls of mankind (Luke 17:20,21) because He created us in His image (Gen. 1:27). Therefore, mankind is not only able to experience guilt and remorse for crimes committed; mankind is also able to experience forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation with God...and with each other.