Monday, July 18, 2016

Does the denial of free will undermine the moral life?

Yes, according to the New York Times

22 comments:

Gyan said...

"our gut instinct that Bill is morally responsible even though he’s living in a deterministic universe"

I don't get that it is self-evident that we are living in a "deterministic universe". I lack this feeling. There are things that behave predictably --they are lifeless things or plants.
And then there are things that behave in an unpredictable way--animals and other people.

How can the philosophers talk so glibly about "deterministic universe" is beyond me.

Joe Hinman said...

I think they make the assumption that LaPase made that cause and effect has to produce they given effects,that;s determinism. The argument when God is not brought into it is does the multiplicity and complexity of variables make for unpredictable outcome?
\
I also think the compatibilist view is big now,. most people adher to that, so they have both,

John Moore said...

The concept of morality is different in a deterministic world, but it still makes sense, and the results are actually very similar to what you get in traditional morality.

a) In traditional morality, it's bad to murder your wife because it's just bad, because God said so, and everyone just feels deep down that it's bad.

b) In deterministic consequentialist morality, it's bad to murder your wife because you probably won't get away with it. Other people will punish you because they fear you might murder again. Murder is bad from the murderer's own point of view because he will most likely end up less happy for it. Murder is a poor strategy for achieving happiness.

See, these two concepts of morality both give the same results for society. Murderers get punished either way.

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Certainly there are many questions and scenarios people can bring up to challenge consequentialist morality. But there are answers too, if only you look for them.

For example, people might ask what happens if you actually get away with murder. Was the murder therefore not bad? To answer this question, you just need to think in terms of strategy. Suppose you spend your life's savings to buy lottery tickets, and you end up winning $10 million. Does that mean it's a good investment strategy to spend all your money on lottery tickets?

As I said, there are many such questions and scenarios. And many answers.

Joe Hinman said...

John More
The concept of morality is different in a deterministic world, but it still makes sense, and the results are actually very similar to what you get in traditional morality.

a) In traditional morality, it's bad to murder your wife because it's just bad, because God said so, and everyone just feels deep down that it's bad.

b) In deterministic consequentialist morality, it's bad to murder your wife because you probably won't get away with it. Other people will punish you because they fear you might murder again. Murder is bad from the murderer's own point of view because he will most likely end up less happy for it. Murder is a poor strategy for achieving happiness.



there is a huge difference in "because God said so," and "you probably won't get away with it" you can't see that?

Legion of Logic said...

"there is a huge difference in "because God said so," and "you probably won't get away with it" you can't see that?"

Agreed. In the deterministic model, the act of murdering someone carries the same "moral" weight as crawling headfirst into a rattlesnake den to look around. You probably won't get away with it and it will likely lead to less happiness, but no one would argue that sticking one's face into a snake pit is an immoral act. What's the difference between them?

B. Prokop said...

To answer your question: Yes.

William said...

" In the deterministic model, the act of murdering someone carries the same "moral" weight as crawling headfirst into a rattlesnake den to look around. You probably won't get away with it and it will likely lead to less happiness, but no one would argue that sticking one's face into a snake pit is an immoral act. What's the difference between them?"

Hmm. In the real world, those who truly cannot see or feel the difference between them (as opposed to those who merely have an ideology which makes them talk as if they could ignore the difference they can feel) are called sociopaths.

John Moore said...

Simple answer: Sticking your head in a rattlesnake den is self-punishing, whereas we as a society must take steps to punish murder. Self-punishing things are generally considered foolish but not particularly immoral. Things society needs to punish are called immoral. That was an easy one.

Yes there's a huge philosophical difference between "God said so" and "you probably won't get away with it," but on the other hand, there is often little practical difference.

Chad Handley said...

Suppose you spend your life's savings to buy lottery tickets, and you end up winning $10 million. Does that mean it's a good investment strategy to spend all your money on lottery tickets?

You can't really devise a strategy to vastly increase your chances to win the lottery (other than buying a lot of tickets), but you can devise a strategy to vastly increase your odds of getting away with murder.

And there are murders that from a consequentialist view seem to make perfect sense. Say there's a pedophile who keeps abusing children and keeps escaping conviction. The community won't object to your killing him. Because you killed for justifiable reasons they probably won't feel you'd do it again, except to someone equally deserving.

There are lots of occasions where, in the real world, murder is committed for morally justifiable or understandable reasons. I think there's plenty of practical difference between "God said so" and "you probably won't get away with it." There would be a lot more murder in a purely consequentialist world.

John Moore said...

I think you're over-estimating the value of vigilante justice and under-estimating the value of popular governmental institutions. The occasional vigilante might garner public sympathy, but if too many vigilantes spring up, it turns into chaos, with each vigilante deciding for himself what's right and wrong, or what merits the death penalty. Society will put a stop to that.

Indeed, vigilante justice is illegal because our justice system is already largely consequentialist in practice. The law tries to do what works.

Legion of Logic said...

"That was an easy one."

Hardly. The acts themselves are still equivalent in a deterministic universe - both should be avoided so as not to risk happiness, not because one is foolish and the other wrong. Both lead to a loss of happiness, ergo don't do it. That's what you said. "Murder is bad from the murderer's own point of view because he will most likely end up less happy for it. Murder is a poor strategy for achieving happiness."

So. Like I said, murder isn't wrong in a deterministic universe, it just likely leads to loss of happiness. Like sticking your face in a snake pit. The semantics of morality being based on whether a rattlesnake or a police officer does the punishing is not a game worth playing.

Gyan said...

Joe Hinman,

"cause and effect has to produce they given effects,that;s determinism"

Is that so?
Or do they mean "deterministic" in the sense it is used in physics?

John Moore said...

Loss of happiness is a pretty close approximation to wrongness. Let's say wrongness is loss of prosperity or loss of evolutionary fitness. This is what distinguishes good consequences from bad.

By the way, there's also such a thing as Christian consequentialism where the good is defined as that which leads you to God, or helps you attain grace. The only difference between physicalist consequentialism and Christian consequentialism is the ultimate goal. Many of the practical details are the same.

Joe Hinman said...

that LaPlace was a physicist a d he set use in picnics that;s not philosophy

Joe Hinman said...

Loss of happiness is a pretty close approximation to wrongness. Let's say wrongness is loss of prosperity or loss of evolutionary fitness. This is what distinguishes good consequences from bad.

that's all the kind of a moral thinking that results from scioentism htat we are fighting, I should that in my book as an example of the amoral nature of scientism; that's the kind of propagandist excuse they used in Brave New world.

By the way, there's also such a thing as Christian consequentialism where the good is defined as that which leads you to God, or helps you attain grace. The only difference between physicalist consequentialism and Christian consequentialism is the ultimate goal. Many of the practical details are the same


that flies in the face of historic Christianity. Historically Christian theology since Augustine has maintained that each individual is an e d in himsekf and the natue of the good is God's nature

Joe Hinman said...

And there are murders that from a consequentialist view seem to make perfect sense. Say there's a pedophile who keeps abusing children and keeps escaping conviction.

that's why most ethicists think consequentialism sux, JohnRawls burried conseuentialkism, That arguments assumes a preset deontoloogy in order to define the standard for outcome,

Joe Hinman said...

Yes there's a huge philosophical difference between "God said so" and "you probably won't get away with it," but on the other hand, there is often little practical difference.

Look John if the only thing wrong with something is that you night not get away with it then it's not morally wrong. If that's what your meta ethics is based upon then you have no ethics.

Joe Hinman said...

Loss of happiness is a pretty close approximation to wrongness

not in any way, are you going by swinish forms of happimness or sporoitual? because moral acts can make one very unhappy in term terms of physical comfort and even emotionally >LIke it's emotionally painful to apologize or admit wrong doming for example

if you cast right and wrong only in terms of pragmatism and warm fuzzes I can justify murder.

Stephen Kirk said...

We are free to choose good(God) or evil because to have a universe structured otherwise would deny our dignity as free moral beings and deny the glory to God that we freely chose Him.

God is more than able to control the major points of history (crucifixion, Israel, even the coming of the antiChrist) to meet His overall goals of justly conquering evil in the end. Our task as individual persons is too align ourselves with His program (e.g., get saved!).

Calvinist/Islam are small minded people who fail to see how God can allow the dignity of individual freedoms and still achieve his big picture corporate goals. As a chemical engineer accustomed to molecular separations and control technology concepts it is not hard to achieve very precise overall product quality results without "controlling" each individual molecule's path.

Joe Hinman said...

Stephen Kirk said...
We are free to choose good(God) or evil because to have a universe structured otherwise would deny our dignity as free moral beings and deny the glory to God that we freely chose Him.


I agree with your entire statement. I am not a Calvinist. Calvinism is diverse though. We have to recognize they not all TULIP guys,

oozzielionel said...

The Calvinism that I am inclined towards doubts that any of us are truly free. We are only free to choose according to our nature. We cannot choose contrary to our nature. When we choose, we can only choose what our nature is capable of choosing. The natural nature of humanity is to tend towards rebellion against God. It is only when the Holy Spirit acts on the nature to enable faith that faith is possible. There are many shades of Calvinism, but the Sublapsarian type avoids a hard determinism, has a strong case for responsibility, but suggests that our thoughts of our will being truly free are naive. The presence of a common grace that provides the ability to freely choose is seen as a comforting fiction.


The OP could better approach the question of moral responsibility apart from the question of free will. We can maintain responsibility without the condition that the choice is entirely free. We are never truly free because of a multitude of influences that warp our ability to choose. If it is required that our choice be completely free to be morally culpable, there would no longer be any conviction of any infraction. Our culture plays this game with even the most heinous offences. Each time there is a mass killing, we psychoanalyze to discover the mental illness. We desperately search for the factor that convinces us that the perpetrator has some deficiency that the rest of us do not have so we can be comforted that we are not capable of evil "like that." Part of moral responsibility needs to include making the right choices even with the worst of circumstances, backgrounds and previous abuses.

Chuck Barwell said...

If God is outside of time and all is a BigNow with no real past nor future, and if God creates all, God created all as it is, past, now and future. Every bit of your existence, your "actions" was created by God. You have no free will. Everyb bit of your existence is determined by God.