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Old 08-08-2019, 01:23 PM
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Eonwe is offline
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: Burlington VT
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
The philosophical question of free will comes down to definition. How you define free will determines whether or not we have free will. You can make either argument, depending on which assumptions you are starting with. This does not, to me, seem all that interesting. I did like the analogy of the video though. If you start with the assumption that people have free will, then if you video someone throughout their day, when you play it back, do they still have free will?

The more interesting question is what effect does the existence or nonexistence free will have on our actual lives.

If someone is charged with a crime, can they claim that they didn't have free will, and so had no choice? If they argue that, can the court argue that it, too, doesn't have free will, and therefore, will punish him anyway?
I have yet to hear a definition of free will other than the one monstro poses that isn't meaningless or fails to, ultimately, have any "there" there.

In your example above, you've reduced the issue to its most meaningless extreme while not examining what true cultural and individual impacts are of an understanding of "no free will". "lah lah, I can do whatever I want because no free will" is not a real argument about free will. Society can still enact rules and structures

A major failing of our judicial system is that we punish people as if they have free will, while at the same time semi-acknowledging that personal biology and background play a huge part in whether or not a particular individual is going to have committed a particular crime.

Granted that there's a huge selective enforcement issue also at play, poor and black people end up in prison at dramatically higher rates than wealthy white people (I know I don't need to convince you of that; cite is for thoroughness). Do poor black people just choose to commit crimes? Is it just kind of a random happenstance? Of course not. I'm not going to unpack this super-complex example here, but suffice to say, there are economic and cultural factors at work, both in society at large, and within interpersonal and family relationships, that keep poor people poor. And then we turn around and imprison them for it. This is the moral tragedy of "free will" thinking. That people who do bad things are operating from the exact same set of inputs as the "good" people, and yet just somehow choose to be bad, and so deserve to pay for that choice.

Society has enacted this "free will" concept of justice and retribution, and clings tightly to it, while we see again and again that crimes and anti-social behavior correlates to identifiable experiences, past or existing trauma, and other contextual details.

In your example, I'd say both the criminal and the court are right to a degree. The problem is that the court (and modern society in general) is not ready to let go of the idea of free will and 100% culpability in favor of . . . something else. I don't know what, and whatever it is would require massive cultural shifts.

Maybe there's a world in which we identify the social contexts under which people are most likely to be anti-social and we focus on removing those contexts. Maybe there's a world in which, because we appreciate that personal "choice" is a response to factors outside of our control, we don't revel in prison rape and abuse and continue to refuse to address the issue, while building more and more prisons.

Any time we admit the truth that "because of X, people in this group are more likely to X," we admit to lack of free will.

Free will seems to require a complete lack of context for everything, both personal physiological context and external context.

As soon as there is a "reason" why a choice was made, there was necessarily a judgment about how important that reason was, in relation to the reasons for not doing a thing. And what that judgment was based upon is a mass of background that is uncontrollable.

Why do I want the things I want? Why do I want some of them more than others? I don't know, and I'm certainly not in control of it on any fundamental level.