On 4/18/2011 9:55 AM, Rex Allen wrote:
On Sun, Apr 17, 2011 at 6:32 PM, John Mikes<jami...@gmail.com>  wrote:
We exercise a decisionmaking 'will' that is a product of the 'mini'
everything we are under the influences of. But "free" it is not.
Well put.

So, here is a summary of Dennett's position:

"Dennett makes use of his treatment of the intentional stance to argue
for compatibilism. Just as the decision to adopt the intentional
stance towards a system is a pragmatic one, so too is it a pragmatic
decision to adopt towards a system the stance that it is a morally
responsible person. Dennett calls this latter stance the personal
stance (1973, pp. 157–8). As with the intentional stance, there is
nothing metaphysically deep required to interpret legitimately a
system as a person (no special faculty of the will, for instance).
Such systems are morally responsible agents if interpreting them
according to the personal stance pays off (1984a, pp. 158–63). And of
course, just as the physical (or the deterministic) stance is
compatible with the intentional stance, so too, according to Dennett,
is it compatible with the personal stance. Furthermore, just as he
treats the intentional stance, Dennett argues that, due to the
complexity of such systems, it is practically impossible to interpret
and predict the system purely from the physical (deterministic)
stance. Hence, the physical stance will never supplant the personal
stance. We persons involved in the everyday commerce of interacting
with each other need the personal stance; it is not threatened by the
specter of determinism. "


So he also appeals to pragmatism.  If it is useful to treat someone
(or something) as morally responsible, then they are.

The reasoning there seems suspect to me, and again gets into
definitional issues - but even if I accept his point, I still say that
this stance is *not* useful when dealing with society as a whole.  The
system of interest is society, not the individual.

If there are commonalities in individuals who manifest certain
behaviors, then it makes sense to look at those commonalities as
causal (especially once a plausible mechanism can be identified), and
to no longer treat those behaviors as "free".

In most situations it doesn't make sense to look at each individual as
unique and "free"...instead it makes sense to look at what is common
accross individuals and assume the existence of a mechanism that
accounts for those commonalities.

So if almost everyone is deterred from committing crimes by community approbation and fear of punishment, the person who does commit a crime should be treated as "free"?

And, if you want to improve things, to focus your ameleorative efforts
to the mechanism, not to the individuals who are subject to it.  Treat
the disease, not the symptoms.

The concept of individual moral responsibility isn't needed and serves
no good purpose.

The argument that we need the concept of moral responsibility lest
society fall apart is the same as the argument that we need God and an
afterlife to motivate good behavior.

Individuals respond to incentives and deterrents.  Get those right,
and the system will work.  Get those wrong and people will rationalize
around morality anyway.

All we need to justify some particular incentive or deterrent is:

1)  It works.
2)  We can't think of anything that would work better.

Talk of moral responsibility and free will just serve to distract and
confuse.  If a policy can't be justified on the above two points, then
adding moral responsibility and free will to the equation *still*
won't justify it.

The actual context in which "free will" comes up is in prosecution for a crime. Did the defendant act of his own free will or was he under some compulsion or coercion. This already takes what is common to individuals into account. If most individuals in that circumstance would not commit that crime, then the defendant is judged to have acted out of his own free will. If most individuals would have committed the crime, e.g. in defense of ones family, then the defendant may be excused.


If a policy *can* be justified on the above two points, then it should
be implemented regardless of issues involving moral responsibility and
free will.


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