On Apr 19, 6:38 am, Rex Allen <rexallen31...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 1:24 AM, Rex Allen <rexallen31...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > On Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 12:24 PM, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be> wrote:
> >> Th fact that you say that compatibilist free will is "faux will" or worst
> >> "subjective will" means that you *do* believe in incompatibilist free will.
> Ah, I see what you're saying.
> I've mentioned this before. I think that libertarians are referring
> to *something* when they use "free will". It's just something that
> doesn't exist. Like unicorns, or the bibilical Triune God.
> They are referring to an imaginary ability to make decisions that are
> neither caused nor random - but instead are something else, something
> that can't be clearly conceived of or described but which somehow
> gives them ultimate responsibility for their actions.
> It isn't a coherent concept, or rational...but that's people for you.
III.1.i The Basicness Assumption.
A popular argument against free will has it that free will is
incompatible with causal determinism (because of lack of Alternative
Possibilities or "elbow room") and with indeterminism (because will is
not "mere randomness"). This seems to neglect the alternative the free
will is a judicious mixture of the determinism and indeterminism —
after all, we cannot infer "salt is not sodium chloride" from "salt is
not sodium" and "salt is not chlorine", true as both those statements
Or perhaps there it is more than that ? Perhaps the determinist is
making the assumption that free will is a basic ingredient to the
universe, and using that as a reason to exclude the possibility that
it is a composite, emergent phenomenon. This would certainly explains
why Gordon Orloff says things like:- "if so, how and why doesn't
everything in the universe — atoms, cells, dogs, cars — possess this
unnatural quality? [free will]" Why should they ? If free will is an
outcome of the engineering of the brain, we would not expect to find
it in the absence of any other mental faculties. We would hardly
expect to find thought in the absence of memory, for instance. If free
will is looked at as a psychological phenomenon, it depends on other
psychological phenomena. we have specific reason to think it is
dependent on other mental faculties, because, we need the ingredient
of rationality to distinguish free will from "mere caprice". If we
adopt the hypothesis that free will is indeed and outcome of a complex
combination of causal determinism and indeterminism, we have further
reason not to ascribe it to systems with the wrong engineering:
systems like sticks and stones, or deterministic computers.
This does not add up to chauvinism, by the way. Non-humans could have
the appropriate engineering, and appropriate equivalents of the
accompanying mental faculties. Even a convincing artificial
intelligence could have free will — if it had genuine rationality and
genuine indeterminism. The basicness assumption seems to provide a
justification for the supernatural assumption: causal determinism and
indeterminism seem to be the only logical options for basic features
of the world, so if free will is a third basic feature, it must be
supernatural. But, we contend, it is a third option which is natural
The Separate Self Assumption.
Another argument against free will states: "If the universe is
deterministic, you are a slave to causal determinism; if the universe
is indeterministic, you are a slave to indeterminism". I would like to
ask who this "you" or "self" is ? You cannot be a slave to yourself.
If you are constituted by deterministic processes, you cannot also be
a slave to them. This line of argument often seeks to portray
indeterminism as some sort of external force that overrides your own
will. But my hypothesis is that the indeterminism relevant to free
will is internal to people. If some external source of indeterminism,
something outside your body, controlled your actions, you could justly
complain that you were "enslaved" to it; but the same could be said of
deterministic processes external to you; the relevant factor is the
externalness, not the indeterminism.
III.1.ii The Buridan's Ass Assumption
According to a mediaeval argument, Buridan's Ass, which for the
purposes of the story, has no free will, is placed at an equal
distance between two bales of hay, and starves to death because it is
unable to make up its mind which of the two bales it should eat.
We do not need to make a Supernatural Assumption about the free will
in this case; indeterminism would do just as well in allowing the Ass
This approach does indeed indicate that free will is inimical to
rational decision making..up to a point. The Ass has no rational
reason to prefer one bale over the other. It's decision to go for, say
the left bale, is therefore irrational. But how much more irrational
to starve to death! One of the morals of the story is that there is
more to rationality — of a kind worth having — than being able to
logically justify every one of you actions. As I have explained in a
previous section, the whole gamut of human behaviour has to include
pragmatic decision-making, creativity, and many other styles of
behaviour that don't reduce to following explicit rules.
However, the real problem is that it is locating indeterminism in the
wrong place — ie, interposed between decision making and action. If
you are committed to a model in which determinism and randomness
combine to produce free will, you still have a range of options as to
how they combine.
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