On Thu, Jun 09, 2011 at 02:15:47PM -0700, meekerdb wrote:
> He seems to disagree with compatibilism; but he essentially agrees
> on the facts; he just doesn't want to use the phrase "free will"
> because he thinks that's redefining the terms to mean something
> other than what people normally mean.  Interestingly when he talks
> about what people normally mean, a kind of dualism, he shows that
> what people usually mean is incoherent even on a dualist account.
> 
> Brent
> "You can avoid responsibility for everything if you just make
> yourself small enough."
>         --- Daniel Dennett, "Elbow Room"

This is clearly an agenda in itself. The free will that Harris is
talking about was probably a concept that was repurposed by the
Christian Church to have something to do with God and souls.

I would argue that the intuitive notion of free will (that we have
"agency", is that there is a "self" in charge of what our bodies doing is
more what we should be talking about.

Now that is, of course, deliberately vague - it is an intuitive notion
after all. But I would imagine that the self is a specific arrangement
of molecules that generates the requisite behaviour. There is no
particular reason why we need to be fully consious of our "self" -
indeed, all the evidence points otherwise - we often make decisions,
or perform actions, only later becoming aware of them, and making a
post-hoc justification. But it is still our self that makes the
decision (and potentially responsible for the action - another matter
entirely). It would not matter if the self were fully deterministic,
it is still the self that causes the action (at one level of
description, just like at one level of description the desk prevents
my laptop from crashing to the floor). However, I don't believe the
universe is deterministic. Physics says otherwise. So the whole
compatibilist/incompatibilist bit is simply an irrelevant diversion.

As I always say, free will is the ability to do something stupid. And
from an evolutionary point of view, that is actually a useful ability.

-- 

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Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
Principal, High Performance Coders
Visiting Professor of Mathematics      hpco...@hpcoders.com.au
University of New South Wales          http://www.hpcoders.com.au
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