On 6/1/2012 11:43 AM, Brian Tenneson wrote:

    Cannot comment, don't know what ASCII string "free will" means and neither 
do you.

      John K Clark

Of course there are various degrees to which it can be free but that doesn't mean "free will" is a meaningless string. Freedom is defined by the observer. I note the freedom I have in choosing my beliefs. I am not bound to agree with you nor am I bound to disagree with you.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines free will as follows

"“Free Will” is a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. "

So what is the fuss about?

The fuss is because the concept is thought to be fundamental to jurisprudence and social policy (it's even cited in some Supreme Court decisions). The concept of free will has been carried over from past theological and philosophical ideas. But now the concept is attacked by scientists and some philosophers as incoherent or empirically false. If they are right it would seem to imply revision of the social/legal concepts and laws derived from it. Can existing practice be justified on a purely utilitarian basis?


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