Nietzsche doing what Nietzsche does best: criticising incoherent metaphysical doctrines

Nietzsche, the great philosopher ahead by over a century of all the scientific  experiments that have ridiculed such a notion, mocking the idea that we should feel the burden of being absolutely morally responsible for our actions because we are unable to be the cause or somehow create ourselves:

The causa sui is the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far. It is a sort of rape and perversion of logic. But the extravagant pride of man has managed to entangle itself profoundly and frightfully with just this nonsense. The desire for “freedom of the will” in the superlative metaphysical sense, which still holds sway, unfortunately, in the minds of the half-educated; the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one’s actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui and, with more than Baron Munchhausens audacity, to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness (Beyond Good and Evil, 1886).
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38 thoughts on “Nietzsche doing what Nietzsche does best: criticising incoherent metaphysical doctrines

  1. A good example of “tilting at windmills”. As William James describes in “Pragmatism”, a concept is only good for “so far”, but as long as it contributes to dealing with experience in a meaningful way, it carries some truth. Such is the case with “free will” and “determinism”.

    When “free will” is misinterpretted to suggest freedom from causality it is a “windmill” (or straw man definition), because to be free from causality also means the will can no longer cause what it wills. So it is a waste of Nietzsche’s time and brain to attack that which cannot exist. Free will is properly set within the background of a deterministic universe, where (a) choices are caused and (b) living organisms make choices as they see fit, and (c) carrying out that their own will determines what will happen next in the real world.

    So long as “free will” is no more (and no less) than us acting deliberately on our own behalf, it is a useful distinction from us being forced to act against our will, or those lacking mental competence to formulate a rational choice, or those being too young to make certain decisions on their own behalf.

    The same goes for the concept of “responsibility”. So long as our choice to behave well or behave badly was a choice of our own free will, then we may be held responsible for our own actions. And that subjects us to reward or corrective penalty designed to deterministically encourage or modify our behavior the next time we face a similar decision.

    The nonsensical position that we should no longer hold anyone responsible for anything they deliberately choose to do has serious moral consequences. And Nietzsche should be smart enough to know better. Or perhaps he should read William James, and learn how concepts work in real life (as opposed to academia).

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    1. “When “free will” is misinterpreted to suggest freedom from causality it is a “windmill” (or straw man definition), because to be free from causality also means the will can no longer cause what it wills. So it is a waste of Nietzsche’s time and brain to attack that which cannot exist”

      Marvin, to think to that free-will is a “windmill” because it can no longer cause what it wills is to beg the question against those whom are advocates for libertarian free-will.

      I also strongly disagree that it is was a waste of Nietzsche’s time to be attacking the notion of “causa sui” in relation to free will and moral responsibility. In Nietzsche’s time, an argument I implicitly made, is that the scientific data which has suggested we may not have the libertarian notion of free will that we commonly assume from a first person perspective (“the feeling of being the cause of our actions and of having ownership of our actions”) would not have been available to him. In fact, to take up such a stance by philosophical argument, I think, is genius.

      As an incompatibilist I disagree with aspects of the following: “Free will is properly set within the background of a deterministic universe, where (a) choices are caused and (b) living organisms make choices as they see fit, and (c) carrying out that their own will determines what will happen next in the real world.” But I’ll leave that for a future post. I’m sure that as a type of compatibilist that your disagree with my ensuing incompatibilist arguments against it, and hopefully an interesting discussion should arise.

      “The nonsensical position that we should no longer hold anyone responsible for anything they deliberately choose to do has serious moral consequences. And Nietzsche should be smart enough to know better”

      Marvin, Nietzsche never states nor makes the illogical jump that an individual should not be held responsible for what they do and this has serious moral consequences. I have no idea why you have read that statement into him when it doesn’t exist in the quote. Moreover, it is a common misconception you make in relation to what the hard determinist believes in regards to moral responsibility and how people should be treated. A hard determinist does not believe a murderer is morally responsible, or blameworthy, for his actions. However, a lack of moral responsibility, does not mean that we want murderers running around on the street. One theory is to put the murderer into a type of quarantine until he can be rehabilitated, if possible, and returned into society. This would require a legal system of non-retributivist punishment, however.

      “And Nietzsche should be smart enough to know better. Or perhaps he should read William James, and learn how concepts work in real life (as opposed to academia).”

      Quite an ironical statement don’t you think? William James held an academic post much longer than Nietzsche, and you clearly have not read nor know your Nietzsche if you classify Nietzsche as an academic par excellence. Lastly, you just agreed that Nietzsche understands that the libertarian notion of freewill is incoherent, surely that qualifies as understanding how a concept works in real life (at least in relationship to the free-will debate).

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      1. “A hard determinist does not believe a murderer is morally responsible, or blameworthy, for his actions. However, a lack of moral responsibility, since the murder “could not do otherwise” does not mean that we want murderers running around on the street. One theory is to put the murderer into a type of quarantine until he can be rehabilitated, if possible, and returned into society.”

        That’s the moral quagmire right there. If you are correct that “a hard determinist does not believe a murderer is morally responsible” then where do they hang their hat in justifying any action that restricts the criminal’s actions or interferes with his liberties?

        To “blame” or “hold responsible” means only to identify the causal agent that needs “correction”.

        Moral responsibility implies deliberate cause. Deliberate cause implies conscious choice (free will).

        Rehabilitation implies deterministically altering future conscious choices (again, free will).

        To eliminate “conscious choice” from the moral formulation also eliminates the possibility of rehabilitation.

        That’s the problem.

        We have an integrated set of concepts that form the foundation of moral judgment and correction. From a pragmatist’s viewpoint, the usefulness of these concepts in achieving moral good (such as correcting harmful behavior) lends them sufficient truth that they cannot be arbitrarily discarded due to some “technical” problems claimed by “hard determinists”.

        We are not separate from causation (nothing is), so we cannot be its victim. So long as it is actually us, deciding for ourselves what seems best and choosing for ourselves what we will do next, then we call it freedom and are in fact acting of our own free will.

        The scientist, observing the decider from the outside, could, “theoretically”, find the means of predicting a decider’s choice by increasing her knowledge of the decider’s thinking, beliefs, values, history, etc.

        The decider, observing himself from the inside, in the process of deliberately choosing, always begins with an uncertainty, where he does not know yet which option he will choose. He can say truthfully, “I could choose option A or I could choose option B. But I don’t know which I will choose yet”. Then he begins evaluating his options in terms of his own values, his own beliefs, his own reasons, his own previous experiences, until he becomes more certain which option is the best option. And then he decides. His choice becomes his will at that moment.

        One event. The exact same event in reality. But seen from two different perspectives. The scientist, seeking to reliably find the causes of the the choice, observes an event determined by those causes. The decider, seeking to find what works best for him, freely evaluates options A and B in terms of who he really is and what he really thinks and feels, and, if no one forces the choice upon him, acts of his own free will.

        Is free will just an “illusion”? No. There is no illusion. The decider is, actually, in fact, making a decision for himself. And science is every day learning more about how that process is rooted in the physical structure of the brain. So the decision is really happening in the real world, and no one else is making that decision except the decider himself.

        Both determinism and free will are “strictly” true and in the “hardest” possible way.

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  2. “That’s the moral quagmire right there. If you are correct that “a hard determinist does not believe a murderer is morally responsible” then where do they hang their hat in justifying any action that restricts the criminal’s actions or interferes with his liberties? …To “blame” or “hold responsible” means only to identify the causal agent that needs “correction”

    Marvin, my position of hard determinism that I endorse abolishes “blame” and “moral responsibility” so it is superfluous to identify terms like “blame” and “hold responsible” with my position.

    Justification for quarantine is similar by analogy to somebody having a disease such as Ebola. They are not to blame or morally responsible in having Ebola, but they have to be quarantined – usually on utilitarian grounds – until they are cured and allowed back into society.

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    1. But one of the patients refuses to be quarantined. Instead, he chooses, of his own free will, to go to Disneyland, because for the present he is asymptomatic, and it will be several days before the first symptoms appear.

      He has a mild cough. And shields others by coughing into his hand. But there is Mickey Mouse! He shakes hands. The next four children who shake Mickey’s hand come down with ebola four days later.

      The parents are wiped out financially by the hospital bills. Which is unfortunate because the guy who chose to escape quarantine was quite rich, and had no problem covering his own hospitalization.

      Since hard determinists cannot hold the rich man responsible, the parents are out of luck.

      And here’s the key point, because the rich man was not held responsible, he also failed to control his own behavior when he was later diagnosed with AIDS. And he infected several others with that.

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  3. Marvin, I’m not sure what the issue is exactly with your example – A person doesn’t know he has Ebola (since it’s asymptomatic and his symptoms have not appeared) unknowingly infects others: not even Libertarianism nor Compatibilism would hold him morally responsible. Our current legal system doesn’t hold them legally responsible either, this example is not a responsibility issue. Also, the example of the parent’s running out of money due to unforeseen hospital bills since their child has been infected with Ebola is irrelevant. Random, unforeseeable events happen to individuals and families, and they have to be dealt with.

    “And here’s the key point, because the rich man was not held responsible, he also failed to control his own behaviour when he was later diagnosed with AIDS. And he infected several others with that.”

    Rather the key point is that the individual did not control his Ebola (where did AIDS come from?) due to a lack of knowledge that he had Ebola. However, since it was asymptomatic and the symptoms did not appear for a few days, it was epistemically impossible for the individual to control his disease. However, even had he known that he had Ebola and purposefully infected others, then this still would not be an issue for the theory. It would be identically similar to the murderer example.

    From a previous post – “We are not separate from causation (nothing is), so we cannot be its victim.”

    This is a strange statement. It is similar to a statement like the following: we are not separate from the universe (nothing is), so we cannot be its victim. However, being mauled to death by tigers, for no apparent reason, would suggest being a victim … Now in terms of causation, since we have phenomenal qualitative experience it is very easy for us to be victims of causation, even in terms of the pragmatist/ compatibilist: mauled by death by tigers, (or any other gruesome death or miserable life etc.) having desires to be a drug addict, when you don’t want to, but being moved by impulse to take drugs which you cannot stop. Or, an individual that desires to be a homosexual but doesn’t want to be a homosexual for cultural reasons (i.e. its a desire he doesn’t want to have), but the desire is so strong he’s compelled to be a homosexual anyways, and thus feels extreme self-loathing and hatred for this “alien” desire. Now under your scheme:

    “Free will is properly set within the background of a deterministic universe, where (a) choices are caused and (b) living organisms make choices as they see fit, and (c) carrying out that their own will determines what will happen next in the real world. ”

    these individuals (the drug addict and the homosexual) would have free-will. But how can it be free-will when they are compelled to have desires that they do not want to have. In this case, they are determined physical beings, having reasons and motivations to see choices as they see fit, and carrying out their own wills but its not the wills they want. They do not have free-will. Therefore, your version of Compatibilism/ Pragmatism (although I’m not sure if the term Pragmatism correctly fits this free-will debate) doesn’t grant the individual free-will.

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    1. “Marvin, I’m not sure what the issue is exactly with your example ”

      Perhaps I was not clear: He knew full well that he was exposed to ebola but he deliberately refused to be quarantined. Instead, he snuck out of the tent and escaped. Then he went to Disneyland, knowing it was possible he might have ebola, but carelessly exposed several children to ebola. And they developed the disease later due to his deliberate and reckless act.

      You claim he cannot be held responsible for violating the quarantine, recklessly endangering others, and actually spreading ebola to several kids at Disneyland.

      I claim that he can and ought to be sued in civil court for the harm to the kids and the hospital costs of treating the kids for ebola. And I suspect that there may also be criminal cases for violating quarantine and reckless endangerment.

      You seem willing to ignore his behavior since it was deterministically inevitable. That’s the problem. If the bad behavior is ignored, it may be repeated. For example, if he caught AIDS then he may behave just as recklessly with that as he was with ebola. Result: Harm multiplied.

      If we had held him responsible for spreading ebola, then it would be much less likely that he would spread AIDS. Result: Harm reduced.

      It is a straightforward and practical problem of applying the hard determinist viewpoint rather than the personal responsibility viewpoint.

      “But how can it be free-will when they are compelled to have desires that they do not want to have.”

      A man is hungry and sitting beside you, watching you eat a sandwich. One option (A) is to beat the hell out of you and take your sandwich. Another option (B) is to walk across the street to the restaurant and buy himself his own sandwich. Since you just sat down beside him on the bench, opened your sandwich, and began eating right in front of him, his real desire is option (A). But after considering the risks, he chooses option (B) instead, and goes to buy himself a sandwich.

      His hunger is not his choice. That’s just part of who he is as a biological organism. But the neurological system (brain) that mediates between his desires and his environment knows that his desires may be fulfilled in many different ways. And he actually gets to choose for himself the “how” of satisfying his real needs and his current desires.

      Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinson was gay, but he wanted to satisfy the requirements of his church, so he married a woman, and over the years had two daughters. He was honest up front with his wife, and they both deliberately chose to make the marriage work. Later, after the kids were born, and when being gay was becoming less and less a stigma, they decided to divorce so that Robinson could be true to himself. Robinson met a man, they fell in love, and lived as partners until it became possible to get married in their state. Robinson felt it was important to marry his partner to be true to his religious beliefs.

      That’s just one example of people making choices of how to deal with the desires that they come with. Since same-sex marriage does no one any harm, and does two people the benefit of having a loving and stable relationship, it is considered morally good. Robinson’s church even confirmed him as Bishop and welcomed his full participation as an ordained minister to the congregation.

      “Now in terms of causation, since we have phenomenal qualitative experience it is very easy for us to be victims of causation …”

      Not of causation itself, but specific causes, you know, the tigers you mentioned. What I’m trying to say is that causation, even universal deterministic inevitability, poses no threat to free will. In fact, it has made free will inevitable. The deterministic universe produced us, biological organisms with sufficient neurological development to support awareness of both self and environment, an imagination capable of mentally composing different options for our action, a muscular system capable of effecting our choices upon the environment, the ability to learn by trial and error, and to build a history of experience that we can communicate to each other and our offspring.

      That piece of the universe is thinking for itself and choosing this or that according to what lessons and teachings and values and beliefs that it has previously acquired and made its own. It chooses its own actions for itself and learns from the consequences.

      It is not a victim of its built-in needs and desires. They are integral to its own self. It is the thing itself acting in its own behalf. And that mental process of choosing for itself is what we call free will.

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      1. Marvin, as I said – read the posts carefully (twice you’ve misstated this position), if he purposefully spreads Ebola, after knowing that he has Ebola, then he has similar standing to “attempted murder” or “murder.” And for that reason he would be detained due to his actions, however, he would not be punished because in a basic deserving sense, on the hard determinist framework, he is not morally blameworthy. In regards to compensation, the legal framework would have to worked out, but there is no reason that the state would not compensate them.

        Now, in your reply to my criticism of your basic compatibilist position you haven’t responded to the criticism. You can’t change the examples to suit your purpose and make everything “hunky dory”. In this case on my criticism of your position, the homosexual bishop is COMPELLED to be a homosexual, even though he doesn’t want to be. Thus, he cannot restrain his desires, and have a marriage of convenience as in your example. He would not have free-will in your schemata. I’m sure there have been many cases like this in history, so provided interesting and fascinating stories where an individual heroically repressed his desires (which is modifying the criticism) is irrelevant to the criticism.

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      2. Right. Except that I would not say Bishop Robinson was “compelled” to be a homosexual. I would simply say that Robinson WAS and IS homosexual. My point was only that he demonstrated that a person chooses for himself what he will actually do, not what he actually is. It would be unreasonable to insist that free implies being free from who you are. That would make you someone else.

        Free will is not freedom from oneself. Free will is not freedom from the limits of the real world in which we exist. Free will is not freedom from causality or deterministic inevitability.

        Free will is only freedom to choose for yourself what you will do. Nothing more. Nothing less.

        As to moral responsibility, we have adopted a conceptual framework that presumes a person can do that. By attention and reward a child learns appropriate behavior. By censor and sometimes by penalty a child learns that some behavior is inappropriate. He matures into an adult who takes these into consideration when choosing his own behavior in a new situation.

        In the world of criminal justice, we presume the adult offender has chosen the behavior. And it is his future choices that the correctional facility hopes to change through rehabilitation and penalty.

        There is nothing about “blaming” or “holding responsible” that necessitates retribution rather than rehabilitation.

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  4. This is an objective post for independent readers who have yet to respond to the blog:
    ——————————–

    The general discussion moved swiftly away from the above Nietzsche quote on the incoherence of “causa sui” (“causing oneself”) in terms of metaphysical “freedom of the will” to how the hard determinist (or hard incompatibilist – the distinction for this discussion is irrelevant) deals with criminals and murderers in a society. I advocated a similar method outlined by Derk Pereboom in his monograph “Living Without Free Will” which utilises a method of detainment based on the grounds of a non-retributivist system. This method on the behalf of the compatibilist Marvin was arguing against.

    A note on a standard retributivist system: to believe that an individual should be punished is to assert that on a basic desert sense that he is morally blameworthy. If you do not believe that an individual is morally blameworthy then on a basic desert sense he does not deserve to be punished.

    In response I counterattacked Marvin’s basic compatibilist position which ““Free will is properly set within the background of a deterministic universe, where (a) choices are caused and (b) living organisms make choices as they see fit, and (c) carrying out that their own will determines what will happen next in the real world.” This is extremely similar to the original compatibilist position in the 1930’s which was attacked relentlessly with the same criticism that I offered. I confess it wasn’t an original thought, I just followed history here since I’m in complete agreement that the basic compatibilist needs to modify his position, although Marvin refused to acknowledge it was a criticism of the position. The original compatibilist position is in section 3.1 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/, especially this line “Free will, then, is the unencumbered ability of an agent to do what she wants. And it is plausible to conclude that the truth of determinism does not entail that agents lack free will since it does not entail that no agents ever do what they wish to do unencumbered. Compatibilism is thus vindicated …But just how convincing is the classical compatibilist account of free will? As it stands, it cries out for refinement.”

    Responses on behalf of the compatibilist include Frankfurt’s Hierarchical accounts and Gary Watson’s Mesh accounts – Section 5.2. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/ discusses the Hierarchical Accounts of Compatibilism.

    As a personal recommendation, an enthusiast of philosophy should read Harry Frankfurt’s beautiful book “on Bullshit”

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    1. I haven’t read that much on the topic. Basically Spinoza pulls you into the paradox and William James Pragmatism opens the mind to see your way out.

      I don’t know what to call my determinism now that “strict” and “hard” have been taken. I believe that reliable cause and effect makes universal deterministic inevitability a fact. And I don’t see how one can be stricter or harder than that.

      But this is a particularly useless fact. First because there is nothing one can do about it. Second because it has no useful implications for us as human beings.

      It changes nothing in any meaningful way.

      We can’t sit back and wait to see what will inevitably happen. Anything we choose to do, including doing nothing will change what becomes inevitable.

      We cannot attempt to thwart it, by stopping as soon as we think choosing option A is inevitable and choosing B instead, because that only means that option B was in fact the inevitable choice.

      And we observe ourselves continuing to think and choose just as we always have, so that our free will remains solidly intact.

      The only time the silly paradox wins is when we fail to see through it.

      There is no reason to dismantle the useful conceptual framework of morality and justice we have acquired through human experience. All we need address is how to become better moral beings and more just.

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      1. So Marvin, you dogmatically argue and argue and argue, even though it is readily apparent that you do not engage with other’s criticisms of your position, i.e. you blabber on without listening to anyone, and do not follow the essential thread of the arguments, even though the last paper you read on the topic was pre-1900’s. You exasperate me. Although, I apologise, you are not to blame, given my version of hard incompatibilism (or determinism). Let this situation, however, be conducive to your moral and philosophical formation of your character in the future. Being a compatibilist is fine, heck, most contemporary philosophers are compatibilists! But be a 21st century compatibilist and stop spamming people’s blogs with a fanatical religious-like devotion to your out of date, obnoxious version. Instead, if you were to intelligently engage and respond to others in a proper discourse, it would be a compatibilism and a Marvin I and others would like to respond to.

        This is what gets me so angry! Marvin you said the following: “But this is a particularly useless fact. First because there is nothing one can do about it. Second because it has no useful implications for us as human beings. ”

        What have we spent 10 replies just discussing if not the issue of moral responsibility in relation to determinism! Yes, some philosophers argue that moral responsibility and free-will are not at issue together, but this has not been the argument in this post (or this blog thus far) The issue of whether compatibilism or hard determinism wins out is extremely important for moral responsibility, even if the victor is compatibilism itself. Without moral responsibility, the issue of free-will is an almost meaningless affair. This is also a discussion we had previously. Is there any point in wasting my valuable time responding to you?

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      2. I can appreciate where you are coming from. You are frustrated that my answers are simple and straightforward and do not echo the “philosophers” you’ve read. You’re looking for a discussion that compliments your viewpoint. And all I’m giving you is the plain, practical facts.

        For me, this problem was resolved in high school. I became aware of the issue reading from the Philosophy section at the Richmond Public Library. Spinoza presented the paradox. Pragmatism resolved it. It is not the “either/or” that the smaller mind requires to deal with a paradox, but rather the insightful “and” that disposes of the conflict.

        And it was disturbing to discover that this issue still has people caught up in the paradox, and some going down some very dark fatalistic paths, like suggesting we should do away with the term “free will”.

        So, from my viewpoint, you guys are stuck repeating the same old arguments and I’m offering what is truly new (well, new to you anyway).

        In the movie, “Searching for Bobby Fisher”, the teacher is watching his student in the climatic tournament and saying out loud to himself, “there it is! Don’t move until you see it, don’t move until you see it, don’t move until you see it. …”.

        So I’m optimistic that eventually you’ll see it. But probably not during this discussion with me.

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  5. I was going to say check out my articles on determinism and free-will (still do just type in determinism, free-will into the search bar at the top of my page) because I would value your opinion concerning them and your opinion about the debates me and this guy marvin have been having….. But I see you have already met Marvin.

    I believe Marvin is doing what the Party was doing in George Orwell’s “1984”.

    He is trying to get Free-will to mean uncoerced choice which we already have language for: “He wasn’t forced to do it.” and such

    That he is taking a word that has a long established meaning “That I am the cause of my actions”, “that all things being the same I could have chosen differently” etc (I’m also a non-compatibilist determinist.

    Anyway maybe we could become allies against the stubborn Marvin (I say that in jest my friend Marvin. We type about these for fun do we not)

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    1. Philososophia – I remember reading your articles on freedom and determinism originally a few months ago – I forget why, maybe I was stalking Marvin to see which other blogs he was terrorising with his nonsense and I thought that you understood the issues and came on top of the debate. I enjoyed your posts and thought they had substance, so I started following them. I will read them again however.

      Through my various discussions with him I’m now unsure what he’s arguing, although a reference to Orwell’s 1984 is a good one, Ha!

      “He is trying to get Free-will to mean uncoerced choice which we already have language for: “He wasn’t forced to do it.” …That he is taking a word that has a long established meaning “That I am the cause of my actions”, “that all things being the same I could have chosen differently” etc (I’m also a non-compatibilist determinist.”

      I think this is a roughly correct analysis of his position, except he is not arguing “that all things being the same I could have chosen differently” – no determinist would argue that. A compatibilist should be arguing, something along the lines of, If I had chosen differently, then I could have done otherwise.” I wish Marvin would give an account of that proposition on behalf of compatibilism, at least we would be getting somewhere.

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      1. “I think this is a roughly correct analysis of his position, except he is not arguing “that all things being the same I could have chosen differently” – no determinist would argue that.”

        Right. My only point about that is that at the beginning of a serious decision there is sufficient uncertainty that the decider can honestly say, “I might choose A or I might choose B. I just don’t know yet which one I will choose.” And it is the memory of that experience that results in the awkward claim “that all things being the same I could have chosen differently”. I suspect that some determinist pushed a libertarian free-willer into making that unfortunate, but literally false claim.

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    1. Yeah, I’ve seen that he doesn’t offer an argument, he just references a paper by E. Nahmias. Is a rebuttal to reference papers that disagree with him? I’m confused how arguing against hard determinism leads to compatibilism anyways – wouldn’t it lead to something like Illusionism? If the average citizen thinks that determinism undermines moral responsibility then they are not going to run to the nuanced arguments of compatibilism and intuitively understand them.

      Edit: This is actually an implicit point in E. Nahmias paper that he agrees with, regarding the average citizen. Although, he argues that there is nothing in the neuroscience arguments that actually undermines compatibilist notions of free-will if the average citizen understood them as such. As a hard incompatibilist, however, I am not persuaded by his arguments, and I believe that he underrates some of the force of the neuroscience arguments and their implications. I will discuss this in the future on the blog.

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      1. I think you could justifiably call him an evangelist and a bigot.

        Tbh I’ve stopped discussing with him – it just goes round in circles and is a waste of my creative energies.

        I think determinism does undermine moral responsibility and I think that’s a good thing. I’m just glad I was lucky enough to be born with a preference set that is able to be fulfilled in this society.

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      2. “I think determinism does undermine moral responsibility and I think that’s a good thing.”

        And that’s the problem. The point of the Nahmias study was that however esoteric you wish your free will to be, there is a practical, ordinary meaning that most folks understand. When you attack free will, you are effectively attacking the real will, as it is, and instilling a fatalistic attitude.

        And the fact that you explicitly state a desire to “undermine moral responsibility” reinforces the worst prejudices about atheism. And that makes the rest of us look bad.

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      3. “I’m confused how arguing against hard determinism leads to compatibilism anyways – wouldn’t it lead to something like Illusionism?”

        Like I said, determinism is perfectly true and universal inevitability is a fact. The problem is that this does not mean what you incorrectly assume it to mean.

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  6. Marvin quoted “I’m confused how arguing against hard determinism leads to compatibilism anyways – wouldn’t it lead to something like Illusionism?”

    Marvin said: “Like I said, determinism is perfectly true and universal inevitability is a fact. The problem is that this does not mean what you incorrectly assume it to mean.”

    The above quote is in the context of the supposed assumption of social control and the supposed understanding that hard determinism to the masses leads to increased criminalisation, due to an undermined notion of moral responsibility. So your response Marvin, like normal, makes absolutely no sense. Zero understanding.

    And your “universal inevitability” concept is unbelievably banal. All it means, under your definition, is that a determined process is determined. But we knew this anyway since your a determinist. Unless you want to give us an interesting notion of it.

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    1. Universal inevitability means that EVERYTHING that has happened could not have happened any other way and that everything that will happen from this point forward can only happen in one inevitable way. It is not so much about a single thing being determined, but the fact that everything is determined.

      The only surprise I have to offer is that the above fact is useless. There are no useful implications that can be drawn from that fact. The only intelligent and reasonable human response to that fact is to simply acknowledge it, and then to ignore it.

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      1. “Universal inevitability means that (a) EVERYTHING that has happened could not have happened any other way and (b) that everything that will happen from this point forward can only happen in one inevitable way”

        As you can see I’ve included (a) and (b) in your quote. Everybody agrees with (b) on the determinist side; but (a) is just simply not true, unless you want to produce a plausible argument that the – assuming the creation of the universe via the big bang (insert alternative theories if you wish) – laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe were a necessary non-contingent condition themselves.

        Also regarding “Universal inevitability” and your general philosophical framework having no useful implications, you have to respond to this argument. If, on your basic compatibilism, you believe that having free-will means doing what you want, is the following individual free. Note: you cannot change the example, you have to respond to the following:

        John wants to be a priest, but he cannot be a priest because he has overwhelming homosexual desires that he cannot control. And in this example he cannot be a priest if he is a homosexual. He does not want to be a homosexual, but he is determined to be a homosexual. On your schemata of free-will, he is not doing what he wants, since he wants to be a priest, so he doesn’t have free-will, but his actions and values are clearly derived from his neurological and psychological processes. So, he is determined to have a will that he doesn’t want to have. That is, he is determined not to do what he wants.

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      2. “… laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe were a necessary non-contingent condition themselves.”

        To avoid a “first cause”, something must be eternal. I call it “stuff in motion”. The stuff in motion transforms according to physical causes. Some stuff, tightly packed in a black hole, reaches a tipping point where it explodes. During any one of these “big bangs” stuff transforms into galaxies with all of the variety of atomic elements. The eternal stuff in motion, presumably infinite, contains all possible causation within its stuff and its motion. Everything that happens must necessarily happen, or it would not happen.

        “John wants to be a priest, …”

        Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from oneself. Will requires a self.
        Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from causation. Will requires a deterministic setting.
        Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from the real world. That is called “wishing”.

        So John wants to be a priest, but he happens to be homosexual and his church does not allow homosexual priests. Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from the real world. But John wishes his church were different. Or perhaps John wishes that he were different.

        If he takes a fatalistic view, he may give up in frustration. Or he could try to imagine other alternatives that might be more productive.

        He has free-will, and he lives in a deterministic universe where his will is a “force of nature” that might make at least some progress toward his goal.

        Perhaps he reads the book “God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage”, by Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, who faced a similar problem in his church. He too was homosexual, but wanted to become a minister in his church. He was upfront about his desires with his wife, who married him. They had two daughters. Eventually, when he came out, his congregation supported him. He found a man to love, and when marriage became legal, he married because he felt that was God’s will as described in the Bible.

        But he might not have been successful if the times were not yet right. What made the times right was the free choice of thousands of homosexuals to come out openly, and let the world see them as the people they really were, rather than the prejudices that the world had retained in ignorance for so long.

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      3. “To avoid a “first cause”, something must be eternal. I call it “stuff in motion”. The stuff in motion transforms according to physical causes. Some stuff, tightly packed in a black hole, reaches a tipping point where it explodes. During any one of these “big bangs” stuff transforms into galaxies with all of the variety of atomic elements. The eternal stuff in motion, presumably infinite, contains all possible causation within its stuff and its motion. Everything that happens must necessarily happen, or it would not happen. ”

        – This doesn’t avoid the problem whatsoever. What determines the necessary placements of the “stuff in motion” at the very beginning? Ironically, by arguing that the initial conditions themselves were necessary you are arguing for, not only determinism, but fatalism.

        ““John wants to be a priest, …”

        Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from oneself. Will requires a self.
        Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from causation. Will requires a deterministic setting.
        Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from the real world. That is called “wishing”.

        So John wants to be a priest, but he happens to be homosexual and his church does not allow homosexual priests. Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from the real world. But John wishes his church were different. Or perhaps John wishes that he were different. ”

        – Its baffling why you chant these banal pronouncements, nobody would disagree with them. Also, John cannot follow the similar route as the other priest who married out of convenience, since in this example his urge to be a homosexual is utterly compelling and overwhelming. It is clear that on your basic conception of free-will, “being free to do what you want”, this John does not have free-will. Does John, in a deterministic universe, have the ability to do what he wants?

        I sometimes get the impression that you flip-flop from using free-will in the compatibilist and the libertarian (pre-theoretical) sense depending on whether it suits you or not.

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      4. “What determines the necessary placements of the “stuff in motion” at the very beginning?”

        Eternity is has no beginning. To say “stuff in motion” is eternal is to say that there never was a beginning. The instinctual notion that everything must have a beginning is apparently false.

        “Its baffling why you chant these banal pronouncements, nobody would disagree with them.”

        One would hope. Nevertheless, some do. Note that I named my blog, “A Keen Grasp … of the Obvious”.

        “It is clear that on your basic conception of free-will, “being free to do what you want”, this John does not have free-will.”

        I could have sworn I had just made the “banal” comment that “Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from the real world. That is called “wishing”.”

        And yet you insist that John must be able to transcend reality in order to have free-will. Free will is always constrained by one’s self, by causation, and by reality. It is irrational to insist that the will must be free from any or all of those three before it can be called “free”.

        Sometimes other people force you to do something against your will. Parents force you to wear a jacket before you go out to play. So you wear the jacket, but against your will. When you’re old enough to be trusted to make those decisions for yourself, then you may choose of your own free will whether to wear the jacket or not. Simple concept. Some of us seem to have a keener grasp of it than others.

        “I sometimes get the impression that you flip-flop from using free-will in the compatibilist and the libertarian (pre-theoretical) sense depending on whether it suits you or not.”

        Frankly, I use “free will” in the ordinary sense. There is no problem between ordinary free will and ordinary determinism. I’d like to clean philosophy’s house of both “anti-causal free willism” and “anti-choice determinism”. After they’re gone there is no need for a school of thought called “compatibilism”. There is just simple free will and simple determinism, skipping down the path, holding hands and casting loving glances at each other.

        The damned silly paradox is based upon the false premise that we are somehow separate from and the victims of deterministic inevitability. The puzzler asks us to choose one and deny the other. It is all based upon an illusion of incompatibility. Kids and their puzzles. Good grief.

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      5. Afieldy – “What determines the necessary placements of the “stuff in motion” at the very beginning?”

        Marvin – “Eternity is has no beginning. To say “stuff in motion” is eternal is to say that there never was a beginning. The instinctual notion that everything must have a beginning is apparently false”

        – Ha! You never get the issue do you. Even if we grant eternity, which I’m pretty sure you need to at least semi justify even on a blog, what determines the necessary placements of the “stuff in motion”?

        —————

        Marvin – ““It is clear that on your basic conception of free-will, “being free to do what you want”, this John does not have free-will.”

        I could have sworn I had just made the “banal” comment that “Free will cannot reasonably imply freedom from the real world. That is called “wishing”.”

        And yet you insist that John must be able to transcend reality in order to have free-will. Free will is always constrained by one’s self, by causation, and by reality. It is irrational to insist that the will must be free from any or all of those three before it can be called “free”.

        – I never stated that John has to transcend circumstances in order to have free-will. Where is the textual evidence? I’m arguing on your conception that he does not have free-will! Do you have the ability to follow arguments? According to YOU – freewill is being free to do what you want, right? John is NOT free to do what he wants because he has overwhelming homosexuals impulses that he cannot control. He doesn’t want to be a homosexual. He WANTS to become a priest, but is not free to become a priest because he has urges he cannot control. Therefore, on YOUR conception, I am arguing, he does not have free-will.

        I agree that he may wish he was different, or that the church was different blah blah blah. The issue is: does John have free-will? That is, does John do what he wants to do.

        The strange notion appears to be is that you don’t understand the argument. Although you solved philosophy as a teenager, the rest of philosophy, science and other thinkers thought that your conception of free-will (note, not compatibilism itself) was completely flawed and wrong due to this very argument. You don’t necessarily have to accept the argument, but at least understand its power and what its getting out, and offer an argument why its wrong, rather than endlessly repeating the same position ad nauseam. Moreover, the defence that you don’t listen to “philosophers” or the academic community on these issues, so don’t trust what they say is a hypocritical defence: I’ve seen a few instances in which you’ve defended arguments on the basis that a professional philosophy supposedly backs up your stance.

        Also hard determinists believe in deliberation, they are not “anti-choice”. You get some weird notions in your head.

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      6. “… what determines the necessary placements on the “stuff in motion”?”

        The previous state and motion determine the following state and motion. The concept of “eternity” means that there was always a previous state, but never a “first” state or “first” cause. Clear yet?

        “According to YOU – freewill is being free to do what you want, right?”

        Nope. Free will is being able to choose for yourself what you will do next. But it grants you no super powers to do the impossible.

        It is irrational to expect free will to mean freedom from yourself (John’s homosexuality).
        It is irrational to expect free will to mean freedom from the real world (his church’s unacceptance of homosexual priests).

        What free will grants him the ability to do is resolve his frustration, by accepting who he is rather than wishing he were someone else. And it grants him the ability to imagine ways to make progress toward changing his church to one that accepts homosexual priests. And having imagined realistic ways to promote that change in the real world, he is free to pursue them. Or, he is free to choose to be happy watching others pursue that change.

        That is the rational meaning of free will. It conveys no super powers, involves no metaphysics, and is completely consistent with a deterministic universe.

        “Also hard determinists believe in deliberation, they are not “anti-choice”. You get some weird notions in your head.”

        Chandler called his blog “anti-choice determinist”. He does not believe in free will, because he does not believe that choices are real. To him they are also illusions.

        There is this circle of properties which one calls “self”. Anti-freewill determinists lean toward tightening this circle, reducing it even to the point where “self” disappears, and all you have is causes doing their thing while we impotently observe.

        The self expands as the circle expands to include all of the biological and internal influences. It expands further when conscious thought and reasoning come into the circle, all our experiences, all our lessons learned, all the things we were taught and which we now consider integral parts of “who we are”.

        As I’ve pointed out before, it is irrational to expect free will to mean freedom from one’s own self. It is, after all, one’s own will we are talking about.

        I was looking over that Galen Strawson article. He seems to make the same irrational demand, that unless one can somehow undo who one is and reconstruct it at will as one wishes, that we are not truly free. And that is just crazy. There being no such ability, any argument for it or against it is equally meaningless. I’m sorry if you actually read through the whole thing. I don’t plan to.

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      7. Marvin – ” (a) Universal inevitability means that EVERYTHING that has happened could not have happened any other way and (b) that everything that will happen from this point forward can only happen in one inevitable way.”

        – As previously discussed (b) is fine in this formulation given determinism, but (a) is arguing for necessary non-contingent placement of particles and the natural laws. Why you have argued for this constraint I have no idea, but anyways …

        Marvin – “The previous state and motion determine the following state and motion. The concept of “eternity” means that there was always a previous state, but never a “first” state or “first” cause. Clear yet? ”

        — so given (b) you need to justify the necessary placement of the particles and the natural laws. It doesn’t matter if there is a first cause or eternity, this is not the issue. The justification is of the necessity condition.

        ———–

        AF – “According to YOU – freewill is being free to do what you want, right?”

        Marvin – “Nope. Free will is being able to choose for yourself what you will do next.”

        – This backtracked formulation on free-will doesn’t help your position anyways. If John has an overriding urge, impulse, desire that he does not want to choose or will (be it homosexuality, drug addiction and so on), but is determined to choose it due to underlying neural and psychological processes causing his deliberations, then he does have not free-will. He is unable to choose for himself what he will choose to do next.

        Unless you think that choosing to indulge in his overriding homosexual urges, despite him not really wanting to, is freely choosing what he will do next. In this example this is what he is determined to do. He does not do anything else, but indulge in his behaviour. Do you count this as free-will?

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      8. AF: “– As previously discussed (b) is fine in this formulation given determinism, but (a) is arguing for necessary non-contingent placement of particles and the natural laws. Why you have argued for this constraint I have no idea, but anyways …”

        Is there any point in the history of eternity when (b) is not true? If not, then (a) must also be true. It’s basically one truth, that “the prior state determines the current state”. The (a) is sliding the two points in time back in time for one eternity and the (b) statement is sliding them forward in time for one eternity (2 x Eternity still equals Eternity).

        AF: “If John has an overriding urge, impulse, desire that he does not want to choose or will (be it homosexuality, drug addiction and so on), but is determined to choose it due to underlying neural and psychological processes causing his deliberations, then he does have not free-will. He is unable to choose for himself what he will choose to do next. ”

        Are you posing a scenario in which John has no self-control over his actions due to some mental impairment in the control areas of the brain? Then that is a fairly unique and specific scenario. Someone who is actually so controlled by his urges that he cannot control his behavior is usually considered not to be acting of his own free will, and if his behavior is harmful to others, then he might be committed for psychiatric treatment rather than prison.

        But if John has no such impairment, then, while he cannot choose his orientation, he can control what he does about it. And, like I said before, some of the positive things he could choose to do would be to work for a change in his church, or choose a different church, or … well, probably a lot of other positive choices as well.

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      9. Marvin – “I was looking over that Galen Strawson article. He seems to make the same irrational demand, that unless one can somehow undo who one is and reconstruct it at will as one wishes, that we are not truly free. And that is just crazy. There being no such ability, any argument for it or against it is equally meaningless. I’m sorry if you actually read through the whole thing. I don’t plan to.”

        – I find this an odd response. Galen Strawson, obviously, states that we cannot reconstruct ourselves as we wish, and thus for these reasons we are not truly morally responsible for our actions, since we didn’t freely decide to be choose to be who we are. Strawson partially basis his argument on the fact that we don’t have such an ability! So, to criticise his argument for suggesting that we should have that ability to have moral responsibility is frankly bizarre. This suggests two things to me (1) you find the debates meaningless because you don’t understand the issues; (2) you have an ideological attachment to your own version of compatibilist free-will that cant be argued against because you don’t understand (1). The Strawson argument has its fans and its detractors, but to say its meaningless because we don’t have the ability to reconstruct ourselves is baffling. That is the very reason that, ultimately, some philosophers think we shouldn’t be morally responsible for our actions.

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      10. AF: “Galen Strawson, obviously, states that we cannot reconstruct ourselves as we wish, and thus for these reasons we are not truly morally responsible for our actions, since we didn’t freely decide to be choose to be who we are.”

        1) If I might be banal once more: it is irrational to suggest that the will must be free from one’s self in order to be free. Why? Because it is no longer one’s own will. Whose will is it that is free if not one’s own? Either explain this or agree that the freedom in “free will” cannot imply freedom from one’s own self.

        2) Responsibility identifies the causal agent due for approval (good behavior) or correction (illegal behavior). If the behavior is harmful to others, then some form of correction (if the person is capable of making deliberate choices) or medical treatment (if not capable) will be imposed to prevent future harms.

        To suggest that the person is “not responsible” means (a) they are not the causal agent (they did not do the crime) or (b) they did the crime but require medical treatment for correction.

        To suggest that they are “not responsible” because they did not create themselves, but were rather born into a world that shaped who they became, would imply they are exempt from correction, despite the fact that such correction was designed specifically for them.

        Nobody creates themselves from scratch. However, we can choose to change some things, by diet, exercise, education, meditation, etc.

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  7. “And that’s the problem. The point of the Nahmias study was that however esoteric you wish your free will to be, there is a practical, ordinary meaning that most folks understand.”

    – I think you missed the main point of the article.

    When you attack free will, you are effectively attacking the real will, as it is, and instilling a fatalistic attitude.”

    – Again you missed the main point. Although the “fatalistic attitude” has some merit, although this misses the mark. I’ll write a post on his article in a week or so.

    And the fact that you explicitly state a desire to “undermine moral responsibility” reinforces the worst prejudices about atheism. And that makes the rest of us look bad.”

    – That point needs argumentation rather than assertion, in general. However, not on this blog until we discuss such topic.

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  8. Philososophia –

    “I think determinism does undermine moral responsibility and I think that’s a good thing. I’m just glad I was lucky enough to be born with a preference set that is able to be fulfilled in this society.”

    In reference to my post about the psychological aspects of being a determinist – do you find that you slip into pre-theoretical notions of free-will and feel guilty about your actions. Or have you managed to align your philosophical beliefs with your day-to-day actions? Like my article suggested, a few people that I’ve talked to about it cant help but fall into the intuitive notion of free-will in their pre-reflective state (me included) even though we may write and think about it a lot. Have you managed to seek the psychological holy grail of free-will?

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