Re: Ethics and free will

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Thu Feb 03 2005 - 14:08:40 MST

Phil Goetz wrote:

>--- Jef Allbright <> wrote:
>> More specifically to your comment on free will: In fact, increasing
>> knowledge of causes enhances, rather than diminishes, free will.
>> Consider the freedoms we enjoy today in virtually every area of our
>> lives. We can choose from a much wider range of options, and take
>> action on these choices, to an extent never experienced by our
>> ancestors. <Snip> These freedoms are essentially due to
>> our increased understanding of how things work, and if things didn't
>> work in a fully determined way, then our ability to predict, make
>> choices, and control would be severely reduced.
>You are talking about the range of actions possible
>to an agent. I am talking about the extent to which
>we regard those actions as taken freely vs. as
>determined. In fact, increasing knowledge of causes
>causes more and more actions to be seen as determined,
>and it is easy to extrapolate from this trend, and
>from our materialism, that all actions are
I replaced the key part of my statement above: that for us to enjoy free
will we depend on our universe being a deterministic one. The paradox
arises from using the wrong context. Within the subjective context from
which we choose and act, we experience free will. From the ultimate
objective context, there is no self to experience free will. It may be
helpful to consider that everyone else (but you) might be a zombie and
there would be no measurable difference in the actions you observe.

Phil, I think it's clear we're not achieving the convergence of thought
I had hoped for here. The apparent esteem with which you quote Gould is
a strong indicator of fundamental differences in our thinking.

Out of respect to others on this list, I will defer further discussion
pending development of effective didactic materials. If anyone wishes
to pursue this offline, I'll be happy to do so.

>I don't know what you mean, but I know
>you cannot dismiss this difficulty so easily.
>Apparently you think you have trivially solved
>a problem that has vexed the world's best minds
>for at least 2000 years.
Thanks for the compliment, but I had hoped to be challenged directly on
the issues I present in simple language but certainly from an unfamiliar
point of view. Instead it seems that you have repeatedly clipped out
the heart of my arguments and resorted to citing, sometimes incorrectly,
ostensive authorities you admit have been vexed by the problem. It's
not an intrinsically difficult problem, but one that requires abandoning
evolved biases that feel so very true.

- Jef

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