RE: Ethics and free will

From: Bantz, Michael S \(UMC-Student\) (
Date: Sat Feb 05 2005 - 21:43:19 MST

" the reasons why the person or thing
has these effects [misery and joy, and couldn't you just as accuratly have called them causes rather than effects?] on other people is (almost) always irrelevant."
I totally disagree. In my experience, human beings have a great deal of power over the misery and joy of others. One of the reasons why capitalism, or even society in general, is benifical is because it creates a loop where "I scratch your back, you scratch mine."
Man, the political animal.
" It's like arguing if
humans have the clogknee property of not and never explaining what
clogknee means."

I gave a definition. You kind of sidestepped my main point, which I will reiterate shortly. It sounds like you would like utilititarianism, as well as Kurt Vonnegut's "Sirens of Titan".

 of cause and effect and is thus mechanical OR it does not and thus is

This is the common line of attack from determinists. I'm arguing that free will is a different type of cause from typical, physical causation. With what I would "cognitive causation" minds are able to view different possible worlds, and select from them. This is, in a way, the reverse of physical, historically-based causation. Cognitive causation, usually called reasons, are so different because they are goal-orientated. So when we punish people for making bad choices its because we infer from our subjective experience that their intended reality was one which conflicted with the goals of the culture/subculture which promotes and modifies the ethical standards.

"The key word is "choosing" and the thing I don't understand is that even
the most passionate believer in free will still asks other people "why
did you do that?" when they do something they don't understand, that is
they want a reason, a cause for the action; but they must already know
the only answer is "because I have free will.""

Again, I think you may have missed my point. I'm not arguing against physical, classically deterministic causation. Rather, my claim is that there are (atleast) two, completely different types of causation.

I think Elizier's articulation on the matter is well worth noting:

"Free will" is a cognitive element representing the basic game-theoretical unit of moral responsibility. It has nothing whatsoever to do with determinism or quantum randomness. Free will doesn't actually exist in reality, but only in the sense that flowers don't actually exist in reality. "

Just a techincal note, I think he should have put a quote around flowers too. Also:

" Let's say you punch me in the nose. Did you do it because you were evil, or because the laws of physics made you do it? Well, if the laws of physics had been different, you wouldn't have done it. And if you hadn't been evil, you wouldn't have done it. And if an asteroid had crashed into the house next door, we would both have been too busy running away. Asking which of these variables is "responsible" is like asking whether the cup is half empty or half full."

I think that one of the reasons why the free-will vs. determinism is so recurrent because both sides tend to assume that the other is denying the imporatance of their type of causation.

It reminds of the debate between subjectivists/relativists and objectivists. If we're subjective (which we are, minds recreate reality through information intake and trnaslation) then how can we know anything for sure (Descartes, Matrix etc.)? On the other hand, there is a high probability that something is true, and that if we act as true nihilists, (i.e. not eating, drinking water) then our "system will crash". It seems as though both, contrary viewpoints have to be partially important and that the key is to combine them (Synthesis, Kant, Hegel)! Furthermore, all information systems require basic assumptions, regardless of how accurate those initial assumptions are. This is why the randomness of darwinism works well with the important "fact" that some things continue to exist through time while other things perish. This in turn is related to other old philosophical debates about existence and identity, which I think were dealt with aptly by Aristotle. I'm not sure that you can understand some parts of philosophy well without studying others. And lastly, I'm also not sure if A.I. can advance without advances in philosophy and psychology (I think the mathematics and physics are there).



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