RE: Ethics and free will

From: fudley (
Date: Mon Feb 07 2005 - 14:34:36 MST

On Mon, 7 Feb 2005 "Bantz, Michael S (UMC-Student)" Wrote:

>I'd like to get away from "causes"and "reasons" being
> synomyous. I view reasons as relating to reasoning
> and minds, aka Cognitive causation, whereas "causes"
> is the superset of reason and mechanical causes.

I donít see the distinction. Minds are more complicated than Cuckoo
clocks but they both operate the way they do for a reason, there is a
cause; at least most of the time there is although sometimes they may do
something for no reason at all.

> I disagree. Goals, reasons, cognitive causes are
> far more maleable than mechanical causes.

Because when youíre dealing with minds things are far more complicated
than with clocks, but the principle is the same.

> There are a few differences besides their relation
> to time which I attempted to articulate before.

Yes my present action can be caused by what I think the future will be
like and my prediction probably has a better than a 50% chance of being
correct too; but that is not unique to minds, a metrological computer
program can also make predictions that are sometimes correct.

> In the case of mechanical causation, two conflicting
> causes balance each other out and nothing happens.

Not forever, eventually a random quantum fluxation will push one side or
the other down.

> In cognitive causation, the mind/chooser is
> required to pretend as if one of the causes
> never existed and to throw all his lot with one cause.

Not always, sometimes people can not make up their mind and are
paralyzed with indecision.

> How in the heck does one decided if people are
> responsible for their actions and what is
> that decision based on?

Itís based on practicality. You may be able to explain exactly why a
person becomes a monster, but that doesn't make them one bit less of a
monster. If a man is chasing me with a bloody ax I really don't care
what his motivation is, beautiful thoughts may be going on in his head
for all I know. He may be doing it because he had bad genes, or maybe he
had a bad environment, or maybe heís doing it for no reason at all. I
don't care, I just want somebody to put a bullet in his brain.

> The assumption that the responsible individual is free.

I make no such assumption.
> Elizier does say, in a somewhat biased, but fairly good
> answer, that free will is: "a cognitive element
> representing the basic game-theoretical unit of
> moral responsibility"

The above is true but a platitude, all it says is people are responsible
for their actions with a few five dollar words thrown in.

> "Responsiblity" does seem to be incredibly important.

Yes, civilization would be imposable without it and that is exactly why
we hold people accountable for their actions, no need to invoke fuzzy
concepts like free will.

> to say that non-mechanical causation is completley
> random is overly dismissive.

I donít see why. ďEverything happens for a reason OR not for a reasonĒ
seems true non controversial and beyond dispute to me.

John K Clark

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