No, you couldn’t have done otherwise

Wherever there are alternatives/ choices( as most like to call it) one could act in any one way. The presence of choice doesn’t tell you how I will act. I will try to demonstrate; you are on the fourth floor of a building and you want to go down in a hurry- there is a rope dangling on the window, there is a lift, there is a staircase. All the three are choices/ alternatives. Until you act, the awareness that you had so many choices tells us zilch about what you would do.

I believe everyone engaged in the freewill/ determinism debate isn’t talking about coercion which appears to me as Marvin’s pet fancy. All the examples he gives are about coercion; either being forced to drive bombers away, forced to say the pledge or whatever he fancies. I could be entirely wrong but I don’t think we could have spent hundreds of years discussing whether a person who was coerced could have acted differently. I think this naïve. And to insist on such a line of reasoning when one has access to better arguments is to me, simply lazy.

And I think he misleads his readers when he writes

When someone says, “I could have done otherwise”, they are not making any claims of super-human powers. All that they mean is that they had more than one option, and that they might have chosen the other option instead.

because, in my opinion, these people think if the conditions remained as they were, they would have acted differently which is an illusion. And this is the illusion of freewill. And there is really nothing super-human in it.

He is again wrong when he writes

When the “hard” determinist interprets this to be a metaphysical claim to freedom from causation and insists that there were never two real possibilities, but only one, he introduces mental confusion. After all, the waiter offered two splendid choices, steak and lobster, and at the time of the offer, both were possible.

There was only one real possibility; that which was actualized. The rest remain alternatives. The hard determinist confuses no one. It is Marvin’s make-believe world that is confusing to him and to others that follow him.

Rehabilitation only makes sense in a determinist world. It is here that training, environmental change- both physical and mental are believed to have an influence on how a person acts. In the world of Marvin where freewill runs amok, what is the use of rehabilitation when today one can do this and tomorrow a totally different thing. It is impossible in such a world to talk of a person’s character.

For the time being, this will be my last response to Marvin’s claims of compatibilism.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

50 thoughts on “No, you couldn’t have done otherwise

  1. Hopefully you weren’t coerced to write this at gun point. That would eliminate freewill. Gotta go put my hamster back in the wheel now. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hello again. I’ll address each of your three points.

    Let’s try a thought experiment. We’ll go back to the restaurant together, and we’ll both go back in time, before any decision was made, okay? The waiter comes by with the menu and says, “We have two specialties today: a steak dinner cooked as you like it or a large Maine lobster with butter sauce. Which would you like?”

    Question: How many possibilities do I have? One or two? And if you say only one, then convince me right there and then.

    No matter how many times we repeat this trip to that point in time, I will always have two possibilities at the point of uncertainty. One of those two will be inevitable, of course. But knowing that tells me nothing useful.

    Mak: “I believe everyone engaged in the freewill/ determinism debate isn’t talking about coercion … ”

    Actually, that is precisely what the “hard” determinist is claiming. You and your friends here have claimed many times that people have no will. You even joke about offering them for sale.

    Mak: “Rehabilitation only makes sense in a determinist world.”

    That is correct. And I presume the universe is perfectly deterministic. There is nothing that happens outside of causation. And that is why the “free” in “free will” can never rationally imply “freedom from causation”.

    And so it doesn’t. So we need to move on.

    Could “free will” mean something else? Well, yes. It refers to all those scenarios where a person is making his or her own choices. It is a synonym for “autonomy” (check out definition 2 in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). It covers all those instances where someone volunteers, rather than being required to participate (for example, enlisting in the military rather than being drafted). It covers all cases of coercion against ones will, like the kid forced to recite the pledge or the guy with a literal “gun to your head”.

    And this definition of free will, perfectly natural and non-magical, is sufficient for all practical purposes, including assessing someone’s moral responsibility.

    The problem is that when you go after your magical free will, you end up shooting down the ordinary, natural free will as well.

    If you wish to continue attacking freedom from causation, then you need to attack it directly. When you attack “free will” in general, you are also attacking autonomy.

    Let me know if you having any questions.


  3. themodernidiot says:

    What I find interesting, is people make choices then claim it was god’s will, an invented meta-human power. Strange.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the second to last paragraph.

    Christians often want to claim that there is free will but they want their utterly in control, and able to grant wishes (usual their prayer that an atheists will accept their bullshit). It’s no surprise that their religion depends on such nonsense.


  5. john zande says:

    I choose the sideline on this one… Or did I?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. exrelayman says:

    Will is so very important. I like when dna advocates want to free Will, but it is so sad when army personnel want to fire at Will.


  7. Scottie says:

    Well to tell the truth this is way, way, way over my head. However I know two things. One is things push us in some directions based on our understandings, our ability’s, and our station in life. However we also can defy those situations, if we are willing to accept the consequence. We don’t have to do as we are pushed , but most do, because the alternative to fighting back and using that free will is much more of a cost than we would pay. If the guy with the gun says I will shoot you or you can fight back and I will shoot your love instead… It is free will but the cost… It is too high. so most of us are stuck, me also, in deciding what is worth the cost and what is too much in life. and sadly there is no guide, no way to know. Hugs


    • makagutu says:

      what particularly do you feel is way over your head? I would be much willing to break it down for you.
      Where is the freewill in the example you give?


      • Scottie says:

        I guess the free will for me was the choice you have to make. Yes you have no choice about making the choice, but the choice of who gets shot is yours. Or did I misunderstand this whole thing? As for the not understanding part? I have a lot of trouble figuring out why people do what they do. Or even what they will do. Ron understands people, and life and can tell you what a given person will do in a situation. I am clue less. I have no idea what drives people to act as the do. I don’t even really understand my self. why do I make the choices I do, do the actions I do, why do I care so much about people and those around me, and why do I take up some causes even though they don’t effect me. To tell the truth some times I feel lost and tossed about in a sea of uncertainty. I feel tossed by the waves of life here and there, hoping only I can land well. I just wish I understood better. Thanks, be well and happy. Hugs


      • Scottie says:

        Some times I feel like everyone else is in on a secret I don’t know yet. That everyone is smarter or more aware. Hugs


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