Are free will skeptics wrong?


I think not.

The authors of this post argue that we are.

In their conclusion, they write

If you seriously believe that fundamental forces leave no space for free will, then it’s impossible for us to genuinely make choices as moral beings. We wouldn’t be accountable in any meaningful way for our reactions to global climate change, child trafficking or viral pandemics. The underlying physics would in reality be governing our behaviour, and responsibility wouldn’t enter into the picture.

and i don’t see why this is so. Free will skepticism doesn’t rule out the effect of training/ education in our behaviour.

Elsewhere, the author has argued free will skeptics ignore time dependent constraints that he has discussed in the piece for example how one reacts to a car crash. One person with sympathy and another picks their pockets. I don’t see how this argument is fatal to the determinist position unless I am missing something.

I also think bringing up the problems of quantum physics- you either know the position or the velocity of a particle does not rescue freewill.

Tell me your thoughts.

About makagutu

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

36 thoughts on “Are free will skeptics wrong?

  1. That article read like a Christian apologist’s. Determinism is scary. It will let people rob you blind and burn your house down. Free will is more comforting, so it must be true.

    The criticisms of determinism in the article are irrelevant. Uncertainty just means that people can’t know the position and velocity of a particle. The particle still has a position and velocity.

    Unless I’m mistaken, doesn’t free will in its current form require some sort of outside agent acting upon the mind? Even if determinism isn’t valid, that doesn’t make magical forces valid, either.

    Liked by 2 people

    • basenjibrian says:

      The other interesting wrinkle is that Christianity both demands Free Will AND posits a deity who HAS A PLAN. The epitome of determinism, no? There is a core contradiction at the heart o Christianity, one of the things that seems to me a fatal flaw. For how can there be free will in a universe with an Omni-God with that ALL PURPOSE PLAN? (I hear George Carlin’s voice in my head as I type this).

      Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Free will is more comforting, so it must be true.

      This looks to me like a good summary in their claim.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wanted to write a long comment here, but my will is not allowing me the freedom to do so. Instead, my will is directing me to warm up the stuffed pizza with garlic and jalapeno peppers I bought last night in order to eat it for lunch. I’m determined to find a free will if it kills me. I’ve not yet, but I am still looking. Found one for two bucks yesterday and snagged that baby right up. When I get a free one, Mak, I promise to share it with you. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. basenjibrian says:

    I think you (and Sirius) are missing one of the key takeaways here: biology and psychology are so complex and convoluted and subject to feedbacks that determinism becomes utterly useless in providing any insights to anything. Pure determinism is useless, in other words.

    Sirius: I also think you are arguing against (multiple) straw men here? I don’t read this as much of a call for magical forces at all. Certainly not theistic. The author simply argues that causality is not in one direction and that determinism grossly underestimates the role of feedback.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. john zande says:

    Like most theists, he seems to have a rather cartoonish vision of determinism, one that doesn’t account for the simply enormous number of possibilities.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ajay Patel says:

    Yh I don’t believe in freewill but I live as if I have freewill, it’s strange

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Arkenaten says:

    This Freewill stuff is a real bugger to figure out.
    Possibility 1. I get up and go make toast and a coffee.
    Possibility 2. I stay here for five minutes more and

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ll post the comment I left over there:
    Randomness doesn’t provide free will worth having, and determinism doesn’t take it away. Arguably, responsibility only requires a capacity for reasonable forethought.

    Downward causation is a mismatch between abstraction layers. It’s always possible to account for the cause at the layer of the effect. The higher level description can be a convenient story for us, such as saying the traffic made me late, but the immediate causes of my car’s delays were the other cars immediately in its path.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that there are deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. basenjibrian says:

    Interesting responses, all! Thanks! I knew this would be a good fit for this board!

    Like

  9. judyt54 says:

    this: If Willy is free then is he responsible for everything that happens to him despite external forces?

    if you are beset by external forces, it’s not necessarily your fault unless it was you who pulled the bookcase over onto your own head, deliberately or accidentally; and for the most part external forces just are. It’s our reactions to them that shows free will.
    If there were no free will everyone’s reaction to the same event would be the same. Some people thing horror movies are hysterically funny, some leave the theater after the first guttural scream. That’s free will.

    You make your own choices, for good or ill, on an earthly level. Someone may be pushing your buttons, but it ain’t god, it’s your next door neighbor, exercising his own brand of free will. Or your spouse.

    Determinism throws up his hands and says, “fate. I couldn’t help it, the devil made me do it.” and walks away.
    Free will says, ‘oops, I slipped. Next time I’ll pay more attention. My fault.”

    You take the blame, but you also get the credit for stuff too.

    Like

    • basenjibrian says:

      I think pure determinism is, as I noted above, not very useful or helpful. Which is why our minds so strongly hold to the concept.

      Like

    • makagutu says:

      If there were no free will everyone’s reaction to the same event would be the same.

      I don’t think so.
      Our reactions to events have little to nothing to do with free will but our cultural upbringing and temperaments. To some cremation is abhorrent and to some, a funeral pyre is the greatest honour.

      Liked by 1 person

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