Gertie wrote: ↑
May 6th, 2018, 12:20 pm
CIN wrote: ↑
May 5th, 2018, 4:07 pm
I can't see that understanding this relationship would make a difference. Consider:
1) If my action was fully determined by previous causes, then I could not have done other than I did, so I had no free will.
2) If my action was fully undetermined by previous causes, then it was entirely random and unconnected with anything that preceded it, including my wishes and intentions, so it is simply something that happened to me, not something I did: and again, therefore, I had no free will.
3) If my action was partly determined and partly undetermined, then it was partly the result of previous causal elements over which I had no control, and partly the result of random and unpredictable elements over which I also had no control, and again, therefore, I had no free will.
1), 2) and 3) exhaust the available possibilities.
Conclusion: I have no free will.
Isn't this formulation excluding the possibility of us (our mental states) being a source of causation?
No, I don't think so. I think essentially the same problems arise for the defender of free will in the mental sphere as in the physical.
Which is one way of describing free will, the issue in question.
To be clear, the definition of 'free will' that I was using was what I take to be the usual definition in metaphysics, i.e. that one has free will if and only if one could have acted differently from the way one actually did.
So if my action isn't fully determined by previous causes, it is either random, or caused by my willing it (mental causation) based on my wishes and intentions or whatev. Effectively starting or interrupting a causal 'chain'.
Anything that starts
a causal chain would be, by definition, an uncaused cause. Now suppose we have some mental event - an act of willing, for instance - that is an uncaused cause. In my view, such an act could not be considered an act of free will, because an act of free will must be an act of the agent
; and this must mean that the act arises from some attributes of the agent, e.g. their personality, wishes, desires, obsessions, or whatever. And these attributes would in effect be causes of the action. They might not be absolutely sufficient
causes, but they must be pretty decisive for the act that is caused to be an act of the agent, rather than some random event that happens to
the supposed agent.
Then there are psychological causes and motivations, which you could argue do leave room for choice. Certainly we know the experience of weighing up options and deciding one way or another what to do, then doing it. Would you call that free will?
I would, but not in what I am taking to be the standard metaphysical sense. They are free will behaviours in the sense that (a) they are behaviours of the agent, (b) they are uncoerced, and [c) they involve volition. But these features are not sufficient to make such behaviours examples of free will in the standard metaphysical sense.
My comment was really addressing the first type of causal problem - if our physical behaviour is fully accounted for by physical causes, then there is no role for mental causation (will), so our mental states are presumably redundant baggage.
However, if there is some fundamental monist relationship between our bodies and minds for example, as perhaps suggested by neural correlation, then mental states are playing a role. A further argument for mental causation is that it seems jolly useful. The brain is basically our decision-making organ, and the particular way our mental states have evolved (in tandem with our brains) seems to be based on their utility - think of our reward system. Or our ability to rationalise, imagine different outcomes/consequences. If our mental states were irrelevant to our behaviour (useless epiphenomena), why would that be? It's a conundrum.
I reject epiphenomenalism, because it leaves as a complete mystery why the mental counterparts of physical causes should ever have evolved. What is the point of feeling pain if it is not the reason why we remove our hands from the flame that is burning them? If we would have done so anyway, there is no reason for us to have evolved to feel pain. Worse - if the pain plays no part in prompting us to remove our hands from the flame, then we might just as well have evolved some entirely different sensation, such as hearing a trumpet, or smelling strawberries; each of these would be just as efficacious (i.e. not at all) as feeling pain.
So at present we have the problem that our behaviour seems over-determined, we can account for actions by giving a physical or a psychological account.
I think we can overcome the over-determination problem by accepting that psychological descriptions are reducible to lower-level physical descriptions, as I seem to recall John Searle advocating in one of his books.
Until we understand how that can be, what that fundamental mind-body relationship is, we can't know if free will is even a coherent concept imo.
If by 'free will' is meant the standard metaphysical concept, then I think the concept is coherent. What seem incoherent to me are the attempts to explain how the concept could be realised.