There are some lively discussions on determinism (every effect has a cause and every cause an effect - or something like that) that end up with the idea that 'free will' is an illusion.
Not to get to far into it here (because we will - oh, we will) but, basically, since every event (action) that occurs is simply the result of a previous event, at some level, everything is predetermined by what happened before. And, it follows that, on an absolute level, everything is absolutely predetermined. Therefore, even our thoughts and choices are the result of some precursory string of cause and effect. Therefore, we have no real free will.
So, given that line of thinking, does it follow that we have no personal responsibility for our actions since we had no real control over them?
In an effort to reframe this disussion, make continuing discussion more digestible (smaller chunks), and help everyone who wishes to continue to take another stab at organizing the various poistions in their minds (so to speak, I am closing this discussion - in one hour. It is now approximately 10 am est U.S.) At 11 I will close the discussion and link to the new one I have started if that works.
I am now closing this discussion - go to http://www.atheistnexus.org/forum/topics/the-illusion-of-responsibi... for a new take.
I see what you're saying. I didn't mean that my preference was relevant, as it is simply a result. But it still exists.
What I mean is, that simply because someone doesn't believe they have any control over an occurance, doesn't mean they won't hope a particular event doesn't occur. And, even if their 'hope' is just yet another outcome of different chemical reaction inside the human brain, it can, depending on each cirumstance, still drive them to take actions, which in turn prevent such events. And by 'consequences', I speak of these actions, made obvious by such human incentions such as prison. So, using your example, life would be a film that they're more likely to enjoy. And that requires no belief in personal responsibility.
And of course we affect outcomes. Or rather, our brains affect outcomes, as our bodies carry out actions based on the causes and effects operating through our brains.
no, the world should NOT operate as though free will existed.
the punishment you describe for the murderer for "blame" is essentially to make yourself feel better. I think how you ordered your words, blame before prevent, is indicitive of why this free will illusion needs to go. This thinking is indicative of revenge, not correction or prevention.
What does the illusion of free will bring? Hate, fear, and revenge.
So, then, what is MY purpose for punishment? To set the ground for future choices. If a murderer kills someone, it isn't his fault. He doesn't "deserve what's coming to him."
Sure, I might be angry at him, but it is simply a biological response and not rational.
Now, why punish him? Because we don't want murderers. What better way to prevent future murderers than to put into their schema that murder=life in jail?
Now with determinism and no free will, all of this still makes sense. You are shaped by your environment. An environment with no punishment for murder will have more murderers. You don't want murderers. You punish murderers to stop other murderers.
Plain and simple. No change in punishments, only a change in the reason why.
Now, is "our society doesn't want murderers" subjective? ehhh... yes and no... the society that allows murder will collapse from the inside. Societal darwinim has evolved every influential society to penalize murder. The rules aren't going anywhere. If they do, another country will take over and restore order. Thats the way things work. Getting rid of the free will illusion will bring great peace.
I like this guy's comments on Naturalism and Forgiveness:
As we see things, there is a cause for all aspects and every detail of our behavior, including the most monstrous of acts. There is then a cause for our compassions, towards victims, and sometimes, forgiveness towards victimizers. And of course, there are also causes for the collective actions of the people in establishing laws and punishments for law breakers. The question in my opinion is, given all of the above, how can we see all fitting a single consistent, natural philosophy?
The answer comes easily to me now, although it was not always so. Some machine parts may fail to function in cooperation with the rest of the machine, through no mystical sin of their own. We must, if the machine is to continue, replace or correct such parts. In a society, people must function, as determined by their history and environment, so as to not jeopardize others, or that society as a whole. We must then correct or replace failing people, as we would a machine part, for our own survival. I don't think deliberate contrived punishment is the best way, but some way must be employed. But punishing or otherwise correcting the problem of offensive people does not imply the need to hate them, or to act out of revenge. I don't condemn such feelings, I'm simply suggesting that they are not necessarily or relevant to taking the most rational corrective action in response to hostility.
We can be completely sympathetic to a person who finds himself driven to murdering innocent people, recognize the loneliness that must exist inside a person devoid of empathy, and still do what must be done. There is no conflict here, any more than in the heart of a parent who must correct the child. And we can be full of hate if that is the case, being driven as the murderer is driver, then again there is no conflict in our natural beliefs, we feel in the short term, and act according to the more long term of rationality and civility.
Would we even be able to write here at all if all was effects of causes.
That's the very reason we write here.
You mention the concept of prediction/predictability several times, Fred. Determinism is not predictory. It is the search for answers about what has already taken place. This is educational and can help us to modify harmful behavior. We are both cause and effect.
I don't trust that philosophers really care about it. It has gone on for hundreds of years has it not?
I have trouble understanding why the duration of a debate makes it worthwhile or not. The same could be said about the debate on the existence of God.