Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Free Will Debate?

That little article opened up a whole other branch or artery, one I had gleaned over and left because I haven't finished studying Objectivism enough to defend it, but here it comes creeping up again, so rather then try to defend it, I'll just present what I've read so far. I think I mentioned that the source I look to for Objectivism is the ARI and not TOC. On the matter of free-will and Objectivism, I don't really see how the last article refuted it, or even sprang from a debate on it.
Man is a being of volitional consciousness." "That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call 'free will' is your mind's freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom. This is the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and character." Thus Objectivism rejects any form of determinism, the belief that man is a victim of forces beyond his control (such as God, fate, upbringing, genes, or economic conditions). -From the ARI
Then there's The Open Letter to a Young Objectivist, where the author asks:
Why think introspection provides any evidence whatsoever about the nature of causation, as opposed to evidence for the existence of an instance of causation, or conveys any information at all about the relative merits of determinism or indeterminism?
and then goes on to say:
The metaphysical question simply has nothing to do with the questions of whether I can make choices, intentionally control my own actions, or be responsible for the effects of which my actions are a cause. I can make choices, be in control, and be responsible. This is, I believe, darn near to self-evident. And that's all having free will amounts to.
It almost seems like they are in agreement. Free will, for purposes of making life decisions and getting through life is self-evident and axiomatic in that we have to operate and live from our available minds, whether or not our brain cells happen to be rolling dice to get us to where we are or not.
The task of man's consciousness is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it.
I don't think there's any point in saying that we are incapable of knowing reality or that we are somehow predetermined, unless you are trying to avoid dealing with reality, or avoid responsibility in some way. Unless your idea is that we could somehow learn this deterministic system and beat it and acquire an even freer sort of existence. But then things get sort of silly and "Mr. Anderson" comes to mind.
I guess this is where the "compatibilist" comes in, and where Wilkerson says:
I know that Objectivists claim free-will has axiomatic status, and I agree that it is pretty near self-evident. What I dispute is that the falsity of determinism could be axiomatic. I think that's just incredible, and I think the implicit objectivist argument against determinism is just the one I stated.
And some of the responses that struck me on his blog include:
The most important issue here, in my opinion, is whether or not we need an Objectivist or libertarian type of free will in order for us to make choices or be responsible for our choices. Will seems to think that we don't. Another important issue here is whether or not the Objectivist argument against determinism is sound. Now, I don't think that it matters which sense of "free will" you plug into the Objectivist argument. It doesn't defeat determinism.
What is the precise difference beteween "an undetermined will" and "a free will"? I see no relevant distinction, and have never heard anyone who could give one. I therefore wholly stand by my first comment, and I wait for a plausible answer.
And then Don at Anger Management attempts to clarify with
free will is a characteristic of man's consciousness, namely, that man directs his faculty of awareness. Some of his mental and physical actions are *chosen*. Choice, however, is not chance. It is a type of causation. Causality is not "event based." The law of causality, in the Objectivist view, is not the one endorsed by most philosophers and scientists, namely, "Event X was caused by even Y." Objectivism agrees with the Aristotelian view of causality: namely, entities are the cause of all action - no entity can act in contradiction with its nature.
Or you can just check out good old Wikipedia for furthur info:
Furthermore, it is often held that the phrase "free will" is, as Hobbes put it, "absurd speech", because freedom is a power defined in terms of the will, which is a thing--and so the will is not the sort of thing that could be free or unfree. Some compatibilists argue that this alleged lack of grounding for the concept of "free will" is at least partly responsible for the perception of a contradiction between determinism and libertyCompatibilists often argue that, on the contrary, determinism is a prerequisite for moral responsibility — you can't hold someone responsible unless his actions were determined by something (this argument can be traced to Hume). After all, if indeterminism is true, then those events that are not determined are random. How can you blame or praise someone for performing an action that just spontaneously popped into his nervous system? Instead, they argue, you need to show how the action stemmed from the person's desires and preferences — the person's character — before you start holding the person morally responsible. Libertarians sometimes reply that undetermined actions aren't random at all, and that they result from a substantive will whose decisions are undetermined. This move is widely considered unsatisfactory, for it just pushes the problem back a step, and further, it involves some very mysterious metaphysics.
Various interpretations of quantum mechanics may suggest that the universe, when viewed as a single system, is deterministic, as there is no outside entity capable of making observations, aside possibly from God. It is far from clear, however, that microscale interpretations of quantum mechanics can be applied to large systems in this way, and whether quantum mechanics ultimately describes a universe governed by laws of cause and effect or by chance is hotly debated both by physicists and philosophers of science.

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