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    How dangerous, if it would be, to give up the assumption that we don't have Free Will? Neuroscientific studies are more and more pointing towards the direction of us not having free will.

    However I feel as though I have Free Will even if I don't.

    Thoughts?


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    What would happen? Not much. Most people haven't even thought about the issue of free will, that's why arguments that are completely contradictory such as "God doesn't intervene because god values free will" come up in religious debates. Also society treats people like they have free will, your actions are your fault, isn't that suggesting you have some overall control over your body and mind?

    We have will, not free will. It's known that our subconscious has massive impact on our thoughts and behaviour, and so do your previous experiences, upbringing and hereditary genetic traits.

    Unless we suddenly know that we have free will I'll continue to believe that free will is nonexistent. But whatever the status of the issue of free will may be, it hasn't impacted my life one bit. Did society alter in some big way when Darwin proposed his theory of evolution? Nope. Whether we have free will or not, it'll hardly alter society in any significant way.
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    (Original post by JohnPaul_)
    How dangerous, if it would be, to give up the assumption that we don't have Free Will? Neuroscientific studies are more and more pointing towards the direction of us not having free will.

    However I feel as though I have Free Will even if I don't.

    Thoughts?


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    I'm not sure if it would be dangerous to give up on assumption in the sense of happily surviving - would life be parallel to simple being born onto a never ending roller coaster? I think free will only appears when we start to rationalise why we enact certain actions; if free will didn't exist we would simply rationalise it as a result of other factors rather than our own choice.

    We may have internalised and emotionally charged the idea of free will making it hard to drop. It would be interesting to see if people devoid of emotion are more likely to believe in it. I suspect people who are in a more negative state of mind will not believe in free will, possibly due to feelings of helplessness. It may have evolved to be necessary as part of social group dynamics, for example people need to be punished for their actions to prevent others from doing the same actions, but if it was universal truth that they were not responsible for murdering the cheating spouse then how would one punish them.

    I don't think it exists personally, and think it could be an illusion out of life's complexity. I think it is more an emotionally charged idea (that is potentially not worth rationally analysing) that instils social group dynamics, endowing one with a greater ability to pass on their genes.
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    (Original post by 0x2a)
    What would happen? Not much. Most people haven't even thought about the issue of free will, that's why arguments that are completely contradictory such as "God doesn't intervene because god values free will" come up in religious debates. Also society treats people like they have free will, your actions are your fault, isn't that suggesting you have some overall control over your body and mind?

    We have will, not free will. It's known that our subconscious has massive impact on our thoughts and behaviour, and so do your previous experiences, upbringing and hereditary genetic traits.

    Unless we suddenly know that we have free will I'll continue to believe that free will is nonexistent. But whatever the status of the issue of free will may be, it hasn't impacted my life one bit. Did society alter in some big way when Darwin proposed his theory of evolution? Nope. Whether we have free will or not, it'll hardly alter society in any significant way.
    I think one person not believing in free will would have no impact in the grand scheme of things, but I think you're right in saying most people have never thought about it; in any case even if someone did not believe in free will then they're unlikely to go Che Guevara with their beliefs. The strength of the belief will generally be quite small, "i don't think free will exists" being equivalent to the belief, "Sprite is nicer than 7up".

    So it doesn't affect your life or many people's but what if everyone believed in the non-existence of free will? What if this belief was as strong as, "3 multiplied by 2 is equal to 6"? Do you think this would impact society negatively?
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    In response to your last remark. I think different. I think that the social sciences of the 21st century wouldn't have a firm enough basis for their studies if we assumed that free will was non-existent or if it was existent but useless.

    Sam Harris said once in a discussion with Richard Dawkins to think of a celebrity, and then once you've thought of one, ask yourself why you didn't think of another celebrity instead? Basically, like it was mentioned earlier, your thoughts are predetermined before you know it, because you can't think a thought before you've thought of it.


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    (Original post by 0x2a)
    What would happen? Not much. Most people haven't even thought about the issue of free will, that's why arguments that are completely contradictory such as "God doesn't intervene because god values free will" come up in religious debates. Also society treats people like they have free will, your actions are your fault, isn't that suggesting you have some overall control over your body and mind?
    Why is “God doesn't intervene because God values free will” completely contradictory?

    And you thinking that society treats people as if they have free will doesn't make it more likely, at all.

    (Original post by 0x2a)
    Unless we suddenly know that we have free will I'll continue to believe that free will is nonexistent. But whatever the status of the issue of free will may be, it hasn't impacted my life one bit. Did society alter in some big way when Darwin proposed his theory of evolution? Nope. Whether we have free will or not, it'll hardly alter society in any significant way.
    It would change a lot of attitudes. A major shift in societal values would make things different.


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    I don't think it would be (although it could be) all that dangerous. People still have wills, and people still make choices. Just because these choices aren't free in the sense that they are either caused or random (or both) doesn't (or shouldn't) really change the way we act. A big difference it might make is in the application of the judicial system: if responsibility is ultimately no longer appropriate, then we'd have to see some changes. But rehabilitation of criminals would still be high priority, and I've always been of the opinion that this is far more important than retribution/punishment anyway.

    I'm with Sam Harris on the idea of free will: not only does it seem unlikely that free will exists, but it seems difficult to even formulate a rigorous definition of free will that is coherent and consistent (whilst still being useful). I certainly have yet to hear of one.
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    (Original post by JohnPaul_)
    How dangerous, if it would be, to give up the assumption that we don't have Free Will? Neuroscientific studies are more and more pointing towards the direction of us not having free will.

    However I feel as though I have Free Will even if I don't.

    Thoughts?


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    I assume you mean "to give up the assumption that we do have free will."

    I don't think it would be dangerous at all. It would have numerous brilliant benefits for society - namely we would finally be able to get past the idea that vengeance and retribution should have any part in our justice system, allowing us to concentrate on actually helping criminals become lawful, and where doing so is impossible, treat them humanely. We'd remove a large impediment between being able to act compassionately to people instead of acting like Basil Fawlty whipping his car when it breaks down. We would be able to adopt a more conscientious, rational society concerned with well being rather than pursuing other approaches such as irresponsibly maximising freedoms. Another nice consequence would be that people would stop feeling so entitled to everything under the illusion that everything they've got they've 'earnt'.
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    (Original post by Abbot)
    Why is “God doesn't intervene because God values free will” completely contradictory?

    And you thinking that society treats people as if they have free will doesn't make it more likely, at all.



    It would change a lot of attitudes. A major shift in societal values would make things different.


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    An omniscient God knows I am going to be doing a certain action, and not another. Then it has already been set and already known that I'll do action A and not B, therefore, I won't do B and I'll do A. I have no choice other than to do A.

    Doesn't make what more likely? That people have free will or not? I never said that, perhaps I didn't type my ideas down properly.

    If we found out that we DO have free will it wouldn't change much, because society as a whole already assumes that we have free will.

    On the other hand, if we found out we DON'T have free will then it'll be a completely different story.

    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    I think one person not believing in free will would have no impact in the grand scheme of things, but I think you're right in saying most people have never thought about it; in any case even if someone did not believe in free will then they're unlikely to go Che Guevara with their beliefs. The strength of the belief will generally be quite small, "i don't think free will exists" being equivalent to the belief, "Sprite is nicer than 7up".

    So it doesn't affect your life or many people's but what if everyone believed in the non-existence of free will? What if this belief was as strong as, "3 multiplied by 2 is equal to 6"? Do you think this would impact society negatively?
    If people started to collectively give up the idea of free will, then society would take a turn for the better. Like I said society already as a whole assumes that we have free will, but if we were to eradicate this thought process the best thing that would happen would be a completely change to the justice system which Miser put down well above.
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    This happens way too often, but miser pretty just summed up what I was going to say.

    Recognising that we have no free will, will be a massive step for the justice system.
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    (Original post by miser)
    I assume you mean "to give up the assumption that we do have free will."

    I don't think it would be dangerous at all. It would have numerous brilliant benefits for society - namely we would finally be able to get past the idea that vengeance and retribution should have any part in our justice system, allowing us to concentrate on actually helping criminals become lawful, and where doing so is impossible, treat them humanely. We'd remove a large impediment between being able to act compassionately to people instead of acting like Basil Fawlty whipping his car when it breaks down. We would be able to adopt a more conscientious, rational society concerned with well being rather than pursuing other approaches such as irresponsibly maximising freedoms. Another nice consequence would be that people would stop feeling so entitled to everything under the illusion that everything they've got they've 'earnt'.
    I'm not being argumentative, I'm just testing the waters of this theory. For example, with criminal justice are you saying that we could concentrate essentially on prevention rather than cure?

    So say if tomorrow there was a reversal in opinion on free will, with the instilment of its non-existence within the justice system. Criminals who are already criminals would be entitled to appeals on the grounds that none of their actions were their faults? None of their actions were anyone's fault.

    Murder, for example, will have an innate basis and so without operantly conditioning the justice system how would we prevent murder? We could show that not murdering has good benefits, but murdering has bad benefits but how? Especially when taking into account the number of "crimes of passion". Would people be empowered to commit more crimes without any sort of consequences?

    People would indeed feel humbled that where they have got isn't because they, "have earned it", but would there be less motivation to do things with this understanding being digested by the ego.
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    (Original post by 0x2a)
    An omniscient God knows I am going to be doing a certain action, and not another. Then it has already been set and already known that I'll do action A and not B, therefore, I won't do B and I'll do A. I have no choice other than to do A.

    Doesn't make what more likely? That people have free will or not? I never said that, perhaps I didn't type my ideas down properly.

    If we found out that we DO free will it wouldn't change much, because society as a whole already assumes that we have free will.

    On the other hand, if we found out we DON'T have free will then it'll be a completely different story.


    If people started to collectively give up the idea of free will, then society would take a turn for the better. Like I said society already as a whole assumes that we have free will, but if we were to eradicate this thought process the best thing that would happen would be a completely change to the justice system which Miser put down well above.
    Out of interest, with a shift in paradigm, i.e. total disbelief in the existence of free will, how would you deal with crimes that do occur?
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    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    I'm not being argumentative, I'm just testing the waters of this theory. For example, with criminal justice are you saying that we could concentrate essentially on prevention rather than cure?
    No no, we would need to concentrate both on prevention and on cure (to whatever extent criminals can be 'cured' of their disposition towards crime). We would just stop punishing people for punishment's sake. Prison wouldn't be a place of penance but of residence to prevent crime or rehabilitate criminals.

    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    So say if tomorrow there was a reversal in opinion on free will, with the instilment of its non-existence within the justice system. Criminals who are already criminals would be entitled to appeals on the grounds that none of their actions were their faults? None of their actions were anyone's fault.
    I would argue that we would still need prisons. Prisons serve three purposes:
    1. To remove dangerous people from society.
    2. To allow a stable environment for prisoners to be rehabilitated.
    3. To provide a disincentive for criminals considering committing a crime.


    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    Murder, for example, will have an innate basis and so without operantly conditioning the justice system how would we prevent murder? We could show that not murdering has good benefits, but murdering has bad benefits but how? Especially when taking into account the number of "crimes of passion". Would people be empowered to commit more crimes without any sort of consequences?
    In "crimes of passion" we have admitted that a person has not thought about the consequences of his or her actions outside of the crime itself - in these scenarios, deterrents (such as prison sentences) are ineffective. For pre-meditated murder, we would still send a person to prison for a long time because they have demonstrated a key failing in their ability to exist safely in society.

    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    People would indeed feel humbled that where they have got isn't because they, "have earned it", but would there be less motivation to do things with this understanding being digested by the ego.
    I don't think so. I've heard it asked, "if you don't believe in free will, why would you even get out of bed in the morning?" I still get out of bed. People would still recognise the world to be governed by cause and effect. "If I go out and work today I'll earn money to spend on nice things," a person would continue to think. Free will does not enter into it.
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    (Original post by miser)
    No no, we would need to concentrate both on prevention and on cure (to whatever extent criminals can be 'cured' of their disposition towards crime). We would just stop punishing people for punishment's sake. Prison wouldn't be a place of penance but of residence to prevent crime or rehabilitate criminals.
    So would prison be more focussed towards educating people what is wrong and right?

    Surely being imprisoned is a punishment in itself?

    How can someone 'be' a criminal if someone isn't repoonsible for their actions?


    Why should one 'pay penance for actions they don't control?

    I think these questions apply to the rest of your post too.

    i don't think so. I've heard it asked, "if you don't believe in free will, why would you even get out of bed in the morning?" I still get out of bed. People would still recognise the world to be governed by cause and effect. "If I go out and work today I'll earn money to spend on nice things," a person would continue to think. Free will does not enter into it.

    It's a relatively soft belief for most people at the moment and tends to only enter thoughts when one is procrastinating, what of it was completely internalised and became pervasive constantly throughout life?
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    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    So would prison be more focussed towards educating people what is wrong and right?
    No, prisoners know what is 'wrong' and what is 'right', but education so that they are able to develop a trade would be a good idea because it at least equips people such that they don't feel the need to commit crime once they have been released.

    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    Surely being imprisoned is a punishment in itself?
    Yes, it is, but it's not a punishment for the sake of a punishment, it's a punishment for the sake of meeting other objectives (the ones I outlined in my previous post).

    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    How can someone 'be' a criminal if someone isn't repoonsible for their actions?
    I define a criminal as someone who has broken the law.

    (Original post by Doctor Dolittle)
    Why should one 'pay penance for actions they don't control?
    I don't think they should 'pay penance'.
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    Continuing on from this hypothetical paradigm shift after which we use prisons for the three reasons you outlined, miser, how might you react to the argument that imprisoning criminals for these reasons is immoral? Of course it is beneficial to the rest of society to imprison dangerous people and help rehabilitate them wherever possible, but is not imprisoning these people for the benefit of the rest of the society simply using them as a means to an end? Could one not make the argument that it is principally immoral to imprison someone for that which was outside of their control? Would we not be infringing upon some right or another?
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    (Original post by Implication)
    Continuing on from this hypothetical paradigm shift after which we use prisons for the three reasons you outlined, miser, how might you react to the argument that imprisoning criminals for these reasons is immoral? Of course it is beneficial to the rest of society to imprison dangerous people and help rehabilitate them wherever possible, but is not imprisoning these people for the benefit of the rest of the society simply using them as a means to an end? Could one not make the argument that it is principally immoral to imprison someone for that which was outside of their control? Would we not be infringing upon some right or another?
    Bit of Kant, eh? Why would it be immoral to use people as means to an end though? Without free will, we're all just really complicated clockwork.

    Morality gets difficult without free will anyway. Your argument's a bit contradictory. How can it be immoral to imprison someone when we had no choice over whether or not to imprison them? We don't have free will either.


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    (Original post by Implication)
    Continuing on from this hypothetical paradigm shift after which we use prisons for the three reasons you outlined, miser, how might you react to the argument that imprisoning criminals for these reasons is immoral? Of course it is beneficial to the rest of society to imprison dangerous people and help rehabilitate them wherever possible, but is not imprisoning these people for the benefit of the rest of the society simply using them as a means to an end? Could one not make the argument that it is principally immoral to imprison someone for that which was outside of their control? Would we not be infringing upon some right or another?
    Sorry almost missed this reply (feel free to quote me if you want to get my attention).

    Yes, you are quite right that there is an argument to be made there. In my opinion it depends very much on what our reasons for imprisoning people are. If there are to be any humans at all then it is necessary for us to find a way to live cohesively.

    I have three main thoughts about the argument:

    1. I would say I don't believe it is moral to allow a person to go around directly infringing on others' rights, and so these people who would do this must be prevented from doing so (and prison would be a justified means).
    2. I don't believe that society has any right to 'benefit' from prisoners, only that individuals have a right not to have their rights transgressed upon. Insofar as prisons are necessary for this, we ought to employ them.
    3. In answer to the question of whether these prisoners are having their own rights infringed, I don't believe people have a right to freedom when their freedom is at the expense of the rights of others.
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    Why do you guys think that free will and determinism are incompatible? The recent ''progress of neuroscience'' has not proven hard determinism. Sure our environments shape the person we are and the likelihoods of which choices that we make, but there are many people who believe that we can still make free choices but just in the right sense. Free will is an ambiguous term because most people have different conceptions of what it means to have free will. The type of free will where you are required to change the past or tamper with the physical causal sequence of events is indeed unlikely but I would argue that there are many available conceptions of free will that do not require this!

    A better definition may be: ''The ability to do what you choose, and under the influence of considerations that represent your situation accurately be able to choose differently.'' This definition means that we don't have to violate the laws of nature or rely on some magical interventional force to have free will.

    Basically when faced with a situation, one is morally blameworthy if they did wrong and they:
    a) had all the necessary information for the right choice to be made e.g not been deceived
    b) able to consider their options rationally e.g not mentally handicapped
    c) able to act on their choice e.g not restrained by another

    This fits most of our common ideas about freedom. Compatibilism is a popular philosophical stance on free will, now I know there are criticisms of it but I think on the whole it has been well defended by philosophers. Please don't go thinking that hard determinism is the only reasonable view.
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    (Original post by Abbot)
    Bit of Kant, eh? Why would it be immoral to use people as means to an end though? Without free will, we're all just really complicated clockwork.
    Moral philosophy is really not my thing haha. I'm of the (somewhat uneducated!) opinion that most moral philosophy is little more than armchair speculation, as I concluded long ago that there was no reason to suppose that moral statements are objective descriptions of reality. So yeah, I wouldn't personally propose that it is immoral to use people as a means to an end, I was simply curious about how one might react to this argument in the context of a paradigm shift away from belief in free will.


    (Original post by Abbot)
    Morality gets difficult without free will anyway. Your argument's a bit contradictory. How can it be immoral to imprison someone when we had no choice over whether or not to imprison them? We don't have free will either.
    Aye, I agree that losing free will makes morality somewhat more difficult... but I wouldn't say that the argument was contradictory exactly: I don't think free will and morality are necessarily mutually exclusive, as you seem to be implying.
 
 
 
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