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Dallas Philosophers Forum

Dallas Philosophers Forum

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Dallas Philosophers Forum

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  1. Dallas Philosophers Forum Free will versus determinism David M. PruessnerB.A., J.D., L.L.M.

  2. The Dilemma: FREE WILL DETERMINISM Only one course of action is truly possible. • We choose between different possible courses of action.

  3. “The major difference between humans and the rest of the living world is human’s ability to think logically and make informed decisions.”Ahmad Safavy PhD

  4. Free Will • The Test: there must be the real possibility of pursuing different courses of action !!!

  5. Evidence of free will? • No scientific evidence in support. • We believe in free will intuitively. • Virtually all our language presumes free will. • “He should not have done that….” • All regret and guilt presumes free will.

  6. Free Will – examined. • the ability to choose between different possible courses of courses of action . . . unimpeded !

  7. Free will . . . impeded by: • Physical laws • Society’s laws • Society’s expectations …. its customs • Our past experiences • Emotions; psychiatric conditions • Hormones, adrenalin, endorphins, neurotransmitters . . .

  8. Determinism: • All events, including moral choices, are determined completely by previous causes. Causation. • No other course of events was possible. • Tends to negate free will. • Predictable.

  9. Evidence of Determinism Not intuition; scientific evidence: Physical sciences: every event has a prior cause. “Causal Determination” Behavioral sciences: Heredity– DNA Environment

  10. Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without. Nicholas Tesla

  11. Scientific view – determinism Tends to negate responsibility: “Michael Jackson’s sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he had or whatever DNA he had.” Are we simply animals?

  12. Greek view: • Life influenced by the gods. • Greek mythology – three “Fates” • Oedipus Rex – Sophocles • Similar to Christian prophecy

  13. Free Will versus Determinism • Are they incompatible opposites? • “Incompatibilism” • Conservative ? Liberal ? • Are they two ends of a spectrum? • “Compatibilism”

  14. — Spectrum—Free Will ---/----/----/----/----/---DeterminismUnimpeded Somewhat impeded Impeded Good ? EVIL Mature ? Immature

  15. A “slippery slope” spectrum? • How much coercion is required to transform a free will decision into a forced decision? • Problema de “plata o plomo” • “Golden Handcuffs”

  16. Third Axis ?Free Will ---/----/----/----/----/---Determinism Indeterminism Chance – Accident Quantum Theory

  17. What % is free will ? – Marriage ? • 25 year old male – wants a spouse. % Free Will • 7.6 Billion candidates 100% • Female 50% • Roughly same age 10% • Same language or region < 1%

  18. Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

  19. Free Will and DeterminismIn Our Legal System

  20. “Free will” in our legal system: Contracts • Traditional view: We enforce contracts because people are free to enter into the contract, or not. • “Freedom of contract is a policy of individual self-determination; individuals can control their destiny . . . through agreements.” Shields Ltd. v. Bradberry, (Texas Supreme Court - 2017)

  21. Modern contracts - free will? • Auto Insurance Policy • Credit Card Agreements • Apartment Leases / Mortgages • License Agreements – Apple, iTunes, Facebook, g-mail, Windows . . .

  22. Remember our test for free will: • - there must be the real possibility of pursuing different courses of action.

  23. “Free will” in our legal system – SEX: • CONSENT: • Traditional – assumes free will: - either consent or rape. • New view - free will might be compromised: date rape, coercion, harassment at work, exploitation. • #ME TOO

  24. “Free will” in criminal law: • A system based on “punishment” assumes free will. • Is it a defense that you lacked free will ? • Insanity defense: Model Penal Code: – “unable to conform his conduct” - No longer the law in most states.

  25. Attempts to escape responsibility for free will – • “I had no choice” or “I couldn’t help it!” • Alcohol – intoxication = no defense. • Battered spouse syndrome. • Medical condition – hypoglycemia, brain tumor, Twinkies defense. • Affluenza defense – “I was spoiled.” Ethan Couch

  26. Temporal Factor - Free Will v Determinism • We tend to believe there is free will in decisions made over a long time. • We tend to discount free will in split-second decisions. • Defense of “sudden passion.”

  27. Youth and free will: We presume that children lack free will: • Contracts voidable • Consent to sex – invalid if less than 17 years old. • All criminal legal systems differentiate.

  28. Youth and free will:Mathena v. John Malvo – D.C. Sniper • John Malvo, age 17, involved in D.C. sniper attacks – 2002. • Two life sentences – no parol. • Supreme Court granted writ. • “irreparable corruption” ?

  29. Arguments John Malvo Prosecution Malvo freely decided to commit murder. Evidence that Malvo was “irreparably corrupted” – no free will. • I did not have free will in committing the crime. • But, I can now exercise free will.

  30. Summary: • Free will is noble and good. • But, it is rarely exercised. • Even when we exercise free will, our choices are impeded by a large number of factors: upbringing, DNA, society’s values, etc.. • Homework: exercise some new free choice in your life, despite these impediments.

  31. Dallas Philosophers Forum Free will versus determinism David M. PruessnerB.A., J.D., L.L.M.