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The Free-Will Problem

The Free-Will Problem

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The Free-Will Problem

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  1. The Free-Will Problem Appendix to Chapter 9 TOK II

  2. Free-Will - Defined • Do we truly have free will? • The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will. • The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will. • [Middle English fre wil, translation of Late Latin līberum arbitrium : Latin līberum, neuter of līber, free + Latin arbitrium, will.]

  3. Why is Free-Will Important? • Every time you praise or criticize someone’s actions, you are simply assuming that they are free and could have done otherwise. • To deny its existence is to rob us of our dignity and reduce us to the status of biological machines.

  4. Determinism • The universe operates in accordance with the causal principle that every event has a cause. • Our past actions can be traced to factors beyond out control, thereby robbing us of free-will. • Supported by genetics – we inherit traits from our parents.

  5. Determinism • Brain chemistry & physics support determinism: • When you raise your arm, it is the result of chemical and physical reaction to your mental state – brain chemistry. • Is free-will an illusion?

  6. Pierre LaPlace (1749-1827) • He argued that every event in the universe has been rigorously determined by the previous one, and it is – in principle at least – possible to predict the entire future of the universe.

  7. Does Determinism threaten Free-Will? • Free-will believers believe we do still have options and, at least sometimes, we are capable of exercising them and making free decisions. • Fatalism – destiny is written in the stars and there is nothing you can do to change it.

  8. Responses to the Free-Will Problem • 1. reject the claim that every event has a cause and argues this leaves room for free will. • 2. accept determinism, but insist free-will and determinism are compatible with each other. • 3. accept determinism and conclude that, no matter how unpalatable it might be, free-will is an illusion.

  9. Does EVERY Event have a cause? • It seems reasonable that if we look hard enough, we can find a cause for every event – we have to look harder for some things than others.

  10. Subatomic Randomness • Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle – it is impossible to know both the position and velocity of subatomic particles – denies determinism. • HOWEVER – anything larger than the subatomic level is cause and effect.

  11. Capturing a Free Action • Moment of hesitation = Free-Will- when we look at menu choices and choose. • Even if it is impossible to explain free-will in scientific terms, most of us agree it exists.

  12. Feeling of Freedom – An Illusion? • Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) – perhaps we are simply puppets that are unaware of the causal strings which are pulling us. • The Universe • Orderly – events are causal • Chaotic – events are not casual

  13. Free-Will & Determinism: Compatible? • Cigarette Addictions • Is freedom just doing what you want? • Can we control our desires? • Could you have done otherwise?

  14. Is Free-Will an Illusion? • Determinism says that free-will is an illusion. • There is no such thing as moral responsibility or rationality. • Most people would say that ignoring morality and virtues is too high a price to pay for accepting determinism.

  15. Does Determinism Undermine Ethics? • In a deterministic world: • Good people can’t help being good. • Bad people can’t help being bad. • Criminals are not responsible for their bad genes or environment but a determinist believes that criminals must be punished to 1) protect society, & 2) modify their future behavior.

  16. Does Determinism Undermine Ethics? • Retribution theory – justifies punishing criminals on the grounds that they deserve it. • Reform theory – justifies punishing those who are willing to change their behavior. • Punishment, unless it leads to reform, is viewed as a crime by determinists.

  17. Does Determinism Undermine Rationality? • Reasoning implies that we are free to believe or not believe something. • If our environment and genes make up who we are, then why do we bother talking? – no room for language in a deterministic realm.

  18. Conclusion • There is no easy solution for the free-will problem. • There are limits to knowledge and some things simply lie beyond human understanding.

  19. Homework Answer questions page 289 (1-4), 292 (1-3), & 293 (1-2), 294 (1-2), (1-2), 295 (1-3), 298 (1-7), & 299 (1-2).