Dark night of the frizbanontosity (free-will thread number 3)

Julian Sanchez thinks I don't take my disbelief in free will seriously enough. He may be right... I take very few things seriously enough.

Seriously, though, this is a false dichotomy:

Jason is focused on how bad things look if (as is probably not the case) the universe is fully deterministic: Our actions are scripted, and what we think are our choices are merely the upshot of impersonal, immutable physical laws playing out. But as philosophers have long observed, indeterminism doesn't seem to leave us in a much more satisfactory situation. Perhaps some of my actions are influenced by the probabilistic behavior of quantum particles that make up my brain, say. But this would just make my actions random, not free: They escape the shackles of causality at the cost of coming unmoored from agency, from a connection with my reasons and motives.

There's a third option that Julian probably considers too ridiculous to mention, and that is that my actions are the result of something at is a) not the result of any understood causality, and b) is still moored to agency. It is pure agency, in which I am the cause of many things.

This unlikely piece of a human being--that has agency free from prior cause--used to be called "the soul." Athiests reject it, I myself find it highly improbable, and Julian may argue that it is incoherent. I might even agree with him.

However, incoherent or not, it is the underpinning of all of our traditional conceptions of agency, and, I might add, is still a widely-used concept among everyone except philosophers.

The claim that consciousness is an "illusion" suggests a helpful analogy. There's a clear sense in which a convincing holographic image can be described as an illusion. On the other hand, it's still a real hologram. Whether it's apt to describe it as illusory will depend on your background beliefs about what you're looking at. Am "I" "really" "deciding" what words to write just now? Well, sure, in the same sense that when my laptop carries out a floating point operation, the "computer" is "really doing" a "calculation." Once you stop fantasizing about heaven, you tend to find the world we have is enough.

The first part of this paragraph really baffles me. A real hologram of a woman is not a real woman, just a real hologram. That is an important distinction, regardless of one's background beliefs.

But the last sentence of the paragraph is where the rubber meets the road. A very valid question to ask about my point of view is what the impact on my behavior should be. And I don't have a good answer. If I'm right, I'm not even sure it's a meaningful question.

Bonus: At the end of his post, Julian links approvingly to Will Wilkinson's list of easy answers to hard questions. About free will, Wilkinson writes,
It is frequently possible to have done other than what we did in fact do.

Whatever. I won't believe that until someone provides three examples.

(I tried simply commenting at Julian's lounge, but my comment vanished into pre-approval ether. Perhaps it will surface at some point, although I think this post is more complete.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

eXTReMe Tracker