Re: Free Will (was Re: virus: Re: Rationality)

Dave Pape (
Sun, 16 Mar 1997 22:45:06 GMT

At 17:45 15/03/97 -0700, David McF wrote:

>>This is the freewill I argue against: the idea that "you" choose what "you"
>>do. I think that "you" EMERGE from the things that "you" do/perceive/think,
>>and those things kind of decide themselves by the way in which they
>>interact. Insofar as "you have Will"... it isn't Free, and (critically for
>>arguments with religious people) "you" aren't Good or Bad.
>OK, so you defined free will such that you don't think it is real. Tell me
>again how this definition better?

1 I reckon most people's understanding of free will is closer to "will
which is free from the deterministic constraints of physics" than "something
which is deterministic and hence predetermined, and which people share with
rocks". For instance, the Oxford English Dictionary defines free will as
"power of acting independently of necessity or fate", whereas your
definition of free will seems to include determinism clauses, which mean (to
me) /necessarily/ acting in a certain way.

Thus, I think that if I start talking to people in general about free will,
there's less chance of confusion (statistically speaking) if I use a popular
definition. But, as it's a definition I have no faith in, I also want people
to give up their faith in it.

2 I don't believe in free will's validity, but I don't want just to
redefine it so that I CAN believe in it. If, when 17th-18th century
scientists worked out that phlogistan didn't exist and decided that
oxidation was the way forward in modelling burning, they'd just redefined
phlogistan as a kind of potential-for-oxidation, you'd have people with
opposing models about how things burn arguing about models, and with both
sides defending the /same terms/.

When you lose faith in a concept, it's better in my opinion that you keep
the old definition and have fights with people that believe it, than change
your definition until you DO believe it, because in that case you'll get
confused when you do get in a conceptual fight situation.

Dave Pape
Always bet on the guy with the spine.

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