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

David McFadzean (
Sun, 16 Mar 1997 21:47:04 -0700

> From: Dave Pape <>

> 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".

That's either a parody of my position or we're going to have to start
from the beginning again.

> 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.

If you want to reduce confusion, you might want to find a word other than
"faith" :-)

> 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/.

The term "heat" used to refer to a fluid contained in hot things. But
it has been usefully redefined as molecular motion. It doesn't make sense
to abandon every term associated with a misconception.

> 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.

I guess it depends whether you prefer to win fights or understand other
people's positions.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus