Introduction to Philosophy Jason M. Chang
The Problem of Free Will Introduction to Philosophy Jason M. Chang Lecture outline Why care about free will? The problem of free will
Causal determinism Is human action causally determined? Objection to determinism Why care about free will?
Joe is standing on top of a 3-story building. Suddenly, a strong gust of wind blows, causing Joe to lose his balance.Joe falls off the building and lands on a pedestrian below, thereby killing the pedestrian.Joe, however, miraculously survives. Should we blame and punish Joe for killing the pedestrian? Note: This example was created by Dr. Garret Merriam. Why care about free will?
Mo is standing on top of a 3-story building. Mo falls off the building and lands on a pedestrian below, thereby killing the pedestrian. It turns out that Mo chose to fall off the building with the intention of killing the pedestrian. Should we blame and punish Mo for killing the pedestrian? Note: This example was created by Dr. Garret Merriam. Why care about free will?
Why the different reactions toward Joe verses Mo? Mo had free will Joe did not have free will Principle Blaming or punishing someone requires that they had free will Blaming or punishing someone requires that they had free will Why care about free will?
Punishing someone requires that they had free will How this plays out in the legal system Different degrees of criminal homicide Diminished capacity and insanity defense Question Do we have free will? Of course we have free will!
Commonsense answer Of course we have free will! Common sense We have free will Reasons we think we have free will Experiential reasons I feel that we can do otherwise Example Eating the chocolate cake I feel compelled to eat the chocolate cake but I feel I could do otherwise Feeling exists before, during, and after making the decision The problem of free will The problem of free will
Ancient and Medieval version of the problem (2) God is all-knowing! (1) We have free will! The problem of free will
Modern version of the problem (2) Modern science (1) We have free will! How does modern science conflict with free will? Causal determinism Imagine an apple falling from the tree.
How do we explain the motion of this object? The motion of all physical objects in the universe (apples, stars, planets, liquids, gases, light, energy, etc.) can be explained in terms of scientific laws. Causal determinism Scientific worldview Causal determinism
Support Causal determinism Scientific beliefs Everything we know in Physics Chemistry Biology Psychology Sociology Scientific beliefs give reason to believe in causal determinism Causal determinism = the view that all events of physical objects in motion are the inevitable consequence of both prior events and scientific laws Causal determinism Example of causal determinism
Imagine an event in which a single domino (D4) falls in a domino effect series. How did the event come about? D4 Causal determinism Prior events Scientific laws
(prior dominos falling, me tipping the first domino, etc.) Scientific laws (law of gravity, laws of thermodynamics, etc.) Event some domino (D4) falls Determinism All events in the universe are like this. Oct. 17, 1989, 5:04pm in San Francisco
Causal determinism Oct. 17, 1989, 5:04pm in San Francisco BIG BANG Present day Big chain of cause and effect Causal determinism La Places demon
Imagine that determinism is true.Also imagine that a Being (a Demon) knows the precise location and momentum of every atom in the universe and all the laws of science.What, in theory, could this Being do? Pierre-Simon La Place French mathematician and astronomer The thought experiment Imagine that determinism is true.Also imagine that a being (a Demon) knows the precise location and momentum of every atom in the universe and all the laws of scienceWhat, in theory, could this being do? La Place for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes. Pierre-Simon La Place ( ) Is human action causally determined? Is human action causally determined?
From the standpoint physics and chemistry Humans are composed of matter -Oxygen (65%) -Carbon (18%) -Hydrogen (10%) -Nitrogen (3%) % of matter in the universe is governed by causal laws From the standpoint of physics and chemistry % of the matter in the universe is governed by causal laws (physical, chemical, biological) Example stars, planets, black holes, gases, molecules, trees, pens, dominos Humans are composed of matter Physical beings Oxygen (65%) Carbon (18%) Hydrogen (10%) Nitrogen (3%) Calcium (1.5%) Humans are no exception Humans are no exception Is human action causally determined?
From the standpoint biology and social science Genes Genes and environment influenced: Personality Behavior Environment Is human action causally determined?
From the standpoint biology and social science Imagine someone who knows you so well that they can predict what you will do or say in most given situations. Is human action causally determined?
From the standpoint biology and social science Imagine a person that has complete knowledge of our genes, our past experiences, and the environment in which we grew up.It is likely that this person can predict with 100 percent accuracy what we will do or say in a given situation. From the standpoint of biology and social science Thought experiment Imagine a being that has knowledge of our genes, our past experiences, and the environment in which we grew up. (Maybe a sibling, best friend, parent).It is likely that this person can predict with greataccuracy what we will do or say in a given situation. Is human action causally determined?
100 % Prediction accuracy Knowledge of genes, past experiences, and environment Complete knowledge Is human action causally determined?
Definition of causal determinism The view that all events (including human action) are the inevitable consequence of both prior causes and scientific laws What this means Humans cannot do otherwise Prior causes dont just influence but determine behavior Objection to determinism Objection to determinism
The objection:I feel free, so determinism is obviously false! Objection to determinism
Have you ever done something but were unaware of all the factors that made you do it ? Poll: Are we ________ aware of all the factors causing our decision? (1) always (2) sometimes (3) never Objection to determinism
Biological make-up Past experiences (millions) Current situation (millions) There are millions of factors that cause a decision Most of these factors we are ignorant of Misconceptions about determinism
It is the great complication of motion in man  it is the multiplicity of causes that move him  that persuades him he is a free agent; if all his motions were simple  he would perceive all his actions were necessary  Baron DHolbach ( ) Misconceptions about determinism
Our confidence that we can do other than we do is inversely related to knowledge of our causal story (i.e., the millions of causes that move us) Knowledge of our causal story Confidence we can do otherwise Summing up Free will is required for moral responsibility Belief in free will conflicts with scientific beliefs Science seems to support causal determinism Causal determinism is the view that all events are the consequence of previous events and scientific laws How can we reconcile contemporary scientific worldview with free will and moral responsibility?