Just Can’t Help It

I’ve gone and done it again; I’ve jumped into an argument about free will over at Bill Vallicella’s. There are two threads at the moment; they are here and here.

The discussion is about “libertarian” free will (LFW) – the idea that at time X, when I did A, I “could have done” B – that given exactly the same state of the world once again, I might make a different choice. This means that my decision is not determined by ordinary physical causality, the kind we’ve come to accept as causing everything else that goes on in the world, but rather by my radically free mind, or soul, or spirit, or something.

As you might have guessed, I am skeptical. I am disinclined to imagine that the world works one way everywhere but inside our skulls, and I strongly suspect that our intuition that we have this sort of freedom is simply false. More importantly, though – and this is the point I am trying to bring up over at Bill’s place – is that I don’t think the distinction matters in any meaningful way, and that all the hand-wringing about the implications for moral responsibility, rational inference, etc., is just overblown. But Bill’s crowd all lean strongly toward dualistic and anti-physicalist views, and it’s heavy slogging for me over there, because we disagree about fundamental assumptions. The argument seems to be largely based on two points – one that we seem to be free (to which I ask: how could we tell if we weren’t?), and the other that the only way we can enjoy moral responsibility and be rational beings is if LFW is true (both of which assertions I disagree with).

But the fact is I’ve spent so much time over there today that I haven’t the opportunity tonight to give the matter the time it deserves here. I will come back to it shortly.

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  1. Don Jr. says

    Nice post, Malcolm. Obviously, I disagree with some things in it, but it is stated very clearly and succinctly. I read your post on Lewis too. Also very nice. You presented Lewis’s view very fairly and accurately, more so than I could. I will not comment on my disagreements with you here (since we’re already carry that on at Bill’s site), but I stopped by to view your posts here and found them worthy of a comment.

    Posted September 11, 2006 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Thanks for stopping by, Don. I’ve been enjoying our conversation on this difficult topic.

    Posted September 11, 2006 at 2:36 pm | Permalink