[ExI] free-will, determinism, crime and punishment

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Aug 19 15:28:21 UTC 2007

Samantha wrote

> [John Clark wrote]
> > So one has free will if one's will is free. I said it before I'll  
> > say it again, free will is an idea so bad it's not even wrong.
> Do you have the ability to choose among alternatives or not?

Yes!  This is just the right way to approach "free will". Either
don't use the concept at all (perhaps very wisely), or reduce it
to whether something can "freely" choose. If a chess program
thinks for an hour and suggests Qxd8 check, then I'll say that
the program chose to exchange queens, just as I'll say that a
certain weather program, after crunching numbers for hours,
decides that the hurricane will surely abate.

If someone hacked into the program, however, and just
before the hour was up forced the program to emit Qxf6
instead, then the program's "free will" was abrogated.

But in another email, Samantha goes on

> [Stathis evidently wrote]
>> If we could re-wind the clock to the moment before the
>> crime, to the exact same circumstance, he would certainly
>> choose to commit the same crime again.
> This does not follow in the slightest and is totally false by my  
> experience of most critical choice points in my life.

It seems that you are dismissing out of hand the possibility 
that you could be living in a deterministic simulation. Besides,
the very wide tracts of neurons that determine a decision a
few seconds before you make an action are, well, "deterministic"
and I think that we can safely regard people as very akin to


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