[ExI] Humans losing freewill

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Mon Nov 21 11:05:45 UTC 2016

On 21 November 2016 at 17:31, Stuart LaForge <avant at sollegro.com> wrote:

Stathis again:

'Why can't you "actually have a choice" about something if your behaviour
is fixed by the configuration of your brain?'

Because if your choices were, are, and always will be fixed, there is no
possibility that you could have counterfactually chosen any other options
and therefore they were never really options to begin with.

I assume that I make choices because my brain is in a particular
configuration, and that my brain is in that configuration because of the
way the universe has evolved up to that point. When I say I could have
chosen differently, I mean that if my brain had been in a different
configuration I would have chosen differently; and my brain could only have
been in a different configuration if the universe had evolved differently
to the way it actually has. This is a counterfactual; all that is required
is logical possibility.

There is the possibility that I might make different choices given the same
brain configuration, because there is some truly random element in my
brain. This is in fact slightly disturbing, because it means I may make a
choice at some point not because if my experiences and disposition, but for
no reason at all. We can punish criminal behaviour if it is due to
deterministic factors, but to the extent that it is due to this postulated
random element, there would by definition be no deterrent effect, so
punishment would be futile. If you used the term "free will" for this
random component, then we might say that a person is not to be held
responsible for their behaviour if it is freely willed, but only if it is
determined. This, of course, is not how "free will" is normally conceived;
which supports the point that it is an incoherent concept, and we are best
to have the discussion using other, universally agreed to terms.

Stathis Papaioannou
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