Posted: Jun 27, 2021 3:51 pm
by zoon
Hermit wrote:Ah. Freedom of choice and human nature. Essential ingredients of theism and libertarianism. :coffee:

“Free will” and “responsibility” are evolved ingredients of human social behaviour. They are still useful concepts, given that we cannot yet predict each other scientifically as the (most probably) deterministic mechanisms that we are?

Instead of using science, we predict each other by evolved guesswork, using the similarity of one human brain to another. We guess what the other person wants, and then we guess what they are likely to do about it. It’s prescientific, but it works, so far, much better than the best of modern science. (Wikipedia on Theory of Mind here, 2019 experiment on ToM in great apes here.)

This evolved method of prediction gives us a somewhat indirect method of partial control: if an action is followed by a consequence that person doesn’t want (that is, punishing them), then they are less likely to repeat the action. This control by consequences is only going to work if the person’s action was in fact chosen and neither forced nor the result of mental illness, i.e. only if it was “free willed”. There is no point in punishing someone, or otherwise holding them responsible, unless the action they are being punished for was “free willed” in that limited sense.

All this is compatible with our being, in the end, wholly determinate collections of molecules which evolved through natural selection and which follow the laws of physics. We control, or rather partially control, other people by threat or promise of consequences, because we don’t know exactly how brains work. We fix a malfunctioning car engine or robot more directly. Science may eventually enable us to fix brains equally directly, which may or may not be a dystopian nightmare.

(It sounds as though Keep It Real's problem is harming himself rather than anyone else. If it's harming others, then denying personal responsibility because of mental issues is likely to lead to a worse outcome for Keep It Real, such as being held securely as a danger, rather than being fined or whatever as a capable person who has broken rules. Seeking help seems to be the best advice.)