Posted: Aug 07, 2019 5:58 pm
by zoon
Cito di Pense wrote:
I still don't think you have any clear definition of free will other than "not coerced", and you could easily spare yourself writing the reams of bullshit you write about how you find the concept useful, if only you quit all this obfuscation, and drew the line at coercion.

As you say, I would probably do better to stick to the core compatibilist argument: we ordinarily make a distinction between actions which were coerced, and actions which were uncoerced, or free. This distinction has consequences both in ordinary social life and in the law; we are much more likely to hold someone personally responsible for an uncoerced, or free, action, and to respond with blame and punishment, or praise and reward. All this makes reasonably obvious sense as a way of managing cooperation, and if an uncoerced action is taken to be free-willed, it’s a version of free will which is entirely compatible with our being mechanisms that are as determinate as science indicates. I’m happy to call uncoerced actions free-willed, continuing traditional usage, but there’s no general agreement, if other people consider the term “free will” is better avoided because it has too many supernatural and anti-science connotations, I won’t press the point.

OK, this is the department of tautology, but to say that we don’t have free will at the same time as saying that there is a working distinction between coerced and uncoerced actions runs close to contradicting oneself? I think the insistence that we definitely don’t have anything that could be called free will is sometimes connected to countering libertarian arguments such as that free will justifies the death penalty? Fair enough, I haven’t often argued with fundamentalists.

This version of free will as uncoerced action does depend on the assumption that the person concerned has mental competence, but my attempts to define free will in terms of mental competence were indeed running into trouble.