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;Physical, biological, pyscho-social constraints on free will, and free will as an underlying assumption of freedom
 
;Physical, biological, pyscho-social constraints on free will, and free will as an underlying assumption of freedom
put ideas for group unit HERE:
 
 
 
;''Introduction, etc.''
 
 
*Selected readings from [[Selected Nietzsche Readings|Nietzsche]]
 
::- We don't necessarily need to include this, but I think it's on point -- I'm writing a paper on Nietzsche and free will, so I already had these excerpts ready and I thought I might as well put them up.
 
 
*Film:  [http://www.answers.com/topic/run-lola-run?cat=entertainment Run Lola Run].
 
::- This is a great film (though it is in German, subtitled I believe), and it does an excellent job illustrating how very minor, random, events -- things like timing, chance encounters, luck, etc. -- can have a huge effect on how a person's life turns out (think "chaos theory" applied to human interaction).  And it raises the question (at least for me), of how we can consider ourselves "free" if we're so obviously chance's playthings.
 
 
:This is a good, accessible framing of a major thrust in our unit, I think.  We should pose this question to the class and have them go back and forth and challenge themselves to admit, or reject the primacy of chance in their destinies.  Then, of course, we can push deeper into chance (hardcore Determinism) in ways they might not even have thought of it.  --[[User:Rhaferd.jd10|Rhaferd.jd10]] 10:59, 16 February 2008 (EST)
 
 
 
;''Physics''
 
 
:[http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/ Causal Determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism Determinism], [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fatalism/ Fatalism]
 
 
*Peter Van Inwagen, ''Three Arguments for Incompatiblism'', in '''''[http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0198249241 An Essay on Free Will]''''', chapter III (1986).
 
::- Chapter III gives a very clear description of what "determinism" means, and how it should be understood. If we were to use it, I would suggest just reproducing that chapter (or part of it, as the whole chapter is sort of long), rather than having them get the book.
 
 
*John Earman, ''Defining Determinism'', in '''''[http://books.google.com/books?id=hsYmMZCmqOUC A Primer on Determinism]''''', chapter II (1986).
 
::- Good overview, but a little long.
 
 
 
;''Biology''
 
 
:[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_determinism Biological determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_determinism Genetic determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_determinism Environmental determinism]
 
 
*P. S. Greenspan, ''[http://www.philosophy.umd.edu/Faculty/PGreenspan/Res/gen2.html Free Will and Genetic Determinism: Locating the Problem(s)]'', University of Maryland (1998).
 
::- Short, and easy to read -- seems like a good intro to this topic.
 
 
*Richard Dawkins, ''Genes Aren't Us'', in '''''[http://books.google.com/books?id=DwD4bjQozgYC A Devil's Chaplain]''''', ch.2, §2.4 (2003).
 
::- Good critique of the concept of "genetic determinism," and a very quick read, only a couple pages (in fact, the whole section is available as part of the google book preview).
 
 
 
;''Psychology & Culture''
 
 
:[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_behaviorism Radical behaviorism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_determinism Cultural determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_determinism Social determinism]
 
 
*John Hospers, ''[http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0031-8205%28195003%2910%3A3%3C307%3AMAFW%3E2.0.CO%3B2-U Meaning and Free Will]'', '''[http://lms01.harvard.edu:80/F/J379293P4L2HGLHHVLLBCAPU5CGBQFL4MBLR258BGDFPU8QKH1-71098?func=full-set-set&set_number=716245&set_entry=000001&format=999 Philosophy and Phenomenological Research]''', Vol. 10, No. 3. (Mar., 1950), pp. 307-330.
 
::- This article discusses an argument from psychoanalysis, in favor of determinism.  I don't think they would need to read the entire article, I could edit it down if we were to use it.
 
 
*B. F. Skinner, ''[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyond_freedom_and_dignity#Freedom Freedom]'', in '''''[http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Freedom-Dignity-B-F-Skinner/dp/0394425553 Beyond Freedom and Dignity]''''', chapter 2 (1971)
 
::- There is also an article by Skinner that we might consider -- ''Freedom and the Control of Men, '''The American Scholar''', vol.25 (Winter 1955-56)'' -- but I think it's a bit obscure, so reproducing the chapter from the book might be better.
 
 
*Aldous Huxley, '''''[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World Brave New World]''''', (1932).
 
::- Again, I definitely wouldn't recommend the whole book (especially since many people have probably already read it), but there is definitely some relevant stuff in there.  However, I'm not married to using this, we could probably find something better.
 
 
*'''Sociological (Constructed Limitations)'''
 
::This may fit into the above category, but I want to discuss the postmodern ideas on the reality that much of ourselves is created by others. i.e. how free are you to shuck you race/class status?  Can you really be whatever you want to be?  Should others have a sanction on your freedom?  This of course bleeds into determinism.
 
::- One book we might excerpt from is Percival Everett's, "Erasure".
 
::That sounds good, I think it would definitely fit into the "Psychology and Culture" section.  What is "Erasure" about?  ''-steve''
 
 
:http://www.amazon.com/Erasure-Percival-Everett/dp/B000FDFWKU/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203005805&sr=8-14
 
:-black author's angst because of inability to escape the expectations of writing certain ways, etc.  Semi-autobiographical.
 
 
Even if your own ability/imagination allows, can you still be whoever you want to be?...
 
 
 
 
  
  
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''Two different, broad, categories:''
 
''Two different, broad, categories:''
  
1.  Things (external) out of our control that happen contemporaneously (Run Lola Run) '' --> how big is our "freedom" pie to begin with? This should affect our value on it? (or should it?)'' ''Cf.'' [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory Chaos Theory].
+
1.  Things (external) out of our control that happen contemporaneously (Run Lola Run) '' --> how big is our "freedom" pie to begin with? This should affect our value on it? (or should it?)'' Cf. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory Chaos Theory].
  
 
2.  Things that have happened in the past that determine the scope of your – determine your action.  Note, that if even one of the deterministic theories described below is correct, there is very little room (or perhaps ''no room'') for "free will".
 
2.  Things that have happened in the past that determine the scope of your – determine your action.  Note, that if even one of the deterministic theories described below is correct, there is very little room (or perhaps ''no room'') for "free will".
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*Biology (structure/genetics) – the structure of our brains (which is directly related to issues in physics and chemistry, above). our genetics, which deals in probabilities and predispositions, which we can still measure even if not determinate.  And of course our biological urges (hunger, the need to procreate, etc.).  All these are still well outside your control. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_determinism Biological determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_determinism Genetic determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_determinism Environmental determinism].
 
*Biology (structure/genetics) – the structure of our brains (which is directly related to issues in physics and chemistry, above). our genetics, which deals in probabilities and predispositions, which we can still measure even if not determinate.  And of course our biological urges (hunger, the need to procreate, etc.).  All these are still well outside your control. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_determinism Biological determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_determinism Genetic determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_determinism Environmental determinism].
  
*Psychology – everything you think and feel and do is determined based on parental treatment in the first few years of life, or on conditioned responses to behavioral/reinforcement contingencies. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_behaviorism Radical behaviorism].
+
*Psychology – everything you think and feel and do is determined based on parental treatment in the first few years of life, or on conditioned responses to behavioral/reinforcement contingencies. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_behaviorism Radical behaviorism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoanalysis#Basic_Principles_and_assumptions Psychoanalysis].
  
*Sociology - what society tells you, how it constrains you.  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_determinism Cultural determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_determinism Social determinism].  (the postmodern ideas on the reality that much of ourselves is created by others. i.e. how free are you to shuck you race/class status?  Can you really be whatever you want to be?  Should others have a sanction on your freedom? Even if your own ability/imagination allows, can you still be whoever you want to be?...).
+
*Sociology - what society tells you, how it constrains you.  (the postmodern ideas on the reality that much of ourselves is created by others. i.e. how free are you to shuck you race/class status?  Can you really be whatever you want to be?  Should others have a sanction on your freedom? Even if your own ability/imagination allows, can you still be whoever you want to be?...) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_determinism Cultural determinism], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_determinism Social determinism].
  
  

Revision as of 04:31, 17 March 2008


Physical, biological, pyscho-social constraints on free will, and free will as an underlying assumption of freedom


Overview of our topic/Roadmap for class discussion


Two different, broad, categories:

1. Things (external) out of our control that happen contemporaneously (Run Lola Run) --> how big is our "freedom" pie to begin with? This should affect our value on it? (or should it?) Cf. Chaos Theory.

2. Things that have happened in the past that determine the scope of your – determine your action. Note, that if even one of the deterministic theories described below is correct, there is very little room (or perhaps no room) for "free will".

  • Chemistry – groups of neurons firing in a particular way will (always) result in a particular behavior, different levels of neurotransmitters and hormones cause different emotional states. The deterministic nature of chemistry (and physics) is essentially an underlying assumption of the study of these fields. this is why experiments work, you do the same thing, you get the same outcome.
  • Biology (structure/genetics) – the structure of our brains (which is directly related to issues in physics and chemistry, above). our genetics, which deals in probabilities and predispositions, which we can still measure even if not determinate. And of course our biological urges (hunger, the need to procreate, etc.). All these are still well outside your control. Biological determinism, Genetic determinism, Environmental determinism.
  • Psychology – everything you think and feel and do is determined based on parental treatment in the first few years of life, or on conditioned responses to behavioral/reinforcement contingencies. Radical behaviorism, Psychoanalysis.
  • Sociology - what society tells you, how it constrains you. (the postmodern ideas on the reality that much of ourselves is created by others. i.e. how free are you to shuck you race/class status? Can you really be whatever you want to be? Should others have a sanction on your freedom? Even if your own ability/imagination allows, can you still be whoever you want to be?...) Cultural determinism, Social determinism.


These "two categories" aren't really two distinct categories (at least they aren't categorically distinct). Rather there is essentially a continuum of things that are out of our control that have an outcome-determinative (or potentially outcome-determinative) effect/influence on us and our decisions/actions/plans/choices/etc. This is basically a continuum extending backwards in time-- External things that happen contemporaneously with (or shortly before) our actions (or attempted/intended actions), such as the bus being late or getting a flat tire (Run Lola Run). Next (earlier in time) are things that shape our "personality" (our beliefs, wants, impulses, etc. - in short, all the reasons we do what we do and want what we want), this portion of the continuum includes factors described in psychology and sociology (readings from Hospers, Skinner, Huxley, Satrapi). Prior to this is biology and chemistry - such as the structure of our brain (which is largely set very early in life) and our genetics (which are set at the moment of conception). Prior still is physics, which (if we accept determinism) would connect us (or rather the present state of the universe), by a causal chain, all the way back to the beginning of time.

Rather than seeing this continuum as spreading backwards in time, we might just as well see it as spreading over different levels of analysis. the important thing to understand is that each of these things on the continuum overlap with one another (and many (possibly all) are reducible into the level above, e.g. biology reducing into chemistry, chemistry into physics). And more importantly, each of them has/causes an effect contemporaneously with our actions. Each of our "choices" is the sum of the effects of Sociology, Psychology, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, and each of our actions is the sum of those five things plus external things that happen contemporaneously with our choices. This, then, doesn't leave any room for "free will" - "choice" isn't really choice at all, but the illusion of choice.


If we accept these arguments, then we don’t have free will in the traditional sense.

- “Can’t have done otherwise, and the reasons why are completely out of your control” (this analysis directly affects criminal law, especially certain defenses)…

- If you think you don’t have a problem with this, are you prepared to admit that whatever you’re going to do in 4 days is already set.



Points of departure for class discussion:


Is this significant? IF you buy it, what are its implications for the freedom we’ve been talking about and placing value in the class. (again, do you have a problem with knowing/believing that what you will do 4 days from now is already set?)

If there is no such thing as freedom in the absolute sense, then perhaps we can compare/contrast Individual "freedoms" vs. freedom in the conduct your group/religion.


Govt. action questions – does it really affect your freedom? Would “they shouldn’t force me to do this” be a good excuse/argument?

The key here is to realize that the things that are out of our control that have an outcome-determinative (or potentially outcome-determinative) effect/influence on us mentioned above (like genetics, upbringing, etc., call them "determining factors") can very easily be in conflict with one another (and that this conflict may cause discomfort, or other unpleasant feelings in the individual). When such a conflict occurs, the stronger determining factor wins out. the important point is that this "conflict/struggle" has nothing to do with free will, it is not a matter of temptation versus will power, because "temptation" is really just a broad name for a set of various determining factors, and "will power" is a name for a facet of personality (and personality is just a confluence of a set of various determining factors).

Moral difference from Thoreau and Islamic thing. You can find both people who think they’re happy. But is there an objective, and then ultimately normative basis for saying one is preferable, or less free? --> (this is Piggy-backing on the stuff from last week about conflating happiness and freedom, and the Biblical readings on sacrificing one kind of freedom for another).

So, for example, sometimes biology wins out over social/psychological factors, e.g. when someone cheats on a diet (the need/desire to eat, a product of biology, where as the diet, or rather the desire to be slim, a product of social/psychological pressures). In other cases chemistry or social/psychological factors will win out over biology - for instance with the extreme example of anorexia (where the social/psychological pressure/desire to be thin (or some such thing) overcomes the urge to eat), or the even more extreme example of suicide (where some factor, perhaps a chemical imbalance, perhaps social/psychological pressures, overcomes one of our most fundamental biological drives, survival). In these cases, the individual may very well be distressed by the conflict between determining factors. So the question is, is this any different from a situation where the government forces you (or attempts to force you) to do one thing, where other determining factors are pushing you towards doing something else.

But if we see the government and the laws as just another of many "determining factors" then it becomes clear that the absence of "freedom" is not, in and of itself, an objection, because the government's coercion is just displacing (or at least competing with) the coercions of biology/chemistry/psychology/sociology. So the individual, in the ostensibly "free" society, really just has their actions determined by coercive forces other than the government.

Put it another way, consider the societies in Huxley's "Brave New World" or in Skinner's "Walden Two" where the denizens (or at least most of them) are perfectly happy with their situation despite the fact they have very little of what we would consider "freedom", because all the determining factors acting on them are well aligned (they want to do what the gov't wants them to do). Brave New World is a prime example, the society there is a ridged caste society that most of us would consider a dystopia, yet it is different from many dystopic stories in that most of the people there (except the protagonist, although even the protagonist seems content at the start of the story) - even those in the lower caste - are (or, at least, seem) happy and content. The reason for this is that the government in these stories have become quite adept at manipulating the determining factors of citizens. Compare these societies with those where the government uses less effective, less subtle, more heavy handed techniques - dictatorships, and other despotic regimes. The point is, the citizens (at least a large portion of them) in these societies are less happy then the citizens in Skinner's and Huxley's societies, but they are not less free! They are more aware of their unfreedom (which is really just to say that the determining factors that are coming from the government are not well aligned with their other determining factors), and that makes the people that live in these societies unhappy. But the point is that the problem is not one of freedom vs. unfreedom, but rather one of well executed unfreedom vs. poorly executed unfreedom.

So, is Govt. coercion morally same as physical or biological coercion? If not, why not? After all, if govt. weren’t forcing you to do X, something else would be (equally) forcing you to do Y.

This is not to say that we cannot criticize any other society (although some hard line cultural relativists do maintain just such a position), but rather that the lack of freedom is not, without more, a criticism.




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