After two long debates on the issues of free-will and determinism, Joshua summed up his response in this comment. His description gets to the heart of the matter in my opinion. At the end of the day, I think we are left with a fundamental problem on both sides and I think the problems are unanswerable. This creates a dilemma that I find quite fascinating.
To quickly review, both views have what seem to be totally unacceptable problems. On the determinism side, moral responsibility and our most basic experience of control are shown to be illusions. On the libertarian-free-will side, it becomes clear that there is no adequate explanation for why we do the things we do, even though our actions are supposedly meaningful. It is crucial to realize that there are no positions to take that don’t suffer from one of these problems. Your view (yes, you, reading this blog), your view suffers from one of these problems.
Of course, many people reading along will want to argue with my previous assertion. Either you have never internalized the problems or you have found a way to convince yourself that you have solved the problems on one side. Thus, these debates can be quite tiresome simply because they usually revolve around both sides trying to drive home the problems of the other side while denying the problems on their own side. Compatibilism is, by definition, a denial of the problem on the determinist side. Pretending that the reasons we offer for our actions are adequate explanations of the “why” of our actions is a denial of the problems on the LFW side. For a person coming to grips with the issue for the first time, these discussions can be a lot of fun. After you’ve run a few thousand laps around the issue, it can get less exciting than it was the first time around.
As long as there are people who can’t see the problem, or who think they have solved one of the problems, then the debate will always be about describing the problems and demonstrating the inadequacy of proposed solutions. I suppose this can’t be avoided because we are naturally committed to the idea that there is some truth that makes sense of it all.
However, I wonder if it could be somewhat more interesting to see a discussion among various people who fully acknowledge the problems on both sides and are resigned to the fact that no solution is forthcoming. What does a person do when they come to realize that it is not within our power to reconcile logic and experience on this issue? For me, that is a very fascinating question which doesn’t get addressed often enough.
So, here is a thread about determinism and free-will with some unusual ground rules. You are only allowed to comment if you understand the problems (see previous threads if you don’t understand yet but you want to). Further, you are NOT allowed to claim that you have solved the problem on one side or another. Your comments ARE allowed to say why you prefer one problem to the other, or comment on how you approach philisophical/theological no-win scenarios in general. In a nutshell, your comment is welcomed as long as it does not challenge the premise of the post that the two problems described are genuine and severe problems for which there are no existing resolutions.
If these rules prevent me from getting any comments, I am prepared for that. This thread will remain open as a place holder for the discussion I’d like to see (but haven’t seen) about free-will and determinism.