Do Animals have Free Will?

February 25, 2008    By: Jacob J @ 11:42 pm   Category: Determinism vs. free will

Not that long ago I was shocked to find out that Geoff J does not believe animals have free will. A bit later, I found out my brother (usually an advocate of libertarian free will) is not so sure when it comes to animals. The birth of a post.

Let me begin by stating the obvious: There is no test or experiment that can be done to prove whether or not animals have libertarian free will (hereafter simply “free will” or LFW). If there were such experiments, we would use them on humans to settle that interminable debate.

Thus, I expected that belief in animal-free-will would track very closely to belief in human-free-will. The people who believe everything is casually determined will surely believe that animals are included in “everything,” so the determinist position on animals seems pretty obvious. Determinists don’t believe anything has free will, animals included.

On the other hand, I expected the people who believe humans have free will to assume the same thing of animals, but for slightly more complicated reasons. People who believe in free will usually do so for two reasons:

  1. They want their experience of being free to turn out to be correct.
  2. They want to preserve some basis for moral responsibility.

Clearly these same reasons do not motivate a belief in animal-free-will. Not being animals, we have no idea how animals experience life and thus have nothing to validate. Since animals are not generally believed to be morally responsible, this provides no motivation either.

However, all the basic elements a free will believer would point to as the basis of free will are present in animals. If free will is tied up in having a spirit, then the standard Mormon belief that animals have spirits would indicate that they have free will. If free will is tied up in mental states locally supervening on brain states, then the existence of animal brains which are very similar to human brains would tend to suggest animal-free-will. Animals exhibit intelligence which seems to differ from humans in degree rather than kind. Animals engage is so many similar activities to humans that they seem very much like generally stupid and morally-unaware versions of us.

All things considered, I expected animal-free-will to be the clear default position for a person who has already committed to a belief in human-free-will.

So, what do you think? Do animals have free will? Does your belief with regard to animals match your belief with respect to people? If you are a believer in human-free-will but not animal-free-will, what is your reasoning?

166 Comments »

  1. Jacob: they seem very much like generally stupid and morally-unaware versions of us

    If I remember correctly, I argued mostly that animals don’t have free will in a sense that I find worth exploring. The type (or perhaps degree) of free will that is most interesting is the type/degree where one is considered morally responsible. If my dog can’t consciously choose to respond to stimulus in any other way than the way nature and nurture have wired his doggie brain then he is entirely causally determined, right? It is the ability of properly functioning human brains to decide how to act in that infinitesimally small space between stimulus and response that makes free will an interesting discussion to me — “things to act and things to be acted upon” as Lehi said.

    Now one could argue that there is such a thing as a “good dog” versus a “bad dog”. And one could argue that spirits of dogs (along with all other spirits/intelligences) will be judged after this life based on their relative morality and choices in their own “sphere”. In fact Orson Pratt seemed to argue such a thing. I’m just not ready to make that kind of argument. Are you? (If so, tell us more about that…)

    PS — Why stop at animals having LFW? What about insects? Do they have free will? What about plants? They all reportedly have spirits after all… Where do you want the LFW line to be drawn?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 12:19 am

  2. Ahhh, the beauty of being a compatibilist; you don’t have to draw a line between the have’s and have-not’s. The really interesting question, I would wager, is when, where, why and how “our kind” of free will first started in our species?

    As a compatibilist, I simply have to say that our free will gradually became more robust as we 1) acquired a greater ability to appreciate and rationally respond to choices and consequences and 2) became more and more integrated within a moral and linguistic community. Members of our lineage used to be less free and there is no reason to believe that they won’t become more free in the future.

    If, however, one chooses to take Blake’s emergentist path, one runs into a problem. When, where, why and how did the first “free” mind emerge from deterministic neural processes? It seems like something is either radically emergent or it isn’t, leaving little room for any evolutionary grey. What explains the transition from one to the other?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 12:23 am

  3. Geoff,

    You seem to have free will tangled up with moral awareness in a way that I don’t. I see the existence of free will being cleanly and fully separable from moral awareness. Thus, for me, the idea that there is a bright line between things which act and things which are acted upon doesn’t require in any way the idea that there are “good dogs” and “bad dogs” in a moral sense. I am not sure why those two things are so closely tied together in your mind.

    Just to be clear, when I said that animals seem like morally unaware (and generally stupid) versions of us, I meant just that. I don’t believe animals have moral awareness and so I do not subscribe to Orson Pratt’s view as you have described it. I believe that animals are free in the libertarian sense in that they can make choices which are not causally necessitated.

    I often make choices which despite their not being morally relevant still seem to be free choices to me. For example, I choose what ice cream I want to eat for dessert. I see no reason why dogs could not be free in this same sense since that type of free choice has nothing to do with morality. As to your PS, I will have to save my answer for a separate comment.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 12:37 am

  4. Jeff G,

    I’m glad you can bask in the beauty of compatibilism. The problem I see in your view is precisely that there is no basis for a distinction between have and have-nots. Thus, in the end your view leads to the inevitable conclusion that we are all have-nots. Blake has the problem of describing the transition whereas you have the problem that there is no transition.

    Now, rather than getting bogged down in an argument about human-free-will, let me say that I think your point about graded free will is very important. In my view there is a fundamental distinction between things with the capacity to choose and things without that capacity. But (here is the important part) this basic power must be coupled with other capacities to be useful. Those “other capacities” are just the two things you mentioned, namely, rational thought and moral awareness, both of which are graded. Moral awareness is dependent in basic ways on rational thought.

    We recognize that there are varying degrees of accountability for people with varying degrees of mental handicap. We see children start with no understanding and gradually grow into the ability to reason and understand consequences. Thus, for a person who already believes in LFW, the idea that animals are free does not seem far removed from these things we are already committed to.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 12:56 am

  5. “The problem I see in your view is precisely that there is no basis for a distinction between have and have-nots. Thus, in the end your view leads to the inevitable conclusion that we are all have-nots.”

    Ha! What a wonderful argument against the existence of bald people, mammals, and persons. After all, since there is no specific point at which a person becomes bald, or reptiles became mammals, or fetuses become adults, we can safely conclude that none of the latter actually exist. (/snark)

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 1:00 am

  6. Geoff,

    Quickly on your PS in #1. As I said in my previous comment to Jeff, I think any view that advocates LFW will of necessity have to account for gradation like that we see in the development of children. I don’t have any problem with the idea that mosquitos have free will but I don’t think they have the other capacities to make much use of it if they do. I am not so sure that plants have spirits, but I am pretty sure they don’t have brains, so I am fairly committed to the idea that plants don’t have free will (or that if it turns out that they do, their current situation completely stiffles their ability to do anything meaningful with it).

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 1:06 am

  7. As for Geoff’s closely linking free will and moral responsibility, let me venture a guess. Geoff’s main objections to compatibilism and determinism is that it leaves us without any “real” moral responsibility. I’m pretty sure that he acknowledges that all of our complex behavior can, hypothetically, be accounted for by completely deterministic causes. However, were such the case, then all of our apparent decisions, rationality, responsibility, etc. (I will summarize these things under the heading of “meaningful action”) would merely be a farce.

    Thus, the determinist (of the incompatibilist stripe) argues as follows: P1) If determinism is true, meaningful action is a farce. P2) Determinism is true. C) Therefore, meaningful action is a farce. Geoff and other LFWers (also of the incompatibilist stripe) reverse the argument, saying P1) If determinism is true, meaningful action is a farce. P2*) Meaningful action is not a farce. C*) Determinism is not true. ( For the sake of completeness, I simply reject P1.)

    Thus, in the case of animals, who do not have meaningful action in any robust sense of the term, the argument for their free will simply flounders. Determinism can account for their behavior as well as it (hypothetically) can ours, but in the case of animals there is no argument (from meaningful action) to count such a suggestion.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 1:10 am

  8. Jeff G (#5),

    I believe in baldness. What I meant was that in your view there is never anything that breaks free from the controlling power of deterministic causal forces dictating their every thought and action. Thus, everything ends up as a have-not. This is the fundamental rock that compatibilism continually shipwrecks on despite all the very smart arguments made in its defense.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 1:15 am

  9. Jeff (#7),

    Yes, I think this is an excellent guess, which is essentially the same one I ventured in the post. The two reasons people want to believe in LFW don’t apply directly to animals so we have no vested interest in animals having free will. The problem with that, I am suggesting, is that it leaves the LFWer looking rather silly. All the things they use to account for free will are present in animals (spirits and brains and personality), so dening animal-free-will appears to me to introduce a very large discontinuity in their worldview.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 1:22 am

  10. I know you don’t want to get bogged down here, so feel free to postpone any response to any amount of this comment.

    “There is never anything that breaks free from the controlling power of deterministic causal forces dictating their every thought and action.”

    I find this comment enormously confused. What is “thought and action” if not more causal forces at work? What would it mean for something to actually break free from causal forces? Must all causal forces be “controlling”? Why would we ever want a thought or action which was not causally dictated?

    By the by, here are a couple of wonderful papers worth reading:

    Meaning in Life Without Free Will
    Who’s Afraid of Determinism? Rethinking Causes and Possibilities

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 1:28 am

  11. Regarding #9:

    While I think you are right, I worry that you might be going a little too quick. For instance, I suspect that Geoff and Blake will say that animals are not capable of those things that I mentioned in my post. This shows that their brains (physical and/or spiritual) are simply not organized in the right way to demonstrate LFW.

    Here, however, is where I see a slight but significant difference between my position and theirs. For me, the ability to appreciate and rationally respond to alternatives and consequences as well as be integrated within a moral and linguistic community (meaningful action for short) just IS (roughly) being free and responsible, or at least as free and responsible as we can ever hope to be.

    For them, however, being genuinely free and responsible (something my view does not allow in their minds… no pun intended) is a precondition for meaningful action. They are not the same at all. On my account, meaningful action is supposed to explain free will, while on theirs it is almost the other way around.

    An evolutionary argument can be offered at this point. Why would LFW ever have evolved? What advantage could “real” free will possibly have offered over a merely apparent free will? Perhaps this question is an inappropriate application of adaptationist thinking, but what the hey?

    This point really puts Geoff’s argument into focus as I described it in #7. (If I misdiagnosed Geoff, he’s going to eat me alive here!) The argument for LFW from meaningful action doesn’t seem to go far enough. Inasmuch as the argument relies upon the perceived moral importance of meaningful action, it does not show that determinism is false; only that we ought to believe that determinism is false.

    Similarly, I can more or less see why we would evolve the disposition to believe that we had LFW, but the evolution of actual LFW seems utterly mysterious to me.

    Indeed, many of our free will debates have come to this very point: if determinism is true, nobody would ever be able to tell the difference from if it were false, even God. At this point I then ask why we should think that it exists then? Let us say that determinism is true, and that meaningful action is a farce, but that it is a farce in which everybody, God included, finds himself. How would this world be any different than a world in which LFW is true? It seems to me that at this point we are talking about a difference which makes no difference.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 1:49 am

  12. I would say animals have free will to a point. I’d push it even further to say that all matter has free will to a point. Else, how could it obey?

    On the other hand, I don’t think it has free will to the same degree that humans do. Humans are created to be actors, not objects, as much of the rest of creation. It seems obvious to me that free will is not a black-and-white as much as it is a continuum. As much as a creature possesses the ability to act on its own, it possesses a degree of free will. Biology and instinct do not supersede free will. Instinct gives an impulse. It is still up to the individual to choose whether or not to act on that impulse. I personally have witnessed both wild and domestic animals making a decision and modifying their behavior based on previous experience.

    In humans, the state of free will reaches completion beyond decision-making based on our ability to meta-think (that is, to think about our thoughts). That is part of our duality of being created in the image of God at the same time we are enticed by Satan. Not only can we act for ourselves, we can analyze ourselves and consciously improve. That is more than free will. It is agency.

    Comment by SilverRain — February 26, 2008 @ 4:56 am

  13. The problem runs aground with apes, dolphins and certain crows and parrots who appear to have strong reasoning abilities.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 8:28 am

  14. Jacob,

    So if I am understanding your position, you are arguing that robust free will can be decoupled from rational or moral thought completely. Is that right?

    I don’t agree with that definition but I can see why you would not have any problem with basically asserting “anything with a brain has LFW and anything with no brain does not” (even though what constitutes a brain or not can even be a gray area).

    But the part that has mattered in all of our previous debates with Jeff and others on this subject is the moral responsibility part. We have jointly argued pretty effectively that LFW is a prerequisite for moral responsibility. So it seems to me that this notion that you have the LFW does not entail moral responsibility is mostly another unprovable technicality/speculation and doesn’t even address the heart of the real debate at all.

    In other words, I think LFW entails robust moral responsibility; you think LFW is just a precursor/foundation on which robust moral responsibility is founded. Big deal. We can’t prove either and it is a rather moot technicality in the end isn’t it?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 9:01 am

  15. If my dog can’t consciously choose to respond to stimulus in any other way than the way nature and nurture have wired his doggie brain then he is entirely causally determined, right?

    This raises some interesting questions.

    Does this mean it is unjust for you to punish your dog? After all if your dog doesn’t have free will aren’t your punishments wrong?

    If it is valid to punish your dog, why would it be unjust for God to punish humans if there isn’t LFW?

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 9:04 am

  16. Does this mean it is unjust for you to punish your dog?

    Depends on what you mean by “punish” Clark. We never seek retribution from our family dog. In the end we just train its behavior. Some describe part of that training as punishment but I think that term is pretty misleading in a discussion like this.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 9:07 am

  17. I’ll speculate wildly with you all. Try this concept:
    The earth has a spirit which encompasses the spirits of lower creatures such as flies, mosquitoes, and plants (who wants a heaven full of individually resurrected flies and mosquitoes?). Just as our matter is shared (we consume the atoms of other living creatures), the spirit is shared. Just as I have millions of cells that are individually “unthinking”, collectively they make up a whole.

    Next concept:
    Certain species achieve self-awareness or “personality” and “break off” from the main spirit body of the earth and achieve personality immortality; and these are they that will be resurrected. The idea that there are intelligences who wish to be housed in such tabernacles shouldn’t contradict any notions of free will, since they are choosing to be limited in intellect (didn’t we all decide the same?).

    Comment by Kent — February 26, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  18. Why not ask them?

    In an independent survey of three local pets –

    Copper the border collie licked his paws and fawned over my attention. Although he failed to clearly articulate an answer, it was clear that he would have voted ‘yes’, with just a bit more coaching.

    The two cats in the yard declined to participate in the survey. When polled, they narrowed their eyes and purred discretely. Further questions were pointedly ignored — they just continued to act cool.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — February 26, 2008 @ 10:36 am

  19. The problem with asking them Jim is that some of them think they have libertarian free will and others are compatibilists…

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 10:40 am

  20. Geoff J (16) Depends on what you mean by “punish” Clark. We never seek retribution from our family dog. In the end we just train its behavior. Some describe part of that training as punishment but I think that term is pretty misleading in a discussion like this.

    Interestingly that’s the identical answer compatibilists give towards humans…

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  21. Hehe. Well I’m not against the idea that my dog some kind of compatibilist free will Clark. I just don’t think he has the LFW that I believe humans and gods possess (with its associated moral responsibility).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

  22. Clark,

    I think you are pressing Geoff on just the right points. In #13, which problem are you referring to that “runs aground.” Are you agreeing with me that there are reasons to believe that if humans have free will some animals do too?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

  23. Geoff (#14),

    I agree that the question of animal-free-will does not address the central issue of why we care about human-free-will. However, you seem to be discounting the reasons why animal-free-will is interesting in its own right.

    I tried to motivate this at the end of the post, but let me try again in a slightly different way. I think it has implications on whether the overall worldview of an LFWer is internally consistent. As I said in the post, if all the things that give rise to LFW (spirits, brains) exist for animals, how are we internally consistent to write off LFW when it comes to animals. Doesn’t it make us look pretty opportunistic? Humans have free will because we want them to have it. Animals don’t because we don’t care about them having moral responsibility. That is how the position starts looking to me.

    As Clark points out, if you start using all the same arguments that compatibilists make when we discuss animals, it is hard to pretend those arguments are not compelling when they are used on humans by compatilists. Do you see my point?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  24. If animals aren’t resurrected (or don’t have individual spirits) then the question of free will is moot.

    Comment by Kent — February 26, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

  25. I think free will (however conceived) must be viewed as a matter of degree.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

  26. Kent, why?

    I’d add that lots of people think at least some animals are resurrected.

    Jacob, the main requirement for LFW is an open future and the ability to reason rationally such that true deliberation is possible. The animals in question have enough reasoning ability to make one believe they’d have LFW if the future is open. The one place one might quibble is over the notion of an abstract sense of self. But that tends to be a tricky issue to discuss.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  27. Jeff G (#11),

    Why would LFW ever have evolved?

    The idea that everything that exists must of necessity come via evolution is a premise I don’t accept. You see no evolutionary benefit to actual free will as opposed to apparent free will. I agree, but this doesn’t convince me that actual free will doesn’t exist unless I also sign on to the idea that evolution is the only mechanism by which it could have come about.

    Inasmuch as the argument relies upon the perceived moral importance of meaningful action, it does not show that determinism is false; only that we ought to believe that determinism is false.

    I agree, there is clearly no way to sohw that determinism is false. Actually, I am not sure it even says that we ought to believe determinism is false. Rather, I think what it is trying to show is that for moral responsibility to be what we imagine it to be, determinism cannot be all-encompassing. At least, that is how I would structure the argument.

    If determinism is true, nobody would ever be able to tell the difference from if it were false, even God. At this point I then ask why we should think that it exists then? Let us say that determinism is true, and that meaningful action is a farce, but that it is a farce in which everybody, God included, finds himself.

    I actually think this is a very useful question to ask, but I will turn it around on you slightly. If determinism is true, then our experience is a sham, so why believe that your experience is a farce when you can believe it is meaningful at no additional cost? Is there a motivation to believe that nothing has any ultimate significance? If you say you choose to believe in determinism because you think it is the real account of things, then I can use the same argument for why I believe in LFW. If not that, then what? Given a choice (hehe) between meaning and non-meaning, why choose non-meaning?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  28. Clark (#25), Agreed, this is what I was saying in #6. I think it is an important point.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  29. Jacob (#22): I think you are pressing Geoff on just the right points.

    I’m missing the right points then. If I have LFW and my dog doesn’t then I simply train dog through conditioning method. Is Clark’s point that theistic compatibilists believe God alone has LFW and we are the pets being trained?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

  30. A few points to make to Jeff:

    Indeed, many of our free will debates have come to this very point: if determinism is true, nobody would ever be able to tell the difference from if it were false, even God.

    I’m not sure that’s generally true. It might be true in a narrow sense but not in a broad sense. For instance if there is a block universe then that might be determinable via physics. If there is backwards causality (and thus determinism in a loose sense) that is knowable.

    So the idea that there would be no difference seems false to me in many cases. (Which isn’t to say we couldn’t find a case where it wasn’t true)

    The issue of whether it would be knowable by God is an interesting one since it would raise the question of whether God could know it is just to punish people for their acts. I’ll have to think through that but I think that’s a very interesting point. It would seem that while God could, in some cases, know if there is determinism, he ultimately couldn’t know that there was LFW. (Which was ultimately your point)

    That raises some very interesting questions.

    An evolutionary argument can be offered at this point. Why would LFW ever have evolved?

    It seems to me that the main LFW proponents here aren’t Cartesian about it but see it as a result of ontological emergence. Given that LFW might not have any evolutionary ‘benefit’ but what produces LFW may very well have evolutionary benefits.

    So I’m not sure this line of argument will affect the debate much.

    More interestingly though is to consider the relationship between awareness (consciousness) and free will. It seems that at minimum they are related and may end up being developed the same way. (At least to a LFW proponent)

    Given that one can ask what the evolutionary benefit of consciousness is. After all a “zombie” (a being that acts the same as us but isn’t aware) seems to raise the exact same evolutionary question. Why did consciousness arise evolutionarily? Answer that and I suspect you’ll answer the LFW question.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  31. Geoff, the issue is that we talk and think of animals as if they had free will. By application it may well be that humans, like animals, don’t really have free will and aren’t really punished but are being trained. So just like we loosely talk about animals being responsible scriptural talk might be that way towards humans. But ultimately God isn’t acting in terms of an ontological understanding of rewards and punishments but rather an understanding of training and the inability to train.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 1:40 pm

  32. Jacob (#23),

    My point is that if the form of free will you are describing doesn’t include “rational thought and moral awareness” as you put it I personally don’t label it LFW. We agree that whatever “choices” animals make, those choices probably don’t include rational thought and moral awareness. So I wouldn’t say animals have LFW. In my opinion, for animals there may be be some variation on the hypothetical free will (ie entirely causally determined “choices” that only hypothetically could have been otherwise) but I just can’t bring myself to label any creature who can’t veto the great causal chain of the universe a creature with LFW. It is mostly a matter of what we want to label their form of choices I guess. And I think at least some level of “rational thought and moral awareness” is required to veto the great causal chain — thus the same is required for it to be called LFW.

    Now I must admit that I actually am very uncomfortable with the bright line notion of LFW. In fact I can’t really see how there is such a line. So as Clark mentioned, I believe there must be real gradation of rational thought and moral awareness and thus gradation in the amount/type of free will among living things (and since I think the evolutionist have it right this applies to man and our ancient ancestors as well). So I am actually somewhat open the Orson Pratt’s ideas in some ways, although I think they are extremely rough and in need of polishing and refinement.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

  33. Clark: the issue is that we talk and think of animals as if they had free will

    I’m not sure that is true. Isn’t that the point of this post? Lots of people don’t think animals have the same robust free will that humans have.

    My point all along here is that by the definition of LFW I use, one cannot have LFW without being morally responsible as well. The definition of LFW seems to be really what Jacob and I are disagreeing about here.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

  34. Geoff, I recognize belief doesn’t tell us much. I can but say that whether most folks believe they have LFW also doesn’t tell us much. My ultimate point is simply that how you approached the issue relative to animals is completely akin to how compatibilists reconcile the issue. That the meaning of the words we use is ultimately irrelevant.

    Regarding the definition, I’m not sure that’s at issue. I think rather the issue is what kind and degree of reason is necessary for LFW.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  35. Clark: I think rather the issue is what kind and degree of reason is necessary for LFW.

    Well that is certainly a key part here. My point was that Jacob is basically saying that any creature with a brain has LFW regardless of the amount of “reasoning” said creatures can do. I am disagreeing with that definition of LFW and saying that if there is no rational thought and moral awareness it is not properly labeled LFW.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

  36. Geoff,

    The definition of LFW seems to be really what Jacob and I are disagreeing about here.

    Indeed, it does seem to be coming down to that at the moment. I feel like this is something we should be able to settle fairly easily. I am using LFW to mean what it means, and you are adding things to it. From theopedia:

    Libertarian free will means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. All “free will theists” hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice. Libertarian freedom is, therefore, the freedom to act contrary to one’s nature, predisposition and greatest desires. Responsibility, in this view, always means that one could have done otherwise. (Theopedia)

    This definition is entirely in line with how the term is used in every setting I have seen it discussed. The essence of libertarianism is that it is the kind of freedom that is incompatible with determinism, it requires an open future, and rests on the idea that one could have done otherwise. As is noted in the quote above, this type of free will is commonly argued to be an essential prerequisite to moral responsibility. But I know of no one who includes moral responsibility as essential to libertarian free will per se.

    So, if we are just arguing about terminology, then hopefully we can move on to see if there is a substantive disagreement, but I don’t think your use of the terminology holds up to what these terms are accepted to mean. If you have some counter examples I will be happy to reconsider and be wrong on this.

    As to rational thought and moral awareness, I don’t think animals are morally aware, but I am not ready to say they have no form of rational thought. In fact, I think there is pretty good evidence that animals can think rationally in many respects.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  37. As to rational thought and moral awareness, I don’t think animals are morally aware, but I am not ready to say they have no form of rational thought. In fact, I think there is pretty good evidence that animals can think rationally in many respects.

    I convened a panel discussion, with Copper the dog and the two cats. They all agreed with your reluctance to conclude that animals lack any ability to reason.

    As to moral awareness, the cats were in disagreement, the old calico citing her many faithful years of altruistic rodent reduction as an example of devotion to moral responsiblity. The young black-and-white cat feigned disinterest and launched into a prolonged grooming session — she has been unable to catch mice, and is passionately jealous of the other.

    Before we could solicit further comments from the dog, he made an abrupt departure from the group to pursue and bark furiously at a passing car.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — February 26, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

  38. Jacob: This definition is entirely in line with how the term is used in every setting I have seen it discussed.

    Right. And it is precisely why I don’t think any animal besides the human animals have on this planet. If non-human animals did have that kind of free will I believe they would also be morally responsible.

    But I know of no one who includes moral responsibility as essential to libertarian free will per se.

    Well the definition you quoted does not commit itself one way or the other on that subject so I suppose until I met you I never met anyone who believed moral responsibility could be decoupled from LFW…

    Let’s see if the definition you gave works for my dog Fui.

    Libertarian free will means that [Fui's] choices are free from the determination or constraints of [doggie] nature and free from any predetermination by God. All “free will theists” hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if [Fui's] choice is determined or caused by anything, including [his own canine] desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice. Libertarian freedom is, therefore, the freedom to act contrary to [Fui's doggie] nature, predisposition and greatest desires. Responsibility, in this view, always means that [Fui] could have done otherwise.

    I don’t think it applies properly to Fui at all. I don’t think he can act contrary to the causal forces and stimulus around him. He can be trained but he doesn’t freely choose like a healthy human does. Therefore he has no LFW or the moral responsibility LFW entails.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 2:59 pm

  39. I catching up right now, but I wanted to comment on Geoff’s #14.

    I see how your position entails that free will is necessary for moral responsibility. What you seem to be arguing, however, is that free will is sufficient for moral responsibility as well. Do you really mean this?

    As long as free will is necessary but not sufficient for moral responsibility, it would appear that Jacob is right about your position.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  40. Re #27

    “If determinism is true, then our experience is a sham, so why believe that your experience is a farce when you can believe it is meaningful at no additional cost? Is there a motivation to believe that nothing has any ultimate significance?”

    First of all I should say that I don’t agree with the incompatibilist premise. Specifically, I think that determinism is completely compatible withe meaningful action, so I believe we can eat our cake and have it too, so to speak.

    To answer your question now, is that there are two reasons why to side with the determinists. First, the determinist doesn’t have to posit metaphysically strange events such as radical emergence. Second, and closely related, he can actually explain meaningful action whereas the LFW cannot.

    Some determinisms give other reasons for abandoning free will which amount to abandoning some aspects of meaningful action such as blaming, guilt, etc. but I don’t agree with these reasons at all. First of all, I don’t want to abandon such things. Second, it’s not clear that we can pick and choose what we will abandon from the category of meaningful actions.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

  41. Re 30:

    “Given that one can ask what the evolutionary benefit of consciousness is. After all a “zombie” (a being that acts the same as us but isn’t aware) seems to raise the exact same evolutionary question. Why did consciousness arise evolutionarily? Answer that and I suspect you’ll answer the LFW question.”

    Ha! Well then it should come as no surprise that I am an eliminativist with respect to p-consciousness who thinks that zombies are impossible. Somehow I doubt this answers the LFW question.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

  42. Geoff, not all cases of punishing dogs are cases of training the dog to be better. Consider the case of our destroying the dog after it has attacked a child. Doesn’t this get mighty close to retributive punishment?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  43. Jeff,

    I doubt putting a dog down in cases like the one you mentioned is usually a retribution issue — especially not for moral transgression by the dog. (And I’m not sure how this sidebar is particularly on topic either so I’ll leave it at that.)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

  44. Geoff,

    I don’t think you are really giving Jacob his due. Let us propose a scenario.

    There is a species of animal who has LFW such that his decisions are not reducible to the physical substrate which is its brain. It can genuinely do otherwise. However, this animal does not play the moral game of holding people responsible. Indeed, it does not have any language at all. When it kills other memebers of it species or herd, it doesn’t “murder” them. The question is, does this animal have free will?

    Indeed, we don’t have to get very extravagant in our scenario. Let us suppose that tigers actions/decisions are not reducible to or explainable in terms of physical causation. (For all we know, this might actually be true.) Would you say that tigers have free will?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  45. Jeff,

    I don’t believe such an animal does or can exist. What you describe sounds like any number of animals on this planet. I don’t think any of them have LFW. In fact, I don’t think that some humans have brains that function well enough for them to have LFW in a significant sense (thus they are not considered morally responsible by God).

    Now as I mentioned in earlier comments — I am open to the idea of gradation of LFW among living things. So I can see the possibility that all spirits/intelligences could somehow held accountable for their choices/behavior within their own “sphere” as section 93 puts it. But since we know next to nothing about that, for the purposes of this discussion I will stick to the idea that only humans are significantly morally responsible and thus only humans have robust free will (LFW).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  46. Now I’m really confused. I thought that LFW was essentially the ability to do otherwise, regardless of one’s causal history, that’s what makes it “free”. I don’t see why this ability couldn’t be applied to morally irrelevant decisions in both humans and non-humans. Furthermore, I don’t see how this ability to do otherwise, as you have framed it in other discussions, could possibly lend itself to gradation.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

  47. What I take Jacob to be saying is this: there are causes and effects of free will. Things such as responsibility, etc. seem to be the effects of free will. Things such as spirits, emergence, etc. seem to be the causes. What, exactly, are the causes of free will such that we cannot grant them to animals as well, regardless of whether they also enjoy the effects of free will as well?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

  48. Geoff,

    You keep stating that you don’t believe animals have free will, I get it. What I don’t get is the basis upon which you arrive at that fervent belief. The only thing you have argued is that animals are not morally accountable, but as I have argued and given examples of (see the ice cream example in #3) an animal need not have moral responsibility to be free in a libertarian sense. Jeff G in 44, 46, and 47 is correctly capturing my sentiment, but I can’t tell if we are connecting yet.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 4:39 pm

  49. Jeff G (#40),

    I realize you don’t accept the incompatibilist premise, but I was trying in 27 to answer your question in 11 which took that premise for granted. FWIW, I disagree with your conclusions, but we see eye to eye about the importance of retaining meaning and responsibility. If I could convince myself it was possible to have my cake and eat it I would come over to your side.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

  50. Jim (#37),

    Keep your focus poll going, you never know when it could lead to a break through. Incidentally, what you are describing sounds pretty similar to some of the focus polls that are done with humans during this wonderful political season.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

  51. Geoff,

    I suppose until I met you I never met anyone who believed moral responsibility could be decoupled from LFW…

    Is it possible for me to freely choose what ice cream to eat for dessert?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

  52. What I worry about with Geoff’s position now is that if moral responsibility and LFW are the same thing, then you can’t use the former to argue for the latter.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  53. Ha! Well then it should come as no surprise that I am an eliminativist with respect to p-consciousness who thinks that zombies are impossible. Somehow I doubt this answers the LFW question.

    Not at all. One need merely say that reasoning of a certain sort is impossible without ontological freedom and consciousness.

    Ultimately I think one could make a compelling case that it all ends up being the same issue: is computational AI possible?

    Now of course I’m skeptical of LFW even though I’m no determinist. So I’m not sure I can accept this response. But then I don’t see any compelling reason to believe zombies are impossible either.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  54. Geoff, there’s a huge position of philosophy called semi-compatibilism who argue free will and responsibility can be de-coupled. Indeed one of the most famous authors in the free will discipline, Fischer is a semi-compatibilist. His book The Metaphysics of Free Will is a must have if you are interested in the topic of free will. I doubt he’d convince you but he’s well worth reading.

    Short of buying that book you might find this old post from the GFP worth reading.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  55. So just to be clear:

    LFW (as I understand it) sees free will as being necessary, but not sufficient for responsibility.

    Semi-compatibilism sees free will as being neither necessary, nor sufficient for responsibility.

    Geoff’s LFW (as I understand him to be arguing) sees free will as being both necessary and sufficient for responsibility.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  56. Jacob summarized Jeff G.: Blake has the problem of describing the transition whereas you have the problem that there is no transition.

    Bolderdash! I hold that animals have emergent properties as well. I have argued long and hard on this very blog that ants are more free than rocks, birds are more free than ants and that apes are more free than birds. The properties that are emergent come in degrees and not all at once. However, I don’t believe that even apes have moral responsibility because they don’t know the difference between good and evil. Moreover, free will is greater when one can deliberate and assess options. Thus, humans have greater free will than apes.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 5:38 pm

  57. Jeff (#46): I thought that LFW was essentially the ability to do otherwise, regardless of one’s causal history

    Right. I think that on this planet that only humans have this capacity. But even though we have the capacity to choose against the great causal chain I suspect we almost never do so. I have called choosing against the great causal chain veto free will and track jumping in the past.

    (#55) Geoff’s LFW (as I understand him to be arguing) sees free will as being both necessary and sufficient for responsibility.

    Right.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 5:38 pm

  58. Blake,

    Are you saying that ants have some degree of free will? I assume you agree that ants, birds and apes are free according to a compatibilist’s definition of the word, but what about the LFWist’s definition of the word?

    We both agree that there are emergent properties throughout the biological world. Where we part way is in your (what I take to be) metaphysically extravagant version of emergence as it applies to free will. Is the emergent decision making of ants, birds and apes reducible to or fully caused by the physical events leading up to such events?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  59. Jeff G. First, the determinist doesn’t have to posit metaphysically strange events such as radical emergence. Second, and closely related, he can actually explain meaningful action whereas the LFW cannot.

    Bolderdash! The determinist at least has to come up with a meaningful notion of determinism based on natural laws — and I have not seen one yet. Moreover, the determinist has to explain how a mere pass-thru of prior causes could in any sense be responsible for those causes.

    Further, what do you mean by “meaningful action”? I think you mean merely that there is an explanation outside of the choices of the agent for what happens — so there is some explanation as opposed to having to refer the explanation of decision to the agent him or herself. But that is just misguided. One doesn’t explain the choices of the agent in determinism, but merely the causes that pass thru the agent and there is thus no explanation of the agent’s decisions or choices at all. I think what you have in mind is the “luck” argument that I believe has now been thoroughly rebutted even by those like Derk Pereboom who don’t accept LFW for other reasons.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  60. Geoff,

    The problem is that your two answers don’t seem to match with each other. What is to prevent someone from having the ability to do otherwise, regardless of their causal history, in non-moral contexts?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  61. Jeff, I am a process philosopher. Yes, there is some degree of novelty and and indeterminism in even the most minute events — and there is greater novelty for an ant than a rock. And yes, I believe that even rocks are free given a determinist view of freedom if determinism were somehow true. However, as a process philosopher, I believe that there is novelty everywhere given the creative synthesis of actual occasions in each actual moment. Rocks and ants have novel action — they aren’t morally responsible.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  62. The problem is that your two answers don’t seem to match with each other. What is to prevent someone from having the ability to do otherwise, regardless of their causal history, in non-moral contexts?

    What two answers and how do you claim that “don’t match”? Note carefully (as I argue at length in vol. 1) that mere indeterminism and even with ability to do otherwise is not sufficient for moral responsibility. Ability to act otherwise is a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition of moral responsibility.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

  63. Blake,

    Way back in the beginning of the thread I lumped a bunch of things under “meaningful action.” It was pretty much all the things which you deny are possible in a deterministic world view i.e. responsibility, rationality, morality, etc. (See #7)

    BTW, I would really like to hear your objections to the two articles I linked to back in #10.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  64. Geoff, there’s a huge position of philosophy called semi-compatibilism who argue free will and responsibility can be de-coupled.

    I respond to semi-compatibilism (I call it quasi-compatibilism) on pp. 216-227 of the vol. 1.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  65. BTW, I would really like to hear your objections to the two articles I linked to back in #10.

    I have some agreement with Pereboom. I agree that not everything is given up in a deterministic world. We could still engage in assessments of moral worth, we could still have attitudes of holding others responsible (tho not coherently). What I mean by that is this: determinists believe that morality is largely teleological and that there is no real blame or desert, no real deep moral responsbility. However, they think that we still engage in moral attributions of these sorts even if they cannot be squared with the determinist view of things. So we could engage in these unwarranted practices still.

    I have argued that we couldn’t engage in reasons where we actually act for the reasons we assess based on our reasoning. But that shouldn’t be controversial for a determinist who holds that our experience of making decisions is largely illusory and that we act as a result of causes (of which aren’t and cannot be conscious) that we don’t even know about. It follows that we don’t act because of the reasoning we engage in but for causes of which we are incapable of assessing (like brain states that we know nothing about).

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

  66. Blake,

    “However, as a process philosopher, I believe that there is novelty everywhere given the creative synthesis of actual occasions in each actual moment.”

    This sounds like a bunch of gobbledy-gook akin to “the nothing itself nothings.” I don’t get process philosophy, nor do I think I want to. It seems like a smoke screen, useful only for confusing rather than clarifying issues. It just seems to be that such a radical retreat into such obscure metaphysics can only be seen as a sign of desperation.

    I know this isn’t really an argument worthy of much attention, just something I had to get out of my system. I guess want I’m really saying is this: can’t you translate all that process-stuff into a language more congenial to furthering the discussion?

    “Rocks and ants have novel action — they aren’t morally responsible.”

    I think I agree with you here, though I can’t be sure. You keep using words like “novel action” and “emergence” which are ambiguous. If you are simply talking about the emergence of molecules from atoms, cells from molecules, and organs from cells, then I completely agree with you and would whole-heartedly put the human mind in there along with them. Unfortunately, I know that you and I don’t see eye to eye on the human mind and this makes me question whether I agree with you on the other cases as well.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

  67. Blake,

    “Ability to act otherwise is a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition of moral responsibility.”

    That is exactly right. Geoff, however, seems to be disagreeing with this assertion. I asked him if LFW is simply the ability to act otherwise. He agreed. He then went on to say that free will is both necessary and sufficient for moral responsibility. I think this is a bad move on his part, and you seem to agree.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  68. Jeff: This sounds like a bunch of gobbledy-gook akin to “the nothing itself nothings.” I don’t get process philosophy, nor do I think I want to. It seems like a smoke screen, useful only for confusing rather than clarifying issues. It just seems to be that such a radical retreat into such obscure metaphysics can only be seen as a sign of desperation.

    Invective and name calling are poor arguments indeed. By all means don’t go near any quantum events.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

  69. “I agree that not everything is given up in a deterministic world… Determinists believe that morality is largely teleological and that there is no real blame or desert, no real deep moral responsibility.”

    Okay, so what is the best that a determinist can believe in? What is the difference between “real” responsibility and determinist responsibility that we are unable to part with?

    “It follows that we don’t act because of the reasoning we engage in but for causes of which we are incapable of assessing (like brain states that we know nothing about).”

    No. This isn’t right. Rather, we act because of the reasoning we engage in because this reasoning actually is brain states at work, though we know nothing about this.

    We are back to the same issue again, wherein you seem to think that there is no such thing as reduction, only elimination. You keep asserting that if reasoning is shown to be brain processes, then reasoning doesn’t exist. I simply say that reasoning does exist and it is brain processes. (It should be noted here that I use the term “brain processes” very loosely here. It is kind of a short hand for whatever physical processes a physicalist thinks underlies mental processes.)

    I’m actually really interested in your response to the other article I posted. It’s actually one of those few cases where Dennett attempts to formalize an argument rather than merely tell stories to alter your intuitions. Of course this doesn’t stop him from using a few intuition pumps all the same.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  70. By the by, what are your views concerning folk psychology and problem of intentionality in general? I feel like we might have broached this subject before, but I can’t for the life of me see how your emergentism would entail any kind of position on these matters.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 6:25 pm

  71. This sounds like a bunch of gobbledy-gook akin to “the nothing itself nothings.”

    Not to threadjack, but ‘nothing nothings’ is rather simple to explain. Misunderstandings rest upon not recognizing that ‘nothing’ has two meanings. The first is the empty set. The second is ‘entities’ that aren’t things. The confusion between Heidegger and Carnap rested on whether ontology should be purely in terms of things or not.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

  72. Oh Clark, I can’t believe you actually took the time to address that phrase. ;-) For everyone who doesn’t understand the reference, I was using a common phrase from Heidegger to illustrate the analytic philosopher’s discomfort with big and ambiguous words which seem to mean too much, too little or both at the same time.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 6:35 pm

  73. No. This isn’t right. Rather, we act because of the reasoning we engage in because this reasoning actually is brain states at work, though we know nothing about this.

    Jeff, look at what you wrote because you actually get it tho you’re not aware of it. Reasoning is just brain states if determinism is true. However, we aren’t even aware of our brain states. It follows that “reasons” has two meanings here and the equivocation explains why you don’t get it. “I have a brain state for a reason” means that there is an unknown cause of our brain states. “I have reasons which are reflected in brain states” means that I am aware of my reasons and I come up with them by reasoning of which I am aware. On your view of determinism, we have brain states that are not the result of reasoning, but the reasoning is the result of brain states which are the results of prior causes one of which we know anything about and none of which follow the rules of logic or reason but merely occur because of causal connections.

    With respect to what you call “folk psychology” I am very critical of the myths created by Wenger and others regarding the relation between our choices and brain states. I believe that we are agents, that we act for reasons and choices that we make qua agents.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 6:40 pm

  74. Jeff: With regard to Dennett, I don’t believe that his counterfactual analysis has much to recommend it. More importantly, I cannot see any reason to believe that the counterfactuals he analyzes are even meaningful or have truth-value. Bad, bad argument all around.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  75. “Reasoning is just brain states if determinism is true. However, we aren’t even aware of our brain states.”

    Okay, but so what? I simply see this as saying that my brain states are not properly directed toward other brain states. This is like asking whether I am aware that I am aware? If I am, am I aware of that? And so on.

    “On your view of determinism, we have brain states that are not the result of reasoning, but the reasoning is the result of brain states which are the results of prior causes one of which we know anything about and none of which follow the rules of logic or reason but merely occur because of causal connections.”

    No. We have brain states that are the result of reasoning, which of course is simply more brain states. We also have reasoning (which is simply brain states) which are the results of prior causes (usually even more brain states) many of which do follow rules of logic and reason (as these are distributively encoded throughout the brain).

    With regard to folk psychology, I was more wondering your views regarding the nature of beliefs and desires.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

  76. Okay, but what does Dennett’s paper lack or have too much of? I was especially interested by his account of the necessity condition for causation, wherein it makes no sense to blame my current actions on what happen 2 seconds after the big-bang. This condition seems to throw a lot of cold water on many of the “ultimate responsibility” arguments against determinism.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

  77. Jacob: What I don’t get is the basis upon which you arrive at that fervent belief.

    I think there is quite a bit of evidence that there is such a thing a determinism in the universe. Based on my theological/spiritual beliefs I am committed to the notion that while “the natural man” is likely causally determined, most humans also arrive on earth with a robust libertarian free will that allows them to choose to between stimulus and response and thus break the great causal chain as an act of will. I don’t think other species have that capacity and I also don’t think humans muster the strength to use it very often. Rather I think we all mostly go with the flow and stay on whatever life track we are on.

    So I have no problem with the idea that all sorts of animals have the anemic kind of “free will” that the compatibilists talk of, but I don’t believe they can choose to not be the “natural dog” or whatever. Therefore I wouldn’t say they have LFW as I understand it.

    Is it possible for me to freely choose what ice cream to eat for dessert?

    Yes it is possible. (It’s not likely that you would go against the causal chain to do so but it is certainly possible. However I don’t think it is possible for your dog to choose contrary to it’s combination of conditioning and nature on such a thing. I think dogs actions are likely entirely explainable by prior states of affairs.)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

  78. Geoff, I don’t want to repeat prior discussions. (I think all of us understand each other for the most part) But it seems to me that you still limit the choices to determinism or LFW which seems odd. Surely you have to acknowledge chance in your choices.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  79. Geoff,

    “libertarian free will … allows them to choose to between stimulus and response and thus break the great causal chain as an act of will.”

    Could you elaborate on this a bit. I’m most interested in the part leading right up to the break in the causal chain. I know, the break is caused by you, and you are not fully caused by anything. But, what brings you up to that point where you suddenly get to break from the chain? I mean, I can see that you reject that the causal chain fully causes the particular outcome of the deciding process, but you do you think brings about that process? It sounds like you are getting close to saying that we are something deterministically caused to use our free will even though how it is then used is not caused.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

  80. “I don’t think other species have that capacity”

    Why? I think that is what Jacob is driving at. In virtue of what do we have this capacity while non-human animals do not?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  81. BTW – I don’t think LFW commits one to choosing not to be of ones nature rather it simply allows one to chose among the choices open to one of ones nature. If your view of LFW entails the ability to chose ones nature then that seems much stronger than any LFW proponent I know of would be comfortable with.

    Comment by Clark — February 26, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  82. Jeff: No. We have brain states that are the result of reasoning,

    Here is where you are wrong because of the equivocation that you fail to address. We have brain states that occur, but they don’t occur because of the reasons we have. It is always the other way around. We have reasons because of non-rational brain states. That is how determinism works. Any I thought I have is the result of unconscious causes — as you admit. But I must be aware of my reasons for them to be the reason for my action.

    many of which do follow rules of logic and reason (as these are distributively encoded throughout the brain).

    This is also a confused statement based on the equivocation pointed out. That our brains act according to algorithimic like function is true — that we act for reasons that we consider is not. We are unaware of the encoded brain states and we don’t base our reasoning on them. The reasons we are considering for a decision are the not “reasons” for the brain states. It is always the other way around. That is why we don’t and cannot act for reasons, based on deliberation or even know why we do what we do.

    but you do you think brings about that process

    Choosing to become conscious and act based upon our choices rather than just unconsciously reacting based upon stimulus-reaction output.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

  83. I don’t think that I’m going to say much more on human free will out of respect for Jacob’s wishes.

    To be short, you seem to be confusing temporal causation with constitutive causation. Brains states don’t temporally cause their corresponding mental states, nor do mental states temporally cause their corresponding brain states, for they are the same thing. Just because a mental states (which is also a brain state) was temporally caused by a prior brain state does not mean that this prior brain state was not also a mental state.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 26, 2008 @ 7:45 pm

  84. Sorry, I think I missed my jump on point for this post. This topic came up in our household a fewyears ago, when I bought my daughter a “children’s encyclopedia of Mormonism” which says in it that animals do not have free will. I think this is based on Boyd K. Packer saying something about our freedom to choose distinguishing us from other animals. Anyway, I looked into it then, and there are sort of three schools on this.

    1. Animals and People spirits are different, (species is eternal) and animals have agency.

    2. Animals and People spirts are different (species is eternal) and animals do not have agency.

    3. Animals and People spirits are NOT different (species is not eternal) and animals are animals and not people because of the wat they exercised there agency pre-mortally (I heard this was attributed to Cleon Skousen)

    K, now I’ll try and catchup on comments.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 26, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

  85. Jeff: To be short, you seem to be confusing temporal causation with constitutive causation. Brains states don’t temporally cause their corresponding mental states, nor do mental states temporally cause their corresponding brain states, for they are the same thing. Just because a mental states (which is also a brain state) was temporally caused by a prior brain state does not mean that this prior brain state was not also a mental state.

    Your thinking is doubly confused and I’ll prove it. You state that a brain state just is mental stated, but also that it is temporally prior to the mental state as its cause. It obviously cannot both be the same mental state and its cause. Further, we can be conscious of mental states. We are never and cannot be conscious of brain states. Thus, to state that they are “the same thing” is a massive confusion. Herein lies your problem with grasping the problem of determinism for rational thought.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 8:17 pm

  86. Jeff: Perhaps you could explain how your view doesn’t fall prey to Kim’s non-reductive physicalist argument.

    Comment by Blake — February 26, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

  87. Geoff (#77),

    Your admission that it is possible for me to choose what flavor of ice cream to eat proves that free will can be separated from moral responsibility according to your own view. So, I think that should put to rest the argument you keep making that free will cannot exist without moral responsibility.

    The rest of your answer just states your position again as the basis for your position:

    I don’t believe they can choose to not be the “natural dog” or whatever. Therefore I wouldn’t say they have LFW as I understand it.

    Restated: You don’t believe dogs have LFW, therefore, you wouldn’t say they have LFW. That is not especially enlightening. You said almost the exact same thing at the beginning of #32 and at the end of #38. You have clearly communicated your position but you haven’t done anything to defend it.

    I still don’t know where you have addressed the main points I brought up in the post and then asked you about again in #23.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 10:54 pm

  88. Jacob: Your admission that it is possible for me to choose what flavor of ice cream to eat proves that free will can be separated from moral responsibility according to your own view

    Huh? The fact that you as a human being can choose a flavor of ice cream (contrary to the causal chain) does not mean you could do that without being a morally responsible being at the same time. What are you talking about?

    If you could choose ice cream outside of the causal chain you could choose kindness or cruelty to others outside of your nature and nurture as well. Therefore you must necessarily be a morally responsible being to make any choice that is not predicated/caused by prior states of events.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 11:03 pm

  89. Jacob(#23): if all the things that give rise to LFW (spirits, brains) exist for animals

    Why would you assume that all that is needed to have LFW is a brain and a spirit? I would say that it probably requires a certain type of spirit and a certain type of physical brain.

    Doesn’t it make us look pretty opportunistic? Humans have free will because we want them to have it.

    No more opportunistic than assuming only humans are children of God I would say.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  90. Clark (#78): Surely you have to acknowledge chance in your choices.

    Help me understand what you mean here. If I am standing in line at the ice cream store, and prior states of events leads me to lean toward a certain flavor at that time, don’t I either go with the causal flow and choose what I am inclined to or veto the causal flow and choose something else? Where is the room for “chance” in there?

    If your view of LFW entails the ability to chose ones nature then that seems much stronger than any LFW proponent I know of would be comfortable with.

    Yep, on me view LFW does entail the ability to choose ones nature. (It seems like a pretty useless thing without that ability.) I guess it is a stronger view of LFW than other people you know.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 11:30 pm

  91. Jeff (#79): Could you elaborate on this a bit. I’m most interested in the part leading right up to the break in the causal chain.

    I don’t think it is much different than what I have argued here all along. Basically I am a proponent of of agent causation. Humans can have the power to change their very natures by free choices. They have the power to evaluate data, synthesize information, and make unpredictable and truly free choices.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 11:39 pm

  92. Geoff (#88),

    What are you talking about?

    I assume you’ll agree that choosing which ice cream to eat is not a morally significant choice. Thus, free choice can be separated from moral responsibility.

    If you could choose ice cream outside of the causal chain you could choose kindness or cruelty to others outside of your nature and nurture as well.

    No. Cruelty (in a moral sense) depends on a certain kind of understanding. Lions that choose to eat gazels could be freely choosing in the same sense that I freely choose butter pecan and this would not entail that lions have the capacity take pleasure in inflicting suffering on others.

    Morality can never be captured in a dispassionate description of what occurs. Jim cut Rob’s finger off. Did Jim act morally? The answer depends entirely on why Jim cut Rob’s finger off, his intention in cutting it off, and his own understanding of whether he was acting morally. If he was doing it to settle a debt and knew that this was wrong, then it was immoral. If he is a doctor and is doing it to save Rob’s hand, then it is moral. To be morally accountable, Jim must have some sense of the rightness or wrongness of his actions. There is no reason to believe lions have that sense (what I have been calling moral awareness). However, all the things that are similar between lions and humans do give us reason to suppose they are free in the sense of being able to choose between their preferences (for example).

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 11:39 pm

  93. Geoff (#89),

    Why would you assume that all that is needed to have LFW is a brain and a spirit?

    I didn’t assume that. I pointed out that this is what LFWers point to as the basis for free will and animals have them as much as humans do.

    I would say that it probably requires a certain type of spirit and a certain type of physical brain.

    Now I’m interested. What are these “types” of spirits and brains you refer to? I don’t think there is anything categorically different about an ape brain than a human brain. Hard to dig too deep into the question of spirits, but we don’t have anything to suggest they spirits are of a different “type” than ours. Your introduction of different types here seems entirely ad hoc and without substance.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

  94. Jacob,

    I didn’t ever argue that morally responsible being can’t make non-moral choices too. I did argue that creatures that are not morally responsible cannot make choices that are independent the causal chain and prior events.

    Lions that choose to eat gazels could be freely choosing in the same sense that I freely choose butter pecan

    Probably true in most cases because in most cases you are “freely choosing” pecan only in the compatibilist sense of freely choosing. That is, you are really just going along with the causal chain. The lion is also simply acting in accordance with previous causal factors. But is a human it is logically possible that you could veto the causal chain and choose something else. The lion does not have that ability.

    Jim cut Rob’s finger off. Did Jim act morally?

    Try this one instead: “Jim tortures and murders Rob. Did Jim act morally”

    Answer: no.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

  95. Jacob: Hard to dig too deep into the question of spirits, but we don’t have anything to suggest they spirits are of a different “type” than ours.

    Oh good grief. So you are saying that there is no difference between an ape spirit and a human spirit? Or are you just harping on me choosing to use the word “type”?

    What are these “types” of spirits and brains you refer to?

    The “type” of spirits that humans had before coming here and that God calls his “children” and the type of brains that human bodies were given by God here.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

  96. Geoff,

    “I did argue that creatures that are not morally responsible cannot make choices that are independent the causal chain and prior events.”

    Did you really argue this, or merely just assert it a few times? You have simply said that only we have the right type of spirits to be free. Fine, but what is it about our type of spirits that makes us, but not non-humans free?

    In the case of our being the only children of God, the answer is easy. God can’t be the same “type” of spirit as all animals, and it turns out that we are the same type. Appeals can also be made to spirit birth (however you want to interpret that) and so forth. I don’t see anything like these reasons being offered in defense of the claim that we are the only ones with free will.

    Furthermore, I don’t think you’ve resented any argument for why one can only have free will is they are morally responsible. What reason can there be for this? Are they both caused by the same thing or something? I share in Jacob’s frustration in this one.

    I also have problems with your particular account of “veto” free will, but I will have to save those for another time.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 27, 2008 @ 12:05 am

  97. Jeff,

    You can complain about me not presenting compelling arguments that only humans are not causally determined but it mostly comes off as lame whining in the absence of solid arguments to the contrary.

    Where are your arguments that animals have LFW? (Oh yeah, you think there is no such thing…)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  98. Geoff,

    The lion does not have that ability.

    You just keep stating your position as a bare assertion and acting as though bare assertions constitute an argument.

    Try this one instead: “Jim tortures and murders Rob. Did Jim act morally”

    That’s wrong, but also beside the point so I won’t pursue it. Did you miss the entire point of my example? It was to illustrate that in order for a lion to be morally responsible it must have a sense of right and wrong. It can be free in a libertarian sense without a sense of right and wrong (as the ice cream example demonstrates) but to act morally it must additionally have a sense of right and wrong.

    So you are saying that there is no difference between an ape spirit and a human spirit? Or are you just harping on me choosing to use the word “type”?

    Neither. I am asking you to give me anything meaningful your different “types” could be referring to. The fact that God gave me a brain does not make it a different type of brain (God gave animals their brains too). Do you actually believe there is some physical difference between human brains and animal brains that accounts for humans having free will while animals do not? Or does your argument boil down to claiming that animals cannot have free will because you don’t think they do and God made it that way.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 27, 2008 @ 12:15 am

  99. Jacob: You just keep stating your position as a bare assertion and acting as though bare assertions constitute an argument.

    And you keep asserting that animals do have LFW with no solid argument to back it up. Why are you complaining about me doing the same thing you are doing?

    It can be free in a libertarian sense without that sense (as the ice cream example demonstrates)

    No, the ice cream example does not demonstrate this. The ice cream example only demonstrates that a person with LFW can potentially make a non-moral choice outside of the causal chain. Big deal. What does that have to do with a lion? Nothing whatsoever.

    Or does your argument boil down to claiming that animals cannot have free will because you don’t think they do and God made it that way.

    I assume that a certain level of intelligence and ability to compute and synthesize information and think rationally is required for LFW to be present. My feeling is that only humans with non-damaged brains reach that level of intelligence on this planet. I assume that the same principle is true for spirits.

    Do you have arguments to refute my assumptions?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 12:27 am

  100. Geoff,

    You seem to be getting grumpy.

    Your right, I don’t believe that anybody has LFW. I think compatibilism allows for a gradualism in freedom which completely side-steps the issue which Jacob has raised. It’s a seemingly important issue, don’t you think, if one theory (mine) can handle a problem when another (your’s) can’t?

    Here is Jacob’s argument for saying that animals have free will:

    1) Humans have free will
    2) Anything that has free will has it in virtue of some property, X, which is a cause, not a consequence, of free will.
    3) No matter which property we choose X to be, non-human animals have it too.
    4) Non-human animals have free will too.

    Jacob is asking you to refute (3) and you don’t seem able to. That’s fine, just don’t accuse Jacob of blindly asserting positions in the same way you seem to be.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 27, 2008 @ 12:35 am

  101. Jeff,

    My issue is that (3) is nothing more than assertion with no argument or evidence to back it up. So I am meeting his unprovable (3) with my also unprovable “not (3)”.

    In other words, here is my counter argument:

    1) Humans have libertarian free will
    2) Anything that has libertarian free will has it in virtue of some property, X, which is a cause, not a consequence, of libertarian free will.
    3) No matter which property we choose X to be, non-human animals do not have it too.
    4) Non-human animals do not have free will too.

    See how they both rely entirely on an unsupportable assumption in (3)?

    That is why I find this whining about me not proving my assertion (“not-(3)”) to be annoying and hypocritical.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 12:43 am

  102. Okay, so let’s summarize. Jacob says there is no X. You say, yes there is. Where do you think the burden of proof lies in this debate?

    For the record, we have found it VERY easy to find counter examples to your 3rd premise: the ability to choose, consciousness, spirits, a certain amount of rationality, etc. Pretty much everything we think free will is caused by is shared by other animals. That’s why Jacob’s argument is so much more compelling than yours is.

    If you think there is something on the list that only humans have, let’s hear it.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 27, 2008 @ 1:14 am

  103. Jeff: Where do you think the burden of proof lies in this debate?

    Nowhere. It is just speculation.

    If you think there is something on the list that only humans have, let’s hear it.

    Well for starters, a human spirit. Mormonism generally asserts human spirits are a different class/type/kind than non-human spirits and that human spirits are the same class/type/kind as God.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 1:37 am

  104. All argumentation has presumption and burden of proof, even speculation. If we don’t get to assign burden of proof, then we aren’t even reasoning any more.

    So basically the property that all humans have that causes them to have free will is that of being human? Surely you must be joking. Again, what property of being human, or what property of the human spirit if you will, causes them to have free will but no other? In virtue of what?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 27, 2008 @ 1:40 am

  105. Sorry to burst into the middle of an interesting discussion, but I thought Blake may be interested in this thread which has begun discussing his second volume of EMT, and especially his presentation and views on Joseph Smith’s final discourses on “God”:

    http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/%e2%80%9cinfinite-regress%e2%80%9d-or-%e2%80%9cmonarchical-monotheism%e2%80%9d/

    Ok, you may resume conversation.

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — February 27, 2008 @ 6:05 am

  106. Jeff,

    In #99 I already said “I assume that a certain level of intelligence and ability to compute and synthesize information and think rationally is required for LFW to be present. My feeling is that only humans with non-damaged brains reach that level of intelligence on this planet.” Didn’t you see that? Your retort was that you can think of non-human animals that have “the ability to choose, consciousness, spirits, a certain amount of rationality, etc.” This response totally misses the point since my answer relied entirely on the qualifiers “a certain level of intelligence [that] only humans with non-damaged brains” have on this planet. Do you have any evidence at all that my assumption is wrong? How about any evidence that animals have libertarian free will as Jacob asserts in the post?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 8:23 am

  107. “Do you have any evidence at all that my assumption is wrong?”

    Yes, we do. We’ve mentioned it quite a few times, namely that your answer implies degrees of free will whereas your theory of free will is an all or nothing affair.

    At what point is a create intelligent enough? At what point in our evolutionary history did our ancestors pass the threshold? At what point did an individual have full blown free will while his immediate parents had none? In personal development, at what exact age do we suddenly acquire free will whereas the very day before we did not?

    In other words, the graded nature which we assume free will to have counts as evidence that animals have, or at least can have free will.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 27, 2008 @ 11:29 am

  108. Jeff: (104) All argumentation has presumption and burden of proof, even speculation. If we don’t get to assign burden of proof, then we aren’t even reasoning any more.

    Wouldn’t you agree though Jeff that the issue is at best undecided then? I admit that the overall strength is that all we know and measure demonstrates that there is chance and order and nothing beyond those. But when talking of higher order phenomena such as consciousness and will that doesn’t appear to get us very far.

    Jeff: (104) So basically the property that all humans have that causes them to have free will is that of being human? Surely you must be joking. Again, what property of being human, or what property of the human spirit if you will, causes them to have free will but no other? In virtue of what?

    Once again, appealing to the analogy of consciousness, this seems an odd argument. If we have free will it needn’t be the case that we need explain how it emerges. Anymore than we need explain consciousness’ origin in order to argue for consciousness.

    It seems to me that one can merely say a certain level of complexity in the brain or similar structures is necessary for both consciousness and free will to emerge.

    Comment by Clark — February 27, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  109. You know, Geoff, the graded nature of free will aside, there is a pretty good argument you can make against Jacob here:

    1) Moral responsibility and free will are always found together.
    2) Individuals do not have moral responsibility until they have the intelligence of an 8 year old.
    3) No animals have the intelligence of an 8 year old.
    4) No animals have free will.

    Of course you are going to have to persuade Jacob that (1) is true, or something very close to it, but this seems like a pretty good argument in your favor.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 27, 2008 @ 11:55 am

  110. Jeff,

    I would say that you are focusing on the wrong question entirely in #107. The real question is who or what can make nature-changing choices on this planet. Common Mormon thought claims humans can make nature changing choices and can thus progress from humanness to godhood (and even Godhood for most LDS thinkers). Can any other species make nature changing choices? If so where is that line drawn?

    As I have noted, I usually use the term LFW to reflect the ability to change one’s nature. I don’t think my dog can do that so whatever form of “free will” Fui may have, it ain’t the same as the kind you have in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  111. Jeff: (72) I was using a common phrase from Heidegger to illustrate the analytic philosopher’s discomfort with big and ambiguous words which seem to mean too much, too little or both at the same time.

    And I was using it to demonstrate that the analytic charge is almost always a refusal to try to understand things from any stance but a narrow nominalistic one. (grin) If I could explain the phrase in a sentence and a half it can hardly be called big and ambiguous. (lol)

    Blake: (86) Perhaps you could explain how your view doesn’t fall prey to Kim’s non-reductive physicalist argument.

    I’d be interested in this as well. Do you still have your blog Jeff? I confess I’ve not had time to read any philosophy blogs in something like 8 months. But I’m finally getting caught up. (I was working on redoing my css on my blog last night so hopefully I can blog again soon)

    Jacob: (87) Your admission that it is possible for me to choose what flavor of ice cream to eat proves that free will can be separated from moral responsibility according to your own view

    I think that Geoff (and perhaps at times Blake) are using free will in an idiosyncratic way. It’s not freedom between choices but freedom between good and evil. That’s why Blake mentioned the necessity of understanding good and evil (presumably as abstractions) as necessary for free will. Thus the decision of what flavor ice cream to have isn’t even a matter of freedom since it’s not an issue of good and evil.

    I confess this seems like a change of topic to me. Surely the issue of freedom to choose between good and evil is a subset of the issue of freedom. Animals which simply don’t have abstractions to the level we do certainly don’t have the moral free will Blake and Geoff discuss. But so what? That’s a different issue from whether they can reason or even have rudimentary abstractions and an open future.

    (Correct me if I’m wrong here guys – but it really seems like you changed the subject)

    Geoff: (90) If I am standing in line at the ice cream store, and prior states of events leads me to lean toward a certain flavor at that time, don’t I either go with the causal flow and choose what I am inclined to or veto the causal flow and choose something else? Where is the room for “chance” in there?

    I’m very surprised you see this as the only option. Surely the prior state of events don’t lead me to only one flavor but to a range of flavors presumably with different probabilities for each. A pure determinist would say that despite these apparent probabilities there is only and can be only one choice. However this seems a very minority view. Most would say that context (including the brain) significantly undetermines the outcome and that it’s pure chance as to what one I pick.

    To make an analogy consider the double slit experiment in quantum mechanics. There’s a range of possibilities that context provides. Each with a unique probability. The context undetermines where the photon will be on the other side. Now a determinist would say that despite context underdetermining the outcome that there is a truth about the matter where the photon would be. The most common position in physics is the multiple worlds view where all possibilities happen in a world. Then there is the view of chance which says there isn’t a truth about the matter until the outcome happens.

    Now you are adding a new category saying that there is some (emergent if you follow Blake) new category of choice. But to neglect randomness in your discussion is a serious error.

    Comment by Clark — February 27, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

  112. “I usually use the term LFW to reflect the ability to change one’s nature.”

    How is this not creatio ex nihilo?

    Comment by Jeff G — February 27, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

  113. Geoff: (103) Jeff: Where do you think the burden of proof lies in this debate?

    Nowhere. It is just speculation.

    Might I suggest this wrong? I think the burden of proof can be seen in two places.

    The first is in natural kinds. The only kind of phenomena that can be accurately measured are either pure determination or pure chance (or a combination of the two). The claim that human action is a third kind is impossible to falsify at this point since human action is complex enough so as to be explainable by chance + determination. There is no analyzable micro-phenomena that provides a third kind.

    Thus the burden of proof is on those arguing for a third kind of causality.

    The second is in responsibility. Revelation talks about punishment and responsibility. Those category pre-suppose moral responsibility. Moral responsibility as understood in our language demands LFW.

    Therefore the burden of proof is on those arguing against LFW.

    The problem with the second argument is that it presumes one accepts the authority of scripture (which Jeff doesn’t) as well as a particular way of reading scripture. (No Anselm styled negative theology allowed, for instance)

    Comment by Clark — February 27, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  114. Jeff (112), I think it would be more ungrounded existence rather than creation ex nihilo. It ends us being similar to the way Duns Scotus explained the ground of the Trinity as nothing. This in turn then became rather prominent in Continental philosophy in Heidegger, Derrida, Levinas, Marion and others. It ironically ends up tied to that “nothing nothings” quote you mentioned.

    Now I should say that the way Geoff uses this seems demonstrably problematic. Since demonstrably we can’t by an act of will change our nature. I can’t by pure act of will make myself have a bird-nature for instance. What Geoff claims LFW can accomplish is only possible if one embraces a thorough-going solipsism. (IMO)

    However if one takes a slightly more nuanced approach to the denial of a fixed nature as classically understood then I agree with Geoff. I’d simply say that rejecting fixed natures need not entail embracing LFW. I’d further say that what Geoff understands by nature hasn’t been a position within science for a very, very long time. Rather it is a position in ancient philosophy up through the Renaissance but which was discarded during the 19th century.

    You can see Geoff’s misunderstanding in terms of how he discusses chance.

    Comment by Clark — February 27, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

  115. Clark,

    Obviously I threw you off by using the word “nature”. By it I mostly meant “fundmental character”. I think you’d agree that Mormonism teaches that through free choices a fundamentally telestial person can progress over time to become a fundamentally celestial person right? We might call that a change in the nature of that person (which is what I meant). But if the word nature is throwing you off I am happy to replace it with something like core or character or whatever.

    Regarding “chance” — I see what you mean by it in #113 now.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

  116. Geoff, call it habit and I’d be right with you.

    Comment by Clark — February 27, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  117. Hehe. Seems a little anemic to say Abraham is exalted because he developed celestial habits or that God remains God simply because he has celestial habits don’t you think? But whatever floats yer boat I guess…

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  118. To add I’d say that we can’t of ourselves progress the way you mention Geoff. We require sanctification which could easily be seen as a change in our physical nature. Thus one could easily argue that there is a nature of some sort that is fixed and our choices change it at best indirectly. (Much like a one legged man who choses to purchase a prosthetic hasn’t made himself a two legged man by pure act of will.)

    Comment by Clark — February 27, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  119. Jeff: Of course you are going to have to persuade Jacob that (1) is true, or something very close to it, but this seems like a pretty good argument in your favor.

    The problem is that (1) seems entirely unfounded and problematic. I have already demonstrated that free acts need not imply moral responsibility.

    Clark: It seems to me that one can merely say a certain level of complexity in the brain or similar structures is necessary for both consciousness and free will to emerge.

    This is exactly the kind of argument that leads one to the conclusion that animals are free, because, as we know, they are certainly conscious. There have been a number of studies that have tried to prove that some animals are even self-conscious, usually they use a mirror and test to see if an animal can recognize that what it sees in the mirror is, in fact, itself.

    Clark: I think that Geoff (and perhaps at times Blake) are using free will in an idiosyncratic way.

    Yep, this came up in #36.

    Clark: But so what? That’s a different issue from whether they can reason or even have rudimentary abstractions and an open future.

    Yes! Thank you. There are lots of interesting studies trying to figure out if animals can reason to some extent and although there are lots of studies with terrible methodological issues, there are some that seem pretty interesting.

    Geoff: Seems a little anemic to say Abraham is exalted because he developed celestial habits or that God remains God simply because he has celestial habits don’t you think?

    Actually, I recently said something pretty similar to that here and it didn’t seem anemic to me.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 27, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

  120. Jacob: I have already demonstrated that free acts need not imply moral responsibility.

    But what you haven’t demonstrated is that free acts (as in “free from the determination or constraints of nature”) can be accomplished by a being who is not also morally responsible and that is why we are deadlocked in this discussion. As I have said, I am all for the notion that animals have “free will” in the sense the compatiblists use it. (Though that doesn’t seem to make anyone here feel better (grin) )

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 11:09 pm

  121. Geoff, why can’t a person who has no comprehension of good or evil but who isn’t determined be free?

    Comment by Clark — February 27, 2008 @ 11:36 pm

  122. Is there such a person Clark?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2008 @ 11:43 pm

  123. Geoff,

    But what you haven’t demonstrated is that free acts (as in “free from the determination or constraints of nature”) can be accomplished by a being who is not also morally responsible

    As I said in the post, it is impossible to prove that anyone is free in a libertarian sense. So I can’t prove that 7 year olds are free, but it seems overwhelmingly plausible that if 8 year olds are, then 7 year olds are to some extent as well. If I suggest that 7 year olds are free, you can dig in your heals and say that until they are morally accountable, they cannot possibly be free. But this amounts to you drawing an equivalence between moral choice and free choice. When I show that the two are not equivalent, you say that a person who is able to make a free choice is of necessity morally accountable, but you offer me absolutely no reason to accept this claim.

    Let’s at least clear up one thing before we finish. Are you claiming that LFW is, in principle, inseparable from moral responsibility or are you claiming that they happen to have a perfect 1:1 correspondence? In #121 Clark asks why there couldn’t be a person who is free but has no comprehension of good or evil. You respond by asking if there is such a person, but this shifts things from the question of whether such a thing is possible to the question of whether we can prove that such a thing exists. Those are very different questions, so your answer appears to me to be a complete dodge. Of course Clark can answer “yes,” and this would be as valid and useful to the discussion as you saying “no they can’t.”

    As we consider whether such a person is possible, let’s think for a moment about the 7 year old. I know that 7 year olds are conscious because I was once 7 and I remember being conscious. I know that I could deliberate meaningfully about my actions and I know that from my perspective I felt as free to control a given action as I feel today. Now, it may be that I am not free today, and it may be that I was not free then, but doesn’t it seem most likely that if I am, in fact, free today that I was free then as well?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 28, 2008 @ 12:44 am

  124. Why are we assuming animals are not morally responsible?

    Comment by Matt W. — February 28, 2008 @ 6:17 am

  125. Matt: Why are we assuming animals are not morally responsible?

    For several reasons. First, we don’t have reactive attitudes that assess moral responsibility to animals. If I praise my dog, it is not moral praise. Second, animals don’t seem to have the sense of good and evil that is required. They simply don’t have the cognitive faculties necessary for such assessment — quite like a 3 year old.

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 6:40 am

  126. Jacob: it would be immensely helpful if you would just define what you mean by LFW so that we can assess what you are asserting.

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 6:51 am

  127. Geoff (122), I think there are plenty. Good and evil demand simply knowledge of abstractions of some sort (in order to reason about them). Yet children who might not understand good and evil certainly can freely decide what they want for dinner.

    So to me it seems the burden of proof is on you to show why these children aren’t really free (or that they really have sufficient knowledge of good and evil).

    You will have a very hard time convincing me that my 3 year old is not making free choices.

    Comment by Clark — February 28, 2008 @ 10:17 am

  128. Clark et al.: I think that what Geoff is getting at is that unless we act consciously and purposely, we are merely reacting to stimuli and thus we are not free but determined by prior causes. So there is an equivocation in this discussion. The person could always choose to be conscious and make free choices; but a person who acts unconsciously hasn’t made that choice and so they act as prior stimuli and causes dictate. The problem with this position is that we always have LFW to the extent we can choose to be free in a LFW sense. The strength is that it explains a good deal about the natural man.

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 10:44 am

  129. But Blake I think my 3 year old son can entertain alternatives and make a rational choice between them. To argue (as it appears you are) that his thinking is purely unconscious is simply very odd to me.

    Comment by Clark — February 28, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  130. Clark: I wasn’t arguing that your 3 year old’s thinking is purely arbitrary, but his cognitive development would be very strange indeed if he could assess moral issues that I face as an adult. Further, I don’t think he can make much of a rational choice. Haven’t you ever carried him to bed when it was late or picked up food that he threw?

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  131. To say someone can be rational is not to say folks are always rational. Heck, I’m not even always rational. The issue isn’t whether he can assess moral issues the way you do. The issue is whether he can rationally decide between choices such as ice cream.

    Comment by Clark — February 28, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  132. The issue is whether he can rationally decide between choices such as ice cream.

    Clark, you may have a precocious child, but I guarantee you he isn’t rational when it comes to ice cream or anything else.

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

  133. Blake, I strongly disagree. But let’s pick an example where one can less ably make that case.

    I point to a computer screen filled with shapes. I say, “pick the red one.” Can he do so rationally? That is can we say he freely picks the red one? What about a 4 year old who is asked to spell.

    The idea that there isn’t reasoning going on in all this makes one question what reason even means.

    Comment by Clark — February 28, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  134. Clark: Of course you son has some sort of free will — it isn’t morally responsible free will. You just changed the subject. Moreover, he lacks rationality. He can respond operantly — I don’t believe he’s engaging in rational assessment in the least.

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

  135. Blake,

    it would be immensely helpful if you would just define what you mean by LFW so that we can assess what you are asserting.

    Sorry, I thought I had adequately clarified this in #36, but that was some time ago now. I am asserting that LFW requires the ability to do otherwise and that it does NOT require (nor entail) moral responsibility. In order to be morally responsibile, one must have moral awareness (sense of right and wrong) in addition to LFW. Geoff has been arguing that there can be no such thing as a being with LFW that is not morally responsible.

    My first example of free will being separated from moral responsibility is in cases where we make choices as adults which are not morally relevant (e.g. I choose which ice cream to eat, I believe I could have chosen differently, but it was not a moral decision). My second example is the case of children who seem to me to have some degree of free will but not enough understanding to be held morally accountable. The question then becomes: are animals a third example of free beings (have LFW, the ability to do otherwise) who do not have moral responsibility due to their limited understanding and lack of moral awareness? (My answer is “yes”)

    Wherever I look to see how LFW is accounted for in humans, I find things that the explanations apply to animals as well as humans (spirits, brains, complex behavior we could call personality). We don’t have the same motivation to demand that animals have LFW because we don’t hold them morally accountable, but all of our reasoning for how LFW arises apply to them. Thus, I expected that anyone who believes people have LFW would have started with the assumption that animals do as well. I am looking for arguments to the contrary.

    So far, all the comments you have made seem to be in line with what I was thinking and I have been nodding my head, but I am open to correction if you think I am off base. Geoff has claimed that animals are entirely causally determined in every case. I thought you took up the opposite view (as do I) in your initial comments on this thread.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 28, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  136. Jacob: I think we’re largely in agreement. As you know, I define LFW in distinction from the other requirements or moral responsibility in ch. 6 of vol. 1 of Exploring Mormon Thought.

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

  137. Blake,

    Clark: Of course you son has some sort of free will — it isn’t morally responsible free will.

    You said “of course,” but this is exactly what is at issue in this discussion. Geoff is sticking to his guns that the statement you prefaced with “of course” is not correct. He believes there is no such thing as free will decoupled from moral responsibility (unless, as he keeps reminding, we mean “free will” in a compatibilist sense.)

    Comment by Jacob J — February 28, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  138. Blake #136, I cross posted, glad to see we are on the same page. Maybe you can talk some sense into Geoff ;)

    Comment by Jacob J — February 28, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

  139. Blake: I think that what Geoff is getting at is that unless we act consciously and purposely, we are merely reacting to stimuli and thus we are not free but determined by prior causes.

    Good summary. That is indeed what I am getting at.

    Jacob (quoting Blake): Of course you son has some sort of free will — it isn’t morally responsible free will.

    Contrary to what you (Jacob) said in #137, I am happy to agree with this in principle. I just don’t know what to call the type of “free will” a little child (or an animal) has. I don’t think of it as real libertarian free will for the reasons Blake summarized above. So it seems to me that it is much closer to the free will the compatibilists preach about. Is there a reason why we must assume it is LFW rather than some lesser form of free will?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

  140. Okay, fair point, let’s ask Blake to clarify.

    Blake, when you said that a child “has some sort of free will” did you mean “free will” in a libertarian sense or in a compatibilist sense. For reference, I never use the term “free will” to refer to the kind suggested by compatibilists.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 28, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

  141. I just don’t know what to call the type of “free will” a little child (or an animal) has. I don’t think of it as real libertarian free will for the reasons Blake summarized above.

    Geoff, on a different post, in which I suggested that determined beings evolve into LFW beings, your response was “NOPE”. How is this different? (That “Nope” always bugged me)

    Comment by Matt W. — February 28, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  142. Blake: 125- I find this insupportable. It’s like saying mentally handicapped people do not have LFW.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 28, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  143. Matt (#142),

    You seem to be equating LFW with moral responsibility. Blake doesn’t equate the two, so his comment doesn’t imply that handicapped people could not have LFW, just that they wouldn’t be morally responsible for their actions, which seems like a non-controversial claim.

    Nice pull in #141.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 28, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

  144. Matt,

    In that comment you linked to it was the word “evolve” I objected to. Grow/mature into it (as they age past being little children) likely works though.

    Also, I don’t think mentally handicapped people have LFW (thus are not morally responsible). However I am open to some kind of gradation on this. I just don’t know how that might work.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2008 @ 6:12 pm

  145. Matt: Like Clark you’re changing the subject. Many mentally disabled persons don’t have moral responsibility — they may or may not have LFW. However, simply saying that you find something insupportable ain’t much of an argument.

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

  146. Blake, when you said that a child “has some sort of free will” did you mean “free will” in a libertarian sense or in a compatibilist sense. For reference, I never use the term “free will” to refer to the kind suggested by compatibilists.

    Let me clear. I have identified 4 conditions for moral responsibility:

    An agent S is free in a morally significant sense with respect to an action A at t1 only if: (1) S has moral beliefs about whether A is good or evil (right or wrong); (2) S appreciates the consequences of her actions; (3) S’s acts are caused by S herself and not merely the result of causes acting on S; and (4) S could have willed otherwise at t1 given what exists in fact up until t1.

    LFW requires on (3) and (4). Thus, LFW is not the same as morally significant LFW. A child’s acts can be (but need not be) caused by herself and a child generally can act otherwise. What a small child cannot do is assess right and wrong and appreciate the consequences of her acts.

    Comment by Blake — February 28, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

  147. Geoff: However I am open to some kind of gradation on this. I just don’t know how that might work.

    FYI, I am in full agreement with Blake’s #146. It seems to me that this model makes it relatively easy to envision a gradation. The gradation of moral responsibility tracks exactly to the development of the child’s ability to assess right and wrong. They are accountable according to their own understanding of right and wrong which grows over time. As I said in #92:

    Did Jim act morally? The answer depends entirely on why Jim cut Rob’s finger off, his intention in cutting it off, and his own understanding of whether he was acting morally.

    The growth in this understanding is the growth of moral accountability. Incidentally, this is one reason I appreciate the language in D&C 29:47

    Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me;

    The phrase “begin to become accountable” is consistent with the fact that children grow into accountability gradually, it is not on/off. It is also one more reason why I think it makes no sense to draw an arbitrary line at age eight and say that everyone who dies before that was celestial.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 28, 2008 @ 6:35 pm

  148. Jacob,

    I also don’t think it make sense to draw an arbitrary line at the age of eight. I further agree with you that children grow into accountability gradually. However, I think that emerging moral accountability is paired exactly with emerging LFW in people. In other words, the ability to learn and comprehend right and wrong (probably universally so via the light of Christ) is directly connected with the ability “act consciously and purposely” as Blake nicely put it as opposed to simply “reacting to stimuli”. I still don’t see any reason why I should change my opinion on that subject. And it makes great sense to me that the reason little children are not morally accountable is because they in fact have not yet developed the power to act consciously and purposely instead of merely reacting to stimuli. (And obviously this idea applies to all lower species as well.)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

  149. Geoff,

    However, I think that emerging moral accountability is paired exactly with emerging LFW in people.

    I don’t understand what you mean by LFW “emerging.” How does the ability to do otherwise emerge? For any given choice there seems to be a very clear either/or. Either there was an ability to do otherwise or there was not. The only thing I can think of is that you might say that it emerges in the sense that a person could grow in the number of free choices they are able to make over time. However, this would seem to have two problems right off the bat. The first is that you already think that exercising a “veto” as you call it is extremely rare, so even one free choice seems to qualify the person for being said to have LFW. The second is that for whichever choices a person makes that are truely free, they are accountable in your paradigm. This is true for adults as well as children. So, it would seem that the first time a child makes a free choice, they are accountable in the same way as an adult if I understand what you have been arguing.

    On the other hand, in my paradigm people are only accountable to the extent that they understand the choice before them and its moral implications. Unlike the ability to do otherwise, which is either absent or present, understanding of the choice and its moral implications does grow in a gradual way and is not on/off in an either/or way.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 28, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

  150. Geoff (144)
    Does this make you a “compatibilist” now then? (referencing that same prior discussion) In that post Idefined compatibalists as saying determinism is true and free will is true, and it seems you are suggesting that children do not have free will, but”progress” (a better word than evolve) towards having free will as they grow up. If so, I think this is a great supposition. I would take it further and say we are often determined beings as grown ups as well, progressing towards Godhood,, where we will be even more free than we are now.

    Blake, Jacob: I mis-spoke in my comment regarding libertarian free will. I meant to say “moral responsibility”, that’s what I get for trying to shoot something out in the midst of watching “live free or die hard”. Anyway, I stand corrected on both counts. I do do however, think mentally handicapped people, 3 year olds, and even animals, can have a limited sense of moral responsibility. Animals, after all, can practice altruism, as can children, adn handicapped people. Further, I think that much of the human conception of moral responsibility is defined by positive law. I think that we often confuse positive law with natural law and confuse natural law with eternal law. Joseph Smith was correct when he said what is right in one situation is wrong in another. Like I said to Geoff, I think as we progress, we become more morally responsible, and perhaps gain more agency. I like to think of it as the more we understand the rules, the more we can determine how we will act, rather than the rules determining how we are acted upon.

    One reason I think free will is capable by animals is that I believe in evolution, thus that animals and people are related in some way. I am not sure I’d go as far as CLeon SKousen, as I mentioned in an earlier post, but if my greatx200 grandpa is also the greatx200 grandpa of a cat, I assume there must be some rhyme or reason to it…

    Comment by Matt W. — February 29, 2008 @ 5:41 am

  151. sorry for any typos, can’t find my glasses this morning, and I can’t see the monitor…

    Comment by Matt W. — February 29, 2008 @ 5:42 am

  152. Jacob: For any given choice there seems to be a very clear either/or. Either there was an ability to do otherwise or there was not.

    It seems to me that a mere either/or in terms of open possibilities isn’t enough for LFW. For example, a branch shaking in the wind will either move this way or that, but it isn’t an act of free will. It seems that the act must be the result of a will — it must be something that someone does rather than something that just happens or that just happens to them.

    Comment by Blake — February 29, 2008 @ 7:52 am

  153. Blake,

    I agree with you that it must be a result of will, I guess I was taking that for granted in the context of a humans making choices. Even after granting your clarification I am still not sure how free will can be graded in Geoff’s system of thought.

    If moral responsibility is directly a result of moral understanding, then it seems very intuitive that it would be graded. If we consider at a high level the way we go about assigning responsibility in a legal setting, this also points to the idea that one’s intent and understanding of the moral implications of one’s choices is the measure of accountability.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 29, 2008 @ 9:15 am

  154. By the way, I think you’ll agree that a branch shaking in the wind, if it is governed by determinism (as Geoff is saying animals are), does not qualify as having an open future just because it can I don’t know enough to say which way it will move and therefore describe it as being able to move this way or that.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 29, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

  155. Blake, I don’t think I was changing the subject. Rather the problem was clarifying in Geoff whether he thinks free will in the general sense is also moral free will. I recognize you separate the two. It is not clear to me that Geoff does.

    Comment by clark — February 29, 2008 @ 10:55 pm

  156. Jacob (#149): I don’t understand what you mean by LFW “emerging.” How does the ability to do otherwise emerge?

    I think LFW emerges in the same way that moral responsibility slowly emerges in children. That is, little children have the “hypothetical free will” the compatibilists preach about. They hypothetically could choose otherwise but they have not yet developed the power or awareness to consciously and purposely veto the great causal chain. The degree to which they can veto the causal chain as they grow is the degree to which they are morally responsible. It can be called a graded ability because the degree increases with maturity.

    Matt (#150): Does this make you a “compatibilist” now then?

    Nope. Compatibilists hold that no one can ever actually veto the causal chain. I hold that moral responsibility and LFW exist together but that they are only possible for sufficiently mature humans.

    Jacob (#154): I think you’ll agree that a branch shaking in the wind, if it is governed by determinism (as Geoff is saying animals are), does not qualify as having an open future

    I know this is a little off topic but it seems to me that as long as there is one agent with LFW on the planet then the future for all things in the planet remains open (because of the “butterfly effect” and all…)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 29, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

  157. Geoff,

    The degree to which they can veto the causal chain as they grow is the degree to which they are morally responsible.

    Great, but I am still totally unclear on what you mean by “the degree to which they can veto the causal chain.” For any given choice it is either possible for them to veto or not, right? If it is possible then they have free will, even if they did not exercise it with a veto, no? After all, your theory says that most of the time we all go along with the causal chain and this doesn’t mean we lack free will, it simply means we didn’t exercise our will to veto. Thus, the question of whether we have free will comes down to whether it is within our power to do so, not whether we actually did, in some particular case, exercise veto power. Again, for any given choice it seems that it is either within our power to veto or it is not. How can that be a matter of degree?

    Comment by Jacob J — March 1, 2008 @ 12:23 am

  158. Well let me see if I can flesh this out a bit.

    You are right that the very power to veto the causal chain is libertarian free will (whether one actually vetoes or not). I certainly think that mature and mentally functioning humans have this veto power.

    So the question is whether little children have this veto power. I say they don’t. And if they don’t that explains why they are not morally responsible for their choices. But I do think that as children mature they begin to gradually experience especially lucid moments where they could indeed veto the causal chain. I envision these moments as being passing at first but they gradually increase as the child matures.

    I hope this doesn’t muddy the waters but I also suspect that in the Mormon context the concept of “the light of Christ” must be brought in. (I mentioned this in #148.) The light of Christ is reportedly the universal moral sense that applies to all (mature) people. I think it is safe to say that little children are not fully under the influence of the light of Christ because if they were they too would be morally responsible for their choices in the way that all adults are universally responsible. (The notion as I understand it is that even a person raised by wolves would be morally responsible to the extent that the light of Christ influences all people.) That is, if the light of Christ enlightens people concerning right and wrong then little children are unable, or at least less able, to discern its influence than adults. If there is the great causal chain influencing us on one side, and the light of Christ on the other side, why should we not assume that it is in fact the light of Christ that provides full LFW to mature humans as opposed to the hypothetical free will that I say little children and animals have? So if the light of Christ is what gives mortal adult humans LFW and it is what is behind universal morality then the two are inextricably linked.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 1, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  159. Just to answer some of the questions put to me:

    Blake, I know you guys have asked me about Kim’s argument before, but I’ve never really looked into it. Could you maybe provide me with a link to an article of his or something? More to the point of your question, however, my current position and intuitions regarding the reduction of the mental to the physical aren’t quite solidified. I really like the ideas contained in Dennett’s Intentional Stance, but I’m really confused as to what, exactly, this position entails for reduction.

    Clark, I haven’t really touched my blog in a long time.

    Geoff, you ask whether other animals can make decisions which change their natures. While I don’t want to address this question directly, I would point out that the ability to make decisions which change one’s nature is entirely compatible with compatibilism. For instance, one could have been determined to change. (I just hope this particular point wasn’t motivating a rejection of determinism.)

    Comment by Jeff G — March 1, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  160. Jeff: Suppose a mental property M causes a mental property M*. Since mind-body supervenience “is a shared minimum commitment of all positions that are properly called physicalist,” non-reductive physicalism must posit a physical supervenience base P* of M* which is (non-causally) sufficient for M*. What, then, is responsible for M*’s occurrence—M or P*? There appears to be “a tension between vertical determination and horizontal causation”: “under the assumption of mind-body supervenience, M* occurs because its supervenience base P* occurs, and as long as P* occurs, M* must occur regardless of whether or not an instance of M preceded it. This puts the claim of M to be a cause of M* in jeopardy: P* alone seems fully responsible for, and capable of accounting for, the occurrence of M*”. The upshot of this first stage of the argument is that the tension between M and P* can be resolved only by accepting that “M caused M* by causing its supervenience base P*”. Stage two then goes on to argue that mental-to-physical causation is impossible. Given the so-called causal closure of the physical, P* must have a sufficient and completely physical cause P, leading to a competition between M and P for the role of P*’s cause. Barring overdetermination, M seems bound to loose this competition: if P is a sufficient cause of P*, then once P is instantiated all that is required for P* to occur is done and there is nothing left for M to contribute, causally speaking. This completes stage two of the Causal Exclusion Argument. Both steps together seem to lead to epiphenomenalism–unless mental properties are reducible or genuinely overdetermining, they must be causally inert, so that with the overdetermination option and the reduction option ruled out, epiphenomenalism is the inevitable consequence.

    Kim’s argument is discussed here: http://www.lehigh.edu/~mhb0/physicalemergence.pdf

    Comment by Blake — March 1, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

  161. Jeff: Perhaps an easier way to express Kim’s argument is as follows. Consider two mental states M and M*. Now assume that there are also two physical states on which M and M* supervene, respectively P and P*. Now assume that:

    M causes M*

    P causes P*

    In this diagram, a single mental event M is seen as causing another mental event M*. This mental event is physically realized (for example in a brain state) by a physical event P, which causes P* i.e. the physical realization of M* . Kim’s argument (greatly simplified) against the existence of mental causation is that the top layer does no real work. P can cause P* all by itself, with no help from M, and there is no coherent way in which M can cause M* without P’s help, or without causing P*. Thus it seems that physical causality is all we’ve got, and mental descriptions are somewhere between being shallow and being outright falsehoods. Kim claims that the only coherent{1} alternatives are:

    1) dualism, which says that M and M* are independent of P and P*. This position is non-reductive, without being materialist;

    2) Reductionism, which says that physical events are identical with mental events;

    2a) Eliminativism, which says that mental events do not exist at all;

    3) Emergence, which says that M supervenes on, but is not identical to, P.

    Comment by Blake — March 1, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

  162. Blake,
    Your position that animals have some degree of free will is of course in line with process theology, but do you also believe that even subatomic particles have some degree of free will? I recall reading that process theologians believe that as well.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — March 2, 2008 @ 8:58 am

  163. Craig: No, I believe that subatomic particles manifest novelty in their actions, but their actions are not a result of an act of will. A will takes a level of emergence not available until well upon the scale of phylum. We see rudimentary acts of will in some mammals, but not really fully blown until we get to humans.

    That is also why I have always insisted that free will is not the same as mere randomness or mere open alternatives. A will acts — it is not merely something that happens or that happens to us. A will that must act, that cannot refrain from acting, is not a free will. So if I am obsessive and I cannot control my thoughts, then I can will to not think such thought but I cannot realize my will in this respect. In that sense, I have a will that is not free. So there is a distinction between an act of the will and a free will. The distinction is the ability to refrain from willing if one so chooses.

    Comment by Blake — March 2, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  164. Craig, haven’t seen you for awhile in these parts, glad you dropped by.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:27 am

  165. Blake,

    Thanks for the description, even though I’m not able to access the link. I’ll roll it over for a while.

    By the by, perhaps you could do me another favor. Your views on free will, like everything else it seems, are highly influenced by process thought. I must confess that I am highly suspicious of metaphysics in general, especially when it is used to “prove” anything which is to be found at a more accessible level (not to say free will is at such a level).

    I was wondering if process-talk can be thoroughly translated into non-process-talk and vice-versa? I ask because I was wondering if determinism is even a possibility within process thought.

    After all, determinism seems to be the most plausible conclusion (at least in my mind) if one assumes something akin to materialism. The way you speak, is seems that emergent LFW is the most plausible conclusion if one assumes something akin to process metaphysics.

    What I worry about is whether these two positions are even incompatible with each other once one performs the proper translations? If determinism is not even a logical possibility within process thought, it makes it difficult to believe that process-LFW is really the same thing as materialism-LFW (for lack of a better name).

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  166. Jeff: Whithead coined new terms precisely because the old vocabulary couldn’t express what he had in mind. An actual occasion is like a quantum event — but to call it a quantum event misses the essential category of experience that is at bottom for all of Whitehead’s thought. Since momentary creativity and novelty are the most basic categories for every actual occasion, process talk cannot be translated into determinism without violating its most essential view of reality. However, Whitehead developed his view because of his awareness of quantum physics and his belief that the old materialism just failed to capture what we were learning about the most basic units of reality.

    Further, you speak as if we could escape metaphysical commitment and assumptions. I don’t believe so. Materialism (or in more contemporary terms physicalism) is as much a metaphysical view as process thought. Further, nothing could be less simple than the pluralism inherent in materialism. There are at least unifying Ideas (yes, those eternal Ideas) in Whitehead’s thought.

    Comment by Blake — March 2, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

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