Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Choosey Thoughts

I was trying to think of a subject to go with today's title (which I obtained via "choosey" sounds like "Tuesday") and the topic of free will sprung to mind; and having glanced at Physical Indeterminism last year (whilst defending my forthcoming use of Levy's paradox), I've met one logical problem with free will, i.e. how should we think of it? When I freely choose to make a cup of tea, for example, that's not just the expression of my disposition to drink tea. I do have such a disposition (following my previous choices), but in addition I choose to act upon it, using the same faculty that I use when thinking rationally. And the problem is, what's that like? It's not deterministic, and it's not random... Maybe it's a primitive sort of thing, that is hard to describe because, unlike this language (orientated as it is towards physical objects and the dispositions of agents), it originates in a higher realm of being (cf. the brains in the brains-in-vats scenarios); maybe not, of course, but if not then surely we ought to be able to say something more about what it is like (unless we're content to reduce it to physics): ...So, I'm wondering if anyone happens to know of a readable account (time being all spoken for, at this time of the term), not so much of this problem, but of a plausible (and non-reductive, and non-mystical) solution?

6 comments:

Tanasije Gjorgoski said...

Hi Enigman,

I can't help with your question, but I wonder why do you think that Free Will implies lack of determinism.
It seems to me that one can say that the subject's Will is free, because the reasons for the action are inherent in the subject itself (what the subject wants, intends to do, related to how she values things, how she understands the world and so on).

Of course, there are reasons which might not be brought under those. Sometimes there are reasons for the choice which are of completely different nature (e.g. priming in psychology).

I'm not sure about this, but I heard that also people can be made through hypnosis to do some things when they wake up. When asked why they did it, they will supposedly give some weird explanation.

Because of those things, it might be that Free Will is not seen as something irreducible, but as a concept covering some practical difference of subject's acting in the world.

Enigman said...

Hmm... (there is a use of 'free will' that covers such things, but I suspect that its delineation is difficult, e.g. the difference between innate desires and those resulting from hypnosis, or actions under social pressures that might have been resisted, or acting on a whim, and so forth) ...I'm thinking more of what we seem to ourselves to be doing, when we deliberately choose one thing over another.

So I'm just assuming that it isn't deterministic, much as I assume that I'm not reducible to robotic biochemical structures. That is, my reasons for thinking so are essentially intuitive (barely reasons at all; which is why I find the absence of any obvious way of thinking logically about such a will troubling, since that lack could be taken to be evidence against those intuitions:)

michael reidy said...

Just a throw away idea. Part of freedom is self-determination. About elective action there are three options - might do, might not do, might do otherwise. However the conundrum is: am I the kind of person who has this range of options, whose world is lived in a certain manner? Yes, but I am not locked into this, there is a choice in that I can become aware of my raps, my routines, my bad faith if you wish. Freedom is a continuous open ended project, not a given.

Brandon said...

I don't know if it's what you're looking for, but Thomas Aquinas has a surprisingly readable discussion of it in the Summa Theologiae I-IIae.8-17. Actually, the discussion is in question 10, but it really has to be read in context. And it is both non-reductive and non-mystical (although, of course, it's important for him to discuss the will's relation to God in this context as one of his topics). It takes some thinking to see how the whole discussion fits together, but it's worth it. I'm a big Aquinas fan, but these questions on the will are one of my favorite passages in Aquinas, because when you see how all the pieces fit together it's splendid, simply beautiful. Even if it's wrong, it's wonderfully thought out, and gives you an idea of the sort of account you need to handle the issue.

michael reidy said...

Sartre's ''Being and Nothingness' Chap.2 on Bad Faith is an extended consideration of the intricasies of action and consciousness.

Enigman said...

Hi Brandon and Michael, and thanks, Aquinas and Sartre both look promising...