Devinology t1_j8t5x07 wrote

We can have competing desires, but only one side can "win" in any given situation. In fact, we rarely wholeheartedly do anything. This doesn't mean that we didn't genuinely want to do multiple conflicting things. You're right, if you didn't want to do the drug but did it anyway, you didn't have free will, you felt forced. That's exactly what I'm saying. If you did the thing your higher order desires want, then you feel free, like you really wanted that. That's the experience of free will. You can also say that when you do what you wholeheartedly wanted to, that's free will.

The reason it makes sense to call this free will and not an illusion is because that's what freedom is to a will. Why refer to something that's impossible (going against the laws of reality) as freedom? That seems silly, that's not something we can do and doesn't represent anything in our experience. The way I'm using it is a useful distinction, between when we feel free and when we don't. That's all freedom to a person's will is. Using terms like 'desire' or 'will' aren't helpful here. It's your will and your desires in every case. But only in some cases is your will free.


Devinology t1_j8r06bs wrote

Because that's all that free will IS. I don't think we're going to get anywhere further here, it's too large of a conversion.

I'm not saying that because I feel like a can genuinely alter the state of affairs of the world that I must therefore have it. I'm saying that I can't do that, and I know I can't do that, but I experiemce free will, so I can conclude that free will isn't altering the state of affairs of the world. It's not that kind of phenomenon.

You're morally responsible because you have agency, not because you can genuinely choose what happens.


Devinology t1_j8qzj7h wrote

We do know, because we know the difference between experiences of agency and lack of agency. This wouldn't be a topic of conversation otherwise. Why would we even be discussing this? Again, this is the point here. Experiencing free will is all free will is. It would be nothing if not experienced. A god-like figure dictating reality without perceiving itself as doing so wouldn't have free will because it wouldn't experience itself as such. It wouldn't care.

Experiencing free will is tantamount to having it. Anything else is some other unrelated concept.

If there was no point to anything then you wouldn't bother doing anything.

If ethical concepts were meaningless than we wouldn't care about them.

A determined reality would dictate that we wouldn't bother pretending to have free will if we didn't have it.


Devinology t1_j8qyptd wrote

If they can't be reconciled then there is no point to anything and no such thing as responsibility. Why wouldn't you just kill someone for $5? You aren't responsible anyway.

But you know that you are. How do you reconcile this? You realize that free will is not constituted by going against laws of nature.


Devinology t1_j8qyf6x wrote

That's the same thing. And I don't think anybody is saying either of those things. That's the point, we know we do have free will. If we didn't, we wouldn't be able to function, there would be no point to anything, and ethical concepts would be meaningless. That's why it's a genuine philosophical problem. We know we have free will, but we also know the science appears to dictate causal determinism. How do we reconcile the 2? Harris wants to give a non-answer and just conclude that we don't have free will. He gives no explanation for how this makes sense or why this is a useful conception of free will. He's ignoring the heart of the problem.


Devinology t1_j8qxvo6 wrote

I'm defending a compatibilism closest to Harry Frankfurt's conception of free will.

Under this view, you can very much do things you didn't want to do, because you have different levels of preferences/desires. The laws of realty dictate what you do, and whether your will is free or not is more about how you perceive what happens. If what happens is what you'd want to happen if you were able to control it, then your will is free. If the opposite, then it's not. This is super simplified of course. The idea is that we don't really choose what we do, but we have some higher order preferences, and we feel free if they are fulfilled over lower order ones.

So if you have a drug addiction, we can say that you both want and also don't want the drug. Your higher order reasoning and desire is that you don't keep using the drug, assuming you'd genuinely prefer a life without it. This doesn't always win though, you often succumb to the drug, to lower order desires. If you ultimately desire not to use the drug and succeed in this, you will perceive your will as free, which is all free will really is. If you don't succeed, you'll perceive your will as not free. Meanwhile, all of what actually happens is determined, there are no classically conceived "decisions" happening here. You experience the agency, you don't enact it.


Devinology t1_j8qwypn wrote

Nope, you're not getting it. If the state of the world at the present moment is completely determined by the preceding moment, then you can't choose to have a glass of water, because that would mean defying the laws of realty and exerting a god like power. You're drinking the glass of water because at the start of all existence something was set in motion that dictated you would drink that water. This is the conception of reality that Harris and other determinists have. This is not what I'm saying, this is what determinism is. This is why Harris concludes that free will is an illusion.

The reason he's wrong is that this god-like ability to break the laws of reality simply doesn't have anything to do with having a free will.


Devinology t1_j8qwhhw wrote

The whole reason this debate is important is because on the one hand we have the science demonstrating for us that everything that happens is determined in some sense, and on the other we have human intuition, experience, ethics, and practical reason telling us (or necessitating) that we exercise agency of some kind. The challenge is in reconciling the two. This is the starting point of nearly all philosophical problems.

It's not helpful to just repeat ad nauseum "but everything is determined cuz the science so free will is an illusion". This is the starting point of the conversation, not the end. We already know that, Harris hasn't said anything that wasn't said 100 years prior. He's just adding more updated science examples. In fact, he's really not contributing anything to the conversation that wasn't already considered 3000 years ago. He's basically just ignoring thousands of years of philosophical discourse, and going "but causality". He doesn't get it.


Devinology t1_j8qshsr wrote

I've read a bunch of his material, including one of his books on this very topic. I'm well versed in the topic.

Your description is just a different way of saying what I've said. Harris is assuming a particular definition of free will that is simply false. It's a very naive conception that doesn't have anything to do with free will. I don't mean that in a rude way, it's a definition that most people who haven't studied and contemplated this stuff much at all might have. The difference with Harris is that he actually thinks he knows better when in fact he doesn't understand the philosophy involved at all. Nobody is redefining it, they're just better understanding what it actually is. What Harris is doing is counterproductive because he's just effectively repeating that "free will means having control over reality" over and over without making any good arguments for why that's a good way to conceive of free will. He's not reconciling the phenomenology and intuition with the science.


Devinology t1_j8qrxup wrote

I didn't say "identifies". You're still thinking of it as a decision in the traditional sense. No such thing is happening. People are just being, and if they believe that what they are doing is in line with what they'd like to do, then they have agency. It's not circular at all. Nobody is deciding they have agency, they just have it.

You'll have to explain what you mean by the second paragraph as it's not clear what you're asking exactly.


Devinology t1_j8qrq2k wrote

You've horribly misunderstood what I said. We're not talking about arrogance. Harris holds a very naive conception of agency; be thinks that having agency means having control over reality in some way, making decisions that change the course of the world. This is what I mean by god-like. He thinks that since physical laws dictate that we have no such ability, we must not have free will. He's not wrong about the science, he's wrong about what constitutes free will. Free will is not the power to be a "first mover".


Devinology t1_j8qr6ja wrote

No, you're just using a false conception of agency. Agency isn't deciding how to conduct yourself, that's the point. You're reading my description of agency with a preconception that isn't compatible with it.


Devinology t1_j8fzixt wrote

I disagree, respectfully. The idea of moving the world in a god-like fashion is a human delusion, and one that causes us a great deal of problems in terms of interpreting the world around us and ourselves. Arguably, many psychological issues are either caused by, or contributed to, by the delusion that we can control things that we can't (by having a false worldview regarding free will). It has literally no importance for human functioning, because it doesn't make any difference to us in any pragmatic way whether we are truly choosing (in that delusional way) or not.

All that matters is that we think we are acting with agency (that it genuinely seems like we are) in some sense. Whether we are or not, on the grandest level, has zero relevance for us outside of philosophical pondering. All that matters is that we think we have agency, and that we conduct and judge ourselves as if we do, since ultimately this is all agency is anyway. We don't need any god-like world influencing power for this to work.

I'll also add that under some possible worlds based metaphysical theories, having choice just means that there is at least one possible world in which you've chosen otherwise than you did in the actual world. This allows for compatibilism because it allows for each possible world to be deterministic while also allowing for a genuine sense of agency since for all we know we could be in any of the possible worlds, and which one we're in isn't determined until it plays out, from our perspective at least.


Devinology t1_j8f7e05 wrote

Phenomenologically, you could have acted otherwise. In other words, as far as you're concerned, you could have. It's not inconceivable or impossible for that to have happened (as in there is definitely a possible world in which you did act differently, virtually infinitely many in fact), which is why it appears as a "choice" to you. As long as there is some possible world in which you acted differently, then you experience the event as contingent. And since the experience of it is all that matters to you (the only person who could perceive their own agency), you have agency.

More technically though, agency is not an event to be observed objectively. You can't point to something and say, "that's agency". Agency is a phenomenological property, something that can only be experienced. Nobody else can determine whether you have agency or not, only you can. For example, if you tell me to do something, and point a gun at my head, and then I do it, you'll probably assume I don't have agency in that situation. But if I felt like I wanted to do it, then I do have agency, despite the fact that I ultimately had to do it (or die I suppose, but you can change the gun to a magic wand that literally forces me, to strengthen the example). This is all still the case, regardless of whether everything happening was determined in some grander sense. Just think of every higher order system of determination as another magic wand.

Going back to your initial question though, I think the simple answer is that our layman's notion of what constitutes a choice is just wrong. We don't enact reality when we make choices; that's not what a choice is. But it doesn't mean choices don't exist. We know they do because we experience them. We act them out.


Devinology t1_j8eslj3 wrote

Yup, Harris is just a scientist who doesn't understand the point; he has a layman's (naive) conception of free will. He can't grock the philosophy of science and mind involved in the current debate. He thinks anything outside of imposing god-like powers of control over the world is not free will. He doesn't understand that his conception of free will is a layman's conception, and that philosophers have long ditched that.


Devinology t1_j8ers16 wrote

The main point from compatibilists is that the determinist conception of free will is simply inaccurate. Free will isn't about imposing control of any sort. That simply has nothing to do with agency. Agency is constituted by the experience of not being at odds with reality. Only the agent's experience matters. The causal interaction of atomic particles isn't part of the phenomenology. If you experience yourself as having agency, then you do, by definition, since that's all agency is.