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MIT OpenCourseWare 24.120 Moral Psychology Spring 2009 For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: .
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24.210 MORAL PSYCHOLOGY RICHARD HOLTON XIII Free Will I Free will presents a problem for metaphysics, philosophy of mind and ethics. Indeed, it presents such a serious problem exactly because its repercussions have such ethical importance, and stretch right to our very conception of ourselves. The Problems Firstly: there are set of specific reasons for thinking that we are neither so free in forming our desires, nor in acting on them, as we might think. Consider the correlation between people’s tastes and choices, and their social class and upbringing. (One of the best predictors of how an individual will vote is how their parents voted.) It doesn’t matter whether this is nature or nurture, the upshot is still the same. Consider the effectiveness of advertizing. More particularly, there is a wealth of psychological literature showing that we are less free in our choices that we might think. Women choosing a pair of tights will consistently choose the one on the right of the display. (Similar findings apply to men!) But these considerations seem to undermine both our freedom to form our desires, and our freedom to act upon them. Secondly, and more generally: we have a picture of the world that is given to us by science according to which we are part of the natural world. But the natural world is governed by deterministic causal laws. So everything we do, along with everything else, is deterministically caused by what went before. This is the thesis of determinism. P1 If determinism is true, then every human action is causally necessitated P2 If every action is causally necessitated, no one could have acted otherwise P3 One only has free will if one could have acted otherwise P4 Determinism is true C No one has free will This argument is clearly valid. So disagreements will focus on whether or not it is sound; and if it isn’t on which premise(s) should be rejected. Recall the standard terminology. Hard determinists accept the soundness of the argument and so embrace its conclusion. Libertarians deny its conclusion, and do so by denying P4. (Note that it is not enough just to deny determinism. We have to say what to put in its place. And it is quite unclear what could play the role. Certainly thinking that events happen randomly, as quantum mechanics is sometimes held to entail, will not do the job.) Compatibilists deny the conclusion and accept P4—they want to hold that determinism and free will are compatible —and so standardly want to reject one of the other premises; typically P2 or P3 (or both). But some positions that look like compatibilism turn out, on closer examination, to be arguing for the compatibility of determinism with our normal practices of holding people responsible. So such positions seem to be able to accept the soundness of this argument. They are compatibilists not about freedom
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This note was uploaded on 01/25/2012 for the course PHIL 201H1F taught by Professor Derekallen during the Fall '10 term at University of Toronto.

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