Here's a quick summary of how the logic behind my opinion goes: If the person at hand is a bad person, we can reduce this down to 2 causes. Either they are genetically predisposed to being bad, or their environment has caused them to become a bad person. For the genetic case, they don't deserve to be punished in the same way somebody with a genetic disability doesn't deserve to have that disability, they simply have no control over what genes they have. As for the second case, the same type of logic applies. If you're a bad person because you live in an environment where being bad has been normalized (or any other environmental cause), it's not necessarily your fault.
@stevendoesstuffs You are presupposing there are only two possibilities, and in both cases the bad person is really a victim of either (A) bad genes, or (B) bad environment. There are other ways to attack this too, but let's start out with a third possibility. What if the bad person comes from good genes and a good environment, but is still a bad person. I.E. his parents are well-to-do, well-educated and his brothers and sisters are all quite successful. In fact, he or she is the black sheep in the family of otherwise wealthy, over-achieving siblings. What his excuse then?
Conversely, I think by suggesting bad people are not responsible for their own actions, you're also suggesting good people can't take credit for being good. It's either because they have good genes - in which case, they can't help but be good - or because of a nurturing environment which they have nothing to do with either (i.e. being surrounded by saints, geniuses, and otherwise goody-two-shoes). So are you suggesting bad people shouldn't be blamed or held responsible for their actions, just like good people can't individually take responsibility (or credit) for their good deeds?
@dorothy8532 Yes that would be correct. It would be also be impossible to take action for good deeds that you do. Also for your other point, I counter that by saying "you" are the product of your physical body (your genes and stuff) and the environment around you. Unless you accept some form of dualism along with free will, its nearly impossible to point to so aspect of a person that isn't your physical existence paired with your environment. As for the counter example you gave at the end, if you have good genes and a good environment, its not possible to be bad. Like what part of that person would be the "bad" part?
@kyrothehero I wonder if you and steve believe in free will. Based on his comments and yours too, it sounds like neither of you believe in free will.
@kyrothehero This is off-topic of course, but I've waded through Sam Harris 40-minute videos on youtube trying to explain why he thinks there is no such thing as free will...and I'm still baffled. Can you explain it in a sentence or two...or even a paragraph or two? I think it was Einstein who once said if you can't explain something in a couple of sentences, you really don't understand it yourself.
Punishment is a means of enforcing social behavior, it is intended to be preventative and corrective. Preventative in that fear of it should steer you away from the behavior, corrective in that once punished for an action, you are less likely to do it again.We know punishment is pretty effective in both cases. Not 100% but it has a marked and demonstrable effect.So if you are "bad" aka break the rules of society, then punishment is coming to you to try and make you not do that again.So long as punishment can have a corrective impact, then it is applicable. If it can't, then you simply cannot fit into society and are likely to be shunned, exiled, or killed, whichever is deemed more appropriate in the circumstances.That is the rational side of punishment and really, the best way to arbitrate it. The only time deserves should come into question is if someone is doing a bad thing, but is unaware of it and capable of being made aware of it. Then it makes sense to hold them responsible, but if they are indeed not a bad person, they will want to try and make whole the damage they did if at all possible. Here, since no correction is needed, no punishment is really needed. Its a situation where mercy is called for.
@kyrothehero Thanks. Your opening paragraph was the best and clearest explanation I've heard so far. I absorbed the first paragraph for about a half-hour before I read the second paragraph. About 12 hours later I just read the final five paragraphs. So, initially I was thinking what if I can find just one...just one...example where a current action or decision wasn't based on previous actions. I haven't given up quite yet, but so far I would agree most...possibly even all actions are based on previous actions. I see that point. Do you smell a butt? My but is...humans may not have free will in the sense their actions are based on previous events, but we DO HAVE FREE WILL on HOW we respond or react to previous events. Unlike a planet orbiting the Sun, that planet has no free will to move closer to the Sun nor farther away too warm itself or cool off. Clearly humans have choices. If Ug is too far away from the campfire he will move closer....of course, you'll say he has no choice, no free will...but Uma may move a little closer or a little farther away because she prefers a slightly cooler or slightly warmer temperature (an example of free will). If there were NO FREE WILL, wouldn't everyone stand the exact same distance away from a campfire. So, the free will comes in...again...on how we respond. I watched a movie today on D-Day, and I agree with you the invasion was based on previous actions of the Nazis invading and occupying France. That action was based on previous Nazi actions, but the allies had the free will to decide how - in this case, namely, to decide where and when to invade. If their decision was pre-determined because there is ABSOLUTELY NO FREE WILL, the Germans would have known where and when D-Day would occur. And they would have completely annihilated the allies. I am sincerely interested in your response.
Also, although I really liked your opening paragraph, I have trouble with your last paragraph. "But since we can't control that starting event (if we could, that would bring back the infinite regress problem), we can't control any of the decisions that followed from it. Therefore, we can't control our ultimate action either." Tell me if I'm misinterpreting it, but to me it means since we can't control the past (and I agree), ergo, we can't control the future.
@kyrothehero I actually agree with this point. Of course this means that when we do punish people we ought to focus on the effect of the punishment, and also how to prevent situations where we should punish people in the first place.
@dorothy8532 There's a difference between the epistemological problem of free will and the metaphysical problem of free will. The metaphysical problem states that all events in the universe are predetermined. The epistemological problem goes further and says that we inside the universe can know the predetermined events. The epistemological problem (I believe) is false (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSfXdNIolQA). And so the Germans are not guaranteed to know.
@kyrothehero Ok, I think I got your full idea. Thanks. Still trying to decide whether I agree...but what would be helpful is - I think you wrote briefly that you never claimed that events were pre-determined. Is my memory correct on that? If so, please explain how there is no free will, but events or actions are not pre-determined.
@kyrothehero As I mentioned before I really liked your summary of no free will. But, I'm not impressed about your explanation about "how there is no free will, but events or actions are not pre-determined." In your words, "imagine that there is a coin inside your brain. Every time you make a decision, the coin is flipped to produce a truly random (not predetermined) result of either heads or tails, and the decision you make is based on that coin flip. Would you call yourself free?" I just can't buy that the way I think, the way you think or the way everyone else things is nothing more than a flip of a coin. I'm just not sold on that analogy at all. Do you have a better analogy, or another way to explain it?
This may be getting too deep into the weeds, but are you suggesting COLLECTIVELY we flip a coin inside our heads, and those collective results are random events? In the sense that 499 people will decide one way and 501 people will decide the other way? If not, just ignore this particular post.