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?
They don't "deserve" to be punished, but we should still punish them for other reasons, e.g., deterrence and incapacitation.
@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.
@dorothy8532 you are correct. You can find two debates on QallOut where I argue against free will, most recently with mani_bharathy.
@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.
@dorothy8532 If the universe is deterministic in the sense that every event is caused by some combination of prior events, then we don't have free will because our actions are also determined by some combination of prior events, and therefore we can't control them.What is the alternative to cause and effect? Well, the only thing that can be uncaused is a truly random event. Many scientists think that quantum particles behave this way. There are many possible outcomes to quantum events, and they are not caused by prior events. Instead, there are many possibilities, and the probability that any given possibility will occur is given by a mathematical function.So let's assume that our brains make decisions using quantum randomness. Do we control quantum randomness? By definition we can't control the outcomes of random quantum events, because if we could then they wouldn't be random.Maybe we don't control the outcomes of the random events, but rather when they do and don't occur. Unfortunately that doesn't help, because if we controlled when the random events occur, then we would have to make a decision to cause the random event to happen. Instead of solving the problem of how we make decisions, we've just pushed it back a step.Therefore, even if we can control when random events occur, we still couldn't say that we control our original decision because now we have the meta-decision to account for: the decision to use or not use a random event to make a decision.We can't keep adding on new layers of decisions infinitely; there has to be a starting event that began the chain of decisions, whether the chain is of one decision or a thousand decisions leading to one action.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.Thus there is no free will.
@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.
@dorothy8532 My argument doesn't end with "our actions are somewhat based on previous events"; if it did, your rebuttal would be totally correct and completely refute my argument.My argument is more than that. I am arguing not only that our actions are influenced by previous events, but that we cannot control how we respond to those previous events. I won't repeat everything that I said, but basically, my point is that for any combination of previous events and random outcomes that we are given, there is only one possible way that we can respond.I'll use your campfire scenario as an example. "Uma may move a little closer or a little farther away because she prefers a slightly cooler or slightly warmer temperature."I agree. But do you see the catch there? Uma may move closer or farther away BECAUSE she prefers a certain temperature. Why does she prefer a certain temperature? There could be many reasons: maybe she has more hair so she's naturally warmer, maybe her brother died of frostbite so she hates the cold, maybe warmth reminds her of her childhood. Even if we don't know the particular reason for her preference, we know that a reason exists. Does Uma control these reasons? No.At this point, you might say, "Maybe Uma has a reason for her preference, but she could just ignore her preference and make the opposite decision! Wouldn't that be free will?" Here's the problem:Let's say Uma prefers warmth because it reminds her of flowers in the summer, and she loves those flowers. Further, let's say Uma ignores her preference and moves away from the campfire. That decision, the decision to ignore her preference, has to have a reason for it, just as there has to be a reason for Uma preferring warmth. The reason could be that Uma is rebellious and wants to prove that she's in control, or it could be that Uma wants to prepare for the winter cold when she goes hunting. Once again, even if we don't know the particular reason, we know that a reason exists. Once again, does Uma control these reasons? No.We can play this game forever. Uma has a preference, she has a reason to ignore her preference, and then she has a reason to ignore her reason to ignore her preference. We can keep adding layer upon layer upon layer. But the one thing we know is that the chain MUST END SOMEWHERE.The end of the chain has to be a reason for Uma's action. But it can't be in Uma's control, because if it were, then Uma would have to make a decision to have that reason, and that decision would itself require a reason: all we did is add another link to the chain. So we see that ultimately, no matter how hard Uma tries to control her actions, the root of all of her decisions is an event that she cannot control. If the root is out of Uma's control, and her decision is based on that root, then her decision is out of her control.It's not really a matter of future and past events, but of decisions and the reasons behind those decisions.You also say that "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."My first response is that I'm not saying everything is PRE-determined. Since scientists think that true randomness exists in the world, we know that the universe isn't predetermined. Germany can't predict the outcome of a truly random event, so if anything random affected the Allies' decision, then Germany wouldn't know what their decision was.However, the bigger problem is that Germany has limited information. In order to know where and when D-Day would occur, they would have to know every single thing that influenced the decision of the Allied generals: what they ate for breakfast, how long it took for them to fall asleep, whether or not a fly happened to buzz around their head. Since Germany doesn't know these things, it can't tell what the decision of the Allies will be.
@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.
@dorothy8532 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?In my earlier post, I explained that every decision must be based on something that you don't control. One of the things that you don't control could be a truly random event. Such an event occurs in the brain, and its outcome (which is necessarily uncontrollable, because it's random) leads you to a certain decision.Therefore, even with true randomness in the world, you still have no control over your actions; the cause simply moved from prior events to random events.
@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.
@dorothy8532 "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."My point wasn't that your decisions are directly decided by coin flips in the way that I described in the analogy. My point is that the alternative to predestination is randomness, and randomness is not free.I think you'd agree that if our decisions were made in the way that I described in the analogy, they wouldn't be free. The way that our brains work is obviously more complicated than that, but it follows the same principles. Remember the argument I made earlier about chains of events leading to one decision? The same logic applies here.Let's say that randomness is one of the things that changes what we prefer/desire, or one of the things that changes which desires override other desires. It still doesn't make sense to think of randomness as free because we cannot control the outcome of random events. So while randomness does refute the idea of a predetermined universe, it has absolutely no effect on free will because true randomness is, by definition, uncontrollable. All that randomness (a lack of predestination) can possibly do is change your actions from being caused by prior events that you don't control to being caused by random events that you don't control.The purpose of the analogy was simply to point out that randomness is not free will.
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.