Free Will: An Examination of Human Freedom Free Will: An Examination of Human Freedom

Free Will: An Examination of Human Freedom

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Publisher Description

Do we have free will?
Not many questions can excite people more than this one, and for good reasons. Our ideas about our own freedom influence some of the most important aspects of our lives, from our political decisions and legal practices to our personal motivations, choices, and actions.

The goal of this short book is to address the problem of free will. This goal is not pursued by reciting the history of the problem of free will, nor by referring to the contemporary debate over it. Instead, it is pursued by approaching the problem directly and analytically — by defining a variety of freedoms that are often conflated. This lays the foundation for a clear discussion that arrives at unambiguous conclusions about human freedom.

This revised edition contains a new afterword that discusses the contemporary debate over free will. It exposes some of the most common points of confusion in this debate, and takes a look at the respective views of Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris.

From the conclusion of the book:

Can we make choices?
Yes, we both can and do make choices. We can consider different possible actions and pick one among them, and this process is a complex physical process that takes place in our brain. It is true that we are caused to make the choices that we make by prior causes beyond our own control, but this does not mean that we do not make choices, nor that we have no good reason to make good choices, which we do, since our choices indeed do have an influence in the world.

Can we be said to be free in any way if our actions are caused by prior causes beyond our own control?
Yes. We can be said to be free in the sense that we, at least to some degree, can act freely, as in unconstrained within a certain range of possible actions, according to our own intentions. This is the freedom we by definition want to have, and it is a freedom that we can increase, since the range of actions we can perform can be expanded. Furthermore, we can also be said to have a certain freedom of intention, in that our intentions are not narrowly constrained by our genes. We are uniquely free in these ways, not because we are non-mechanistic and uncaused, but rather because of our mechanistic nature and the way in which we cause actions to happen.

Can we meaningfully reward and punish people for their actions?
Yes. Reward and punishment are practices that have an impact on the way we act, and it thus makes sense to reward and punish people. Punishment, reward, and other kinds of incentives are therefore not undermined by the knowledge that we are caused to act by prior unchosen causes. Indeed, a better understanding of how we are caused to act will likely enable us to improve our practice of punishment and reward.

Can there be any morality if we do not perceive ourselves and other people to be unmoved movers?
Yes. We need not delude ourselves about what we are, nor about the causal origins of our actions, in order to create a better world. Quite the contrary.

GENRE
Non-Fiction
RELEASED
2012
21 October
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
45
Pages
PUBLISHER
Magnus Vinding
SIZE
105.5
KB

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