Can We Be Free-Willing Robots?

On the Possibility of Free Will in a Deterministic World

3. Why Does the Question of Free Will Matter?

Book cover: Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting by Daniel C. Dennett

If you think we don't have free will for one reason or another, tonight, I want to present to you some basic reasons for why we in fact do. If you subscribe to determinism and think on that basis we could not have done other than we do, I hope to show you that free will and determinism are not incompatible. If you are a libertarian and think that the fact that we have free will is a reason for rejecting the determinist's thesis, my talk tonight will attempt to show you that is not a good reason for rejecting determinism. I'm not going to argue for the truth of determinism tonight. That is not my aim. I will just say parenthetically that the truth for determinism, at least at the macro level of human beings, is evidenced from a number of areas of study. These include physics (e.g., Principle of conservation of energy), neuroscience, pharmacology, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, artificial intelligence and, should I say it, the philosophy of metaphysics.

Why is this question of free will important anyway? Isn't it just an intellectual word game played by philosophers with nothing better to do? Well, one significant impact is on how people see the justifiability of moral judgments. Many scientifically-minded determinists think that once we get over the illusion of free will, we will see that we also need to ditch the concept of moral responsibility. And this has impacts on how we praise and blame people for their actions, how we treat people in law courts and how we punish people in our penal systems. These hard determinists also want to bring about a wholesale change in the way we talk. They want us to give up what we take today as quite ordinary talk. Take a rather everyday, mundane expression, such as, 'I got a free choice on what uniform I wear to work'. Well, for these hard determinist language reformers, that's out the window.

Cartoon about free will and moral responsibility

Copyright © 2018

You will be interested in

Share This

  • twitter
  • facebook
  • linkedin
  • googleplus
  • gmail
  • delicious
  • reddit
  • digg
  • newsvine
  • posterous
  • friendfeed
  • googlebookmarks
  • yahoobookmarks
  • yahoobuzz
  • orkut
  • stumbleupon
  • diigo
  • mixx
  • technorati
  • netvibes
  • myspace
  • slashdot
  • blogger
  • tumblr
  • email
Short URL:
PDF Download Can We Be Free-Willing Robots?

Download this essay