If scientists can, in principle, predict what you will do next, do you still have free will? Are you still morally responsible for what you do? Leslie Allan's essay takes a new look at these age-old questions and comes up with a surprising answer. Do you agree with his conclusions? Tell us what you think.
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Thanks for your comments, Marvin. Regarding the term "counterfactual", it is used to delineate a particular kind of conditional statement. Counterfactual conditionals are of the form:
If it had been the case that A, then B.
where A (the antecedent) is false.
So, it would be a mistake to relabel the type "counterfactual conditional" to "false conditional" because many counterfactual conditionals are in fact true. Here is an example:
If it had been the case that John had married June, John would be a spouse.
Behind the "philo-techno-speak", counterfactual conditionals, as a form of subjunctive conditional, are well known to grammarians.
I relate the ordinary uses of "could have done otherwise" to counterfactual conditionals towards the end of Sec. 7.2 of my essay. Even that "one special case, where we somehow reset time and return to a prior point where we are internally reset and all external reality is reset", does not upset my analysis, even though turning the clock back "never can happen in reality".
Using my ordinary language analysis, it's not the case that bringing in Laplace's demon, for example, "breaks the process". There is no magic or sleight of hand with my analysis. Unlike the hard determinists' bait and switch, where they swap in a different meaning of "free will" to the one we ordinarily use in common parlance and the law courts. I trust this helps a bit.49w
Ah! The "If it had been the case that John had married June, John would be a spouse" example is very helpful! The statement remains true (if a then b), even though the condition in John's case is false (John never did marry, so he was never a spouse).
And you did an excellent job explaining the ordinary usage of the term "free will". There are many studies, like those reported by Dr Eddy Nahmias, that back up your assessment, like http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027714001462 .49w
Thanks Marvin. I've reviewed earlier Nahmias studies and ones done by other researchers. I hadn't read this one. If you find a public domain copy, please let me know. I'm very interested to read it.
Here is a discussion by Nahmias of his recent paper emphasizing the view I advance in my own paper: that commoners don't have the metaphysical baggage that incompatibilists say they have and that incompatibilists bring in their own metaphysical presuppositions. I argue for this by analyzing the way people actually talk about free will and by philosophical analysis. Nahmias et als paper seems to back this up with psychological research. > http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2015/02/obamas-brain-and-free-will.html48w
- rationalrealm.com - Psychological Research on Free Will Intuitions: A Critical Review by Leslie Allan Thanks again for pointing me to a very interesting and useful study.Hi Marvin. I've now written a review of the Nahmias et al 2014 study you kindly pointed me to and included a review of three other key studies on folk intuitions of free will. You can find my review at45w
- Thanks for the heads up. I'm looking forward to reading your post. You do a great job.45w