The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Free will

I freely admit I don't care, but feel constrained to have something to link to when bowing out of arguments about

The unsatisfying semantic debate that no-one feels the need to have the correct vocabulary for.

I had a long argument with a drunk gentleman over dinner the other night. He was arguing that free will does not exist. I was arguing that the statement “free will does not exist” has no empirical content. Naturally, we did not come to an accommodation. I think he took me for a fool in thrall to hopeless idealism about possession of souls, and I took him for someone belatedly complaining about the consistency of 1st century metaphysics when scrutinized through a 17th century lense. I believe he was that.

This can also be confused for debates about Monism/Dualism in poor lighting conditions.

Free will is the freedom to choose to obey an arcane laundry list of bronze-age laws under threat of immolation. Free will helps us appreciate just how wonderful it is to not be on fire.

Lou Keep rants at slightly too much length:

the question isn’t actually asking what it thinks it’s asking… humans are rocks, which is why we have reason and free will.

Schopenhauer: Spinoza (Epist. 62) says that if a stone projected through the air had consciousness, it would imagine it was flying of its own will. I add merely that the stone would be right.

So, you know, nice quotes.

It gets interesting when we watch jurisprudence and responsibility collide. This is, IMO, the bit of “free will” I woudl lie to have drunkenly explained to me over dinner. Dan Hirschman recommends:

Check out the article for more, including Brandmayr’s analysis of how social scientific invocations of free-will vs. institutional constraint are themselves shaped by their positions in an antagonistic process. But mostly just check it out for the strange feeling of reading cultural anthropology and neuropsychology fight over whether seven scientists are culpable for the deaths of 306 earthquake victims.