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If someone is forced to do something, but they do not realise that they are

If someone is forced to do something, but they do not realise that they are being forced, and believe that they are acting freely, are they being forced or are they free?

You likely have in mind something we might call "covert coercion." I might hypnotize you to vote for McCain-Palin but do it in such a way that you feel like you really want to vote for them (and if I ask you why, you'll come up with lots of reasons--they're "mavericky!" Assume you would otherwise have voted for Obama). Or maybe Professor Black gives you a sleeping pill and while you're down he does futuristic brain surgery on you to make you feel like you really want to divorce your spouse (whom Black wants to seduce) and you do it. It's very scary to think that you could be manipulated not only to leave your lover but to feel like doing so (to fall out of love), and some might argue that this is simply impossible. But we know that people change their minds (and change how they feel), so these processes just seem to be doing it faster and in a different way.

The difficulty then is figuring out how these types of manipulation, which seem like they make you unfree (and not responsible for what you do), are different from, on the one hand, slower processes that you may be aware of, such as someone offering your arguments that convince you to vote for McCain, and on the other hand, the general processes that lead you to believe what you do and feel what you feel, processes that ultimately are beyond your control. Indeed, some philosophers argue that covert coercion or manipulation is no different in principle from determinism (or, what is different, complete causation of everything that happens, including our thoughts and feelings). Hence, they think that if everything that happens is determined (or completely caused by events in the past and the laws of nature), we do not have free will.

I think these arguments are mistaken, but it is very hard to see exactly why. That is, I think that agents manipulated in these ways lack free will (to answer your question) and I think that determinism or complete causation need not rule out free will. What these cases clearly suggest to me is that free will requires that we somehow "participate in" the process of coming to think, feel, and choose as we do, that we are conscious of some of the forces influencing us (such as people offering us arguments and our considering their merits) and our being aware of what's going on has a causal influence on how we turn out (but this does not require that determinism is false or that we are somehow--impossibly--outside of the causal stream).

I hope this helps!

Can we blame someone for making irrational choices during emotionally intense

Can we blame someone for making irrational choices during emotionally intense situations? Suppose that John was deeply in love with Joyce while Joyce is really using John for his money. It's obvious to all of John's friends, he is being used but he won't listen to reason. Is John to blame or is it his biological makeup to blame (or his environment) ? One can say that there are plenty of people who are able to snap out of these types of situation so why can't John, but I don't think it's that simple.

Try this out: We cannot blame John morally for the particular behaviours he exhibits while under the spell of the lovely Joyce; after all, he is not in control of himself. Nor can we blame John morally for being the kind of person who -- because of his 'biological makeup' -- is prey for Joyces. However, we CAN blame John for being the kind of person who falls heavily for unsuitable Joyces, IF we believe that the cultivation of the kind of person we are is in some measure in our control and the object of particular trends in our choices. John should have learned from his mistakes with the last Joyce; John should understand his own weaknesses and find ways to compensate for them, perhaps seeking counselling; John should learn to trust his friends advice; John should learn to read people; John should get out more. It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask these things of John's character, in general. Although, first, we have to get rid of Joyce.

I've been reading some philosophy stuff and I noticed that philosophers

I've been reading some philosophy stuff and I noticed that philosophers sometimes make a difference between "causing" and "bringing about". But I really can't understand what that difference is. My English dictionary says those verbs are synonyms. Could you help me?

I am not aware of a conventional way in which philosophers standardly draw this distinction. However, if a particular author distinguishes between "causing" and "bringing about", she might have in mind any one of several possible distinctions. Here are three candidates:

(i) causing versus being part of the causal background: The alarm clock's ringing causes me to awaken. That I am not deaf, that I was asleep to begin with, that there was air to conduct the sound from the alarm bell to my ear, etc., were all needed for me to awaken; without them, I would not have awakened when the alarm clock rang. So they, too, are causes -- at least, broadly speaking. But we might well want to privilege the alarm clock's ringing from among all of the other, background causes, and say that it was the alarm clock's ringing that brought about my awakening.

(ii) causing versus preventing a potential preventer. Dick, pilot of a bomber, bombs a city. His actions cause the city to be bombed. Jane, pilot of a fighter, shoots down an enemy plane that would otherwise have shot down Dick before Dick could have released his bomb. Jane, then, is also causally responsible for the bombing, broadly speaking. But we might want to distinguish Jane, who prevented a potential preventer of the bombing, from Dick, who actually dropped the bomb.

(iii) causing (intentionally) versus merely bringing about (which might be unintentional): A physician, intending to help a sick patient, gives the patient a drug. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the physician, the patient is allergic to the drug and dies as a result of the reaction coupled with the original illness. Let's even say that no physicians at the time knew that anyone was allergic to the drug; the given physician was not negligent in prescribing the medication. We could even stipulate that there was no other available course of treatment. Under these circumstances, we might be reluctant to say that the physician caused the patient to die; that might suggest that the physician deliberately brought about the patient's death or was somehow negligent. Rather, the physician brought about the patient's death, but inadvertently and without negligence.

There are a host of other subtle distinctions in the neighborhood as well. But these are the three that most readily come to mind.

Asked "do you believe in the faith you follow through choice?" I would expect

Asked "do you believe in the faith you follow through choice?" I would expect most respondents would answer "yes", yet this is clearly not the case and is largely true only for people who have converted from one faith to another. A child growing up in Belfast with Protestant parents, Protestant grand-parents and Protestant great-grand-parents is going to be Protestant. A child growing up in Italy is 90% certain to be Catholic, a child born and raised in N.E. Thailand is 97% certain to be Buddhist etc etc. Where does the choice come in? Surely for anyone who doesn't question belief in God, the God they follow is down not to choice but to geography - does this not make a mockery of belief?

Interestingly, one of the more well-known statements of your premise -- that belief in most cases is a matter of accidents of birth and circumstance -- was offered by a well-known defender of religion, the British philosopher John Hick. But we'll get to that.

Most people don't think very hard about their religious beliefs. And when we get to the level of specifics (that Jesus was God incarnate, that the Koran was delivered to Mohammed by an Angel, that the Amida Buddha built the Western Paradise...), it's guaranteed that most people are wrong, because there are no majority beliefs at this level of detail. But what to make of this is harder to say.

After all, something like both of these points (beliefs held by custom and habit and no majority view in any case) may be true for political beliefs, and for views on certain controversial ethical matters. It's likely true even for certain sorts of scientific beliefs, and ceretainly for various broad background "philosophical" or "metaphysical" commitments. So the first point is that it may be a bit harder than it seems to single religion out. But there are a couple of other points.

Even if my commitment to liberal democray, or libertarianism, or communism or socialism or whatnot isn't well-thought-out, it doesn't follow that such commitments are rotten by nature. After all, some people hold their views thoughtfully. And this goes for religious views as much as for any other sort. But we can add that there are many ways of holding religious beliefs. There are plenty of believers who realize that they really don't know a lot about ultimate things. The specifics of their traditions give them ways of conducting their religious lives, and that could be valuable for a variety of reasons, not all of which have to do with getting the details right. Hick, by the way, thinks that religious views are partial attempts to grasp a reality that we can't fully grasp, but that many religious traditions can put people in touch with ultimate reality, even if the believer's account of the matter is confused. (Compare: I don't need to understand the active ingredients in the medicine I've been given for it to do its job.)

All this is consistent with thinking that there's far too much thoughtless religion in the world, and that fair bit of evil that can be traced to unthinking but zealous acceptance of bad dogma. For all that, however, the fact remains: it's not quite as easy as it seems to dismiss religious belief by the sort of argument you offer.

It seems to me that people are strangely concerned that determinism means that

It seems to me that people are strangely concerned that determinism means that they don't have free will. Could you explain why this view is common? Even if a decision is a result how the universe was before they made someone makes their decision, part of the universe was them. So if they are the person who wanted to make the decision, how can they believe that they didn't have a choice. They did have a choice, they just made the one they wanted, because they didn't want the other choice. In short, why is determinism seen as so incompatible with free will?

I think this is a very interesting question, one that has inspired some of my recent research. It has been said that it is just obvious that determinism rules out free will. Here is Robert Kane:

In my experience, most ordinary persons start out as natural incompatibilists. They believe there is some kind of conflict between freedom and determinism; and the idea that freedom and responsibility might be compatible with determinism looks to them at first like a ‘quagmire of evasion’ (William James) or ‘a wretched subterfuge’ (Immanuel Kant). Ordinary persons have to be talked out of this natural incompatibilism by the clever arguments of philosophers. (1999: 217)

Like you, I have been curious why philosophers have taken incompatibilism to be the commonsense view. So, the first thing I did, along with my co-authors, was to test whether non-philosophers actually take determinism to rule out free will and moral responsibility. Our studies suggested that most people (between 2/3 and 3/4) do not think they are incompatible. Here is a paper discussing the motivation for these studies, the results, and the implications:

Assuming it is not so intuitive that determinism rules out free will, the next question to ask is why has it been taken to be intuitive. I think your explanation for why determinism need not rule out free will also offers an explanation for why it seems to. My view is that many people interpret determinism to suggest a sort of reductionistic, mechanistic view that says the physical world pushes around our decisions and actions and makes our minds (our selves, our desires) irrelevant. If we start with some non-physicalist intuitions about our minds, then it's easy to think that a complete explanation at the physical level means there's nothing left for the non-physical mind to do. Hence, I think the free will question is motivated largely by the mind-body problem.

Having offered this error theory for incompatibilist intuitions, I should point out that the traditional way of motivating incompatibilism is this basic sort of argument (van Inwagen 1983):

If determinism is true, then everything that happens is a consequence of the state of the universe in the distant past and the laws of nature. But it's not up to us what happened in the distant past or the laws of nature. So nothing that happens is up to us.

There's a lot to say about this sort of argument and a lot of it has been said. But I think that whether free will is compatible with determinism depends on how one understands determinism and its consequences, as well as free will itself.

Can determinism be proven by reason alone? Or was it only discovered empirically

Can determinism be proven by reason alone? Or was it only discovered empirically?

It is not entirely straightforward to come up with a cogent statement of determinism. But perhaps something along the following lines will do: our world is a deterministic one if the laws of nature are such that, given the past and current state of the world, there is only one possible way its future state can evolve. If you prefer that in "possible world" talk, then the idea is that the actual laws are such that any other possible world which shares these same laws, and whose past and present duplicates that of the actual world, will also be a future duplicate.

Thus understood, the claim that our world is a deterministic one is a claim about the shape of the laws of nature governing the world. Do they, so to speak, uniquely fix what will happen next (given the past and current state of the world); or do they allow e.g. for irreducibly chancy events?

And that is surely an empirical question. We can't settle from the armchair whether (i) we live in a "classical" world where the laws make the world run like complicated clockwork, or (ii) we live in a "chancy" world where e.g. the laws governing fundamental particle interactions only settle the chances of various outcomes, or indeed (iii) whether the whole assumption that the world is totally subject to laws (whether classical or chancy) is badly wrong. We have to go and do the science.

"And whoever forces himself to love anybody begets a murderer in his own body."

"And whoever forces himself to love anybody begets a murderer in his own body." (D.H. Lawrence, 'Retort to Jesus'). Self-help books advise that we can fall in love with whom we chose, that we can choose to love, to re-ignite love, etc. What is your opinion?

My own brief answer is that we cannot choose to fall in love or to re-ignite love, but we can make choices that will make it more (or less) likely that we come to love someone or something. For instance, at a bare minimum, if you believe that it would be good for you to come to love someone, you need to choose to be around that person and engage with him/her; if you believe that it would be good for you to come to love watching soccer (perhaps because someone you love wants you to love watching soccer with him/her), then you need to choose to watch soccer, perhaps with that person trying to convince you what is so wonderful about it (trust me, you will come to love it!). But once you actively engage with the person or activity, it seems to me that you cannot control whether you come to have the feelings of love towards them--figuring out what those feelings are is another philosophical/psychological issue.

But I think you will find better answers than mine if you look at Eric Schwitzgebel's recent blog post on conjugal love here

or read some of Harry Frankfurt's wonderful essays on love, such as this one.

If I had a device that could manipulate people's wants (like make them want to

If I had a device that could manipulate people's wants (like make them want to give me free money for no reason) would that take away their free will?

A footnote to Eddy Nahmias's very helpful answer. What should we learn from all the complexities of the debates which he touches on?

We could say: The ins and outs of the debates just go to show that our concept of "free will" is a very complicated and sophisticated one, although one of which it is difficult to command a clear view. We need to do more careful analytic work to explore how this pivotally important concept works.

But another line is: We can now begin to see that talk of "free will" muddles together quite a variety of different things we might care about (such as the capacity to act on our desires, the capacity for self-control, having desires we reflectively identify with, absence of interference by others, etc.). There isn't a unitary concept here, and undifferentiated talk of "free will" isn't very helpful.

Some of us incline to the second line, taking our cue from e.g. Daniel Dennett's provoking and characteristically very readable 1984 book, Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting.

I am a very skilled amateur magician. As such I believe I hold a slightly better

I am a very skilled amateur magician. As such I believe I hold a slightly better understanding about perception, deception, belief, conviction, and the human thought process than the average man on the street. One aspect about humanity that continually amazes me is the sheer predictability of actions and the dearth of variation when it comes to responding to a given situation. Case in point: In the middle of presenting a card trick where a chosen playing card continually goes to MY pocket under increasingly strenuous conditions I make the off-handed comment "One time I did this trick and I applied a little too much pressure and the card invisibly shot out and ended up in some other guy's pocket...". 9 times out of 10 after I am done with the initial sequences the spectator I am engaging will challenge me to make the card go to HIS pocket. Needless to say I have already secreted the card to his pocket using technical machinations much, much earlier. To the spectator the challenge was a random one; to me it...

The fact that our actions are predictable as such or by itself hasno tendency to imply that they are unfree or that they are determinedor not freely chosen. I can predict that I will continue to work on myhouse yet again today, but that is because I very much enjoy it, andthe action's predictibility does not somehow frustrate its freeness.Many people are predictably kind, say, but that does not mean thattheir kind actions are not less free and praiseworthy. There may ofcourse be others who are naturally kind, but even they, it seems to me,can well be thought of as free and as deserving praise for their moralquality. It is not the absolute predictability of the motions of theplanets which makes us suspect that they are not free agents, but thefact that we know that they are great balls of rock or magma orsomething. (The philosophical discussion of "compatibilism" over the last hundred years is very helpful here.)

Ithink of culture as a very natural but very human attemptto find or create something good and interesting where it was notbefore. Architecture is an example of a bit of practical culture whichis not just about concealing the long dull littleness of life. It is rather aboutmaking something attractive and humanly satisfying. (I am not sure howidentity comes in here.) But your lastremark does seem to be a bit of what I believe magicians callmis-direction. Is that the right word? Again, predictabiliy is not thesame as dullness. A child's life can be utterly predictable and yetvery exciting. Adults tend to lose their edge. Good domesticarchitecture helps us to remember and restore ourselves. Beaver cultureis not an attempt to escape dullness, but a creation of a pleasantenvironment for the beavers which also helps them find food. Forexample, the bark on the trees in the beaver pond becomes soft andedible, and there are other most things to eat in the pond.

There are fairly obvious reasons that preventing someone from achieving their

There are fairly obvious reasons that preventing someone from achieving their desires is immoral. But is it also immoral to influence just what those desires are (e.g., through advertising)? Do we have rights, not only to pursue our goals, but to have goals which are autonomous (so to speak) from external influences?

Perhaps you're thinking that frustrating someone's desires harms them or makes them worse off and is, therefore, always objectionable. Even if that were true, many would think that we should care not just about people's welfare but also about how we treat them. For instance, many would claim that we have a duty to respect others and that part of respecting them is treating them as autonomous agents capable of making their own decisions on most matters. But then manipulating the way others form their preferences in ways that bypass their agency fails to treat them as autonomous and so fails to show proper respect for them. So we might think that we should care not just about other people being able to satisfy their preferences but also that their preferences were formed in the right sort of ways.

Indeed, I'm not sure that preference satisfaction, per se, is important, in part because I doubt that preference satisfaction, per se, contributes to anyone's welfare. I don't think that we should be concerned about preference satisfaction independently of the content of the preferences and the conditions under which they were formed. If Jones only desires to collect lint, I'm not sure I have much reason to care about the satisfaction of her desires. Or if Jones only wants to become a hockey player, because she's been brainwashed by the Toronto Maple Leafs to have this desire, then I'm not sure I should be especially concerned to satisfy it. But then someone like me might think that there is actually more reason to be concerned about whether a person's preferences have been properly formed than with whether their preferences have been satisfied or not, or, more accurately, that our reasons to be concerned about whether someone's preferences have been satisfied depend, in part, on the conditions under which they were formed.