APR 27

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29: APR 27


  • Susan Blackmore, "Living Without Free Will"

Debriefing on PP1: What do we owe strangers?

  • Favorable distribution overall (high percentage of A/A-, high prompt attention), though I felt I had to anchor on B-.
  • Some patterns in the distribution.
  • There have been some instances of incongruous results between SW1-2 and PP1. I am particularly interested in those cases so please come forward to discuss.
  • Focusing on PP2: FW, MR, and Punishment Postion Paper
  • Follow the template. Select from course resources (and other sources, if you wish) to develop your position. Note italicized part of the prompt. Doing this should guarantee a B or better.
  • Please read successful papers from PP1 and note writing, organization, and thesis clarity.

Blackmore - Living Without Free Will

  • Thesis: Free will is an unnecessary illusion that you might be better off getting over. SB grants that many find this an impossible view.
  • Cites Wegner (2002): research suggesting that the feeling of agency ("I did it!") might be "post-hoc" attribution.
  • Blackmore agrees with Dennett's analysis (but thinks his book should be called "Choice Evolves"), but thinks FW is an illusion.
  • She considers two possibilities: "Living 'as if'" and "Rejecting the Illusion" - favors the latter.
  • Living "as if"
  • Wegner quote: "virtual agency" is part of a useful mental accounting system. But virtual agency is an illusion created by our brains.
  • Patricia Churchland: It's a "user illusion" that you make an uninfluenced, self-conscious choice.
  • "Illusionism" can be defended. If you believe bad consequences follow from giving it up....
  • Criminal Justice system would be fairer without the illusion of FW. No retribution.
  • Stronger position: You can't get rid of the illusion even if you wanted to. "I'm determined to believe in FW."
  • "Rejecting the Illusion" -
  • 166: "sitting by the fire" example
  • William James - getting out of bed on cold morning. Analyze that feeling of "indecision".
  • Blackmore 167: going out on a cold night. "...not because "i" made the decision of my own free will. It is because this is the decision that the whole universe came up with for this person under those circumstances."
  • Thought experiment to her students: "But if I don't have free will why would I get up in the morning? Why would I do anything?" Go ahead try it!
  • Blackmore thinks of consciousness more as events than a place in your head where things "enter into conscious awareness". Likewise, maybe, with free will. [Possible criticism: Just because it would be mistaken to believe in the homunculus, it doesn't mean that there are no neural processes that imitate some of it's less exotic functions (like updating us by making this conscious to us - "Oh right, I have a paper to write.").
169: Some of the exercises she asks her students to do. "Am I conscious now?" Sometimes primes them to be more conscious. (related to mindfulness).
  • Morality and Responsibility
  • You might think that you would have more regrets giving up FW, but no.
  • Wegner: knowing its an illusion gives him a sense of peace. quote 171.
  • Conversation with her Dad. Maybe FW (or belief in it) makes us "want to be good" (recall Henrich)
  • SB's point: All of your motivations to be good (self-interest, reputation, altruism) will still be there after you give up FW.
  • Paying Attention
  • In meditation, a great deal of "quieting the mind" is about getting the self to shut up so you can pay attention to the mind.