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6: FEB 8


  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 1. Freedom Evolves. (15)

Tracking Possibilities

  • Some possibilities in our research so far:
  • Free will is real, but not what we thought it was.
  • not dependent on question of determinism (compatibilists, Dennett)
  • has pragmatic reality (Sie)
  • Free will is an illusion
  • A bad one (Waller, Blackmore)
  • A necessary one (Optimist illusionists)
  • Why is FW an illusion?
  • based on bad metaphysics
  • the effect of the Church's "marriage and family plan" (Henrich)
  • cognitive illusion like consciousness.
  • Agency is real, FW is a culturally specific version of it.

Some notes on Susan Blackmore's, "Living without FW"

  • 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.
  • "Rejecting the Illusion" -
  • 166: "sitting by the fire" example
  • William James - getting out of bed on cold morning
  • Blackmore 167: going out on a cold night.
  • 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.

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 1. Freedom Evolves

  • Chapter 1: Natural Freedom
  • Giorelli quote.
  • introduces evo perspective on consciousness. Goal of book to show that our responsibility and control do not lie in a soul, but this does not lead to the view the "Nothing matters" or "we don't have fw".
  • 2: "Not a single one of the cells that compose you knows who you are, or cares."
  • 3: mini-evo history - eventually organisms that "know" (where supper is, for example). then language, then growth of self-knowledge: we are mammals, we evolved, etc.
  • I am who I am
  • story of guy who leaves his child in a hot car. OMG, Could I do that?
  • historically, we have thought that the question of whether life has a point is threatened by determinism. So, the Epicurean "swerve" or quantum "indeterminacy". James' "How can I have any character that will stand still long enough for praise or blame to be awarded?" (Dennett wants to answer this rhetorical question.)
  • The Air we Breathe
  • The traditional problem of free will is a distractor. 10: We think of FW as a "background conditon" (like math and physics), but it evolved, it is our "conceptual atmosphere" (evolved like the atmosphere). Neither are guaranteed to exist.
  • 11: illusionists: Whether you believe you have FW or not, you would (if you were the dad who left his kid in the car) have something to regret. Even illusionists can't help caring.
  • 13: Summary of theses in the book. Read
  • Dumbo's Magic Feather and the Perils of Paulina
  • 14: story of Dumbo the elephant the feather that makes him believe he can fly. Origin of "Stop that crow!" (don't spoil the illusion or Dumbo won't be able to fly). Two points: he's a bit like the crow you would want to stop and free will isn't really because you believe in it. (So no need to "Stop that crow!")
  • 15: naturalism introduced; philosophy in partnership with science, philosopher's job to build integrative theories. Tom Wolfe's anti-science take is wrong.
  • story of Paulina Essunger - AIDs example, but similar to public health issues with the virus. What is the truth about an AIDs cure had a bad public health effect because people let their guard down? Similar to the "Stop that Crow!" crowd that includes some biologists (Lewontin) and religious thinkers. (Really, he's just complaining about the public rhetoric of debates about naturalism.) example: Wright saying that Csness=brain states "means" "Csness doesn't exist".