NOV 30

From Alfino
Jump to navigationJump to search

25: NOV 30


  • Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (580-613) (Part Two 600-613)
  • Henrich, Joseph, "Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism" from The WEIRDEST People on Earth p. 146-148, (2)


  • Lecture: Does Having a view of Free Will help you think about Moral Responsibility?

Free Will, Cultural Evolution, and ordinary language

  • Sapolsky made short work of the problem of free will with his “biology or homunculus” approach.
  • Free Will and Moral Responsibility:
  • 1. Traditional View of Free Will from Dualist Tradition. Modern Version: Libertarian.
  • Examples of argument threads:
  • 1. The "incompatibilist intuition": If we do not have "metaphysically real" FW, then we cannot be held responsible. If the world is deterministic, then we do not have FW and cannot be MR. Because we are MR, we must have FW. (problems)
  • 2. If we have a soul, then maybe the choosy part of us isn't controlled by nature. ...
  • 3. Libertarian version: Kane's theory. Or, if it feels like we inaugurate causal chains, then maybe we do.
  • 2. Compatibilist and Contemporary Naturalist (Cultural Evolutionist) Approaches.
  • What we have, in normal circumstances is "agency." Agency is "an ability to act in the world and to make myself accountable to others." I do this by conforming my behavior to the idea of a "normally competent agent."
  • This sort of agency can have a completely naturalist account, especially if you include cultural evolution in your explanatory domain. The "normally competent agent" is also a product of culture. Since both nature and culture can be product of a deterministic universe, free will is compatible with determinism.
  • Some compatibilist want to keep moral responsibility talk, while others want
  • The View from Cultural Evolution
  • Is Free Will a culturally defined concept for understanding our agency?
  • Free will and MR as a cultural concept. Evidence from Henrich and others. Part of a cultural package that weakened kin bonds that might not have been seen as "choose-able". Promotes idea of choosing a creed or code of conduct.
  • If FW and MR are cultural adaptations, some questions might follow:
  • Does this conception of free will still serve us well, especially in light of new knowledge about human (mis)behavior?
  • Since we've "evolved" our ideas of hell and eternal damnation, shouldn't we "evolve" or ideas of MR and Punishment?
  • Sapolsky's example of biology in the leg fracture vs. other disorders. But different levels of biology: behavior and culture are involved in our thinking about responsibility.
  • How do we actually talk about Free Will? Ordinary language analysis to the rescue...
  • Ordinary language analysis -- We know what we mean by free will, whether it exists in libertarian form or not! Maybe it's a cultural artefact. Maybe we use mental modules related to Theory of Mind and governing "animate" objects.
  • To warm up your intuitions that FW is a cultural concept, consider how adept we are in understanding these sentences: "ordinary language analysis"
  • I may choose to take up painting as a hobby.
  • I cannot choose to become a concert violinists at this point in my life.
  • I can choose whether or not I get ready for class.
  • I have no choice, I have to turn you in to the police.
  • I can't choose not to love you, but I can't see you any more.
  • I've decided I don't love you any more. (aww...)

Small Group Discussion

  • You now have a range of reasonable choices for thinking about moral responsibility and free will. We've discussed the "MR and deserved punishment" view, the "Accountability and Penalties" view. While these line up roughly with traditional and naturalist views of free will, plenty of compatibilists believe in MR and punishment. We've considered MR from a cultural evolutionist perspective as well. Can you identify yourself among these choices?
  • Return to the Potter and Guyger cases. Does punishment or penalty talk work best in these cases?
  • Kimberly Potter - the police officer who meant to tase Duante Wright, but mistakenly grabbed her gun and killed him instead.
  • Amber Guyger - the police officer, off duty, who mistook her neighbor, Botham Jean, for an intruder and killed him.
  • More cases:
  • A man has a heart attack / epileptic attack while driving and kills a pedestrian. (Consider variations.)
  • A man is working two jobs to support a family, nods off at the wheel and kills a pedestrian.
  • A man knows his car is close to a dangerous malfunction. When it occurs, he loses control and kills a pedestrian.

Some Ways of Thinking about Just Punishment

  • Some options for Theories of Punishment
  • Retributive punishment / retributive deterrence. Requires very strong concept of MR and FW to be just. Retribution is justified by "moral desert". It can also involve "social exclusion" -- making it hard for offenders to vote or hold a job.
  • Utilitarian models of punishment: General principle: Reducing harm to public and offender.
  • Versions include: Public Health-Quarantine Model, Community welfare model (crime is a kind of welfare issue, also for communities), Rehabilitative approaches, Restorative justice. These models can overlap and tend to assume that crime has natural causes that can either be mitigated through preventative welfare measures (addressing poverty and homelessness, for example) or through rehabilitation, confinement, and/or monitoring. Does not require a strong position on FW or MR, but these approaches can trigger liberty objections. (Present discussion option here! Could you imagine a criminal insisting on being treated retributively? Maybe.)
  • Distinguishing retributive punishment from penalties. Punishment is about pain. Penalties (like speeding and parking tickets) might also hurt, but they can be justified on utilitarian grounds (fewer accidents, etc.).
  • Grounding punishment in the consent of the punished. "Thanks! I needed that!"
  • Try the "veil of ignorance" approach to finding just principles of punishment. (mention law review article)
  • We will be looking at how these models of punishment correlate with different political economies in Cavadino reading next time.

Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (Part Two)

  • Biology and neuroscience are explanatory, but not necessarily predictive of individual behaviors.
  • See notes for part two above, especially Sapolsky's Warning at the end of the chapter.

Henrich, Joseph, "Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism"

  • This excerpt from The WEIRDEST People in the World comes in the context of a section on "universal moralizing gods" which characterize the major world religions (though Buddhism requires some discussion). H's theory is that this cultural innovation in religions allows societies to grow, solving the problems associated with living with so many strangers, something our evolved psychology did not really prepare us for.
  • The three innovations of moralizing religions are:
  • contingent afterlife:
  • free will: encouraged follower to believe they could comply with moral code by acts of choice and will.
  • moral universalism:
  • The rest of the excerpt goes into evidence of the effects of each feature on social life. The research related to free will is at top of p. 148.
  • What consequences, if any, does this research have for our thinking about the modern problems of free will and moral responsibility?
  • 1. Cultural variants on ways of thinking about agency make (or made, in the past) real differences in social morality.
  • 2. Free will has its origins in psychological adaptations that allow us to live in large societies. But the concept seems to be at an extreme when it leads us to blame without desert.
  • 3. The philosopher's concern with the metaphysical problem of free will is hard to reconcile with the cultural utility of a belief in free will. If FW is cultural why do we care about it's metaphysical grounding? It's grounded in evolved human social behaviors (culture).
  • 4. When you tell your future kids "You can do it if you try. Don't let other people control your decisions. What do you want to do with your life?" you may really be motivating them to take up a particular set of values to approach challenges. But notice this is only valuable motivationally.