SIO11: Do We Have Free Will? with Aaron

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Today I have philosopher Aaron on to discuss free will. I’ve been wanting to revisit the topic for quite a while now, ever since the debate between Sam Harris and Dan Dennett that I covered in detail at the time. Today’s show is exploring an anti-compatibilist position, and I’m hoping a future show will explore the compatibilist one! (if you’re a philosopher who believes free will exists, please contact us using the links below to potentially be on a future episode!) Aaron attempts to define free will in the way most amenable to compatibilist arguments, yet still believes he has good reason to doubt free will! Listen and see if you agree! If you like Aaron, make sure to check out his book here!

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11 Comments on "SIO11: Do We Have Free Will? with Aaron"

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St. Ralph
Guest

The thought that without free will there can be no self is very interesting. I, too, had not heard it put that way. I lot of “Eastern” mystic traditions go on about how there is no individual self, all selves are one, there is only the supreme self, etc., which is right next to there being no self. Hmmmmm . . .

St. Ralph
Guest

Tony Parsons talks about there being no self and no free will. Probably too woo for this crowd, but Aaron’s comment triggered a memory of Parsons (without warning I’m afraid). “The Wonder of Being, Munich 2008” DVD is his least wooiest conversation, though he is all over YouTube, for both nickels that it’s worth.

Kyle
Guest

I was typing my comment before I saw your’s. I don’t have the books nearby, but there’s a lot of psychological/sociological theorizing about the self as an illusion our brain creates. I can’t say I know where the empirical evidence ends and the inference and conceptualizing begins, but neuroscience tends to be referenced a lot.

Kirk Smith
Guest

Tor Nørretranders’ The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size is my personal favorite. It’s not certifiably academic (Nørretranders is a science writer), but it has a lot of interesting material.

Jon
Guest
Great episode! This is the kind of thing I subscribe to your podcast for. I’ve been 50/50 on the free will issue for a couple years now., and after this podcast I’m now firmly compatibilist. I’m in complete agreement with Aaron on just about every point of fact, but I differ when it comes to definitions. The definition of free will I think is easy- it’s the ability of the self to determine its actions. The tricky definition is what “self” means. Aaron seemed to be working with an almost religious definition of self that must be causally disconnected from… Read more »
St. Ralph
Guest

So, Thomas’s self acts freely and independent of him?

Jon
Guest

That’s a nonsense statement. Thomas’s self is him.

St. Ralph
Guest

I was hoping it was nonsense.

Kyle
Guest
On moral luck — Are we conflating the thing we base laws on with morality? It seems like regardless of whether our moral theorizing includes consequentialism, the law takes into account consequences, and potential consequences (e.g., it’s not legal to run a red light even if no one gets injured). As I understand the law, it does not adjudicate morally responsibility, but rather legal culpability. That’s not to say it can’t take into account complicated moral values (e.g., punishing a texting teen but not a woman in labor for running a red-light), but as far as I know, nobody has… Read more »
St. Ralph
Guest

You’re right about “. . . ascribing a moral dimension to” the thinking of “psychopaths/sociopaths.” The concepts of good and bad, hero and villain, justification and condemnation simply don’t cross the minds of some people.

A helpful thought that I’ve heard, is that narcissistic people don’t necessarily think of themselves as “good” (i.e., moral) but rather as “great” (i.e., important). That’s really scary, but probably very true.

Sean
Guest

Couldn’t you argue that most peoples decisions are based on mind control. You are indoctrinated by your parents into a belief system, you are brainwashed into a way of thinking by schools and other important figures in your life. If all everything contributes to who you are and what decisions you make then you are being controlled from birth.