The free will fallacy
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16-07-2017, 04:43 AM
The free will fallacy
I've noticed a fallacy being made time and time again, even by very prominent debaters. No one ever seems to pull anyone else up on it. I'm naming it the "free will fallacy". Let's say free will means there is some genuine sort of agency available, rather than determinism or simply random chance. Or else, we're calling random chance agency and not considering it to be random for the sake of argument.

The fallacy appears in this kind of form:

"If (we discover) it's the case that we don't have free will, then we should/shouldn't [do X].”

This is a contradiction in terms. The language "should/shouldn't" implies some sort of choice; an imperative, a desirable path, or a moral obligation. It's suggesting that this argument should persuade someone to use some sort of free agency to change how they would have acted. But it's being stated quite clearly that this isn't possible, as a premise.

It would more correct to say, "If we discover that we don't have free will, then this may/will logically lead people to [do/not do X].”

Let me show you a common example that I see:

"If it's the case that we don't have free will, we shouldn't hold people accountable for their actions. We shouldn't put them in prison."

The contradiction here is that it's suggesting there is some group of judges who have the free will to make a genuine decision, presiding over people who don't have free will and as such are excluded from responsibility. But the judges are humans, just like the judged. So either they all have free will, or none of them do. And if they don't, "should" becomes meaningless.

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16-07-2017, 04:48 AM
RE: The free will fallacy
We always have to view our options and the consequences of making choices for our actions, so how can our will be free? Consider
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16-07-2017, 04:51 AM
RE: The free will fallacy
(16-07-2017 04:48 AM)Gwaithmir Wrote:  We always have to view our options and the consequences of making choices for our actions, so how can our will be free? Consider

Quite so, yes. It's a really stupid name but we're kind of stuck with it now. "Free" implies we can do anything we want. Clearly, we can't. At best we can try to do anything we want. We will fail to do almost everything that we could even imagine trying, let alone the things we can't.

(Our own selves may cause us to fail, as you pointed out, or to stop us even considering certain actions.)

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16-07-2017, 05:05 AM
RE: The free will fallacy
(16-07-2017 04:48 AM)Gwaithmir Wrote:  We always have to view our options and the consequences of making choices for our actions, so how can our will be free? Consider

Because free will means the ability to choose, not the freedom to choose whatever we can imagine.

Google defines "free will" as "the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion."

We may think we are forced by necessity, but we can always kill ourselves instead. In other words, we have free will even when we only have two bad choices -- as long as we could choose something different.
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16-07-2017, 05:08 AM (This post was last modified: 16-07-2017 05:33 AM by Thoreauvian.)
RE: The free will fallacy
(16-07-2017 04:43 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  And if they don't, "should" becomes meaningless.

Yes, I've noticed that problem too. The fact that they are even debating the issue shows how free will actually works. Free will is a matter of what I call symbolic processing, as compared with strictly determined physical reactions.
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16-07-2017, 05:10 AM
RE: The free will fallacy
(16-07-2017 05:05 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(16-07-2017 04:48 AM)Gwaithmir Wrote:  We always have to view our options and the consequences of making choices for our actions, so how can our will be free? Consider

Because free will means the ability to choose, not the freedom to choose whatever we can imagine.

Google defines "free will" as "the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion."

We may think we are forced by necessity, but we can always kill ourselves instead. In other words, we have free will even when we only have two bad choices -- as long as we could choose something different.

> Interestingly, it was never explained to me that way in Catholic school. Huh
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16-07-2017, 05:12 AM
RE: The free will fallacy
(16-07-2017 05:10 AM)Gwaithmir Wrote:  > Interestingly, it was never explained to me that way in Catholic school. Huh

So how did the Catholics define free will? Perhaps the religious definition is why so many atheists oppose the idea.
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16-07-2017, 05:32 AM
RE: The free will fallacy
(16-07-2017 05:12 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(16-07-2017 05:10 AM)Gwaithmir Wrote:  > Interestingly, it was never explained to me that way in Catholic school. Huh

So how did the Catholics define free will? Perhaps the religious definition is why so many atheists oppose the idea.

> If I remember my indoctrination classes correctly, free will is defined as the power of the will to determine itself and to act of itself, without compulsion from within or coercion from without.

> This is, or course, impossible. If our decisions are the results of intelligence and rational thinking, we must consider our options, motivations and consequences before making them. This, of necessity, involves compulsion from within and coercion from without. Consider
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16-07-2017, 05:37 AM
RE: The free will fallacy
(16-07-2017 05:32 AM)Gwaithmir Wrote:  > If I remember my indoctrination classes correctly, free will is defined as the power of the will to determine itself and to act of itself, without compulsion from within or coercion from without.

> This is, or course, impossible. If our decisions are the results of intelligence and rational thinking, we must consider our options, motivations and consequences before making them. This, of necessity, involves compulsion from within and coercion from without. Consider

Yeah, that definition doesn't really work. It is also highly ironic, given the history of Catholic indoctrination.
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16-07-2017, 08:17 AM
RE: The free will fallacy
Lol yeah. Can't have children deciding for themselves what's real and what's not.

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