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Gregg Caruso
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Please come join us at Cornell University, June 3-5, for the Justice Without Retribution Conference. Speakers include many contributors to this blog! If you plan on attended, please book your room at the Ithaca Hotel by May 2 to receive the discounted rate. Details are available here: Presenters: ​... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2016 at Flickers of Freedom
Ted Honderich has written extensively on determinism, freedom, and moral responsibility. Readers of this blog will likely be familiar with his work. I had the honor a few weeks back to speak at an event in London celebrating his work and career. The event was organized by the Royal Institute... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2016 at Flickers of Freedom
Here is a link to my review of Bruce Waller's new book--Restorative Free Will: Back to the Biological Base--over at NDPR. I thought I would share it here so others can comment if they like, either on the review itself or the book. Hopefully Bruce will have time to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2016 at Flickers of Freedom
Thought I would share this post at Psychology Today announcing the new Justice Without Retribution Network: Over the next few years, Elizabeth Shaw, Derk Pereboom, Farah Focquaert, and myself (Gregg Caruso) plan on organizing a number of conferences and events. The two conferences already scheduled--the first this June at... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Seeing as though this is a free month, I thought I would start things off by posting a draft of my paper on free will skepticism and criminal behavior. Since I will be using this paper as my Presidential Address to the SWPS, as well as presenting it at Cornell... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
My time as Featured Author has come to end. I would like to thank Thomas once again for being such a gracious host and for making Flickers one of the premier blogs on the web! I would also like to thank all those who took the time to participate this... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
In the comment thread to my last post, I sensed some confusion regarding the compatibilist position on basic desert moral responsibility. Perhaps this confusion is warranted, since not all compatibilists are clear on what they are defending. Are they defending a backwards-looking form of moral responsibility (what I’m calling basic... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
What would be the consequence of accepting free will skepticism? What if we came to disbelieve in free will and (basic desert) moral responsibility? What would this mean for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law? What would it do to our standing as human beings? Would it... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the phenomenology of free agency (or what is sometimes called the phenomenology of free will or first-person agency). Some great work has been done by Horgan et al. (2003), Nahmias et al. (2004), Bayne and Levy (2006), Kozuch and Nichols... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
I would now like to turn to another important, but often overlooked, aspect of the free will debate: the role of reference. Shaun Nichols, Manuel Vargas, and Oisín Deery have done some amazing work on this subject, and it’s Shaun’s article in my edited collection that got me thinking seriously... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
There is a very interesting conference coming up on Justice without Retribution, April 2-3 at the University of Aberdeen. I was asked to pass the information along (see the link below for details). Invited speakers include a number of Flickers contributors (including Derk Pereboom, Bruce Waller, Saul Smilansky, Ben Vilhauer,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
At the Central APA two weeks ago I took part in a session on Neil Levy’s excellent new book Consciousness and Moral Responsibility (2014). As some of you may know I also wrote a book on Free Will and Consciousness (2012) a couple years back. This topic interests me quite... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
I am honored to be this month’s Featured Author. While my whiskers are graying and my titles continue to change, I still like to consider myself a junior member of this great community. I have a great deal to learn from all of you and I am approaching this month... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Here is a link to my recent appearance on the podcast SpaceTimeMind. I'm not sure I say anything interesting (in fact, I'm pretty sure I don't) but I would definitely recommend giving some of their other episodes a listen. Pete Mandik and Richard Brown have a great show with a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2014 at Flickers of Freedom
Given the direction the conversation took with regard to my last post, I thought I would share an abstract for a paper I am currently working on. (Actually, the abstract has been accepted to a conference but I need to find some time to finish the paper.) Since I am... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2014 at Flickers of Freedom
I recently got around to reading Daniel Dennett's contribution to Methode’s issue on Free Will. In one of his answers he indicated a (possible) shift in his position on free will that I found interesting and I was wondering what the rest of you thought. I quote Dennett below, followed... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2014 at Flickers of Freedom
Fellow Flickers, I would like to announce the publication of Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (edited by yours truly). This collection of new essays explores the philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism and their implications. It includes original contributions by Susan Blackmore, Thomas W.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 24, 2013 at Flickers of Freedom
Thanks Thomas. I look forward to hearing more about your new findings!
I agree that when one makes a claim about the folk or ordinary conception of free will, one needs to do more than consult their armchair. That said, I believe it is unfair and way too premature for Nahmias (and I believe others) to claim that the empirical issue has already been settled. It should at least be acknowledged that there *are* experimental findings out there that also indicate that ordinary folk are committed to an essentially libertarian conception of free will. There are, for example, the findings of Shaun Nichols that indicate that ordinary folk believe that their choices are not determined and that we do not live in a deterministic universe; there are the findings of Deery et al. that found (with regard to phenomenology) that ordinary folk experience an ability to do otherwise and report that their experience was incompatible with determinism; there are the findings of Bryony Pierce that indicate that (as she puts it) “the folk concept of free will is libertarian – perhaps so libertarian it looks compatibilist, as my hypothesis is that folk participants reject the idea of determinism, even in principle, and give their responses without taking the deterministic nature of the scenarios properly into account”; there are also the findings of Sarkissian et al. (2010) and others. Of course, the apparently compatibilist findings of Nahmias and others should also be addressed, but one should not assume (or claim) that the issue is anywhere near settled yet! Personally, I tend to agree with Bryony Pierce when she writes in her recent 3:AM interview (posted here a week ago): “I am inclined to take the folk concept to be a libertarian concept of free will in which we are free to choose what to decide/how to act and the outcome of the decision-making process is not determined.” But even if I’m wrong about this, one should at least be willing to admit that the empirical findings thus far have been ambiguous! I also think compatibilists should be willing to admit the non-naturalistic tendencies of ordinary folk. Given that 92% of Americans believe in God, 4 in 10 believe in strict creationism, 80% believe in miracles, 85% believe in heaven, and 84% believe in the survival of the soul after death, I think it would be a big mistake to assume that ordinary folk are completely comfortable with a naturalistic account of agency! I personally think that if we are going to probe into the folk-psychological and folk-metaphysical commitments of ordinary people, we need to broaden the investigation beyond the narrow compatibility question. We should also ask: “Are ordinary folk dualists?” (BTW, hasn’t Paul Bloom provided some evidence that they are?); “Do ordinary folk view a naturalistic account of the mind as incompatible with free will?”; “Do ordinary folk view the universe as deterministic?”; Etc. If such investigations reveal what I believe they will reveal, then beating up on a libertarian conception of free will may not be as useless a task as Nahmias makes it out to be. That said, I think there are many shortcomings to Harris’ book. It clearly is directed toward the general public and as a result fails to address a number of substantive issues.
Hi Eddy, thanks for the snippet from your Sam Harris review but I’m not sure it addresses my original concern. What I was questioning was your interpretation of the Nahmias, Kvaran, and Coates studies. Isn’t it possible that ordinary folk are committed to a non-naturalist account of the mind and hence view neuroscientific descriptions of decision making as incompatible with free will but not mental descriptions? If so, what warrants your prediction that “a good naturalistic theory of the mind, including the conscious mind, will largely dissolve the free will problem”? Perhaps when neuroscience progresses to the point when it can adequately explain consciousness and rationality, and ordinary folk fully understand and absorb said explanations, they (the ordinary folk) will view the concept of “free will” as antiquated and obsolete. My point is simply that it is an open question how ordinary people will react (and, of course, your studies are about what ordinary folk believe). My comment about the importance of a PR campaign, though a little flip, may actually be accurate. It’s possible that the concept of “free will” may survive some revision (as it probably has already), but it may also end up in the eliminativist refuse heap right next to the concept of phlogiston. Time will only tell. (BTW, I agree with Tamler about “willusionism.” I think it’s a bad name for several reasons. Does it apply only to Wegner and those on the epiphenomenalist end of the scale or does it apply to all those who deny free will? Does it also apply to some compatibilists? Michael Levin (a compatibilist) argues in a 2007 Phil Rev article, ““Compatibilists should not say ‘choice’ causes action.” This is because, “choices as traditionally conceived—spurts of pure will—are strangely elusive.” Levin instead argues that we should view the onset of a want/desire/intention as the cause of action. As I understand his position, the raising of my arm is not caused by a choice or an act of will, but rather an event involving me—i.e., the onset of a want/desire/preference for my arm being up. Does this make Levin (and similarly minded compatibilists) willusionists too?)
Toggle Commented May 31, 2012 on Nahmias Interview with 3:AM at Flickers of Freedom
Congrats Neil! I think you're absolutely right about where we should be focusing the debate--i.e., the role, function, and importance of consciousness, as well as recent work in social psychology. This, of course, is near and dear to my heart since I just wrote a book about it!
Toggle Commented Mar 25, 2012 on Neuroscience again at Flickers of Freedom
Neil, fair enough! I wasn't defending Coyne or any other scientists that overlook all the important philosophical literature. I was simply trying to comment on your point (1)--which I'm still not convinced is shared by all philosophers. I agree with you, by the way, that this onslaught of popular treatment in the media (mainly by scientists) may be hurting those of us that do think cognitive science is relevant to the philosophical debate. (It's also drowning out some good philosophical work.) I also agree with Eddy's point that we need to take seriously work in experimental philosophy on the folk psychology of free will. I'm constantly surprised, however, that Shaun Nichols' finds are hardly discussed here. Personally, I am rather compelled by his findings--which indicate that our folk psychological intuitions are largely indeterminist and libertarian in nature. (Paul Blooms work regarding our folk-psychological commitment to dualism (at least in the west) is also often overlooked). That's not to dismiss, of course, the great work being done my Eddy, Mele, and others. I hope work in this area continues.
Julian Baggini’s review *is* eminently reasonable--more reasonable, I believe, than the last post which simply dismissed neuroscience. Cheers to Tamler! (Personally I would still like to see more attention paid to the phenomenology of freedom and whether or not IT is illusory. It seems the focus remains on whether or not we should call the kind of diminished conscious control which appears to survive challenges from the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences free will or not. Perhaps the question should be, does the kind of freedom we experience ourselves exercising exist or not.) Overall, though, I thought it was a good article.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2012 on At Last, Part II at Flickers of Freedom
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Mar 4, 2012