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Rob Loftis
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Patrick, in your first comment you point out a lot of seemingly bad assumptions made by Eagleman, but I think they can all be defused when you realize he is attacking the folk moral psychology that underlies our daily activities and major institutions. You point out that the free will he criticizes is strongly libertarian (incompatibilist), strongly dualist, and views virtue through the lens of popular Christian notions of self-control, rather than sophisticated Aristotelian ideas. But this is how most people view things--I see all these assumptions in my students every day--and this is the view he is rejecting. It is true that he doesn't have much new evidence against it. Modern neuroscience mostly just piles on new data for old arguments, for instance by giving us more Phineas Gage type cases. Still, he's basically right. This folk conception doesn't stand up in the face of ever-mounting evidence. The consequentialist approach to punishment is he proposing is unargued for, but comes pretty naturally if you are interested in changing people's folk understanding in a way that they will accept and actually make life better for people. He may not address sophisticated versions of compatibilism, or Aristotole, or modern reductionist philosophy of mind. But in the larger picture, how important is that?
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Feb 24, 2010