Quote of the Day – A Reasonable View on What Human Freewill Is and How It’s Compatible with Determinism

The idea of free will can be re-stated in a way that will be more palatable to all but the most rigid determinists. To enable human beings to participate in culture, evolution gave us the ability to override our initial responses, choose among different options, and let behavior be guided by meanings (including rational analysis, abstract rules, and long-term planning). In addition to programming some of our tendencies and reactions, evolution created us to be able to re-program ourselves. It gave us controlled processed, self-regulation, and lifelong behavioral plasticity. It enabled us to use the results of complex, logical reasoning (occasionally!) to alter our behavior.

~Roy Baumeister, The Cultural Animal, p. 274

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Philosophy, Psychology

3 responses to “Quote of the Day – A Reasonable View on What Human Freewill Is and How It’s Compatible with Determinism

  1. cody

    Things like this misses the point as to why the problem of free will is a problem. The point in arguing against free will is not that everyone needs to embrace rigid nihilism, but that it is simply true that human behavior is determined and can’t be altered by anything other than causal forces, which are determined… and so on.

    A person that understands determinism understands that everything that has ever happened has happened because it couldn’t have happened any other way. A person that tries to promote free will from that position really misses the point in my opinion.

  2. Hi Cody,

    “A person that tries to promote free will from that position really misses the point in my opinion.”

    Let me ask you this: what is the relevant difference between a normal human adult and a patient with extreme frontal lobe damage, particularly the prefrontal cortex?

    Both the normal human and the frontal patient are operating 100% in accord with deterministic laws of physics, but from a social and behavioral level of description, the two people are quite different. The point Baumeister (and other compatiblists) seem to be making is that a useful and insightful way of describing the difference is in terms of lacking “free will”. The idea is not that humans with free will are “free” from the laws of physics (an impossibility if you are a naturalist), but rather, humans with more “willpower” than others are “relatively free” from the limitations of the instinctual and automatic behavior characteristic of other animal species. Thus, “free will” becomes a matter of psychological architecture, not metaphysical freedom from the laws of nature.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s