Sunday, March 08, 2009


As an old friend, Mr. W. says:
Since the late 19th century the term has often been used as a synonym for anarchism.
This is sort of sad, since I've always felt a little warmth at the bottom of my cold, deterministic heart for anarchy, not necessarily the bomb throwing kind. But, I am being unfair, That would be political libertarianism and what we are discussing here is metaphysical libertarianism which Mr. W. says is:
...a philosophical position in metaphysics with respect to free will and determinism. It entails the belief that human beings possess free will, that free will is incompatible with determinism, and that determinism is false.
The citation that Unreal Nature has led us to, is a review by Eric Carlsson of a book by Randolph Clarke called "Libertarian Accounts of Free Will"

As Unreal Nature states, we are all amateurs and, believe me, if there was ever the definition of amateur it would be:
"One who has trouble understanding Libertarian Accounts of Free Will."
I need to quote the first para of Carlsson's review to get you in the mood for this thing. Mind you, there are no chloride ions involved:
The purpose of Clarke’s book is to assess the conceptual adequacy of libertarian accounts of free will, i.e., accounts which assume that free will is incompatible with determinism. Clarke discusses libertarian views of three types; noncausal, event-causal, and agent-causal. All noncausal accounts are found inadequate, while the best event-causal accounts are adequate, assuming the truth of “merely narrow” incompatibilism, i.e., the view that moral responsibility is, unlike free will, compatible with determinism. Given “broad” incompatibilism, claiming that moral responsibility is also incompatible with determinism, only agent-causal accounts can, according to Clarke, be adequate. The adequacy of such accounts presupposes, however, that substance causation is possible. Clarke finds good, although not decisive, reasons to reject the possibility of such causation. He concludes that the possibility of free will is doubtful, given broad incompatibilism.
Alright, then, we have three positions to grapple with.

1. Non causal. This is, as Carlsson states:
Noncausal libertarian accounts maintain that free actions can be uncaused, and lack internal causal structure. In Clarke’s view, such accounts thereby fail to give an adequate characterization of the active control required for free will. Such control is, he argues, a causal phenomenon. “An agent’s exercising active control … consists in her action’s being caused by her, or in her action’s being caused, in an appropriate way, by certain events involving her, such as her having certain reasons and a certain intention” (p. 19).
How does one parse this statement from a neurophysiological standpoint? Events are caused by "actions" on the part of an animal. It is entirely illogical to assume the possibility of a "lack of internal causal structure." Perhaps this is the definition of a mad man? (I will certainly stay away from the booby trap of proposing that there could ever, in any way, even with former girl friends, be a mad woman.) There can be no physiologic activity (i.e. muscle activity including vocal muscles) without prior "internal causal structures," i.e. coordinated firing of neurons in the motor cortex. So, in my opinion, this is Libertarian pie in the sky.

2. Event-causal libertarian:
On event-causal libertarian accounts, a free action is caused by events involving the agent, such as her having certain beliefs, desires, reasons, or intentions. Such accounts differ from event-causal compatibilist accounts primarily by requiring that the action is nondeterministically caused by these events.
Whoa Nelly! There are just too many angels on the head of this damn pin. How can "beliefs, desires, reasons or intentions" not deterministically determine an action? Beliefs, etc. are neurophysiologic structures in the brain. Actions are actually reactions. The perception, analysis, reaction circuit is obligated to run through these structures. I am sure that there are vast reservoirs of thought behind the concepts bandied about here, but they should at least make physiologic sense.

Clarke argues, first, that the absence of causal determination precludes neither that the agent exercises sufficient active control for her action to be fully rational, nor that there is an adequate rational explanation of what she does.
Again, at the end of the chain, we have the little supernatural homunculus in our brain determining our actions. It makes no difference how far back one places this activity. That is, "active control" presumes something that is not a result of the neurophysiological structures of the brain.

Some libertarians have tried to avoid this problem by locating the required element of indeterminism at an earlier stage in the causal process issuing in the action.
Now, what to make of this statement:
The “argument from luck” is another aspect of the problem of diminished control. If a decision is nondeterministically caused, this argument goes, it is a matter of luck that the agent makes it.
This is a fascinating concept that goes back to the ideas of the Fates, Pandora's Box, and even Karma, though one could argue about the latter.

Further on, Carlsson states:
If an account provides for the openness of alternatives, as well as for the positive active control required for moral responsibility, there are good reasons to conclude that it adequately characterizes free will.
Pardon me if I am perplexed. That is, why do I feel that this is just saying: "We have Free Will because we have Free Will."

However, the mere openness of alternatives, understood as the absence of a determining cause, cannot, Clarke maintains, make a difference as to whether an agent is morally responsible. (emphasis added)
And again, this is circular. What distinguishes "openness of alternatives" from Free Will? How can one possibly have "Free Will" and not have moral responsibility? It is this refusal on the part of philosophers to clearly define their terms (i.e. spell out differences in concepts) that drives one bonkers.

3. Agent causal: For this Carlsson says:
Clarke moves on to consider whether an agent-causal libertarian account can provide such positive active control. He argues, first, that no account postulating the agent as the sole cause of a free action is adequate. Like noncausal accounts, such pure agent-causal accounts fail to provide reason-explanations of actions. Instead, he suggests an “integrated” agent-causal account. On this account, a free action has a nondeterministic conjunctive cause, one conjunct of which is the agent herself, and the other is her having certain reasons, etc. (emphasis added)
What I really need a definition for here is "Agent." To wax philosophical, one cannot have a conjunction of two dissimilar objects, i.e. two "things" that are not of the same philosophical strata. In this case, the "agent" is either the same as the "reasons" or, as in my little homunculus, different. From a neurophysiological standpoint, we would argue that they are the same and these arguments have no real meaning. This argument holds for this statement also:
Clarke finds, however, fairly strong reasons to reject the possibility of such causation. The most serious difficulties concern causation by substances in general, rather than causation by agents in particular.

I'm sorry, I can't go on. The jargon is just too much for me. I knew I was in trouble when I read this:
“Effects are caused to occur at times, and it might be argued that this can be so only if their causes likewise occur at times—only, that is, if their causes are directly in time in the way in which events are but substances are not” (p. 201). It can be replied that if a substance causes an event, then it does so in virtue of having a certain property at a certain time. The temporality of causation is thus accommodated in an indirect way. (emphasis added)
Because I immediately thought of this guy:

Amazing how he is able to pick up that Church!

And he made me think of Transubstantiation:
The Council of Trent defined transubstantiation as "that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation".[4]
But that, of course, led me to:
Two, four, six, eight
Time to transubstantiate
And to think this guy was a Prof at Harvard, MIT and Wellesley (during the time Hillary was there).


Julie Heyward said...

Your writing style is so much better than Carlsson and Clarke with their polite "I disagree"s. Why can't they say things like, "Whoa Nelly!" and "drives one bonkers," or, best of all, "I'm sorry, I can't go on."

Free will libertarians rely a lot on belligerence, and I can sympathise with that. Their position is, more or less, "We have free will. Period. If anything interferes with that concept, it must be wrong." They make free will a starting axiom or a law of nature -- and we do have those, everywhere, including or especially in science.

Now that you've been aggravated by libertarianism, you can move on to "we have free will" with determinism (compatibilism). No need for you to look at the third position; "no free will" and determinism, as that is your own. Never mind all the subspecies and varients between those three major positions (apparently nobody wants to fool with the nonsensical "no free will" and indetermism; inverted libertarianism).

One of your quoted extracts from the book review:
"Effects are caused to occur at times, and it might be argued that this can be so only if their causes likewise occur at times—only, that is, if their causes are directly in time in the way in which events are but substances are not” (p. 201). It can be replied that if a substance causes an event, then it does so in virtue of having a certain property at a certain time. The temporality of causation is thus accommodated in an indirect way."

... is talking about persistence. Not our kind of persistence (ones cherished stubborness), but philosophical persistence. Here are links: persistence and more on persistence. WARNING: much blasphemy will ensue! (I wish I could be a fly on the wall ...)

Outraged Richard said...

So what do these learned men say about the homosexual agenda and homosexual marriage?

This is a bit off topic but I'm going anyway:

We are extremely concerned that Jim Ireton, candidate for mayor of Salisbury, Maryland, and currently an elementary school teacher, is a dangerous homosexual who is unqualified for office and a threat against traditional family understood as a married man and woman with child.

We base this on several pieces of information:

1. The Salisbury Daily Times' article on Jim Ireton ticketed for fleeing with another male from police after 3 AM on Rehoboth Beach, a known location for homosexual men to have illicit sex.

2. James Ireton Jr's "Speak Out" August, 2001 letter to the Camp Rehoboth website in support of indoctrinating children with the homosexual agenda, and that "gays should make the best use of the legal structure in their battle."

3. A member of the community alleged that Jim Ireton has introduced his boyfriend to various individuals in the city of Salisbury.

4. Another member of the community alleged he and his wife saw Jim Ireton exiting homosexual establishment "Frog Pond Pub last fall in Rehoboth Beach", and that Jim Ireton is "not ashamed of the [homosexual] lifestyle."

I urge you to publicize this crucial issue, that of the legitimization of the homosexual agenda Jim Ireton's mayoral candidacy brings to the people of Salisbury, Maryland. Please search the words "jim ireton homosexual" for more information.

The Salisbury, Maryland mayoral election is April 7, 2009. Please help advance morality and decency by spreading the message of "Family First, NO Jim Ireton!" by email or by telling your friends and family.

Please help us to preserve traditional family values,
Concerned Families Of Salisbury