Greene Paper – neuroscience, moral and legal responsibility, theories of punishment
Roper v. Simmons, 2005, US Supreme Court, unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for crimes committed under age 18
Recent scientific advances in brain research indicate that the adolescent brain has not yet fully developed, the decision-making capacity and risk-taking behavior of adolescents are far different from those of adults; thus adolescent offenders are less culpable. Roper v. Simmons: The Role of the Science Brief
SOCIETY AND FREE WILL
psychological capacities to control our own lives, change our habits and traits, overcome addictions, exercise willpower, and consciously consider the sort of life we want to lead (and to control our behavior accordingly).
If people interpret free will to include these sorts of capacities, then telling them that they don’t have free will could have detrimental effects on their self-conception, interpersonal relations, and moral behavior, as well as our political debates and legal practices. It may make them more fatalistic, less likely to exert those powers of rational deliberation and willpower they do have, and less motivated to improve themselves and their lives – Eddy Nahmias
PRINCIPLE OF ALTERNATIVE POSSIBILITIES
In 1969 Harry Frankfurt defined what he called "The Principle of Alternate Possibilities" or PAP.
"a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise.“
“Although I came to class today, I could have decided not to”
What does the world have to be like for this counterfactual to be true?
Every event that occurs, including human action, is entirely the result of earlier causes [event causation]
We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
—Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities
O set of physical magnitudes, each of which takes a determinate value at every moment of time
A history H is a map from R to tuples of values of the basic magnitudes, where for any t in R the state H(t) gives a snapshot of behavior of the basic magnitudes at time t.
The world is Laplacian deterministic with respect to O just in case for any pair of histories H1, H2 satisfying the laws of physics, if H1(t) = H2(t) for some t, then H1(t) = H2(t) for all t.
John Earman, Aspects of Determinism in Modern Physics
Neuroscientists Complete Fully Mechanistic Explanation of Human Behavior
These neuroscientists have shown that once specific chemical reactions and neural processes occur in a person’s brain, they will inevitably cause the person to make the specific decision he or she makes.
As noted scholar Francis Crick says, “Your sense of personal identity and free will are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.… You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” Said Paul Katz, one of the lead researchers, “There is certainly no room left for a soul now. There is nothing left for a soul to explain.”
February 20, 2049
By Eddy Nahmias
Neuroscientists at the University of Chicago and Georgia State University have found evidence that explains exactly how all human decisions and actions are entirely caused by neurobiological activity. They report that whenever we are trying to decide what to do, the decision we end up making is completely caused by the specific chemical reactions and neural processes occurring in our brains.
If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.
To say one ‘could have done otherwise’ is to say that one would have done otherwise had things been different (given a different set of beliefs, desires, etc.)
[classical compatibilist response]
So what if I couldn’t ‘do otherwise’?
The ability to do otherwise is not in fact required for moral responsibility, and so determinism is no threat to free will
The proper contrast to freedom is not determinism, but constraint/coercion
As long as we are not constrained, coerced or forced in our actions then we do what we will, and it doesn’t matter whether our wills are determined or not
Donald is a Democrat and is likely to vote for the Democrats; in fact, only in one particular circumstance will he not: that is, if he thinks about the prospects of immediate American defeat in Iraq just prior to voting. Ms White, a representative of the Democratic Party, wants to ensure that Donald votes Democratic, so she secretly plants a device in Donald's head that, if activated, will force him to vote Democratic. Not wishing to reveal her presence unnecessarily, Ms White plans to activate the device only if Donald thinks about the Iraq War prior to voting. As things happen, Donald does not think about Iraq prior to voting, so Ms White thus sees no reason to activate the device, and Donald votes Democratic of his own accord. Apparently, Donald is responsible for voting Democratic although, owing to Ms. White's device, he lacks freedom to do otherwise.
compatibilist freedom is only ‘surface’ freedom - it is not free willin the full, proper sense
Compatibilism is a “wretched subterfuge” (Kant), a “quagmire of evasion” (William James)
LIBERTARIAN (FREE WILL) POSITION
Free will is not compatible with determinism
Free will exists
Determinism is therefore false
DOES INDETERMINISM HELP?
Would you be willing to spend a day letting randomness govern your actions?