Free Will – Trick’s Graphic

Free Will Continued

A response to Trick’s graphic

If you have read much of my writing, you will know that it seems very likely to me that we live in a universe that has both lawful and random aspects, and is so complex that it is beyond the capacity of any human being to understand it in detail.

Yet here we are in it, and we have to make our existence within it, so we have to create useful approximations to it that allow us to function in the particular contexts we are interested in.

So if you live in a village somewhere, and never in your life plan to travel more than 50 miles from that village, and never do anything more technically demanding that build a house out of locally sourced lumber, then the idea that the earth is flat will work for you.

If however, you want to make electronic equipment like this laptop I am using to create this message, and want to travel around this globe and know where you are using GPS (Global Positioning System), then it will require an understanding of both general relativity and quantum mechanics to build the equipment (though not to use it) to allow such things.

Those are two different sorts of approximations to how this universe we find ourselves in seems to operate.
Each is useful in its particular context.

Trick’s description of Hard and Soft morality linked to above seems to me to be a very simple approximation to something, that in our modern age actually misses much that is extremely important.

To me, the logic is simple in a sense, and yet the systems are extremely complex.

In the simplest form:
If there is hard causality, if every sequence of events has one and one only outcome, always; no chance ever of anything ever being different – then everything that has ever happened was alway going to happen, and nothing could ever have been any different. From the first instant of the big bang, the fact that I would write these words was inevitable, and I had no choice in anything.

That is a possible sort of world.
It doesn’t seem to me to be the sort of world we actually live in.

The sort of world we live in seems to be much more complex and subtle and interesting than that, and it does seem to very closely approximate the causal at many different scales and in many different contexts.

The vast bulk of my understanding is probability based.

The Idea of Hard morality seems to be a vast oversimplification.
On that Trick and I agree.
And it does seem to approximate something in some contexts.

The degree to which we can manage our many lower levels of impulses to action, the degree to which we can delay gratification, make a sacrifice for our common future, seems to be important, and seems to be a fundamental part of various levels of morality.

It seems to me that there does exist degrees of moral praiseworthiness and blame, and they are not any sort of absolute.
And in all cases I am all for taking such actions as one reasonably can in the circumstances to encourage any transgressor to rejoin the cooperative that is humanity.

And it is far from simple, because we are far from simple, and we come from many different cultures and contexts, with many different levels of understanding and compassion – most of which are very context sensitive in each of us.

I am largely in agreement with Trick in the sense that it is weak as he defines it, that our moral responsibility is rarely if ever absolute, and it is normally but one factor among many. And to me that does not make it any less important, if anything it only makes it more important.

By Trick’s definition I am definitely in the “other free will camp”, but not in the Hard free will camp.
I can relate to aspects of all the camps defined.
I can see contexts where each is an appropriate response.
I am very confident that none of us have total freedom.
Systems cannot exist without boundaries and relationships, and it is the nature of those that defines the degrees of freedom possible in any specific set of systems.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
This entry was posted in Ideas, Nature, Philosophy, understanding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Free Will – Trick’s Graphic

  1. Pingback: Free Will again – Trick thread continues – Updated 30 April 2018 | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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