09 November 2012

Lester and Rudolph talk about Freedom

[Lester and Rudolph (again, *ahem* wholly fictitious persons) had a conversation about freedom earlier today in an imaginary gchat window. Here's part of it.]

Lester: oh ok
  well whatever
  I ended up talking about free will
 Rudolph: k
 Lester: and enlightenment libertarianism
12:51 PM and I realized "woah, during the enlightenment the whole notion of free will was obscured and messed up"
  so yeah that's that
  then I thought "I understand free will."
 Rudolph: explain plz
 Lester: oh free will?
12:52 PM Rudolph: and how it was obscured
 Lester: haha
  so, things have natures, natures are directed toward ends, things naturally pursue their ends
12:53 PM Rudolph: yes
 Lester: great
  consider a squirrel
 Rudolph: hehe
12:54 PM Lester: a squirrel is an animal, so it has the ability to sense things and react to them, and a kind of cogitative power by which its able to respond to particulars present in its sense experience. A squirrel sees a car approach. It recognizes the threat. It retreats to a tree.
12:55 PM Rudolph: yeah
 Lester: Squirrels don't know what a car is, though. They can't tell you what makes something to be a car. They can't think about cars. They can just respond to them when they're present in experience.
12:56 PM This means that a squirrel's activity is going to be pretty solidly governed by what happens in its surroundings
  ergo, behaviorism
 Rudolph: right
 Lester: people are not squirrels, otherkin aside
 Rudolph: lulz
12:57 PM Lester: People can think about cars, can know what it is to be a car, and can make all sorts of abstract judgments about cars. So let's apply this to the idea of a natural end.
  The squirrel moves toward its natural end by the direct promptings of its experience and sense appetites
12:58 PM Rudolph: mhm
 Lester: Whatever comes along in appearance or appetite is going to move the squirrel accordingly
  pretty much infallibly
12:59 PM Rudolph: what about herzog's penguin?
1:00 PM Lester: Herzog's penguin probably had some mental defect
 Rudolph: probsly
 Lester: Sigh.
1:01 PM Anyway. Humans have this weird faculty that squirrels don't have. It's called the will. And just like a sense appetite is moved by a good present in the imagination or the senses, the will is moved by a good present in the intellect, in abstract.
 Rudolph: ah ok
1:02 PM Lester: But the intellect is capable of considering everything under multiple aspects. It can consider this glass of water as a tool for splashing someone, or a weapon, or a means of quenching thirst, or a bowling pin, etc.
 Rudolph: right
 Lester: and that's just a thing. It can consider goods under multiple aspects too
1:03 PM splashing someone is good because it would be funny, but bad because it would be hurtful and humiliating, and bad because it would make a mess, and violates social protocol, etc.
 Rudolph: right
 Lester: ok
  so humans have a natural end, which they don't choose freely, and that's happiness. That's what they do everything for the sake of.
1:04 PM Rudolph: ok
 Lester: If a human were to see true happiness immediately in its full and utter perfection, they would be unable to find any defect in it, and thus couldn't help but embrace it.
  (This is the beatific vision.)
 Rudolph: right
1:05 PM Lester: But short of that, it's possible to consider any finite, imperfect good as deficient in some way, and reject it.
 Rudolph: ah
 Lester: This life of fame and fortune lacks simplicity and grace.
1:06 PM This wife and these children inhibit my free expression as a person
  This hour of prayer is empty and tedious.
1:07 PM You can reject pretty much anything, as long as you're capable of seeing it as bad in some way.
 Rudolph: right
 Lester: You just have to focus on that, or turn your back on the thing altogether and think about some other good instead.
  That's the ground of free will
  well, that is free will
1:08 PM You should notice how in our account the formal and final causes are the main ones used, and they undergird the efficient cause of the action.
 Rudolph: uh... can you point them out?
1:09 PM Lester: Sure
  So, the final cause is the end desired as good
 Rudolph: right
 Lester: The formal cause is the nature of the thing choosing, which explains why it desires these things and not other things, why these aspects can be said to be "good" and not others.
1:10 PM Rudolph: aaah ok
 Lester: The formal cause is also in the nature of the things pursued: it makes them what they are.
 Rudolph: right
 Lester: The efficient cause is the mover the propels the agent forward. In this case, the will.
1:11 PM Rudolph: ah
 Lester: Although it's wrong to see the will as a kind of motor inside the man, becuause the action of the will is determined by the nature of the thing moving, so that really in the person what you have is one thing
1:12 PM One thing moving itself
  Not a motor in a car, or a pilot in a ship.
 Rudolph: right
 Lester: Make sense?
 Rudolph: yeah
 Lester: Ok, next let's see how this falls apart.
1:13 PM Rudolph: k!
 Lester: Suppose we try and reduce everything to efficient causation.
1:15 PM Then what we have to say is this: There is an agent in the person, the will, that moves the person. The will is either moved by something else or it is unmoved. If it's moved by something else, then it is moved by the body, responding to sensory stimuli, in which case we have to say that the will is determined, because the stimuli (or at least their memory preserved in the body) are the sufficient and necessary condition for the will's movement.
1:16 PM But suppose we say that the will isn't moved by anything else, that it's radically unmoved. Then we have to ask, why does the will move?
  Apparently there's no answer.
  But if there's no answer to that question, then there can't be an answer to the question "Why did you do that?"
  This makes nonsense of pretty much all human action.
1:17 PM Rudolph: heh, right
 Lester: So it seems like it's necessary, both in order to maintain a coherent picture of man as a being in the natural world, and in order to make human action intelligible at all, to say that it's mechanically determined by context and history. Therefore there is no such thing as free will.
1:18 PM Rudolph: right
 Lester: Ok. That's the story.
1:19 PM Rudolph: huh. and where exactly is the error in this story?
 Lester: The error is in reducing all the causes to the efficient cause
1:21 PM It's also in separating the mind and the body so that they're different entities. Or in reducing the soul to something material, because you have an insufficient grasp of what intellectual activity is.
1:22 PM See it's essential to free will to say that the intellect is capable of knowing things in abstract and considering them under multiple aspects.
 Rudolph: that seems obvious, but how does the operation of the intellect work?
1:23 PM unfortunately, I have to go to section now...