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Do We Have Free Will?
[Before completing this thread, make sure you have read section C in Chapter 7.]
In System of Nature by Baron d’Holbach (p. 446 in our text), d’Holbach presents the argument known as hard determinism, that free will doesn’t exist, that it is an illusion. For this discussion, give a 3-4 sentence summary of his argument that we do not have free will, and then give your response to his argument. Also, watch the video below in which philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris presents a thought experiment to show that free will doesn’t exist, and then describe your experience with this thought experiment.
Finally, if you think you have free will, how can you defend your position? Often in this discussion, students make claims such as “I have free will because I make choices” or “I have free will because I can do whatever I want.” But such responses commit the fallacy of begging the question. Essentially, such claims say ‘I have free will because I have free will.’ In your response, try to avoid committing this fallacy.
“Sam Harris Free Will Thought Experiment” YouTube, uploaded by Critical Thoughts, 4 Nov. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwjD4hfrDsg. Accessed 4 May 2020.
Watch the video below. Then, explain your understanding of compatibilism. What is your response to this theory? What problems do you find with it, if any?
Compatibilism: Crash Course Philosophy #25. YouTube video file. [8:54]. Crashcourse. 2016, Aug 22. youtu.be/KETTtiprINU
Moral Responsibility and Determinism
As you know from your reading in Chapter 7, particularly Section C, a good deal of evidence suggests we do not have free will, that determinism is true (make sure to distinguish between fate, which involves supernatural forces, and determinism, which does not; for this discussion, we are NOT referring to fate, the idea that supernatural forces control our lives). If determinism is true, then questions regarding moral responsibility take on new significance: how can we be morally responsible for our actions if we do not have free will? how might our evaluation of our own actions and the actions of others be affected? If people cannot do other than what they do, should they be praised and blamed for their actions? Watch the video below on moral luck, another complication related to questions of praise and blame, and then give your response to the 3 questions above. Your response should include specific references to the video as well as Section C of Chapter 7.
“Moral Luck: Crash Course Philosophy #39.” YouTube, uploaded by Crash Course, 12 Dec 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpDSPVv8lUE&t=333s Accessed 4 May 2020.
Chapter 3 discusses idealism, the claim that nothing exists but our minds and their ideas. Many people find this a difficult theory to grasp, let alone accept. Watch the video below about idealism; it succinctly explains the theory as well as objections to it. Then, explain your understanding of idealism and your response to it. Do you accept idealism? Why or why not? If you don’t accept it, how do you refute it?
George Berkley’s Idealism. YouTube video file. [8:58]. Philosophy Vibe.. 2016, April 24. youtu.be/v-lDlxVQy4c
Dreams and Evil Demons
State your understanding of Descartes’ dream argument and his Evil Demon/Genius argument. Exactly how do you know that you are not dreaming right now? Given the strength of the Evil Demon argument, how do you think one can escape the skepticism it seems to entail? What do you think we can know with absolute certainty? Defend your response with reasons and examples.
Would You Want to Live in the Matrix?
The film The Matrix is in large part based on Descartes’ Meditations, specifically the Evil Genius argument, and Plato’s allegory of the cave (video below). In The Matrix, one character, Cypher, wants to return to the matrix (a computer simulated reality), knowing full well that nothing he experiences there will be ‘real’ (see Agent Smith and Cypher video below). In thinking of how you value your experiences, specifically, what you value about them, is one criterion for assigning value related to whether or not an experience is real? Does it matter to you if something ‘really’ happened? Or, if you experience it as real, is that all that matters? If, at the end of your life, you were to find out that all of it had been a computer simulation, would that change the way you value the ‘experiences’ you had? Explain why or why not.
The Cave: An Adaption of Plato’s Allegory in Clay. YouTube video file. [3:10]. bullheadent. 2008, April 18. youtu.be/69F7GhASOdM
Agent Smith and Cypher. YouTube Video file. [1:11]. pumasheen. 2006, Dec 12. youtu.be/Z7BuQFUhsRM
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