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09/10/2014

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Thanks, Eddy.

I wonder how people's intuitions about this line up with their intuitions about God's perfect foreknowledge of future human actions? I have for awhile thought it would be interesting to explore this relationship (and also the underlying philosophical issues).

Nice paper, Eddy. What do you suppose is going on in those surveys where people do seem to affirm theory-heavy (if I may) free will?

Such as in Gunnar Björnsson's talk here : http://www.freewillandscience.com/wp/?page_id=450

Hi John, that is an interesting question. We included a third study where the prediction of decisions is carried out by mindreaders who are able to read the information in people's non-physical mind or soul. The patterns of results were very similar to the ones we got for the two studies describing neuro-prediction. That doesn't get at the question you raised, but it might suggest that, regardless of the form, perfect prediction is taken by most people to be OK, as long as it doesn't involve manipulation (the possibility of manipulation, even when not carried out, lowered judgments a little bit in some of our studies). If so, it might suggest that people are likely to find determinism to be a threat to free will when they interpret it as more like manipulation (as manipulation arguments encourage), but less so when they interpret determinism to be like prediction (or as what might allow prediction without entailing that our decisions are constrained by the past and laws).

Paul, I saw Gunnar's talk but don't remember what in it suggests that some people are 'theory-heavy'. Can you remind us? I do think some folk (other than philosophers and scientists) have strong beliefs about the mind-body relationship and about what sorts of relationship is required for free will and maybe even about what sorts of causal theory is required for free will. And some of those people are likely to have deep-seated incompatibilist beliefs because of those theoretical beliefs (including some religious people). But I think most people (including lots of religious people) are 'theory-lite' (an idea I'm still trying to flesh out). They don't care too much how free will works as long as it works such that our conscious imagining of options, deliberating about them, and decision-making have a causal role in our future behavior (i.e., are not "bypassed"}.

Eddy,

Fascinating! Right, I think many classical theologians and religious thinkers *do* think of causal determination as more like manipulation. I however think that we have to distinguish different kinds of causal determination, some of which is like manipulation, some of which is not. ALL such determination arguably rules out regulative control, but only SOME rules out guidance control. (Or so I would argue.)

Eddy,

I had in mind Gunnar's mediation analysis using an "Outside Of the agent's Control" (OOC) variable. See about 1:13 in the recording for the results: OOC mediates both "no free will" judgments and "Deep Self Discordance" judgments. He sees this variable as capturing source incompatibilist intuitions. The definition offered is (by example) "Bill's killing of Mrs White was ultimately explained by factors outside of his control."

I guess maybe "ultimately explained by factors outside of his control" isn't metaphysically rich enough to count as a theory in your sense? If not, then I am mistaken to call this view theory-heavy. Even so, if "OOC" really does capture source-incompatibilist intuitions, it seems that the folk have an important belief, whether that belief is a "theory" or not.

Need to give Eddy and group a well-deserved plug! Their research just appeared in New Scientist magazine!

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26242-free-will-persists-even-if-your-brain-made-you-do-it.html

Thanks Jeff. I hadn't yet seen the article.
I plan to send the author, Dan Jones, who interviewed me and seems like a good science reporter, this email (I hope any of you who interact with science journalists will nudge them in the right direction):

Dear Dan, I appreciate the article, which does a great job of describing our study in a tight space, and your allowing me to look over a draft of it before publication. I don't appreciate that the names of my co-authors, Shane Reuter and the co-first author Jason Shepard, were dropped from the article after I saw it. I assume (and hope) that this was the work of your editor, not you. I hope you can do what you can in your capacity as a science reporter to convince publications like New Scientist to correct their policy of using 'and colleagues' to summarize (and diminish) the work of co-authors, who in many cases are equal contributors with the author listed and quoted, as is the case with Jason Shepard for this article. I understand that it may be too 'space-consuming' to list more than 3-4 authors, and in such cases they could at least be listed with the link at bottom to the article. But including the names of 3-4 authors does not take up much more space than 'and colleagues' and certainly all primary authors should be listed. The fact is that the 'et al' authors are often grad students and post docs who will most benefit from and most deserve public recognition of their work. I hope you will share my view with your editor, and do what you can to influence science publication editors to alter their practices. Again, thanks for your work in the important field of science journalism.

Hi There! I'm the writer behind the New Scientist story on Eddy's free will paper, and I only just saw this comment thread. The final draft of this story had all authors' names and affiliations in there, but they were stripped out after it left my hands. For Jason and and Shane this sucks, and Eddy's right that it's worth fighting against this practice. One thing you can do if you're contacted about a paper you're a senior figure on, but you want the important work of your colleagues to be noted, is recommend that the reporter speak to them. If I had gotten a quote from Jason or Shane (which perhaps I should have done), then not only would they have got their due, their voice would also have been brought into the piece. I'll be bearing this in mind in the future.

Dan.

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