The Moral Reason for Free Will — Guest Post by The Cranky Professor

Do human persons have free will? I would say so. And I will expound on a fairly common yet powerful argument for the existence of free will, viz., that moral responsibility and duty requires freedom of will.

By “free will” I mean the so-called libertarian definition of freedom where a person alone determines for herself what choice she will make and that at least more than one choice is possible to make in a situation. For instance, if a person goes into a gas station and buys a Zero candy bar and if this person does so by free will then that would entail that the individual alone made the choice to buy and eat the candy bar and that more than one choice was possible at that time. The person didn’t have someone else or something else determining and controlling her decision to purchase the Zero bar. And that lady could have chosen not buy the candy bar or to buy a different type of candy like a Snickers bar. This is what it means to have “free will.”

There are, of course, certain “compatiblist” positions on free will that try to reconcile some form of determinism with free choice. But the problem with those theories is that they seem to imply a contradiction, viz., that it is somehow possible to make free choices while being concurrently predetermined to act a certain way. It would seem to be impossible for instance for a person to make a free, self-determined choice and at the same time be wholly determined and controlled by something else like God or past events in making that choice. To say that person is free to decide on a matter while yet being controlled by some outside force strikes as a contradiction, and as William James would argue, it wouldn’t be a sufficient condition for acting with moral responsibility.

So free will has two aspects to it when relating to everyday decisions. One, a person alone has to be the sufficient cause or reason for why a certain choice is made as such. Something else cannot be controlling the person and making her choices for her if that person is truly free. This is known as the “Principle of Causal Non-Interference.” At the same time, a person can make two or more possible choices in a situation. A person can either take the red pill or the blue pill so to speak! This is known as the “Principle of Alternative Possibilities.” Hence free will has two aspects or principles with it — the Principle of Causal Non-Interference and the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. An individual has the power to be in control of their choices and to actualize one possible choice among several possible ones.

As Roderick Chisholm nicely describes freedom of will, it is a divine or God-like quality in us where we are unmoved movers. A person endowed with the power of free will moves himself to make a certain decision and he has the ability to choose differently from what he decides to do. As God acts as a free, unmoved mover in creating the universe, so an individual acts as an unmoved mover in making a free choice undetermined by other persons and things. This is the essential definition of free will that’s descriptive of human beings acting as moral agents.

Now evidently there are many ideologies out there that either flatly deny free will and/or imply that it does not exist. Materialism in all its forms, for instance, would imply that human free will doesn’t exist. Several reasons can be offered to demonstrate this point. For one thing, if human beings are purely physical beings (the view of physicalism) or even if people are physical substances with a duality of physical and mental properties (the view of property dualism) then free choice would be a myth.

This is because matter follows definite laws of nature and so a person’s choices would be determined by matter and energy acting by laws of nature. But if this is the case then no one would have free will. Each person’s decision would be an uncontrolled result of the body interacting with the surrounding environment and all this would be a physical system governed by natural laws or regularities. It’s no wonder that many materialist philosophers have denied free will like Baron D’Holbach and Karl Marx.

Other philosophies of mind that hold that we have souls like substance dualism can uphold the notion of free will. (One of the major reasons why I believe that we have souls or that the mind is a substance in its own right is because that notion supports the idea of free will.)

There are also ideas from religion that imply that we lack free choice like divine determinism or the notion that God determines and controls every event in the world including our choices. The notion of predestination like in Calvinism would be a classic example of divine determinism, where it is thought that God’s will or knowledge determines the choices of rational creatures. Evidently the problem with having God’s knowledge or will determine and control human choices is that it would imply that persons lack free choice and it would entail that God is responsible for moral evil in the world. Divine determinism in all its forms cannot cohere with free will and moral responsibility.

More to the point, if we do not have free will then we are not morally responsible for anything. As Roderick Chisholm points out, free will is a necessary requirement for acting with responsibility. This is the moral argument for free will in a nutshell. To borrow an example from Chisholm, in order for a person to be responsible for murdering another person that individual alone must be in control of his choices and he cannot be controlled by someone else or something else in performing the action. If the murderer, however, were being completely controlled, mesmerized and manipulated by another person and that person were making the killer shoot down another, then the killer would not be acting with free will and would not be culpable for the murder.

Again, we can illustrate the same point about free will with a different example. It is a fact in life that we sometimes dream at night. And we generally cannot control what we dream when asleep. Now if someone were to say that one had a moral obligation to not dream about blue bears then such a proposition would be absurd. Why? It is because a person cannot control what they dream and so it would be nonsense to suggest that a person has an obligation to not dream about blue bears. No person can be intelligibly obligated on matters she has no control over.

So to say that individuals lack freedom of choice would put every experience under a lack of personal control like the case of dreams. In fact, there would be no such thing as control of one’s self if there’s no such thing as free will. Making a choice to buy a Zero candy bar or choosing to murder someone would be out of one’s control just as dreaming about blue bears would be outside one’s control. If persons are powerless to self-determine their own choices then all talk of moral obligation and responsibility would be pointless and inapplicable.

Philosopher William James nicely illustrates the fact that any kind of fatalism would imply that any prescribed “ought” would be pointless. (I will use the term “fatalism” to simply refer to the idea that free will doesn’t exist and that persons have no real mastery over their choices throughout this essay). He says that, for example, in the case of a murder, should the murderer regret committing the crime or not if human beings lack free choice? If the murderer decides to regret the crime then why do so because he couldn’t have freely chosen to do something else at that time? So regret seems to have no purpose given a fatalistic paradigm. On the other hand, if it should be thought that the murderer ought not regret the killing since he lacks free will, and if he happens to regret the crime anyway then once again an “ought” here cannot be always be fulfilled. So whether the murderer “ought” to regret the crime or not, whatever the “ought” or duty should be, it cannot always be accomplished and it certainly cannot be under the control of the person given the premise of fatalism.

Nonetheless, there’s hardly any way in which a person can live their life without assuming that there are certain duties or “oughts” that he should follow as such. But the denial of free will or fatalism would imply that these duties cannot always be accomplished and are definitely beyond one’s control. Some might respond by saying that we can penalize people without the view that individuals have free will. That we can still use jails and so forth as mere means to prevent future crimes and hopefully condition criminals not make further, unacceptable actions and that we can do all this without the notion of free will. That may be the case, and I suppose one can come up with practical reasons to penalize criminals without the premise of free will. But the problem with that argument is that it’s not at all germane to the logical and moral implications of lacking free will. In a world where (supposing) people always lack free choice and people are only penalized for practical reasons to prevent future crimes and so forth, still, this would be a world where individuals lack any moral responsibility.

As far as we’re concerned, one can incarcerate a tiger, a dangerous robot, or a thoroughly mentally ill person that’s suffering from insanity for the sake of safety or protection but none of these would be cases of imprisoning a genuine moral agent or a person acting with moral responsibility. This is because acting as a moral agent requires one, that the person has the ability to understand timeless moral concepts and moral duties and secondly, that the person can freely control himself and self-determine his own choices. Without any of those conditions, without free will and moral knowledge, no one can act as a moral agent whatsoever. Of course, many countries including the United States, assume that individuals have free will in their legal systems because they figure that free will is essential for accountability.

Some, again might argue that free will is unintelligible because a person (almost) always has a certain, limited set of preferences on how to act and that a person cannot be capable of performing any conceivable course of action. William James mentions this objection and has an excellent response to it. And to quote him in The Dilemma of Determinism, he states (Quoted in Philosophy: The Quest For Truth, Louis Pojman & Lewis Vaughn, 10th Ed., page 406):

A favorite argument against free will is that if it be true, a man’s murderer may as probably be his best friend as his worst enemy, a mother be as likely to strangle as to suckle her first-born, and all of us be as ready to jump from fourth-story windows as to go out of front doors, etc. Users of this argument should probably be excluded from the debate till they learn what the real question is. “Free will” does not say that everything that is physically conceivable is also morally possible. It merely says that of alternatives that really tempt our will more than one is really possible. Of course, the alternatives that do thus tempt our will are vastly fewer than the physical possibilities we can coldly fancy. Persons really tempted often do murder their best friends, mothers do strangle their first-born, people do jump out of fourth stories, etc.

In other words, free will does not indicate that any thinkable action is likely to be chosen by the person. Naturally some actions or choices are likely or tempting for one to perform, other types of action are possible but aren’t very likely for one to choose as such. And other courses of action are practically “psychologically impossible” for a person to do because the incentives just aren’t there at all. What free will entails is not that any imaginary course of action is psychologically possible or just as likely for one to make as such; free will only entails that when two or more options are likely for a person to choose from, more than one option is possible for the person to choose as such.

To summarize the moral case for freedom of will, if we have free will then we are morally responsible. If, however, we do not have free will then we are not responsible for anything; our choices would be beyond our control like dreaming about blue polar bears or having someone else mesmerize and control our actions. Thus, it is entirely unintelligible to speak of us being responsible or in control of our choices if we lack free will. So the implication of any type of fatalism can only be that there is no such thing as a free, moral agent, if correct.

Also another related implication of fatalism would be that there’s no such thing as a “free thinker.” That’s right. If we are not free to choose then we are not free to choose to think for ourselves and critically evaluate genuine evidence and facts. Once again, it would be senseless to say that we have moral obligations to think for ourselves, to search for the truth and to honestly accept the truth if fatalism is correct. Duties to honor the truth would be beyond our power if it were the case that we lack free choice. Isn’t it rather paradoxical whenever one comes across a philosopher like Baron D’Holbach that denies the existence of free will, realizing that this denial implies that there’s no such thing as a “free thinker”?

It can even further argued that the denial of free will is unlivable. As some philosophers like Peter Inwagen have pointed out, it seems practically impossible to live out the premise of fatalism or the denial of free will. People live implicitly under the premise that they are free and that they are answerable for their choices. Even the most staunch fatalists seems to make moral judgments implying that certain actions ought to be performed and other actions to be avoided; that certain choices ought to be praised and other choices disapproved. How is any of this consistent with the denial of free will? And why blame anyone for any wrong doing if no person has control over their choices in the first place? Blaming a person that lacks free will is like blaming a rock for falling down from a volcano. It’s balderdash to speak of a person being at fault for doing an immoral act if the person has no freedom and control over his choices.

I conclude that the traditional moral argument for the existence of free will is a sound one and that free will is necessary for there be any moral responsibility or accountability. Without free will, people would not be real, moral agents and the moral law would either be inapplicable to us or simply non-existent given the absurd premise of fatalism.

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34 Thoughts

  1. More to the point, if we do not have free will then we are not morally responsible for anything.

    Ahhh! The REAL reason why you are so enamored with the idea! Who cares if a murder is morally responsible? Said murderer is still responsible. Does not morally responsible mean can’t-be-punished? Why? Deadly, contagious diseases were once “punished” by lifetime quarantine — ask Typhoid Mary. No morals involved.

  2. DAV could not help but make that reply.

    Of course not, it was the best option at the time.
    If your post wasn’t your best option why did you select it?

  3. You are confusing the criterion for the choice. ‘Best option’ is not a choice. The Will is determined toward the Good just as the Intellect is determined toward the True. But this does not help in any particular instance of Knowing or of Desiring.

  4. “Ahhh! The REAL reason why you are so enamored with the idea! Who cares if a murder is morally responsible? Said murderer is still responsible.”

    Oh OK so I guess we’re in agreement on this point – if we don’t have freedom of will then we are not morally responsible for anything. Moral or ethical responsibility and duty goes out the door if we lack free choice. Glad you see the implications of fatalism and materialism here!

  5. ‘Best option’ is not a choice.

    You’re right. It’s a possible choice. The choice is in the selection. ‘Best option’ is the one believed to be best at the time of selection.

    The Will is determined toward the Good just as the Intellect is determined toward the True.

    That’s nice. Gobbledygook all the same.

    But this does not help in any particular instance of Knowing or of Desiring.

    I maintain one cannot make any selection other than the one believed ‘best’. How that belief is reached is irrelevant to the selection. It’s equally irrelevant what others believe.

    Later reflection might alter the evaluation leading to the belief that change it for future selections. In fact, people intuitively understand this as evidenced by attempts to influence behavior with pro/con listings or reward/punishment.

    Since the action taken (The Choice) is based upon belief and one has no control over one’s beliefs, The Choice is not freely made but is compelled.

  6. DG,
    Moral or ethical responsibility and duty goes out the door if we lack free choice.

    What does type of responsibility have to do with anything? Why is it important to you?

  7. @DAV

    Even if you think that people will always make some choice, people with Free Will will make different choices compared to animals. Consider the male lion who will kill the cubs of a pride he has taken over. Perfectly understandable behaviour for a Darwinian lion as it is supposed to spread is genes as wide as possible, and the fact that a lioness will get his cubs because she will come in heat when her cubs are dead.

    Human males who marry single mothers generally do not kill her children, as killing children is not thought to be moral behaviour.

  8. Sander van der Wal,
    Even if you think that people will always make some choice, people with Free Will will make different choices compared to animals.

    Humans likely consider things the lion doesn’t. So what? How does “Free Will” figure into it?

  9. Fascinating. DAV, I like the way you think.

    Is it fair to assume that conditioning (i.e., education, marketing, propaganda) affects peoples choices? If so, how free is ones will?

    If conditioning accounts for 20% of a persons choice, is the choice still freely made? If conditioning accounts for 80%, then what?

  10. “The Will is determined toward the Good just as the Intellect is determined toward the True.”
    That’s nice. Gobbledygook all the same.

    An interesting comment, in that the first part is simply what you are claiming yourself.

    I maintain one cannot make any selection other than the one believed ‘best’.
    Indeed, so Aquinas said, though he said it better. To say that one “cannot make” any other selection is not quite the same thing, since the abstraction The Good is not capable of compelling or preventing anything. The Good just is what everything seeks. (Nichomachean Ethics; http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.1.i.html) One may as well say that food is what everything eats

  11. An interesting comment, in that the first part is simply what you are claiming yourself.

    Is it? Am I? Hard to tell what your Sacred Incantations mean. In the computer world this is summed up by RTFM.

    Indeed, so Aquinas said [one cannot make any selection other than the one believed ‘best’]

    Never claimed it was unique. What’s your argument? You don’t agree?

    To say that one “cannot make” any other selection is not quite the same thing, since the abstraction The Good is not capable of compelling or preventing anything.

    Only the insane would select other than that believed ‘best’ and, even then, it’s likely the insane merely arrive at different assessments of ‘best’.

    Belief is what is doing the compelling not some abstraction of Good (whatever that is).

  12. Is it fair to assume that conditioning (i.e., education, marketing, propaganda) affects peoples choices? If so, how free is ones will?

    You forgot habits, addictions, and genetic dispositions. Strong drink may also affect our choices. Now, we can ponder the gulf between “affects choices” and “determines choices.”

    The adventitious qualities are habits and passions, by virtue of which a man is inclined to one thing rather than to another. And yet even these inclinations are subject to the judgment of reason. Such qualities, too, are subject to reason, as it is in our power either to acquire them, whether by causing them or disposing ourselves to them, or to reject them. And so there is nothing in this that is repugnant to free-will.
    — Summa theologiae, I.82.1, repl.5

    “…the first part is simply what you are claiming yourself.”

    Is it? Am I? Hard to tell what your Sacred Incantations mean. In the computer world this is summed up by RTFM.

    Not clear what computers have to do with anything. But you contended that people cannot help but choose the option that seems to be the best one, while Aristotle said that all things tend to choose the good. I don’t know what is sacred or incantatory about noting that these are the same statement.

    What’s your argument? You don’t agree?

    No, just expressing amusement at your agreement with Aristotle and Aquinas. Otherwise, the quibble just seems to hinge on a misunderstanding of choice and determination.

    “In the ancient-medieval scheme, free choice was only a deliberation over means. The end was given, and any end that wasn’t could only be a means to a necessarily willed end about which neither man nor God had any say whatsoever. Since means are ontologically posterior to an end (even if they exist first in time) free choice is ontologically posterior to something that is not an object of choice.”
    — James Chastek

    Would one say that because eating is directed toward nutrition [the end] that what we eat for dinner [the means] is determined? It is odd to see such arguments a hundred years after physics itself gave up on determinism.

  13. @DAV

    Even when you model human behaviour as some kind of Utility Function followed by an action (after all, at some point you make a choice and start acting on it), the Utility Function itself van still be arbitrarily complicated. The onus is on explaining why the Utility Function for humans appears to need Free Will, and not something simpler as Darwinian Fitness Optimalisation.

  14. Sander van der Wal,

    the Utility Function itself van still be arbitrarily complicated. The onus is on explaining why the Utility Function for humans appears to need Free Will, and not something simpler as Darwinian Fitness Optimalisation.

    Okay but I’m not the one claiming the need for Free Will. In fact, it seems counter to Free Will because you can’t control what you think is the best option.

    As for complicated, perhaps, however I doubt it’s arbitrary. Subjective, yes, but you don’t get any say in what it is. How you arrive at your beliefs is a different topic.

  15. Would one say that because eating is directed toward nutrition [the end] that what we eat for dinner [the means] is determined?

    I think you’re having trouble distinguishing between the chooser’s and some other observer’s viewpoint. There’s a lot more that goes into what to eat than the need for nutrition such as: amount of pleasure derived, availability, and maybe cost (not necessarily monetary). Without knowing all of the criteria and their values to the chooser, the outside observer could be left puzzling over the choices made and attribute it to something like ‘Free Will’ when it’s merely the result of finding the option with the optimal value. It shouldn’t need saying, it’s the chooser’s value not some outsider’s.

  16. But, DAV, if the will is not free of outside constraints, there is no “chooser,” because no “choice” is possible. The outcome would be determined.

    Late Moderns don’t seem to understand what “determined” means and seem to think that “free will” is a more complex item than that which the Scholastics defined. Since all of the objections marshaled so far are simply the elements of rational deliberation laid out by Aquinas and others, it is hard to see why they are objections to deliberation at all. A choice is not an irrational choice.

    Folks are also confused by the fact that a great many acts are not in fact deliberate. We don’t choose to make our heart beat, for example. And in other cases, the will may be impaired by habit or other impediments, just as an arm or a lung may be impaired by accident of disease. The medievals never insisted that every act was a deliberate one. Or that choice over means implied choice over ends.

  17. But, DAV, if the will is not free of outside constraints, there is no “chooser,” because no “choice” is possible. The outcome would be determined.

    Maybe you’re catching on. I’ve been deliberately avoiding the word “choice” because it is loaded with baggage for you and the like. I’ve been saying “options” to mean a possible range of actions to take but in the end the one selected is compelled by a belief that it is the best. The outcome could be determined by a privy observer. The freedom of selection is an illusion.

    Not sure what you mean by outside constraints. There are almost always outside constraints. You can’t choose to live forever. You can’t choose to go mountain biking just now while locked in a jail cell. You can’t choose to hunt mountain goat for dinner while floating in a raft in the middle of the ocean. Well, you could “choose” all of those things but you would still know they aren’t possible in the given situations and are merely expressions of desire and not real options.

    I think you mean the selection isn’t made anywhere but within. If that’s what you mean by “free” then I agree.

    The medievals never insisted that every act was a deliberate one.

    Neither do I.

  18. There are almost always outside constraints. You can’t choose to live forever. You can’t choose to go mountain biking just now while locked in a jail cell. You can’t choose to hunt mountain goat for dinner while floating in a raft in the middle of the ocean.

    It is decidedly odd what you think ‘choices’ are. You can only choose among live options. Free will does not mean ‘anything goes.’ Nor does it mean that whatever you desire will be achieved, or even feasible. ‘Free choice,’ to use the common pleonasm, does not imply a successful choice.

    The will is free to the extent that knowledge is incomplete. The will is the intellective appetite, but you cannot desire what you do not know. So, if you do not know enough about the available means, you will is not determined to any one in particular. New information could lead you to change your mind.

    If the will was determined to a particular “option” (to use the computer jargon) then the action would not be deliberate. It would be autonomic, like beating your heart or digesting your meal. It would mean that when you wrote You can’t choose to hunt mountain goat for dinner you could not have written You can’t choose to hunt moose for supper. That, in fact, your word choice was not deliberate, but actually a sort of spirit writing

  19. It is decidedly odd what you think ‘choices’ are. You can only choose among live options.

    Thought that’s what I was saying. In fact, I thought I was giving a list of things that can’t be choices and even said so.

    The will is free to the extent that knowledge is incomplete.

    Reminds me of an old Russian joke: the USSR guarantees freedom of speech but the U.S. guarantees freedom after speech.

    Different flavors of ‘free’.

    Yeah, with complete knowledge it would be known which option is best without question. However, that doesn’t mean the list would have only one entry. In fact, it may be larger and each element would still need to be ranked. Again, you are conflating viewpoints and continue to vacillate between observer and the observed. The ‘free’ you are talking about here is only from the observer’s view.

    If the will was determined to a particular “option” (to use the computer jargon) then the action would not be deliberate. … That, in fact, your word choice was not deliberate, but actually a sort of spirit writing.

    See? ‘Choice’ is a loaded word for you. Just because something is determinable doesn’t mean it is accidental or occurred without purpose. ‘Option’ was the best replacement word for ‘choice’ from my viewpoint. I had no ‘freedom’ in selecting it regardless of how many options I had. I still deliberated them and would need to do so even with complete knowledge. The act of determining their value (ranking) is what is meant by deliberation. The difficulty in making the determination is irrelevant to the outcome.

    BTW: ‘option’ is an English word meaning “a thing that might be chosen.” It’s not jargon even in the context of software. It’s a synonym.

    op·tion noun
    1. a thing that is or may be chosen.
    “choose the cheapest options for supplying energy”

  20. @Doug
    I dunno. Because you have no choice? I have no idea why you believe what you do. Are your beliefs the result of your conditioning? You tell me.

  21. I think you have the same experience of an inner choice that everyone else has, but only afterwards philosophically propose that you were only conditioned to choose that. It is impossible to actually have an experience of being conditioned. If you thought you had that experience then you would already be outside of that conditioning.

    “Who cares if a murder is morally responsible? Said murderer is still responsible. Does not morally responsible mean can’t-be-punished? Why?”

    What kind of theory of justice is it that doesn’t take into consideration whether the killing was accidental or on purpose?

    You are saying the mind doesn’t actually DO anything. The brain is just injected with ideas.

  22. @Doug

    Inner? Outer? Elsewhere?
    The question (from you) was: Why should I believe X? Only you can answer the question and you were invited to do so. Instead you try to tell me why I believe things as if you know. Both foolish and arrogant.

    In other news, not morally responsible is not the equivalent of accidental. However, that said, if you are prone to killing people accidentally you are still a danger to those around you and should be dealt with accordingly. Quarantine for carrying a deadly, contagious disease is an example.

    The real issue is how much of a danger a killer represents or, put another way, if one killed X because X was merely in the way then it’s likely X won’t be the only one killed . You don’t need morals to figure that out. Killer pit bulls are often put down. Is it because they have defective morals?

    You are saying the mind doesn’t actually DO anything. The brain is just injected with ideas.

    Er, no. I was discussing the mechanics behind deciding/choosing an action to take and not the mind in general. The latter strikes me as way off topic. Are you inclined to read too much into posts or wander off the subject?

  23. For some reason, I am no longer receiving e=mails of responses here. I have to reload the page to see if there were any replies.

    I thought I was giving a list of things that can’t be choices and even said so.

    Yes, I agreed and even added more pertinent examples. The vast majority of acts of a man are not free, just as the vast majority of motions are not relativistic. That does not mean relativity doesn’t exist.

    Yeah, with complete knowledge it would be known which option is best without question. However, that doesn’t mean the list would have only one entry.

    So, there might be multiple “best” options? Doesn’t that obscure the idea of “best”?

    The ‘free’ you are talking about here is only from the observer’s view.

    Au contraire. The whole point is that knowledge is entirely from the subject’s point of view, and therefore the degrees of freedom are also in the subject.

    Just because something is determinable doesn’t mean it is accidental or occurred without purpose.

    A determined behavior is quite the opposite of accidental, because it has been determined by some factor external to the will; such as the position of the stars and planets, the genes, socio-economic “forces.” Perhaps you are using ‘determined’ in a Thomistic sense? If an act is determined, then whose purpose are you invoking?

    If you understand what is meant by 1+1=, your will cannot withold consent from 2. It is determined to that outcome and cannot be otherwise. There is no freedom in the will on that point. Yet, some will say, “Oh, but 1+1=10! or 1+1=0! as if they have made a salient point by inserting an act of free will into the mix by admitting that if they did not understand what was meant by 1+1, then further “options” were possible.

    I still deliberated them

    If you deliberated them, you chose among them. That is what it means to deliberate. One weighs the ‘options’ and chooses what seems the best of them. And that is the very act of the will. Although most usually one does not select “options” from a “list.” Often, one conceives of a course of action and then just does it. The “list” only emerges retrospectively when you think of all the things you could have done instead.

    ‘Option’ was the best replacement word for ‘choice’ from my viewpoint.

    So you considered and rejected ‘alternative,’ ‘selection,’ ‘preference,’ ‘pick,’ et al. That is the very nature of choosing.

    if one killed X because X was merely in the way then it’s likely X won’t be the only one killed . You don’t need morals to figure that out.

    Although you might to figure out whether it is wrong.

  24. D: complete knowledge … However, that doesn’t mean the list would have only one entry.
    Y: So, there might be multiple “best” options? Doesn’t that obscure the idea of “best”?

    1) complete knowledge does not mean it is immediately available. YMMV
    2) There are still things with lower rank. Why would they be absent?

    If you deliberated them, you chose among them. That is what it means to deliberate.

    No. “Deliberate” (verb) means to think about them. In this case, to rank them. It’s possible that selection is a recursive activity but all recursions must eventually reach a terminal point. I think options merely occur and are not selected for consideration. Some are almost immediately — and likely subconsciously — discarded

    What started this is when I said I deliberately replaced ‘choice’ with ‘option’. That meant I purposely replaced it.

    One weighs the ‘options’ and chooses what seems the best of them. And that is the very act of the will.

    I guess ‘will’ is as good a term as any but I doubt the weighing is willful. It’s a requirement for selection. If it wasn’t then the selections would be random and counterproductive. It’s automatic like digestion. Even animals must do it otherwise they couldn’t be trained with punishment/reward.

    One weighs the ‘options’ and chooses what seems the best of them. … Although most usually one does not select “options” from a “list.”

    Well, which is it? What’s to weigh if there is no list?

    Often, one conceives of a course of action and then just does it. The “list” only emerges retrospectively when you think of all the things you could have done instead.

    So,you do this first thing that pops into your head and rationalize it later?

    ‘Option’ was the best replacement word for ‘choice’ from my viewpoint.
    So you considered and rejected ‘alternative,’ ‘selection,’ ‘preference,’ ‘pick,’ et al. That is the very nature of choosing.

    Uh, yeah (??) Isn’t that the topic?

    if one killed X because X was merely in the way then it’s likely X won’t be the only one killed . You don’t need morals to figure that out.
    Although you might to figure out whether it is wrong.

    Wrong? Who cares? You mean undesirable, yes? Killing X when X was in the way is a good solution to the problem — it’s just undesirable because people that think like this are a danger to those around them. You shouldn’t need morals to see this.

    Vegans think eating meat is morally wrong. Does anyone else care? Should meat eaters be punished? Who gets to say what is moral?

    A determined behavior is quite the opposite of accidental, because it has been determined by some factor external to the will

    Or it could be one which can be the past tense of determine one of its meanings: ascertain or establish exactly. If you always pick what you believe is the best option then it is external to the will since you can’t will your beliefs. If I know everything you know then I can determine (i.e., ascertain) your choice. In any case, the choice is determined by your belief.

  25. Even animals must do it otherwise they couldn’t be trained with punishment/reward.
    Indeed, Imagination approximates to Intellection, so much so that Late Moderns often confuse the two. Partly, this is because they are bedazzled by the mechanistic model of instinct developed in the 17th cent. Go here, https://tofspot.blogspot.com/2016/02/in-psearch-of-psyche-lets-get-moving.html, and scroll down to the section labeled “Animal Prudence.”

    Vegans think eating meat is morally wrong. Does anyone else care?

    Depends on whether they sieze political power; cf. Prohibition. But the fact that they call something ‘moral’ or not does not relate to whether they actually are. They should have to make the logical case for it.

    If you always pick what you believe is the best option then it is external to the will since you can’t will your beliefs.

    Certainly you can. Where else do beleifs come from if not internally? Do they come from a mail-order outfit in Schenectady?

    Argumentum ab dictionario is not the best approach to technical discussions. It matter how a term is used by those whose arguments you seek to refute.

    Most of the points you have laid out were laid out by Aquinas in discussing the Will. They are features, not bugs.

  26. the fact that they call something ‘moral’ or not does not relate to whether they actually are.

    This should have been
    the fact that they call something ‘moral’ or not does not relate to whether it actually is.

  27. you can’t will your beliefs.
    Certainly you can. Where else do beliefs come from if not internally? Do they come from a mail-order outfit in Schenectady?

    Of course not. They come from Akron where the best beliefs are made. 🙂

    So anything produced internally is the result of will? That suggests control. I would think beliefs are the result of obtaining/possessing compelling evidence either as individual items or collections of them. If you believe X you can’t suddenly believe NOT X without it. The control is in the evidence. If you can ignore the evidence then it’s not compelling.

    Argumentum ab dictionario is not the best approach to technical discussions.

    This from the person accusing others of employing jargon. Jargon should be flagged as such especially if it can be confused with normal definitions. Dictionary definitions should be assumed.

  28. I would think beliefs are the result of obtaining/possessing compelling evidence either as individual items or collections of them.

    You keep describing the operations of the Will as if they were objections thereto. The Will is a rational faculty. It is the Intellective appetite, not one of the sensitive appetites. That is, it is a hunger for or revulsion against to products of the Intellect. i.e., Conceptions, as opposed to Perceptions. That’s why equating choice to “Buridan’s Ass” situations overshoots the mark. Why do you seem to claim that voluntary acts are not rational, and based on evidence when those are paradigmatically voluntary acts.

    Computer jargon would cease to be jargon if we were discussing computers. We aren’t.

  29. Why do you seem to claim that voluntary acts are not rational, and based on evidence when those are paradigmatically voluntary acts.

    Because I’m not despite your attempts to see it that way.

    That said, beliefs aren’t voluntary. They are based on what you know. Like with your “1+1=2” example, If you understand what is meant by 1+1=, your will cannot withold consent from 2. You cannot help but believe it.

    You seem to have a strange definition of ‘voluntary’ — paradigmatic or otherwise. But then, you haven’t bothered to communicate your paradigm unless you somehow think The Will is a rational faculty. It is the Intellective appetite, not one of the sensitive appetites. That is, it is a hunger for or revulsion against to products of the Intellect was said communication. If it was then it assumes prior knowledge: e.g., whether appetite, sensitive, and hunger are jargon words or whether the English definitions can be used. There’s more but why go on?

    Your fondness for jargon is endearing but largely self-defeating. Posting aphorisms like The Will is determined toward the Good just as the Intellect is determined toward the True reminds me of those who post only equations such as:
    https://miro.medium.com/max/1096/1*rdBw0E-My8Gu3f_BOB6GMA.png
    and think they’ve said it all.

  30. Interesting back and forth between DAV and YOS and others. But could not suffer through all of it. Must be my past.
    Also my past was the affectation of using “person” and female pronouns. Again my past, not free will interferes. Find such writing bumpy. So gave up. Shame on my past that made me not able to suffer through it all.

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