Re: Free Will and AIDS Spreaders

Thu, 2 Jun 1994 23:36:21 -0400

>Let me suggest that the list now provides a fine specimen of free
>willism's value in rationalizing blame-placing: the spread of AIDS is
>being attributed to the irresponsible behavior of those individuals who,
>of their own free will, engage in unprotected sex even though they know
>better.Blaming these "irresponsible" free spirits may help the blamers
>feel better; and if it prompts actions it may even impact the problem a
>bit (though I doubt it). But it certainly does nothing to help describe
>or explain the "irresponsible" behavior itself. Indeed, it mystifies
>the behavior precisely so it can be condemned with a clear conscience.
>The scientific position is abandoned so the moralistic one can be taken
>up. --Bob Graber

I understand your concern over "free willism." It, like a lot of
carping by various right-wingers about "individual responsibility" obscures
the way in which individual choices are constrained by all kinds of forces
- social, economic, political, perhaps even biochemical.
But I would say that perhaps one of the best arguments for "free will"
is that most human beings act as if they (and their peers) possess it,
because they hold both themselves and others responsible for their
Clearly, I think you would find a society that completely disbelieved
in free will quite undesirable. Would you prefer one where no one is held
responsible for their actions, because it is thought that everything they
do is determined by external forces?
To the best of my knowledge, while societies of all kinds have
ascribed actions of individuals to all kinds of outside determining forces
- hormones, gods, stress, possessing spirits, temporary insanity,
"childhood upbringing," attention deficit disorder, sorcery, or Skinnerian
stimuli - almost all cultures have recognized that, in the last instance,
people *are* responsible for the choices they make, *when* choices are
available to them... possibly because to believe otherwise might jeopardize
(to borrow from another thread) the 'inclusive fitness' of the society...
We can look at the reasons why people with AIDs might have unprotected
sex. After all, that's our job as anthropologists. Explaining behavior and
all that. But that does not mean that once we have assembled all these
causal forces, that the choice to use or not use a condom has been
'explained away.' Or that we should then say, "No big deal. You didn't
choose not to use a condom. Instead, your class, sexual orientation,
childhood upbringing, cultural millieux, etc, etc. made the choice for
Heck, why not just say it was already "preordained" in their "soul?"
Is free will a necessary collective fiction? Maybe.
Of course, I think it has "scientific validity" also. ;-)

Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, Guerilla Ontologist, Chaotician
Matrix Master Control Node #3, Gainesville, Fl.
"I slept with Faith & found a corpse in my arms upon awakening/ I drank and
danced all night with Doubt and found her a virgin in the morning." --