Free Willism vs. Free Will

carter pate (CPATE@UTCVM.BITNET)
Thu, 19 May 1994 14:46:46 EDT

RE Bob Brager's:

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
I agree that the argument is cute, but would like to recommend against
using "free will" as shorthand for *belief in* free will ("free
willism"?). On C. Pate's relating free will to the concept of
randomness: I believe it was Rindos himself who just posted a superb
explanation, using a coin flip or die roll as an example, of why
randomness is a method we use for modeling ignorance, not a feature
inherent in the phenomena we are trying to model. Randomness as a
statistical idea is a serious attempt to proceed in the face of what
is, in some cases, irreducible ignorance about what is determinative,
or the values taken by determinative variables; free willism, by
contrast, elevates ignorance about the determination of our own
behavior to a necessity as well as a virtue. --B. Graber
------end of original------

Haven't we been told frequently that in hard logic, it is impossible to prove
a negative?

Without my dictionary at hand, "determinism" has always seemed to imply
inevitable causation, presumably in a way which might be reduced to a mathemati
cal formula for prediction. I.e.: "the Sun will rise tomorrow at . . ."
(Ignoring the fact that sometimes we can't predict precisely because of our
lack of knowledge, i.e. "When will the Big One come in California?") We
assume that determinism is very effective (do I HAVE to say "absolute?) in
inorganic and organic sciences. But in the sociocultural realm, have we
progressed far enough to be CERTAIN it is equally effective? Wouldn't this
be fallacious "arguing by analogy"?

If randomness can be accepted or interpreted as a kind of determinism (which
I'm reluctant to do), then we are admitting that something other than absolute
NEGATIVE, "There is absolutely nothing else than determinism and randomness."

John Greenway, at Colorado in 1966 exposed himself as a fanatic follower of
Leslie White's cultural determinism, arguing that since accident rates remain
fairly constant, if you get clobbered in an intersection, this was merely an
example of cultural determinism, and you flatly couldn't do anything about
it. Now maybe Greenway had "tongue in cheek" but he never admitted it to my
knowledge. (It was an effective technique of provoking discussion!)

Isn't this intensive concern to exclude "anything else" before we've reached a
stage of certainty shared among a community of enquiry, more IDEOLOGY than

Please note again, I haven't said "free will" except in explanatory notes such
as this. In my view our choices are seldom either perfectly free or perfect-
ly determined, but contingent upon many factors. But to assume in advance that
consciousness and choice have utterly no influence on events seems unwarrant-
ed. Of course it's consistent with the strictest behaviorism in psychology,
for which "introspection has no value at all."

Why not let the behaviorists and the determinists discover everything they
can, go as far as they can go? Aren't those who think there is some-
thing to be discovered under consciousness and choice, more likely to keep
persevereing into this difficult field of investigation?

Regards, cpate