My take on freedom.
July 2, 2012
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I’m going to briefly share my take on ‘free will’ as both a metaphysical and meta-ethical concept. I may update this post as my views develop, but this is still more or less my robust perspective.
I believe that the experience of agency is very important for human wellbeing. Feeling free is something we crave, inescapably. Because of that, freedom is an important concept and an important phenomenon in any moral system. We must think about it. But that doesn’t make it coherent as a metaphysical concept. The experience of agency is something that emerges out of the complexity of our minds. It doesn’t mean that we have the ability to choose our actions in the sense that in another identical world, we could have done differently. Our actions are determined, entirely, by their antecedent causal conditions. Some of this determinism we can feel as we struggle against structures that exert forces in society, like the economy, but we still can’t shake the feeling that we have choices. This is only and entirely why ‘choices’ and ‘freedom’ matter: because we will always feel as though they are Real, even when we realise their impossibility at the metaphysical level.
As a result, I see no reason to assign moral responsibility in any way other than that which is most instrumentally useful while simultaneously being something we can accept without feeling violated, and if we have a case where an assignation appears useful but also bothers us, we should see nothing particularly special about our attitudes such that we shouldn’t try to change them instead of assigning responsibility differently.