Infinite Free Regress

Galen Strawson describing his four level view of free will, ends up describing it as a proof of a problem between free-will and determinism, whereas it is the solution IMHO.

  • If I am responsible for my decisions and actions, then that responsibility is somehow related to what I am, the set of resources available to me to make my decision.
  • But if that’s the case then I need to have responsibility for what I am. (Because, if what I am were purely pre-determined or randomly defined externally, then that external decided resource would be the basis of any decision I make. I couldn’t be held responsible for either me or my decisions.)
  • But if I am taking responsibility for what I am, I must have previously been making decisions towards being / becoming what I am (and knowing what I should need to be).
  • But if that’s the case …. those decisions were based on what I am (was) … etc.

Sounds like infinite regress – well Duh ! Yes, but no.

It’s a Hofstadter strange-loop, a generator, iterating on each cycle, the very basis of evolving morality, evolving anything. Freedom evolves to give us elbow room as Dennett puts it.

All the usual stuff – Libet et al. Actually, not a bad edition of In our Time, the panel coming down on the idea that free-will is NOT incompatible with determinism. They are both real. There is a “wholist” holistic view needed of the person making any decision – whole of physiology and system physiognomy (including whole of nervous system, endocrine, etc …), and whole of evolved life, both species and individual “mind”. No homunculus or ghost-in-the-machine representing my mind, just the whole me.

Frustrating that Melvin never seems to join up the dots or gets past the naive stance of either / or. Getting there, though.

4 thoughts on “Infinite Free Regress”

  1. I’m convinded that determinism or non-determinism has no effect on the free-will question. In fact that is the only bit of Dennet’s book (which I recently re-read very slowly) that seems conclusive.

  2. Absolutely. It’s one of the points that Strawson makes in the talk – in many ways a random / fate kind of non-determinism makes the problem even worse in this ethics of free-will debate. In fact it’s actually an independent issue, not to be conflated with free-will. Dennett is already clear on this as we’ve discovered.

  3. As far as I can tell, that is all he is clear on – or at least clear enough for me to follow.

  4. Which specific Dennett book(s) ?

    In a sense that is clear, if that is all he is clear on, because all of the rest is evolution – where there are many possible processes, and all that’s clear empirically is achievable with hindsight only.

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