Are humans responsible agents? Why? - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-19-2016, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Are humans responsible agents? Why?


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To be responsible for an action, the agent must be perceived to have originated that action. And to do so fairly they must be capable of avoiding it too. There is no point in assigning blame if the agent was incapable of avoiding the outcome.

If a neighbor scratched my car, I might blame him. But if he scratched it because at the time he was being thrown through the air following a traffic accident, assigning blame would not be reasonable. After all, there was no way for him to avoid that event.

If I spy my neighbor walking in the street, pulling out a key and scraping it along my new car, I'd be "correct" in assigning blame to him. The idea clearly originated within him. He had the option of not keying the car and so on. My perspective allows me to assign responsibility to the act.

But imagine if the observer were omniscient. Capable of observing not just external actions, but internal causes. This observer might see things differently. They'd see the reason why he decided to take that action, he'd observe the very neurones firing. The chemistry and connectome of the brain. The memories and influences that caused the act. He'd see the cause of the causes. And would be aware of long chains of causality leading back to before the agent was even born. Back to the start of time.

For such an observer there was no way for the agent to avoid the event.

For an omniscient observer, the idea of "blame" or "responsibility" would be moot. The agent cannot be blamed for a conscious action any more than a rock be blamed for rolling downhill. The action would be the inevitable consequence of physics and time.

But for us mortals, with our causal myopia, assigning blame is fine.
https://www.quora.com/Are-humans-responsible-agents-Why

Essentially, are people really to blame for their actions? People don't choose their genetic or their environment. If their actions are a result of a combination of genetics, environment and luck then why blame them? They didn't choose any of those factors.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

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post #2 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-20-2016, 04:42 PM
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Who is assigning blame?

An omniscient observer. Well my views on that topic are radically different than the vast majority of the population. But at the end of the day the question is what actions are caused by genetics and environment, and what is free will. Or is free will an illusion, if so why make it an illusion? Why trick us into thinking we are in control when we are not.

What are we being blamed for?

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post #3 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-20-2016, 04:45 PM
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If my computer is not working, and giving me errors when trying to open programs, then it is a problem that needs to be fixed. It doesn't matter whether the computer 'wants' to work properly or wants to frustrate me, it isn't working. So the only question I care about, is when a human is not behaving properly, how do we fix them?
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post #4 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-20-2016, 05:49 PM
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I am not convinced that being unable to observe all of the deterministic events somehow means we get to pretend they don't exist at all. Once we know the puppet strings are there, just because we cannot see them, it doesn't mean we should carry on blaming the puppets.
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post #5 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-20-2016, 11:44 PM
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One shouldn't really blame people for blaming people, either. One also shouldn't really blame people for blaming people who blame people. So on and so forth.

Even if that observer could see all causes via omniscience, he could still blame people. And we couldn't really blame the observer for blaming people, since he's also a product of causes. But, then I suppose you also can't really blame us for blaming him.

That's the thing though, people are still going to blame people. And you shouldn't really blame them for it or blame yourself when you do blame them for it. Just relax and let your homunculus, the little fella inside your head pulling the levers, do its thing. Your homunculus should also relax and let its little homunculus do its thing. And your homunculus' homunculus should also relax and let its homunculus do its thing. And so on.

Honestly, I just like saying homunculus. Homunculous.

/facetious
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post #6 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-21-2016, 03:30 AM
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I think libertarian free will is the only kind worth having. It may be that all actions are inescapably determined, but this has still not been shown to be true. In my view arguments for determinism are by no means conclusive. I regard almost all such arguments as a kind of rhetorical bluff used to further various agendas and sell books.

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post #7 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-23-2016, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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One shouldn't really blame people for blaming people, either. One also shouldn't really blame people for blaming people who blame people. So on and so forth.

Even if that observer could see all causes via omniscience, he could still blame people. And we couldn't really blame the observer for blaming people, since he's also a product of causes. But, then I suppose you also can't really blame us for blaming him.

That's the thing though, people are still going to blame people. And you shouldn't really blame them for it or blame yourself when you do blame them for it. Just relax and let your homunculus, the little fella inside your head pulling the levers, do its thing. Your homunculus should also relax and let its little homunculus do its thing. And your homunculus' homunculus should also relax and let its homunculus do its thing. And so on.

Honestly, I just like saying homunculus. Homunculous.

/facetious


Lol. Just awesome. Props for using the word homunculus.

It's a lot like when a child keeps asking why until you run out of answers. Ultimately, there is no ultimate answer. I do what I do because I want to.

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post #8 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-23-2016, 01:41 PM
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Agents are operatives skilled in deception and avoidance, but trained in self-defense and the use of deadly force. Self-reliant and independent, agents devote themselves to personal goals, or to various patrons or causes.

This is the best definition i can find online about humans who are in fact agents . I don't judge it in fact i think it is very attractive if they can really live to the mentioned description above . The sad fact is most of them can't .
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post #9 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-23-2016, 11:28 PM
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Even if there is no free will, we can't exist without assuming there is. A society which holds nobody to account for anything will quickly descend into chaos and in time become extinct. Therefore, we have to at least assume humans are agents which can be held to accountability.

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post #10 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-24-2016, 12:35 AM
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I think that technically we do have control of a part of our minds. Thoughts are electrical impulses, so if you think about something, like keying a car, you have a part of the control of the electrons (and the other components of the process) causing that thought.

Therefore I think that despite we (strictly speaking) don't have free will, our History also isn't 100% written by external factors.

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When many people suffer from a delusion it's called a Religion.
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post #11 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-24-2016, 03:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelClare View Post
https://www.quora.com/Are-humans-responsible-agents-Why

Essentially, are people really to blame for their actions? People don't choose their genetic or their environment. If their actions are a result of a combination of genetics, environment and luck then why blame them? They didn't choose any of those factors.
I agree with some of what others have said. I believe that there is nature and nurture, what we can't control and what we can, so I believe in partial free will, so yes, generally speaking, I believe that people, at least, can be blamed for their actions.

Nonetheless, I believe that people, unfortunately, tend to not take responsibility for their actions, and I believe that very few of them would cite determinism as the cause.

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I think libertarian free will is the only kind worth having. It may be that all actions are inescapably determined, but this has still not been shown to be true. In my view arguments for determinism are by no means conclusive. I regard almost all such arguments as a kind of rhetorical bluff used to further various agendas and sell books.
I mostly agree, though I don't particularly like the word "libertarian," and I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "libertarian free will."

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post #12 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-25-2016, 12:00 PM Thread Starter
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Even if there is no free will, we can't exist without assuming there is. A society which holds nobody to account for anything will quickly descend into chaos and in time become extinct. Therefore, we have to at least assume humans are agents which can be held to accountability.
We "have to" assume? Do we have the freedom to choose to believe in free will? Do we have the freedom to assume?

If there is no free will then there are no choices. You didn't choose to have your opinion. Your opinion is the result of the collective behavior of mindless sub-entities. Those sub-entities could be particles or waves or energy or probabilities or whatever you believe. Your opinion is motivated purely by physical forces, probabilities and the laws of nature. The same would be true of my opinion and this entire discussion.

If human beings are an emergent phenomena of the collective behavior of these sub-entities then Hitler is just a victim of nature. He didn't choose to be Hitler and his actions are ultimately attributable to natural processes that he didn't choose. He is no different than a hurricane.

So, not only would human life be impossible without the assumption of free will but even the assumption of free will would not be possible without the freedom to assume things.

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post #13 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-25-2016, 12:03 PM Thread Starter
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so I believe in partial free will, so yes, generally speaking, I believe that people, at least, can be blamed for their actions.
I agree. My point is that belief is a supernatural belief. In other words, people are at least partially motivated by something more than just natural processes.

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post #14 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-25-2016, 02:18 PM
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Whether we have free will or not is independent of whether we want free will or not. Some are prone to falling victim to an appeal to consequence here, and mixing up that because we really want free will it must be true. Whether something has bad or good consequences has no bearing on whether that something is true or not.

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Even if there is no free will, we can't exist without assuming there is. A society which holds nobody to account for anything will quickly descend into chaos and in time become extinct. Therefore, we have to at least assume humans are agents which can be held to accountability.
Does no free will mean this though? Not having free will doesn't mean people can't be punished for their actions, or made to change their actions. If you look at people more like dogs (who for some reason aren't deemed to have free will), you can still alter the behaviour of dogs without saying they have free will .

In the same way, you can still have deterrents, positive and negative reinforcements, these become things that are necessary for a better outcome rather than things to punish individuals. Perhaps .

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I mostly agree, though I don't particularly like the word "libertarian," and I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "libertarian free will."
Libertarian free will is one of the main positions one can take w.r.t free will, and it tends to be the default human position. More or less:

1) Compatibilism: Belief in free will and determinism. That is, determinism holds but humans still have enough agency for responsibility.

2) Incompatibilism: Belief that free will and determinism are not compatible. This falls into three sub groups:

a) Hard Determinists: Belief that because determinism is true, free will cannot be

b) Libertarians: Belief that there is free will because determinism is false.

c) Hard Incompatibilists: If determinism is true there is no free will, if determinism is false, there still isn't free will.

Arguing against determinism isn't the easiest thing, though you can make some arguments using quantum indeterminacies. Essentially what a libertarian is suggesting is that our minds are free from determinism (cause and effect), i.e. we are little mini gods. You can use quantum indeterminacies to argue against compatibilism, but this still (if you say there might be true randomness) doesn't mean that randomness is under the control of the individual (which is what would be required for free will, the hard incompatibilist argument, I think). That is, even if you have true randomness which breaks determinism, that randomness must be under the control of the individual for it to matter.

Compatibilism isn't the free will people assume to be free will (that is libertarian free will). It isn't so much completely free will as "enough will for accountability" or something like that

The idea with determinism is it "holds enough" outside the quantum world to consider it more or less infallible. It is all pretty heavy stuff though (and I might well have messed some of this up, because my brain is poo atm )
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post #15 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-25-2016, 07:58 PM
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I agree. My point is that belief is a supernatural belief. In other words, people are at least partially motivated by something more than just natural processes.
Yes. "Supernatural belief" sure is an interesting phrase.

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Libertarian free will is one of the main positions one can take w.r.t free will, and it tends to be the default human position. More or less:

1) Compatibilism: Belief in free will and determinism. That is, determinism holds but humans still have enough agency for responsibility.

2) Incompatibilism: Belief that free will and determinism are not compatible. This falls into three sub groups:

a) Hard Determinists: Belief that because determinism is true, free will cannot be

b) Libertarians: Belief that there is free will because determinism is false.

c) Hard Incompatibilists: If determinism is true there is no free will, if determinism is false, there still isn't free will.

Arguing against determinism isn't the easiest thing, though you can make some arguments using quantum indeterminacies. Essentially what a libertarian is suggesting is that our minds are free from determinism (cause and effect), i.e. we are little mini gods. You can use quantum indeterminacies to argue against compatibilism, but this still (if you say there might be true randomness) doesn't mean that randomness is under the control of the individual (which is what would be required for free will, the hard incompatibilist argument, I think). That is, even if you have true randomness which breaks determinism, that randomness must be under the control of the individual for it to matter.

Compatibilism isn't the free will people assume to be free will (that is libertarian free will). It isn't so much completely free will as "enough will for accountability" or something like that

The idea with determinism is it "holds enough" outside the quantum world to consider it more or less infallible. It is all pretty heavy stuff though (and I might well have messed some of this up, because my brain is poo atm )
Very interesting, and thanks for the clarification. Yes, that sure is heavy stuff. I'm not quite sure which category I fall under though.

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post #16 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 12:50 AM
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We "have to" assume? Do we have the freedom to choose to believe in free will? Do we have the freedom to assume?
We have to assume we have the freedom to choose to assume we have free will even if we don't

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If there is no free will then there are no choices. You didn't choose to have your opinion. Your opinion is the result of the collective behavior of mindless sub-entities. Those sub-entities could be particles or waves or energy or probabilities or whatever you believe. Your opinion is motivated purely by physical forces, probabilities and the laws of nature. The same would be true of my opinion and this entire discussion.
It could be we can only make concious choices over a very small set of options which the sub-concious pushes to our concious mind. So we may have a very limited free will.

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If human beings are an emergent phenomena of the collective behavior of these sub-entities then Hitler is just a victim of nature. He didn't choose to be Hitler and his actions are ultimately attributable to natural processes that he didn't choose. He is no different than a hurricane.
Yet if we could choose to 'kill' a hurricane before it destroyed a town wouldn't we, just as we would have killed Hitler if possible? Both are agencies that are/were arguably worth stopping, free will or not.

Also, as I say, maybe there is some degree of free will in humans which would give us even more accountability for actions.

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So, not only would human life be impossible without the assumption of free will but even the assumption of free will would not be possible without the freedom to assume things.
See my first reply.

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post #17 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 12:55 AM
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Does no free will mean this though? Not having free will doesn't mean people can't be punished for their actions, or made to change their actions. If you look at people more like dogs (who for some reason aren't deemed to have free will), you can still alter the behaviour of dogs without saying they have free will .

In the same way, you can still have deterrents, positive and negative reinforcements, these become things that are necessary for a better outcome rather than things to punish individuals. Perhaps .
How can anyone choose to do anything without at least the assumption of free will? It's true behaviour can be altered without agencies we deem to have free will though of course. That's normal in the natural world.

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post #18 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 03:50 AM
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How can anyone choose to do anything without at least the assumption of free will? It's true behaviour can be altered without agencies we deem to have free will though of course. That's normal in the natural world.
A choice can be made in a simple computer program using an if else statement. Free will isn't required for choices, free will is only required for free choices. Will is all that is required for choices. Dogs make choices, but they don't have free will (though I am not sure why they don't).

I am unsure what you are suggesting exists that isn't the natural world
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post #19 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 03:52 AM
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A choice can be made in a simple computer program using an if else statement. Free will isn't required for choices, free will is only required for free choices. Will is all that is required for choices.
Fair enough for a non-concious choice. Indeed most the choices our mind makes aren't concious choices.

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post #20 of 236 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 04:00 AM
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Fair enough for a non-concious choice. Indeed most the choices our mind makes aren't concious choices.
There isn't any reason to assume a conscious choice is free either though. Animals are conscious and make choices, but we don't assign them free will. If there is more intelligent life out there than us does that mean we no longer have free will because they can contemplate more options?

Super intelligent species > humans > monkeys > dogs > mice > insects

At which point are we assigning free will? At which point does determinism no longer hold?

(something like this anyway heh, I literally haven't slept).
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