Fuzzy Morality

Psychology can sometimes confuse one's mind about morality. If human behaviour can be predicted, something which psychology attempts to achieve, then it would imply that there is no 'free will', or if present, its limit is very reduced, and much of our actions are a result of psychological cause and effect. And this realization leads one to wonder: does it shift the responsibility of our actions from our shoulders? The question is complex, and i don't have any neat solution to it myself. It seems very ironic that the very psychological determinism which robs us of our free will also conditions us to believe in morality and individual responsibility. It's as if human society requires morality to function properly; it requires individuals to be responsible for their actions. And to accomplish this, evolution endows us with an innate moral faculty, a sense of right and wrong; the sensation of right and wrong, just like we have the sensation of taste. And in a way it is also logical: a monster doesn't cease to be a monster because its actions are not a result of free will; a good person doesn't cease to be a good person because his moral faculty is stronger and more sensitive by nature. The good and evil that we do spring from within us; they may not be a result of a conscious choice, but they are nevertheless something we did, and whether fair or unfair, it is we who would have to bear their consequences.

Comments

Komal said…
But it's obvious we don't have free will :)
Awais said…
@ Komal

It is not that obvious, but even if we believe so, the question of morality still remains.
Even if we assume that this lack of free will removes the responsibility of the person's shoulder, something still has to be done about it. If an insane psycho-killer is on a killing spree, we still have to stop him. In this case we can catch him and psychologically 'treat' him maybe, but we can't 'treat' determinism, can we?
Komal said…
Of course we have to stop psycho-killers, but it's obvious that we don't have free will from the Principle of Sufficient Reason. I'd like to see you make a case for free will ;)
Awais said…
Principle of Sufficient Reason is not something which every philosopher would accept. I also don't see any 'reason' why it should be applicable in all situations.

I can't prove that Free Will exists, if that is what you are asking. But the case for free will remains as long as scientists don't come up with definite theories of how consciousness emerges and how conscious decisions are taken.

Furthermore, it is not 'obvious' what free will actually means. I would like to know how you define Free Will?
I, for instance, would define free will as 'The hypothetical ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances.'
Komal said…
That is the same as my definition, though I'm not sure why you put 'hypothetical' in it. Just the use of the word 'ability' is enough.

The points you raise are good, however all of that creates only the possibility of free will. It doesn't make a case for free will, only makes it possible that such a case be made at some point (perhaps with evidence and good arguments). It'd be nice to be agnostic about everything (it would be the most intellectually honest position, in a sense) but for pragmatic reasons we usually have to settle for the most plausible, and it's more plausible that free will does not exist than that it does.
Awais said…
The problem with defining Free Will lies in the fact that if we define a free act as one which is not determined by any prior cause, then such an act would be purely random. Nobody would ascribe responsibility to one's actions if they were entirely the result of random coincidence, but the notion of free will does entail responsibility. (Interestingly, computer programs can generate random numbers. Does it mean they are 'free'?) If an act is completely determined by prior causes then of course this isn't a free act. The only option that remains is that 'free will' is an action that is 'partly determined by prior causes' but that doesn't sound like a good definition, does it.
Komal said…
Another good point you raised; however our definition of free will is not effected by this realization. The definition is still good: 'the ability to have done otherwise than one did': notice how it does not presume that randomness makes or helps or hurts the case for free will.
Awais said…
You are right, it only creates the possibility of free will. But belief in free will seems to be the default position of human mind, and the burden of proof tends to fall on the determinists to prove their case and not otherwise.

And, yes, i agree with you, it is more plausible that free will doesn't exist.
Komal said…
Right, but the burden of proof lies on those who are challenging the Principle of Sufficient Reason since this principle has a lot of evidence working in its favour (all of our study of natural phenomena, physics and such, prove it). So if something works in all circumstances, if we encounter a new circumstance, we have no reason to make an exception, unless somebody gives us a reason.
Awais said…
So the basis of ur belief in Principle of Sufficient Reason is Inductive Reasoning... since all your observations conform to this principle, you assume that this principle would be applicable universally. But Inductive reasoning was shown to be flawed by the philosopher David Hume centuries ago. The Problem of Induction is still a hotly debated issue. Just because we have never seen a white crow doesn't mean that a white crow doesn't exist (or red for that matter). Just because we have always seen event A following event B in our observations doesn't mean it would necessarily be so in all the cases we have not observed, or all the observations we are yet to make. Inductions only makes something 'probable', it doesn't make it 'necessary'.
Komal said…
Yes, the basis is inductive reasoning. However, I am open to the possibility that free will exists, but weigh plausibility for pragmatic reasons, as I mentioned before. If it weren't for this, I would not call myself a hard determinist. This pragmatic component is extremely important to my position, and will answer the problem of induction as well.
Komal said…
Also, according to the problem of induction, you can't use induction to establish probability. You would have to disbelieve in probabilities entirely if you really took the problem seriously.
Awais said…
The pragmatic approach makes sense, but then you can't present Principle of Sufficient Reason as a definite proof of determinism.

Also, according to the problem of induction, you can't use induction to establish probability.

As far as my understanding of the issue goes, we can't use induction to establish 'necessity', but we can use it to establish 'probability'.
Komal said…
Nonononono! The problem of induction is the problem of establishing probability, not necessity! Induction was never used to establish necessity, that isn't what induction is for in the first place. Induction is used to establish probability, and the problem of induction is basically the skeptical question 'how do you justify using induction at all?'
Awais said…
Actually there isn't a single version of Problem of Inductions. I suppose we are referring to different versions of it.

'Until about the middle of the previous century induction was treated as a quite specific method of inference: inference of a universal affirmative proposition (All swans are white) from its instances (a is a white swan, b is a white swan, etc.) The method had also a probabilistic form, in which the conclusion stated a probabilistic connection between the properties in question. It is no longer possible to think of induction in such a restricted way; much if not all synthetic or contingent inference is now taken to be inductive.'

From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/
Komal said…
What you mentioned is not a version of the problem of induction. It can't be, as the limit of induction is that it doesn't establish necessity. Inductive reasoning can't provide conclusive support to a conclusion, it can only provide inconclusive support.

There are only two problems of induction as far as I know. One is 'how do you know the future will be like the past?' The other is 'how do you know what to project from the past into the future?' The second one is rarely mentioned except among philosophers who specialize in this area.
Komal said…
Btw we'll have to finish this later as I have to go.
Awais said…
I think you need to just skim through the Stanford Encyclopedia entry of Problem of Induction to see that there aren't just two versions. And in fact, the two version you have stated are specific applications of the problem of induction, they are not the actual philosophical statements of the problem.

Yeah, we can finish it later. :) Nice discussing with you.
Komal said…
Ok back.

What you said is not the problem of induction though. It can't be, as the very concept of induction includes this limit. The problem of induction is the problem of how to justify generalizing. I know this for certain, and do not need to read the encyclopedia entry.
Awais said…
I am not going to fight with you over this :P
Komal said…
Lol. Why don't you believe me, though? I'm willing to bet money on this. You can't believe in probability and take the problem of induction very seriously at the same time. The problem of induction abolishes calculations of probability as legitimate exercises. If you believe in probability, you believe in induction.
Awais said…
I am not denying that problem of induction deals with probability too... i am referring to ur denial of any other form of problem of induction.
Komal said…
I don't deny other forms of the problem of induction. They aren't actually other 'forms', rather variations on the basic problem of projecting or generalizing.

In any event you said "Inductions only makes something 'probable', it doesn't make it 'necessary'." But actually the problem of induction would lead a person to question that probability, not merely the 'certainty' that free will doesn't exist (which one can already question by the fact that it's not deductively entailed, nor an immediate intuition).
Awais said…
The mathematical theory of Probability is indepedent of Induction, because it is independent of experience. If you ask the question "What is the probability of throwing a dice and getting 6 at the top?" you don't need to throw a dice, you don't need to have thrown any dice at all in your life to answer this question. This sort of probability is not dependent on any induction.
Komal said…
When you use any probability calculus you're going to have to use background knowledge. If you want to calculate the probability of it raining today, you need to know certain things about weather systems. With the dice you also need to know the shape of the dice and that it will remain the same.
Awais said…
That only proves that probability is applied to things that belong to the real world, but apart from that, its theory is not based on induction.

Consider this question: "What is the probability of 6 being the 5th integer in a mathematical series in which numbers from 1 to 10 appear randomnly?"

Can you show me how this is based on induction? :)
Komal said…
For everything except the 'principle of insufficient reason' (the dice example, for example) you're using the probability calculus. The calculus itself it justified by certain axioms, which cannot be mathematically proven. They have to be justified by Dutch Book arguments, which are part pragmatic. So even if you're not using induction to establish the rules of induction (i.e. the probability calculus), you're using pragmatism.

Every time you use induction, you use calculations of probability (formal or informal). Whether the vice versa is true is not important to me.