Thursday, September 20, 2012

Free Will

The Jacksonville Junto (a group that likes to discuss philosophical topics) is discussing free will in October. In preparation, I plan to read 2 books:
Free Will by Sam Harris
Who's In Charge by Michael Gazzaniga

I plan to reduce these quotes down to 9 topic questions by the time that the meeting begins.

Here are some quotes from Sam Harris's book that I would like to discuss:

Page 32 (loc 370) And we know that the brain systems that allow is to reflect upon our experience are different from those involved when we automatically react to stimuli.

page 33 (loc 375)
As Dan Dennett and many others have pointed out , people generally confuse determinism with fatalism.

Page 40 (loc 442)
One of the most refreshing ideas to come out of existentialism (perhaps the only one) is that we are free to reinterpret the meaning of our lives

Here are some quotes from Who's in Charge that I would like to discuss:

Page 105-loc1676
Puncturing this illusionary bubble of a single willing self is difficult...
....Indeed, what does free will even mean?
Page 106 loc 1693
The issue is that there is no scientific reason not to hold people accountable and responsible.
Page 107 loc 1702
So what causes what? ...using the language of 'cause' seems to muddle it. We should probably come up with new and appropriate language ...
Page 115 loc 1830
Vohs and Schooler suggested that disbelief in free will produces a subtle cue that exerting effort is futile , thus granting permission not to bother
Loc 1835
They suggest that a belief in free will may be crucial for motivating people to control their impulses
Page 123 loc 1969
It is for this reason that our concept of a deterministic cause is different from our concept of a statistical cause<=Gazzaniga is quoting Howard Pattee
Page 125 loc 2004
If you recall, the corollary to determinism was that every event, action, et cetera, are predetermined and can be predicted in advance (if all parameters are known)
Page127 loc 2027
It is because there is much evidence that our brain functions automatically and that our conscious experience is an after the fact experience
Page 136 loc 2175
...responsibility and freedom. They are not found in the brain just as John Locke declared ... Responsibility and freedom are found, however, in the space between brains, in the interactions between people.
Page 138 loc 2205
Control is an emergent property. In neuroscience when you talk about downward causation you are suggesting that a mental state affects a physical state
Page 144 loc 2290
...we are just now understanding the neuroscience of the influences of social interactions
Page 147 loc 2337
Alone in a situation, does someone act the same as if they were in a group?
Page 156 loc 2479
For instance, Jessica Flack has found evidence for the existence of monkey cops
Page163 loc 2591
We actually mimic others constantly, but it happens so fast, we cannot actually perceive ...
Page 164 loc 2613
...looking like mimicry is not purely automatic and reflexive; occasionally brakes are applied based on social context.
Page 166 loc 2645
Many moral intuitions are rapid automatic judgements of behavior associated with strong feelings of rightness or appropriateness
Page 176 loc 2801
... split brain patients would care only about outcomes ...
Page 180 loc 2879
Incapacitation, retribution, or rehabilitation are the three choices society has for dealing with criminal behavior.
Page 181 loc 2887
Is accountability what keeps us civilized?
Page 183 loc 2925
Nisbett and colleagues suggest that social organization affects cognitive processes indirectly by focusing our attention ...
Page 187 loc 2980
Who do we blame in a crime, the person or the brain? ... Ironically, this question is treading dualist waters, suggesting that there is a difference between a person and his brain and body
Page 193 loc 3080
Responsibility reflects a rule that emerges ... in a social context


  1. Nice post. Is the discussion on free will today from 6-9 at the Mandarin library?

  2. The library schedule shows a philosophy book club meeting this evening (I guess it's the same club?), and I was wondering if free will is the topic. Thanks!

  3. It is the same club but the topic at the library tonight is the preamble to the constitution. There is plenty of room if you'd like to join us.

    We are discussing free will at our meeting on October 28th. Currently that meeting (on free will) is full but you are welcome to join the waiting list. <==please sign up. Let me know if you have any questions.

  4. Oh...the meeting tonight at the library ...about the Preamble to the US Constituion from 7 to 8 pm approximately ...I reserved the room for longer for set up and clean up.

    Tonight is a discussion and so far we have 8 people signed up. John is the moderator.

  5. Thanks. Is it really a three-hour discussion, or does the library just block off extra time? Realistically, what time does it start and end?

  6. I think our comments were sent at the same time.

    The official discussion is from 7 to 8 pm.

    I reserved extra time for set up, clean up and lingering.

  7. Our next meeting at the library is December 12th. Hope you can make it. Mandarin Library from 7 pm to 8 pm