There never was a problem with determinism.
If you only want to see the key points, you can jump to the summary.
I have seen alot of free will vs determinism debates not going anywhere, and the latest forum thread on the topic at board.freedomainradio.com were showing the same tendencies. I have been a determinist for some years, and had understood the problem determinism creates, which is that if everything is determined, then noone is morally responsible for their actions because they could not have acted any differently.
We have a fair amount of evidence that the universe is deterministic. Alot of things can be predicted, because they are simple enough to calculate. And all technology is based on the principle that the universe is deterministic, and will behave the same way if the same properties and forces are utilized. A toaster is expected to toast bread the same way each time, with minor expected variations. And a car salesman is not going to warn customers that their cars might one day take you somewhere else than where you are driving, or that it can suddenly begin to fly.
This article will assume hard determinism, in that there is no possibility for free will. Noone has proved that the brain has free will, and neither that it is deterministic, (to my knowledge), but it's not unreasonable to expect the brain to be deterministic, since so much else in the universe can be described as being deterministic, which is currently my opinion until something can convince me otherwise. And that is what the premise of this article will be.
There are some definitions of free will agency available. But when I say "free will agency", I mean a person who is more than 0 percent able to decide something outside of deterministic mechanics. I do not believe any amount of free will exists, and subsequently I do not believe free will agency exists. (also known as moral agency, or free will moral responsibility). I will agree that this article was written by me, but not that any effects it may have on society came from my free will, since in a deterministic universe I was destined to write this, and a real free will able to change or circumvent natural laws of the universe, do not exist.
An example to warm up:
I have a small patch of soil where I plant some flowers and I tend to them every day. One day a goat comes by and eats some of my beautiful flowers. Is the goats free will responsible for making the goat eat my flowers? No, but I should recognize that goats can eat flowers, and also that it is my responsibility to keep goats away from my flowers if I want to have some beautiful flowers around.
The flowers are an analogy for a peaceful society.
A person does not want anyone else to steal from him, or be harmed by anyone. This means that all the individual people want a society that does not harm or steal from them. When everyone implicitly agree that we want a peaceful society, It is everyones implicit duty to see to it that bad behavior is not accepted.
Even a thief will agree to and want a peaceful society with an implicit right to property, for if he does not, the act of taking property is meaningless, as he cannot logically keep the stolen object while saying that noone has a right to property. Just as clearly, an abuser recognize and knows that noone wants to be physically or psychologically harmed, and this will quickly be acknowledged if harm comes to the abuser.
When the actions of people are interfering with the well being or property of other people, according to hard determinism they are not morally responsible. This is however a non problem, because everyone already implicitly agree that we need a peaceful society, and so then it is necessary to protect and honor that agreement. Conversely, if you are one of the people interfering with the well being or property of people, then you are working against this agreement.
A person who is found to act against a peaceful society (aka a bad person), can be demanded to do reparations. If the person refuse to accept such reasonable terms in accordance with the implicit agreement, or the act is irreparable, such as the case of a murder, then ostracizing or applying retribution to that individual is mandatory. Not just because a peaceful society is agreed upon, but also because it will signal to everyone else that ostracism and retribution are necessary tools to use in order to have a peaceful society. In other words, neutralizing or avoiding bad people or threats to the society is morally good in the whole.
This is how all animal societies work as well, so is nothing controversial. Yet advocates for free will tend to be very reluctant to accept free will in animals.
A potential objection from a reader might be:
"But if people have no free will and are not morally responsible for their actions, then they are acquitted, and we have to leave them alone!"
No, because we all implicitly agree that we don't want anyone else to harm us or steal from us. In the flower example, it was important to keep the goat away from the flowers if I want to have beautiful flowers. Similarly, it is important to keep bad people away from a society if we want a peaceful society.
Lets look at theft.
An individual do not want others to steal from him. This means that every individual does not want anyone else to steal from them. Therefore everyone would agree that property should not be violated.
A thief is not morally responsible for stealing in a deterministic universe, but an important continuation of that is that other people are not morally responsible for ostracizing or applying retribution to the thief, (if the thief does not make adequate reparations), in order to protect the society.
Figuring out if the thief has free will and wether he is morally responsible or not, is then not a requirement to maintain a peaceful society with a right to property.
"We know that we have a free will because we have consciousness! And we will feel bad when we do bad things because we know that we have moral responsibility!"
The reason we feel bad is because we know that other people can change their perception and opinion about us, which can lead to ostracism or retribution. The bad feeling is a driver for trying to find a way to repair or alleviate the potential retribution, or avoid it entirely. From various cultures, people may even have such triggers implanted in them for otherwise harmless, or even virtuous actions, (like asking questions). Which does not help the concept of a free will.
I am not going to pretend that I know what consciousness is, but it seems to be a platform for feelings, the two go together. Which helps us navigate a social society and the overall planet with all its dangers. Feelings are comparable to tools in my opinion. Fear will make you much more careful about what you do. Sadness will show other people that something is bothering you and that you are not ok.
If you have been wronged and you are relaxed, then you are not going to be much able to apply retribution. If you however get angry, which will increase energy and lower fear, then retribution can easily be applied.
"I am too weak to apply retribution to bad people, and I fear for my life."
Then it is the implicit agreement of those in your society to defend you against the bad people, because everyone in the society agree that we need a peaceful society. This is why you will feel bad if you do not intervene in an injustice. Because you know that everyone agree that we need a peaceful society. Peaceful people absolutely need to talk to each other and cooperate to deal with bad people who do not want to protect and honor the implicit agreement.
"What about if a person walking behind you trips on something and push you into a hard object that breaks your nose? Or anything else that people call accidents?"
This is interesting, but not really that hard. Of course you have no way of knowing if the person wanted to push you and just acted like he tripped, or if there was no intention involved. But why should you care? It will take time and energy to figure out what was the case, and you might never even know the truth. If the person state that it was an accident and says he is sorry, and agree to make reparations, then you can lower or dissolve your reaction. If the person does not submit to any adequate reparations, then the fact remains that the person was walking too close behind you, not being aware, or not caring about what consequences it might include. on top of all that you now have a broken nose. So you are now definitely in a position of having been wronged and interfered with, which means that the other person is working against a peaceful society, and thus you or your society can react accordingly.
You are not morally responsible for what reaction you apply, but if you kill the person, everyone will see that too much retribution was applied. In this case, you have honored the agreement, but you will likely be seen as a threat to a peaceful society. On the extreme other hand if you pardon the person, then you are enabling a person who is acting against the well being of the society, (as he did not want to submit to any reparation), which would also qualify for becoming a threat to a peaceful society, because you are helping other bad people continue doing bad things.
"An accident is an accident, don't be so harsh!"
Most 'accidents' can be traced back to a behavior of one of the people involved in the accident. If a person drinks alcohol and drives a car into another person, that is not an accident. Similarly if a person eats artificial chemicals which alters his brain enough to make him jump off from a balcony, that is not an accident.
"If everything is already determined, then what is the point in doing anything anymore!??"
A movie is a predetermined universe that will play out the same each time. When you watch people in a movie, do you shout out to them that they should not bother anymore, because it has already been determined what will happen?
Everything you have done, and will do, has already been determined. If you find a way to get to the moon and back safely, and you do it, then that is what was determined for you. If you curl up in a ball and tell everyone that there is no point doing anything, then that is what you were determined to do.
In a deterministic universe, we cannot change the future, as it is already written. But everything we and the universe do will play it forwards.
"I would like to see determinists have the guts to reach the logical conclusions of determinism, which would be that pedophiles are not morally responsible for their actions."
I can now say, if the universe and everything in it is 100% deterministic, and there is no possibility to make it any less deterministic, that pedophiles are indeed not morally responsible for their actions, because they do not have a free will. Also other people around who is affected by the pedophile are not morally responsible for what reaction they will have to the pedophile if he/she is found out. They cannot be blamed for what type or amount of ostracism and retribution they apply to the pedophile in order to protect and honor the peace and stability in their surroundings. And pedophiles know this, which is why they are hiding their actions.
The word 'evil' is meaningless when noone is morally responsible for their actions. But words like 'bad' are perfectly fine to use for describing those who work against a peaceful society.
Another obvious factor is that we never need courts to establish any degree of free will agency. A mentally handicapped person who had killed another person would essentially be treated the same as if the killer had been highly intelectual. If you disagree with that, then why are pets who kill humans generally put down?
If there was theoretically a small amount of free will in some people, then we don't have eternal resources to be able to figure out if a person is morally responsible or not. We have to look at what has been wronged, and act accordingly. One major key point is that peaceful people are also not morally responsible for how they react. Trying to establish free will agency is a wild goose chase, and a waste of time and resources. In addition it can help bad people get off the hook.
When we already know what person did what, why do we have to establish free will moral responsibility? Someone does something bad to you and refuse to make reparations, it usually follows that you do something back, and/or ostracize. This is already built into every human and animal. We come with plug and play anti wrongdoers. I don't see animals trying to establish moral responsibility on the part of the wrongdoer. Lets say a person trying to steal from someone was killed by the victim, that is the risk of being a bad person, and the victim is not responsible for his or her reaction. However, there is a risk of being considered a threat to the society yourself if you over react to being wronged. This should automatically prevent the society from collapsing into a violent chaos. If a society is collapsing into perpetual violence, then that could have been initiated by an external event that severely crippled it, so that the society was doomed either way, such as with a continuous drought.
When we hit ourselves on inanimate objects, like a chair, some people feel the need to apply retribution and hit the chair back. This is not because the brain thinks the chair has free will and is morally responsible, but because the brain recognize that retribution is perfectly valid, and often necessary. Bullies do not stop until their victim hits them back, when they see that their actions are getting consequences.
This is also why abusers in relationships are much less, or never, likely to abuse the other person, (ie child), in public. Because they know that other people can notice, and other people have the power to ostracize, which can lead to the abuser being banned from the society. Abusers typically know that they can abuse privately, particularly in power disparities, because in this day and age there are still societies where there is generally no chance of retribution or being ostracized, so that abusers can continue to abuse.
"What about the poor and the sick? You are saying that they are not morally responsible for their situation, so should we help them or not help them?"
A person that goes to a casino and lose all of his life savings, and even max out his credit, is also not morally responsible for his situation.
A person that smokes and drinks and swallow lots of artificial chemicals and eat lots of food, and never exercise, and then becomes a very miserable and sick person, is also not morally responsible for his/her own situation in a determined universe.
The method of help is important. What you perceive to be help, might not help them at all, but perhaps enable their situation.
You can 'help' or provide for people if you want to. It is important however that the help is voluntary. If it is not voluntary, then someone is forcing you to help, which is bad, and the right course of action should be to confront and evaluate your relationship to whoever is forcing you to help or contribute. Also important is that the person you would like to help, consent to your actions.
"It seems like you are trying to change my mind about free will, by appealing to my free will and preference. That is a self imploding argument, and so can be disregarded!"
It was determined that this article would be made and posted on the internet, and it has already been determined to what degree this article will affect the world. And neither you or me or anyone else could have done anything differently to what we already did in the past or even will do in the future. So no, I am not trying to appeal to your free will. I am however assuming that we play our parts in this universe and I acknowledge that whatever happened, was determined to happen.
Even though the brain is likely to be deterministic, and the future has been determined, none of us knows what the future will be. This means that we can perfectly continue to live our lives and affect each other in whatever way we want, as the universe will have no other option than to accommodate how we play out our parts.
"This means that people will be mere objects, like a rock. And that is inhumane and cold thinking."
Have you heard people say "I love my phone/car/house/shirt"? Why do they love these objects? Perhaps because their relationship with these objects are voluntary, and they like the qualities, and what these objects do for them.
A number of people are quick to remove free will and moral responsibility from animals. But they can still love the animals. They can do this because the relationship is voluntary and they like the qualities of the (individual) animal, and enjoy spending time with it.
Why should these circumstances be any different when it is about human relationships? Human relationships can arguably be more diverse and enjoyable, but the same factors come into play as when people grow to love animals or even objects.
"Ok, you made your case, but dude... won't this mean that society will work the exact same way dealing with bad people as if they had free will and was morally responsible for their actions?... Whats really the point of this article?"
This article is trying to explain and conclude that we don't need free will agency to be able to create a peaceful world in a deterministic universe. It can put an end to the need and pondering about free will moral responsibility, thus an end to the problem of no free will. And ethics will then also be less complicated.
If you see someone starting a debate on free will moral responsibility versus determinism, instead of them wasting their time and resources, you can give them a link to this article, which I hope will be helpful to everyone.
"This is just pushing problems away! alot of bad people could not help becoming bad people because of their past! Do you not care about their unfortunate past!? We should try to help them!"
I care. But in order to help them, they first have to be willing to receive help. If bad people are notified that they are indeed doing bad things, and they refuse to acknowledge that they are working against a peaceful society, and refuse to make reparations, then that is an indicator that they are comfortable with how they are, which means they are severely unlikely to change. In this case it is far more effective for your own sake and also their sake, to disassociate with the person. Doing so sends a clear message that it is not acceptable behavior, and you will stop feeding their bad habits, and your quality of life is sure to rise. Life is too short to be spending it with bad people.
"Lets say everyone follow your advice, what then about those who are lying and making alot of people believe them? For example they can cover up alot of bad actions by lying about what happened, or always get people to support them so that they are much harder to ostracize, particularly because their disciples will defend them. How can we deal with proficient liars?"
This is perhaps the biggest obstacle for a peaceful society. Lying can be used as a shield against consequences. If noone could intentionally lie tomorrow, it would be interesting to observe how fast everything would ripple effect into a peaceful world. Most wars are based on lies. By letting people claim whatever they want without evidence, they are able to use these claims as an excuse for other things, like starting wars.
Bad people usually know that they are bad, and can use smoke and mirrors to deceive everyone. They know how much peaceful people can do to bad people, that is why they need to manipulate and create an alternate reality in the minds of others. If you suspect that someone is not being truthful and honest, or even you know that they have lied in the past, you should do all you can to make other people aware of the person's actions. If liars are not ostracized, then the world will continue to be plagued by infighting, pointless inflammatory wars, and a never ending list of hoaxes.
Lying is detrimental to the psychological health of everyone involved, and the heaviest burden is carried by the liar him/herself. To stop lying and be a peaceful person is an incredibly powerful and liberating experience, as it will reveal all your bad relationships, and get your life on some new fresh steady tracks that you might never have thought existed.
The primary way to build a peaceful society is to associate with and embrace people who act towards a more peaceful society. This is yet another reason why it is important to not let bad people be a part of your life, since that will free up that valuable time to be around peaceful honest people, which will also raise the quality of your life in every way.
I hope this can work as a solution to the possible nonexistence of free will, dismissing any moral responsibility free will would entail. Letting go of the idea that we have to establish free will agency and accompanied moral responsibility, as it strains time and resources. And instead promote those things that protect a peaceful society and neutralize people who seek to harm a peaceful society.
If everyone read this article, it would of course not create a paradise, and bad people will still be around. I am only trying to help make the world a better place, in this case by attempting to remove the complex and mythical need for free will agency.
-No individual want to be harmed. Noone wants to be stolen from.
-Therefore everyone acknowledge, and implicitly agree to, the need for a peaceful society.
-In hard determinism there is no free will. That means noone is morally responsible for their actions.
-Consequently noone is morally responsible for what retribution they need to apply to individuals who act against a peaceful society.
-A clear case of too much retribution will on its own also be considered acting against the well being of the society.
-Free will agency is thus not a requirement to build a peaceful society.
Article author: Joar Berntsen. selfuniverse.com
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