animist wrote:I still think [coercive persuasion] is a self-contradiction (according to my own lingo), since persuasion would mean what I am trying to do now!
As I said, it's an oxymoron: the self-contradiction was probably deliberate. But I think the distinction between persuasion and coercion is not a clear-cut one anyway. Putting psychological pressure on people [---][/---] overawing them or intimidating them with authority or expertise, making them feel anxious, stressed, foolish, embarrassed, frightening them not with the threat of direct violence but with the threat of supposedly natural consequences [---][/---] might be seen as something in between coercion and persuasion, or might be seen as having elements of both.
animist wrote:BTW, is the Wiki article factually wrong or anyway misleading? I thought brainwashing was of US POWs in China, not Chinese POWs
Yes, the reference makes that clear. I think the author was aiming for brevity, and wrote "Chinese POWs' indoctrination" when he or she should have written "Chinese indoctrination of POWs".
Emma wrote:(See, for example, George Arthur Campbell's essay, "Has the Self 'Free Will'?"
thanks for this - read it but was not inspired.
Me neither. I didn't even finish reading it!
animist wrote:... what I mean is that there are IMO good consequences from the fact that people do in fact believe in personal responsibility - it sort of works
Yes, I think so too. But I think there might also be bad consequences. And I wonder whether something slightly different might also work. And perhaps even work better, in the long term.
animist wrote:Having the feeling of free will on the whole means we are acting freely, IMO; but whether we feel we have moral responsibility need not be linked to whether we actually do - a criminal who (honestly!) did not feel he was doing wrong could still be held morally responsible, IMO
Right. That's what I was getting at. So when you said that we had moral responsibility in the same way that we had free will, you weren't talking about the subjective experience of it. Presumably, then, you meant that we are responsible when we're not coerced, constrained or manipulated. Responsibility is a consequence of voluntariness. So why is that? If our actions are determined by things that are not within our control, like our genes and our upbringing and every little thing that happens to us, why are we morally responsible for them?
animist wrote:I don't think you should talk about strong and weak responsibility. Either people can in principle be held accountable for their actions or not, and you seem in fact not to think that they ever can, which I find hard to get my head around, especially when you admit that you act as though you do believe in moral responsibility.
I hope I've made things a little clearer in my previous post. I'll come back to this later, but to pick up on your phrasing, "held accountable for their actions", I'd say that that might be the sort of thing I had in mind when I talked of responsibility in a weak sense. If you're held accountable for your actions, you're expected to account for them, explain them, as far as you understand the explanation.
animist wrote:well, obviously many of these "things" - like your dog or inanimate objects - are not morally responsible, but it does not follow that none are.
I was not suggesting that it did. I was merely pointing out that getting angry with someone or something does not imply either that you think they are morally responsible or that they really are morally responsible.
animist wrote:I can't help imagining how you would apply your view in a hypothetical situation in which you were really badly let down by someone - you were very upset and angry, and everyone else agreed that the person had wronged you; imagine that much later on he sincerely apologised and asked for your forgiveness - would you say (against his own protestations) that he had not done anything wrong for which he should apologise (because he could not help doing what he did), and, moreover, that therefore you could and did not forgive him because him had not committed any wrong? I am not sure that this would actually being doing him any favour by this, and I imagine he would find your attitude bizarre (as I do, if that is actually how you feel)
I've been very open about the fact that I find this whole issue of responsibility a struggle. So if there are contradictions in what I've been saying, or in what I think and do, that's not surprising. I'm still working on it all. When I talked about responsibility in strong and weak senses I was trying to clarify things, but I'll stop if you think it's unhelpful. There are, nevertheless, different shades of meaning for words like "responsibility", and sometimes it's necessary to make that clear, and not assume that we all know what we mean when we use them.
OK, to tackle your example, if someone deliberately did something that hurt me, and then much later sincerely apologised (and explained why he did it, from his point of view), I would be glad of his apology (and explanation), and would say so, though I might have wished it to be expressed earlier. An apology is an expression of one's regret or remorse for having done something wrong, something that has hurt someone (or could have hurt someone). It indicates a certain degree of compassion for the person one has hurt (or could have hurt). These are subjective emotions, and it is perfectly reasonable for someone to express them, whether they are morally responsible for their actions or not. People apologise when something they do causes harm, even if the actions were clearly not deliberate. It would be natural for a person to apologise for accidentally running over someone's cat, for example. And it would be natural for someone to accept such an apology, graciously, even if he or she didn't consider the person to be to blame. In the case of your example, I would not say that he didn't have anything to apologise for, not if I had been hurt by his actions, but I might recognise some kind of excuse in the explanation that he gave, and express some kind of understanding.
Perhaps my interpretation of the term forgiveness is different from yours, but I don't think it is necessary for someone to be morally responsible for his or her harmful actions in order to be forgiven for them. Forgiveness means renouncing blame, anger and resentment, or excusing someone for his or her harmful actions. If I had never actually felt anger or resentment, had never blamed the person concerned, then I could reasonably say that I had already forgiven him. It is unlikely, though, that I would not have felt any anger at all.
animist wrote:I don't think that it true as a generalisation that our view of the world is not deterministic, I think it is (who seriously denies that "everything has a cause"?)
First, strictly speaking, "everything has a cause" is not determinism; it's ... um ... causalism, I think. Or perhaps causationism. Whatever the correct term, it holds that everything [---][/---] every state of affairs, including every human event, act and decision [---][/---] is the consequence of antecedent states of affairs. But determinism goes one step further, and holds that everything [---][/---] every state of affairs, including every human event, act and decision [---][/---] is the inevitable
consequence of antecedent states of affairs. I do think that's an important distinction. I'm not wedded to pure determinism (that's why I keep adding qualifiers like "allowing for a certain degree of true randomness"), but I am happy with causalism or causationism or whatever. Second, when I say that I think that most people's view of the world is not deterministic, I'm not saying that most people would seriously deny that "everything has a cause", or even that "everything has a cause, and is the inevitable outcome of that cause". Most people wouldn't even think in those terms. I certainly didn't, until relatively recently. But my impression is that most people do believe in the kind of free will that implies a negation of determinism, even if they wouldn't express it in such terms. The self that rises above all the influences of biology and environment to act entirely independently of them may be an impossible abstraction, but it's something that people feel
, in my view. Again, I used to, and perhaps I still do, in spite of myself.
animist wrote:it is just that an area remains where personal responsibility, whether legal or moral, is a valid and legally useful concept.
I think it goes further than that. I think that most people have a deep-seated faith in personal responsibility. They believe passionately in it, and get angry at the suggestion that someone might not have it.
animist wrote:well, if something is impossible it must be nonsense, even though it is possible to talk of it (like a square circle).
I said that discussions
that refer to impossible abstractions aren't necessarily nonsense. Just as discussions that refer to the square roots of negative numbers aren't necessarily nonsense. (And the square roots of negative numbers, while being impossible, seem to have been quite useful.)
animist wrote:Just to reiterate so I am clear on what you are saying. I think it is this: it is at least meaningful to talk of Free Will in the sense of a self or will which rises above "desire" in order to chooose "duty", and in principle such a thing (or evidence for it) could be "found" by neuroscientists.
I don't know whether in principle it could be found or not. Perhaps it couldn't. But it does seem that at least some have been looking for it.
animist wrote:However, you do not think that anything like has been found and you do not in fact think it exists. You do not feel that my "weaker" commonsense version of free will (or voluntariness) can be a basis for attributing moral responsibility (and therefore blame) because this so-called freedom is in fact subject to deterministic causation. As far as the metaphysical Free Will is concerned, we only seem to disagree in that I think it is impossible whereas you seem to think it just has not been discovered and so probably does not exist.
I'd strengthen that a little: I suspect that it is impossible (and could no doubt be persuaded that it is impossible), and I believe that it does not exist, and I think that the onus is on those who think that it does exist to provide evidence for it.
animist wrote:So the main disagreement is about whether the free will which is compatible with determinism allows moral responsibility and hence justifies blaming people for what they have done; you don't think it does and I do.
Yes, that seems to be the crux of it. But as I've said, I am open to persuasion on this point. So I'm looking forward to hearing your supporting arguments.
animist wrote:As I said, I don't think that what you say you believe would match how you behave in practice, possibly even in reflection; I apologise in advance if I am completely wrong and don't mean to sound offensive, but it is how I feel. I feel the same way about the authors of the ethical relativism articles (I realise that ethical relativism is not what you have been talking about, but it came in the thread about moral facts): I imagine that they act in what they believe are moral ways and judge others in the same way. Thus there seems to be a disconnect in people who advocate (if that's the right word!) some form of moral scepticism/fictionalism/relativism/abolitionism between expressed belief and practice, and since moral philosophy in fact is about practice (being simply a way to clarify various aspects of morally relevant behaviour and judgment) I find this quite strange ...
I find it quite strange that you find it quite strange.
Again, I've said that I struggle with the issue of moral responsibility. I'm acknowledging that there are tensions in what I believe right now (or, if you prefer, what I say I believe) and how I feel, at least some of the time. But that's not true all of the time. And if I believed in the kind of free will that implied moral responsibility (or said I did), there would also be "a disconnect". My expressed beliefs and my feelings and actions would still not fit together neatly. And the same would be true if I believed (or said I believed) in moral facts. Our views of the world don't necessarily fit our emotions and our behaviour perfectly. We're none of us, I'm sure, entirely consistent. But I am trying to be honest about both what I believe and what I feel, and perhaps that's the best I can do right now. I'll work on the consistency later,
In any case, I don't think there's as much of a mismatch, in my case, as you think there is. I've arrived at my current views as a result not only of reading books and articles and other people's arguments but also as a result of my own experiences and reactions. Part of the attraction of the conclusions that I've reached about moral responsibility is that they do make sense in the light of things I've felt or suspected for many years.
P.S. Have you seen this earlier thread
touching on this topic?