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Strawson on Free Will vs. Determinism July 27, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy.

Philosopher Galen Strawson has a wonderful article on the topic of free will on the NY Times Blog. The article is accessible and brief. It is worth reading for anyone interested in whether we have free will or not. (The comments for the most part are hopeless)

The short Strawsonian  answer is “no” because any choice I make will be based on preferences, values, ideals or some other causal factor that I did not choose.

Some people are troubled by this, thinking that without free will we cannot be responsible for our actions. But Strawson shows why that conclusion does not follow.

He quotes the novelist Ian McEwan.

I can’t do better than the novelist Ian McEwan, who wrote to me: “I see no necessary disjunction between having no free will (those arguments seem watertight) and assuming moral responsibility for myself. The point is ownership. I own my past, my beginnings, my perceptions. And just as I will make myself responsible if my dog or child bites someone, or my car rolls backwards down a hill and causes damage, so I take on full accountability for the little ship of my being, even if I do not have control of its course. It is this sense of being the possessor of a consciousness that makes us feel responsible for it.”

I think Strawson is right. The important question is “Does it Matter?” Would our ethics or politics be better if we gave up the illusion of free will?

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com



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