In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with philosopher Daniel Dennett about free will.
SUBSCRIBE to listen to the rest of this episode and gain access to all full-length episodes of the podcast at samharris.org/subscribe.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I just got back from Banff? Where I attended the TED summit, I brought a portable recording device to the conference on the odd chance. I might find some one worth talking to who wonder, accord upon cast kneel to say there were many people worth talking to, but not much time to sit down and do a podcast, but I did record one conversation with the philosopher Dan Dennett, who probably needs no introduction here. As many of you know, dad- and I have been brothers in arms for many years, along with Richard Dawkins in Christopher Higgins, as the so called new atheists worthy for her. This man after a video by that name that we recorded in his apartment some years back
Dan, and I once debated together on the same team along with hitch at the Sudan De Lacey Days Conference in Mexico, where we were pitted against Danish too soon and Rabbi shrewdly, boat, Yak and Robert right. I believe, and now seem to lab, got in there somehow. I hope it doesn't seem to self serve nor contemptuous of our opponents to say that we came out none the worse for wear on that occasion and needless to say that very I was online for all to see until the end of the world But, as many of you know, Dan and I had a very barbed exchange on the topic of free will, some years later- and I was a little over two years ago We never resolved it. I came out my short book on free will and Dan reviewed it, and then I responded to his review
and the matter was left there in a way that no one found satisfying least of all our readers. There really was an out pouring of dismay over the tone that we took with each other, and I must say that was totally understandable. I want to begin by reading me the first few paragraphs of my response to dance review, which includes a quotation from him, so you can hear how vexed and vexing things got, and if your interested, you can read the whole exchange on my blog. In fact, when I oppose this podcast on my website, I'll provide the relevant links says is near Beginning of my response, written as a letter to Dan, I want to begin by reminding our readers and myself that exchanges like this aren't necessarily pointless. Perhaps you need no encouragement on that front, but I'm afraid I do in Ri
Here's have spent so much time debating scientists, philosophers, another scholars that have begun to doubt whether any smart person retains the ability to change his mind. This one of the great scandals of intellectual life, the virtues of rational discourse are everywhere espoused and witness in someone relinquish, a cherished opinion in real time, is about, as common has seen, a supernova explode overhead. The perpetual stalemate one encounters in public debates is annoying because it is so clearly the product of motivated reasoning, self deception and other failures of rationality, and yet we ve to expect it on every topic, no matter how intelligent and well intentioned the participants, I hope you I don't give our readers further cause for cynicism on this front. Unfortunately, you review of my doesn't offer many reasons for optimism is a strange document avuncular and places, but more generally sneering. I think it fair to say that one could want entire season of doubt namby on Ritalin and not detect a finer notified
dissension than you manage for twenty pages running, and I have a quotation from Dan's review here: has his damn I'm not being distant annual. When I say this, museum of mistakes is valuable. I am grateful the Harris were saying so boldly and clearly what less outgoing scientists are thinking but keeping to themselves I've always suspected that many hold this hard determinist view are making these mistakes, but we mustn't put words and people's mouths, and now Harris has done us a great service articulating the points explicitly in the course of approval. Receive from scientists goes a long way to confirming that they have been making these mistakes all along Wolfgang Pollys Famous dismissal of another physicists work asked not even wrong, reminds us of the value of crystallizing, an ambient cloud of hunches into something that can be shown to be wrong. Correcting widespread misunderstanding is usually the work of many hands and Harris has made a significant contribution. End quote so this is
back to me. I say I hope you will recognise that your beloved rapid ports rules have failed. You here, as an aside ashes for those of you who are not familiar with them. These rules come from Anatole, Rapporteur, the mathematician game, theorist and and social scientists and Dan has been a champion of these rules of our imitation for years, and they are one attempt to re, express your targets position so clearly vividly and fairly that your target says thanks. I wish I thought of putting it that way to list any points of agreement, especially if they are not. Matters in general are widespread agreement three mention anything. You have learned from your target, for only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of her bottle or criticism so that those are the rules and Dan has often said that he aspires to follow them when criticising another person's point of view, so back to my text. I hope you will recognise your beloved rap. Import rules have failed you here. If you have decided
According to the rule, to first mention something positive about the target of your criticism, it will not do to see that you admire him for the enormity of his errors and the recklessness with which he clings to them. Despite this, early example. You said in your own work: yes, you may assert quote: I am not being distant, and he was when I say this museum of mistakes as valuable end quote, but you are in fact being disingenuous. You fat isn't clear. Permit me to spell it out, just this once you're asking the word valuable to pass as a token of praise, however faint, but according to you, my book is quote valuable for reasons that I find embarrassing, if I value did as you do, I should rule the day. I wrote it as you would have you brought such a vow? you into the world and it would be different. It was of me not to notice how your prickling, this preening appears you right as one protecting his academic turf behind and
tween almost every word of your essay. Like some toxic background radiation. One detects an explosion of Professor Mario Vanity end quote, so that's how snide things got, and I must say that this is really a problem with writing rather than having a fee to face encounter. If any of you have ever had the brilliant idea of writing a long letter e mail to a friend to sort out some relationship crisis rather than just have a conversation, you ve probably discovered how haywire things can go through an exchange of tax, and the same can be true for intellectual debate, among philosophers and scientists and especially likely to happen if either both of the people involved are writers who get attack, to their rightly maneuvers. I remember writing that quip about doubt Navvy, and it may be
laugh at the time I knew know would make many readers laugh, and so I kept it in but lines like that. Just amplify the damage done. So, as I told down at the end of our podcast, I very much regret the tone I took in this exchange and a very happy. We got a chance to have a face to face conversation and sort things out. I don't think we resolved all the philosophical issues, but we spoke for nearly two hours, but there were several important topics it we came up as your here we were speaking in a bar using a single microphone, and this was at the end of a long day of conference in so this isn't us at our most polished or prepared. But I thought it was a very good conversation. I think those of you who are interested in the problem of free will and his connection to ethics will fight useful. I still think there's some sense in which Dan and I are talking past one another- the name, of our remaining disagreement never became perfectly clear to me, so perhaps you guys can figure it out.
And now I give you damn Dennett in a bar overlooking the Canadian Rockies, so. I'm here with Dan Dennett, add the TED summit in bath and we have stopped away from me main session and we are in a bar and about to have a conversation about The misadventure we had in discussing free will online in a series of articles and blog posts who are you and I are part of a community and the upper a pretty visit part of the community that prides itself on being willing to change its opinions and views more lesson, time under pressure from better arguments and better data, and I think I said in my article in written. In response to your review of my book free will that that this is a very rare occurrence, but to see someone relinquish his cherished opinion more or less on the spot under pressure.
From a an interlocutor- that's about his rare as seeing a super overhead and it really shouldn't do because there's an there's nothing that tokens intellect honesty more than a willingness to step away from one's views once they are shown to be an error and say what we're not going to get there in this conversation about free will, but there was something in there when awry in our exchange and our written exchanges the totally and neither of us felt good about the result and- and so it where do you wanna talk about freewill as well? But this I think this conversation is proceeding along two levels. Where there's a thing we're talking about. Sophocles, which is free will, but then there's just the the way in which I want to support, be sensitive, to getting hijacked into unproductive lines that make it make needlessly hard to talk about what what is it?
day in purely intellectual philosophical matter and one of great interest, a surprisingly great interests, too are audiences. You there's no topic that I've touched that has rise me more in need it in the degree to which people find it completely captivating. About, and I know you and I both think it's a very consequential topic, its unlike many topics in philosophy. This one really does mean ethics and public policy in a way that is important so that what one thing you all should know in listening to this, that we have one microphone. Perhaps that is a good thing, because we really cool interrupt each other and we're going to pass the microphone back and forth, and I now give you damn Dennett thanks SAM. This is a beautiful setting. If we can agree on some things here, we shouldn't be in this business. I wouldn't go back
one step further in how they have started. You sent me the manuscript of your book. Free will and ask me for my advice, and I didn't have time to read it. I just told you know: I'm sorry I don't have time and then, when the boy came out, I read that oh I wish it. I forgot that we'd have that he says I wish you'd showed us when we do that. You made some big mistakes here and I would love to have tried to take you out of them tonight and then we time passed and then we had the fact you said you wanted me still to say what what I thought that mistakes were and that's when I wrote my peace, fear of rear lie in for nationalism and it certainly struck you on, and I guess I regret a few bits of tone there, but I think everything I said there is defensible and in particular I did you wrap of horse rules,
Contrary to what you say. If you look at the first paragraph of my piece, I applaud the book producing a wonderful, clear job setting A position which I largely agreed with and then I said you, off the rails a little later, so I did I'd articulate you you haven't! You complain about that articulation of your you and I said what we agree about, and I am sorry What I ve learned from that book, so I didn't follow at worst rules quite well, but we can. We can set that aside, if you want and get down to the theatre to what remains of the issue. One thing in particular, which I know it came off awfully preachy, but I really think it was most unwise of you to declare.
My position sounded like religion sounded. You know. Satellite theology You have to know that you're insulting me and will it pretty deliberate insulted that was in the book had come on sale. So you can't expect kid gloves: if you're going to call me a theologian, then I'm gonna call you on it and say. As I said, I tell my students when a view of you by apparently senior oh and Arthur worth Reading- looks that bad. Maybe you ve misinterpreted and, of course, the in point of. My essay was yes, you you have misconstrued my brand of compatible. Listen, you ve got a sort of a caricature version of it and in fact, as I say late in Please you're, you are compatible. Listen all the name you and I agree on so many things. You agree
with me that determinism and moral responsibility are compatible. You agree that a system of of law, including punishment and justified punishment, is compatible with determinism. That's where we're just that close to compatible. Is I've actually toyed with the idea of import provoked by you and I'm some others, Jerry COIN and others to say all right. I don't want to fight over who gets to define the term free will. As I see it, there are two completely. Intention themes out there, but what free will is one? Is it incompatible with determinism and the other is. It is the basis of moral responsibility. I think it's Second one: that's the important one, that's the right, the free will worth wanting and I think the other to throw away- and I agree with you in that
it is free, will Libertarian free will, is philosophers fantasy, its? It is not worth. It is just it's just a fantasy, so we agree on so much. We have no love for libertarian in determinism agent causation for all that metaphysical gobbledygook we're both good naturalists and we both I agree that the truth of neuroscience and issues of physics, physics is, and how much do they actually are compatible with most of our new standing, our everyday understanding of responsibility. Take responsibility. Being morally responsible enough to
held to our word, you and I both agree that you are competent to sign a contract. We too well you know of use villain sign a deed or a mortgage very often, if it's no, I dunno republic, or are you signing this of your own free? Will we I am that's that it's a free will that I think, is important. I have it here a lot of people don't have that free will and it has nothing to do with in determinism. It has to do with there being disabled in summer. They don't have they dont have a well Running nervous system, which you need if you're gonna be irresponsible, ate it and if you will. All of that, so I certainly agree with most of that. I think there are some interesting points of disagree and on the moral responsible,
the issue which which we should talk about- and I think that could be very interesting for listeners too to first unpack was different As I said, I am needs a very uncomfortable with the idea that I have misrepresent did your view and if I did that in my book I certainly want to correct that here. So we should clearly state what your view is of certain point here, but I want to step back or second before we dive into the details of the. Lastly, if we will, when I was aware of doing in my book, free will and I get out- I would recommend that our listeners just go back in have you tried to read my book, but you can read dancer you of it on my blog and you can read my response, which is entitled the marionette lament, I believe, then you can see the the bad blood has generated There- and I don't know Dan of your, where squanders much of your time on social media or in your inbox, but I heard for
so many of our mutual readers that they were just despairing that contradiction between us? like me, your mom and dad fighting, and it was totally unpleasant. Thing that I really regret, which are you regret that you didn't get a chance to read my book before I published at which we are, that would have a nice thing for both of us, but when I read That is when you, when you told me that you are planning to write a review of it. I can't urging you and ultimately they're your badgering you to not do that and have a discussion with me, because I knew what was going to happen, at least from my point of view is that you would eat here. Me with its ten thousand word Bali, which In many a dozen points are more. I would feel you had misconstrued, Merrick gone off the rails and there will be no chance to respond to those and respond in a further ten thousand word volley in a piecemeal way would just lead to this exchange. That was very born. To read and yielded a much bigger
of disagreement than what was necessary right, so that, if I have to spend ninety percent of my energy taking your words out of my mouth, then this thing begins to look. The adversarial. So what one thing I've been struggling for in my professional life is a way of having conversations like this, even one where there is much less good. Well, then, you, when I have for one another, because you and I are our friends and were on the same side of most of these debates, and so we should be able to have this kind of conversation in a way this productive. But I I've been engaging people who get think I'm a racist bigot at as a starting point and one, and I want to find ways of having conversations in real time where you and be as nimble is passed in fusing sorry, conflict or misunderstanding and in writing is an especially bad way to do that. Certainly, writing they. Ten thousand word newer review of books is it, then someone has to react to analyse in an angry letter. So I guess I wish
It had that conversation, but we're having it now- and this is instructive in its in its own way, feel free to react to. I guess I want you to also express what com Annabelle means to you and if you will recall the way in which I got that wrong, feel free to say that, but I will then reactive your version of compatible as well. My you compatible Ism- is pretty much. What I just said you are nodding and you are Considering that a serious free will, although you were actually More that you were agreeing with and you also, I think, made this serious strategic for tactical error of saying this is like theology is smells of theology. Well, as you said, the other, well, you just don't understand what-
Annabelle is a visits, the opposite of theology. It's a attempt to look at what matters to look at the terms and their meanings the recognise that sometimes ancient ideology, gets in the way of clear thinking so that you can just trust tradition. If you trusted tradition, and the everyday meanings of words. We would have to say all sorts of silly things we ve learned In fact, one of the abiding themes in my work. Is there are these technical or diplomatic choice points you can say. Oh consciousness exists, because this is what you think it is all no consciousness doesn't exist. Well If you ve got one knew of consciousness, if it's this mysterious magical ultimately,
insoluble problem, then ivory consciousness. In that sense it doesn't exist, but there is another sense, much more presentable, I think which of course, consciousness exists. It just isn't what you think it is. That was a central theme in elbow room with regard to free will and in consciousness explained with regard to consciousness. My my view my tactic and notice those two views they look as if their dark finally oppose there now there two different ways of dealing with the same issue, The three will really exist. Well, if, if we will means what, then it says it means yes and you agree if it means what Some people will. Then the answer is no yeah. I understand that, but I would put to you the question. There is a difference, between explain in something and shit-
changing the subject. So this my group about compatible ism- and this is this- we will get it so I, but I will, I assume you will admit there- that there is a difference between purify in a real phenomenon of its folk, psychological baggage, which I think is what you think compatible as misdoing and actually failing to interact with some core features that are just illimitable from the concept itself. Levies, surprise you by saying I don't think, there's a sharp line between those two, and I think it is quite obvious. That whether on changing the subject I mean I'm so used to that report about wine along this. So now I think that's that's. Just debaters point wishes us at that aside. Saying you're, just changing the subject, the way of declaring a whole Manifold, a whole variety spectrum of,
Victoria Views, which are not accepted because your clinging to some core part of what free will is you want to claim freewill, the core of free will is is. Is denial of determinism and I've made a curse and that's not the core. In fact, let me try to limit I knew line on you everything why? Why doesn't you see this the way I see it, and I think that the big source unlikely big source of confusion about this? Is it when people think about freedom? in the context of free. Will there ignoring a very good and legitimate notion of freedom, which is basically the engineering notion of freedom. When you talk about degrees of freedom my arms, no my room To of my shoulder my elbow those joints that lyrics there's three
the Visa freedom right there and in control theory it's all about how you control the degrees of freedom and if we look around the world. We can see that some things happen secondly, no degrees of freedom that rock over there and some things like you and me uncomfortably many degrees of freedom because of the utility of our minds, the capacity that we weaken. Remove moved by reasons on any topic at all. This gives us a complexity from the point of view control theory. Just completely absent in any other creature, and that kind of freedom is actually I claim at the heart. Of our understanding of free will, because it's that complexity, which is not just complexity, but it's there. Competence to control that complexity, that's what free will is what you want if you ve got free will, is
The capacity will never be perfect to respond to the circumstances with. All the degrees of freedom. You need to do what you think would be really the right thing to do. You may not always do the right thing, but let's take a dead, simple case. Imagine running a chest programme which stupidly? It was written wrong so that the king could only move forward backer, left or right, like a rock It could not move diagonally and this summer hidden in it, so that it does not even considered moves valuable moves by the king completely disabled, jasper, its missing on the very important degree of freedom which it should and be able to control and recognise one to use and so forth. What you want, I mean, let me ask you a question about what would be ideal from the point of view of risks
civility. What does an ideal responsible agent have not mainly true beliefs. A well ordered set of desires? The cognitive, adroitness too to be to change. Was it listen change one's mine to be moved by reasons, the capacity to listen, to reasons the capacity for some self control. These since our common degrees, but our model of arrest possible adult someone. You would First, someone you would make a promise to or will we accept it promise from is somebody with all those trees, a veto. Control over what removes freedom from somebody is it either the degrees of freedom don't exist. There blocked mechanically or some other agent has usurped them and has taken over
troll marionette and the puppeteer, and so with the model of a free agent, nothing at all about in the terms we can distinguish agents from unfair agents in a determined world order. An indeterminate, sick world determinants, in determinism? Make no difference to that categorization and it's that categorization, which makes moral difference so yeah. I agree with almost Of that I just need to put a few more pieces in play here. I think there is an important difference was I I agree that there is no bright line between changing the subject and actually purifying a concept of illusions and and actually explain something scientifically about the world. But in this case the
Durability of free will as a problem for philosophers, and our scientists is based on people's first person. Experience something they think they have people feel like. They are the authors of their thoughts and intentions and actions, and so there is There's a first person description of this problem and there's a third person description of this problem and I think if we balance between two without knowing that we're boundary between the two. We are losing sight of of important detail, so people feel that have a libertarian free will and when I, when I get emails from people who are psychologically destabilize by my argument, that freewill doesn't exist. These are people who feel like something into rule to their psychological life and well being is being put in jeopardy, and I can say this from. From both sides, because I know what it's like to feel that that I could have done otherwise. So let me just for four listeners who aren't totally up to speed here.
Libertarian free will is. This is anger to this, notion of I could have done Why? So if we really want the universe to precisely as it was you moments ago, I could complete this sentence. The sentence differently than I did You know whether you throw in determinism or determinism or or some combination thereof. There is no scientific, Rationale for that claim view review, rewound the universe to precisely its prior state with all realm variables intact, whether deterministic wherein deterministic these words with better my mouth and exactly the same order and there's there would there would be no change. I would I would the sentence a trillion times in the ring in a row with its with its errors with its glitches, so people feel they If they re wound the movie their lives, they could do differently in each moment, and that feeling is the thing.
That is what people find so interesting about this. This notion that free, while those exists, because it is so counter intuitive psychologically now I can tell you that I know longer feel that subjectively, my experience of myself I am aware of the fact that it is a subjective mystery to me how these words come out of my mouth. If I'm hearing these words is your hearing, these words ram thinking out loud right now. I haven't thought this thought before I thought it right is just come in and I am actively aware of the fact that this is all coming. The darkness of my uncle, just mind in some sense there's the sphere of my mind, that is, that is illumine goodbye with consciousness for lack of a better word- and I can be subject- devotee identified with it, but then there's all the stuff. That is they just arriving a period in consciousness. The contents of consciousness, which I can't
this until I notice them- and I can't think the thought before I think it and my direct experience is compatible with a purely deterministic world right now, most people's, isn't they don't think it so that's where, when it went out when you change the subject of the analogy, I use in my my article that responded to your review, which I still think captures it for me I'll just pitch it to you once more is the notion of it so people are infatuated with this idea of Atlantic. I say actually Atlantis, doesn't exist. It's a myth, theirs thing in the world that answers to the name of Atlantis There was no underwater kingdom with advanced technology and all the rest and Whoever was Plato was confused on this topic or just spinning. Spinning yarn and You can ism your variant and perhaps every variant takes another approach. It says no, no, actually there is thing that conserves much of what people.
Concerned with about Atlantis and in fact it may be the story, coal and geographical antecedents to the first stirrings of this idea of Atlantis, and theirs is the island of Sicily, the biggest island in the Mediterranean, which answers to much of what people care about with Atlantis. Say well it, but actually what people really care about is the underwater kingdom with the two they advanced technology, and that is a fiction. So you and I are going to agree about disallow ninety nine percent of all of our truth- claims about Sicily, going to converge I'm saying the whole he's in why we're talking about land is in the first place. Is this as other piece the people are attached to which, by you purifying the subject, you're actually just no longer interacting with that subject of peace we are thus let's well put. I I think, the analogy? Is less instructive?
I don't think it's entirely fair, but let's leave it at that. The euro position is You can see very clearly that what people really care about is the free will should be something sort of magical and you're right. A lot of people If you don't think fuels magical than you don't believe in free will, and that's what I confronted and say. Well, I got something which isn't magical, which is perfectly consistent with nationalism, and gives us more responsibility. Justification for the way we treat each other the distinctions that matter to us like who, who do we hold responsible you dont go to. We excuse because they don't have free will gives us all of the and marks of our daily lives and explain.
Why these are what matters, and indeed, though, if, if the mystery, if the magic is that important people, I really does that magic doesn't exist and if that's it, we're gonna die free. Will to that then that I would say not freewill doesn't exist now: You said something very interesting: you said that the reason we believe in this. Is because they they feel they are, they think they do they sort of into us. They could have done something different in exactly the same situation. I agree with you that they that's what they think, but I dont I think that it is a forlorn task to show them that's not really what they should think about this about the very they have their sense of their cancers,
acting under the idea of freedom, a tribe they are and that's the only way an agent can be. This is a fairly deep point that an agent has to consider something fixed, something's, not fix. You can't decide otherwise the. Setting of decision making depends on their being that kind of freedom, and So. It's no wonder in a way that people who are impressed with that decide what what they experience is a sense of utter freedom. They don't need utter freedom. What they need and have can have, is the sense in many very similar circumstances circumstances which differed. Maybe only if you atoms
they would have made another decision and, and then as soon as you allow any time any change in the and when you re, why the tape business about determinism falls out of the picture and that's why, in In actually several places, I'm considerable length, probably too long to trot out examples where we have a decision maker in a demonstrably deterministic world playing chess and it loses the game and its designer says well, it could have castle. What do you mean it could have castle. What the designer means is, it was the latter. The draw a chest program like any complicated programme, he's going to consult a random number generator.
Pseudo random number generator at various points, and this time it chose wrong However, the children, because when it got never from the pseudo random number generally regatta one rather than a zero flip, a single and it would have made the other choice. In other words, not a design flawed, the an agent could be as it were impeccably design you couldn't improves the design of the agent. So that's what justifies saying I could have done otherwise half the time. It would have done otherwise. It's just bad luck on this occasion, normally it would have done otherwise. So agree with all that I think you're not acknowledging. However, how seditious that the facts are how did agree with they undermine people's felt.
Of their own person, hood so you tell me that, but for single charge, A sin apps, I would have decided- I didn't want to have this. Conversation with you or I wouldn't have proposed to my wife right My entire life would be different. Ignore Jane. I underline Neuro physiology of of all those choice, points and how tiny differ: can be. That makes the crucial difference that suddenly brings back them marionette strings now, no one's holding the strings, the universe is holding the strings, but that is not what people feel themselves to be this for this feeling that if you had had as one mouthful more of lunch, yet something very different. You'd make a radically different decision, Six hours from now than you are going to make that a life that no one virtually no one feels their living
This is going and good in good directions. I think you're Thirdly, right in the end exactly wrong in what you just said, I think you're right. That This is a subversive idea to many people there. So you silly. Did it? Unless there completely absolutely undetermined, then they don't have. We will now the trouble with that is. If you look closely at that idea, you see if they were absolutely term that wouldn't give free will either so so the there. That's a red herring. So let's look at what does matter it's interesting that you say that that if, if I thought that you know some tiny atomic change would have altered the course of some big important life decision. Let's look closely.
That, because what I think we should say is. It is indeed true that there are times when a decision is a real toss up when you thought of thought about a thought about you going have to every soon and you just can't make up your mind in case like that- and it may be something that's morally very important, idea that when you do make the decision had, but few ETA men, say you don't you would amid the other decision, I don't find that setting at all because one of those situations- and it doesn't mean that when the evidence and the reasons are preponderantly on one side, no when'd you to make a very large change in the world for a different. This to come out
sometimes the indeterminate libertarians interactive is a sort of signature. Alot of their views say that there has to be an absolutely undetermined choice of salmon weren't somewhere in the causal chain of your life. For your action to be responsible now. Thus I had long thrust into the into their fate. As these example of Luther who says, I can do no other money, he's he's. Not responsibility. He say believe me: it wasn't had the light, been friend earth win not been blowing, I would it not be saying I was determined to do this. He's not saying is not a free decision; they, some of them amazingly to me far for the oh well, that's only because it must have been the case.
Somewhere and loot losers life. It was a more might have been in his childhood when there were two paths: envy and he chose a which led to him putting mailing theses on the door, and at that moment it was absolutely term of the red shoes. I think that's the craziest fantasy. Imaginable, it doesnt depend on that so I agree with you that, when we think about how Champs Luck, enters into our lives? That can be very unsettled and we should not hide from the fact that there are times when its attacks
and we may rejoice in the decision we make, or we may bitterly regret it and the fact that we could knew that it was not in our control its. Maybe it's a tragic fact, but it is not a fact which disables us for responsibility, you're playing chess to take a deliberately trivial case, you considering two possible moves to the levy. See what the better one is. Sort of mentally flip. A coin you know works out great right. That's but I am very likely to retrospectively decorate that with the claim that that's what she determined now you're kidding yourself
you're, just taking responsibility for a little bit of lucky random conflict and new decision process. That does not in fact, not only does that not disable you for free will, I think, an important human, oil. Above we will visit free, responsible ages, recognise when they act they're going to be held responsible whether or not they are in complete control of the and they can't be in complete control of the decision. Making goes to making up their mind words. Now they were getting some very interesting territory where we might actually disagree, because I think have your notion of moral responsibility is something that I don't agree with. I think I can do a kind of compatible IST manure
over on moral responsibility and get most of what we want out of it by, I think something changes with my view of free will. But I want to unpack one point you made earlier that might have blown by people too quickly. The reason why in determinism doesn't give you freedom that, if you have you made a choice that was truly not determine by your past conditioning your past attitude. It would be they precisely the occasion where you say I don't know what came over me that wasn't there wouldn't be representative of who you ve been up until the moment. So it has to be part of the causal stream that you recognise, to be in a lawfully you in each moment, but I want to ask you one question before I talk about why I think it might all be a matter of luck. All the way down and moral responsibility is something we have to redefine in the way that you are eager to redefine freewill. I want to ask you that this notion that tiny micro adjustment in the universe
only really spells the difference in cases where it's a decision it could go either way. That is, it was fifty fifty anyway and you just you know you flipped a bit and you today wasn't a a diversion of that great consequence, because it was not something that you were fully committed to, but I think, probably are many actions. Maybe decision the wrong category, but certainly actions where the difference between a lie, changing action and not is just a matter a tiny piece of real estate in the brain being otherwise. So the difference between thinking, something and say it out loud to the person you're thinking about or the difference between, sending that angry email. You wrote to your boss or to your best friend and deciding to scrap, that can be one of these tiny moments where, but for a little more
the night before you, your life, would be very different on that very point. Imagine how many Brits there are today who vote and didn't vote for the most in trivial reasons. They just think I'll. Just have another piece of toll systems I don't really need to, and their kicking themselves of course now and life has moment and we factor that in when we consider what it is to be responsible and some people do better on that sort of self control and others. I think that regret. Plays a big role in our thinking about free will when we have them. Something that we bitterly regret and that we do view as wasn't really what I
or at least the ideal, I would do when we when we change something. We then we often hide behind second rate ideas. I think that's part of the the sort of emotional distortion, the waves of this, Should that mean we really can't take over emotions at face value, They ve got a lot of baggage on Syria, essentially seeming to me at this moment that we have been talking past. Each other to some degree, so you decide to reach define free. Will here's the here's the freewill worth wanting, and then you talk about degrees of freedom and Agents they can operate lawfully and meet their aims. Whereas I talk about free will being an incoherent concept,
a libertarian ocean every will doesn't map onto determinism. It doesn't matter road map on two in determinism and it doesn't happen to any combination thereof, and we both agree about that, but we have a different response to it, but I think what is what my responses at the free will you thank you that doesn't exist and then left. Then we can go on to talk about all these other things that we care about, but the here is where I'm going to push into this more responsibility where we may find a disagreement. I so you take the than the classic case of Charles Whitman. The shooter and the clock tower kill anything. Fourteen at the University of taxes and one of the early and famous mass shootings in american history, and it turns out that he wrote this. Usually suicide. Note saying I don't know what's wrong with me, but I've been flying into a rage and he killed his wife first before he went and killed all those other people, and I don't know why theirs. I love my wife. You might want to do in autumn
and my brain after you kill me too, to find out what's wrong with me and in fact that's what was done and they found a, I think I stole my that was pressing on his Magdala and it's just the sort of tumor in the sort of place where you think, ok that there's something exculpatory about but he was not. He was a victim of his biology and that wasn't trials Whitman issued in that was Charles, Whitman plus brain tumor, shooting. So when you, when that kind of care is emerges in court. It affects our ethical notion of what of it. If he had survived, and it was time to punish him, we would have given him bring in surgery had this surgery been available and not put him in prison for the rest of his life because he was. He was in yet another victim of this bad luck. Incident now my argument, in my book, Freewill, which I think you don't agree with, is that it can please understanding of neural physiology should we ever attain. It is excluded
story in that same sense. That, basically, is it is brain tumors all the way down so of you then tell me that you fully understand the charge. My on that. One cent adds that led me to hit send on my email, as opposed to restraining myself. That charge is something which I didn't author, that charge. Is- is the the tiniest brain tumor ever found and that is the reason why I had said. Oh, that's a very useful Tom Walter This passage raises what we ve learned from neuroscience. Is it we're wired wrong Don't blame me where we don't blame us we're wire drawn now what science shows is we're wired. Shall we wired wrong. Some people like poor women, wired wrong. So what you're, basically challenging me to say what does that mean that everybody's wired wrong there's no such thing as being
Wired ripe for free will, and I think, is what you're now claim your saying it's it's its brain tumors all over them. Well, I find that extrapolation com Really, I'm not move via that. I don't. I don't think it is a logical argument. I think it is. It is a mistaken extrapolation. It's like a mathematical induction gone wrong. The fact that written in the end, I find it in fact fascinating that this is a very standard argument from libertarians, we'll take a case of somebody whose horrible brain damage and say: well, surely this is a case of persons as you say, not related right. I read well, then we're all that we all know we're not we that's that's precisely. What
we understand we're not all disabled swampy. Now we're nobody is an angel nobody's perfect. So if anything short of perfection counts is being disabled to the point of ex cop thoroughly disabled, then you're right, but that's a very strange view. The idea that you couldn't be well enough to be held responsible. Is the crux of the you right now between us. I say that the boundaries are always porous, that as we learn more about, size as neuroscience teaches us more. We may very well and probably will move, some people that are now excavated end individuality,
excusable category and others will move, but will still keep the distinction between those. Basically wired right and those that are why wrong. So I'm not disputing the fact that people have different capacities. Rights of people have different degree freedom and if you have a brain tumor in the wrong place, Europe capacities can be undermine. So there's nothing that I said thus far. That ignores the very important difference between voluntary, involuntary action or the ability to restrain your input says s posed to just acting out everything that arises in your mind as at the level of intention. So there are different capacities, but here's the ethical problem and then the reason why I think more information begins to make every case look more like Charles Whitman, because everything This is as it is in a way that no one can
responsibility for us, you, you didn't, take your parents, you didn't pick your genes, you didn't take the environment in which your nerve The system was sculpted in response to it inputs. They are the only. Variables there are the system. Are your genes and the way in which their played upon by the environment? this includes ideas, as includes conversations had not had so to bring us back to this conversation you we're, not in control of how persuaded you are or not, by what I say. So I say something: it strikes you stupid or incredibly, incisive, or somewhere that continuum, and you don't pick that right is Buddhism, highly dependent on the state brain which is entirely dependent on every moment. Proceeding so we are being played by
universe, we are, we are little corners of the universe that are just like the rest of the universe, except for all of these other functions that we can talk about voluntary behaviour and involuntary behaviour, impulse, control, etc, and there is something exculpatory about that. So again. Just to give you a little more information here you can take. The evil is person than the most Easily incriminated person you can think of was the. I think I use Saddam Hussein or one of his sons in my book on this is that the product typical, mustache, Torlini, evil person. If anyone responsible for his actions. He is, but if you just go just roll back the timeline of his live near. Where one point he was the four year old who is destined to become Saddam Hussein writer, you look at four year old and he might have been have the genes for psychopathy, say, might have bad parents he's got a bad society or certainly one is death. Influence him in ways that predispose emptive, psychopathic violence. So you have an unlucky for Europe that is fully exculpatory,
that for Europe, if we could help that four year old, we would we would intervene. We would put a minute family would give him the right drugs. If we had them too, to combat psychopathy right and you re raw forward in his life. At a certain point, I think, as if by magic we huh old him responsible for being the true author of his actions, and yet at no point does he actually- become the author of his genes and his environment and all of the causal connection? And so I to you that we might want to, the whole people responsible. I think we do. I think you and I should sign contracts and which we should promises and we should be held responsible for breaking those promises, but the reason the yet because its pragmatically to do that. Punishment makes sense if it actually influences people's behaviour in a way that, on balance leads to human flourishing, so it so, I dont think we throw out.
Everything that you are worried we throw out in the criminal justice system, but I think there is something I think the role of luck. Goes all the way down. Your examples, I think, have a flaw and I'm trying to think of the cleanest. Where saying one thing it is this talk about control? One of the things you said is here: you can't control Eugene. You can't control your environment, that's right, and as a sailor, I can control the properties of the water. I can't control the wind, but I can control the boat. I can't control, how hard the wind blows. Given our limbos, I controllable. Not now, maybe you couldn't controllable because you don't know about how to control about, but I do and I can control the boat and its end and you your argument,
is trying to remove the very idea of control from the world say nobody, controls anything. I really am, I think, that's a reductio ad absurdum. Of course we control things and, and for that matter, an airliner can be controlled by a computer Peter is real and controlling it, and and if the end, if it's a pilot turns out of him, better than the pilot, is controlling the airplane and the idea that you can't control all the factors debts irrelevant. I mean, of course you can't that's why, that's what control theory starts with the premise: the turf actors who are not in your control. The whole point of control is to respond to the factors that are out of control by doing the right thing, and this
I'm thing goes for moral education, you're exactly right Saddam Hussein bull beginning and all that, and if we can treat- and we would, why would freedom, because if we treated him, if we could get in their early, we could turn him with some chances says whose good evidence of this new autonomous self controlling adult. That's why we have moral education and it works, and if, you dont, morally educate, you, kids, then they're gonna be out of control and if they are then shame on you, as apparent for that moral education, because you could have made them into a self country Thomas Adult and you new, let down the side and is too bad for them is too bad for you I read these are cases where, where adults are not fully responsible again
We don't need to turn our absolute moral responsibility. Nobody could be added morally responsible, but you can be non absolutely practically responsible for who you are. After all, you make a robot. You made you thought about you said it is you're. Artifact kill somebody who's responsible. You are you made it. You should around them you, twenty year old, you may, Twenty one year old you which made twenty eight year old you which made Fortier or do we do part of being an adult recognising the part of our
responsibility to the rest of the world is to make us is to keep ourselves as self controlling a time was. Eight is not to lapse into. We have a responsibility. We have a duty to contain ourselves yourself controllers. Somebody fail miserably and it's very interesting, but we ve had us the change in the way the public thinks about this. When I was a kid drunk drivers we're routinely excuse of Sammy was, drunk out of his mind, he wasn't responsible now, doubly responsible? We hold the bartender and his friends responsible Let him get in that state and I think the same thing I like that there's a wise change and I think that some we don't want to give up? We want to keep the idea
of getting a moral education is in allocating in an individual the goal, the motive to become a reliable self controller, and most people see pretty darn well, they're, not perfect, and What you get four, that is, for the freedom of the state, you get drive a car run around sign contracts and little life. You're allowed to have a free, politically free life and if you can't do, that You're in the soup and you're gonna you're going to suffer will again agree there is this practical distinct. And an important one between people we can, we can treat ever sponsible agents who can beset behave themselves and people who are you know why, bold and unpredictable and can't be influenced by reasons and and our expectations etc. So
the obvious difference between toddlers and older kids and older and adolescents and adults, and we we understand a fair amount about that. The physical basis of those differences, but this may actually came up in my response year, Review, which I had never thought of before it just something I haven't thought about deeply, but it seems to me ethically interesting: where are you You brought up ostiense pipe and you, you brought it up as a an example of how you, They don't want to think about free will and in my review or in my response review, I owned it, as this actually is in line with how I do want to think about free will, and one thing that came out of Austrians spot for me is what strikes me as a bit of a paradox: is so you take the most common, and agency, take your Tiger Woods Oreo Tiger Woods ass. It used to be putting tabloids in his prime attempting to sink a to foot part. Now. This is a part.
He will make nine hundred and ninety nine times out of a thousand. I would think at least so when he misses despite, I were now the one on one occasion where he misses it on its feet is, he is the person you can hold most responsible on earth were missing this part set, because because, if I miss the point You know you, and you expect me to miss at twenty percent of the time right. I'm not a good golfer so I am less culpable than he is. He is the most culpable of any person on earth for Miss. This pot, and yet his missing the pot says the least about him, because someone who always makes this point so the role of luck here, the role of disease, the mere you know, cosmic rays, bombardment of his synapses seems the most salient because for Tiger Woods to miss a to foot, but that is just bad law that is not that's, not the tiger woods we know and as other Tiger woods he knows and his subjective experience of of missing the point will be pursued
ugly? I don't know what the hell happened, because I should have made that point, and I would make that point I'll. Make that point watch I'll, make it a thousand times in a row now so did the paradigm I want to add. I wish I had a name for this paradise, but the paradox is in a case where have a lapse in behaviour, and I would argue, even a moral lapse. Even a crime committed right by I'm one who should be the absolute best candidate for responsible self governance. In that instance, they suddenly becomes the least good case for freedom of what That's a gradual! Rather because I wanted to raise that too. The reason that second moral case Moral Tiger woods case. There's a reason why this reason why we expect the best from some and not from others in her we're more can
a military if the Supreme Court, justice, shoplift or something like that, then if somebody some poor kid in the does I don't think, there's any paradox. I think that lose no paradox, because the Supreme Court this or any serious moral agent has taken on, in effect the obligation to be that good people are counting on him. People are made plans that could be life wrecking if he doesn't come through their not doing that with everybody they're doing it with the ones that have the particular competence and advertise that particular competence, so that it is particularly
bad when they don't live up to their own self advertisements- and you say it's just like well it maybe just like or They may look in their hearts and think. Well, I don't know where the just like. There's always luck, randomness or pseudorandomness chaos infects moment of our lives but very often there are other factors why don't we go looking so maybe Tiger woods, set up so late. Last night he may realise that he may say can't imagine, think it through very oh. He can indeed, and he will think his very carefully, and we will try to improve. Is that is mental game. The next day I don't think
the cases, a simple as you make get out. I don't think there's any paradox here at all. Why think you're not connecting with the the first person side of what it's like to deviate. From your own internalize norms and competencies, so you're the Supreme Court Justice RE, whose just fully committed ethics and law, the rule of law and then all of sudden new fine that you gone on a shoplifting spray right that is so unreflective of who you then that is a failure of of some part of your system, which seems the most adventitious says, is the least about who you ve been up until the moment. It is a departure from the norm, and as it is with your tiger, woods missing a part that even a terrible golfer. What would make some significant percentages time going back to prior causes doesn't really resolve the issue. So easy task in a wider used out late there, the night before will then we're
back to him, not Arthur himself as the explanation for why he decided to stay out late was because he happened to see pretty woman across the bar seeing her if he would have been in bed by ten, but because his age real philanderer! He had to stay out of four, but I'm just saying that one of those moments becomes amidst pot when you look closely at it But one thing I hear here and one thing: I've definite detected, in your writing about this is your very concerned, at these social and societal implications of most people getting the wrong message about free will so it if Jerry Coin- and I won the argument here and we just announced free will is an illusion and in since everyone is not guilty by reason of insanity, there's no, there is no control, that's good enough for freewill. No one has that kind of control. Everyone is just part of the, Never, as everyone is a force of nature, everyone is a wild animal, something very
Orton would be lost and well, but what I'm saying is that you can can sir, I have a compatible list maneuver for many of the things Europe trade would be lost, Sosa, holding people accountable, holding people to their contracts, their promises, putting people in prison who are too scary to let out of prison. I think we can do all of that. In a way that doesn't preserve an illusion that anyone actually truly authors themselves any more than Charles Whitman did with his brain tumor, nobody ever actually truly absolutely authors himself or herself. But that doesn't mean there are people in other themselves. They use found objects that they find you know do it yourself, there's a limit to do it yourself and
there's a lot of luck involved, and I think that people understand. This people understand that the best came in town. Is to be a moral agent who is, via the communities, ideas of moral, efficiency and takes punishment, gracefully when its deserved and may secretly harbour things like Well, I've just really I'm lucky today, really tough I will really lucky, but the last I'm going to do is plead. I just cause play unlucky, your honor, ok! So what you did it you hold yourself:
declare yourself to be a responsible agent. On this occasion you let down the side and it's quite irrelevant whether you are unlucky today but again. I think the the subject their chain just to what the pragmatics of holding people responsible and how are of courts function and how our relationships need to be. But again, I just think it's. This is vulnerable to more information, so so what is misplaced. Let's say we had full knowledge of all of the variables right. So we that. Actually it was the church of a bird not into his head that his auditory cortex did its little dance, and that was enough to get him to miss this put the game of golf. Wouldn't necessarily change, because there is no way to incorporate that the influence of birds into rules of the game says he is old. Golf would have to say at that point is listen. Sometimes you get
ok, and sometimes you don't get lucky with the birds right, but we're not gonna kill all the birds which deal with it, but that is a pragmatic response, to a situation that this just too complex, and yet it is still a fact that the bird caused him to miss that pot and he's not actually responsible. If we're we're just using a heuristic here to me to hold him responsible, he's response, people in the sense that next time we will expect him to make that put right fully based on his skill, and he probably will make it worse. Yeah you're covert these latter back in the absolute responsibility right is he's not absolutely responsible, because the bird played an unexpected father role in this case, but but long as you're not holding out her absolute responsibility, they still responsible and users and just pragmatic. Well,
the whole idea of free will is ultimately, I think, pragmatic this gonna- have a consequential list, the count of why we why we hold people responsible and it actually, it's not a simple Deterrence and rehabilitation idea is the idea that if we have a real have a secure society where there is respect for law, then the law has to be reasonable because we're pretty reasonable people unreasonable laws will not be respected so the law has built into it lots of excusing conditions, This is not everything is an excuse. We draw the line here, Where do we draw the line we draw somewhere, and it's not a metaphysical line is a pragmatic lie and what to do
and where that line is, is something about what human nature is like in general and getting it higher, would excuse to many people and would lead to disrespect for the law, setting would be to punitive and people that we intuitively feel were really not that responsible for what they did, and so we we have. This artifact was wonderful, artifact, which is law and order and its human. Well, it's not. It was not intelligently, designed so much but by human soldiers, it evolved by cultural evolution to be a system which people can appreciate its value, even if they can't entirely explain how the working parts work and why there is good as they are to take the prototypical psychopath,
thrice a deadly, an evil person who is responsible for his evil as possible. These are he's a say, does take s pleasure from it. He be enemies. He is now in prison, but dear as if we let em out, he would do it again because what he really likes to do as kill little girls and boys. And he has no regrets. This is as culpable persons wherever gonna find, but you will hear in the sense that he's he's not trials woodmans. What came over me saying this is, who I am be sure you can you can talk about neurophysiologist one want I'm happy to be who I am. I love this. And this is how I want lives. So you might have some reason to think that he's This is responsible as you and I are, but I think this would push most people's buttons. Terms of judging him to be the author of evil as much as anyone. The author of anything, this guy is status, to be who he is, and he was just a violent, sadistic person Hawaii, who we should like up now. If we had a cure for this
condition, was cause psychopathy. But maybe this is something beyond that and we could just give him the pill. That made him have the epiphany. Oh, my god. I can't believe I was this evil bastard, I'm so regretful, I'm so sorry I've done I want, spend the rest of my life making it up. Do you people we would, rather than punish him in a retributive scheme. Just live, let let him right away in prison for the rest of his life We have a name for this condition that we now call evil, but let's say it's called psychopathy plus, and we would just give this pills all people who are at risk for being a sort of evil person. In the same way, we give insolent diabetics. We would just view these people, who, for whatever reason, genes and environment, were destined to become these evil bastards, we would give them the anti evil pill wouldn't that be in some sense exculpatory.
Yes, I would, but I want to look at a case which I think is better not a psychopathic torturer, but a Bernie made off a car, calculating greedy heartless fraudulent person with a fine education without bringing and no There are signs of any pathology cycle. Pathology, I think that's. The same case is just he's a more normal person, but I'm going to invent something I was called made off syndrome is the kind of Harrison who were even with the and evidence of an education and a great upbringing and good rural relationships and all the right environmental influences. He still is malignantly selfish enough to show up like
we made our Egon lie to people with alacrity and he can proceed His own aims has a kind of time horizon for his gratification, which allows him to forget about the fact that he's leaning upon these game that is guaranteed to blow up and Asia he's really not motivated by that is discounted. That future pain to the point, where he's no longer motivated by it. So if we could to complete we understand the neural physiology of what it was to be Bernie made off and just by dint of luck there, say, intervention that could cancel it. There is now a pill that is the aunt I made off the old baby, it's just a designer bill just for Bernie made, or maybe it would work for no one else, but it will work for him and you give it to him and he becomes regretful as you'd ever want him to be and no longer capable of that behaviour. He says I cannot believe who I was. I watched it. I just watch that documentary about me. And I do not recognise that guy. It seems to be the same case to me. But you're leaving out
a lot of the recursive cycles of the whole situation. If we had a Meda pill, Then people would know there was a Meda pill and so a lot of people who knew that they could do this until eight we had to take the made off pill would would factor that and to their behaviour, and so Let me let me let me know I think it is. I think I think it's important too. Not to shield off the calculations of all the effects on respect for the law and the sense people have of about the security that respect for the law gives them. You have to factor that all in and the fact that these are made our syndrome doesn't change that and its small comfort
the rest of the citizenry, but when we Those made of syndrome case we can pill and unease better, not good enough. We want to have the threat of punishment there so that the people that have made off syndrome behave themselves now consider in this light most psychopaths never commit a crime. Why their deterred by the penalties and here's where by homely comparison with penalties and sports comes in. You wanna play football soccer. You want to have a yellow card and a red card and you want to use them sparingly. But when you use em, you want to meet him and it's gonna hurt and the real penalties and wood
Amy better without them now, do we even stopped to ask whether the players could control themselves better? Now, if you want play soccer? You can live by these rules and don't even think about coming up and saying Oh me: I'm a hot, headed latin type, who can't control, is about tough you play by the rules, so you can't you get your red card and this in a for a pastime, people enjoy- and things are pretty good thing for you- can't play football without rules, and you can't play football without rules that have penalties and those penalties are not just
it's not for rehabilitation, and it's not just to deter that individual in the future. It is to preserve the common mutual knowledge what to expect on the pitch and that's the way the law works in general. Those the implants ability of the law is a very interesting feature because it means it say. Judges often put in a position of wanting to temper justice with mercy. And they often do, but there must not be a law it says and The way, judges under various
since, as you oughta temper, just as with mercy that subverts the law subverts the the respect for the law, which is one of its one of its main features, and I think if you look at it in terms of the rules of the game or an order cream behavior. Then, can see that that simply heightens or clarifies the situation in all moral behaviour holding people responsible. There is curious, you might think is paradoxical. I don't like it is, but we don't want to pull to count on the mercy of their judges. We want them to be grateful when they get mercy. Again, I think we're having to conversations error those two topics in play and we're not
necessarily noticing when we're bouncing between them, so that there are just the practical constraints of jurisprudence or in the criminal justice system or the world, as we currently understand it, and we have to. We have to figure out how to function in it. We have to figure out how to play the game in a way that makes sense. So I fully agree that punishment makes sense it deter, is any significant number people from crimes and even in a state of total, information. We may still want to reserve certain punishments because the that's it just those are the best levers to pull in terms of influencing human behavior. But then then, there's just the ethical case and what is true of the world and in how those to interact- and I think, just to go back to made off for a second. If understood, made off syndrome and aid. This a real condition which could he Beazley easily cured, and
families who were aware of made off syndrome were giving their teenage boys the made off pill before they went to business school well, because its gross negligence, otherwise is like strap in your child into a seat belt. When it's your as apparent is your responsibility to do that? You're unleashing your made off prone children on the rest of society? If, if you don't give them this pill, what everything's optional you could starving to death, but then we then had society will hold you responsible for that. What I'm saying? Is it because we don't understand, made off syndrome and we have no cure for it. Made off looks like a fully culpable moral actor who just belongs behind bars, but if the state of our knowledge of his condition chair changed radically, and there was a way to intervene. It would begin to look like
Neurosurgery for Charles Whitman, just a different case of it, and I am saying that on some level, every becomes like that able from Tiger Woods is part two Your reaction to my making this point making this point- and you are underwhelmed right. That is a state of your brain which, the dimly understand, but it not one that you are responsible for you. As the centre of your subject of life, and this is down to connect this conversation back to where, where I think the illusion of free will or the sense of free will, is really the motivating force on this topic for everyone. If we connected outta the right brain scan intact, make of the future and weak. I know in advance everything you were gonna, think and do before you subjectively could write. So you are you're you're about to utter something which we
in the lab already transcribed to be confronted with that pre cognitive record of your behavior moment after moment would fundamentally undermining of people's felt sensible. What they are as agents if the guy with the white coat knows what you to do before you're going to do it from my point of view we have every reason to believe that is a neurological fact about us. You are not the first to know what you are about to think and do it get a hold of your nerve physiology in any real detail, will then that will completely shatter the sense for people that they are the authors of their actions, and it brings us back to the the the psychological case for free will not the pragmatic, but not the this is how you have to design a game so that its fine or those or those order layer, so that we know what to expect its. This is who people feel they are in each moment.
I like you just wrong about the effects of a, I think. So we have to look more closely and here's where actually, What looks like a empirical boring detail matters? Some people think that the difference between production in real time and prediction about the discovery of things that happened in the past, the difference between it is important to science. It really isn't people somehow say that no, you lose no predictive power too illusionary biology now there's plenty of room. For instance, I predicted if we go to any island, in the world and examining the birds there. We can say a lot of
what their dna is. Gonna show us that fleet in the future in any interesting, says or predicting that will find certain fossils in the ground was about the past, but it's so what happens in nurse? I m right now for in the soon animal experiments and Patrick Haggard sperms. It's not real time prediction, they have the Messiah Data with the soup, with a member country programme for quite a while, in order to generate the so called prediction within check against what the person every did, they get. It right now seize the eighty percent of the time, but they can predict in real time If they could, then they can make real money by playing papers scissors with the person with their head the scanner. I can't do that, but suppose I could, but that's just a technological wrinkle is no reason to think they couldn't but little
just ask you. One question is a sharp and this up, which article made a clear. I showed you phone now, and I had a transcript of everything we said in this. Conversation Bryce, I knew in advance everything you were going to say. I knew what I was going to say. I knew what you were going to say down to the every syllable, and some level we know that's true of us perfect, mine reading instrument would get a few five hundred million is early right before you have a sin or even how will you're gonna form the word. That's the undermining case and I think there's just as a matter determinism, and in determinism, how everyone of knit those together at the level of cells. We know that's true us consciousness, just not get involved early enough for us to feel like its. We are pushing the river is too confusions and that one of them is that your example has it sort of irrelevant, but it's
since you are trotted out the example many years ago, Darwin much, I democratic, show that as well class in demon, can predict you're behaviour? If you interact with you because anything relieved his own behaviour to and to do that is enough to have a complete description of himself, which you can't have as touring show. So there is a theoretical limit to how good that, if, if your phone had the whole transcripts on it, then I guess what it would show is that for making the conversation months unwell widow, We'd have to be very careful how we rather, but I use that you think that would really undermine the idea that we have free will. I think it really depends on the details of the context.
Let me let me build up with a simple case. You give me two simple arithmetic problems to do. I do them. I the result and use our say tat when you show a pizza, every written down. The very results, but I've written there is no better than cut any ice because, it's obvious. You know I'm pretty good at arithmetic you predated idea. Answers right. I did now, if you asked me to write a poem downright upon and I had to take out a rupees beverage. Others you, you ve, got the The same problem is already been written, written down on the piece of paper. Well, but I'll be sure is that you play the magic trick of some sort, but that would be That would be very, very unnerving because I believe
and believe for good reason that the sort of complexity of the cycles going on in my brain are such that it is beyond feasibility, to be able to make that kind of prediction. But even just five hundred milliseconds in advance. If we had the poem reading technology hooked up to your brain and we got the poem we got each word of the poem half a second before you got it, and we can prove that you is not the same case, No I'd only really is personal let me let me just want to get into a lot of science fictional.
Jennings about very, very extreme and physically dubious possibilities in principle. So, let's sort of set that aside, I think we should that if you want to know better, we can the idea that a conscious author has to be conscious of the creative process that generates each word, that's an extraordinarily extreme, an unlikely view authorship, and if we look at history we see that. Mozart. Other great artist is enough. I thought that at all these Mozart says these two found to me and I write em down so, but he claims authorship form, and so we should. Why? Should he or because nobody else, roll them, and they were pressed this is in his brain and he can
calls them to some degree. The controls are not at the micro level. He controls them at a temperately macro level. Thus when one Venus Williams Return service, she's gotta, put that stroke, emotion before its fully reached full consciousness. I don't like that speaking, but she's got a couple hundred lesson a couple hundred milliseconds to shape. Response as she's waiting for the serve she's making conditional plant. An elder and those are delivered she's already. She decided that if, if she can she's setting up to do to do a backhand lob down down the lane and she's not do and thinking when that, when she gets
the serve she was expecting and does it then she planned that, but the, but the fact that her response happened so fast doesnt shows decision that this was not a conscious act of hers. I picked this up in your book, and I thought it is one of the things I wanted to talk to you about two, because I think you had a unrealistic. Demand and what a conscious decision or conscious bit of authorship would be musicians. Lipstick as improvisation on the panel, so I'm playing around midnight- and I decided the next course. I'm not quite sure whether I'm up the tempo unusual in that these, but I will try it fast, Do, I know exactly which notes are gonna come out when no? In fact,
but I'll be doing is Setting in motion some control circuits that I can't control directly, but I've honed them. I've I've practice things like this. They may be bad musical habits, but they're my habits and I know how to get a characteristic Dennis cliche to come out of my fingers at that moment. I'm the author of that I'm not you seem to be holding out for a kind of authorship that would that would do that that was authorship. I think there is this shift between first and third person. Use of free will. I think the first person is primary in terms of describing what people think they're gonna lose psychologically when they give up this notion everywhere. Free will and I think they lose it to some significant.
Under your compatible ism, because it that we both repudiate rotarian free will dvd, I could have done otherwise. You think it's just not important and its untrue. I think most people it's important and its untrue, and so that what we were playing a slightly different game there by the punchline. It is the same for both of us. No, you couldn't have done otherwise. I have two demur slightly. I think, there's a perfectly good sense of could have done otherwise. Well, yes, we could have done otherwise in that year but to do a range of things you have that degree of freedom on this. On this particular occasion you did one thing, but you could have done the other. It might be just a flip of a bit that makes a difference that a perfectly legitimate sense of good have done otherwise, because the only reason you you're, really it out
because you're going for absolute Adam for Adam Physical Replication, but that is irrelevant to the real world of causation. While I would say that what years actually promising there is not that they could have done otherwise, but that they can do otherwise next time it is also right to bring back the Tiger Woods despite Tiger woods, couldn't do otherwise, because the bird caused him to miss them. Or a glitch in his nervous system, caused him to miss the pot and he's. Returned the universe that state exactly he's gonna miss that pipe a trillion times in a row, but he can do otherwise this as it he can be expected to make his next part, because within his range of competency, to do that there's a paper the kit, Taylor and I wrote together called whose afraid of determinism, and in it we argue that this is
common confusion about determinism that this idea really the tape back in in playing at exactly the same way. Let's take our Sort of canonical example of IRAN, then coin flip for the fair coin. Well, let's not. Actually random is determined that is determined by the position every particle and was visible universe, but so what it could have been otherwise that's what we mean, what we say, We use points lips too. Implement, could have done otherwise, when we need it and that's a perfectly legitimate. Sense of could have done. Otherwise, even though
terminus and rings. The coins coming up. Heads is important since caused is determined by the whole state of the universe at that moment, but it no more salient cause. Now, if you make a point slipper, that is no. Balance in a mercury bath and has very carefully calibrated arms, and you put a coin and slip it and you can probably make a device which will deliver thousand times of little always come up heads than those aren't random and those are caused. Now we can from Trask cases like that, cases where they are random. All without touching determinism, so deterministic world some point to a random in some arts once in a random put them otherwise. Well, in that case, say a coin flip. Say, surrogate furred, true random, as its
It's me we're we're talking about a chaotic system where you you can predict the outcome because you know the all the initial conditions and you couldn't do the math, even if you did but it's a problem. Version of randomness is if I want to randomize a decision, I'm gonna flip a coin and take the outcome. The she is cycle. Quickly and again. I owe you and I agree that people don't have this freedom. I just think people put a lot of stock and illusion that they do and then you might even I might disagree about this people. And on the micro causes, and they can't they can't go all the way up stream and beating author of their actions in, I am making a unrealistic demands on their subjectivity that no one has ever had this kind of control or this kind of owner ship of their actions, but these sense of liberty in free will does presume it and if, if I would say to you that, if something like this nor imaging
merriment we talked about were available. People would find it a total challenge to their sense of their authors, but their poem or their authorship of their music, or there are authorship of their volitional action. If everything could be predicted. Prior to their conscious awareness of any of the relevant elements of it. Before you heard sentence in your mind, to speak Are you gonna? U use you thought for an hour about which word you were going to choose here and I and show you that that, at every point you thought you were deciding several, earlier. We knew what your brain was gonna do that gives you, the marionette feeling, even if those string our attached only to the universe and of causality not to the hands of some other person will take
wait awhile while for me to unpack everything in there, but I do want to disagree. I want to suggest that when you say whether COIN flip that's just a surrogate for real randomness you're making them move again it s not. Everywhere that's real consciousness, that's just a chief substitute! Well, in fact, it's not achieved substitute the difference between the way the world runs. If we merely got deterministic chaos and the way it runs, if we have quantum indeterminate Z,
makes no moral difference at all. I wasn't saying that it makes a moral different I'll just distinguishing between those two, his physical facts. Well, but then, if it doesn't make a moral difference, people are simply deluded if they think it does so. In other words, people are diluted to think they need what you have, what you call free will they know they can be. They can have the cancer freewill worth wanting a perfectly compatible youth determinism. We completely agree about that, so that this might be a good point to end on, because you and a dinner is calling and our brains are inclining toward it through. Perhaps no four will of our own. But I just want to say I'm very happy that we had this conversation in the spirit of collegiality. That I hope all of our conversations would in and because you and I been the controls
systems that we are aware up to the task in most contacts and so I want to say that if there is any point in that exchange, the written exchange on this topic, offended you that made me seem less, of a reliable ally for you or a friend. I regret that and it's been a great pleasure to collaborate with you in all the ways we have thus far and number ever happy. We have this conversation, the same sending them back to you. This has been instructed for both of us. I think if you find this pain, viable. There are many ways you can support it. You can review it on Itunes or sticker. You happen to listen to it,
shared on social media with your friends. You can blog about it or discuss it on your own, podcast or or even supported directly, and you can do this by subscribing through my website at SAM Harris, DOT, org and there you'll find subscriber only content which includes my ask me anything episodes. He also get access to advance tickets to my live events as well streaming. Video of some of these events,
Transcript generated on 2020-03-24.