Commenced in January 2007
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Paper Count: 4

free will Related Abstracts

4 Free Will and Compatibilism in Decision Theory: A Solution to Newcomb’s Paradox

Authors: Sally Heyeon Hwang


Within decision theory, there are normative principles that dictate how one should act in addition to empirical theories of actual behavior. As a normative guide to one’s actual behavior, evidential or causal decision-theoretic equations allow one to identify outcomes with maximal utility values. The choice that each person makes, however, will, of course, differ according to varying assignments of weight and probability values. Regarding these different choices, it remains a subject of considerable philosophical controversy whether individual subjects have the capacity to exercise free will with respect to the assignment of probabilities, or whether instead the assignment is in some way constrained. A version of this question is given a precise form in Richard Jeffrey’s assumption that free will is necessary for Newcomb’s paradox to count as a decision problem. This paper will argue, against Jeffrey, that decision theory does not require the assumption of libertarian freedom. One of the hallmarks of decision-making is its application across a wide variety of contexts; the implications of a background assumption of free will is similarly varied. One constant across the contexts of decision is that there are always at least two levels of choice for a given agent, depending on the degree of prior constraint. Within the context of Newcomb’s problem, when the predictor is attempting to guess the choice the agent will make, he or she is analyzing the determined aspects of the agent such as past characteristics, experiences, and knowledge. On the other hand, as David Lewis’ backtracking argument concerning the relationship between past and present events brings to light, there are similarly varied ways in which the past can actually be dependent on the present. One implication of this argument is that even in deterministic settings, an agent can have more free will than it may seem. This paper will thus argue against the view that a stable background assumption of free will or determinism in decision theory is necessary, arguing instead for a compatibilist decision theory yielding a novel treatment of Newcomb’s problem.

Keywords: decision theory, free will, compatibilism, Newcomb’s problem

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3 Second-Order Complex Systems: Case Studies of Autonomy and Free Will

Authors: Eric Sanchis


Although there does not exist a definitive consensus on a precise definition of a complex system, it is generally considered that a system is complex by nature. The presented work illustrates a different point of view: a system becomes complex only with regard to the question posed to it, i.e., with regard to the problem which has to be solved. A complex system is a couple (question, object). Because the number of questions posed to a given object can be potentially substantial, complexity does not present a uniform face. Two types of complex systems are clearly identified: first-order complex systems and second-order complex systems. First-order complex systems physically exist. They are well-known because they have been studied by the scientific community for a long time. In second-order complex systems, complexity results from the system composition and its articulation that are partially unknown. For some of these systems, there is no evidence of their existence. Vagueness is the keyword characterizing this kind of systems. Autonomy and free will, two mental productions of the human cognitive system, can be identified as second-order complex systems. A classification based on the properties structure makes it possible to discriminate complex properties from the others and to model this kind of second order complex systems. The final outcome is an implementable synthetic property that distinguishes the solid aspects of the actual property from those that are uncertain.

Keywords: Autonomy, free will, synthetic property, vaporous complex systems

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2 An Emergentist Defense of Incompatibility between Morally Significant Freedom and Causal Determinism

Authors: Lubos Rojka


The common perception of morally responsible behavior is that it presupposes freedom of choice, and that free decisions and actions are not determined by natural events, but by a person. In other words, the moral agent has the ability and the possibility of doing otherwise when making morally responsible decisions, and natural causal determinism cannot fully account for morally significant freedom. The incompatibility between a person’s morally significant freedom and causal determinism appears to be a natural position. Nevertheless, some of the most influential philosophical theories on moral responsibility are compatibilist or semi-compatibilist, and they exclude the requirement of alternative possibilities, which contradicts the claims of classical incompatibilism. The compatibilists often employ Frankfurt-style thought experiments to prove their theory. The goal of this paper is to examine the role of imaginary Frankfurt-style examples in compatibilist accounts. More specifically, the compatibilist accounts defended by John Martin Fischer and Michael McKenna will be inserted into the broader understanding of a person elaborated by Harry Frankfurt, Robert Kane and Walter Glannon. Deeper analysis reveals that the exclusion of alternative possibilities based on Frankfurt-style examples is problematic and misleading. A more comprehensive account of moral responsibility and morally significant (source) freedom requires higher order complex theories of human will and consciousness, in which rational and self-creative abilities and a real possibility to choose otherwise, at least on some occasions during a lifetime, are necessary. Theoretical moral reasons and their logical relations seem to require a sort of higher-order agent-causal incompatibilism. The ability of theoretical or abstract moral reasoning requires complex (strongly emergent) mental and conscious properties, among which an effective free will, together with first and second-order desires. Such a hierarchical theoretical model unifies reasons-responsiveness, mesh theory and emergentism. It is incompatible with physical causal determinism, because such determinism only allows non-systematic processes that may be hard to predict, but not complex (strongly) emergent systems. An agent’s effective will and conscious reflectivity is the starting point of a morally responsible action, which explains why a decision is 'up to the subject'. A free decision does not always have a complete causal history. This kind of an emergentist source hyper-incompatibilism seems to be the best direction of the search for an adequate explanation of moral responsibility in the traditional (merit-based) sense. Physical causal determinism as a universal theory would exclude morally significant freedom and responsibility in the traditional sense because it would exclude the emergence of and supervenience by the essential complex properties of human consciousness.

Keywords: Consciousness, free will, Determinism, Moral Responsibility, Emergence

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1 Against the Idea of Public Power as Free Will

Authors: Donato Vese


According to the common interpretation, in a legal system, public powers are established by law. Exceptions are admitted in an emergency or particular relationship with public power. However, we currently agree that law allows public administration a margin of decision, even in the case of non-discretionary acts. Hence, the administrative decision not exclusively established by law becomes the rule in the ordinary state of things, non-only in state of exception. This paper aims to analyze and discuss different ideas on discretionary power on the Rule of Law and Rechtsstaat. Observing the legal literature in Europe and Nord and South America, discretionary power can be described as follow: it could be considered a margin that law accords to the executive power for political decisions or a choice between different interpretations of vague legal previsions. In essence, this explanation admits for the executive a decision not established by law or anyhow not exclusively established by law. This means that the discretionary power of public administration integrates the law. However, integrating law does not mean to decide according to the law, but it means to integrate law with a decision involving public power. Consequently, discretionary power is essentially free will. In this perspective, also the Rule of Law and the Rechtsstaat are notions explained differently. Recently, we can observe how the European notion of Rechtsstaat is founded on the formal validity of the law; therefore, for this notion, public authority’s decisions not regulated by law represent a problem. Thus, different systems of law integration have been proposed in legal literature, such as values, democracy, reasonableness, and so on. This paper aims to verify how, looking at those integration clauses from a logical viewpoint, integration based on the recourse to the legal system itself does not resolve the problem. The aforementioned integration clauses are legal rules that require hard work to explain the correct meaning of the law; in particular, they introduce dangerous criteria in favor of the political majority. A different notion of public power can be proposed. This notion includes two main features: (a) sovereignty belongs to persons and not the state, and (b) fundamental rights are not grounded but recognized by Constitutions. Hence, public power is a system based on fundamental rights. According to this approach, it can also be defined as the notion of public interest as concrete maximization of fundamental rights enjoyments. Like this, integration of the law, vague or subject to several interpretations, must be done by referring to the system of fundamental individual rights. We can think, for instance, to fundamental rights that are right in an objective view but not legal because not established by law.

Keywords: free will, Fundamental Rights, Sovereignty, administrative discretion, public power

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