A thought on free will while driving.
When I was driving alongside a two-lane road down to Rockville Pike to have a meal with myself, I began to wonder who the drivers on the other side of the road are, and what they are doing at the moment they drive past me. I wonder if they are awake, high on drugs, drunk, getting head, texting, or just flipping through the radio. Are they paying attention to the road? Are they going to just swerve into my lane because they have a deluded sense of free will and think they can do whatever they want?
I wonder about this a lot when I drive because there is a slight chance that one of the hundreds of drivers that I pass by on a daily basis could be one of those people, doing one of those things, and it really doesn’t take much for a head on collision to happen. Every time I drive alongside the road, my life is literally in the hands of every driver who drives down from the opposite direction ( And that three inch thin yellow road divider. Which always scares and amazes me of how our lives are depended on those little lines every time we get behind the wheel, and how easily it is for us to just drive over it and kill ourselves).
But I don’t spend every second behind the wheel worrying about this because every time I drive along the road, I am counting on the deterministic belief in human behavior that the drivers on the other side of the road isn’t going to just immediately swerve into my lane and kill both of us because they think they have the free will to do so.
In a way, the last thing we want is a soul who can do anything it desires. The reason people want free will is not because they think it’s important for them to do whatever they want, whenever they want because that would actually be a bad thing. People think that if everyone acts as if they are free, then we can really could them responsible for their evil actions. But I think it’s quite the opposite. If our behaviors were chosen by free will, then we really couldn’t hold people responsible for their actions.
A free agent who thinks he can do whatever he desires would not be deterred by consequences such as threat of punishments or the feeling of guilt because he could always choose to defy the causes of those behavior. Any free agents, who float on a plane free of causality, would simply override moral codes. People would just steal, rape, kill whenever they want to because they have the freedom to do so, and they can just say they are free to do so, and that they don’t care what you think of them.
I think our free will is exercised within the framework of our ability to reason and to foresee consequences, and that in itself, make behavior and actions deterministic. In many cases, what you really want is for human behaviors to be 100 percent predictable, and among the things that make it so are anticipation and expectation of consequences such as rewards, blames, punishments, and credits.
Certain predictions are biological and instinctive. I know that you have no choice but to consume water within the next 24 to 48 hours because I know you know intuitively that if you don’t drink, you will die. Others are learned through experiences of social order. I know the person I hate isn’t just going to just get a knife and stab me in the back the next time he sees me because I know he knows that he would be arrested as a result Some predictions of consequences are personal in value, which may vary from person to person, time to time. My girlfriend knows not to piss me off on a Monday because she knows that I play with my monkey wrench on Mondays.
So by holding people responsible, and informing them that if you do this and that, people will think you are evil, put you in jail or fine you or whatever, it will have a predictable and deterministic effect our behaviors. So the kind of free will we want isn’t complete unpredictability, but the opposite. We want behaviors to respond to consequences of actions, such as implements in the criminal justice system.
I think that’s why it’s more or less pointless to punish children and the mentally insane responsible for acts of evil. We punish people for their bad behavior only when they intended the bad outcome and could have chosen otherwise.
If you look at type of people that are our system exclude from punishments for evil behaviors, they are often people who lack the mental capacity to understand the principle of deterministic effects. Even if you punish them out of sheer spite, it would still have no predictable affect on their future behavior or the behavior of other children or insane people. Criminal sanctions are only effective deterrents for those of us who have a sound mind.
To act with complete freedom, you have no freedom. To have complete restrain, you have no freedom. We want to exercise our free will under certain frameworks of restrictions.