a Wittgensteinian take on free will

Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by ExpectantlyIronic, Aug 11, 2007.

  1. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑

    This post was originally intended to be a response to the Free Will thread that was recently revived. I decided, though, that it's too meta to the subject of free will to be taken as a proper stance on the issue. If I'm correct, though, this approach to the philosophy of language subsumes the problem of free will.

    I don't think the point of philosophy should be to affirm or deny a sentence. "We have free will" can only be said to be true or false if we understand what is meant by it: what it actually proposes. There is no right or wrong answer as to what it should propose. Different people mean different things by it. Take the following dialog:

    Tim: I decided to wear my blue socks today.

    Dave: That's absurd. How can you decide to wear your blue socks if you're a physical thing who's every action is determined by events that proceed them in time?

    Tim: Huh. I guess you're right. I am wearing blue socks though.

    Was Tim wrong? I don't think he was. It is absurd to think that someone can mean something different by what they say than what they intend. If Tim didn't intend to imply that determinism was false, then Dave's comment was a concealed non-sequitur. Tim was intending only to report an event. We can consider his use of the term 'decided' to simply convey that he put thought into the matter of picking socks.

    If we are taught what determinism is, we may wonder how we ever believed in free will. If we are taught what compatibilism is, we may wonder how we ever believed that determinism might have anything to do with free will. If we are taught the philosophy of Wittgenstein, we may wonder how we ever thought either problem was a problem in the first place. In all cases, we fail to properly analyze what we actually once believed. See what I did there?

    We all already know all there is to know about what we mean by 'free will'. Someone can't demonstrate that you haven't properly thought out the issue, but rather, can only show that there are other ways of thinking about it: other ways to use the term. This holds insofar as it is not agreed upon by those involved that something substantial is meant by it: that the matter can be settled by observation.

    I assert that the proper question is not 'do we have free will', but 'how is the term used'. To answer that we simply have to try to understand. To ask 'do we have free will' is to make a metaphysical question seem like a question of science. It isn't in most manners of speaking.

  2. tipsycatlover

    tipsycatlover Registered Member

    Isn't this some kind of overanalysis?

    Tim says I'm going to wear my blue socks.

    John says you didn't decide, it was predestined for you to wear your blue socks.

    Tim says In that case, I'll change my mind and wear the red socks, there I've change predestination.

    John says, no you didn't. It was predestined for you to wear your red socks.

    The question do we have free will has little to do with predestination. It has to do with right and wrong. It has to do with making something out of what you have instead of moaning that not having it is your "destiny".
  3. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑



    I think you may have missed the point I was trying to make. There isn't a single problem of free will. There's a plethora of different ideas and puzzles, all of which seem to have more to do with one another than they really do, due to the fact they're united under a single term or question. To simply assert the whole discussion should center around what's called 'libertarian free will' is a bit dogmatic. I don't know where we should look to confirm that such is indeed the approach we should take to it. The very fact that many people add a qualifier to the term to indicate what you think constitutes the whole problem of 'free will' should suggest that your way of looking at things isn't at all considered definitive.
  4. fleinn

    fleinn 101010

    It's a good point, really. And a very good observation. It's not very traditional in academical philosophy to start with the assumption that we may be using different terms with the same meaning, though. Neither did Wittgenstein suggest as a particular point that there was no true disagreements or observable differences, just because linguistic phenomena could be the problem.

    But it's an excellent observation that questions like these are not usually asked as scientific questions (in the meaning that we are looking to objectively prove it one way or the other). Even if they're purported to be just that.

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