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Austin Philosophy Discussion Group (APDG) Message Board Philosophy for Real Life Monday night group › What's lurking beyond the causal veil

What's lurking beyond the causal veil

Gene R
Austin, TX
Post #: 189
Gary and Guy have already covered a lot of relevant ground regarding quantum indeterminacy and free will. Good job, guys. I just want to add a few touches.

My brain has quantum events, but so does my shoe. But my shoe has no free will, not in any non-ridiculous sense of the term, I think. So quantum indeterminacy is not a sufficient condition for free will. And I don’t think Bill is proposing that it is. He’s seemingly proposing that quantum indeterminacy, and what he calls an “agency,” are jointly sufficient.

To create a coherent pointillist picture out of random quantum dots, he’s looking for something “outside the bounds of physical causality” and he finds it quite easily. The required device is “agency,” which he says belongs to “a different category of causation from physical causation.” Well, everyone knows that, right? Problem solved! We have free will after all. Well, maybe not so fast.

Bill’s “agency” is a device of a libertarian theory of free will. It’s a special entity, endowed with special causal powers called “agent causation,” which allows it to act without being acted upon. This libertarian “agent” is an unmoved mover and an uncaused cause. Even if one is willing to allow quantum pointillism to be performed through otherworldly “agent causation,” there are still more problems ahead.

The libertarian “agent” is supposed to be something above and beyond what can be called a person’s “character,” which comes into being through causal interactions of DNA with the world. First, a unique genetic sequence encounters a unique embryonic environment; then outside the womb, a unique set of nutrients and stimuli… And on and on it goes: places visited, books read, people met. Billions of tiny events mold character—a unique way any given person is. Its not-so-free will is a product of this molding. But, “agent” (armed with agent causation) can overrule “character” any time it deems necessary.

The character’s actions result from its beliefs, desires, habits and dispositions. All of those come from interactions with the world. The question is “does agent have beliefs, desires, habits and dispositions?” and if so, where do they come from? If they come from interactions with the world, then agent is no different from character. If they’re bestowed by God or gods, then agent gets no credit for that endowment. It looks that “agent” must create its beliefs, desires, habits and dispositions out of nothing. No small task.
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