Sep 282015
 

otherwise-comparison-infographic


The above infographic lays out the more common positions of the philosophical compatibilist, philosophical libertarian, which can be compared to layperson intuitions about free will. What can be recognized is that the layperson intuitions, which most often have both compatibilistic as well as libertarian thinking, do not mesh with the philosophical versions. For example, for the philosophical libertarian, they believe that causality is incompatible with “otherwise” notions of free will, where as the majority of laypersons think that if every event is causal or deterministic, they could still do otherwise.  For the philosophical compatibilists, they define free will differently than the “otherwise” notion, and in doing so make their definition “compatible” with the causal/deterministic side, but they do this knowing that the otherwise notion is not compatible. This evades the fact that most layperson intuitions suggest that an “otherwise” is possible, and that most laypersons also have libertarian notions that the compatibilist would not agree with as well.

Both hard determinists and hard incompatibilists agree with the philosophical compatibilist that causality and otherwise notions do not work, and they also agree that any libertarian notion could not help (such would never be “up to the chooser” if quantum randomness / indeterminism led to a switch in decision from the causality of a deterministic universe). The hard determinist and hard incompatibilist, however, do not switch definitions away from the “otherwise” notion of free will, in order to address the poor free will abilities that the layperson commonly intuits.

And then there is fatalism, which many people often conflate with hard determinism or hard incompatibilism. This, however, is a big mistake, and it’s important for hard determinists and hard incompatibilists to display the important differences between the positions. To understand some of these differences, check out this infographic here:

To learn more about the type of free will definition of the hard determinist or hard incompatibilist, check out here: FREE WILL

To learn more about some of the problems with philosophical compatibilist redefinitions, read here:BTFWI - paperback

If you liked this infographic, please share it on social media or spread it around in other ways. If you use the graphic on a website, if you can link back to this page, that would be great as well.

For other awesome infographics on the topic of free will, see here: InfoGraphics

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'Trick Slattery

'Trick Slattery is the author of Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind. He's an author, philosopher, artist, content creator, and entrepreneur. He has loved and immersed himself in philosophy since he was teenager. It is his first and strongest passion. Throughout the years he has built a philosophy based on analytic logic and critical thinking. Some of the topics he is most interested in are of a controversial variety, but his passion for the topics and their importance drives him to want to express these ideas to others. His other passions include pen and ink line art and digital artwork.

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  19 Responses to “Could Have Done Otherwise (Free Will Comparison) – INFOGRAPHIC”

  1. “I could have done otherwise” refers to the uncertainty at the beginning of any deliberation. At that point, the decider can honestly say, “I might choose A or I might choose B. I just don’t know yet. Let me think about it.”

    And, if returned precisely to that point in time, to that point of uncertainty, they could once again honestly say, “I might choose A or I might choose B.” Therefore it is not incoherent to say “I could have chosen otherwise”.

    What “I could have chosen otherwise” really means is “before making the decision, both options were real possibilities”.

    It is also true that only one choice was inevitable. And that it was always inevitable, even before the issue being decided ever came up. But the fact of inevitability useless. It provides nothing at all to help the decider make the choice.

    The universal inevitability of everything makes itself irrelevant by its very ubiquity. It is like a constant that always appears on both sides of every equation. And therefore it cannot make any practical difference in any real world scenario.

    • “I could have done otherwise” refers to the uncertainty at the beginning of any deliberation. At that point, the decider can honestly say,

      Not for anyone who knows English. “Could have” means they already know what happened, and “done otherwise” means that given what they now know about what they did do, if brought back to the point in time before the decision, that, in actuality, could choose the other option.

      “I might choose A or I might choose B. I just don’t know yet. Let me think about it.

      I don’t know why you assume people don’t know what “tense” is for a sentence. “Might choose” is entirely different than “might have chosen”. You must think people are truly not intelligent enough to understand the distinction between tenses. I think they are smart enough.

      “Done” or “chosen” is entirely different than “do” or “choose”, “could have” is entirely different than just “could” alone. Most people do know these differences in language.

      And, if returned precisely to that point in time, to that point of uncertainty, they could once again honestly say, “I might choose A or I might choose B.” Therefore it is not incoherent to say “I could have chosen otherwise”.

      This is a non-sequitur. The “therefore” doesn’t follow. If the person thinks the universe is causal, “I could have chosen otherwise” is logically incoherent. You, once again, are conflating tenses.

      What “I could have chosen otherwise” really means is “before making the decision, both options were real possibilities”.

      That notion is equally as incoherent, because (given a causal universe) both options are NOT REAL possibilities. They are only epistemic possibilities.

      It is also true that only one choice was inevitable. And that it was always inevitable, even before the issue being decided ever came up. But the fact of inevitability useless. It provides nothing at all to help the decider make the choice.

      You like to make the claim that it is useless (even though claims are not arguments), when it indeed is quite useful for understanding that both options are NOT real (ontological) possibilities, and it is also useful in understanding why someone could not have done otherwise given determinism – and also why you could not have done otherwise but to constantly confuse tenses and pretend that people can’t make such distinctions.

      But we’ve already had this discussion, so we are repeating ourselves. 😉

      Regardless of all of this, the positions in the above infographic reflect the different position in regards to “otherwise” and “up to” ideas of the philosophical compatibilist such as Dennett, and layperson intuitions. This is why compatibilism is an evader of the conversation.

      Later.

  2. I think people are intelligent enough to know that they cannot do the impossible. Therefore, when interpreting what they are trying to say, it would make sense to apply an interpretation that gives them the benefit of the doubt. And that is what I’m doing.

    When someone says, “I could have done otherwise”, they are not making any claims of super-human powers. All that they mean is that they had more than one option, and that they might have chosen the other option instead.

    Perhaps at a restaurant they were offered lobster or steak. Both were very attractive options. And because the waiter had both on the menu, it was possible to choose either one.

    Later that night, the butter sauce begins to irritate the stomach, and the guy says, “I should have had the steak instead”.

    If asked if he actually could have chosen the steak, he would have to say yes, because he was offered both. Both were possible at the time of the offer.

    So my question is, what do we expect to accomplish if we tell this person that only one choice was possible? In what way is this useful?

    The most useful information is the fact that the butter sauce on the lobster upsets his stomach. That is a specific cause of a specific effect. And knowing this fact will help him make a better choice next time.

    But knowing that all his choices are inevitable is useless. It cannot help him to make a single choice. How does it help him to choose steak or lobster to know that only one is a realizable possibility and that the choice was determined by the subatomic interactions during the last Big Bang? How does one put such a fact to daily use?

    He still has to make the choice for himself, of his own free will, and learn by experience that lobster upsets his stomach.

    • I think people are intelligent enough to know that they cannot do the impossible. Therefore, when interpreting what they are trying to say, it would make sense to apply an interpretation that gives them the benefit of the doubt. And that is what I’m doing.

      You aren’t getting the fact that they actually don’t realize it is impossible to do. People know what “could have done otherwise” means, and it’s always given in a scenario where they know the outcome already, yet they still say the person could have done otherwise. That is not because they are interpreting it the way you say, it’s because they actually think that they could have done otherwise.

      Why do they think this, because they actually think that all of the options in front of them are real possibilities, and if that is the case, if they were taken back to that point in time before the decision, they assume those other options that they know they didn’t choose are still really possible.

      This isn’t because people aren’t intelligent, it’s simply because they have not truly thought about the implications of a causal universe. They have, however, learned the English language and tense is obvious even to a child.

      Later that night, the butter sauce begins to irritate the stomach, and the guy says, “I should have had the steak instead”.

      If they think “should have” implies “could have” they would be mistaken.

      If asked if he actually could have chosen the steak, he would have to say yes, because he was offered both. Both were possible at the time of the offer.

      NO! Both were NOT REALLY possible at the time of the offer. The other think people confuse is the difference between epistemic possibilities, and ontic possibilities. Both options (given a causal universe) were not ontic possibilities. If people understood this, they wouldn’t assess that they “could have done otherwise”.

      So my question is, what do we expect to accomplish if we tell this person that only one choice was possible? In what way is this useful?

      I’ve already gone over this with you ad-nausium, you just are not listening. But you couldn’t have done otherwise and listened. 😉

      If people know that someone truly couldn’t have, of their own accord, done otherwise, then they will be more compassionate over the variables people had. They’d understand that if they were that person, they would have had the exact same behavior. They’d also understand that one person is not really, in any true sense, more or less deserving over another person – which would lead to a more egalitarian society rather than the nasty unfettered capitalistic society where one person is allowed to increase an important drug from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

      So yes, the societal change if the largest population understood these facts would be something of immensely great use.

      Oh…and it’s also the truth. I’m of the mind that people should know what is true – which will causally enable them to make better decisions rather than decisions based on falsehoods.

      END

  3. Trick, great site and a great infographic, gives an excellent overview of the philosophical positions in regards to “could have done otherwise”.

    Just curious, what’s your assessment of the Frankfurt-type examples from the Compatibilists that purport to show that you can be morally responsible for an action even though you could not have done otherwise?

    ,

    • Thanks Andrew.

      I think Pereboom puts to rest Frankfurt-type examples of moral responsibility, but I will have to do a post on that in the future for sure! In short, I think that even if we accept intuitions over reason, I don’t think that Frankfurt-type examples truly grant the intuition he thinks they do when one already understands the implications of not being able to have done otherwise.

  4. After years of consideration I think that we are still in the midst of the dilemma that we “get it” so to speak about the physical universe but not about our own psychology. Whoever built my house had a decision to make about where exactly to lay the foundation. Yes there were a few possibilities about where exactly to lay the first cinder block but this is house is where it is, not ten feet or two inches from its current position. If we rolled back the process when it comes to making one decision in favor of another, the conditions under which that decision was made would be exactly the same thus the outcome would be exactly the same. This does not negate the possibility that one can ask for input or learn from past decisions to affect current and future courses of action. I think to operate with a “could have” frame of mind actually disempowers people from their ability to make decisions in the present that will have future outcomes. Imagination can be a double edged sword!

  5. Every event having another event that led to it (i.e. “a deterministic universe”) only seems to preclude one from being able to have done otherwise if every event can lead to only one possible event.

      • Thank you for clarifying! :)

        So…if “a deterministic universe” means “every event can lead to only one possible event”, I am correctly either a Hard Determinist, or a Hard Incompatibalist. 😀

        P.S. Sorry if I messed up the quote structure.

        • If you think every event has a cause, and you think that free will is incompatible with that, you are a “Hard Determinist”. If you don’t know if every event has a cause, but you think free will is incompatible with both an entirely causal universe, as well as one where non-caused events happen, you are a Hard Incompatibilist. I’m a Hard Incompatibilist:

          http://breakingthefreewillillusion.com/hard-incompatibilist-not-hard-determinist/

          • Thank you for the explanations. I think every event has a cause but, from our other discussion, it appears I’m a fatalist.

          • Fatalism implies the future is set – regardless of causality. In other words, what you causally think, say, or do has no real impact on your fated future. If it is your fated destiny to write a book, you making the decision not to write one and to stay in bed all day doesn’t matter – you will (somehow) write the book. Determinism, on the other hand, says that there are causal variables that include your conscious thoughts that will lead you to either not write a book or to write a book (and it all depends on those causal variables). In this way it is distinct from fatalism. Are you sure you are a fatalist and not just a determinist? 😉

          • Fatalism implies the future is set – regardless of causality. In other words, what you causally think, say, or do has no real impact on your fated future. If it is your fated destiny to write a book, you making the decision not to write one and to stay in bed all day doesn’t matter – you will (somehow) write the book. Determinism, on the other hand, says that there are causal variables that include your conscious thoughts that will lead you to either not write a book or to write a book (and it all depends on those causal variables). In this way it is distinct from fatalism. Are you sure you are a fatalist and not just a determinist?

            Pretty sure I’m a fatalist; what if I think there are causal variables, but they don’t include my conscious thoughts?

            And…there goes the quote formatting. xP

          • That could still be determinism as well – meaning things are determined by causality rather than father regardless of causality. I’m not sure why you’d exclude your conscious thoughts though. Do you disagree with mental causation? Here is my position on that matter in case you are interested:

            Mental Causation – A Case for Mental Causation

            Later good sir. :-)

          • That could still be determinism as well – meaning things are determined by causality rather than father regardless of causality.

            Could it still be fatalism – given that any conscious decision on my part would be futile?

            I’m not sure why you’d exclude your conscious thoughts though. Do you disagree with mental causation? Here is my position on that matter in case you are interested…

            Thank you for the link. I don’t think I disagree with mental causation per se – I agree with you that consciousness is a property of specific physical configuration – but I do disagree with mental causation with my conscious thoughts as the mental cause, because (:D) I disagree with physical causation with my brain state as the physical cause, à la a skeptical reading of Hume.

          • Fatalism implies that causality doesn’t really matter for the fated event. Your position seems to imply it does, even though does imply a type of futility as well – as nothing you think matters for any physical output. :-)

            I don’t think I disagree with mental causation per se – I agree with you that consciousness is a property of specific physical configuration – but I do disagree with mental causation with my conscious thoughts as the mental cause, because (:D) I disagree with physical causation with my brain state as the physical cause, à la a skeptical reading of Hume.

            The mental causation that I argue for in the link I provided is one in which the mental does have a causal say for your brain state (that properties make a causal difference). It’s against epiphenomenalism which I believe is the actual position you may be taking. 😉

        • Fatalism implies that causality doesn’t really matter for the fated event. Your position seems to imply it does, even though does imply a type of futility as well – as nothing you think matters for any physical output. :)

          Maybe I’m a non-fatal futilist? 😉

          The mental causation that I argue for in the link I provided is one in which the mental does have a causal say for your brain state (that properties make a causal difference). It’s against epiphenomenalism which I believe is the actual position you may be taking.

          Maybe…I don’t take the position of ephiphenominalism as defined in the link in the link you provided, though (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are caused by physical events in the brain…”.).

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