Found this cartoon by Zack Weinersmith of the smbc-comics.com website and requested / was granted permission to post it here (note: always request permission before you post another person’s artwork or words).
See the original post here: http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/compatibilism.
If you are not clear about the idea of the cartoon, scene 1 is (for the important points) analogous to scene 2. Scene 2 expresses what compatibilists like Daniel Dennett (notice the guy in the cartoon seems to look a bit like him?) like to do, which is (re)define the term “free will” in a way that goes against what free will skeptics mean and the abilities that laypersons believe they possess. It also goes against the free will of practical importance.
In scene 1 the person claiming there is a real, live dinosaur include birds in order to say that someone can see a “real live dinosaur” even though they know they will be thinking about large reptiles that were around during the Triassic, Jurassic, etc. periods and not modern birds. They do this knowing this is not a common usage (even though they technically are dinosaurs) and that others will think something different. Likewise in scene 2, the free will compatibilist claims that “free will” is some uncommon conception, knowing all well what that the abilities most people think they possess extend to things that the compatibilist wants to bypass.
Some witty things you might have overlooked in the cartoon:
- In scene 1 the dinosaur revisionist says “I thought you were intellectual”. Likewise, in scene 2 the compatibilist says that “your notion of free will was stupid to the point of vacuity”. This is often “Dennett” type compatibilist banter (as well as some but not all other compatibilists), namely suggesting that not accepting a semantic revision or uncommon usage is an unnuanced and un-intellectual position (without recognizing the problem with their own semantic shifting). Don’t believe me, just watch this 5 minute video on youtube. Of course I poked back at this very video a while ago in a satirical post (that in hindsight I think my choice of satirical words came off sounding a little too harsh).
- In scene 2 the compatibilist says “in fact it’s the only possibility” and “I had no choice”, pointing to the compatibilist understanding that there is no real “otherwise” possibility assuming a deterministic universe (and defining their definition regardless of the fact that someone could not have done otherwise).
The cartoon is a fair analogy. The moral to the story is, save your semantic shifting for Semantic Shift Day (Aug 31st). 😉
* If you are a compatibilist, read here for the type of compatibilism that more closely aligns with the concerns of the free will skeptic: A Compatibilism / Incompatibilism Transformation
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