Problem Set 09

1. Neurodeterminism

Consider the Traditional Problem of Freedom of the Will:

1. Either Determinism is true or Determinism is not true.

2. If Determinism is true, then Free Will is impossible. (Since our actions would not be the result of our reasons for them. Rather, they would be determined by antecedent causes.)

3. If Determinism is not true, then Free Will is impossible. (Since our actions would not be determined by causes; they would, instead, be determined by nothing at all beyond mere chance. Yet free will seems as incompatible with mere chance as causal determinism.)


4. Free Will is impossible.

Part of what makes the Traditional Problem of Freedom of the Will pressing for us as we consider how best to meet the engineering obligato of Dretske's Dictum is the threat to human freedom of choice by neurodeterminism, the possibility that our behavior is neurologically determined by doubtless complicated coordinations of various neural mechanisms. That is, if what we do is ultimately the result of neural mechanisms operating by various rules, then in what sense can we say that we are the free authors of our own actions? Our sense that we are much more than the sum of our neural mechanisms surely derives in part from our introspective awareness of ourselves having deliberately and freely chosen to act as we do and thereupon acting as we did, but also in part from our observations of others' complex behaviors which are seemingly no different than ours in likewise having been the result of their deliberate and free choices.

Yet we must ask, does introspection an observation suffice to save us from the threat of neurodeterminism?

In a long essay, use concrete examples to explain why neither i) our own introspection of having deliberately and freely chosen and implemented one course of action over another nor ii) the apparent complexity of human behavior we encounter in others cannot refute neurodeterminism. (30)

2. The Science of Psychology

Do you think Psychology conceived as a science would support the notion that we enjoy freedom of the will, or do you think Psychology so-conceived would eventually force us to admit that freedom of the will is a mere conceit on our part? Justify your answer in a short essay, taking care to also explain what it means to conceive of Psychology as a science. (20)