Thursday, March 10, 2016

608: Plato and Free Will

The options regarding free will are actually rather limited. They lie between absolute indeterminism and absolute determinism.

And in-between these two extremes we have at least 50 shades of grey, which are named compatibilism.

Compatibilism is the theory, that in a world of natural laws and causal necessity there still is room for free will in this deterministic environment.

How does Plato (427 – 348  BC) fit into this picture and what does he have to say about it?

His view is that if one lacks moral knowledge or wisdom one will be inevitably subject to evil; 

and evil then, in the form of the ruthless exercise of power, insatiable greed, malice, envy, an obsession for revenge for some harm suffered, etc., becomes a form of necessity. 

Such a man, he argues, does not act with intent, and voluntarily, and so is a slave to the form of evil which has taken hold of his soul. 

When someone is at one with the good, in the moral necessity that informs his actions such a person is free: his actions come from him and he does what he wills. 

In contrast, when he is at one with evil or, at any rate, makes concessions to it he is in bondage: his actions do not come from him, for his will does not belong to him, it belongs to the evil that is in him.

Plato creates in fact a kind of dualism. In line with Sophocles Plato too thinks that freedom lies in knowledge, moral knowledge.

This moral knowledge is the love of the good. It is not just some knowledge, but more a mode of being. It refers to virtue.

This is a often recurring one of thinking: the idea, that you only become free, when you reach a certain level of (moral) insight.

In Plato’s terms it means, when you become a virtuous man. This is the ideal state, in which we are able to act on free will.

The opposite is that we are controlled by evil.  By evil Plato means putting oneself first, thinking only of one’s pleasure and gratification – the gratification of one’s sensuality and of the ego.

The nearer a person is to goodness the greater his inner unity, the unity in what he wants, the direction in which he moves and the way he lives. 

The nearer he is to goodness the deeper his contact with others, the greater his recognition of their existence in its own right. 

The opposite or antithesis of this is a life of impulse or of expediency, a life in which the direction of a person’s actions is contingent on changing circumstances. 

It is an ego-centric life in which the person’s gratification and his interests are paramount. Not a person with  a free will, but a constant victim of impulses and circumstances.

This creates an interesting situation. An enlightened person, one who knows the good, can such a person do evil?

If he is totally good,  you’d say NO, but this again would mean the end of free will. A paradox, I would say.

According to Plato the virtuous person will have achieved autonomy : what he does will be what he wants to do, 

not what he is forced to do, and he will be wholly behind it. This is Plato’s description of how, inevitably living in a world of natural necessity, a man can be nevertheless free.

This way of reasoning looks very like the way of thinking you see in many religions. Is it a kind of moral determinism?

Thank you….if you have any questions or remarks…the floor is yours….. ^_^

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995

Free Will, Ilham Dilham, 1999
On Free will, J.J.C.Smart, Mind 1961
Of Liberty and Necessity, James A. Harris, 2005
Free Will, A very short Introduction, Thomas Pink, 2003

The Discussion

[13:22] CB Axel: It seems to me to be the opposite of most religions.
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): sort of
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): maybe
[13:22] CB Axel: In religion doing good is doing the will of God.
[13:22] herman Bergson: Yes...
[13:22] herman Bergson: so no free will there either
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): guess not
[13:23] CB Axel: We do evil when we exercise our free will and go against God's will.
[13:23] herman Bergson: what puzzled me was the idea..
[13:23] herman Bergson: that when someone has seen the "Light" he can only act according to it....
[13:24] herman Bergson: Yes, CB but a saint doesn't :-)
[13:24] herman Bergson: and that we can do evil....yes that is the confusing part of the story
[13:24] CB Axel: A saint doesn't what?
[13:24] herman Bergson: do evil
[13:25] CB Axel: Saints don't have free will. They are just doing the will of their God.
[13:25] herman Bergson: the basic problem here is that Plato is no materialist...
[13:25] herman Bergson: Yes CB...that is the paradox...
[13:26] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): I think also when human kind can see "the light" and want to do nly good, they have still to struggle with their human problems, like being lazy or greed
[13:26] herman Bergson: Plato says that who has the wisdom to know the good, will act accordingly....
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): then come the puzzling thing, extremists like IS for example i guess they believe they do good when they wage war and terror on all others then them since they are against gods will to them
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however they are indeed 100 % evil
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): since harming others like then that cant be anything else
[13:26] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): being good is to forgive
[13:27] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): thats the hardest thing to learn
[13:27] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): and humans will never learn that^^^
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): a true nice god would be like this indeed
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its tricky
[13:27] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): just training^^
[13:27] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): and the ill to be like that
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but i believe being good is live in happines, dont hurt others and make others happy and well being
[13:27] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): will
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): that kind of thing is good in general
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and also don’t be greedy
[13:28] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): yes and to understand other people. its not always happines in life
[13:28] herman Bergson: yes....that was Plato's idea too Bejiita
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:28] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): when a problem arises you have to handle this also in the same ay of beeing happy
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): I like Plato
[13:29] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): and thats the point
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:29] herman Bergson: But in the dialog Gorgias Socrates discusses this matter with Callicles...
[13:29] herman Bergson: and Callicles sees free will is doing just whatever you restraints
[13:30] CB Axel: So Donald Trump has no free will.
[13:30] CB Axel: That will be news to him.
[13:30] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): so also being greedy^^^
[13:30] herman Bergson: While Socrates pleads for virtue first...and act then
[13:31] herman Bergson: DT is a phenomenon...
[13:31] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): ahha
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[13:31] herman Bergson: and the Amercans who support him, too :-)))
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): how can a wide open sewage pipe at full flow be liked by so many?
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): I don’t get it
[13:31] CB Axel: Not this American. °͜°
[13:32] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): lol
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): he says things that shocks me
[13:32] herman Bergson: the interesting thing is that there is no free will there....
[13:32] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): he wants to shock
[[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): well that seems indeed to be true
[13:32] CB Axel: Let's forget him and get back to Plato.
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hee
[13:32] herman Bergson: Those who support him are what Plato would call people possesed by evil...they just follow primary emotions
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): Plato is more my taste 
[13:32] CB Axel: Exactly.
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): plato
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): I’d say same Herman
[13:33] herman Bergson: I have been thinking about that actually....
[13:33] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): but evil and primary emotions are not the same in my thinking
[13:33] herman Bergson: From Plato's perspective  there has to be moral wisdom first....virtue....
[13:34] herman Bergson: No Daruma...but unthinkingly letting yourself be controlled by your fears and greed and egocentrism is
[13:35] CB Axel: It's like our instincts are to be greedy, fearful, and egoistic.
[13:35] herman Bergson: When you see respect for others as a basic value , you don't want to build a wall along your border....
[13:35] CB Axel: Self serving.
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at least for many
[13:36] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): yes, I guess that weakness. Being evil is really wanting e.g. someone to kil or to do bad by will.
[13:36] herman Bergson: True CB.....
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): when all you think is MORE MORE MORE!
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats not good
[13:36] herman Bergson: Just look at Plato's everyday situation...
[13:36] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): yes but wanting more is normal today.
[13:36] herman Bergson: Athens...
[13:36] CB Axel: Or thinking ME, ME, ME.
[13:36] herman Bergson: a democracy...
[13:36] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): just have a look around. we want it all cheap and fast
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): exactly
[13:37] herman Bergson: all depending on agreement
[13:37] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): and children rase today like being a princess or prince
[13:37] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): i am the best and my parents adore only me
[13:37] herman Bergson: and the bad guys there too were the greedy and egocentric ones...
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): I use to think, if i was the other person, how would I like me ( the real me) to act toward me
[13:38] herman Bergson: a threat to this democratic cooperation
[13:38] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): when you don’t question yourself, your behaviour and life, i guess thats the problem
[13:38] herman Bergson: it is indeed, Daruma...
[13:38] CB Axel: And that's why democracy is so difficult. Too many people caring only for themselves.
[13:39] herman Bergson: We all have to face the basic question: Who Am I?
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:39] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): yes and it the hardest thing in life "to find yourself" and to see yourelf alone in the mirror
[13:39] herman Bergson: YEs CB..but so far we achieved yet quite something :-)
[13:40] CB Axel: It's too easy for a demagogue to come along and sweep up the masses into a mindset of fear and greed.
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes....amazing....but of all times...
[13:41] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): i guess also seeing no future. and these days we do not learn those things n school or from our parents. its a mess...
[13:42] herman Bergson: Don’t be too pessimistic Daruma....
[13:42] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): ja sometimes it is like that^^^
[13:42] CB Axel: I'm with Daruma on that.
[13:42] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): please stop the world. i want to go off....
[13:42] CB Axel: LOL
[13:42] CB Axel: Me, too!
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): I’ve played that theatre once in here
[13:43] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): ok, i take you with me
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): really good
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and fun
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:43] herman Bergson: The problem'll go to another world...:-)
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and will that world be better?
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats the question
[13:43] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): i stay in second life
[13:43] herman Bergson: I wonder, Bejiita :-)
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:43] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): where ever you go, you have to take yourself with you
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes..I stay here too :-)
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats kind of logical
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:44] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): ;)
[13:44] herman Bergson: Indeed, Beertje!
[13:44] herman Bergson: SO ..I suggest, we all stay here in SL :-)
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:45] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): can be better for us all
[13:45] herman Bergson: And I thank you again for your participation:-)
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:45] CB Axel: Meh. People are still people here in SL.
[13:45] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma) claps
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): YAY! (yay!)
[13:45] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): yes cb, thats true
[13:45] herman Bergson: ANd I hope to see you again next Thursday..:-)
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we do
[13:45] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): i hope thi too^^
[13:45] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman. As usual, you have given me a lot to think about.
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu then
[13:45] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-)
[13:46] CB Axel: See you all Thursday. °͜°
[13:46] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma): see u all soon and make everyone happy until we meet again^^
[13:46] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
[13:46] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ty herman & class:-)
[13:46] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont):
[13:46] herman Bergson: Yes indeed Daruma..:-)
[13:46] Daruma Chu Ann (daruma) waves
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): zwaait terug
[13:47] Zinzi Serevi: dank je wel
[13:47] Zinzi Serevi: ..:)

[13:47] bergfrau Apfelbaum: see you soon:-) good night

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