The Dark Side of Free Will Denialism

Gregg Caruso, a philosophy professor at Corning Community College, gave a talk about the “Dark Side” of Free Will. In doing so, I think he lets the cat out of the bag, showing that free will deniers come to us with a socio-political agenda.

Caruso has a slide that outlines the “Dark Side” (shown around 3 minutes into the talk). It reads:

The Dark Side

Free will beliefs are correlated with

Religiosity
Punitiveness
Just World Belief
Right Wing Authoritarianism

Whoa! “Religiosity” is the “Dark Side.” It looks like the professor is peddling the “Religion is Evil” talking point of the New Atheist movement. As for “Right Wing Authoritarianism,” does this mean Left Wing Authoritarianism is correlated with a lack of belief in free will? Or maybe for the professor, there is no such thing as Left Wing Authoritarianism.

Anyway, the professor didn’t want to talk about those two little hand grenades and instead focused on punitiveness and just world belief. I didn’t watch the just world belief part of the talk, so I can’t comment on that.

When it comes to punitiveness, we see the common theme of free will denial – a certain soft spot for murderers, rapists, and other forms of violent criminals. For some reason, the free will denialists insist on being their advocates.

Caruso argues that we need to treat rapists and murderers as patients (that original idea was explored in a book from the 1960s called Clockwork Orange). He argues, “We have a duty to the well-being and rehabilitation of criminals.” In other words, since rapists and murderers are not morally responsible for murdering and raping, we need to treat them as victims. Victims who temporarily need to be quarantined for the safety of society until we tend to their well-being.

Caruso holds to an ideology that tends to thrive in intellectually inbred fantasy lands. But let’s try to apply it to the real world.

A couple of years ago, a 19 year old girl, Jessica Chambers, was doused in a flammable liquid, even to the point of having it poured down her throat, and was then set on fire. She died several hours later with burns over 98% of her body.

According to Caruso’s ideology, the true victim here is her murderer. We need to find him as soon as possible, put him in a hospital-like setting, tend to his well-being, and rehabilitate him. Perhaps with enough rehab, he can get a good job and start his own family. How noble.

As for Jessica, we’re supposed to view her as someone who died in some type of accident, as if her murder was not really different from her getting drunk and dying in a car wreck. Her death was tragic, yes, but we need to move on as we tend to the real victim here – her murderer. How compassionate.

Prof. Caruso shows us one facet of the dark side of free will denialism – we brush the victim off to the side and turn the killer into the victim.

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16 Responses to The Dark Side of Free Will Denialism

  1. stcordova says:

    Caruso said: “We have a duty” which presumes morality because duty implies right and wrong. If people are chemically ordained without free will to be punitive, there is no reason to rewire them to behave otherwise in Caruso’s world view and still be philosophically coherent.

    With respect to Jessica, Caruso is disgusting. It reinforces my belief that there are spiritual forces of evil in the world.

  2. Mechanar says:

    you know sometimes I wish people like the prof would get what they wanted just so I can see how it slowly falls apart. this is really just another version of anti Authoritarian education for children that was created in the 70s and that has been debunked aswell

  3. Regual Llegna says:

    There is nothing without free will. Nothing for humans for the sake of being, well a being, there is no “self” without a will.

    “The Dark Side

    Free will beliefs are correlated with

    Religiosity
    Punitiveness
    Just World Belief
    Right Wing Authoritarianism”

    Then Greeg don’t believe in justice of any kind? in things like protections, laws and prohibitions? need for an authority or control? besides religion.

    Greeg dark isde of free will include all that can be defined as religion and traditions, laws and rules, authority and control and justice and a good world view about the world. But you know he is a full relativist trying to sell a socio-political ideology that will only work for facism (obey the goverment because the goverment say so, and because is determined by goverment/chance) including the need to use their free will to force/brainwash all the people into accepting a nothing world view about themselves.

  4. FZM says:

    Or maybe for the professor, there is no such thing as Left Wing Authoritarianism.

    In terms of academic Psychology, I don’t think there is… there is a brief introduction to the Right Wing Authoritarianism idea on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_authoritarianism

    Somewhere on the page it references the fact that the concept was originated in the USA and Canada, where a lot of the research into it has also been carried out.

    This maybe explains the ‘Right Wing’ thing, because in a wider context it’s hard to understand; in Europe and Asia the political left has been just as likely to manifest the kinds of traits associated with ‘Right Wing Authoritarianism’:

    Authoritarian submission — a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.
    2.Authoritarian aggression — a general aggressiveness directed against deviants, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.
    3.Conventionalism — a high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities, and a belief that others in one’s society should also be required to adhere to these norms.

  5. Dhay says:

    > When it comes to punitiveness, we see the common theme of free will denial – a certain soft spot for murderers, rapists, and other forms of violent criminals. For some reason, the free will denialists insist on being their advocates.

    There are faults in the judicial system? — that’s a rhetorical question, there always are, wherever you live; perhaps, as some allege, US harsh severity towards drug-users is a proxy for harsh severity towards Blacks, a bit of racist nastiness: if so, surely reform of the system and reform of the underlying social attitudes are what’s required.

    There’s a certain type of mind which, on finding some measure of fault with an idea, doesn’t move to the middle ground but flips suddenly and totally to the polar extreme. Some of these are ex-Christian (etc) anti-theists; others, Communists or SJWs or [insert here]; others, free will denialists.

    *

    Caruso and others say free will is an illusion, one we would be better off without; yet the language of free will is our own language, whatever language we do actually use — languages worldwide, perhaps every conceivable language; intentionality is so embedded in ordinary everyday language that to claim that the ideas and speech of free will can and should be dropped because allegedly illusional (or delusional) is delusional.

    Perhaps there are circumlocutions which could be substituted whenever there is explicit or implicit talk of intentionality: good luck finding them, good luck trying to use them except with consenting adults — kids will just think you a nutter — and good luck trying to spread your gospel of free will free, intentionality-less language; there’s a reason why intentionality is embedded in our languages, it’s because it’s universally instinctual to embed intentionality; intentional language makes ready sense to everybody.

    Intentionality-less language is likely to be long and convoluted, and difficult to follow and understand, I think. Do you actually find Gregg Caruso, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris actually using free will free language — you do not.

  6. pennywit says:

    We need to find him as soon as possible, put him in a hospital-like setting, tend to his well-being, and rehabilitate him.

    There is a strong argument that you can reduce recidivism by focus on rehabilitation and reform rather than punishment. And there’s also evidence that substantial portion of prisoners suffer some form of mental-health issue.

    I’m not in favor of treating a cold-blooded murderer as a victim. But if it’s possible, I think it’s worth finding the criminals who can be re-integrated into society and helping them do so.

  7. Tim Lambert says:

    “There is a strong argument that you can reduce recidivism by focus on rehabilitation and reform rather than punishment.”….

    But, punishment isn’t only to be for the criminal’s sake… but for future criminals, as a deterrence of their likeliness in committing a given crime.

  8. TFBW says:

    @pennywit:

    There is a strong argument that you can reduce recidivism by focus on rehabilitation and reform rather than punishment.

    There’s a strong argument that you can reduce recidivism via lobotomy. That’s the dark side you ought to bear in mind when thinking in terms of “treatment” rather than “punishment”.

  9. Michael says:

    I’m not in favor of treating a cold-blooded murderer as a victim. But if it’s possible, I think it’s worth finding the criminals who can be re-integrated into society and helping them do so.

    But the logic of the determinists allows for no such line in the sand – cold-blooded murders ARE victims just like any other criminal. In fact, they would be among societies greatest of victims given the manner in which they are nearly universally condemned, hated, shunned, and demonized. All for something they are not morally responsible for. For some action they could not help but do.

  10. pennywit says:

    But, punishment isn’t only to be for the criminal’s sake… but for future criminals, as a deterrence of their likeliness in committing a given crime.

    There is, however, a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point, longer sentences no longer have a deterrent effect. I would also argue that successfully reforming a criminal (through counseling, training, etc.) is incredibly valuable.

    There’s a strong argument that you can reduce recidivism via lobotomy.

    TFBW: You, not I, introduced lobotomies to the discussion. Think about that.

    But the logic of the determinists allows for no such line in the sand – cold-blooded murders ARE victims just like any other criminal.

    Let the determinists defend it themselves. Politically, I would look at them as temporary allies.

  11. TFBW says:

    @pennywit:

    You, not I, introduced lobotomies to the discussion. Think about that.

    I think it means you are an optimist. The trouble with optimists is that they are always shocked and surprised when things turn out badly.

  12. Tim Lambert says:

    ” In fact, they would be among societies greatest of victims given the manner in which they are nearly universally condemned, hated, shunned, and demonized. All for something they are not morally responsible for. For some action they could not help but do.”

    The absurd thing with determinism that undermines any free will is that even those who do the condemning, hating, shunning, and demonizing are not responsible for those actions.

  13. Dhay says:

    In his 17 September 2017 blog post entitled “A philosopher tries to rescue free will by claiming that individuals exercise “choice” according to their “beliefs, desires,and intentions”” Jerry Coyne tells philosophers — and presumably Tom Clark, who’s in his sights because although he’s a determinist, he’s also a compatibilist regarding free will hence anathema to Coyne:

    It’s time for philosophers to stop wasting time on compatibilism, to start emphasizing determinism more, and then work out the consequences of that determinism. That’s what Peter Singer tried to do in his engagingly thoughtful book Practical Ethics. One of the great boons of philosophy is to use rational thought, combined with an assessment of human preference, to work out how we should live. That, after all, is how philosophy began, but somehow it got sidetracked by arcane academic arguments.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/a-philosopher-tries-to-rescue-free-will-by-claiming-that-individuals-exercise-choice-according-to-their-beliefs-desiresand-intentions/

    Typical Coyne: at the first sign that a philosopher fails his ideological ‘purity test’ regarding free will, Coyne’s straight in there with a blog post to criticise the published article in case any of his readers might be swayed into the ways of ideological sin.

    It’s also arrogant: one would have thought a professional philosopher would know their field well enough to know what’s worth investigating, and what’s not, and to avoid dead ends or fruitless avenues; yet Coyne lectures Clark that he’s [my idiom supplied] barking up the wrong tree, there’s no cat there; which is ironic, because Coyne is not only incapable himself of looking up into Clark’s tree to see what’s there, he also doesn’t want Clark (or any other philosopher) investigating what might be found.

    Of course, Coyne is now, he tells us, a credentialed philosopher, having had the lesser role as second author in a peer-reviewed published paper, plus some two-and-a-half years of part-time reading of books on the philosophy of religion. Coyne could use his claimed expertise to do himself what he urges unconvinced others to do, namely to “work out the consequences of [his] determinism”. I look forward to Coyne’s next foray into academic philosophical publishing, probably a paper entitled something like “The implications of determinism for judicial sentencing and rehabilitation.” Come on, Coyne, let’s see it.

    One way of looking at Clark’s article is that Clark, the professional philosopher investigating compatibilism, is in practice telling us that non-compatibilist determinists (including Coyne) are the ones barking up the wrong tree.

  14. Dhay says:

    In his 18 September 2017 blog post entitled “Queer trans woman begs: “Excommunicate me from the church of social justice”” Jerry Coyne quotes a Ms. Francis Lee who, firstly as a Christian, and then as an intersectional social activist (SJW?) lived in constant fear of not belonging and not fitting in with other activists — of failing the ideological ‘purity test’ — so she kept her mouth shut. Coyne quotes her and thereby owns the (audio) article because he can use it to attack the “Regressive Left” for their oppressive insistence on conformity and oppressive intolerance of non-conformity.

    Coyne admits to some of the same purity behaviour that disturbs Ms. Lee:

    … looking back over what I’ve written, I think that I’ve sometimes been guilty of the same purity behavior that disturbs Ms. Lee. I’d like to think otherwise—that I try to argue with others on my side rather than call them names (that’s why there’s a policy on this site against commenters hurling epithets at other commenters)—but somehow all of us need to enforce a little less purity and be a little more forgiving of those with whom we disagree. I’m not talking about the Right, as I despair of convincing them, but about an effort to find common ground with other Leftists.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/queer-trans-woman-begs-excommunicate-me-from-the-church-of-social-justice/

    But Coyne’s not very explicit about what his own purity behaviour is; nor does he think he and his followers should “enforce a little less purity and be a little more forgiving of those with whom we disagree” except insofar as purity behaviour impedes he and them from finding “common ground with other Leftists.”

    I’ve already given an example of Coyne applying an ideological ‘purity test’ in my response above pointing out how intolerant Coyne is of philosophers of free will who don’t toe Coyne’s determinist/incompatibilist line. It is not so long ago that Coyne was railing against the appointment of Francis Collins to head the NIH; but I ask you, can you imagine Coyne in charge of funding decisions; isn’t he an ideologue who would close down funding for research he disapproves of.

    Another example is how quickly and vehemently Coyne jumps on any biologist who dares question the Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy.

    Or there’s the speed and vehemence with which Coyne denounces what he calls “faitheists”, namely atheists who are accepting of religion (“I call atheists sympathetic to religion “faitheists.”” – Coyne.)
    See examples aplenty with the Google search string, site:https:\\whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com faitheism OR faitheist.

    Then there’s the rarer diatribe against “accommodatheists”, and the very very common diatribes against “accommodationists™”.

    Coyne looks like someone in the, er, intelligentsia of one of those many splintered-apart Marxist groups of the 1970’s: the closer a person’s or group’s position is to his own position, the more Coyne applies the ideological ‘purity test’ to it, finds it failing, and publicly rants and raves against it.

    *

    As regards “the Right”, it seems that, for Coyne, being “a little more forgiving of those with whom we disagree” is not even on the table; yet it’s not them but the people with views close to his own who arouse his particular ire.

  15. Dhay says:

    FYI, I’ve just spotted that “faitheism” and the far rarer “accommodatheism™” are explicitly the same thing:

    I decided to Coyne a new world to replace “faitheism,” and it’s in the title. “Accommodatheism.” It’s the tendency of some nonbelievers to try to make common cause with believers, or at least to stop criticizing them.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/accommodatheism-i-lets-all-stop-going-after-the-low-hanging-believers/

  16. TFBW says:

    … isn’t he an ideologue who would close down funding for research he disapproves of.

    He’s firmly in the leftist “hound the wrongthinkers out of their very jobs” camp on this one. He earned his 2014 Censor of the Year award, and was proud of it.

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