The Discussion Group met on 19th February to discuss Free Will.
About 10 people attended. Most accepted determinism – although at least one felt that the jury was still out and raised issues such as quantum mechanical indeterminacy. Most felt determinism means that we do not have free will but there was general concern that this is not how things appear. The question we identified for debate was ‘If we don’t have free will, is there any way we can reclaim it?’
One view was that at the level of the self we do have free will because we are the determined person making the decisions. This is close to David Hume’s position that we are acting with free will if our actions flow from our underlying character. All agreed that retributive punishment was inappropriate versus punishment aimed at rehabilitation and deterrence. On the face of it the question we debated contains an internal contradiction – we don’t have free will so how can we reclaim it. On reflection it is not far removed from the aim of free will compatibilists such as Daniel Dennett. In Dennett’s view determinacy is irrelevant to ‘practical free will’ which is the ‘type of free will that matters’. We will be continuing the discussion at the next meeting on March 19th, to cover some of the more subtle views of the compatibilists.
All are welcome; we meet at 8.15pm at The Waterhouse, 67-71 Princess Street, Manchester, M2 4EG. We are not booking a particular room but will aim to meet in a room at the far end of the building from Princess Street. It would be helpful if you would let John Coss know if you will be coming (email:firstname.lastname@example.org or phone@ 0161-430-3463).