Saturday, October 29, 2005

Dennett’s wrong stance on free will

First, I use the word “stance” deliberately, pointing at his “intentional stance.”

The “intentional stance” (and “The Intentional Stance”) both overlook the elephant in the corner — Whose intentional stance?

In other words, who is having this intentional stance?

Well, I am, of course.


What “I” are you? Or am I?

I agree with Dennett that there is no “Cartesian meaner.” But, in so saying (and offering evidence toward that end), he has kicked the props out from under the “intentional stance” (and, yes, “The Intentional Stance”).

If there’s no “I” at the core, in the sense of a master controller, there’s no “intentional stance.”

Actually, that’s not quite right.

There’s no single intentional stance. Instead, there are several sub-intentional stances, some stronger, some weaker, some more permanent, some fleeting.

And now you, dear reader, know exactly where I’m going with the free will issue.

I’m not coming at it from Libet’s consciousness potential or any other ground-up approach. Instead, this is top down.

If there’s no Central Meaner, then, there’s no Central Willer. And no Central Free Willer. (Or Central Free Willy, if you’re a cetacean.)

Again, there are arguably sub-free wills, but if some are weaker or more ephemeral, well, then, “not all free wills are equally free.”

In short, I would say that at base, “free will” is no less an illusion than “I.”

It’s not that it’s philosophically impossible to have some variety of free will; I agree with the broad outlines of Dennett’s writing on this issue.

Rather, it’s that it’s psychologically impossible to have such a thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, of course. Subjectivity arises from interpolation and socialization, so identity construction and the exertion of a vestige of agency are inextricably linked to some one or something apart from said "I."