Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CCFW and the Nanny State

Richard Carrier has a review on his blog of Tom Clarke's primer on Naturalism, Encountering Naturalism. He's largely in agreement, but doesn't see how Contra-Causal Free Will has much to do with anything. That's a sentiment that makes very little sense to me.

Carrier: "Once you allow the argument "because we don't have freewill, therefore the majority can make decisions for us," you create a monster that will destroy far more than it will ever protect."

I think this disagreement is exactly why we need to sort out whether CCFW exists: we need to determine what will is and how people get it.

As far as I can tell, CCFW is some magical mechanism of consciousness that allows people to A) have prior knowledge of things they before did not, and thus B) then make decisions that over-ride impulses they are not sufficiently aware of while simultaneously predicting the outcomes of those decisions.

It seems entirely relevant to any debate relating to human behavior that we first decide whether CCFW exists.

I'll give you an example from my kindergarten classroom. I assume that my students have no CCFW (as I think most people would). This means then that every action they take is a direct result of their particular cognitive and emotional state at that time.

Were they to have CCFW, their actions could be the result of them having special knowledge of things they did not, and thus the ability to over-ride impulses they are not aware of, as well as accurately predicting the likely result of their action.

So when the child acts like a "typical 5 year old" (i.e. emotion & cognitive state recognized), I adjust my response accordingly. Sure, they knew it was wrong to smack their playmate with a book - but they had not developed enough of a neural framework to process & contain their emotional impulse.

Thus I - acting in the role of a "nanny state" - make all sorts of arrangements to nudge my students in the right direction. I don't leave candy out on the tables. I don't lecture them for an hour straight. I require them to walk in the hall instead of run.

Of course, human adults in general have more developed cognitive and emotional systems. The need for regulation is less severe. Yet we generally agree there ought to be some. Hence traffic laws, drug laws, etc. These are instances in which no negative consequence has yet resulted, but the possibility of one occurring is deemed to warrant deterrence.

The degree to which one believes the public can self-regulate is in direct proportion to the degree one believes in state-regulation. Unless of course one believes in CCFW. Because, it would logically follow, that everyone is necessarily capable of self-regulation. Although I'm not sure if kindergartners are included - I think there may be a cutoff age, but I'm not sure.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding social justice. What I think is just as important is to what extent people have a right to take credit, and thus be rewarded for what they have achieved. But that's a whole 'nother discussion.

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