Gregg Caruso is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Corning Community College, as well as chief editor of the journal Science, Religion, and Culture. In this ten-minute TEDx talk, he discusses what he calls the “dark side of free will”. Note that the “free will” he’s speaking of is contracausal (libertarian) free will (the idea that at any moment you could have made any of several choices), not “compatibilist” free will (the notion that your choices are determined beforehand by physical laws, but you still have some sort of “free will” anyway). So before you compatibilists start kvetching, remember that Dr. Caruso’s addressing the form of free will that I believe most people hold, and certainly the type that most religious believers hold. He’s lecturing to a general audience, so I have no doubt they know what kind of free will it at issue
And although I’m sometimes told I lack philosophical savvy/credentials to allow me to pronounce on this issue, Caruso certainly has: as his bio notes, he’s “the author of Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will (2012) and the editor of Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (2013) and Science and Religion: 5 Questions (2014).”
Anyway, here Caruso argues that rejecting libertarian free will is actually a beneficial act, and that accepting it has, as I’ve long asserted, bad consequences for our system of rewards and (especially) punishments.
And, just to get you riled up, I don’t see what advantages there are in accepting compatibilist free will as opposed to being a pure, incompatibilist determinist. The usefulness of compatibilism seems limited to its keeping philosophers employed and the Little People convinced that they do have some sort of “free will” after all, even if it’s not the kind of free will they think they have. The whole area of compatibilism appears to involve redefining terms that we thought we understood all along, much as Sophisticated Theologians™ do all the time with the term “God.”
I will maintain until my last breath that philosophers who are compatibilists should, if they really wanted to improve society, spend their time teaching about the consequences of the determinism they accept rather than engaging in a never-ending argument about semantics. I see nothing to be gained by promoting compatibilism. The only reason I bring that view up, in fact, is because I think it distracts us from the important issue of physical determinism, and because I think that some compatibilists are motivated by the Little People argument (they say so explicitly) as well as confusing people with their tortuous arguments.
Note: you’re not allowed to comment until you’ve listened to the whole video, for I want people to discuss Caruso’s points.