|I previously wrote:|
Choice presupposes the ability to do otherwise, but only if you value doing otherwise. The free willist, categorical kind of "could", however, holds that nothing conditions choice, nothing determines your actions, that choice presupposes the ability to do otherwise, even if you do not value doing otherwise. I maintain that this is impossible -- you not only can (have the ability to) but must (are determined to) do what you value. Merlin Jetton commented:
Yes, it's impossible, but the premise is wrong per my idea of volition, and that of probably many other volitionists. I reject the premise: nothing conditions choice, nothing determines your actions. Instead, it is that prior conditions do not uniquely determine, or necessitate, the choice. That is what choice is. If the prior conditions do uniquely determine an outcome, it is not a choice.A choice is the act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more alternatives. Let's say, for instance, that a clearly Socialist candidate and a clearly Libertarian candidate were the only two people running for a particular office. This gives me two alternatives to choose (i.e., select) from, only one of which I could actually vote for (i.e., select). Let us say that I, being a staunch Libertarian all my adult life, most emphatically do not want to vote for the Socialist candidate, and am thus psychologically incapable of voting for him. Since I maintain that I must choose to obtain (select as the object of my action) that which I want over that which I do not want, when presented with such an alternative, the prior condition -- what I want to obtain -- determines my choice. And it uniquely determines my choice. I must choose it, and I am unable to choose otherwise.
Nonetheless, it is a choice, since it is the selection of one of the available alternatives. "Since I'm a Libertarian, I'm going to choose the Libertarian candidate. In fact, I have to vote for the Libertarian candidate, no doubt about it. I'm not even going to give it a moment's consideration. I have no reason to!" In logical terms, I have a standing policy to vote for Libertarians in general (premise one), then Joe Blow presents himself as a Libertarian candidate (premise two), and I then decide or choose to vote for Joe Blow (conclusion). I do not decide/chose in the concrete to vote for Joe Blow until he presents himself as a candidate. But once he announces as a candidate, I do indeed choose to vote for him (select him from the various alternatives), even though I could not have done otherwise. (I have no reason not to select him.)
Roger's premise, of course, provides a rich source for determinists to build straw men of volition. It portrays choice as arbitrary and noncontextual. Of course, Roger tempers it somewhat by holding some value, if nothing else, to be the factor that always uniquely determines the outcome. Can we choose our values? I'll leave Roger to answer that one.No, I don't "portray choice as arbitrary and noncontextual." (See above.) I specifically portray non-determined choice as arbitrary and noncontextual. To claim that I could vote for anyone other than the Libertarian (in the above example) because my choice in the voting booth is "not uniquely determined" by my values, is to claim that I could vote for someone else even though I had no reason to do so (i.e., even though I didn't want to). The fact that I do not value voting for the Socialist does not matter to the volitionist, who claims, against all the relevant evidence (about my values), that I am nevertheless capable of voting for the Socialist. This kind of choice, choosing to pursue that which I do not want over that which I want -- even though I have no reason to do so -- is "arbitrary and noncontextual."
As for choosing our values, the answer is yes and no. It depends on which sense of "value" you mean. A choice pertains to an action. So, while it's true that I can choose an action aimed at obtaining a specific object (i.e., a value), it is not true that I can choose to want to have (i.e., value) the object. A want or desire (and in that sense a "value") is not an action, but the product of an action, specifically, an evaluation, and while I can choose to engage in an act of evaluation, the want or desire that results is not itself a choice. (This analogy may help clarify the point: I can choose to engage in addition, but reaching 4 as the result of adding 2 and 2 is not a choice.) It is our wants or desires (aka "values") that uniquely determine what object (aka "value") we will choose to pursue.
The determinist premise is that prior conditions do uniquely determine an outcome. In other words, there is no room for an authentic choice.This is not true, unless Merlin wants to argue that my selection of the Libertarian candidate in the above example is not "an authentic choice" that is "uniquely determine[d]" by "prior conditions."
Yes, in the volitionist view, choices are conditioned. That's what makes them contextual and usually nonarbitrary. (I include "usually" to cover "weakly arbitrary" cases when the choices are equally valued.) But "conditioned" does not mean "fully and uniquely determined."What else is there, beyond my values, to determine my actions? In the absence of coercion, I can and must choose to obtain that which I (most strongly) value. How in the world can anyone escape this necessity? Even if you capriciously decide to choose something other than what you most want, you are doing so on the basis that you want to choose capriciously and contrary to your preferences more than you want to choose in keeping with your preferences. In such a case, the desire to make a capricious choice is the value that determines your higher-level choice of how to choose; it is how you prefer choosing.
In the past, I have been utterly perplexed by those who think my viewpoint is empty and tautological. The conclusion seems inescapable to me that value determinism is not an empty tautology, but an axiom of human choice (and a corollary of the Law of Causality as applied to human action). Even in the attempt to deny it (as in the above example of capricious choice), we still have to act in accordance with it. We can and must and do choose that which we prefer. We can't help it.