Nor, pace Massimo, do we have to go down the route of dualism if we reject conscious volitionism. That's especially true if:
A. We see something like free will as developing as an emergent property;
B. We reject "hard" physicalist determinism, too;
C. We see whatever this "quasi-free will" is, and a "softer" psychological determinism as being two endpoints on a continuum, and not two poles of a polarity.
On the free will side, in comments within his latest post on the matter, Massimo admits the issue of guilt and responsibility is why he continues to defend free will VERSUS determinism (or other attacks, or "attacks").
(A)ny talk of free will and consciousness being illusions is a threat to humanism, since among humanist's cardinal principles are that we are responsible for our actions and that we can use reason as a guide to life.Well, then, per the ways in which I've previously chastised Joseph Hoffmann, humanism, whether explicitly secular or not, without embracing scientism, needs to embrace scientific advances.
Massimo also, which I hadn't noticed until this late-2013 update, mischaracterizes my postion on free will:
Several readers of course brought up dualism, even accusing me of being a crypto-dualist. Here is Gadfly:
"If there's no Cartesian meaner, there's no Cartesian free willer."
True enough, but this assumes that the only way to meaningfully talk about volition (again, my and others’ preferred term instead of the metaphysically loaded “free will”) is in dualistic terms, a position that has been rejected pretty much by all compatibilist philosophers, from Dennett down.Actually, no, it doesn't assume that.
Per my whole line of reasoning, it assumes that, as currently expressed, this is an outdated issue. Rather, speaking of Dennett, I mean just what Massimo quoted me as saying. If something akin to Dennett's multiple drafts theory of consciousness is true, then we simply can't talk of a unitary volitional self. Per the detailed outline I list above, it assumes that the degree of volition involved with a certain action must be determined, as best we can, on an action by action basis.
There's nothing dualistic about that, whether in the broad idea of substance dualism or the narrower idea of property dualism, on my part, nor do I assume Massimo entertains such ideas on his part. The only idea I entertain about Massimo is that, in fair part because he doesn't buy into multiple drafts or subselves ideas, he's wedded to traditional ideas about volition for the wrong reasons.
That said, he does admirably refute, again, the nonsense that Jerry Coyne spouts in support of dualism. And he's right that science currently has little to say on this issue. And, per the likes of him, John Horgan, myself and many others, likely will have little to say about this issue for decades if not longer. My thoughts, Dennett's, and others, on the nature of consciousness, are psycho-philosophical theories untestable now or any time soon.
And I'm sorry that, for whatever reasons, Massimo inferred I thought he was a crypto-dualist. My stance on a multiple drafts and multiple subselves view of consciousness is entirely compatible with the non-dualistic emergentism that's central to Massimo's views on human consciousness. We just arrive at different finish lines.
That said, a regular, tendentious commenter on his blog has inferred, from the post above that Massimo is a full-blown dualist, and thinks that emergentism pretty much necessitates dualism. That's a far bigger error that Massimo's incorrect inference.
Anyway, speaking of Massimo's take on Coyne? Ian Pollack, writing a guest post at Massimo's blog, appears to move a step in this direction, with an analytic philosophy type approach that includes saying Coyne is ... insufficiently reductionistic, of all things, in his use of language.
Here's the core of his thoughts:
So how would I tackle the issue of free will/volition?
Suppose I am driving along an undivided highway when the stray thought
comes into my head that I could steer into the opposing lane, resulting
in a horrible, deadly accident.
Of course, I don’t do so, because... well, I like living and I don’t
much want to kill others, either. And I just washed my car. But I could
have done it.
...Wait, was I right to say that I could have done it?
Yes and no. As we have seen, the pivotal word in that sentence is
“could,” and “could” has at least two meanings that are relevant to the
question of free will.
Meaning #1 maps physical possibility, and in this case returns the clear
answer “No, the physical state of the universe was such that you could
not have steered into oncoming traffic, as evidenced by the fact that
you did not, in fact, do so. QED.” Jerry sees this clearly, and I have
absolutely no argument with him.
Meaning #2 of “could” maps counterfactual statements. To say that you
“could” have done something in this sense is (roughly) to say that IF
circumstances had been otherwise, a different outcome would have
resulted. Meaning #2 returns the answer “Yes, you could have steered
into oncoming traffic, if you had wanted to.”
Meaning #2 is what people actually mean by “could,” most of the time.
If you’ve been sleeping through this post, pay attention now, because
the entire click of compatibilism lies in this realization.
Proposition #1: “No, the state of the universe was such that it was physically impossible for you to have steered into oncoming traffic.”
Proposition #2: “Yes, you could have steered into oncoming traffic (if you had wanted to).”
However, to my mind, he still fails. He addresses only the Coyne-type physicalist determinism, not "softer" versions, first. Second, he's committed to the "versus" stance, continuing to defend a compatibilist version of free will versus determinism.
For more excellent thoughts in this general vein, I strongly suggest Walter Kaufmann's book "Beyond Guilt and Responsibility."
And, for broader background, here's a bit of information on where we are at on studying consciousness issues in general.
And, per a reader, this take on Benjamin Libet's famous experiments is in general line with what I'm saying.