- There has been quite a chorus of eminent scientists saying, point blank, that free will is an illusion: neuroscientists Wolf Singer, Chris Firth, and Patrick Haggard; psychologists Paul Bloom and Daniel Wegner; and a few rather well-regarded physicists, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. Could so many brilliant scientists be wrong? Many - not all, and maybe not most - philosophers say yes. They say this is a job for philosophy! Are they right? I think so.
The scientists have typically been making a rookie mistake: confusing the manifest image with what we might call the folk ideology of the manifest image. The folk ideology of color is, let's face it, bonkers; color just isn't what most people think it is, but that doesn't mean that the manifest world doesn't really have any colors; it means that colors - real colors - are quite different from what most folks think they are. The folk ideology of consciousness is also bonkers - resolutely dualistic and mysterian; if that were what consciousness had to be, then Wright would be right (see p. 313)3: we'd have to say that consciousness doesn't exist. But we don't have to treat consciousness as "real magic" - the kind that doesn't exist, made of wonder tissue4; we can recognize the reality of consciousness as a phenomenon by acknowledging that folks don't yet have a sound ideology about it. Similarly, free will isn't what some of the folk ideology of the manifest image proclaims it to be, a sort of magical isolation from causation. I've compared free will in this sense to levitation, and one of the philosophical defenders of this bonkers vision has frankly announced that free will is a "little miracle". I wholeheartedly agree with the scientific chorus that that sort of free will is an illusion, but that doesn't mean that free will is an illusion in any morally important sense. It is as real as colors, as real as dollars.
Unfortunately, some of the scientists who now declare that science has shown that free will is an illusion go on to say that this "discovery" matters, in a morally important sense. They think that it has major implications for morality and the law: nobody is ever really responsible, for instance, so nobody ever deserves to be either punished or praised. They are making the mistake people make when they say that nothing is ever solid, not really. They are using an unreconstructed popular concept of free will, when they should be adjusting it first, the way they do with color and consciousness (and space and time and solidity and all the other things that the ideology of the manifest image gets wrong). (s 355-356)
3) Dennett syftar här på vetenskapsjournalisten Robert Wrights följande yttrande:
- Of course the problem here is with the claim that consciousness is "identical" with physical brain states. The more Dennett et al. try to explain to me what they mean by this, the more convinced I become that what they really mean is that consciousness doesn't exist.
4) Dennett använder konsekvent fetstil för att signalera att det handlar om ett specifikt tankeverktyg som definieras och förklaras på annan plats i boken.