Samuel Johnson wrote that “all theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience for it.” I tend to agree but believe that he overstates the strength of the theory. Nowadays determinists drape themselves in controlled experiments and neuroscience and make conclusions based on weak but statistically significant results and claim to have proven determinism. Can you say, “naked emperor?”
These neurological studies draw conclusions that cannot be determined from the study itself. They measure the effect of thought on the organism not the origination of thought (and by extension choice.) Look at this picture. Respond to this question. We’ll scan your brain and determine that these stimuli triggered activity in this part of the brain which guides moral judgment. Therefore moral judgement is determined by external stimuli only.
A recent article over at Reason.com discusses several presentations from the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies on moral judgement, free will, and sacred values. A fair portion of the article discusses the ideas of William Casebeer, that “holding agents responsible depends on the notion of being in or out of control. Being in control depends on what he calls the functional architecture of a well-ordered psyche.” The obvious question is ordered by what or whom? It’s the conundrum of Plato’s Cave: who frees the philosopher? If the goal of shaping society is a question of developing a citizenry with well-ordered psyche’s, how do the shapers know what it means to be well-ordered?