Moral Liberty

Concerning our “moral liberty,” an important part of the larger “free will” question: The Evolutionary Psychological doctrine of computationalism is important here. We are not simple stimulus – response machines. Stimuli and behavior are mediated, always, by computations. The self itself is a process emerging and re-emerging from a storm of computational activity in our own brain. As human adults, we are called upon, IMO, to take responsibility for these computations whether they are conscious or unconscious. If we fail to groom ourselves, holistically as it were, to be adequately prosocial, such that we perform actions that break the boilerplate social contract of our group, then, although such self-grooming may entail hard work, we must ultimately be held responsible. Who could be more responsible than we are ourselves? Sure, you can pass some blame to bad parenting, PTSD, etc. If parents were abusive by community standards you can even punish them. If your community does not help you recover from trauma, especially when you experienced it while working on behalf of that community, any penalties for your bad actions probably should be reduced. But ultimately, again, if you are neurobiologically intact within a couple standard deviations of the norm or so, then you have to take responsibility for your whole-brain process that leads to your flowing environmentally responsive train of self-configurations and behaviors. So, learn about yourself, and recognize that you do have a modicum of practical free will which you can tune up and channel toward greater more consistent prosociality and even biophilia – we need to nurture both to survive as a species on a decent planet. Find a practice that will help you do this, and get to work. If you do, welcome to the great human project of actively exploring your own human potential. Weakness is not the same as helplessness. Don’t try to pretend that it is. — PJW (9-14-2016)

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