Responsibility only makes sense in a social context, and it`s a purely human concept. I would think it`s purpose is to ensure everyone in the group would fullfil a role that would contribute to the survival of the group as a whole. Thus societies would tend to employ measures to reinforce certain behavoirs (responsibility for example), while punishing other behaviors.
The court systems exemplify this. They have already made the assumption that free will exists, and therefore people should be held accountable for their actions. Just because i agree that the idea of responsibility is necessary in a society, doesn`t mean that i can`t believe free will doesn`t exist. Whether people are accountable for their actions or not, there still needs to be a system that protects members of society by positive/negative reinforcement.
Free will seems to me to be an anti determinist idea. It maintains that ideas, thoughts, and behaviors arise from no where at all, thus humans being spontaneous first causes through every action. This intuitively doesn`t make sense if you believe that everything in the universe is subject to causality (certain things cause other things in a definite cause-effect relationship).
True, humans act on more than instinct alone, but we do act on motivations. These motivations are not uncaused, and stem from somewhere.
Furthermore, if you accept that the mind is nothing more than a physical entities composed of neurons, cells and DNA, then to me, this implies determinism. If this is the case, and our brains are just slightly higher evolved primate brains, then our brains are entirely mechanical - just like a computer. We cannot freely choose the internal states of our brain.
If free will does exist, then where does it come from? Is it a concrete aspect of cognition?
"but if you look at Mankinds achievements, you can see that they are without question, a result of Mankind`s aspirations alone. There is no outside influence that caused men to learn how to fly without possessing wings of his own or to go
beyond the security of his environment into outer space, other then his own aspirations to do so." -Greg
Actually, our innate sense of curiosity can be explained in evolutionary terms, and this curiosity is not unique to humans.
In nature there are two basic strategies for adapting to the environment:
1) Specialization: An organism develops structural adaptations to deal with a specific environment/predator. Ex. Porcupines have evolved very sharp spikes to ward off predators that can`t chew the sharp spines.
Specialization has the advantage of being highly adapted to a single type of environment, but this organism runs into trouble as the environment changes. For instance, if some new super predator evolved the ability to chew the sharp spines, the porcupine would be in serious trouble. So specialization isn`t conducive to changing environments.
2) Generalization: Organism deals with the environment not by creating structural adaptations but by developing its cognitive processes to learn and recognize patterns in its environment to stay adaptive to changing environments. Ex. Many mammals create mental representations of their environment in their memory to deal with a wide variety of conditions. Thus generalists rely more on cognitive functions, and try to learn more about their surroundings than specialists that rely on a highly evolved structure. Therefore, in nature, the desire to learn about one`s surroundings (curiosity) is an invaluable tool.
-We humans, have this engrained sense of curiosity, which has a strong evolutionary component. Therefore Greg, i wouldn`t attribute our achievements to free will, but to an evolved sense of curiosity easily found in a child or a chimp, which improves survivorship. I would contend that this thirst for knowledge is the single most important component for making us the dominant species today.