Ask A Genius 273 – Free Will and Jurisprudence
August 28, 2017
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, what about free will and the system jurisprudence especially the United States and in a culture that has metaphysical assumptions about the way the world works and people work?
Rick Rosner: Well I don’t know about the US versus other places but the more we learn about the brain, the more it becomes a reasonable idea that it really isn’t free will that you can account for everything that people do based on brain biology, based on people’s pasts, based on the structure of the brain and on our evolutionary history, but our system of punishment for crimes is based on free will. That goes on acting is as if people make choices and then choose to do bad and that’s not I mean that the window for mitigating punishment or avoiding punishment based on insanity, your background, that’s a small window that not many cases I think to get you know successfully pass through that, that eye of the needle.
Though you could make the case for at least in general terms for almost anyone’s bad acts. But that’s not necessarily a tragedy of being mean to people for things that they’re not responsible for. We hold people responsible for their decisions. Almost you know more than well over ninety percent of the time probably over 96% of the time in when they’re they done criminal things.
We treat people as if their decisions have been more or less freely made and I know that’s not a terrible thing, the whole as if the system is part of what goes into determinate decision making. Decision making that is not free, also reflects some extent one of the factors in making decisions about what to do is knowledge of our criminal system and the punishments that one might face for bad decisions.
So even though our decisions you can argue aren’t at some basic level free, we wait one thing that helps keep people on the straight and narrow in a determinant way, is our system of punishment for crimes that’s it. I mean there’s a paradox there but it’s one that we’re used to and can work with. And when people I mean in the I’ve read plenty of science fiction set in the future where instead of facing punishment, evildoers just have their brains adjusted so they don’t do evil anymore.
And that’s a frustrating thing for readers somebody gets to do bad and then they get to avoid punishment. So even though our system is paradoxical holding people responsible for actions that we know more and more they’re not you know that they’re not free not to make, the idea of not holding people responsible is weird and not approved is not approved of at some kind of visceral level.
We wouldn’t like a future it will take a lot of getting used to a future in which people aren’t punished for the crime but rather are adjusted to not recommit that’s it.
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American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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