Daniel Dennett Dissects a Bad Thought Experiment


Scientists and philosophers like to think
that they’re very sober, rational people who are above the need to advertise. And yet,
if you look closely you’ll see that they often go to great lengths to come up with a vivid
memorable term, a label for their theory or a name for it that will stick in people’s
head. In other words, they’re trying to develop a brand name or advertising or trademark for
their view. And we should recognize that’s a good thing to do if you’re going to run
an example or if you’re gonna run an argument — try to make it as easy as possible for
the audience or the reader to keep track of the elements.
Don’t call them A, B, C, D and E. Call them Bill and Arthur and Freddie and so forth.
But, of course, that can backfire on you, too. Or it can be misused. One of my favorite
bad thought experiments — bad intuition pumps is one in a very influential paper by Greene
and Cohen published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society on what neuroscience tells
us about free will. And this is The Boys from Brazil. And in this thought experiment we’re
to imagine — it’s inspired by the hokey science fiction film The Boys from Brazil about some
evil doctors who clone Hitler and they’re trying to make Hitler clones. But in this
telling they create a human being who’s been designed by their evil intentions to live
a life of crime — to do evil things. But just as rational as anybody else, he’s
very much controlled. He’s sort of a designed psychopath. And they call him Mr. Puppet.
And they describe Mr. Puppet and Mr. Puppet goes out and commits a crime. And they appeal
to the readers to conclude that Mr. Puppet isn’t really responsible for his evil deeds.
He shouldn’t be punished certainly. He’s just the victim of his circumstances. And then,
bless them, they say, “Now Daniel Dennett might object that this is just an intuition
pump and that we shouldn’t take it seriously.” Yes. It’s not that it’s an intuition pump.
Intuition pumps can be good. It’s a bad intuition pump. And they said — they just having noticed
— having imagined that I might be critical of their intuition pump they go ahead and
do it anyway. So let me now turn the knobs on this intuition
pump and we’ll see what we can make of it. First they say the fact that this person was
created by evil scientists with evil intent — that’s irrelevant to the example really.
All right, so let’s get rid of it. Turn that knob and so — an indifferent environment
produces a human being who, they say, by design is set out on a sort of antisocial trajectory.
Well, but we can get rid of that by design, too, because if it’s an indifferent environment
then there’s no intent on this. So now we’ve got this indifferent environment happens to
produce an individual who, with high probability, will engage in some criminal activities, let’s
say. Okay. And then they imagine that he kills somebody
in a drug bust or something, you know, in a drug deal gone bad. Well, that’s inessential
so we’re gonna change the crime. We’re gonna make it he killed somebody who has witnessed
some embezzlement that he’s done. It shouldn’t make any difference. If you thought that the
Mr. Puppet in the first instance wasn’t responsible and shouldn’t be held responsible, this shouldn’t
change it. Now I want to change just one more thing. They keep talking about Mr. Puppet.
Okay, that’s a nice vivid name but it’s just a name. Shouldn’t make any difference — I’m
gonna change it. Let’s call Mr. Puppet, oh, Captain Autonomy. Okay, so now Captain Autonomy
is caused by an indifferent environment to enter on a trajectory where it becomes likely
that he’s going to commit some antisocial behavior.
And now the question is whether he should be held responsible. Well, I think Captain
Autonomy? Why shouldn’t he be held responsible? Let me flush it out a little bit more. Let’s
suppose that Captain Autonomy is a Harvard graduate who goes to work at Lehman Brothers
and sees a clever way of embezzling a few million dollars and has pulled off his white
collar crime when he discovered a person who is about to expose him and he lures him to
the edge of the balcony in the high rise and pushes him off and he falls to his death.
Now that’s my case. Now are we so clear that Captain Autonomy is not responsible for his
deed? It seems to me that I drained the example of most of the umph that provided the intuitions.
I’m not saying that my retelling of it shows that he is responsible. I’m just pointing
out that those details which presumably are ad lib and they shouldn’t make a difference
— they make a huge difference into how we think about this person and whether or not
to hold him responsible.

95 thoughts on “Daniel Dennett Dissects a Bad Thought Experiment

  1. Provide 77% of a transcript. Then just give up?
    Why? Just lazy, or is it a comment on the material? Or is it some calculated 'engagement' strategy?
    0_o
    Hmm…
    maybe BigThink is engaging in some antisocial behavior…

  2. I never saw him make a point the entire time. His ego is bruised by being outdone by Sam Harris so he is reduced to just saying anything that comes into his head to argue back. My intuitions in the beginning and end were the same, and even if they weren't you've done zero to refute anything.

  3. LOL at all the dislikes who from people who don't get the point of the video. Maybe small think is for you ūüôā

  4. "Scientists and philosophers like to think they're very sober, rational people". I see a severe lack of some, most, a lot etc. in that statement. It's very doubtful that most human beings consider themselves NOT sober and rational. So does Mr. Dennett believe that scientists and philosophers think of themselves as more rational and sober than most people? But surely not all would think that. So unless I am completely wrong then he just commited the most serious of crimes…..LOGICAL FALLACY DUM DUM DUM O.O

  5. You guys seem unable to understand the video, his point was not to disprove anything. He was impartial towards showing if the guy should be held morally responsible or not. He just wanted to show that the wording of a thought experiment can greatly show how you perceive it. 

  6. While I can admire Dennett's writings and some of his philosophy I have such a hard time listening to the man. He has this plodding cadence like he is struggling to form thoughts that he should've already had some notion of before hand. Now, if he is really developing ideas off the cuff, perhaps I can forgive his snail's pace but I don't think this is the case.

  7. Do we still have people going around claiming no-one's really responsible for the things they do because the environment caused them to do it? Steven Pinker dealt with this over ten years ago in his 2002 book "The Blank Slate: The modern denial of human nature" and I've yet to see anyone address his arguments there.

  8. This isn't him making some big point, it is his response to the wording of thought experiments which can change the meaning of the thought experiment, he is not making any huge philosophical claim… people really are not seeing that

  9. only thing i got was that If you name your subject Mr Puppet or Captain Autonomous you create preconceptions about your case in order to convince people…right?

  10. I really don't understand why people have such a huge problem with determenism. The most succesful prisons are the ones actually trying to rehabilitate their prisoners instead of merely punishing them. We should focus on that and keep improving the system of rehabilitation. That's why the knowledge of determenism is so important, you know people are forged by their dna and surroundings. And with this understanding of why someone is the way he is, you can actually help him and the society he lives in. You can even be proactive with certain groups that have a high chance of causing harm.

    And that's why the argument "If determenism is real then we cannot punish people" does not work. Crimes have a high chance of creating more crime and suffering. And in the year 2015 we try to rehabilitate instead of simply punishing "evil" people.

  11. Both sides are wrong. Free will doesn't exist. The illusion of free will doesn't exist. Those who disliked the video aren't dumb. Those who liked the video aren't dumb either. Will exists, and just because it isn't free doesn't mean its enslaved. 

  12. i didn't understand the video b/c this guys is a horrible speaker. I'd rather drink vinegar than listen to him babel on.

  13. I get what Dan is saying (I quite like Dan), but I am not sure I agree that the 'evil scientists' who 'designed him to be bad' was irrelevant. There wasn't really a justification from Dan for removing that key point. He goes on to make a bunch of other changes that did not really affect my judgment on the matter, but that first piece of the puzzle so casually swept under the rug without explanation, that was key. It was almost like the rest of his changes were simply a smokescreen to bury that first major change.

    The thought experiment, as I understood it, was to show how your behavior can be out of your control to some degree. The evil scientist in the experiment is a metaphor for the 'bad DNA' or 'bad formative experiences' that we as humans (particularly as children) don't have control over.

    Removing the metaphor for predeterministic influences on behavior seems to be ignoring the main thrust of the point. Yes, if we remove that and run with the rest of the experiment without it you will end up with a morally ambiguous situation – ie, what you have without any predeterministic influences on behavior. That is my concern with this dissection. It is more of an amputation than a dissection, it doesn't examine all the pieces by changing them, it removes pieces that I would consider vital to the experiment.

  14. I think that what really sits unquestioned at the core of this thought experiment is what we mean by personal responsibility. It is misguided, I think, when questioning the nature of free will, to talk about personal responsibility or personal accountability.
    I remember when discussing determinism as an argument against free will with my peers in my philosophy class that they were very concerned about what absolving people of the concept of free will would do to the legal system. "Don't blame me, blame my upbringing." etc etc. This kind of thinking is an example of the pursuit of justice with no thought as to the underlying reasons we have as a society for adhering to its principles.
    You could say that someone shouldn't go to prison because it's "not their fault" in the sense that their actions are a result of their desires which are a result of their environment but to do so would be to misjudge what the purpose of prison is. It's in the name: "correctional facility". It serves the purpose of trying to get people who have done bad things from not doing bad things in the future (and also to act as a deterrent, keep violent people off the streets, etc.). Something prison is not trying to do is acting as a kind of abstract retribution on deserving individuals.
    Which is why personal responsibility is a poor topic to even be considering when discussing matters of the self.

  15. Well, say a person was born with a condition which made him or her see all old people as monstrosities. In that person's perspective, killing the old people/ monstrosities would be seen as a heroic deed, whereas others would perceive it as evil. You see, evil does not understand that its evil is evil.

  16. Another thing that should be mentioned is the context in which these "stories" are told. In many cases these stories have very specific circumstances that limit their use and allow them to make sense. Understanding the story itself might not be enough if the reasoning/circumstances/context that give rise to the story aren't acknowledged. 

  17. He's just pointing out that thought experiments are better when they're made as objective as possible by removing suggestive language like 'hitler clone', 'mister puppet' and 'evil doctors'.

    I don't really get why people are getting all worked up over this video…

  18. I think it is undeniable that a person is a product of their environment given that there are, when taken to their roots, no other factors that effect what makes that person. However I still believe people should be held responsible, despite them not being responsible. Holding people responsible for their actions by incentivising those actions that benefit people while disincentivising those which cause harm requires the idea of responsibility to exist. This incentivisation and disincentivisation is also part of an environment which produces more people who do those actions that benefit people than there would be otherwise, making people and their lives better. In other words use the idea of responsibility not because on an individual level it is the "correct" thing to do but because responsibility is about what it changes in society to bring about a better future; It is not, as many people seem to think, about the past.

  19. Is an individual SAC, part of a greater machine, with a greater purpose?

    Recycling all parts, old & new, fixing, updating information & calculations, till machine fully repaired.

    No parts or materials lost. Held accountable? Yes all parts repaired & salvaged. What is a SAC compared to a part in a machine?

    SACs malfunction but can be Fixed & Salvaged. If a part in a machine does not sense it's error, miscalculation, or warning of impending error that it is malfunctioning regardless of programming error.

    Simply reprogram. So that the part then can use, internal sensors with updated & logical data. If not simply store part until new data can be uploaded or part fixed.

    Capable of Understanding the whole Universe? From Single life forms mind & view? Depends? Are they alone floating in space? Need more views?

    SACs two programs to choose. Destroy or Build. Or is it two programmers? Or does the SAC get to choose between just two programs? Is one program, what not to do, and another what to do, and when , and how to do it? Maybe SACs need both programs harmonizing? Is it all these answers?

    So if SACs can be poisoned, infected by toxins, get damaged,  grow old, decay, and malfunction, they can be healed, educated and given immunities and antidotes.

    Your robotic vacuum cleaner that doesn't always register a wall? A TV with a busted Cable input? Radio with bad antenna? Just because a machine senses work, doesn't mean its programming does.

    SACs have little memory & slow processors. Yet their memories can not always be wiped clean & run, but they can always get simple & better programming updates. All just metaphor. I hope I made sense and am not malfunctioning.

     

  20. There is no "free will". What we are and what we become is a matter of luck. There is no good or bad, it all depends on the subjective perspective. Labels are not beneficial to humanity since it makes people concentrate in things that make us different instead of the things that make us equal, that includes labels like christian or atheist. There should only be one label…human.¬†

  21. Point is in no way shape or form are people that aren't literally fucking broken mentally, psychopathic, the whole nineyards, ever rationally free from behaving morally and ethically. It is binding simply because you have the ability to choose. If you remove the ability to choose then yes, this person is just a robot that needs to be switched the fuck off because all the other people who aren't robots are getting murdered by him or her. Now, there are circumstances like The Stanford Prison Experiment that make people do extremely out of character stuff and those situations are in FACT extremely dangerous, they are fundamentally dangerous, remember that. Just the person you are talking to can sometimes change the way you behave. The reality is that we are both deeply affectable and autonomous. We both make decisions and are influenced by decisions. 

  22. I read his latest book, Thinking Pumps and Tools for learning. He is being very nuanced in his argument, which is that framing a thought experiment for philosophical and scientific concept or situation should avoid some particular flaws that are common in intuition pumps. It's a nice read and is much more humbling than this video may come across as. Combining philosophy and science results in frustration for many people.

  23. This really boils down to what you would consider being controlled.  In one instance someone is built like an artificial intelligence might be made with restrictions and limits.  The other is a human being with certain levels of certain hormones and neurons.  

  24. Responsible? No. Should you be held responsible, aka punished? Yes. Punishment is there to either remove you from society, or to correct your character which is what actually determines your actions.

  25. This is like the Framing effect (Kahneman e Tversky).
    It is only a bad thought experiment in the sense that it is constructed to support a view that you don't agree with, for instance, the deterministic view of human behavior. Every thought experiment is an analogy to make a problem simpler or, as you said, more intuitive. Whether the thought experiment supports a correct view of the world is another matter. The important thing is to be aware of these possible biases as you analise a problem.

  26. Seems similar to excuses of growing up in a bad environment or with bad parents. But those points do seem valid given the age and reasoning power of the individual. A 13 year old has a physically different brain, reasoning skills and access to experience and knowledge than say his 23 year old counter part.

    So, the thought experiment seems irrelevant to the intent of the demonstration without accounting for 1) Knowledge and experience of individual 2) Ability to comprehend right and wrong and follow rules. If the scientists only taught Mr. Puppet only wrong things and told him it was right and designed him to be unaware of the difference to right and wrong (which is possible) then we ask, is he responsible for his actions.

    (I'll leave it here before commenting further to get some reactions)

  27. As opposed to all those other thought experiments that are 100% bias free and not created to provoke a particular intuition on which to expose a person to a different way of thinking? 

  28. He spent the entire video using a really long and convoluted analogy to explain something pretty simple.  I get the feeling that he thinks he's smarter than he is.

  29. Yo what if that shit ain't no hokey ( boys from Brazil) you said we got free will what if someone used their free will to make clones

  30. Well that seems like us, seems like all of us are programmed to be a certain way too, should we not be held responsible then?

  31. Every decision you've made in your entire life has led up to this exact moment in this place and time, reading this comment.

  32. I don't understand one aspect of this dissection.

    He says that "the fact that this person was created by evil scientists with evil intent is irrelevant", but I thought that was the core concept of the example, which would be the primary reason for any exemption of responsibility.

    How can you dismiss this important clause?

  33. Am I missing something?
    The original thought experiment I assume sets the parameters that if some "evil doctors" create a person who is inherently bad, then should the doctors should be to blame for "Mr. Puppet's" actions rather than himself, right?

    ¬†Then Mr. Dennet says "First they say the fact that this person was created by evil scientists with evil intent — that's irrelevant to the example really." Well, no? Isn't that the entire crux of the thought experiment? Maybe you can remove "evil" and just say "doctors," but isn't the whole point of the thought experiment to accept that Mr. Puppet has been engineered to be evil? How can you throw that out? Then it does not even become a thought experiment because you've removed the parameters in which it operates.¬†

    Sure, other small details can be changed, such as the title of the doctors or the crime Mr. Puppet committed, but how can you just toss away the initial premise that he was engineered to do evil and still call it an equivalent thought experiment?

    Premise – Assume Person A is created to do evil.
    Now remove the fact that Person A was created to do evil.
    How is that following with the thought experiment?

  34. Take a shot every time he says "intuition pump" instead of "thought experiment". Someone's trying to sell a book, lol

  35. The one adjustment to this thought experiment he should have made, he didn't. It would have been way more interesting to contrast with the morality angle. If a group of benevolent doctors created a Mr. Puppet to behave altruistically and he did a good deed, should he be rewarded, or does the praise go to them? Now change Mr. puppet into a robot. Did your answer change? The difference is the choosing to do good, which the original experiment is too simple to conclude upon. If it had been a more complex situation, like rescuing someone that would die a minute later at the cost of his own life, Mr. Puppet would be "better" to abstain from the good deed so that he could do greater good down the road, but that would be a choice (or calculation in the case of the robot swap).

  36.  Even by stripping all the "intuition pumping" details, the argument is the same. At 3:41 he says "An indifferent environment happens to produce an individual who, with high probability, will engage in some criminal activities." Nowhere in that statement is the culpability of the subject demonstrated, even if his name "happens to be" Captain Autonomy.

  37. Ironically Dennett says the first example leads to people intuitively agreeing with determinism, where as his modified example probably doesn't.  But isn't the notion that people can be manipulated into thinking a conclusion further support for determinism?   

  38. No one can pay for crime done, it has been done, the murder victim is dead, nothing will reverse that fact, no amount of punishment will. Therefore punishment is moot. The only thing one can do which has tangible benefits is to convert that murderer into a productive member of society. That is the purpose of civilized judicial systems like the Norwegian one. 

  39. these details alter the experiment too much. The point was made that they designed a monster. It could be the worst environment imaginable. Good or bad a crime.

  40. The original experiment combines environment with born as. assumes evil will remain. A manufactured evil is a product of its creators if no original thoughts.

  41. I'd say the more depressing thing is that, in reality, people use their free will to choose not to exercise it

  42. Saying someone shouldn't be held responsible doesn't mean that their behavior wasn't wrong. We want those behaviors fixed, or removed from society, and part of the process is stripping away the sentimentality associated with the idea of "free will".

  43. Can anyone explain to me why the evil intent of the scientists is irrelevent? It seems to me that that is the pivotal argument for the responsability of the mister puppet, since it is in that case a different instance of  "evil free will" that has caused "evil free will".

  44. It seems to me that science has already answered this question. A portion of behavior can be attributed to genetics. A portion can be attributed to past and current environment. A portion cannot be accounted for by these two things. It is that last portion that we can sometimes use to, over time, overcome the other two. Call it free will or a box of chickens, it doesn't matter because it lets us have the same effect to overcome our circumstance.

  45. I think it all boils down to just how skilled those evil doctors are. There's also a question of what emotions they tap into, and exploit – anger? greed? lust? Depending on their skills, plus the role they play in raising this child afterwards, they could be completely responsible, as Captain Autonomy would be insane.

  46. Yeah I can't agree with Dennet on this one. The only thing he need have said is, if this person has the ability to be as rational as any other human being as was said to be the case in the original example. They would know that society views those things as wrong and that they shouldn't do them. If the scientists have created a person that is this way, than all parties are responsible. The "scientists" that did it, as well as what they created.

  47. its basically an argument for the legal system to consider the notion of free will even if there is no free will in the scientific ontology, okay, well i agree its time to consider psychological and sociological and yes also biological knowledge as far as to how to fulfill philosophical vision not how to consider psychological/sociological/biological in order to justify one vision over another, yes accountability as it stands today is dependent on free will but neither accountability nor free will is a vision
    that should guide the law

  48. Opening statement is completely empty. The scientific method is to be as clean as possible but we don't actually make that statement about ourselves. Quite the opposite if you consider that we have others check our work constantly and long before we go to the wide public with it.
    And anybody who ever did a scientific project will know that advertising it when going public is a central part of writing your article. We certainly aren't above it, however, most of us (by my experience) don't enjoy clouding the actual work with colourful words as much. Most would rather stick to the precise description because it is easier to be accurate when you don't try to promote something. You also have no need of repeating yourself, which is annoying but central to advertising.
    If you try to put something out there without having memorable names your boss or bossboss (who usually is closer to marketing than to scientific research) will hold you back and make you insert advertising.

    Did it have anything to do with the rest of his talk? And what was the intent of his talk? Too much err for me to follow him.

  49. Im sorry for being a generic youtube commenter, but this guy is an idiot.He changes the nature of the cause and proclaims there is no difference between man-made and naturaly created objects,yet his moral standpoint is that of a human being.

  50. The topic aside, I wish philosophers controlled their verbiage. Dennett just spent six minutes telling us that the way you frame something influences how people perceive it, which is an unnecessarily long time for a simple concept.

  51. Either you agree with free will or you don't.  Adjectives do not matter.  Both of this thought experiments are silly.  The more important question is that even if people do not have free-will, should we punish them anyway (my opinion is yes).  After all deterrents are part of 'the environment' and alter people's behavior even if they don't have free will.  People behave so much like they have free will it becomes incredibly useful to think of them like they do and treat them like they do.  Maybe it isn't worth noting, but I will anyway:  whether free will actually exists in every argument that I've seen has always come down to semantics.

  52. If you think that because as humans we are intelligent enough to understand how cause and effect dictates (to some degree) what occurs we are free from accountability you are sorely mistaken.  Dennett has made a fine point here.  The utter ridiculousness and arrogance of anyone who states definitively that free will does not exist is laughable. 
    ¬† First of all, in order to make such a declaration- that free will¬†does not exist-¬†one must concededly believe that he or she has every data point necessary in calculating whether or not an individual is entrapped within an endless progression of cause and effect.¬† It is the same as claiming omniscience.¬†¬†By the way- if you believe that the linear and traceable quality of cause and effect is paramount and that free will is an illusion, then why do you not believe Thomas Aquinas when he uses the exact same argument to prove the existence of God??¬†¬†Hypocrites…¬† You know who you are!!!

  53. Right, the "Puppet" may have been brought up under different environments (poor or wealthy) but with the same personal characteristics, yet s/he would and should still be held responsible for their anti-social behavior.  Dennett implies that we tend to excuse criminals from poor environments more ready than wealthy ones.  I can see that.  Unless they are severely retarded, no one is born in a complete vacuum.  At some point one becomes aware of whats' truly socially permissible and what isn't.   Otherwise, for example, I should be able to walk down the street, slit some asshole's throat and walk away without and fear what so ever of social repercussion.  But it's true, no one ever behaves that way, unless they don't care Рbut they still know.

  54. Well of course the original pump's intuitive conclusion was wrong. The conclusion is that this being of compulsive evil-doing is not responsible for his actions is absurd. Programmed or not, either by nature (cloned to do evil) or by nurture (set in an environment that fosters evil behavior), it doesn't matter – the crimes come from the individual, therefore the individual must be put in a position where the crimes are either no longer possible or highly unlikely, IE, prison or some sort of social rehabilitation or some other practical repercussion that is adequate to the crimes committed.

  55. Instead of providing an argument for the existence of free will, Dennett has again committed the appeal to consequence fallacy (argumentum ad consequentiam). I think he has come to accept that free will is merely an illusion but is concerned about the implications of this notion becoming widespread. Moreover, Dennett created a false dichotomy by arguing "either we have free will or nobody is accountable for anything". Individuals should not be imprisoned for punishment/justice, but rather as a deterrent and a way to segregate potentially dangerous individuals from society. 

  56. I get it. It ventures on the obsurd to state someone is not responsible of their own actions, it was their circumstance. Well anyone could use that ad infinitum for anything to the beginning of time. For example blaming the fact that he was born in the first place as the reason why he was there to commit the crime. Not to mention the fact to put blame on a circumstance would indicate the need to correct or punish the said circumstance which cannot be done since it was already done. Like blaming the thought of murder as the criminal and not the criminal who holds the thought. Now in his example you could blame the creator of said killer, but only for a different crime such as the person who hires another to kill for them.

  57. TLDW: Daniel Dennett – "The Brazilian boys thought experiment implicates that no person is responsible for immoral behavior. I don't think this is true and therefore conclude the thought experiment is bad."

  58. It actually doesn't matter if he is "responsible" or not. If he commits crimes and murders people, then he is a danger for the rest of us and thus we should jail him. It's actually not harder than that.

  59. This type of problem is only relevant to those who haven't bothered to learn there history or there definitions. Responsibility and culpability (deserving of blame, for those who won't look it up) has effectively been a solved issue. I don't feel the need to say any more, if your interested in this any and every law book ever works fundamentally with this issue. I suppose those that focus on punishment only do so fleetingly but it is still there.

    The two divergent stories (and that is what they are, most things are, realy) are not the same in the slightest, details matter. Always have and always will. Just because Green and Choan has stated there theory applies as an analogy to the way the brain works does not mean the circumstances are irrelevant. Dennett's re-telling is a farce.

  60. I will explain. Dennet says certain specifics of the thought experiment are irrelevant. Here's why. The thought experiment by the neuroscientists was an intuition pump to lend credence to determinism. If there is only determinism then evil doesn't exist and is only an illusion. So that leaves no evil doctors, and no evil puppet to do evil that doesn't exist.

    I respect the field of neuroscience, but that was pretty bad. Besides. Who didn't notice the name Mr. Puppet is the b.s. condiment of the whole rethoric sandwich?

  61. Minor side issue… Dennett made an error in considering the option of exonerating the 'guilty' person when he asked 'does this mean he is not responsible and shouldn't be punished?'

    Responsibility and punishment are separate issues. Yes, a completely deranged person beyond self control is not responsible, he is irresponsible by definition. But, of course, you don't leave a violent psychopath on the streets.

  62. Pretty definitive proof that a hypothetical can't refute another hypothetical. Asking "shouldn't he be held responsible" seems to be all that is sufficient in Dennett's mind to justify the existence of free will (a concept utterly and systematically debunked by Sam Harris).

  63. Intuition pump? Does the concept of a thought experiment really need Dennett's new branding? What point does the new label serve aside from the man's own claim to it? Regardless, if were speaking in terms of freewill as opposed to determination based in causation, which packaging aside we definitely are, no one regardless of circumstance is freely responsible for their actions. Dennett has no real refute of the central concept. This is 6 minutes of self promotion and defensive deflection.

  64. Does a correlation exist between the use of pronouns and the probability of straw-man argumentation?

    Because I've never heard Prof Dennette speak in such generic terms as he has here. What was his point… to tell us his favorite bad-thought-experiment, by saying "them" and "they" who have it all wrong?

    Did I miss his supporting evidence?  Seems like Dennett dissected nothing. Did he blather so much vagueness in his past?

  65. Some people seem to think that Dennett is making unfounded assumptions (like the fact that "Mr. Puppet" was created by evil scientists is irrelevant) when in fact it is the authors of the thought experiment which he is criticizing who are making these assumptions. The authors are using the thought experiment to say that we all are like Mr. Puppet and Dennett disagrees and says if you change these "details" which the authors say are irrelevant (they must be for the thought experiment to work) we don't come to the same conclusion.

  66. It's funny that he talked about the effort by scientists/philosophers to come up with catchy "trademark" phrases and such since he has attempted to re-label the term "thought experiment" as "intuition pump".  Near the end, his example assumes that a Harvard graduate would somehow never manage to learn societies general moral and legal expectations.  This is, of course, gibberish; nowhere on the path to (or through) Harvard is likely to meet the "morally indifferent" qualifier of the original thought experiment.  I'd expect better than a Straw Man from such an accomplished thinker.

  67. Wittgenstein said it better. It's cute when empiricists try to philosophize and obfuscate ideas that have already been handled by their betters.

  68. Dennett is the living proof that philosophy still matters. Understanding the pitfalls of language and logic, philosophy provides you with a framework. I like both Sam Harris and Dan Dennett and their "fight" is a joy for those who wish to understand more about how we can improve our thinking skills far beyond our empirical knowledge. Thank you, Dan!

  69. I feel like the game changer is tha fact that "Mr Puppet" is artificially designed to commit evil, whereas "Cpt. Autonomy" is 'in a situation where he might be prone to behave antisocial"; in the end mr Dennet just put a lot of attention on details he himself claimed to be irrelevant, to change one that is vital to the whole reasoning, if I got that right..
    Nonetheless an interesting video

  70. Dennett is wrong. The thought experiment as he described it was a thought experiment. It is a test/explanation of moral reasoning, and as such, it is only useful if it puts your moral reasoning to the test. The whole point of the thought experiment is to SEE IF YOU CAN imagine a hypothetical scenario in which your moral reasoning doesn't seem to hold up. Using "irrelevant" details to create the scenario doesn't make it a bad thought experiment. In fact, if one can show that all you have to do is change immaterial details about a situation in order to cast doubt upon a moral belief that was thought to be common sense, then it is a very good thought experiment because it shows there is more discussion that needs to be had.
    Since most people consider it self-evident that crime must be punished, "The Boys from Brazil" is a good moral thought experiment because it challenges that notion. It certainly doesn't prove conclusively that crime shouldn't be punished, but it shows that the prevailing moral belief deserves more consideration than most people give. Dennett's version of the thought experiment, which is designed to provoke a response that most people already think is the right one, is a bad thought experiment because it only provokes the same thoughts most people have anyway.

  71. I value the disagreement between Harris and Dennett a lot. Having different opinions is what has gotten us this far. However, when someone is as CLEARLY wrong as Dennett, they should admit it…. It boggles the mind how much he has missed Harris' point.

  72. But was Hitler psychotic? I thought he had a high degree of charisma and excelled at public speaking, but I do not recall any report of him being mean spirited or diabolical as a child, nor of being more than politically active and thinking like many Germans of his day in who to blame and what to do about it. Without recreating every iota of little Adolf's life up until adulthood (as in the novel) he could grow up to be any number of type of person unlike the figurehead of World War Two. It is nature AND nurture, not one or the other. I dismiss the entire premise that Mr. Puppet/Captain Autonomy would be incapable of embracing any personal philosophy other than that of the person from whom he is cloned. Really, can philosophies be genetic?

  73. I agree with Dennett, though some of his changes felt unwarranted (for lack of a better word) to me, a layman. I think free will does not exist and that we shouldn't think in terms of punishment, but rather threat removal. I always felt like any notion of what people "deserve" falls apart in the absence of agency. But I have no training in philosophy‚ÄēI haven't even read any philosophy books at this point‚Äēso I may just be making a fool of myself.

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