What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

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Dimmesdale
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What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

Post #1

Post by Dimmesdale »

I have been thinking recently about good and evil, and how to judge whether a person as a whole, as well as in a given instance, is good, evil, in neutrality, or some combination of all three.

After mowing the lawn today, it occurred to me that that could be an apt example of what I mean.

My decision to mow the lawn was something I took upon myself. I did it of my own free will. And, if you break down the activity of mowing the lawn, it has a number of parts. As far as I can see, I can parse the activity into the following: deciding upon the action, initiating it, doing it, following through on it, and concluding it. These aspects highlight the nature of goodness in man.

First is, as I have said, the freedom, the choice, to do an action. Any action. Without this preliminary motion of the will, nothing worth doing can be done or may be done. There is no moral value to the action. Even desisting from a bad action is itself a good, virtuous action, and draws its strength from the storehouse of moral free will, and not mere random or mindless action. So is committing to doing the same action over and over again. That requires discipline, but before that, in the bud so to speak, there exists the first motion of the will, to start, to begin, to act in a specific way, with a moral objective.

So my deciding to do an action is part of the moral world. It is not merely a will-o-the-wisp. It runs against the grain of immorality, for example. Say, indolence. Or some other form of resistance. Perhaps cowardice. Even if there is no resistance, so long as one makes a specifically moral action, one is asserting his moral being. Because it does not have no meaning. It follows on the heels of an objective. And that cannot be understated. Without it, an action cannot be birthed, as it were, ex nihilo.

Next, is initiating the action. This may be conflated with deciding to do an action, but it is not the same. When it comes down to actually doing the activity, the deciding is necessary but not sufficient. Deciding surely does initiate in the sense that one commits to doing the action, but it has to be initiated in yet another way. The real initiation is finalizing the act by starting it. By fulfilling the promise, by making good on the commitment. This shows that one is serious. Initiation is concrete. Deciding upon is theoretical. Both are required, but they are not one and the same.

(continuing....)

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

Post #11

Post by Dimmesdale »

To bluegreenearth,

I can define a decision as free in another way, that eschews randomness: by applying the categories of good and evil.

If a decision is either/or, that is, good or evil, then if I CHOOSE to be good, then I define MYSELF as good. And conversely, if I CHOOSE to be evil, then I define MYSELF as evil. So in the action of choice, I as it were ratify to myself an identity which I then own. And how can that be random? It has meaning, and so cannot be random. This is because good and evil have meaning. It isn't like a neutral, meaningless decision such as "Taco Bell or Burger King" (not to say that it isn't more moral to eschew both) but you get the picture.

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

Post #12

Post by bluegreenearth »

Dimmesdale wrote: Sat Jul 18, 2020 9:34 amI still disagree. I think that that is a false equivalence you are making, and that it doesn't do justice to the phenomenology of "deciding." When I decide something (specifically of my own free will), I do not merely look to reasons. Not all the time at least. I will admit that very often this is the case, when I am committed, for example, to doing things in a strictly "logical" manner (for example, in being as impartial a judge as I can be in a certain matter.) In that case I may as well be unconscious and "objective" - not looking to myself. But when it comes to for example, whether I want to help someone or not, where the reasons either/or are even or beside the point, there is a third ingredient, besides reasons or randomness. That is my own endorsement. My initiative. My right, to help or not to help. I do not see any reason to mark this off as illusion, anymore than the world is a dream or illusion. You can say it is an illusion, but that is not proof.
You ether have a reason for wanting to help someone or you have no reason. It is impossible for the reason to be besides the point because there is always a conscious or unconscious reason for wanting to take an action. I've been a parent long enough to know that nobody wants to do something for no reason, even when "no reason" is given as the excuse. If someone cannot identify a reason for wanting or not wanting to do something, then it is due to a lack of trying. For example, the reason a person might want to help someone else is because they were raised in culture that has learned the benefits of reciprocal altruism. Sure, a person has the right to help or not help, but there will always be a reason behind that individual's endorsement of the decision to help or not help. So, the answer to the question "What reason did I have for wanting to endorse the decision to help?" is the determining factor for the decision to help.
Dimmesdale wrote: Sat Jul 18, 2020 9:34 amI would still maintain that my own right to exercise my power of freedom is a third ingredient, besides either "randomness" or "reasons." I will admit though that this may go beyond some people's heads, who have no idea of what "sovereignty" is or can't grasp it.
You certainly have your own right to exercise your own power to make decisions, but those decisions you make are either determined by reasons (conscious or unconscious) or are randomly determined. It is under that compatibilist framework that the concept of sovereignty is able to exist.

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

Post #13

Post by Dimmesdale »

bluegreenearth wrote: Sat Jul 18, 2020 1:38 pm You either have a reason for wanting to help someone or you have no reason.
Freedom does have a reason, but it is completely different in kind from "reasons" - that is, utilitarian or pragmatic or calculative reasons which weigh "matters" - bearing on the "content" of the decision in question. Freedom is a "law unto itself" - that is, it bears on the "form" of the decision, the ground or underlying principle behind it. And so freedom is self-determining, but it is not "set" or "fixed" the way a merely utilitarian reason is. It is indeterminate, but it still follows a principle; namely, itself. The principle of freedom relies on the person's voluntarily choosing. It is not random either because one CARES about his or her choice. If it was simply the matter of a coin-flip, nobody would care. But the very fact that we do care about specifically moral choices proves that they are not random; they are undergirded by the principle of freedom.

To sum up:

If a decision were truly random, nobody would care, because randomness is blind, and humans are not blind, nor do they want to be.

AND

If a decision were only utilitarian it would be morally meaningless, in fact amoral (as far as decisions have moral force, which practically we see people value).

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

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Post by Dimmesdale »

bluegreenearth wrote: Sat Jul 18, 2020 1:38 pm You either have a reason for wanting to help someone or you have no reason.
Freedom does have a reason, but it is completely different in kind from "reasons" - that is, utilitarian or pragmatic or calculative reasons which weigh "matters" - bearing on the "content" of the decision in question. Freedom is a "law unto itself" - that is, it bears on the "form" of the decision, the ground or underlying principle behind it. And so freedom is self-determining, but it is not "set" or "fixed" the way a merely utilitarian reason is. It is, in a sense, indeterminate, but it still follows a principle; namely, itself. The principle of freedom relies on the person's voluntarily choosing. It is not random either because one CARES about his or her choice. If it was simply the matter of a coin-flip, nobody would care. But the very fact that we do care about specifically moral choices proves that they are not random; they are undergirded by the principle of freedom.

To sum up:

If a decision were truly random, nobody would care, because randomness is blind, and humans are not blind, nor do they want to be.

AND

If a decision were only utilitarian it would be morally meaningless, in fact amoral (as far as decisions have moral force, which practically we see people value).

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

Post #15

Post by bluegreenearth »

Dimmesdale wrote: Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:47 pmFreedom does have a reason, but it is completely different in kind from "reasons" - that is, utilitarian or pragmatic or calculative reasons which weigh "matters" - bearing on the "content" of the decision in question. Freedom is a "law unto itself" - that is, it bears on the "form" of the decision, the ground or underlying principle behind it. And so freedom is self-determining, but it is not "set" or "fixed" the way a merely utilitarian reason is. It is indeterminate, but it still follows a principle; namely, itself.
Freedom is a concept, and not every concept can be demonstrated to have an existence outside the brains that conceive them. For instance, my ability to conceive of a naturally blue apple doesn't function as sufficient evidence to demonstrate the existence of a naturally blue apple in the external world. Meanwhile, some concepts could potentially refer to things that do have an existence in realty. The concept of an apple that has been painted blue could potentially exist in the external world and would be demonstrated to exist by observing an apple painted blue. However, the claim that libertarian freewill maps onto realty in the same way has never been demonstrated. If it had, there would no longer be any debates about the issue. It would just be sufficient to simply demonstrate where libertarian freewill exists in realty and call it a day.
Dimmesdale wrote: Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:47 pmThe principle of freedom relies on the person's voluntarily choosing. It is not random either because one CARES about his or her choice. If it was simply the matter of a coin-flip, nobody would care. But the very fact that we do care about specifically moral choices proves that they are not random; they are undergirded by the principle of freedom.
The concept of libertarian freewill relies on people having the ability to voluntarily make a choice where that voluntary choice is neither determined by a reason (conscious or unconscious) nor randomly determined. However, what third option do I have when voluntarily making a choice when the other two options are for me to decide a certain way because I was convinced by some reason to endorse that particular decision (i.e. determined by a reason) or to decide a certain way for no reason (i.e. randomly determined)? Without being able to identify what that third option is, the claim is basically that libertarian freewill relies on people having the libertarian freewill to make a choice. Obviously, that is a tautology and doesn't do anything to demonstrate where libertarian freewill actually exists in reality.
Dimmesdale wrote: Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:47 pmTo sum up:

If a decision were truly random, nobody would care, because randomness is blind, and humans are not blind, nor do they want to be.

AND

If a decision were only utilitarian it would be morally meaningless, in fact amoral (as far as decisions have moral force, which practically we see people value).
Yes, randomly determined decisions require no reasons behind them. We have the capacity to allow a choice to be randomly determined by simply disregarding whatever reasons we might otherwise have for making a particular choice. However, the decision to allow a choice to be randomly determined is itself a choice that was determined by a reason (ex. easier than having to compare the reasons for choosing one way or the other) for which the decider could potentially be held morally accountable depending on the nature of the decision and the objective consequences. Meanwhile, we also have the capacity to become convinced by some reason to make a particular decision or choice rather than allow the choice to be randomly determined. In those circumstances, there is no demonstrable ability to choose if we are going to be convinced by a given reason to endorse a particular decision or not. We are either convinced by a reason or we are not. When we are convinced that a given reason is sufficient for us to endorse a particular decision, then our subsequent decision was determined by that convincing reason.

Now, it is possible someone could be convinced that a given reason is a sufficient justification for choosing one way over another and still make the other choice. Unfortunately, though, this doesn't demonstrate libertarian freewill because the person's choice would just have been determined by a more convincing reason, even if it went against the other convincing reason. For example, if I am convinced that choosing to eat a healthy dinner instead of fast food is the more reasonable decision, I could still choose to eat fast food. In this scenario, though, the convenience of not having to cook was a more convincing reason in that moment. As such, my decision to purchase fast food was determined by the more convincing reason in that moment. I couldn't choose to not be more convinced by that reason.

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

Post #16

Post by Miles »

Dimmesdale wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:55 pm I have been thinking recently about good and evil, and how to judge whether a person as a whole, as well as in a given instance, is good, evil, in neutrality, or some combination of all three.

After mowing the lawn today, it occurred to me that that could be an apt example of what I mean.

My decision to mow the lawn was something I took upon myself. I did it of my own free will. And, if you break down the activity of mowing the lawn, it has a number of parts. As far as I can see, I can parse the activity into the following: deciding upon the action, initiating it, doing it, following through on it, and concluding it. These aspects highlight the nature of goodness in man.

First is, as I have said, the freedom, the choice, to do an action. Any action. Without this preliminary motion of the will, nothing worth doing can be done or may be done. There is no moral value to the action.
The thing is, there's always the question of "why" lurking behind everything you do, including the decisions you make. "Whys" whose answers eventually expose your will as bereft of any freedom. And this confirms your observation that there is no moral value to the action. Without an ability to do differently, to make an actual choice, you're at the mercy of all the determining factors that led up to the moment of any doing. They, and they alone, made you mow the lawn. Just as a rock can't help where it lies, you can't help do what you're made to do. Choice is simply an illusion, and as such cannot be held to any moral standard.

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

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Post by Dimmesdale »

Miles wrote: Sat Jul 18, 2020 10:06 pm
The thing is, there's always the question of "why" lurking behind everything you do, including the decisions you make. "Whys" whose answers eventually expose your will as bereft of any freedom. And this confirms your observation that there is no moral value to the action. Without an ability to do differently, to make an actual choice, you're at the mercy of all the determining factors that led up to the moment of any doing. They, and they alone, made you mow the lawn. Just as a rock can't help where it lies, you can't help do what you're made to do. Choice is simply an illusion, and as such cannot be held to any moral standard.

.
There is always a why. But that why is not always merely calculative, seeking tangible reasons "out there" in the world. This should be clear: in the case of a decision where there is a clear demarcation of good versus evil, and assuming you have freedom, you can fall on one side or the other, and this has nothing to do with calculation of any kind but how YOU wish to define yourself. So no, I don't see it. You have free will in such an instance. You can say it is "random" but, even if you define it somehow as such, it still has meaning, because it comes from YOU.

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

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Post by Dimmesdale »

Anyway, actually I never even intended this thread to be about free will! It was more about, virtue ethics I suppose.

It's the idea that there is more to being good than a simple "motion" of the will. It entails not just what you do, but how you do it. What goes into your actions.

I used the example of mowing the lawn to demonstrate how multifaceted is even such a simple action. That you can break it down into parts that have varying degrees of meaning.

An even better example might be a golf swing. A truly masterful golf swing takes a lot of practice and effort. It may be done in a short amount of time but it requires a lifetime of dedication.

People nowadays think that being a good person simply involves following the rules. Not treading on anyone's rights. But unless you are the master of your own house, treading on other people's toes or rights may come as a matter of course whether you like it or not. If you are by nature selfish and self-centered, that crosses over into your dealings with people. You may think you are the captain of your own ship, but for that same reason you may not want to cooperate with the rest of the fleet. And that ends badly.

Virtue is like a garden. Virtue is something to be cultivated by using everything in your personal tool-box: prayer, mindfulness, dedication, experimentation, service, determination, perseverance, loyalty. If you do not work hard and buffet your body and soul to be a good person, you will cave to treading on other people's toes even if you think you never will. You then deceive yourself. Unless you keep yourself at a certain pitch, you will someday fall down, and morally at that. Thus we are responsible over our own lives as well as what we do with it in relation to others.' There's no going around it.

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

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Post by Miles »

Dimmesdale wrote: Sun Jul 19, 2020 12:24 pm
There is always a why. But that why is not always merely calculative, seeking tangible reasons "out there" in the world. This should be clear: in the case of a decision where there is a clear demarcation of good versus evil, and assuming you have freedom, you can fall on one side or the other, and this has nothing to do with calculation of any kind but how YOU wish to define yourself.
And here's where the "why" question arises, again. Why do you wish to define yourself as you do? Is there a "because"behind it or is your wish utterly random in nature?
So no, I don't see it. You have free will in such an instance. You can say it is "random" but, even if you define it somehow as such, it still has meaning, because it comes from YOU.
And no one is saying your thought, be it a wish or a conclusion of some kind, doesn't come from YOU. What's being said is that either there's a reason (cause) for it, or it arise purely at random. And if it's the result of a cause the question then is why that cause rather than some other? AND, if there's some cause for that cause then why that reason (cause) rather than some other. Thing is, it's turtles all the way down, and the turtles aren't exchangeable; they are what they are.

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Re: What is (or constitutes) a "good will?"

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Post by Miles »

Dimmesdale wrote: Sun Jul 19, 2020 2:50 pm Anyway, actually I never even intended this thread to be about free will! It was more about, virtue ethics I suppose.

It's the idea that there is more to being good than a simple "motion" of the will. It entails not just what you do, but how you do it. What goes into your actions.
But wouldn't being good automatically entail how it's done? If an act isn't done properly, or whatever, it wouldn't matter what the "simple motion" (intentions?) is. By default it would fail to be good.

Question: What if someone does something that results in a "good," although the "simple motion" (intention?) was not? Is the result still virtuous?

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