The art of giving a fuck

I think that something major gets lost in the whole “determinism vs. free will” debate and that is that there really is a very clear difference between animals, which don’t have any, and people who obviously have something that animals lack and can certainly be called “free will”.

For example, trying to get my dog to decide if he wants to be outside or inside. After messing about with it for a while, acting like I’m going to close the door and then not…I realized/remembered that he’s just reacting to stimulus and simply has no opinion on the matter whatsoever.

It’s true that humans are also simply reacting to stimulus, but we actually have preferences regarding that stimulus. I might want to be outside, or I might want to be inside. Right now it is raining, I feel lazy…I want to be inside. The dog doesn’t have any preference. He may as well be out as in. It’s all on me, do I want him inside, where he knows how to behave and stay in his corner…or outside where he has to be watched. Inside it is!

I think it is hard for us to imagine what that is like, if anything. The best we might come up with I think is being “on the fence” about an issue….or maybe not really giving a fuck. But the difference is that the dog CAN’T give a fuck…he doesn’t have the ability to give a fuck. His brain simply doesn’t have a give a fuck center like ours does. The ability to give a fuck, and to act on that giving of a fuck, I think is reasonably worded as having “free will” though admittedly could be as easily worded as an ability to plan, forsee and prefer (is there a difference?).



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3 responses to “The art of giving a fuck

  1. Hans Ewetz

    Just happened to stumble on your blog (which is great by the way!) while looking up some C++ stuff.

    I’m not sure where to start here … there are just too many convoluted mix-ups in your thinking. I’m wondering what you did to your dog that turned him into such a passive decision maker … I never had such problems with my dog … he did have as much of a ‘give a fuck center’ in his brain as any person of the age of 6 or 7 … 

    Seriously, reading up on Dennett’s thoughts (Freedom evolves, Darwin’s dangerous idea, Consciousness Explained’, etc.) is a MUST for ppl interested in free will. It takes a while to wrap the head around the idea that determinism does not take away the concept that we call ‘free will’ (would you have free will if shit just happened randomly?) but its well worth it.

    I can’t see that the idea of ‘free will’ is directly related to ‘planning’. A machine not having what most people would classify as ‘free will’ might be able to plan better than most ppl. The opposite is also true: having ‘free will’ does not automatically give you the ability to plan.

    I’ll toss in my ten cents thoughts about free will: I don’t believe having free will is a binary thing. Just as with consciousness, I believe there are different levels and different types of free will. The whole idea that ppl are somehow completely different than animals is a rather pompous suggestion. We all evolved in the same environment and developed capabilities that are VERY similar between us and many animals. Just because the result of our capabilities enables us to do stuff that animals cannot do does not imply that animals do not have some variation of what we call ‘free will’.

    • I’ve read a lot of Dennett. Almost everything he’s written in fact.

      • Hans ewetz

        I noticed that when I browsed through your blog – one of the few interesting ones. My point was simply that your observation of your dogs behavior – at least the way you described it – does not in any way support your claim (even though it is entire possible that you are correct).

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