A growing stable of quotes.

The problem with free will is that we keep dwelling on it. Really, this has to stop.

— Owen D. Jones, The End of Discussing Free Will, March 18, 2012

When contemporary philosophers are willing to posit miracles in order to save moral responsibility, the philosophical belief in moral responsibility obviously runs deep and strong.

— Bruce Waller, The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility

We have a built-in, very potent hair-trigger tendency to find agency in things that are not agents, like snow falling off the roof.

— Daniel Dennett, NY Times 1/22/06, Questions for Daniel C. Dennett about his book Breaking the Spell : Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, The Nonbeliever

Compatibilism amounts to nothing more than an assertion of the following creed: A puppet is free as long as he loves his strings.

— Sam Harris, Free Will, First Free trade paperback, March 2012, p. 20 (author’s italics)

Every belief, every considering-something true, is necessarily false because there is simply no true world.

— Freidrich Nietzsche, Will to Power [Notes: 15 Spring-Fall 1887], Vintage Books Edition, September, 1968, p. 14 (translater’s italics)

How can that man be called quite free at the same point of time and in regard to the same action in which and in regard to which he is nevertheless subject to an unavoidable natural necessity? It is a wretched subterfuge to seek to evade this by saying that the kind of determining grounds of his causality in accordance with natural law agrees with a comparative concept of freedom, according to which that is sometimes called a free effect, the determining natural ground of which lies within the acting being.

— Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, (Trans. Mary Gregor, 2015) p. 20, 5:96 (translater’s italics)

A man can do what he wants, but not will what he wants.

— Albert Einstein’s misquote of Arnold Schopenhauer

Der Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will.

— Albert Einstein’s misquote of Arnold Schopenhauer

You do what you do, in any given situation, because of the way you are.

So in order to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are—at least in certain crucial mental respects.

But you cannot be ultimately responsible for the way you are in any respect at all.

So you cannot be ultimately responsible for what you do.

— Galen Strawson

If we are responsible and if what if I’m and what and if what I’m trying to say is true then we have a prerogative which some would attribute only to God each of us when we really act freely is a prime unmoved mover. In doing what we do, we cause certan events to happen, and nothing—or no one—causes us to cause those events to happen.

— Roderick Chisolm

There is—and has always been—an arms race between persuaders and their targets or intended victims, and folklore is full of tales of innocents being taken in by the blandishments of sharp talkers. This folklore is part of the defence we pass on to our children, so they will become adept at guarding against it. We don’t want our children to become puppets! If neuroscientists are saying that it is no use—we are already puppets, controlled by the environment, they are making a big, and potentially harmful mistake. . . . we [Dennett and Erasmus] both share the doctrine that free will is an illusion is likely to have profoundly unfortunate consequences if not rebutted forcefully.

—Dan Dennett, Erasmus: Sometimes a Spin Doctor is Right (Erasmus Prize Essay)

If nobody is responsible, not really, then not only should the prisons be emptied, but no contract is valid, mortgages should be abolished, and we can never hold anybody to account for anything they do.  Preserving “law and order” without a concept of real responsibility is a daunting task.

—Dan Dennett, “Reflections on Free Will” (naturalism.org)

We no longer have any sympathy today with the concept of ‘free will’: we know only too well what it is — the most infamous of all the arts of the theologian for making mankind ‘accountable’… Everywhere accountability is sought, it is usually the instinct for punishing and judging which seeks it… the doctrine of will has been invented essentially for the purpose of punishment, that is of finding guilty.

— Friedriich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols: ‘The Four Great Errors’, 7

Even the moral sceptic is not immune from his own form of the wish to over-intellectualize such notions as those of moral responsibility, guilt, and blame. He sees that the optimist’s account is inadequate and the pessimist’s libertarian alternative inane; and finds no resource except to declare that the notions in question are inherently confused, that ‘blame is metaphysical’.


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