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November 13, 2023


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Sorry, Brian, but I find myself disagreeing, squarely. That’s just compounding a fallaciously begged question --- an argument that begins and ends with an unstated assumption --- with a No True Scotsman!


The assumption (which is what the argument amounts to) is that one “should not” want retribution against an entity that one believes is not possessed of free will; and further, there’s this implicit assumption that one “should” want retribution against an entity that one believes is indeed possessed of free will.

I question both those assumptions. I find both those assumptions fallacious. (At least not until the assumptions are clearly defended. If the argument can actually be defended, if both these assumptions can actually be defended, then let me actually see that defense spelled out clearly; and if the defense holds, then I’ll be happy to concede the issue, and to agree.)

And further, when specific instances are pointed out where these assumptions do not in fact hold, then it is claimed that these are aberrations from the ideal (an ideal which itself is a completely unsubstantiated assumption). When it is shown that there are cases where one might, despite not believing in free will, still want retribution: well then that’s passed off as Not a True Scotsman, as an aberration from the ideal. And although it isn’t spelled out here, but I suppose there’s the further implicit argument that in specific instances where belief in free will results in strict abjuring of retribution, as with the Jains, as well as other proponents of Karmic beliefs, well then I suppose that is handwaved away as well as Not a True Scotsman, as an aberration from the ideal.

Like I said, and as I see it, the argument itself amounts to a fallaciously begged question, essentially an unsubstantiated assumption; which is further compounded by this No True Scotsman fallacy.

Sorry, Brian. I don’t find myself able to agree, at all.


I think what makes retributive justice necessary, in the “should” sense, is not so much a belief in free will per se, nor even a belief in God, but a belief in specifically the vile teachings of the Old Testament Bible, and the vile Jehadic and other intolerant and violent nonsense that Muslims are taught. The New Testament, for those who might subscribe to it exclusively while ignoring the vileness in the Old Testament, is a gentle enough guideline of conduct, by and large. Likewise much of karmic belief systems.

For the rest, it seems to me that a belief in free will is largely incidental to wanting (or not wanting) retributive justice. Not completely unrelated, granted; but by and large incidental, by and large tangential.


(And again, I agree that there’s no free will. I further agree that justice should be rehabilitative and preventive/deterrent, not retributive. I just don’t see belief in the former leading to the latter, or disbelief in the former leading away from the latter, as is being claimed. That’s simply being assumed here, baldly, and the assumption not defended at all: neither the direct assumption, that not having a belief in free will “should” mean that one does not want retributive justice; nor the implicit assumption, that having a belief in free will should mean that one does want retributive justice. And nor, since you point it out, that any of these “shoulds” actually hold up in the real world.)

My question to the atheists still goes a-begging.

The question: "On what basis does human life have value"?

My elaboration of the question: "If we mortals are nothing more than meat and synapses and have absolutely no free will, then on what objective basis does human life have value"?

In response, BH writes " I agree with Appreciative Reader that this is an absurd question. I'll simply observe that most of my friends are atheists. They find value in life via many different ways. These are the same ways religious people find value in life: being of service to others; belonging to a community of people with shared beliefs; feeling part of a whole that is much bigger than oneself; embracing love and friendship."

BH's response doesn't come close to answering the question I posed. Yes, it's obvious that atheists find value in human life. But the question I asked is WHY atheists with hard determinist beliefs find value in life. Why do they find value in life if they REALLY believe what they say about people having no souls, having absolutely no free will, and possessing no more ontological reality than a Blade Hunter replicant?

I suspect that both BH and AR have the notion, common to atheists, that the concept of soul (that is, that each person is more than just a meat puppet, and is actually inherently sacred) was ad hoc cooked up by religion a few thousand years ago. And that the only reason some people believe in soul is that they've been brainwashed by Aquinas or Krishna.

If so, I have a radically different perspective. Both atheists and religious folks actually believe in soul. That is, they believe that each living person has an ontological value far beyond their material components.

That's because everyone (with the exception of true sociopaths) knows this to be OBVIOUS. Everyone knows that other people aren't just blood and pus and bones. They KNOW their neighbor isn't a fleshy robot, a robot that can't choose its own actions, a robot that is just a clever arrangement of material parts thanks to evolution.


The religiously oriented have an objective answer as to why each human life has value.

But the atheist does not have an answer. The atheist has a philosophy that's totally contradictory in respect to their hard determinist theories. Moreover, the atheist doesn't live his life as though his "we are meat with no free will" theory was true.

If your theories don't match your actual beliefs, your theories are wrong.

AR notes that S64 has first complained that AR has sidestepped his question; and then when AR, in response, clearly addressed that question, he (S64) then completely ignored that response, and he's now gone back to repeating again what he's said as if no response was made at all.

AR has not idea what S64 thinks he's doing here, but clearly engaging in reasonable constructive discussion, with a view to arriving at reasonable understanding, is not part of it, not as AR understands it.

No issues, S64. Carry on, why not. I'm simply making note of this now, because you'd complained in the other thread that I've sidestepped your question. Won't get in your way again after this.

Appreciative Reader, naturally you're entitled to your own opinion about whether giving up a belief in free will reasonably implies giving up a desire for punishing people through retributive justice. All I can say is that this contention is well argued by every writer of each book about the free will illusion that I've read, and I agree with them.

On this subject, I can recommend Richard Oerton's "The Nonsense of Free Will." Oerton is a noted lawyer. I've written several posts about his book. In one of them (link below) I shared a mention of researchers who found a link between a desire for punishment and a belief in free will.


Here's the abstract of the study.
Belief in free will is a pervasive phenomenon that has important consequences for prosocial actions and punitive judgments, but little research has investigated why free will beliefs are so widespread. Across 5 studies using experimental, survey, and archival data and multiple measures of free will belief, we tested the hypothesis that a key factor promoting belief in free will is a fundamental desire to hold others morally responsible for their wrongful behaviors. In Study 1, participants reported greater belief in free will after considering an immoral action than a morally neutral one. Study 2 provided evidence that this effect was due to heightened punitive motivations. In a field experiment (Study 3), an ostensibly real classroom cheating incident led to increased free will beliefs, again due to heightened punitive motivations. In Study 4, reading about others’ immoral behaviors reduced the perceived merit of anti-free-will research, thus demonstrating the effect with an indirect measure of free will belief. Finally, Study 5 examined this relationship outside the laboratory and found that the real-world prevalence of immoral behavior (as measured by crime and homicide rates) predicted free will belief on a country level. Taken together, these results provide a potential explanation for the strength and prevalence of belief in free will: It is functional for holding others morally responsible and facilitates justifiably punishing harmful members of society. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

And here's a link to an article based on this study. Interesting that on a country level, a stronger belief in free will is associated with higher murder rates.


However, notwithstanding this research, it's also clear that people hold all sorts of views about free will and punishment/retribution. People are complex. So sometimes a believer in free will doesn't believe in retribution, while sometimes they do. And sometimes a non-believer in free will believes in retribution, while sometimes they do. The human brain/mind is extremely difficult to predict, being the product of so many influences.

The problem with the dichotomy of free will and its intersection with that of retributive justice has a lot to do with a third element: Locus of control.

And all three are entirely dependent upon what one believes of them.

Whether you believe you have free will or not, whether you believe in retributive justice or not, and whether you believe you control your actions or someone else has all the power over you, these beliefs influence your behavior and attitudes.

Of themselves, there may be little or no actual "truth"...these are concepts that can be argued for or against.

For example, individuals who were criminal offenders it would seem, would have an external locus of control ("I was made to do it...by the system...by that guy...by the boss...by the voices in my head..".etc..)

And one might surmise that more personal responsibility would be found where the locus of control was internal ("this is on me...my responsibility") and therefore fewer criminals would have a high internal LOC.

However, it is interesting to see that in a recently published research article, the exact opposite was evidenced: The greater the recidivism of criminal activity the higher the level of internal locus of control...And the lower the incidence of criminal activity, the higher the level of external locus of control.

Maybe, just maybe, Brian has a point. When an individual understands they can be and are influenced by other factors, perhaps they become more careful about the environment they live in.

Just maybe.

Or maybe when they come to understand that God is in charge, they also might conduct their lives in a more civilized manner.

And in BOTH cases the result is a reduction in criminal behavior.


@ Spence

Those with, what you call high external locus of control are codependent on the presence of a trigger .. they can indeed be kind people, that given themselves, would not harm even an insect

Those at the other end are evil at heart .. people that start in their youth trampling on animals, plants and love to such blood out of others .. they enjoy what they do.

The first group might one day understand the mechanism to be an conditioned reflex.
Most people suffer from that mechanism although due to conditioning they do not over-re-act

You can see that mechanisme at work in the justification of one's actions in Gaza

Some say the Sant Mat masters can't really perform miracles. But I have proof to the contrary.

I'm talking about the Sant Mat guru who pulled a beautiful, white, 19-year-old college sophomore -- when he was 53 years old! He not only pulled her, he married her!

And he wasn't rich, he wasn't famous, he wasn't handsome, and he wasn't even tall.

If you're thinking "No big deal, gurus get young chicks all the time," he did this pick-up feat years before he started calling himself a guru.

What this guru did stands as perhaps the most amazing feat -- nay, miracle -- in the history of Sant Mat.

Does anyone know to whom I'm referring?

@ Santmat 64

One need not to be a guru to be attractive for a younger partner, neither have other special attractions.

I don't know, but I'll guess, Sirio Carrapa?

@ um

"One need not to be a guru to be attractive for a younger partner, neither have other special attractions"

When you're 53 years old and cruising for a teenager, it apparently helps to lie about your age to the younger partner, which is what this guy did. He told the teenager he was 15 years younger than he actually was. Even so, a miraculous accomplishment.

But apparently not so to um, who knows of plenty of instances where men in their 50s date teenagers.

The guy in question wasn't Carrapa, nor did he live in Thailand. He and the girl were American.

OCH Santmat ... with the passage of time, reading newspapers, watching TV, some documentaries and so on, one comes to know many "strange" things.

Why are you so interested in that fact?

I'm stumped. An American Sant Mat guru? That's a miracle in itself.

@ um

I'm more interested in your "fact" that it's common for short, poor, unfamous 53-year-old men to snag college coeds.

@ Sant mat ... I ... I did not use the word "common" nor made a suggestion in that direction.

What is COMMON however that people with age difference fall in love and probably some of them will "lie" at the outset.

Still curious why YOU are so interested in that guru and what he did.

He went within one lifetime from lying and chasing skirt to Sant Mat master? Yet another miracle!

Brian, thanks for that lovely data-rich comment! It was a pleasure to go through it, and through the links.

Incidentally, I don’t think I’d read either of those two blog posts of yours. It was amusing to read about your jury duty speech! And equally amusing was Richard Oerton’s argument --- probably made tongue in cheek, but nevertheless argued rightly enough --- that should free will be a thing, then it does not make sense to simply assume that someone who’s committed some crime is likely to repeat it again unless corrected.

And agreed, basis the research, there does seem to be a clear correlation between belief in free will and a desire for retributive justice.

I was in any event already of the view that there’s no free will, and further that justice should be rehabilitative as well as deterrent but not retributive. I now see, basis this research, that there is indeed a clear correlation between belief in free will and a desire for retributive justice.



You do see, don’t you, Brian, that what you’ve presented here, and presented persuasively, is actually an “is” argument? And not a “should” argument, not an “ought” argument?

In fact, it seems the causality works in the opposite direction! It’s not so much that belief in free will results in people wanting retributive justice; but instead the desire for retributive justice is what drives people to believe in free will as justification for their independently-arrived-at desire for retributive justice.

In other words, the “should” argument still doesn’t hold, does it?

That’s actually where I was coming from. All of these authors seem to be simply assuming, baldly assuming, assuming without justification, assuming without actually defending that assumption, that belief in free will is what drives a desire for retribution; and that realizing that there’s no free will means that people “should”, that people “ought”, to no longer want retributive justice.

And that “should” assumption is what does not make sense to me. Particularly so, in as much as it has not once been actually defended, so far as I can see. (And again, I base this entirely on what I’ve read here, on what you’ve written here. If these people have actually explicitly argued it out elsewhere, if they’ve clearly defended this assumption elsewhere, well then that I wouldn’t really know about.)


On the other hand, there’s that intriguing research that shows a correlation between high homicide rates and a belief in free will.

While as far as I see the authors haven’t actually argued it that way, but I suppose that might be interpreted as people who believe in free will being more inclined towards retribution, and homicide would be one expression of that retribution, and so the higher homicide rates.

Should that interpretation for the research results hold, well then fair enough. That would mean that the causality works both ways: that wanting retribution makes people believe in free will, as justification for their retribution; and also that a belief in free will makes people want retribution. That does, indeed, join the dots completely satisfactorily.

Provided that interpretation, that I suggested, does hold, for that homicide-rate research. Does it, though?

@ um @ Sant mat ... I ... "I did not use the word "common" nor made a suggestion in that direction."

That's a lie, as I didn't give a vague example of a couple with an age difference, but posted about an extremely uncommon case where a 53 year old man hooked up with a college coed.

"What is COMMON however that people with age difference fall in love and probably some of them will "lie" at the outset."

So you're admitting that your objection to what I actually wrote is BS. Predictable and tiresome.

"Still curious why YOU are so interested in that guru and what he did."

Yes um, we know, as this line of silly inquisition is all you ever offer to this forum in your many thousands of 2nd grade English posts. "Why does this matter to you" as if that's a profound question.

So here you are making a BS objection to what I wrote, and then walking it back, and then playing your little "what does this mean to you" interrogation. I often strenuously disagree with other posts here, but I give them credit for making actual arguments. You on the other hand offer nothing but meaningless blather.

@ Santmat

You must drink a cheap brand of coffee and badly toasted in order to make my words SEEN as you do.

Again, I am not interested in the private affairs of anybody, be they guru or not.
No need to attribute any meaning or value to others as an excuse and justification for making up my mind.

The very fact that I lent my ears to this guru and not to that guru, doesn't say anything about the spiritual status.

If the coffee of a given brand doesn't tastes, I just do not drink it, it doesn't say that there is something wrong with their coffee.

In the same vain I am not interested in the partner choices of a gurur, whoever he is. if only for the simple fact that people with age difference do attract one another and get married. ... and ii do not understand what business it is of others.

And what my poor command of english is concerned ... be glad ... hahahaha
if you understand ... hahaha

He must be a Sant in the Thakar Singh tradition, devils working very strongly on his lower self and succeeding to some extent. Fight their temptations on your pure Self, Yogic Yankee!

The Unending Tiresomeness of the Um

"You must drink a cheap brand of coffee and badly toasted in order to make my words SEEN as you do."

The typical um Yoda drivel.

"Again, I am not interested in the private affairs of anybody, be they guru or not.
No need to attribute any meaning or value to others as an excuse and justification for making up my mind."

I'll post whatever I want about any guru I want to post about. If you don't like it, that's your problem.

You've been hanging around these forums for decades now playing your rhetorical game of turning questions about a guru's suspect ethics against the person asking the question.

I respect people who argue for a religion as much as I respect those who argue against a religion. As long as they present a good faith argument, I respect their right to voice their opinion on that religion and its leaders. But I don't respect those like yourself who gaslight critics.

"The very fact that I lent my ears to this guru and not to that guru, doesn't say anything about the spiritual status."

Another warped Yoda comment. I've heard you say this nonsense for many years now, and it's total BS. And very much so in the context of what I posted, which is a story, about a 53-year-old guru, who lied about his age, in order to get a 19 or 20 yr old girlfriend.

"If the coffee of a given brand doesn't tastes, I just do not drink it, it doesn't say that there is something wrong with their coffee."

More of um's idiotic hookah bar hokum.

Follow your own advice then um. If you don't like posts here, stop reading them and stop saying that the posters are spiritually stupid.

"In the same vain I am not interested in the partner choices of a gurur, whoever he is. if only for the simple fact that people with age differences do attract one another and get married. ... and ii do not understand what business it is of others."

Who cares? If you don't like what you read here about, then stop reading it.

F O L L O W your own incessant advice, you great know it all.

@ Sant64

Obvious you get frustrated if not more reading my words.
You need not to read them nor to answer.
What drives you is what meaning and value YOU attribute to my words, it is YOUR frustration not mine.

One of the Sant Mat teachers once said that if you would know what anger, frustration and other negative feelings does to your body, you would never do it again.

So enjoy your frustration to the brim it is not my body but yours and have some coffee. .. good one.

hahahaha ... succes Sant

"The Um" has a ring to it. Very elevated!

I once saw a piece on a mountaintop Zen monastery in Japan. Coffee was available for visitors. They could buy a cup for $1 or $90. Same cup of coffee, nothing hidden, only the price was different.

We are all one. Your suffering is my suffering. Your joy is my joy.

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