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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kane's Lucky Self

 Kane attempts to construct a naturalistic account of freewill compatible with indeterminacy by positing what he calls Self-Forming Actions, but Kane's theory is undermined by a lack of a natural self that can act freely and responsibly. The goal of Kane's theory is to refute of the Luck Principle (LP) which is: “If an action is undetermined at a time t, then its happening rather than not happening is a matter of chance or luck, and so it could not be a free and responsible action” (Kane 415). In order to refute LP, Kane argues that the self has control over the outcome of a personal indeterminacy. The resolution of a personal indeterminacy is what Kane calls self-forming actions (SFAs). Despite Kane's convictions, his narrative about the nature of human indeterminacy and self-forming actions undermine freewill and responsibility because the inability of the natural self to resolve a quantum indeterminacy in the brain.
Kane attempts to give a naturalistic narrative about human indeterminacy which takes place in the brain. By indeterminacy, Kane does not mean constant transcendence like in dualism but rather a supervening natural self resolves an indeterminacy when it occurs. There are times during humans' lives in which they become conflicted between two or more choices. Kane argues that there is legitimate indeterminacy when brain is in this state of conflict. According to Kane, the conflict between two or more neural pathways, each representing one desire or choice, creates chaos in which the self has an opportunity to exercise freewill.
Kane uses the Assassin trying to kill the prime minister in order to demonstrate that indeterminacy does not undermine freewill and responsibility (420). The assassin tries to kill the prime minister but an indeterminacy in his nervous system causes his arm to waver. If he does hit the prime minister, Kane believes that the assassin is to be held responsible despite indeterminacy in his arm because he “succeeded in doing what he was trying to do” (420). In other words, the assassin is not “lucky” in the irresponsible sense, but Kane does admit that indeterminacy does act as an obstacle. In the case in which the indeterminacy is in the brain, the individual overcomes the obstacle of indeterminacy “nevertheless by [his or her] own effort” (420). Because Kane posits that this effort is involved in the resolution of the indeterminacy, Kane believes that SFAs are “genuine exercises of freewill” (421).
Kane characterizes self-forming actions with mixture of folk psychological concepts and neurobiology. Kane believes that there is a robust self that resolves indeterminacy through an act of will. Kane identifies the self with the brain and identifies each side of a conflicting neural battle in the brain with a neural pathway. Take Jane who could choose a vacation in Hawaii or Colorado. In other words, she has a conscious neural conflict. Since the self does not determined path corresponding to its form, the self must choose. Kane believes that Jane chooses the vacation spot that she wills or wants more (426). When Jane's self chooses, it forms her self, changing her dispositions and desires for the future. This is what Kane means by self-forming.
Kane demonstrates that he identifies the self with the brain when refutes the criticism that his theory of indeterminacy divides the self. The objection goes: 1) Each self has one will. 2) Kane posits two conflicting wills in brain fighting to direct the body towards their respective goals. 3) Since Kane posits two wills at times of conflict, he implies that there are two selves in the brain during that conflict. This is to suggest that Kane's theory is counter-intuitive, since it undermines individuality, so Kane appeals to parallel processing to show that his theory is neither radical nor implies two selves. Just like a single computer can have two processes running simultaneously, a single self can have internal conflict without becoming two separate beings. Since Kane does not identify the self with specific parts of the brain, he must identify it with the whole. This notion of the self, however, is incompatible, as I will discuss further later, robust freewill because the brain lacks the ability to resolve a quantum indeterminacy.
Kane revises LP, but by doing so, he presents the main problem with his theory. The LP argues indeterminacy implies that what one does is involuntary and unintentional. Kane's theory, however, makes the indeterminacy between two things one could voluntarily and intentionally do. Kane revises the LP for the incompatibilists, calling it LP*, which argues that since one could do A voluntarily and intentionally and do B voluntarily and intentionally, what one ultimately voluntarily and intentionally does is a matter of luck or chance (422). In order to refute this new version, Kane posits a robust kind of control.
Kane's theory of control is in response to the claim that indeterminacy is a hindrance to the will. Since in his model there are two efforts which create a struggle within the self, each side makes it harder to will the other side of the conflict. This means that this indeterminacy hinders, but as Kane argues, the hindrance exists when each effort is considered separately. As an extension of Kane's theory of identity and parallel processing, Kane believes the humans have plural voluntary control (426). The self has power to bring about whichever option it wills or wants most (426). This means that the self still has robust control even when there is indeterminacy. Where is this control, though? This seems impossible given the nature of the brain which lacks what Dennett calls a single decision maker (443).
In Dennett's strongest criticism of Kane's theory, he demonstrates the flaws of his concept of SFAs. Dennett uses a thought experiment of how Kane's indeterminacy actually undermines human freedom and autonomy. There is no single decision maker in the brain, no button which the self can push to solve quantum fluctuations in the brain. Another factor must be the cause for the resolution of an indeterminacy (Dennett 443). To provide a possibility, Dennett uses a needle quivering up and down, to represent the chaos between two decisions (442).
If this accurately reflects how the conflict works in human brains, the resolution has everything to do with when it occurs. Since humans are in environments that often force them to act immediately, the environment is what stops the needle on one decision or the other. While danger very obviously forces humans to act, Kane might argue that this is a form of coercion; however, Dennett's argument does not only undermine freewill during times of duress but also during calm. The environment can subtly influence the needle. This is obvious to advertisers who put ideas in people's heads all the time, so that when they think they chose to have a soft drink, a poster during the time of indeterminacy formed the will to that direction. In other words, there is no robust control given Kane's naturalistic narrative of human indeterminacy. Without this control, Kane cannot refute LP*; therefore, it is a matter of luck what humans intend. This leads to deep consequences to freewill and responsibility.

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