QUILLETTE.- Is human behavior genetically determined? Different from what a sweeping genetic reductionist would hope, we have seen that the answer is plainly no. But nor is human behavior not determined. On the contrary, Schaffner thinks that human behavior is determined — and that it admits of reductionist explanations. Does this mean freedom is an illusion? No, it doesn’t, even if it does mean that we have to give up conceptions of freedom of the sort that best-selling authors like Sam Harris like to set up in order to knock down. Yes, we have to give up the idea of freedom as an extra-natural capacity or force that is somehow insulated from the impact of the natural and social forces at work in the world. But accepting that our behaviors are determined by natural and social forces that, at least in principle, admit of explanation does not mean that we have to give up the conception of freedom that mature adults should want, or that, as Daniel Dennett puts it, “is worth having.”
To get at what such a conception of freedom is, Schaffner introduces philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s influential distinction between first- and second-order desires. Consider, for example, an alcoholic with insight into her alcoholism. She might have a second-order desire not to drink, while also having a first-order desire to drink. The person who cannot bring her first-and second-order desires into alignment lacks what warrants being called free will. If, on the other hand, she can get those first- and second-order desires into alignment, and if she can, as it were, desire what she wants to desire, we can say that she is free.
Erik Parens reseña 'Behaving: What’s Genetic, What’s Not, and Why Should We Care?' de Kenneth B. Schaffner. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2016)