Harvey Weinstein, creep or psychopath?

As always, when I write this kind of column about determinism, and in particular about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein, I must begin by saying that his behavior was reprehensible, immensely harmful, and warrants severe punishment, judicially so if the courts find him guilty of rape or sexual assault. I weep for the women who felt they had to choose between their careers and becoming an unwilling victim of Weinstein’s sexual dominance. And I abhor thinking that women are still subject to this kind of behavior far more often than I, at least, suspected.

But what Weinstein’s behavior wasn’t was something he chose, in the sense that he could have refrained from being a predator.

Given Weinstein’s environment and genes, he could not have behaved other than the way he did. His ultimate punishment must rest on deterrence (to keep others from practicing this kind of harassment), sequestration (keeping him away from women and situations in which he could practice sexual assault) and rehabilitation (if that is possible, and I’m not ruling it out, even if he “reforms” only out of fear of disclosure).

Yet Frank Bruni’s column in today’s New York Times, “The sham of Harvey Wenstein’s rehab“, assumes over and over again that Weinstein could have behaved differently—that he simply made the wrong choices, the immoral choices, repeatedly.

Those of you who are determinists, and I hope that’s most of you, know that’s not true. Weinstein should be mocked, shamed, and punished for what he did, but for the acts he committed, not because we think he could have refrained from his predatory behavior. That behavior has been enacted, and couldn’t have been enacted otherwise. Our opprobrium can, however, keep him and others from repeating it. So yes, you can call him a “creep”—another form of deterrence and shaming—but realize at the same time that Weinstein’s actions were compelled by factors beyond his control. He had no control, since he had no “could have done otherwise” free will.

Bruni is quite concerned to refute the notion that Weinstein had a “sex addiction,” a narcissistic personality disorder, or some other mental illness. Well, I’m not competent to decide whether Weinstein fits any profiles given in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists. Perhaps he had a “power disorder”: an addiction to using his power over women’s careers to force sex upon them. Bruni, however, chooses to diagnose Weinstein as a simple creep, free from any psychopathologies. He, says Bruni, was simply a bad character, a jerk, and the implication of Brunis entire column is that he could have refrained from being a creep:

Our turn toward psychiatry as a Rosetta Stone for wretchedness is on vivid display in discussions about Donald Trump. Aghast critics chalk up his self-obsession to narcissistic personality disorder and his fictions to pathological lying. But while they mean to condemn him, their language does the opposite: A head case has significantly less to be ashamed of and to apologize for than a garden-variety jerk does.

Their language also distorts the relationship between malady and conduct. “The underlying assumption is that if you have a psychiatric diagnosis, you’re unfit to serve,” Maria Oquendo, the chairwoman of the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, told me. But, she added, there are people with narcissistic personality disorder and an array of other clinical designations who “are functioning brilliantly.” Mettle and morals, along with the management of these conditions, come into play.

. . . But to appraise Weinstein’s behavior in full dress as well as in the buff is to recognize that as bunk. There are indeed bad characters. He was among the worst of them before rehab, and I wouldn’t hope for much better after.

Indeed, Weinstein’s “excuses” may be malarkey, or self-serving bullpucky, but make no mistake about it: he did have a psychopathology, even if it isn’t formally defined, or even if we don’t understand how his genes and environment changed his brain in a way that caused him to behave in horrible ways. He was no more able to stop preying on woman than would a true “sex addict” (if there is such a thing).

There is no meaningful distinction (except perhaps for treatment) between Bruni’s diagnosis of Weinstein as a “bad character” and a psychiatrist’s diagnosis of him as having a harmful mental pathology.He did have a harmful mental pathology, but because we can’t shoehorn it into conventional psychiatry, we fob it off as his being a “creep”. Is there a difference that should affect how he’s treated? I don’t think so, except in the unlikely case that he has a brain tumor or clear neurological aberration that can be dealt with medically. And even if he doesn’t, that doesn’t mean he could have behaved otherwise.

The only reason I see that Bruni would write the following is that he sees some meaningful distinction between psychopathology (formal diagnosis) and harmful predatory behavior (a “creep”):

Three times [Weinstein] used the same three syllables — “therapy” — and thus cast himself as a patient at the mercy of an affliction. Perhaps. Or maybe he’s just a merciless tyrant and creep, and to dress him in clinical language is to let him off the hook.

Weinstein is of course a creep, but he’s also “mentally ill”—if we define the latter as having a behavior that he couldn’t control that was harmful to other people and society as a whole. Yes, it’s offensive to hear excuses that sound lame and what may be dishonest pleas that he simply needs therapy and all will be well.  Well, he needs punishment and therapy; punishment to set an example for others and keep him away from situations where he can use power to coerce sex, and therapy to fix his behavior.

Therapy may not work, but why do people write it off so quickly? If he violated the law, he should be jailed (though America’s jails are dire places, and predicated on retributive justice), and whether or not he is jailed, he needs therapy so he doesn’t repeat his behavior.

What Bruni doesn’t realize—perhaps because he is a free-will libertarian and thinks Weinstein could have refrained from his acts—is that there’s no substantive difference between Weinstein and someone who did what he did, but because of a brain disorder. Weinstein had a brain disorder, though it may not be detectable by examining the brain and finding weird wiring or brain tumors. He is a creep but also has a psychopathology. He is responsible for what he did, in that the individual known as Harvey Weinstein harmed a lot of women and must be disciplined, but he’s not responsible for making bad choices.

The kind of outraged column emitted by Bruni can come only from an internalized sense of true “could-have-done otherwise” free will. I don’t care what you call Weinstein’s problem; in the end he had some mental issues that were harmful to others. For what he did, punishment, shunning, and ire are all appropriate, for those reactions themselves may deter others from following in his footsteps, and rehab is also needed, for he may not be beyond rehabilitation. But please don’t tell us, Mr. Bruni, that, given the situations he found himself in, Weinstein could have refrained from what he did. Under any scientific theory of human behavior, that isn’t true.

I’m sure people will get angry and say that I’m excusing Weinstein, for people are retributive in nature and most surely feel that Weinstein could have behaved other than how he did. Yet I’m not excusing his behavior by any means: it was horrible. This is an explanation, and a plea for people like Bruni to take a more scientific attitude and see that we are all victims of our genes and environments. When those factors come together in a certain way (e.g., a career that gives you power over women and a lack of respect for women), they produce a Harvey Weinstein. Saying he’s simply a “creep” rather than a psychopath may make you feel better, but it’s misleading and obscurantist.

h/t: Stephen

p.s. I’m aware this is repetitive, but I’m banging it out at the airport right before boarding.


  1. Posted October 25, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    A creepy kind of psychopath, perhaps? It has been demonstrated that the brains of psychopaths are “wired” differently from normal people’s brains, so I am with you.


  2. GBJames
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    But, of course, Frank Bruni could not have written a different column, either.

    • Michael
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      But if he reads this, it might modify his thinking. Perhaps he’ll even start understanding the ramifications of this deterministic reality. Maybe not.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink


      • Rita
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        You can’t be a libertarian unless you believe in free will, so I doubt Frank Bruni would change his opinion.

        • Michael
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

          I was a libertarian until determinism was explained to me and the light came on. Of course, I was only a lad of eighteen, so perhaps my neurons were more open to new input.

          • Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:46 am | Permalink

            This website has convinced me over the last few years that we have no free will, and I’m now 70. Excellent post, Jerry, BTW.

  3. Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Given the same preconditions, Weinstein would do the same again. And those preconditions include his associates who looked the other way. Of course, given the same preconditions, they would look the other away again.

  4. Chris Helland
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I think it’d be useful to separate the two claims. It’s much easier to support the idea that punishments should be based only on 1) sequestration, 2) rehabilitation, and 3) deterrence. Anything else is merely causing suffering for no value (other than revenge). But basing this on determinism causes people to reject the key moral point without ever discussing it, because they can’t accept determinism. That part of the argument can come across like the Middle Ages theologians arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Pragmatically speaking, who cares?

    • Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Deterrence, sequestration, rehabilitation – and fairness. Yes. Basing this on determinism is silly, because these are the right values to govern punishments regardless of whether determinism is true or false.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    “Creep” and “psychopath” — I’m thinking those sets aren’t mutually exclusive.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      One is a Radiohead song and the other one isn’t.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Creep is a fairly generic slang word. Psychopath is a specific medical diagnosis.

      The first term as such is not so much “misleading” as JAC puts it, as just hopelessly vague.

      But on some level of analysis, some people’s actions are constrained on a more fundamental level than others. The alcoholic has less “choice” about drinking than the non-alcoholic. It doesn’t make sense to me to tout determinism in any way that obliterates that distinction.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        The person suffering from a brain tumor may have even less control than the alcoholic. But I don’t see how there is any sort of determinism that doesn’t obliterate the distinction between various sorts of constraints on human behavior.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        To have no free will, means nothing other than discarding all assumptions that postulate the existence of different degrees of freedom of the people.

        If a crime is committed, for example, bodily harm, in one case by a perpetrator who is alcoholic and in the other case by a person who is not dependent on alcohol, then both are equally not guilty in the sense that both did not have had the choice to decide against the deed.

        The diagnosis of mental illness, personality disorders, psychopathy then has only one meaning in relation to the type of punishment, an alcoholic belongs to a withdrawal therapy, a personality disorder requires another form of therapy.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        “… some people’s actions are constrained on a more fundamental level than others.”

        Per determinism, as I understand it, all human conduct is fully constrained, by definition.

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          My original point is that there are different levels and/or meta-levels of analysis an which “free will” may appear to be present and others not.

          Our current system assumes that some people are less culpable for misdeeds due to “reduced agency” than others.

          In some sense, the self is a construct of our brains. But some people are acting out of the deepest layers of their sense of self/identity and others are not.

          Both Shakespeare’s MacBeth and his Richard III murder a lot of people to become king. But MacBeth is initially reluctant to do so, and gets seduced into this over time and in stages by his wicked wife and the lure of ambition. By contrast, Richard III is enthusiastically embarking on the course of action from Day 1.

          Whatever the possible consequences of full or partial determinism, it makes no sense to obliterate this distinction.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            Damn, now ya got me distracted thinking about hunchbacks and witches on the heath.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    … rehabilitation (if that is possible …)

    We certainly have anecdotal evidence of its efficacy. Take Maajid Nawaz, for example — radical jihadist to Islamic reformer while doing a bid in an Egyptian prison.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      There is good reason for people to think that rehabilitation of sexual predators is not likely to be effective. The data seems to support that pretty well. But then again that seems to be the case for most addictive behaviors. I’ve never heard of an alcoholic being rehabilitated in the sense that they no longer have a drinking problem. Rather they learn to be disciplined enough to never drink again, if they are lucky, specifically because actual rehabilitation is so unlikely.

      I don’t mean to argue that we shouldn’t try to rehabilitate people, quite the opposite actually. We need to try much harder and we need to do it from a scientific perspective rather than a bronze-age ethics perspective so that we can actually make some progress on being able to truly rehabilitate people.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        For many years my backyard neighbor was an attorney working for the state of WA dealing with recidivism in the states prison population (her job was to prosecute re-offenders). Her office found that more than 90% of people convicted of sex crimes reoffended. The re-offence rate for non-sex crimes was far lower (though much too high to suggest prison has any hope of reforming criminals). I cannot recall the number she cited but it was above 50%. Even recidivism for violent non-sex crimes was lower than the rate for sex crimes.

        She had a very difficult job. Next to pediatric oncology I have a hard time thinking of any other that would suck so much pleasure out of life.

        • darrelle
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          All the numbers on recidivism rates of sex crime offenders I’ve ever seen have been very high. 80% to the 90% you cite from your neighbor’s experience.

          Couldn’t agree more with your last sentence there.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        There’re recent studies suggesting that the traditional “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic” model may not be accurate. See here.

        • darrelle
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, I’ll check it out.

          I’ve also heard of some alcoholism rehab therapies devised and used in Norway that show promise of actual efficacy. And interestingly the therapy does not include complete abstention for life, at least not normally. But apparently they use(d) actual scientific methods so the chances of seeing it in the US any time soon are probably slim.

  7. Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Thanks for taking on Bruni, very important not to let this stuff go unchallenged. An observation on your psychopathology hypothesis:

    “What Bruni doesn’t realize—perhaps because he is a free-will libertarian and thinks Weinstein could have refrained from his acts—is that there’s no substantive difference between Weinstein and someone who did what he did, but because of a brain disorder. Weinstein had a brain disorder, though it may not be detectable by examining the brain and finding weird wiring or brain tumors. He is a creep but also has a psychopathology.”

    It isn’t clear that he has a brain disorder or other psychopathology, only that he engaged in bad behavior and couldn’t have been or done otherwise given his causal history (at least in a way that would make him more responsible than were he fully caused). That realization, stemming from determinism, should help temper the impulse to demonize him as a self-created tyrant and creep, but as you say without excusing him (he’s still justly subject to sanctions for consequentialist reasons). But keeping our retributive instincts in check is crucial given the damage unconstrained retaliation can do – e.g., our current prison system. Appreciating and accepting determinism can help with that.

    People in positions of power sometimes take advantage of others, whether sexually or otherwise, and there needn’t be mental illness involved. It’s simply a rather nasty side of human nature that needs to be discouraged. Had the culture of exploitation not been the unspoken, tolerated norm in Hollywood, Weinstein likely had the control capacities not to have come on to women (unless we find out he does has a brain tumor or other causes of pathologically impaired control). As it was, human nature and local culture conspired to create the man and his victims. Which as you say is not to condone or excuse his behavior.

    • Michiel
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:17 am | Permalink

      What is “mental illness” or “brain disorder” other than a form of functioning of the brain that is a substantial degree outside of the normal range of functioning? The line we draw between “only bad behaviour” and “mental illness” is, in a sense, arbitrary. It’s only because the mentally ill person is behaving so far outside of the norm as to be a danger to him or herself or people around him or her, that we try to “correct” this behaviour by therapy or medication.

      • Posted October 26, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        The law doesn’t group all “mental illness” together nor does all of it block culpability. Only specific limitations, such as not understanding the difference between right and wrong, or not being able to reason about the consequences of actions.

        Determinism doesn’t negate the difference between someone who can reason, and someone who cannot.

  8. Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I’ve said for a few years now that neurology, psychiatry, clinical psychology and neuropsychology all have to coalesce. I don’t see any real distinction other than intellectual traditions.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I beg to differ. Neurology is very different from psychiatry (for example) in most things from methods to theory. One may inform the other but they are quite distinct disciplines.

      • Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        I didn’t say they *are* the same, rather that they ought to – since all of them deal with brain dysfunction.

  9. Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Thank you Jerry. I have been a follower of yours for a long time, and have just been too lazy to comment. I am SO grateful for you in the world. Your perspective and the way you articulate it (and your generosity in continuously writing on these subjects) is spectacular. Your writing is so refreshing and clear.

  10. Karin Lindhagen
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Jerry Coyne, you write: “Those of you who are determinists, and I hope that’s most of you, know that’s not true” (about assumptions that HW could have behaved differently).

    In what sense to you “know” that determinism is “true? On what evidence?

    You assume the philosophical position of determinism. That is OK by me, it is up to you. But when you claim that that standpoint is “true”, it seems to me that you describe a belief, rather than a scientific view that might be altered by evidence.

    It is quite possible to think that the behavior of individuals is not predetermined in detail, and at the same time feel no necessity to invoke a deity or “higher power”. I do. I’m with you an atheism, I’m with you on evolution, but not on your take on determinism.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Like you, Karin, I have had a hard time wrapping my mind around this subject. I accept what Dr PCCE and others say about this and like many others feel uncomfortable with my understanding. I am missing something. Mostly when the subject comes up I sit back and read what others think. Might help me get what I can’t see so clearly.

      Like you, I wonder too if there isn’t room for some emergent properties of our complex neurobiology – similar properties result in phenomena like consciousness or self-awareness- which might accord us something like free will. Not the dualist’s free will, but something in between the strict determinist and the accomodationist.

      Anyway, I look forward to substantive discussion on your comment.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        As I see it, this question has been thought about and debated for over two millennia by minds far greater than mine. So I am content to read and listen in silence. It does seem to me, though, that the only alternative to causal determinism is magic.

        • Karin Lindhagen
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          No, the only alternative to causal determinism it not magic.

          • Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            Yes: magic. God, or some supernatural teleological force (that’s beside quantum mechanical pure indeterminacy).

            Would you like to give us a few influences on human behavior that are not constrained by the laws of physics?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          I have similar feelings on the topic and, like you, I usually read and listen in silence, though I had my one say on it here.

          • Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I remember that post now. Probably it is where I got my thought that the alternative to determinism is magic.

            The one thing I think is relevant to our sense of free will is our ability to choose (I have no problem with using that word) our actions based on the anticipated future consequences of different possible actions. That requires an intelligence that can model its world.

            Take for example contraception. Humans are probably the only species that understands the connection between sex and babies. Like other species we desire copulation. But we understand that the consequence may be a baby. With contraception technology we can have sex but choose to have babies. Other species have sex, and babies are an inevitable consequence. I do not think it an abuse of language to say we can have babies by choice, or as a result of our free will, unlike other animals.

            Now I will honor my vow of silence.

            • Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

              This is because there are two meanings of “free will”. Jerry (and the debate in *metaphysics and ethics*) are talking about the kind that gives rise (or not) to moral responsibility. The *other* notion is more vague and includes notions like “absence of coercion”, which is what you talk about – I think.

              • Posted October 26, 2017 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                Unless that “other” notion is actually the one that gives rise to moral (and legal) responsibility. The same one that darwinwins mentions: our ability to choose our actions based on the anticipated future consequences of different possible actions.

                Just saying.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Because our brains control our actions, and brains are made of atoms, and atoms are controlled by the laws of physics. The same atoms will react to the same conditions in the same way, every time. Even if you make an exception for quantum effects, that’s just randomness. There’s no room for “choice”.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        That’s the answer to the question asked above. The laws of physics are true and so, except for quantum effects, which give us no agency, is determinism. Or do you reject the laws of physics?

        • Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          Except that not how physics works.


          Even if you don’t accept that indeterminism actually is an inherent aspect of our universe, you can’t presume that determinism is true. It’s a non-falsifiable hypothesis. IMO, that makes it a belief, not a known fact of physics.

          • Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

            The wave equations of quantum physics are deterministic even if the outcomes are not. And if you accept the MWI or Bohmiam mechanics, rather than Copenhagen, the whole shebang is deterministic. It is fair to say that the laws of the physics are deterministic to the best of our knowledge.

            • Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

              Yes, I understand that, but, at least as Sean Carroll tells me, if the big bang started again under the exact same conditions, we’d have a somewhat different universe. In that case (and in quantum phenomena), reruns under the same conditions can give different results.

              • Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

                I thought the initial conditions have to be different even if infinitesimally so. Something to do with chaos theory?

              • Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:33 am | Permalink

                Yet we cannot re-run it, so we can never know. This is why I find the determinism debate curious as we can only ever know the outcome in which we live or exist.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted October 25, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

              The determinism of Many Worlds is no help to those who want to claim that you couldn’t have done otherwise, because in some other world you did do otherwise, from precisely the same initial conditions. All potential outcomes are realized.

              • Posted October 25, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

                But, on that other branch, is it right to say it was “you” who did otherwise?

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted October 25, 2017 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

                If you’re going to take that stance, then “couldn’t have done otherwise” is just another way of saying “didn’t do otherwise”, and you’ve built your deterministic ethics on an empty tautology.

              • Posted October 25, 2017 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

                I don’t think there are ethics in a deterministic world. What must happen, happens. Or, in MWI, everything that can happen, happens.

            • Beth Clarkson
              Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

              When you count all possible outcomes via a distribution function as ‘determinism’, you are redefining determinism to include multiple possible outcomes. In other news, black is white and down is up.

              • Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

                A wave function, like Schrodinger’s, changes deterministically. Give me the initial state of the wave function and I can tell you its state at any time in the future. Then I can assign a precise probability to any future outcome. I am not redefining anything.

              • Beth Clarkson
                Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

                When you assign probabilities to possible outcomes, you no longer have determinism.

              • Posted October 26, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

                This is way OT, but the original question was “Are the laws of physics deterministic?” Clearly the answer for classical mechanics is yes. For quantum mechanics, the answer is yes for probabilities on observed states. Since probabilities are all the laws of physics explain at the quantum level, it is correct to say the laws of physics are deterministic.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            Even accepting your interpretation of indeterminism, that means only that some actions will be unpredictable, not that they’re the product of contra-causal “free will.”

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          Quantum effects are well established to have macro-scopic (sic) consequences.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

            Just ask that cat who kept his cat in a box. 🙂

          • Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

            Sometimes, but I don’t think it matters whether or not we are a room-temperature superconductor or not.

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I say we need to let the professionals tell us, the really good ones who have studied all the mental issues and know what they are talking about. If I want to know something about Biology I go to Jerry Coyne, not Frank Bruni. So it is the same with Weinstein.

    I am not yet half way through the book – The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump and it is not written by a bunch of journalist. It is written by 27 Psychiatrists and mental health experts. I am positive that if Weinstein were examined by a couple of these folks, we would have all the answers concerning his mental condition. One thing I have learned at the very beginning of this book is the term Malignant Normality. This idea comes from Robert Jay Lifton, M.D who did studies of the doctors who aided Nazi war crimes and survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. What he calls adaptation to evil, normalization to evil is what allows people to justify doing very bad things. The same thing applies to the torture that took place during the Bush years. I point this out because if we just listen to the journalists or any other non professional’s opinions on the Trumps or Weinsteins of the world we might all learn to live with it.

    I heard something said by Senator Flake, who just made the big speech in congress yesterday. He said the idea of impeachment or use of the 25th amendment was not necessary at this time. Well, I am sorry Mr. Flake, but you are not qualified to come to that conclusion and that is what is wrong with this whole situation today. Read the book I am reading and talk to the professionals and you might not be saying it is not yet time.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Yesterday, on our local NPR station, on “Forum with Michael Krasny” there was a very interesting interview with a couple of contributors to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2017/10/23/the-ethics-of-assessing-president-trumps-mental-state/.

      As for Mr. Weinstein, no, he can’t help his compulsion to lick women’s armpits. But what I want to know is just how his brain came up with that as a turn-on.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Very good. I’m sure they will be making the circuit and talking more about the book. One of their main issues to clear with people is to explain why the Goldwater rule does not apply to Trump and they have a higher duty to warn. In the case of Weinstein they would have to examine him but I’m sure they would be able to tell us all of his mental issues as they have with Trump. A lot of Trump’s problems go back to the age of 13 when his dad sent him away to a military school of some type. Also, his old man was a real bastard to live with and deal with.

        From what I know the Weinstein personality is a very sick one and sex is not the main issue at all. It is power and manipulation and the people who assisted him in his madness are perfect examples of malignant normality.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I found the program quite thought-provoking and hope to find more online discussions with contributors (and detractors).

          As for Weinstein, I must correct my comment on the why and wherefore re that particular reported compulsion of his. It has to be biologically explainable re certain scents emitted by the apocrene sweat glands in the armpit. I read that these apocrene glands are found only in certain areas of the human body, including the “private parts.” But with him, it becomes a sexual kink or fetish.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            I was reading a news report earlier today on one of the women who came out against him. She tells a very detailed story of the guy coming to her hotel room and then attacking her. He had taken off his pants and was masturbating. He then raped her but did not finish and went back to Masturbating. I would leave this stuff to the experts…

      • darrelle
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Regarding women’s armpits, you might find this funny. Your comment here made me laugh out loud because I clearly remember as a young teen eagerly leafing through my parents copy of The Joy Of Sex one day when they were out of the house and coming across a passage about licking and kissing armpits. I clearly remember the picture too, hairy unshaved armpits and all. I thought it was weird but figured, hey, what do I know?

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          I wrote the above comment before I saw yours. What I noted, I think explains it — there must have been an evolutionary reason that funky odor was a turn-on.

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted October 25, 2017 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

            I’m beginning to think that Randall Schenck is right — I’d better leave this tar baby to the experts — Oops! is tar baby a taboo expression now?

  12. darrelle
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    At what point do we draw lines to define what is a psychopathology and what falls within the range of “normal” human behavior? At some point, or in certain circumstances, it seems to me as if it will come down to a subjective choice based on preference exactly like subjectively choosing a starting point for moral reasoning. For example deciding that “minimizing suffering” is a principle that your moral system should be based on.

    It seems to me that what we define the range of normal human behavior to be and what we define as psychopathology is an integral part of our system of morals.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      That is what the professional do for a living. In the book I am reading it talks about Narcissism. This is not a diagnosis and it never has been. It is a trait that occurs to a varying degree in all of us. The trick is whether you have healthy narcissism or where are you on the scale. Pathological Narcissism can be determined.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      I think the dividing line is where it becomes a problem for the individual or those around him/her. It’s like gender — being trans is now considered by most professionals as “within the range of normal”. Being distressed about being trans is a disorder that psychologists may attempt to address.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        That sounds pretty reasonable to me. I think it also shows that, like in moral reasoning, subjective choice based on preference is a necessary starting point for figuring out, using scientific methods, what types of behaviors / conditions are abnormal(?) or should warrant intervention / treatment.

  13. Robert
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The terms psychological, Behavioural, neurological have always confused me. What’s the difference between them, how interchangeable are they, what is the interplay between them? I stutter, which is a behaviour marked by non-fluent speech (repetitions, prolongations, blocking of speech altogether). Speaking is a motor-task, my MRI indicates a deficit in the anterior cingulate cortex (among other neural correso it’s neurological. (But is it a cause or an effect?) Fluent Speech is a behaviour too. Seeing and walking are behaviours. Driving a car are behaviours. So, I am misbehaving when I stutter. Does that mean I have a psychological condition? Does the degree of intentionality have anything to do with it? I am convinced it is involuntary, and that is the prevailing medical opinion. Does that matter?
    I’m throwing this out there, maybe it will help people think about these issues.

    • Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      I mentioned elsewhere that I don’t regard the current distinction between clinical psychology, psychiatry, (clinical) neuropsychology or neurology to be helpful.

      This is because they are all disciplines having to do with damaged or dysfunctional brains.

      As for cause and effect, likely in many cases there are feedbacks, though in your case I have no idea specifically.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        I think there are salient differences in diagnosis and treatment between brains with impaired ability to process information, and unimpaired brains that have arrived at faulty beliefs or conclusions by reasoning from faulty premises.

        Do you disagree? Would you consider both sorts of brains “damaged or dysfunctional”?

        • Posted October 27, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          I’m not sure that false beliefs by themselves require *medical* attention. After all, we all have some, so no, they are not intrinsically damaged/dysfunctional. Persistence of certain kinds, or (especially) where they severely impact the ability to live, yes.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted October 27, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

            Do you think the treatment for such harmful beliefs should be of essentially the same kind as treatment for neurological disorders such as epilepsy or Parkinson’s?

            • Posted October 30, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

              Yes – intervene at the appropriate point to change the way the brain works and the social system in which it is embedded (if that works for the better). This sounds like a truism, but it tells us that we have two things to change, potentially. It doesn’t specify how – but neither does dermatology, where changing diet and using cream (for example) are (I’m making this up, but the gist is correct) treatments for acne.

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted October 30, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

                But what does such unification mean in practical terms? If the appropriate intervention is brain surgery, you still need specialists trained as brain surgeons rather than talk therapists.

  14. Barney
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Why write “Weinstein should be mocked, shamed, and punished for what he did”? In your world of no free will, what is the meaning of the word “should”? It implies a desirable outcome – but you have no will (and you say neither do I) to desire that outcome.

    Perhaps you will reply that you had no free will to choose the word “should”, and therefore there is no explanation you can give. Physics determined your use of “should” and nothing else. But if we can’t analyse why “you” “believe” or “choose” anything, because there is no choosing, belief, or in a meaningful sense, “you”, what’s the point of discussing anything at all?

    • Frank Bath
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      ‘Should’ because we know deterrence can work, both with the offender in future and others looking on.

      • Barney
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        So do you agree that Weinstein should not have harrassed or assaulted the women? And that there is a difference between saying that and “Hurricane Maria should not have killed people on Puerto Rico”?

        • Frank Bath
          Posted October 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          HW should not have done what he did in the sense that I would rather he hadn’t. He did, and I want him to know that because it may help reform him. I should let him know I condemn him.

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Why the problem with the use of “should” ? For me, it’s just a convenience to use expressions like that.

      If I say “People should eat less” it is clear that I mean something like “It would be better for everybody if people ate less: they would live longer, healthier lives, and the cost of health care would go down.” and maybe also “It would be nice if people realised the truth of my statement, and acted accordingly.”

      In a literal sense “should” has no meaning, because the universe is deterministic. Things just happen according to the laws of nature, that’s it. True, but so what?

      We are wading in a sea of inexact expressions and unclear messages. Fortunately evolution made us very good at extracting meaning from all that junk!

      It’s just too cumbersome to say “The acts of that person, which are of course determined by the laws of physics, are irrational and likely to harm himself and others.”, instead of “It seems to me that he is an idiot.”

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        It’s those blasted modal verbs spreading confusion again.

      • Barney
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        In a world of no free will, what would rationality or irrationality mean? No one makes any decisions, so why call them ‘rational’ or otherwise. What is ‘nice’, for that matter?

        I believe it would be better for everyone if hurricanes didn’t form, but it’s not convenient to say “hurricanes shouldn’t form”. When we talk about what people “should” do, we are saying they have the ability to choose whether to or not.

      • Vaal
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        Why the problem with the use of “should”

        Because the normal meaning of words like “should” and “ought” imply “can.”

        That the recommended action is possible.

        That’s why people don’t use those words to recommend things someone can’t do. It can make sense to say to me “You should walk to work because it will be healthier for you than driving” – insofar as I live close enough to make that practical and I can walk etc.

        But you wouldn’t say that to someone with no limbs, obviously, because they can’t walk. The choice between driving or walking is not one they have.

        It’s similarly nonsensical to say “you SHOULD be made of atoms” because there’s no alternative action one could take to make it otherwise.

        If you are using “should” in a way that doesn’t actually carry it’s normal meaning where it implies alternative actions is possible, then I’m not sure what you gain by saying “it’s no problem.” Sure…it’s no problem to make any word coherent if we decide to re-define the meaning of the word.

        But I infer you would still want to use the word “should” – with your own meaning – though in essentially the same way and situations as it is normally used. E.g. to a son watching TV, shirking his homework: “You SHOULD study because you have an exam tomorrow.”

        Surely we must be talking about reasons to do something for any such talk, or recommendations to make sense. And how can you give a reason to do something that either can’t be done, or to do something someone can’t avoid doing anyway. Even if you re-cast your statement to “IF you watch TV you are likely to fail your test” or “IF you turn off the TV and study you are more likely to pass your test” this is still just inert information, like “the sky is blue.” It doesn’t attach to any coherent REASON to do either action. For there to be a reason to study instead of watch TV there has to be, in some substantive sense, the POSSIBILITY for the alternative action of studying vs watching TV.

        And even recast in the way you want to, it seems most of this problem is being hidden in the word “IF…”

        It would be better for everybody if people ate less:

        What can “IF” mean if not implying some alternative or counterfactual? What relevance is this unless “IF” relates to a possible alternative way of doing something – that is “being able to do otherwise?”

        • Dick Veldkamp
          Posted October 26, 2017 at 5:24 am | Permalink

          In spite of the problems there are in precisely defining what “should” means (and all sorts of other expressions that imply free will [and thus are officially wrong]), the fact is that we get along nicely with our inexact language.

          I am not saying that you are wrong, but it simply doesn’t bother me much that I am using “should” (where I maybe should not). If I tell my daughter “You should study now”, this has the effect (some of the time) of making her study more. So, great! Who cares that the two of us have free will, and there really is no alternative?

          And if you think about it, there is hardly anything in the real world that can be defined exactly. What is a “car” ? How do you define “red” ? Is “light red” still “red” ? When does it change into “pink” ?

          However the fact that a 100% satisfactory definition is impossible does not mean that the words “red” and “car” cannot (should not?) be used. Everybody understands exactly what is going on if the witness says that she saw the defendant driving a red car speeding away from the crime scene. And that is what matters.

          • Dick Veldkamp
            Posted October 26, 2017 at 5:25 am | Permalink

            Sigh – NO free will.

    • Michiel
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:27 am | Permalink

      Also, we, deterministically, have no choice in living our lives pretty much thinking as if we had free will. So our language reflects that. It would be very difficult to reshape our language in such a way that it doesn’t feel like it implies free will, possibilities, options, suggestions etc.
      Determinism doesn’t mean that we all just sit in a vegetative state not communicating with eachother.
      And the fact that you have no free will doesn’t mean you have no desire. You just have no choice about desiring one thing or the other.

      • Barney
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        And that, I think, is why posts bemoaning NYT writers who say Weinstein should have acted differently are pointless.

        If we examine things at the cellular and molecular level, everything that contributed to his actions is determined by physics.

        But in practice, we analyse the actions of humans at a far higher level. We talk about what we “should” do to prevent such things – deterrence, locking up those who have done it before and we think will do it again. We say we ourselves have rational paths to follow, and thus consider ourselves as rational. And we also see Weinstein as capable of rational thought – he can produce successful films. He knows he had to pay his victims off to keep quiet. So we can say he “should” have refrained from the abuse.

        Most of all, we see each of ourselves as an individual, and other adults with the normal range of adult functions. We talk about “I”, and “my thoughts” and “my opinions”. If we can consider the consequences of our actions, such as how people may reply to us in this discussion depending on the language we use, then Weinstein could think about the consequences of his actions. And we can assign blame to “Weinstein”, rather than saying “but he’s just trillions of molecules that had no choice”.

  15. David Duncan
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    “Given Weinstein’s environment and genes, he could not have behaved other than the way he did. His ultimate punishment must rest on deterrence (to keep others from practicing this kind of harassment)…”

    If HW couldn’t have done otherwise then there is no deterrence.For the last 30 or so years he has surely observed other people being punished for similar crimes, but he still went ahead.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      If a punishment has not been deterrent in the case of Weinstein, that does not mean that it can not act as a deterrent to others who are similar in character and are in a similar position of power to Weinstein.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Maybe he was encouraged by watching others get away with it scot-free.

    • Gabrielle
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Watching others get away with it scot-free probably got him started down the harassment path. Then he himself got away with it scot-free again and again, which reinforced his behavior. I suspect that after a while, he came to view his behavior towards young women as normal.

  16. Posted October 25, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    You ask for the reason, why Bruni insists on the distinction between psychopathology (formal diagnosis) and harmful predatory behavior – the answer is simple: Only the absence of a formal diagnosis allows him to express all his disgust, aversion to a person like HW it is. You are not free to do in the same way to a person which is official diagnosed with mental disorder.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m not competent to decide whether Weinstein fits any profiles given in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists.

    The DSM is not exclusively a scientific document. Some of the decisions that go into its drafting are driven by politics. Many others are driven by economic concerns over which treatments will be covered by insurance.

    • Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I would say most of the DSM is a *technological* document – it tells us about efficiency, efficacy, etc. rather than (directly) about truth. (Normative, IOW.)

  18. Jake Sevins
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I think “free will” is so cemented in the public mindset that religion will go before the notion of free will goes.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      This does not necessarily have to be the case. Fundamentally, every religious person who believes in God must necessarily also believe in a free will. One can not ask God for anything, or strive to live a life according to religious commandments, and at the same time be convinced that one is determined in his actions and without free will. To the extent that religious faith disappears, there will also be a willingness to accept the complete determinism of human action.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Martin Luther did not believe humans have free will (see On the Bondage of the Will). He thought it inconsistent with an omnipotent and omniscient God.

        • Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          Yes, you are right, but it is a little bit difficult:

          The subject of Luther’s “De servo abritrio” is about the question of Christian thought whether man had, after the Fall of man, had the freedom to choose his by himself for the divine grace, or whether this decision itself was already a gift of grace.
          Luthers answer is: Nobody could influence God in any way and the sovereign will of God alone decides on eternal salvation or eternal damnation
          The book is focused on the relation man vs. God. In this relation the man doesn’t have any free choice.

          But the book does not deal with man’s will formation regarding to his secular actions.

      • Jake Sevins
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

        @sherfolder I think free will is a virtual prerequisite for religious subscription (as you say). But I know plenty of atheists who also believe in free will, suggesting there are a lot more folks believing in free will than in religion.

        I therefore can imagine a world in which a lot of people still believe in retributive justice without any belief in gods.

        • Posted October 26, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink

          I agree with you.
          One might say that atheism is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for the acceptance of the absence of a free will.
          An example of this would probably be Dawkins, he is an avowed atheist, but he does not seem to be able to accept that a freedom of will does not exist.

        • Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          Think of a world run the way some of the USSR was – the Soviets were certainly fond of retribution! I guess you’d have to refer to matters outside the Stalin period, because there’s a confound there, admittedly.

  19. Matthew Jenkins
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Although Mr Weinstein sounds very much like a psychopath…
    If a person has signed an agreement not to say or do anything liable to bring a film studio into disrepute, making a difficult-to-substantiate allegation of sexual assault must be an extraordinarily difficult and potentially career-ending step. The existence of such de facto gagging orders must contribute to the existence of situations where the reduced likelihood of exposure means that people act on impulses which might otherwise remain dormant.
    Given my experience working in British hospitals, I’d imagine that in environments where the people at the top are all close buddies and liable to back each other up, close ranks etc, the decision to blow the whistle must be even harder.

    Female friends from Russia used to speak about being invited to professors’ dachas for the weekend and there being a risk of repercussions in the event of a refusal. Unless sex pests are more likely than non-sexpesty men to succeed in passing Ph.D panels, it might just be that fairly normal men, in certain circumstances, behave like this.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      I’m not particularly knowledgeable about US law but I’ve been told more than once by lawyers over the years (work that involves contracts) that any part of a contract that is contrary to law is not binding. Of course that doesn’t prevent the contract party with the most power from getting their way regardless of the law. And unless it’s a clear case of sexual assault or worse the law is often no help at all, particularly in circumstances of greatly unequal power.

    • mfdempsey1946
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      The concept of free will seems to be fundamental to most forms of theism. At least it was presented that way during my Catholic upbringing in a non-fanatical family and during my teenage years, when I was studying for the Catholic priesthood.

      Fundamental why? Because it lets God off the hook.

      If we have free will (in the traditional sense of this term) and we have committed some mortally sinful act or atrocity for which we have not truly repented, that was totally our own decision; contrary to what science now proposes, we could indeed have chosen to act otherwise.

      As a result, we cannot blame God (the way another Harvey Weinstein-type sexual abuser, ex-Fox News blowhard Bill O’Reilly, has hilariously taken to doing while touting his victimhood) for our transgression or blame the Deity for sending us to hell because of what we freely chose to do in violation of His commandments.

      Basically, then, as far as the faithful are concerned, God gets all the credit for everything good in life and none of the blame for anything bad — and that’s as it should be.

      Thus, committing atrocious deeds like those that have finally blown away the career of former Hollywood powerhouse Weinstein, was his own entirely uncoerced decision.

      But…if one of God’s attributes is that He is All-Knowing (one of the many Alls used to try describing Him during my youth), then He knew eons before each and every human being was even conceived what that person would do at every instant instant of her or his earthly life.

      How, then, could free will be a reality if everyone who has ever lived, is living now, or ever will live is simply an actor following the screenplay and direction of the Great Auteur to a T, no improvisation permitted?

      This was never discussed during my seminary days, except with reference to John Calvin and the “predestination” (dismissed as a heresy with no further discussion) that his sect had as its cornerstone.

      But this predestination was never seen in relation to the ordinary “decisions” of daily life. It was viewed only in stark Big Picture terms: God already knows whether you are going to heaven or hell, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change this destiny. No amount of “good works” will get you into Disneyland in the Sky if you are not already fated to end up there.

      But this doctrine clashes with one of the other Alls, the one that declares God to be All-Loving. So, as I understand it, Catholicism and other Christian creeds other than Calvinism opted for the brand of free will that science has revealed to be just a fantasy.

      In other words, it seems as though John Calvin and science both arrived at the Meat Puppet concept by different routes.

      Not an easy concept for many (me included) to accept (the Puppet part, that is). But reality in all its components is facing us whether we/I like it or not.

      • Posted October 27, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        An omni-God, which adherents believe to be a perfect being, would likewise have no free will.

  20. Posted October 25, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Probably a creep who is a psychopath. For behavior that egregious, it’s hard to see how he could have any empathy at all. Psychopathy is not unusual among top corporate executives.

    BTW, there is a constant confusion about psychopath vs. psychotic. If the killer cuts you up because you are in his way — like a tree branch or piece of furniture – he is a psychopath. If he cuts you up because he thinks you are a carrot, he’s psychotic.

  21. Liz
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    “Given Weinstein’s environment and genes, he could not have behaved other than the way he did.”

    He could have made different choices and been held responsible for those choices. “Make” and “choice” don’t necessarily imply free will in the sense that the choice violates deterministic laws. I think it might depend on how these are defined. Yes, he is responsible for making bad choices. He could have been severely punished prior to this. He could have had a chance to reflect on his actions, how they hurt people, and how he might have changed them to avoid negative consequences. The thought process that goes into making a choice and subsequent action are governed by deterministic laws. Weinstein could have chosen differently and the outcome still would have been deterministic. There is a difference between lack of true free will in determinism equals no thoughts/choices/actions and the fact that choices are deterministic because determinism is true. The focus should be on what biological mechanism is there to explain why we perceive our choices as powerful enough to violate the deterministic laws of physics. Weinstein is a creep who abused his power and wasn’t punished for it.

    “This is an explanation, and a plea for people like Bruni to take a more scientific attitude and see that we are all victims of our genes and environments.”

    We aren’t victims. We perceive our deterministic thoughts and actions in a way that hasn’t been fully explained scientifically. (Not that further scientific discovery would change the deterministic laws of physics.) It’s still a choice, an action, a thought, a movement, and intention based on things that are still being explored scientifically like emotions, love, brain disorders and whatever else. The choices are deterministic but it doesn’t mean we don’t perceive them and reflect on that perception to inspire us to breathe, walk, think, push ourselves farther, and prey on helpless actresses. We don’t have free will but we are definitely responsible for the people we are. Our parents are responsible. Our environment. And we are. We are part of that environment.
    Thank you so much for all of your posts.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      “We don’t have free will but we are definitely responsible for the people we are. ”

      No, that’s a logical error: Free will and responsibility (meaning free choice) are incompatible.

      • Liz
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        We don’t have free will but we have an erroneous perception of choice and responsibility based on our limited knowledge.

  22. Bob
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    “whether or not he is jailed, he needs therapy so he doesn’t repeat his behavior”

    Not necessarily as the reality of jail may provide all the deterrent needed to prevent future offense.

  23. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    His ultimate punishment must rest on deterrence (to keep others from practicing this kind of harassment) …

    What if we developed a failproof method of rehabilitation — if we, in effect, could “cure” offenders — would we still need (and would it be morally justifiable) to punish them publicly with some form of noxious condition or stimulus in order to deter others? Or would it be appropriate simply to release them immediately back into society?

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      This is an important question, it raises the issue whether or not the wish for revenge, for punishment, should be appreciated or not.

      On the other side, that is a hypothetical question, because there is no failproof method of rehabilitation now and never will be in future.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        I dunno, the “future” is like “eternity” —
        it can be a really long time, especially near the end. 🙂

        • Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          “It’s only forever. It’s not long at all.”

  24. Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Weinstein should be mocked, shamed, and punished for what he did, but for the acts he committed, not because we think he could have refrained from his predatory behavior.

    Unfortunately I do not understand the difference or why it would matter.

    but make no mistake about it: he did have a psychopathology, even if it isn’t formally defined, or even if we don’t understand how his genes and environment changed his brain in a way that caused him to behave in horrible ways.

    Is it really that difficult to appreciate the difference between, for example, a kleptomaniac and somebody weighing benefit, chance of being caught and severity of punishment if caught and rationally decides to pocket something? And that this difference means something to us and therefore needs terminology, such as psychopathology in one case and not psychopathology in the other? I mean, if a landslide kills me I am as dead as if a murderer kills me, but surely we won’t be satisfied with a mere “it was both cause-and-effect, so there is no difference?”

    Weird how I can see the distinction in the second case but fail to grasp it in the first, and it is the other way round for the host.

    • Posted October 25, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      But why do you feel dissatisfied with this explanation? Because the landslide that kills you seems to be from a different kind of nature than the human killer?
      Yes, it is made of another substance, but the killing by a natural catastrophe as well as by a human actor takes place according to the same causal laws.
      The difference is, you would never assume, the landslide act based by intention or by free will.
      And this different assessment has emerged evolutionarily, as it was beneficial for man to attribute a free will to his fellow human beings who inflicted harm on him or his clan, so that he could punish him.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

        Well yes, exactly. That is why a concept such as having done something out of one’s free will is useful to us. We have that term not because some sinister conspiracy tries to fool the Little People into believing in magic, we have it because our ancestors invented it to describe important and empirically observable distinctions. Great to be agreed on that!

        • Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:47 am | Permalink


          I think that’s why many of us determinists resist the urge to dismiss the concept of free will – it’s obvious to everyone (non-freewillists and free willists) that a landslide that kills you because of an earthquake is different to a landslide that kills you because of a rational moral actor, and the remedies are different. Similarly there’s a difference between a rational moral actor, like Weinstein, and an irrational actor, like a full-blown psychopath, and *their* remedies are different (granting that, like many things, there is a sliding scale from ‘normal’ to psychopathy).

          In the end it seems to boil down to a semantic argument among determinists; between those who think the benefits of using the phrase ‘free will’ outweigh the costs, and those who don’t. I’m not sure I care that much about the actual phrase, but I’m sure we still need to retain the underlying concept, even if we don’t call it ‘free will’.

  25. Posted October 25, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Some thoughts:

    1. No two human beings are precisely the same in any way I can think of. We have different genes, different histories, different nutritional requirements, different parenting techniques used on us, different educations, different cultures, etc. Yet, somehow, it still seems to be thought that we all are, or should be, the same and should behave accordingly.

    2. If we are going to live in groups, as we do,
    whether behaviors are deterministic or not, there are numerous behaviors so detrimental and/or painful to individuals and society that they should never have happened and should never happen again.

    3. Determinism or not, I find it almost impossible to understand behaviors of a Weinstein, a Trump, a Hitler, a Stalin, etc. They must not view others as human, or value them as human. Since we know that empathy is not just a human trait, but exists in our animal relatives, how has it come about that we
    have so many humans lacking empathy?

    4. If such humans lacking empathy for fellow humans (and the world in general) can be identified, shouldn’t we be able to scientifically determine what caused them to be that way and to ensure that future generations of humans don’t develop those characteristics?

    5. As has been pointed out above, the penal system doesn’t work well at changing prisoners for the better. It long has been known that reducing recidivism is best achieved by using approaches other than imprisonment.

  26. Posted October 25, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Have you been a victim at the hands of a predator? I have, and it’s terrifying. It’s not about sex; it’s about power and control. He’s probably a psychopath. Rule of thumb is that there is no hope for psychopaths.

    It took twenty years to bring mine to some sort of justice with the help of his other victims; although, he never went to jail. I doubt Harvey will ever see the inside of a jail. They’ll say he lost enough, and he’ll get away with it like ours did. Ours lost his career. Boohoo.

  27. Gabrielle
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    “His ultimate punishment must rest on deterrence (to keep others from practicing this kind of harassment)…”

    So there are likely others out there whose biological make-up, upbringing, prior behavior would make them susceptible to being deterred by seeing the punishment already meted out to Weinstein? That is, the loss of his reputation and the loss of his career. But such a person would not be deterred by the knowledge that harassment harms individuals and negatively affects their careers?

    Some 25 years ago, I was harassed by a coworker, which consisted of leering at my breasts, staring at me in meetings, and following me around the workplace. Nothing stopped him, including me telling him that his behavior was unwelcome. Other coworkers would say to me that perhaps this man couldn’t help himself, or perhaps he didn’t understand that his behavior was unprofessional. Long story short, he finally stopped harassing me when an upper manager told him to stop it. From that point on, the harasser never bothered me again; he was perfectly able to control his behavior, as I had long suspected.

    I had observed this man at meetings, and saw that he hung on every word that any upper manager uttered. He appeared to crave the approval of the senior men at work, and when one of them voiced his disapproval, that was the magic bullet. I doubt any other type of intervention (harassment training, therapy, disapproval of coworkers, etc.) would have made a difference.

  28. Vaal
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m very sympathetic to the idea that accrediting some “ultimate” form of moral responsibility and “deservedness” for the people we end up being is a vexed issue. So I do get where Jerry is coming from. It’s just that, when we get into the nitty gritty of the words and concepts we are using, we still need to make consistent sense and I don’t know how we do that without essentially talking like compatibilists.

    He is responsible for what he did, in that the individual known as Harvey Weinstein harmed a lot of women and must be disciplined, but he’s not responsible for making bad choices.

    As I keep saying: to be consistent determinists, we should check whether our reasoning applies to both past, present and future “choices.” Because all are determined.

    Let’s say that you knew him and have now convinced Weinstein of the truth of determinism/incompatibilism – “he could not have done otherwise.”

    Now Weinstein has set up another interview with an actress. You can see he’s making all the same moves on the way to abusing that person and you try to advise him to do otherwise: “Harvey, you shouldn’t take advantage of that actress. It’s an abuse of power and you will cause her real harm…”

    Harvey replies: Why are you talking to me as if I could do otherwise? What I do is determined, I can’t do other than what I’m planning to do, which is abuse her.

    How do you answer Harvey? How do you present a cogent case to him for refraining from abuse, without your argument assuming in some real sense he could in fact, “do otherwise?” And once you are making sense, how do you do this without talking the language of compatibilism?

    • Lee
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

      Just because behavior is determined doesn’t mean that thoughts and interpersonal communications aren’t part of the total path of causality of that behavior. Weinstein may have done otherwise had someone intervened and said the right things to him. That doesn’t make his behavior any less deterministic; it just adds new determinants to that behavior. But if Weinstein’s behavior is determined, then so is that of those who talk with him. We can’t meaningfully use the word “ought” at any point. Whether we plead with him, mock him for his acts, or put him in jail, or whether we just sit back and have discussions like this, we could not have done otherwise when all inputs to our brains are accounted for.

      “Ought” cannot be derived from “is”. But then again those who say “ought” couldn’t have done otherwise.

      Que sera sera.

      • Vaal
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:19 am | Permalink

        Weinstein may have done otherwise had someone intervened and said the right things to him. That doesn’t make his behavior any less deterministic; it just adds new determinants to that behavior.

        Of course. That’s a given.

        The question, again, is whether on the type of incompatibilist logic Jerry often espouses, can you say anything to Weinstein that makes sense – that is can you give him *good reasons* to alter his behavior?

        The way you are headed here, the answer will be “no” and that..should…trouble you 😉

        We can’t meaningfully use the word “ought” at any point.

        Depending on how serious you are, or how far you will go with that: Then you’ve thrown not only morality, but reasons and rationality out the door.

        “ought,” like “should” is our way of putting “prescriptions for actions” into language.
        They represent the reasons for actions – necessary to make sense not only of giving cogent reasons to other people for their actions, but to ourselves in rationalizing which actions to take.

        In other words, without “ought” we only have an ever growing pile of “is” statements. So, for instance, you telling me “that chicken is spoiled and if you feed it to your child he will likely get very sick” is an inert statement of fact, like “the earth revolves around the sun.” It doesn’t in of itself give me a reason to act on that information either way. In order for me to have a reason to act – a rational reason – I have to get to an “ought” somehow, or I’m left just randomly (hence non-rationally) responding to stimuli.
        So where will a reason arise? We need some value in there, e.g. “It is wrong to harm someone unnecessarily.” Or, I would say, a more basic source is simply having a desire – e.g. the desire to maintain my child’s well-being. So the rational (and note – typical) form of reasoning is “IF you want your child to remain healthy you ought to refrain from feeding her that spoiled chicken, which will likely make him sick.”

        Even IF you take out the word “ought” you need some stand in which does essentially the same thing as that word; connects desire to facts about what will fulfill or thwart that desire. Ought already does this in most normal uses.

        It’s this connection between our desires (or a value we hold) and reasoning FROM THAT to the action that will most likely fulfill the desire, that can give us our “reasons for doing things.” It’s how we get to an “ought” even if it’s a prudential (or Kantian hypothetical imperative) form of ought.

        We need “oughts” to make rational sense of our actions, and we need “possibility of alternatives” to make sense of “ought.” (Ought implies can…)

        But if you really want to throw out any form of “ought,” because you can’t countenance any form of “could do otherwise” as being true, then you have thrown out any rational connection between reasons and actions. Meaning you can’t give Weinstien or anyone a “good reason” to do do anything, including refrain from abusing women. Nor can you even host good reasons for your own actions. It renders much of human experience incoherent, including this conversation.

        But, perhaps you want to clarify your stance on rejecting “ought?”

  29. Vaal
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Further, as for responsibility, Harvey may explain that he is not “responsible” for making the bad choice he’s about to make. Sure you can explain why it’s wrong. And sure Harvey may be the physical being who takes the actions and is “responsible” in the sense a bird was responsible for sh*tting on your windshield.

    But if he “couldn’t do otherwise” – whatever it is he does – then he has no reason to hold himself responsible in the sense of feeling blame, or justifying any self recrimination or just feeling bad about doing it. If it makes no sense to blame yourself for a bad past choice, it makes no sense to blame yourself for the bad choice you are about to make either. This seems to grease the psychological wheels in term of making it easier to make the bad choice.

    But please don’t tell us, Mr. Bruni, that, given the situations he found himself in, Weinstein could have refrained from what he did. Under any scientific theory of human behavior, that isn’t true.

    But science studies the ability of people to “refrain” from one action over another all the time. All the behavioral and social sciences depend on this (even advertising). People find ways of refraining, changing their behavior in similar situations, all the time (and science helps give solutions). That includes people with sex addictions or other behaviors.

    But you no doubt mean “in precisely the same situation in the sense of every cause/state being the same.” Sure. But what good is THAT to science? No science I’m aware of actually uses that frame of reference. No two studies or experiments can ever be run on that paradigm – only in similar-enough situations to help predict similar-enough situations in the future.

    My point being (and sorry it’s a picky one): That what you are referring to as “scientific theory of human behavior” is more accurately the “philosophical theory” you hold regarding free will. But that would be begging the question to assume it as a basis of science. A compatibilist theory would mean it’s perfectly compatible with science to say Weinstein could have refrained “given the situations he found himself in” because we’d be talking about situations *relevantly similar* not *all states of the universe being the same* because the former is relevant to doing science, the latter…not so much.

    At least, that’s how I see it.


  30. z
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    And, with that, Peter Strawson rolled in his grave for the 1,000,000th time…

    • Lee
      Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

      Exercise is good. It will help prolong his life. 🙂

  31. FB
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t matter if Weinstein is a creep or mentally ill: it’s not about Weinstein. It’s about the millions learning about the case and thinking how unfair life is: Weinstein was rich, powerful, famous, admired, and enjoyed sex (often times non-consensual) with many beautiful women. So, to see Weinstein in jail would alleviate the suffering of millions, and that’s the priority in cases like this. It’s not possible to be just (Weinstein, like the rest of us, is innocent) but it’s possible to decrease the suffering of millions (specially the victims of sexual abuse).
    Lock him up.

  32. Posted October 26, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    My answer: Probaly “yes” (both).

  33. Posted October 26, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    What if the Devil made him do it?

    Discussions of determinism are irrelevant in a criminal justice system because the system can’t work on any other basis that with the assumption of free will.

    If free will didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it. (Apologies to the person’s quote I just modified.)

    I have no trouble with free will (as an emergent phenomenon, like baseball) and find it violates no scientific evidence … if … if we don’t limit the discussion to only conscious free will. With that limit I doubt we could prove the existence of will, free or otherwise. Most decisions are made subconsciously so we haven’t any basis for an opinion based upon science at this point because we do not understand that level of mental processing. And the history of philosophy is littered with absolutely useless discussions based upon ignorance. Say, did we ever figure out how many angles can really dance on the head of a pin? Hmmm. we do not need more of that.

  34. Tom Chambers
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    If the person can’t help their behavior (they are wired for it), rehabilitation is not possible. Are the rehabilitators wired for helping my others. I just don’t get the whole argument about Weinstein’s behavior unless he had a choice. He chose his behavior to harass, etc vs controlling his behavior because it hurt others. If choice is not possible rehabilitation is a worthless exercise.

  35. mirandaga
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    At what point does the proposition that a person couldn’t have made a choice other than the one he made kick in? I just decided to move my finger. Does that mean that, because of my genes and the laws of physics, I couldn’t have decided not to move my finger? Or does this apply only in more significant choices—e.g., I have a gun in my hand aiming at someone and decide to move my finger to pull the trigger? Not a rhetorical question—I don’t know the answer.

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