The belief in free will underwrites both the religious notion

NewAmerica

Banned
Mandarin
Does "The belief in free will underwrites both the religious notion" mean "The belief in free will gives strong support to both the religious notion"?

Or "lay the foundation of"?



Thanks in advance

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Moral Responsibility The question of free will is no mere curio of philosophy seminars. The belief in free will underwrites both the religious notion of “sin” and our enduring commitment to retributive justice.

-Sam Harris (The Moral Landscape Page 73)
 
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  • kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The belief in free will is the basis for both the religious notion of “sin” and our enduring commitment to retributive justice.

    Or, as Glen says, "underlies".

    I'm not sure if it's an error or just an attempt at a figurative use.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    The belief in free will is the basis for both the religious notion of “sin” and our enduring commitment to retributive justice.

    Or, as Glen says, "underlies".

    I'm not sure if it's an error or just an attempt at a figurative use.
    The following sentence is "The Supreme Court has called free will a “universal and persistent” foundation for our system of law, distinct from “a deterministic view of human conduct that is inconsistent with the underlying precepts of our criminal justice system” ( United States v. Grayson, 1978)."

    There is the word underlying there. So I infer that the author deliberately used "underwrites" to avoid repetition.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    That seems reasonable. But I also think he might have used it because 1) he's an academic so he feels the need to be fancy and 2) it is a slightly different nuance. "Underlies" seems more passive to me. It exists, it's there, that's all. "Underwrites" seems more active, more conscious. It's more of a choice to have that as a basis. It uses more free will.:rolleyes:
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    That seems reasonable. But I also think he might have used it because 1) he's an academic so he feels the need to be fancy and 2) it is a slightly different nuance. "Underlies" seems more passive to me. It exists, it's there, that's all. "Underwrites" seems more active, more conscious. It's more of a choice to have that as a basis. It uses more free will.:rolleyes:
    I like the nuance. :thumbsup:
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    The problem is that this just isn't a meaning of "underwrite." If he wanted to avoid repetition and yet still use the prefix "under-", well, he had "underpins" and "undergirds" to choose from.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    The problem is that this just isn't a meaning of "underwrite." If he wanted to avoid repetition and yet still use the prefix "under-", well, he had "underpins" and "undergirds" to choose from.
    Both "underpins" and "undergirds" would sound a bit more passive, and also less vivid, than "underwrites," as Kentix has pointed out when comparing "underlies" with "underwrites."
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    "The belief in free will gives strong support
    It says more than that.
    'Underwrite' is a term used in insurance, where it means to accept the risk of a contract (promising to pay the insured amount), and in stockbroking, where it means to guarantee to take some shares, or find takers for them (promising that the purchase cost will be paid). Each of these is a form of guarantee, and unless the guarantee is given, the transaction will not go ahead in either case.

    The meaning here is a metaphorical use of either or both of the above, in the sense of guaranteeing the validity of the ideas of sin and retributive justice.
    It is not possible to justify the religious concept of sin, or the legal concept of retribution, unless you believe that the individual is free to choose his or her actions. It is a necessary condition of those conceptions.
     
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