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The greatest proof of free will…
Posted: 24 November 2011 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1456 ]
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dougsmith - 24 November 2011 11:07 AM
StephenLawrence - 24 November 2011 10:37 AM

Not a snowball in hell’s chance Doug. Nobody is arguing over whether one can do what one wants to do. And we have the empirical evidence.

People argue over it all the time, particularly in the courts: whether an act was done freely or under compulsion. Or accidentally, for that matter. There’s no mystery about the general issue, although people do want to mystery-monger. I think it’s part of the casual BSing one finds in dorm-room philosophizing.

I think this is the time to read Dennett’s Elbow Room.

Nope, people argue over whether we have a magical ability to do otherwise, which would make our choices totally up to us, rather than dependent upon the distant past or sheer luck.

And people imagine we deserve what happens to us, in a way which is impossible if our choices are not totally up to us.

Stephen

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Posted: 24 November 2011 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1457 ]
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StephenLawrence - 24 November 2011 11:17 AM

Nope, people argue over whether we have a magical ability to do otherwise, which would make our choices totally up to us, rather than dependent upon the distant past or sheer luck.

I don’t think people standardly reason incoherently like this. Some do, others don’t.

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Posted: 24 November 2011 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1458 ]
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dougsmith - 24 November 2011 11:53 AM

I don’t think people standardly reason incoherently like this. Some do, others don’t.

They all do. (near enough)

And we known that because we have this thread as empirical evidence.

Stephen

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Posted: 24 November 2011 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1459 ]
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StephenLawrence - 24 November 2011 12:04 PM

And we known that because we have this thread as empirical evidence.

This thread is not empirical evidence for anything except the fact that some few people like beating dead horses ...  oh oh

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Posted: 24 November 2011 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1460 ]
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dougsmith - 24 November 2011 12:36 PM
StephenLawrence - 24 November 2011 12:04 PM

And we known that because we have this thread as empirical evidence.

This thread is not empirical evidence for anything except the fact that some few people like beating dead horses ...  oh oh

It is empirical evidence for the fact that the free will people believe in is not compatible with determinism.

Stephen

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Posted: 24 November 2011 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1461 ]
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I don’t know if this related in any way, but I am curious.

Is there a connection between “probability wave” and “determinism”.
As I understand it a probability wave is indeterminate until it is observed at which time it becomes fixed in space (as a particle). We cannot predict its exact location but only a percent probability of the location it will become manifest.
If reality (particle) is undetermined all the way until observed (choice), is there an element of free will here or can free will be introduced?

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Posted: 24 November 2011 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1462 ]
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Write4U - 24 November 2011 01:25 PM

I don’t know if this related in any way, but I am curious.

Is there a connection between “probability wave” and “determinism”.
As I understand it a probability wave is indeterminate until it is observed at which time it becomes fixed in space (as a particle). We cannot predict its exact location but only a percent probability of the location it will become manifest.
If reality (particle) is undetermined all the way until observed (choice), is there an element of free will here or can free will be introduced?

This is a question that’s been asked and answered many, many times here in one guise or another. Strictly speaking, “determinism” is the thesis that future events are completely determined by past events. Quantum mechanics (where you get the notion of a “probability wave”) has established that determinism is false. It’s true to a very high degree of probability for macroscopic events, but once you get to the realm of the very, very small, causation becomes more plainly statistical in character.

There is no element of free will in quantum mechanics, however. This is part of the incoherency we’ve talked about in the past: quantum mechanics only gives you randomness. Free will, however, is always directed towards one thing or another.

To put it another way, a freely willed act is like reaching for a glass of water when you are thirsty: it’s directed at the glass of water, and away from the flaming burner on the stove. A random motion would be like a twitch or jerk. If your hand twitches towards the water, that is not a free act. And the chances of it doing so precisely when you are thirsty is vanishingly small. (And even if it did, it would constitute virtually nothing compared with the other free acts that surround us all the time).

Stephen is right that many people believe that free will is not compatible with determinism. The problem is that these same people use the concept ‘free will’ or ‘acting freely’ in cases where determinism is true—or at least true enough. At base this can be described as a kind of incoherency, though I’d prefer to describe it as simply a common error of not thinking things through in deep enough detail.

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Posted: 24 November 2011 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1463 ]
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I can see the problem when free will is applied to human interpretation. Perhaps human actions are proof of determinism, our actions are a result of causality and themselves causal to a specific result, i.e. determinate.

But removing humans (or other conditioned reactive organisms) from the equation, are we then not left with probability only, i.e. “probabilistic determinism”?  But that would rule out pre-determinism, wouldn’t it?

Not trying to be difficult here. Philosophy must be the most difficult of all disciplines… confused .

[ Edited: 24 November 2011 04:23 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 24 November 2011 04:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1464 ]
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StephenLawrence - 24 November 2011 01:08 PM
dougsmith - 24 November 2011 12:36 PM
StephenLawrence - 24 November 2011 12:04 PM

And we known that because we have this thread as empirical evidence.

This thread is not empirical evidence for anything except the fact that some few people like beating dead horses ...  oh oh

It is empirical evidence for the fact that the free will people believe in is not compatible with determinism.

Stephen

It is the curse placed on the knowledgeable philosophers by the curiosity of the never ending stream of newcomers, or the desire to find deeper understanding in lay, such as myself.

But I for one am grateful that you are willing to explain this very complicated issue from all different angles.

I freely direct my “thanks giving” wishes to you and to all members and posters in CFI…... cheese

[ Edited: 24 November 2011 04:52 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 24 November 2011 06:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1465 ]
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Write4U - 24 November 2011 04:10 PM

I can see the problem when free will is applied to human interpretation. Perhaps human actions are proof of determinism, our actions are a result of causality and themselves causal to a specific result, i.e. determinate.

But removing humans (or other conditioned reactive organisms) from the equation, are we then not left with probability only, i.e. “probabilistic determinism”?  But that would rule out pre-determinism, wouldn’t it?

Not trying to be difficult here. Philosophy must be the most difficult of all disciplines… confused .

I’m not sure I understand your question. My point was simply that typical ‘free’ human acts are products of our beliefs and desires; our pre-existing mental states. As such they fit perfectly into a general deterministic causal picture.

Humans are no more causally determinate than is the rest of physical reality. It’s true that physical causation is only probabilistically deterministic, but for macroscopic objects that probability is very high indeed.

As to the question of what you term ‘pre-determinism’: I assume you mean to ask whether or not it is predictable given initial conditions. Since many (even perfectly deterministic) physical processes are chaotic, and chaotic processes are highly sensitive to initial conditions, these are in fact not predictable very far into the future. Assuming Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the fact of chaotic physical processes means that physical processes such as the weather are in principle not predictable very far into the future: to do so one would have to know the position and momentum of each atom to a higher degree of certainty than would be physically possible.

So ... no, the universe is not very predictable given QM, Heisenberg and chaos. But that has nothing to do with free will.

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Posted: 24 November 2011 07:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1466 ]
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I guess I was trying to attach a different meaning to the term “will”, which is peculiar to decision making and is not applicable to inanimate matter (force).

[ Edited: 24 November 2011 07:36 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 24 November 2011 07:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1467 ]
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Write4U - 24 November 2011 07:04 PM

I guess I was trying to attach a different meaning to the term “will”, which is peculiar to decision making and is not applicable to inanimate matter.

The difference between animate and inanimate matter is one of degree. On the one extreme you have rocks, on the other you have humans (and maybe other intelligent animals). In between you have thermostats, watches, calculators, PCs, supercomputers, bacteria, insects, etc. They are all demonstrably physical objects, that work by increasingly complex internal mechanisms. Somewhere along that line (it’s vague, like everything in daily life) we are happy to say the behavior exhibited by the thing exhibits “will” as opposed to just doing stuff. Presumably it’s simply a matter of complexity: the thing can have beliefs and desires, weigh options and come to decisions. Arguably complex computers can do this now, and if they can’t, it’s not a matter of principle but simply a matter of complexity.

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Posted: 25 November 2011 02:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1468 ]
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The difference between animate and inanimate matter is one of degree.

That is what could be called the ‘law of materialism’.  If it is true, then free will (in the strongest sense of the word) is impossible.  But is it true?  I hate to bring up even the possibilty, but it can be argued that free will is evidence against the law of materialism, as is ‘consciousness’, at least until someone does manage to actually make machine conscious(as opposed to insist it can be done by invoking the law of materialism!).

After 98 pages, I propose that the question of free will cannot be answered by philosophical debate.  We need to do it empirically.  Can anybody suggest the design of a mechanical device that demonstrates free will, or consciousness?  If not, why not?

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Posted: 25 November 2011 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1469 ]
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Pretty much all philosophers are compatibilists now, and it’s because the very simple arguments from people like Galen Strawson are just too strong.

1. To be ultimately responsible for what you do you have to be ultimately responsible for what you are. 2. You can’t possibly be ultimately responsible for what you are. 3. Therefore you can’t be ultimately responsible for what you do.

Sorry if I got the argument slightly wrong, but I think it’s something like that. Most people find it very persuasive.   

Personally, though, I tend to agree with people like Colin Mcginn that free will and consciousness are both deeply mysterious and must somehow be linked. It may even be that they are the same problem, and that the human brain is simply incapable of understanding free will/consciousness. The philosophical arguments against strong free will seem absolutely rock solid, but at the same time we have this consciousness/phenomenology of choice, of having alternate possibilities, and we just can’t shake it.   

It could be an illusion, but for me the connection between mind/consciousness/experience and this piece of meat called the brain is so totally baffling that I’m guessing that there must be something else going on here.

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Posted: 25 November 2011 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1470 ]
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keithprosser2 - 25 November 2011 02:38 AM

After 98 pages, I propose that the question of free will cannot be answered by philosophical debate.  We need to do it empirically.

An empirical definition of free will? Give me that…

keithprosser2 - 25 November 2011 02:38 AM

Can anybody suggest the design of a mechanical device that demonstrates free will, or consciousness?  If not, why not?

Yes, of course I can. Just build a computer that in every detail runs a simulation of a human body until the smallest nerve connection, with the same flexibility and with a simulated environment that guarantees the same input/output as a real environment. Maybe there are more minimalist approaches, but at least that will do.

Maybe it is easier just to take a human (e.g. yourself), and ask the following questions:
1. Are you conscious?
2. Do you act, at least partially, based on your (conscious) wishes and beliefs? When yes, are these free actions?
3. Is your body completely implemented in (biological) matter or not?
4. If not, what is this missing entity/stuff, and how is it possible for any entity/stuff that it causally relates to a (for all practical purposes) deterministic universe? Does ‘causally related’ not already means that it is physical stuff?
5. On what are processes in this missing entity/stuff based? Are they causally related?

Seems that you have quite some work to do before we can even start answering this ‘empirical’ question…

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