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The greatest proof of free will…
Posted: 04 December 2011 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1501 ]
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I have always enjoyed Coyne’s posts on free will. His latest one is excellent. In it, he says that the redefining of free will by the compatibilists is very much like redefining “God” as “the laws of physics” by the theologians. Check it out! (I am on my iPhone so I won’t try to attempt to link to his blog.)

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Posted: 04 December 2011 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1502 ]
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George - 04 December 2011 08:04 AM

I have always enjoyed Coyne’s posts on free will. His latest one is excellent. In it, he says that the redefining of free will by the compatibilists is very much like redefining “God” as “the laws of physics” by the theologians. Check it out! (I am on my iPhone so I won’t try to attempt to link to his blog.)

Not a very enlightening piece. He doesn’t understand what makes an act free, and gets thoroughly confused over it.

I can see some similarities with God as the laws of physics, however. The only way to make sense of God is to identify him/her/it with the laws of physics: there are laws of physics, and they play the same role in the universe that theologians used to believe God did. This realization is nothing new; it goes back at least to Spinoza.

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Posted: 04 December 2011 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1503 ]
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As sophisticated as both deism and compatibilism are, none of them really answer the questions people have been contamplating for thousands of years: Does God exist? Do we have free will? The answer to both is an obvious no. Free act (whatever that is) and the laws of physics are no more than a red herring here.

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Posted: 04 December 2011 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1504 ]
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George - 04 December 2011 08:04 AM

I have always enjoyed Coyne’s posts on free will. His latest one is excellent. In it, he says that the redefining of free will by the compatibilists is very much like redefining “God” as “the laws of physics” by the theologians. Check it out! (I am on my iPhone so I won’t try to attempt to link to his blog.)

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/another-philosopher-redefines-free-will-so-that-we-can-still-have-it/

My own definition, which I think corresponds to most people’s take, is that if you could rerun the tape of life back to the moment a decision is made, with all the concatenations of molecules at that moment, and the circumstances leading up to it, remaining the same, you could have chosen differently.  If you couldn’t, then determinism reigns and we’re not free agents, at least as most people think of them.

If we think about it we can see we are not interested in what we could have done by this definition. Imagine the act of shaking someone’s hand. Now replace that with punching them in the face with nothing else different at all, except for the action. How weird would that be? And what kind of freedom would that be?

It does makes sense to work out what we are really thinking about.

what on earth does he mean by “our capacities to control our actions”?  We can’t control our actions, for crying out loud, because there is no “we” there that can override the laws of physics. We could not have done otherwise.

So to control our actions by overriding the laws of physics does mean something?

We can still have the idea of responsibility under my definition of free will, but simply have to re-conceptualize what it means

This made me smile. He has no problem re-conceptualizing moral responsibility even though the concept he has in mind is very different from the common idea but does with re-conceptualizing free will. Why?

Moral responsibility and the correctly understood version of could have done otherwise remain linked, so if we’re going to re-conceptualize one and keep the label, why not the other?

Stephen

[ Edited: 04 December 2011 09:48 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 04 December 2011 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1505 ]
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George - 04 December 2011 09:29 AM

As sophisticated as both deism and compatibilism are, none of them really answer the questions people have been contamplating for thousands of years: Does God exist? Do we have free will? The answer to both is an obvious no. Free act (whatever that is) and the laws of physics are no more than a red herring here.

If by “free will” you mean “the ability to do otherwise than you did, holding all causal factors the same”, then the question answers itself. Of course, there is no libertarian free will. If, however, you understand things deeper then you will see that libertarian free will is incoherent, so wanting it is completely nonsensical. It’s not just that there is no such thing as libertarian free will, it’s that there could never have been any such thing as libertarian free will: libertarian free will makes no sense. It’s like wanting that 1+1 should equal 4 or that bachelors should be married.

The problem with naïve theorists like Coyne is that they fail to understand the whole picture.

[ Edited: 04 December 2011 01:29 PM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 04 December 2011 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1506 ]
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By free will I mean the same as thing as 99% of the unsophisticated population. You (by that I mean the philosophers) should probably come up with a new word to discuss whatever you’re after and stop confussing people around you. As a philosopher, aren’t you supposed to make things clear for others to understand?

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Posted: 04 December 2011 03:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1507 ]
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George - 04 December 2011 02:58 PM

As a philosopher, aren’t you supposed to make things clear for others to understand?

Exactly what we are doing. But, as with mathematics, there are always some people determined not to understand, for whatever reason.

cheese

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Posted: 04 December 2011 03:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1508 ]
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dougsmith - 04 December 2011 01:27 PM
George - 04 December 2011 09:29 AM

As sophisticated as both deism and compatibilism are, none of them really answer the questions people have been contamplating for thousands of years: Does God exist? Do we have free will? The answer to both is an obvious no. Free act (whatever that is) and the laws of physics are no more than a red herring here.

If by “free will” you mean “the ability to do otherwise than you did, holding all causal factors the same”, then the question answers itself. Of course, there is no libertarian free will. If, however, you understand things deeper then you will see that libertarian free will is incoherent, so wanting it is completely nonsensical. It’s not just that there is no such thing as libertarian free will, it’s that there could never have been any such thing as libertarian free will: libertarian free will makes no sense. It’s like wanting that 1+1 should equal 4 or that bachelors should be married.

The problem with naïve theorists like Coyne is that they fail to understand the whole picture.

Just came across Thomas Hobbes making the same point about 400 years ago. grin

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/dfwVariousHobbes.htm

Lastly, that ordinary definition of a free agent, namely, that a free agent is that, which, when all things are present which are needful to produce the effect, can nevertheless not produce it, implies a contradiction, and is nonsense; being as much as to say, the cause may be sufficient, that is to say, necessary, and yet the effect shall not follow. 

Stephen

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Posted: 04 December 2011 03:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1509 ]
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George - 04 December 2011 02:58 PM

By free will I mean the same as thing as 99% of the unsophisticated population. You (by that I mean the philosophers) should probably come up with a new word to discuss whatever you’re after and stop confussing people around you. As a philosopher, aren’t you supposed to make things clear for others to understand?

I think whether philosophers are making a hash of it or not George, you do need to start with examining what you yourself are thinking about when thinking about what you could have done.

I think it does become pretty obvious that one is not, in fact, thinking about in precisely the same circumstances.

Stephen

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Posted: 04 December 2011 03:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1510 ]
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StephenLawrence - 04 December 2011 03:01 PM
dougsmith - 04 December 2011 01:27 PM
George - 04 December 2011 09:29 AM

As sophisticated as both deism and compatibilism are, none of them really answer the questions people have been contamplating for thousands of years: Does God exist? Do we have free will? The answer to both is an obvious no. Free act (whatever that is) and the laws of physics are no more than a red herring here.

If by “free will” you mean “the ability to do otherwise than you did, holding all causal factors the same”, then the question answers itself. Of course, there is no libertarian free will. If, however, you understand things deeper then you will see that libertarian free will is incoherent, so wanting it is completely nonsensical. It’s not just that there is no such thing as libertarian free will, it’s that there could never have been any such thing as libertarian free will: libertarian free will makes no sense. It’s like wanting that 1+1 should equal 4 or that bachelors should be married.

The problem with naïve theorists like Coyne is that they fail to understand the whole picture.

Just came across Thomas Hobbes making the same point about 400 years ago. grin

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/dfwVariousHobbes.htm

Lastly, that ordinary definition of a free agent, namely, that a free agent is that, which, when all things are present which are needful to produce the effect, can nevertheless not produce it, implies a contradiction, and is nonsense; being as much as to say, the cause may be sufficient, that is to say, necessary, and yet the effect shall not follow. 

Stephen

Good find! smile

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Posted: 04 December 2011 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1511 ]
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dougsmith - 04 December 2011 03:01 PM
George - 04 December 2011 02:58 PM

As a philosopher, aren’t you supposed to make things clear for others to understand?

Exactly what we are doing. But, as with mathematics, there are always some people determined not to understand, for whatever reason.

cheese

I’ll remind you of that next time you tell somebody that what we understand by “God” is a person-like being who answers prayers and gets involved in our daily lives.

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Posted: 04 December 2011 04:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1512 ]
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George - 04 December 2011 04:36 PM

I’ll remind you of that next time you tell somebody that what we understand by “God” is a person-like being who answers prayers and gets involved in our daily lives.

I don’t say that’s what “we” understand by God. I say that’s the sort of God I am quite sure doesn’t exist. If someone wants to say that by God they mean the laws of nature, I have no problem with asserting that such a thing exists. (It’s not a person, since the laws of nature don’t constitute a person).

I will also say that such a being has no religious merit and is not the God that most all Christian churches base their liturgy around.

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Posted: 04 December 2011 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1513 ]
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I should add that the standard theological definition of God (which is the one I advert to when saying that I am an atheist) is also not incoherent. So at least there is something substantive there.

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Posted: 04 December 2011 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1514 ]
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No, what you object to (correctly, IMO—I should add) is when a theist tries to defend his position redefining God as the laws of nature. Equally, I (and Coyne) get suspecious when philosophers defend their position on the existence of free will and tell us the real free will is actually something like the free act. For some reason, free will is now known as the “libertarian” free will.

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Posted: 04 December 2011 08:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1515 ]
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George - 04 December 2011 06:17 PM

No, what you object to (correctly, IMO—I should add) is when a theist tries to defend his position redefining God as the laws of nature.

I don’t know who you’re talking about, but it’s not me. The only time I’d have a problem with this is if the theist was being inconsistent or IOW hypocritical. (I.e. claiming at one time that God is a personal God who responds to prayer, etc., and also that God is just the laws of nature).

I’ve said many times that I have no real problem with Deism, except the minor one that it can be confused with theism.

Our discussion about free will and theism had nothing to do with inconsistency; that’s a separate issue. Libertarians about free will are not standardly inconsistent.

George - 04 December 2011 06:17 PM

Equally, I (and Coyne) get suspecious when philosophers defend their position on the existence of free will and tell us the real free will is actually something like the free act. For some reason, free will is now known as the “libertarian” free will.

This is the standard name for it in philosophy. The positions are known as “libertarian” free will and “compatibilist” free will. AFAIK they are accepted by all sides, so if you’re calling the names into question you’ll have to clarify what the issue is.

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