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The greatest proof of free will…
Posted: 05 December 2011 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1531 ]
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dougsmith - 05 December 2011 07:32 AM


I’m not sure what you’re asking, GdB. I’ve talked many times about coercion of various sorts. One example: if the bank robber sticks a gun at me and asks me to hand over the money in the safe, I’m not doing that of my own free will. That is, I’m handing him the money without wanting to hand him the money. What I want to do is to stay alive, and I know that handing him the money will allow me to stay alive, but that’s not the same as wanting to hand him the money.

But then everytime we do something (edit: just) because we want to avoid bad consequences, we don’t want to do it and so don’t have free will.

So we don’t go to the dentist of our own free will, for instance.

Stephen

[ Edited: 05 December 2011 07:40 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 05 December 2011 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1532 ]
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From this article at the NYT

What Makes Free Will Free?

Philosophers favoring compatibilism have worked out elaborate accounts of what’s involved in a choice’s being caused “in the right sort of way” and therefore free.  Other philosophers have argued that compatibilism is a blind alley, that unless our choices are ultimately uncaused they cannot be free.

Why is causation absolutely necessary for free choice wrt free will? The usual answer is that an uncaused choice is random, i.e. there is no volition, hence it is not free choice at all.

However, the universe is uncaused and neither is it random. It is therefore possible that our choices can be ultimately uncaused and are not random, like the universe.

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Posted: 05 December 2011 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1533 ]
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StephenLawrence - 05 December 2011 07:37 AM

But then everytime we do something (edit: just) because we want to avoid bad consequences, we don’t want to do it and so don’t have free will.

So we don’t go to the dentist of our own free will, for instance.

I don’t think free will is an all-or-nothing thing. That said, I’d deny that every time we do something we do it to avoid bad consequences. If I decide to have a piece of pie after dinner, there are no bad consequences I am trying to avoid. I want the pie because I believe it will taste good. (And damn the bad consequences!) smile

Your question about the dentist is good. I don’t think we go to the dentist entirely freely, however there’s nobody holding a gun to our heads, threatening us with death if we don’t. The fact is that virtually all of us are of conflicted emotions (= desires) about going to the dentist. We do it because we know we should, we know we will probably be avoiding worse alternatives later on by doing it, but we also know we don’t want to endure the pain and inconvenience. So I’d argue there is a certain amount of something like compulsion involved, although the compulsion (such as it is) stems from our own reasoning apparatus. Again, it’s not from some other individual threatening or restraining us. So in this case what we do is really mostly free.

We act freely when of sound mind we want to do what we do. Often we are of conflicted desires; in that case we are not entirely free in what we do. We are also not free in the case that our mind is not sound. (This is why, for example, the courts decline to punish so severely in the case of mental illness or effect by drugs). But all these are vague and admit of degrees.

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Posted: 05 December 2011 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1534 ]
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kkwan - 05 December 2011 07:58 AM

the universe is uncaused and neither is it random. It is therefore possible that our choices can be ultimately uncaused and are not random, like the universe.

I don’t know what this means.

(1) There is no evidence one way or another about the universe having been caused.

(2) If the universe were uncaused, then its initial state would have been random. Indeed, that is precisely what the data shows. See HERE:

The Big Bang theory predicts that the initial conditions for the universe are originally random in nature, and inhomogeneities follow a roughly Gaussian probability distribution, which, when graphed in cross-section, form bell-shaped curves. By analyzing this distribution at different frequencies, a spectral density or power spectrum is generated. The power spectrum of these fluctuations has been calculated, and agrees with the observations. The resulting standard model of the Big Bang uses a Gaussian random field with a nearly scale invariant or Harrison-Zel’dovich spectrum to represent the primeval inhomogeneities.

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Posted: 05 December 2011 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1535 ]
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dougsmith - 05 December 2011 08:05 AM

I don’t think free will is an all-or-nothing thing.

I know, it’s a sliding scale.

That said, I’d deny that every time we do something we do it to avoid bad consequences. If I decide to have a piece of pie after dinner, there are no bad consequences I am trying to avoid. I want the pie because I believe it will taste good. (And damn the bad consequences!) :)

Yes, I didn’t mean that.

We act freely when of sound mind we want to do what we do. Often we are of conflicted desires; in that case we are not entirely free in what we do.

Right, so one might say often we don’t have free will, but compatibilists will generally say that usually we do.

Also the will is the outcome of the competing beliefs and desires, so we do always do what we will in a sense and if want is being used to mean the same thing, we do always do what we want, so the man does want to give the money to the bank robber. He does evaluate that option most highly.

So I think what the word want means in “he doesn’t want to” isn’t clear at all and that needs work, something we haven’t discussed much.

One more example, a man who slows down for a speed camera to avoid the fine who would otherwise keep going at the same speed is not acting of his own free will, in the same way as in the bank robber example, I assume?

I find it curious in cases like this that if he slows down it is not of his own free will whilst if he doesn’t it is.

[ Edited: 05 December 2011 08:39 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 05 December 2011 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1536 ]
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kkwan - 05 December 2011 07:58 AM

From this article at the NYT

What Makes Free Will Free?

Philosophers favoring compatibilism have worked out elaborate accounts of what’s involved in a choice’s being caused “in the right sort of way” and therefore free.  Other philosophers have argued that compatibilism is a blind alley, that unless our choices are ultimately uncaused they cannot be free.

Why is causation absolutely necessary for free choice wrt free will? The usual answer is that an uncaused choice is random, i.e. there is no volition, hence it is not free choice at all.

However, the universe is uncaused and neither is it random. It is therefore possible that our choices can be ultimately uncaused and are not random, like the universe.

I think one of a number of reasons to reject all this is that if we examine what we are thinking about when thinking about what we could have done, we can see we are not thinking about in the precise same circumstances.

So there is no reason to look for this freedom in the first place.

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Posted: 05 December 2011 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1537 ]
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StephenLawrence - 05 December 2011 08:25 AM

Also the will is the outcome of the competing beliefs and desires, so we do always do what we will in a sense and if want is being used to mean the same thing, we do always do what we want, so the man does want to give the money to the bank robber. He does evaluate that option most highly.

So I think what the word want means in “he doesn’t want to” isn’t clear at all and that needs work, something we haven’t discussed much.

One more example, a man who slows down for a speed camera to avoid the fine who would otherwise keep going at the same speed is not acting of his own free will, in the same way as in the bank robber example, I assume?

I think it comes down to how readily the person doing the act would describe himself as wanting to do the act under that description. In the case of the bank robber, it might be a little muddied if the teller couldn’t care less about the bank losing the money. It’s always clearer to stick to easy cases, so let’s assume it’s the bank’s owner being stuck up by the robber. Now, the bank’s owner does not want to give the robber the money. No way, no how. He is given no choice in the matter that allows him to leave with his life. It’s clear then that he is acting completely under compulsion.

In other cases one is weighing conflicting desires, such as that between speeding and not paying a fine, or between paying a fine and going to jail, etc. Along the sliding scale it becomes more and more difficult to describe oneself as wanting to do the act under that description. As it becomes more difficult, I think the case is easier to make that one is acting under compulsion and hence that one lacks (complete) free will in the act. And again, courts will generally tend towards leniency in cases where people did things under varying levels of compulsion.

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Posted: 05 December 2011 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1538 ]
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dougsmith - 05 December 2011 07:32 AM

I’m not sure what you’re asking, GdB. I’ve talked many times about coercion of various sorts. One example: if the bank robber sticks a gun at me and asks me to hand over the money in the safe, I’m not doing that of my own free will. That is, I’m handing him the money without wanting to hand him the money. What I want to do is to stay alive, and I know that handing him the money will allow me to stay alive, but that’s not the same as wanting to hand him the money. The relevant desire in this instance comes from the bank robber, not from me.

I think you give just the same answer I did, only in other wordings. If you say it is not my own will to hand out the money, I think I mean the same when I say it is alien to me, even if the will to stay alive is definitely my own will. But speaking of my own will (and for that of something alien to my will) at least presupposes that we are able to identify what is my own will, i.e. me. So my point I am trying to make all the time, that given persons (actors, agents…) the distinction between my own will and a will that is not my own can be made. That’s also the reason that I say that those who deny free will should consistently deny the existence of persons. (I know this is not a rock solid argumentation, but I hope you know what I mean.)

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Posted: 05 December 2011 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1539 ]
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GdB - 05 December 2011 08:55 AM

I think you give just the same answer I did, only in other wordings. If you say it is not my own will to hand out the money, I think I mean the same when I say it is alien to me, even if the will to stay alive is definitely my own will. But speaking of my own will (and for that of something alien to my will) at least presupposes that we are able to identify what is my own will, i.e. me. So my point I am trying to make all the time, that given persons (actors, agents…) the distinction between my own will and a will that is not my own can be made. That’s also the reason that I say that those who deny free will should consistently deny the existence of persons. (I know this is not a rock solid argumentation, but I hope you know what I mean.)

OK, then it sounds like we are on the same page.

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Posted: 05 December 2011 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1540 ]
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dougsmith - 05 December 2011 08:48 AM

I think it comes down to how readily the person doing the act would describe himself as wanting to do the act under that description. In the case of the bank robber, it might be a little muddied if the teller couldn’t care less about the bank losing the money. It’s always clearer to stick to easy cases, so let’s assume it’s the bank’s owner being stuck up by the robber. Now, the bank’s owner does not want to give the robber the money. No way, no how. He is given no choice in the matter that allows him to leave with his life. It’s clear then that he is acting completely under compulsion.

I don’t think you are quite getting at what he doesn’t want to hand the money over means. He does have a choice, his money or his life, he chooses his money. Out of two bad options it is his preferred one.

Stephen

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Posted: 05 December 2011 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1541 ]
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StephenLawrence - 05 December 2011 09:52 AM

I don’t think you are quite getting at what he doesn’t want to hand the money over means. He does have a choice, his money or his life, he chooses his money. Out of two bad options it is his preferred one.

Sure. But [wanting to be alive is] also the thing he’d be likely to want to do no matter how much he didn’t want do the other thing. (Except perhaps for being tortured for years and years, etc.) The point is that he absolutely did not want to give over the money.

Given any list of options, there will be some we would love to do, some we don’t really care about one way or another, and some we absolutely do not want to do. In this case, giving over the money is way down on that list. The fact that he is doing it means either that he’s gone out of his mind or that he’s been compelled by something even more horrible. That doesn’t change the fact that he still doesn’t want to give over the money.

[Edited for clarity.]

[ Edited: 05 December 2011 10:28 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 05 December 2011 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1542 ]
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dougsmith - 05 December 2011 10:02 AM
StephenLawrence - 05 December 2011 09:52 AM

I don’t think you are quite getting at what he doesn’t want to hand the money over means. He does have a choice, his money or his life, he chooses his money. Out of two bad options it is his preferred one.

Sure. But [wanting to be alive is] also the thing he’d be likely to want to do no matter how much he didn’t want do the other thing. (Except perhaps for being tortured for years and years, etc.) The point is that he absolutely did not want to give over the money.

Given any list of options, there will be some we would love to do, some we don’t really care about one way or another, and some we absolutely do not want to do. In this case, giving over the money is way down on that list. The fact that he is doing it means either that he’s gone out of his mind or that he’s been compelled by something even more horrible. That doesn’t change the fact that he still doesn’t want to give over the money.

[Edited for clarity.]

It’s not clear to me how to make sense of this. I think I agree it can be done though and in normal conversation I wouldn’t question it.

You say he is being compelled by something even more horrible but one might say that every choice is compelled in that case, as always we are compelled by the other options being worse (subjectively) than the one we pick.

As handing the money over is his most highly valued option in the circumtances, I think perhaps you are talking about what he would ideally want if there weren’t such negative consequences?

Stephen

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Posted: 05 December 2011 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1543 ]
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StephenLawrence - 05 December 2011 10:54 AM

You say he is being compelled by something even more horrible but one might say that every choice is compelled in that case, as always we are compelled by the other options being worse (subjectively) than the one we pick.

But in many cases the options don’t include something we don’t want to do. E.g., if I’m picking ice cream, I want chocolate, but I also want to share with my wife who wants strawberry. So I order strawberry. It’s not that I was compelled to pick strawberry—I like strawberry and wanted it, though less than chocolate. And making my wife happy PLUS the strawberry I wanted more than the chocolate.

Similarly, maybe I couldn’t care less about having Thai or Chinese food for dinner, or just staying home. But my wife wants Thai food so I go there. Again, it’s not that I was compelled to go to the Thai place. In fact, I couldn’t care less one way or the other.

In these cases I think we’d say that I freely chose strawberry and that I freely chose to go to the Thai restaurant, because under the circumstances I didn’t have a desire not to do them, and my other options were worse (making my wife unhappy, or whatever the case may be).

In the case of the bank robber, the bank owner actively doesn’t want to give the money over. He *really* doesn’t want to do it. He’s sitting there handing over the money to the robber, tears in his eyes, muttering to himself, “I really don’t want to do this!” That’s what makes the difference between acting under compulsion and acting freely: the state of the relevant desire.

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Posted: 05 December 2011 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1544 ]
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dougsmith - 05 December 2011 11:14 AM

In the case of the bank robber, the bank owner actively doesn’t want to give the money over. He *really* doesn’t want to do it. He’s sitting there handing over the money to the robber, tears in his eyes, muttering to himself, “I really don’t want to do this!” That’s what makes the difference between acting under compulsion and acting freely: the state of the relevant desire.

Ok, thanks, I still have a problem with what the word want is doing but there you go.

I’m interested to see if linking compulsion to what we don’t really want to do works. I’m thinking about the bank robber, he’s tried working in the factory on minimum wage and he can’t stand it, he really doesn’t want to do it. He also really doesn’t want to rob the bank but chooses that over something even more horrible (working in the factory)

So is he compelled too?

Stephen

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Posted: 05 December 2011 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1545 ]
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StephenLawrence - 05 December 2011 11:49 AM

I’m interested to see if linking compulsion to what we don’t really want to do works. I’m thinking about the bank robber, he’s tried working in the factory on minimum wage and he can’t stand it, he really doesn’t want to do it. He also really doesn’t want to rob the bank but chooses that over something even more horrible (working in the factory)

So is he compelled too?

Could be. We’ve all heard stories about parents who steal food to feed their children. Usually they will plead leniency from the courts for that reason. They will say, perhaps legitimately, that they didn’t want to steal food, but they had to.

All depends on the facts of the case, what their reasonable alternatives were, etc.

Still, it’s one thing to say “I didn’t want to rob the bank, your honor”, and another thing to actually not want to rob the bank. If the alternative is a minimum wage job then arguably he wasn’t that averse to robbing banks, though he might want to describe it that way to the courts. (It’d be another thing if the factory were extremely dangerous and he were compelled to work there, etc. But perhaps it’s a very nice, clean, modern, safe factory and he was just lazy).

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