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I can’t believe there is still a debate about free will.
Posted: 16 May 2011 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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sixfootbrit - 16 May 2011 01:31 PM
GdB - 16 May 2011 12:53 PM

As long as there people with such unreflected opinions, there will be.

Thanks for commenting, GdB. I would like some clarification though, as your statement can be taken at least two ways. Are you saying that my opinion is “unreflected”, or that the opinion that free will exists is?

I mean you of course.

Read the following articles, and then come back and tell me where the errors are:

Laws of Nature, on IEP
Lecture Notes on Free Will and Determinism, by Norman Swartz
Free will, by Galen Strawson (hope this link is correct, it is blocked at my working place: “Your request was denied because of its content categorization: Non-Traditional Religions and Occult and Folklore;Religion”)

Also take note of the fact that the philosophers on this forum all seem to be compatibilists, some of them who have background in AI and physics. And then you can also read the endless free will debates on this forum… Enjoy!

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Posted: 16 May 2011 10:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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sixfootbrit - 16 May 2011 02:32 PM

The crux of what I’m saying, other than the obvious, is that we can be self-aware, and yet not have free will.

Then show me what the evolutionary advantage of being self-aware is, when it has no causal effects. George, of course, you may explain this too! You are the evolutionary expert here! tongue wink

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Posted: 16 May 2011 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Gnostikosis - 16 May 2011 04:17 PM

And regardless of the truth of it, society can’t act as if we can’t change the course of the future. We have to believe we can in order to strive to improve the choices we make.

Obviously, belief in free will has causal consequences…

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Posted: 16 May 2011 11:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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sixfootbrit - 16 May 2011 10:02 PM

You don’t seem to understand what I’m driving at.

Actually, you don’t see what PN is driving at. Free will is such an emergent property.

sixfootbrit - 16 May 2011 10:02 PM

I do not deny emergent properties. I am not saying we are not conscious. We experience the cumulative effect of countless deterministic events.  There is no qualia in our neurons that chooses. There is no ghost in the machine. All the emergent macro events in our mind are the direct result of, and dependent on, the laws governing the subatomic realm. The micro pushes the macro around.

I agree with above. (Take care, I cut out some!). And still we have free will.

sixfootbrit - 16 May 2011 10:02 PM

We are an epiphenomena, and we can only ascribe meaning to our experience at this level.

Epiphenomenalism is self refuting. If it really was true that our consciousness has no causal effects, then what the heck caused that we are discussing it here? Compare with the philosophical zombie.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 12:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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swartz is mostly good, but he got a little confused here:

“But I can change the future from what it might have been.”

http://www.sfu.ca/~swartz/freewill1.htm#part2

obviously, he doesn’t really mean “change”.  right?

more like, “I can cause the future to go one way rather than any other.”

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Posted: 17 May 2011 12:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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isaac - 17 May 2011 12:24 AM

swartz is mostly good, but he got a little confused here:

“But I can change the future from what it might have been.”

http://www.sfu.ca/~swartz/freewill1.htm#part2

obviously, he doesn’t really mean “change”.  right?

more like, “I can cause the future to go one way rather than any other.”

I think so. I am very unhappy with such formulations. One can change the colour of a house, the route you are taking to your house, but to change the future? I agree with you. Also this formulation:

I am here suggesting that a very great many laws of nature are of our choosing.

is confusing.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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GdB - 16 May 2011 10:57 PM
sixfootbrit - 16 May 2011 02:32 PM

The crux of what I’m saying, other than the obvious, is that we can be self-aware, and yet not have free will.

Then show me what the evolutionary advantage of being self-aware is, when it has no causal effects. George, of course, you may explain this too! You are the evolutionary expert here! tongue wink

And you’re a pompous ass. I already said earlier consciousness can very well be a spandrel.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I think this discussion has degenerated somewhat, it is obvious that some members here (GdB et al) have entrenched views regarding this subject that miss the subtlety required to understand the implications of ‘awareness without free will’. I would direct such misunderstanding to, among other places, the excellent analogy used by Hofstadter (2007) to convey the essence of the problem; that of the careenium/simmball causal chain. I think that many fall into the trap of equating their subjective experience of causality with the ability to cause. That is an awkward way to put it, so let me try again. You experience the causal chain, but you do not give it motive power. You experience the causal chain because it maps from the lower subatomic level to the higher symbolic level where you perceive it. At this level, it appears as if the symbols are the causal agent, and their interaction indeed has survival value despite the fact that they are an epiphenomenon. They have survival value because the way they interact with both the interior and the exterior environment changes their structure over time, and directs output, which forms a feedback loop. Of course this feedback loop can also destroy the organism, but natural selection works it’s ‘magic’ here.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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George - 17 May 2011 06:31 AM

I already said earlier consciousness can very well be a spandrel.

AFAIK the sprandel idea cannot explain the evolutionary increase of consciousness when it has no causal powers at all. I would prefer an explanation of your standpoint. Consciousness might have begun as sprandel, but somehow it must have been advantageous.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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My position on consciousness and free will is very unclear. In fact, at the moment I don’t think I have one. I am open to any possibilities and I am awaiting for anybody to start making a serious sense of this.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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sixfootbrit - 17 May 2011 07:09 AM

I think this discussion has degenerated somewhat, it is obvious that some members here (GdB et al) have entrenched views regarding this subject that miss the subtlety required to understand the implications of ‘awareness without free will’.

Very subtle reaction. There are many compatibilist around, and these all miss subtlety?
Did you read the articles I linked? Can you then show me where the error lies? It is not much use to make some kind of ‘my book is better then yours’. I prefer the exchange of arguments.

Epiphenomenalism is done with by Dennett a few times already, especially in his ‘Consciousness explained’. Can’t you see that if consciousness is just an epiphenomenon, that our awareness would have no impact on what we are doing? But obviously it has, we are discussing epiphenomenalism here.

sixfootbrit - 17 May 2011 07:09 AM

They have survival value because the way they interact with both the interior and the exterior environment changes their structure over time, and directs output, which forms a feedback loop. Of course this feedback loop can also destroy the organism, but natural selection works it’s ‘magic’ here.

From the outside it cannot been discovered that the neural structure of the brain gives rise to consciousness. But from our ‘subjective experience’ we know that these neural structures represent something: we have a model of the world (just like a computer simulation), and of ourselves in it. This structure obviously works, it makes it possible for us to anticipate the future. So these models cause us to act. Epiphenomenalism cannot explain this.

Don’t forget: I do not deny that everything (for all practical purposes) is determined. But there is a relevant interpretation of free will that only makes sense in a (at least partial) determined world: compatibilist free will. The ability to act based on wishes and beliefs.

Please read the articles, and show me where they make an error.

I’ve done more than enough explaining my standpoint in other threads.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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GdB - 17 May 2011 09:26 AM

Can’t you see that if consciousness is just an epiphenomenon, that our awareness would have no impact on what we are doing? But obviously it has, we are discussing epiphenomenalism here.

Well, our consciousness can very well have an impact on what we do—it certainly does—but I think it is unclear if being aware is just a mere product of what consciousness actually does and in what way it influences our way of thinking. Maybe it’s like the noise a car makes once the engine is running, but the noise itself doesn’t add or alters the performance of the car.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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GdB - 17 May 2011 09:26 AM

There are many compatibilist around, and these all miss subtlety?

Why not? It happens elsewhere. Most anthropologists, for example, didn’t believe that we interbred with the Neandertals and they were all wrong. Arguing for a certain position tells us nothing about the actual truth. I just read a very interesting paper on this called “Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory,” from Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber. HERE is the link if you’re interested.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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George - 17 May 2011 10:03 AM

Well, our consciousness can very well have an impact on what we do—it certainly does—but I think it is unclear if being aware is just a mere product of what consciousness actually does and in what way it influences our way of thinking. Maybe it’s like the noise a car makes once the engine is running, but the noise itself doesn’t add or alters the performance of the car.

But are these not completely different things? The noise of the car surely is just a by product of the functioning of the car. A car would even function better without noise (it is at least lost energy). But as you say, consciousness has impact. But then it is not a ‘useless’ epiphenomenom, is it? Even if consciousness is based on the determined brain…

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Posted: 17 May 2011 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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George - 17 May 2011 10:56 AM

Why not? It happens elsewhere. Most anthropologists, for example, didn’t believe that we interbred with the Neandertals and they were all wrong. Arguing for a certain position tells us nothing about the actual truth. I just read a very interesting paper on this called “Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory,” from Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber. HERE is the link if you’re interested.

Of course, I know, it is an argument of authority. But sixfootbrit did nothing else. I want real arguments, and therefore it is enough to show that there are serious authors with an opposed view.

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