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I can’t believe there is still a debate about free will.
Posted: 17 May 2011 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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I am wondering… Hofstadter defends the idea of free will as a higher order phenomenon in GEB and ‘the mind’s I’. Now, obviously he changed his mind. Anybody any idea why?

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GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

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Posted: 17 May 2011 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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GdB - 17 May 2011 12:17 PM
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…

I think it is at least possible that being aware and reasoning are two different things. Reasoning (slower but more precise way of calculating when compared with unconsciousness) is adaptation and awareness is a spandrel.

[ Edited: 17 May 2011 01:47 PM by George ]
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Posted: 17 May 2011 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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isaac - 17 May 2011 12:24 AM

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

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

That’s what he means Issac and that’s what it is to influence the future.

So to influence the future, more than one possibility is necessary.

That’s the age old puzzle.

Stephen

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Posted: 17 May 2011 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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GdB - 17 May 2011 12:22 PM

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.

I argued from authority? Serious question; is English your first language? Admittedly this is a very difficult subject to describe directly. Analogy seems to be the best tool for the job, but it still only points at the solution. I’m beginning to think the Zen crowd have a point regarding just this problem.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Awareness is an necessary tool for survival.  An organism can’t react and cope without first being aware of the current situation.  I think people here are referring to “self” awareness as possibly being a spandrel.  Self awareness and awareness of one’s own thinking is necessary for dealing with cognitive dissonance.  If an organism’s brain has multiple functions and modules, each with it’s own objectives and purposes, these functions have to be working in harmony with each other.  Otherwise satisfying one purpose might sabotage another function’s purpose.  The conscious mind looks for these inner conflicts and tries to resolve them so that all functions can be successful.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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So Swartz’s argument essentially hinges on the alleged inability to distinguish between nornological and ‘accidental’ events (and that this makes a difference). I would submit that this makes no difference whatsoever, they are functionally equivalent. In this context, ‘accident’ is meaningless. Accident does not mean free will was involved, it means that the cause is occluded by incomplete knowledge. Swartz is opening the door to the supernatural. Remember, our mental symbols are incomplete (in the mathematical sense) in comparison to objective reality. The structure of reality allows many alternative mappings that may contradict each other and yet are still true.

GdB, if you are going to unpack what I have said here, do so methodically, precisely, and above all, politely. You seem to think that this is a pissing contest, or a ‘my book is better than yours’ argument. It is nothing of the kind.

If you’re tired of this argument, then that is fine too. I am of the hard determinist point of view, obviously, and this thread can die a quiet death happily.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 08:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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GdB - 17 May 2011 12:44 PM

I am wondering… Hofstadter defends the idea of free will as a higher order phenomenon in GEB and ‘the mind’s I’. Now, obviously he changed his mind. Anybody any idea why?

are we sure that he changed his mind and isn’t just being mis-represented?

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Posted: 17 May 2011 08:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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George - 17 May 2011 10:56 AM

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.

EXCELLENT link, Geoge.  I’ve thought this often—especially with regard to the free will debate.

“..reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions… Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is… to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade.”

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Posted: 17 May 2011 08:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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isaac - 17 May 2011 08:30 PM
George - 17 May 2011 10:56 AM

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.

EXCELLENT link, Geoge.

Second that.  Huge thanks, George.  cool smile

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Posted: 17 May 2011 11:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Congratulations on being the official spokesperson!

Noooooooo…I don’t think so. The whole free will debate looks a lot to me like the Freethinker’s answer to the “How many angels can dance on a pin” debate so beloved by theists. (And just as silly) But what the hell, if you want to debate it ad infinitim ad nauseum, fill your boots.

Your choice.

Your definition of free will would have to include a supernatural component, because the universe we inhabit is made up of tangible law-bound stuff and so are we. Ergo, we have no free will.

My definition of free will need not include supernatural componants of any kind. In point of fact, I would submit that there is no such thing as the supernatural and that if it exists at all in any possible demension or aspect of…well…whatever, then it’s a part of nature.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 11:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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sixfootbrit - 17 May 2011 03:58 PM

GdB, if you are going to unpack what I have said here, do so methodically, precisely, and above all, politely. You seem to think that this is a pissing contest, or a ‘my book is better than yours’ argument. It is nothing of the kind.

Listen, you start by the title of your thread: it implies that all compatibilists are too stupid to see the truth. Then you say ‘Seriously. There is no free will, get over it.’ Quite demeaning, isn’t it? Then you suggest ‘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’. And then you say ‘is English your first language? Admittedly this is a very difficult subject to describe directly.’ And the only thing you do is repeating Hofstadter’s view from ‘I am a strange loop’. Is that polite?

So my suggestion: read Dennett’s ‘Consciousness explained’ and the ‘Ellbow room’, if you were able to read German read “Das Handwerk der Freiheit” of Peter Bieri (Bieri shows very clearly how we are enchanted by the words we use to describe determinism, that there would be no free will anymore). Contrast what you find there with Hofstadter, and if you have clearly fleshed out the differences, then tell us what they are, and then take your stand. Then we can discuss.

Two points I want to stress:

1. Epiphenomenalism is BS. If you look at it precise and subtle enough, you will see that epiphenomenalism presupposes a dualist world view. See, in a funny way, “An Unfortunate Dualist”, with a comment from Hofstadter:

When asked to say more, dualists divide into two schools: those who hold that the occurrence or existence of a mental event has no effect whatsoever on subsequent physical events in the brain, and those who deny this and hold that mental events do have effects on physical events in the brain. The former are called epiphenomenalists and the latter are called interactionists. Smullyan’s fable nicely disposes of epiphenomenalism (doesn’t it?), but what of interactionism?

Since Dennett’s convincing argument against epiphenomenalism (in ‘Consciousness explained’), no serious philosopher can defend this position anymore.

And see Hofstadter’s comment on ‘Is God a Taoist?’:

Toward the end of this dialogue, Smullyan gets at issues we have been dealing with throughout this book – the attempts to reconcile the determinism and “upward causality“ of the laws of nature with the free will and “downward causality” that we all feel ourselves exerting. His astute observation that we often say “I am determined” to do this” when we mean “I have chosen to do this” leads him to his account of free will, beginning with god’s statement that “Determinism and choice are much closer than they might appear.” Smullyan’s elegantly worked out reconciliation of these opposing views depends on our willingness to switch points of view – to cease thinking “dualistically” (i.e. breaking the world into parts such as “myself” and “not myself” ), and to see the entire universe as boundaryless, with things flowing into each other, overlapping, with no clearly defined categories or edges.

2. Do you think natural laws force us to do what we do? Or do they just describe how the world runs, i.e. shows the regularities that obviously exist. From IEP:

In the Regularity theory, the knotted problem of free will vs. determinism is solved (or better, “dissolved”) so thoroughly that it cannot coherently even be posed.

On the Regularists’ view, there simply is no problem of free will. We make choices – some trivial, such as to buy a newspaper; others, rather more consequential, such as to buy a home, or to get married, or to go to university, etc. – but these choices are not forced upon us by the laws of nature. Indeed, it is the other way round. Laws of nature are (a subclass of the) true descriptions of the world.

Bold by me. It seems you are enchanted by the idea that natural laws prescribe what nature, and therefore we are also forced by them to do what we do. That’s a silly view, don’t you think?

[ Edited: 18 May 2011 12:05 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 18 May 2011 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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In the Regularity theory, the knotted problem of free will vs. determinism is solved (or better, “dissolved”) so thoroughly that it cannot coherently even be posed.

On the Regularists’ view, there simply is no problem of free will. We make choices – some trivial, such as to buy a newspaper; others, rather more consequential, such as to buy a home, or to get married, or to go to university, etc. – but these choices are not forced upon us by the laws of nature. Indeed, it is the other way round. Laws of nature are (a subclass of the) true descriptions of the world.

One has to realise how Swartz reaches this seemingly and I dare say crazy conclusion.

What he is saying is the laws of nature are contingent and depend upon the way the world is.

No, he doesn’t think the problem dissolves if the laws of nature are necessary.

And one needs to realise that the determinism Swartz is working with isn’t 100% as in another possible world in which we make a different choice there is some indeterminism, even if just a local miracle.

Stephen

[ Edited: 18 May 2011 03:35 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 18 May 2011 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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In the Regularity theory, the knotted problem of free will vs. determinism is solved (or better, “dissolved”) so thoroughly that it cannot coherently even be posed.

The problem can be coherently composed like this (assuming necessary laws of nature)

Say I am going to make an important decision tomorrow, great harm follows from decision A but not from decision B.

There is a possible state of the world X 1,000 years before my birth which decision A necessarily follows from.

And a possible state of the world Y 1,000 years before my birth which decision B necessarily follows from.

Now, let’s assume that the world was in fact in state Y.

It’s 100% my good luck that it was.

What about if we assume contingent laws of nature? One problem is how does indeterminism in another possible world get us free will?

A second is if the laws are contingent and merely dependent upon what does happen, what is the chance of this world being deterministic? Why on earth would every moment be deterministic if it didn’t have to be or if it’s probability wasn’t so overwhelmingly raised that it turns out that way?

Stephen

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Posted: 18 May 2011 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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sixfootbrit - 16 May 2011 05:20 PM

...I think that the mechanism that enhances our survival is our ability to model the world (and people) around us mentally, and exchange information and action back and forth between our inner model and the outer world. My point is that we are not actually steering this process in any way whatsoever. We are ‘observing’ it because we are it. What we perceive as thinking, is in fact the automatic action of our highly sophisticated brains. The critical idea here is that conscious observation isn’t something apart from this process; it is this process aware of itself.

I am not a compatibilist. There is no free will of any kind, it is a hallucination. Or as Hofstadter put it, “We are a hallucination hallucinated by a hallucination”. Strange Loop indeed!

even hallucinations are “real” in their own way.  And they’re “more real” if they stick around and make themselves useful, day after day, year after year…

[ Edited: 18 May 2011 01:28 PM by isaac ]
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Posted: 18 May 2011 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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GdB - 17 May 2011 12:31 AM

Also this formulation:

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

is confusing.

any idea what he means? 

maybe just that we can describe them in various different ways—like a location can be latitude, longitude, and distance from the center of the earth, or x,y, and z coordinates (on a 3-D cartesian grid)?

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