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I can’t believe there is still a debate about free will.
Posted: 18 May 2011 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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George - 17 May 2011 09:20 AM

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.

I think Gdb makes “serious sense of this”, although his writing isn’t always the world’s best.  (As in: 

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.

  Care to rewrite that one, G?)

The Dennet links might be just as sensible, and better written.

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Posted: 18 May 2011 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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George—you may be right that [conscious] reasoning is a “slower but more precise way of calculating when compared with unconsciousness.”

But awareness must be more than just a spandrel…

As suggested by the paper you posted, it’s useful to be able to “look at” or “listen to” an augument in our “mind’s eye”.

[ Edited: 18 May 2011 02:39 PM by isaac ]
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Posted: 18 May 2011 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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isaac - 18 May 2011 01:37 PM
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)?

No, he means we make choices and in doing so we choose certain laws of nature.

There seems – in this account of the way the universe ‘works’ – to be no opportunity for the exercise of free choice. (See premise #2 [above] in Argument #1, “There is No Moral Responsibility”.) The Natural Laws are ‘given’ (i.e. not of our choosing); and the antecedent conditions, equally, are ‘given’ (i.e. not of our choosing). Our behavior is completely ‘causally determined’ by the laws of nature and antecedent conditions. There is no ‘room’, in this account (again, recall Darrow), it would appear, for free choice.

He thinks if everything is “given” we have no free will and escapes the conclusion we have no free will by saying some of the laws of nature aren’t given but are of our choosing.

Stephen

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Posted: 18 May 2011 05:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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GdB - 17 May 2011 12:31 AM
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.

I was just about to ask if you saw any problem with Swartz. It’s a bit of a paradigm shift in thinking and so I’m still trying to work it through.

However lets say you have possible future A, B and C. You know from experience that doing action X will bring about A, doing Y will bring about B and doing action Z will bring about C.

So you make a choice which future is preferable and do X, Y or Z to cause that particular future to happen. Prior to making any choice A, B and C were all possible futures. Any of these 3 might have happened. However after doing action X, Y, or Z only the corresponding future cause by the action could actually come into being.

As far as choosing natural laws, it seems he implies that natural laws are a description of actuality. Every action that occurs if were to be precisely described, would be a natural law.

With inanimate objects there is no choosing involved. No conscious desire of a future outcome. For example the law of gravity does not dictate what objects do. It only describes what they do. Objects make no choices. The laws that describe their actions are very precise and predictable.

Humans however do make conscious choices. The laws that would describe human behavior could not be as precise and certainly not as predictable. So our choices create actuality. The natural laws that describe that actuality would be the result of those choices.

Another point. I noticed according to his thinking, Omniscience and freewill are compatible. Maybe someone ought to go inform the religious folk.  cool smile

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Posted: 18 May 2011 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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isaac - 18 May 2011 02:32 PM

George—you may be right that [conscious] reasoning is a “slower but more precise way of calculating when compared with unconsciousness.”

But awareness must be more than just a spandrel…

As suggested by the paper you posted, it’s useful to be able to “look at” or “listen to” an augument in our “mind’s eye”.

I don’t think it’s clear from this example if awareness helps us to interpret other people’s actions or if interpreting other people’s actions makes us to become aware.

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Posted: 18 May 2011 11:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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isaac - 18 May 2011 01:47 PM

I think Gdb makes “serious sense of this”, although his writing isn’t always the world’s best.  (As in: 

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.

  Care to rewrite that one, G?)

The Dennet links might be just as sensible, and better written.

Woops, I’m sorry. Of course I am not a native speaker, so if I sometimes make funny sentences… I hope they are still understandable. Another reason is that I am writing from my work, where I am of course supposed to do something else, and therefore write (too) fast

I’ll try the sentence you are citing again:

It seems you are enchanted by the idea that natural laws prescribe what nature must do, i.e. natural laws force events to happen as they do, and because we are part of nature, we are also forced by them to do what we do.

Is that understandable now? Of course you can make correct English from it, if you want.

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Posted: 19 May 2011 01:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Gnostikosis - 18 May 2011 05:38 PM

I was just about to ask if you saw any problem with Swartz. It’s a bit of a paradigm shift in thinking and so I’m still trying to work it through.

One problem is Swartz thinks free will is incompatible with the past being given(not of our choosing) and the laws of nature being given(not of our choosing.)

But compatibilist free will is compatible with both these being given. So really he’s taking a Libertarian view of free will.

However lets say you have possible future A, B and C. You know from experience that doing action X will bring about A, doing Y will bring about B and doing action Z will bring about C.

So you make a choice which future is preferable and do X, Y or Z to cause that particular future to happen. Prior to making any choice A, B and C were all possible futures. Any of these 3 might have happened. However after doing action X, Y, or Z only the corresponding future cause by the action could actually come into being.

Looking back after the choice it’s still the case that A B and C might have been. What he believes is you change the future from what it might have been. Looking back you changed the past from what it might have been

As far as choosing natural laws, it seems he implies that natural laws are a description of actuality. Every action that occurs if were to be precisely described, would be a natural law.

The problem with choosing natural laws in a deterministic universe is out of options X,Y and Z only one of these is deterministic. So what we have to swallow is that people have the choice to act indeterministically but every single time, every single one chooses not to by some gigantic coincidence. ohh 

Stephen

[ Edited: 19 May 2011 02:34 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 19 May 2011 01:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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GdB - 18 May 2011 11:17 PM

It seems you are enchanted by the idea that natural laws prescribe what nature must do, i.e. natural laws force events to happen as they do, and because we are part of nature, we are also forced by them to do what we do.

I just see this idea as a straw man.

The idea of being forced is that causes are also effects.

Effects are forced to be what they are by their causes.

So we are forced in that our wants are forced upon us (that’s the meaning of we can do what we want but we can’t want what we want)

And we are not forced in the sense that we don’t have to if we don’t want to.

Stephen

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Posted: 19 May 2011 02:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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About Swartz’ ‘choosing natural laws:

I think this is clearer:

Laws of nature are (a subclass of the) true descriptions of the world. Whatever happens in the world, there are true descriptions of those events. It’s true that you cannot ‘violate’ a law of nature, but that’s not because the laws of nature ‘force’ you to behave in some certain way. It is rather that whatever you do, there is a true description of what you have done.

When we do something, as part of nature, they are according natural laws, per definition. So the whole process of choosing is too. So Swartz does not mean that we choose the contents of natural laws, but that the process of choosing is according to natural laws, otherwise these natural laws are just wrong.

Gnos, I think S is thinking about the physical laws, not psychological laws. Does that make sense?

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Posted: 19 May 2011 02:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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Laws of nature are (a subclass of the) true descriptions of the world. Whatever happens in the world, there are true descriptions of those events. It’s true that you cannot ‘violate’ a law of nature, but that’s not because the laws of nature ‘force’ you to behave in some certain way. It is rather that whatever you do, there is a true description of what you have done.

What Swartz is saying is you could have done otherwise.

What he is saying is if you did, that would not be a violation of natural laws but that some natural laws would be other than they are.

So by selecting some options rather than others you choose some natural laws.

Edit: Here is conformation, Swartz is writing unambiguously.

But you do get to choose a great many other laws. How do you do that? Simply by doing whatever you do in fact do.

For example, if you were to choose(!) to raise your arm, then there would be a timelessly true universal description (let’s call it “D4729”) of what you have done. If, however, you were to choose not to raise your arm, then there would be a (different) timelessly true universal description (we can call it “D5322”) of what you did (and D4729 would be timelessly false).

Edit: and there is more

Contrary to the earlier claim – that the laws of nature are not of our choosing – I am here suggesting that a very great many laws of nature are of our choosing. But it’s not that we reflect on choosing the laws. I don’t wake up in the morning and ask myself “Which laws of nature will I create today?” No, it’s rather that I ask myself, “What will I do today?”, and in choosing to do some things rather than others, my actions – i.e. my choices – make certain propositions (including some universal statements containing no proper names) true and other propositions false.


Stephen

[ Edited: 19 May 2011 02:57 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 19 May 2011 04:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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George - 18 May 2011 07:40 PM

I don’t think it’s clear from this example if awareness helps us to interpret other people’s actions or if interpreting other people’s actions makes us to become aware.

I would even go one step further: they go together. It is not so that being capable to interpret other people’s actions causes awareness, or awareness causes our capability to interpret other people’s actions. That would be dualistic. The first would be epiphenomalism, the second libertarian free will.

Of course awareness is more than interpreting other people’s actions, it is interpreting everything we observe. But that does not change the fact that interpreting and awareness are the same, and not causing each other.

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Posted: 19 May 2011 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Why would the second one describe libertarian free will? It is very similar to Stanislas Dehaene’s idea of the emergence of consciousness, where consciousness results from “long distance synchrony between many regions.” It has nothing to do with libertarian free will.

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Posted: 19 May 2011 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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GdB - 19 May 2011 02:06 AM

Gnos, I think S is thinking about the physical laws, not psychological laws. Does that make sense?

In that we somehow choose physical laws? No that doesn’t quite make sense so that’s why I thought maybe he meant this other way.

Otherwise it’s an interesting perspective.

Thanks for the links btw.

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Posted: 21 May 2011 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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George - 19 May 2011 08:00 AM

Why would the second one describe libertarian free will? It is very similar to Stanislas Dehaene’s idea of the emergence of consciousness, where consciousness results from “long distance synchrony between many regions.” It has nothing to do with libertarian free will.

OK, I ran a little bit to fast jumping from one thought to the next. Your thought just stimulated me to clarify my point that proponents of libertarian free will and deniers of compatibilist free will are still caught in dualist thought, i.e. they think that ‘me’ is something independent of my body and social embodiment. Believing in LFW means believing in such an independent me.

Proponents of incompatibilist determinism also believe that such an independent me would be necessary for free will, but because they know this ‘me’ does not exist, there is also no free will.

In short this can be formulated as:

LFW: Consciousness causes actions, but is not caused in itself.
Hard determinism: The nervous system causes consciousness, but this consciousness in itself causes nothing. (epiphenomenalism)

The problem lies in the italicised ‘causes’: consciousness is the processes in the brain, but consciousness does not cause certain process in the brain, and the brain does not cause consciousness. It is like saying that a certain assembly of paint causes the Mona Lisa.

The same misunderstanding lies in seeing natural laws as causing things to happen as they do. If one billiard ball collides with another, and therefore the second one starts to move, then the moving of one billiard ball causes the moving of the second one. This process is described by collision laws. But the collision laws themselves cause nothing. That would again be dualism. We do as if there is a second domain in nature. One domain is that of matter and energy etc, and the other ‘real’ domain is that of natural laws who ‘rule’ matter and energy etc. It is just the plain old dualism in a new jacket. Without this dualism both hard determinism and LWF cannot even be formulated.

Dehaene’s ideas are ‘just empirical science’. It is an interesting, but still rather speculative idea about what processes in the brain are the basis of consciousness. Empirical research must show it to be correct or not.

Sorry for the long reaction, it was not just pointed to you of course.

[ Edited: 21 May 2011 05:58 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 21 May 2011 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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GdB - 21 May 2011 05:45 AM


Hard determinism: The nervous system causes consciousness, but this consciousness in itself causes nothing. (epiphenomenalism)

 

I don’t agree with this contextual definition of epiphenomenon. Consciousness is not something extending ‘out’ of the machinery of consciousness, it is what it feels like to be conscious machinery. This is a very difficult concept to convey. If this sounds like a brand of Whitehead’s panexperientialism, that’s because it is, though without the panentheism. Put another way, the fact of existence is the prerequisite for consciousness, but human consciousness is exclusive to human brains because of their structure and action. Again, this is not qualia, or any other hidden property. It is simply the fact of being. Words fail, I can only point towards the meaning.

I will add that the alleged dualism in the description/action of physical properties seems to be generated by an argument from category error. We can prattle on about whether action ‘causes’ effects ad nauseam; this doesn’t change the fact that something is happening, and that ‘that something’ is part of a continuous chain reaction.

[ Edited: 21 May 2011 06:40 AM by sixfootbrit ]
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