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Buridan’s ass
Posted: 30 May 2011 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 May 2011 09:33 PM

Like for all practical purposes we are, which just mean prevented from doing otherwise in a given set of circumstances.

If given set of circumstances are the prevailing physical/social/political/legal/economic environments in which we live, obviously our freedom to act as we please, regardless, is curtailed.

It must be both Kkwan, otherwise what things do doesn’t influence the future only their causes, which is nonsense.

Quite so, as an integrated causal entity of human/machine, but clearly machines do not influence the future by themselves as they can only exist and are used by humans to that end.

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Posted: 30 May 2011 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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kkwan - 30 May 2011 10:37 PM

If given set of circumstances are the prevailing physical/social/political/legal/economic environments in which we live, obviously our freedom to act as we please, regardless, is curtailed.

That’s not obvious at all.

What does free to act as we please mean?

Surely it means if it pleases us there is nothing to prevent us from doing it.

So if it pleases me to have a day off work today there is nothing to prevent me from staying at home.

But I won’t because it doesn’t please me, the idea worries me for all sorts of reasons.

edit: So I know I can if it pleases me and I also know I’m prevented given the circumstances.

Stephen

[ Edited: 30 May 2011 10:53 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 30 May 2011 10:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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kkwan - 30 May 2011 10:37 PM

Quite so, as an integrated causal entity of human/machine, but clearly machines do not influence the future by themselves as they can only exist and are used by humans to that end.

I don’t really see what you are saying, you seem to be introducing purpose along with influence but we are only concerned with influencing at the moment, like the moon influences the tides.

Does the moon influence the oceans by itself?

Do we influence the future by ourselves?

Stephen

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Posted: 30 May 2011 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 May 2011 10:44 PM

So if it pleases me to have a day off work today there is nothing to prevent me from staying at home.

The point is, one is not free to act as one pleases, regardless, depending on circumstances.

If you take the day off without informing the company you work in, you can, but there are consequences wrt leave unless you can give good reasons why you did so. Of course, if you are the boss or you are self employed, it does not matter at all.

But I won’t because it doesn’t please me, the idea worries me for all sorts of reasons.

Being free implies one could do something without restriction. If you can, but you choose not to because it doesn’t please you, why should it worry you? Is it because of the consequences of deciding or not deciding to do something?

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Posted: 31 May 2011 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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kkwan - 30 May 2011 11:33 PM

If you take the day off without informing the company you work in, you can, but there are consequences wrt leave unless you can give good reasons why you did so. Of course, if you are the boss or you are self employed, it does not matter at all.

I am the boss and it does matter, nobody pays me a salary I only get money if I fix my customers bikes and if I don’t they get upset and I feel obliged to meet deadlines and so on….........................................

So I know what is preventing me from staying off work, I know I’m prevented from making that choice. And that’s what choices that matter always seem like.

Being free implies one could do something without restriction. If you can, but you choose not to because it doesn’t please you, why should it worry you? Is it because of the consequences of deciding or not deciding to do something?

Yes, of course.

Stephen

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Posted: 31 May 2011 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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kkwan - 23 May 2011 12:06 PM

What is Buridan’s ass? From the wiki

Buridan’s ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will.

It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an ass is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the paradox assumes the ass will always go to whichever is closer, it will die of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision to choose one over the other.

Buridan’s principle:

A discrete decision based upon an input having a continuous range of values cannot be made within a bounded length of time.

Metastability in digital circuitry:

The voltage value can then be likened to the position of the ass, and the values 0 and 1 represent the bales of hay. Like the situation of the starving ass, there exists an input on which the converter cannot make a proper decision, resulting in a metastable state. Having the converter make an arbitrary choice in ambiguous situations does not solve the problem, as the boundary between ambiguous values and unambiguous values introduces another binary decision with its own metastable state.

Now you know why the free will debate goes on and on ad infinitum.  LOL

The free will debate goes on because lots of people define free will in a nonsensical way.

By the way, the link that you give above doesn’t seem to point directly to the Wiki page, even though it’s spelled correctly. It looks like the CFI Forum software is dropping the apostrophe.

Also: the human brain, and every other kind of animal brain, for that matter, does not operate on binary principals. This Buridan’s Ass is not a good analogy simply because it’s not a good representation of how brains work.

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Posted: 01 June 2011 08:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 May 2011 10:51 PM

I don’t really see what you are saying, you seem to be introducing purpose along with influence but we are only concerned with influencing at the moment, like the moon influences the tides.

Does the moon influence the oceans by itself?

Do we influence the future by ourselves?

Human influence has purpose unlike natural influence….... the moon influences the tides of the oceans due to the gravitational attraction of the moon and the earth.

We do influence the future by our intentions and actions.

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Posted: 01 June 2011 08:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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StephenLawrence - 31 May 2011 09:55 AM

I am the boss and it does matter, nobody pays me a salary I only get money if I fix my customers bikes and if I don’t they get upset and I feel obliged to meet deadlines and so on….........................................

So I know what is preventing me from staying off work, I know I’m prevented from making that choice. And that’s what choices that matter always seem like.

My comment that it does not matter relates to the fact that, as the boss, you are not accountable to an employer. You can work harder to meet customers’ deadlines after you have taken the day off.

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Posted: 01 June 2011 10:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 31 May 2011 11:57 AM

The free will debate goes on because lots of people define free will in a nonsensical way.

Will defining free will in a way that makes sense end the debate?

By the way, the link that you give above doesn’t seem to point directly to the Wiki page, even though it’s spelled correctly. It looks like the CFI Forum software is dropping the apostrophe.

It happens with some wiki articles which loads correctly when accessed from Google, but by copying the link from the wiki to the post and then accessing the link, the page “Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name” is displayed and the article is only found with “Search for…....” on the same page. It seems to be a glitch unrelated to the CFI Forum software.

Also: the human brain, and every other kind of animal brain, for that matter, does not operate on binary principals. This Buridan’s Ass is not a good analogy simply because it’s not a good representation of how brains work.

Buridan’s Ass does not depend on whether the human mind/brain is digital or analogue. The dilemma of choosing, given two equally attractive alternatives, is what it is all about. It is the problem of undecidability.

The opposite of Buridan’s Ass is Morton’s Fork, the dilemma of choosing between two equally unpleasant alternatives. From the wiki
(Again, there is the problem with direct access to the article via the link)

A Morton’s Fork is a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives (in other words, a dilemma), or two lines of reasoning that lead to the same unpleasant conclusion. It is analogous to the expressions “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” “between a rock and a hard place,” or, as those in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world say, “Between a cross and a sword.” This is the opposite of the Buridan’s Ass.

The issue wrt free will with Buridan’s Ass or Morton’s Fork is, whither free will if no matter how one chooses, the outcome is the same?

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Posted: 02 June 2011 05:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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kkwan - 01 June 2011 08:43 PM
StephenLawrence - 30 May 2011 10:51 PM

I don’t really see what you are saying, you seem to be introducing purpose along with influence but we are only concerned with influencing at the moment, like the moon influences the tides.

Does the moon influence the oceans by itself?

Do we influence the future by ourselves?

Human influence has purpose unlike natural influence….... the moon influences the tides of the oceans due to the gravitational attraction of the moon and the earth.

We do influence the future by our intentions and actions.

Yes I agree but the issue is over influencing the future isn’t it? If influencing the future is compatible with determinism, I doubt that deliberately doing it will pose a problem.

And you were saying that the computer doesn’t influence the future by itself but of course nothing influences anything by itself.

Stephen

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Posted: 02 June 2011 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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kkwan - 01 June 2011 08:59 PM
StephenLawrence - 31 May 2011 09:55 AM

I am the boss and it does matter, nobody pays me a salary I only get money if I fix my customers bikes and if I don’t they get upset and I feel obliged to meet deadlines and so on….........................................

So I know what is preventing me from staying off work, I know I’m prevented from making that choice. And that’s what choices that matter always seem like.

My comment that it does not matter relates to the fact that, as the boss, you are not accountable to an employer. You can work harder to meet customers’ deadlines after you have taken the day off.

Well, being in the position, I know the reality of it, I’m accountable to lots of people and being self employed if I don’t work I don’t get paid and it’s worse than that because I pay the rent for my premises whether I work or not, so taking a holiday costs me money without even spending anything on the holiday.

Anyhow, of course that’s all beside the point.

The point is usually we know what prevents us from selecting other options, so generally it seems that for practical purposes we are deterministic choice makers.

Stephen

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Posted: 02 June 2011 09:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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kkwan - 01 June 2011 10:25 PM

Buridan’s Ass does not depend on whether the human mind/brain is digital or analogue. The dilemma of choosing, given two equally attractive alternatives, is what it is all about. It is the problem of undecidability.

The opposite of Buridan’s Ass is Morton’s Fork, the dilemma of choosing between two equally unpleasant alternatives. From the wiki
(Again, there is the problem with direct access to the article via the link)

A Morton’s Fork is a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives (in other words, a dilemma), or two lines of reasoning that lead to the same unpleasant conclusion. It is analogous to the expressions “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” “between a rock and a hard place,” or, as those in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world say, “Between a cross and a sword.” This is the opposite of the Buridan’s Ass.

The issue wrt free will with Buridan’s Ass or Morton’s Fork is, whither free will if no matter how one chooses, the outcome is the same?

In reality, in such a dilemma, I suspect some outside process comes along to force the choice one way or another. Some noise or flash of light will startle the ass closer towards one choice or the other.

People in such a dilemma look for some outside “sign” to convince them to make one choice or the other or sometimes otherwise get forced into accepting one choice over another. Reality has millions of processes all interacting. In narrowing it down to a simple scenario like Buridan’s Ass I think one tends to lose sight of that.

That’s why religious folks sometimes think God answers their prayers. In a time of indecision they pray, see the image of Jesus in a piece of toast or some other sign they think from God and that breaks the dilemma.

So Buridan’s Ass is likely to sit there waiting for a sign from God, so to speak.

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Posted: 03 June 2011 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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kkwan - 01 June 2011 10:25 PM

Buridan’s Ass does not depend on whether the human mind/brain is digital or analogue. The dilemma of choosing, given two equally attractive alternatives, is what it is all about. It is the problem of undecidability.

The problem, as thus presented, certainly looks like a binary choice to me. I suggest that Buridan’s Ass approaches this from the wrong direction. Instead of making assumptions about how someone will perceive a problem, instead ask them how they perceive a problem, and then see what happens.

Actually, this isn’t even a binary choice; it’s a trinary choice. A, B, or (pick one at random). You’re assuming that it’s impossible to move from identifying A and B being exactly equal to picking one at random. I think that this, at least, is a bit closer to how the brain works than the stark binary choice as originally presented. But it’s still just a guess; to be sure, you’d need to do as I just said in the previous paragraph.

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Posted: 19 June 2011 01:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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With respect to the discussion so far:

The original ‘problem’ by the medieval philosopher Buridan was about a donkey who starves because he is situated at equal distance from two equally delicious piles of hay.

The problem wasn’t originally posed as a paradox about free will, or decision-making, or etc. It is a ‘sophism’ - a problem *statement*. There’s something wrong with claiming that the donkey will starve. Buridan wrote up a whole book of problem-statements and sophistic arguments (Sophismata Asinina or Asinine Arguments): the first sophism proves that ‘You are a donkey.’ The point of his sophisms is for the student to discover the mistakes, like finding the flaw in the mathematical ‘proof’ that 1=2.

The early-modern philosopher Cudworth uses the example of having several golden balls, equally spaced around you and practically identical in size, shape, purity etc. He is beginning much like Buridan: *of course* if asked to take one, you will. Neither an animal nor a person will fail to choose. But Cudworth used his example as an argument *for* free will in persons: since per the setup there is no ‘compelling’ difference between the golden balls, and since it’s implausible the person decided randomly like the donkey did (even if he decides to be random about it, that decision is itself implausibly random like the donkey’s randomness), therefore there is free will.

I’m not sure what exactly Buridan would have said about the donkey, but since he was a typical pre-modern philosopher, he likely would say that its choice may well be merely randomly determined: pre-modern theory of mind (okay, theory of soul, but little rides on the difference here) granted that animals had an ‘estimating’ faculty, but an irrational one.

The problem is of course rather acute in computer science and robotics: even a random choice has to be programmed in. IMO this problem is one of the defects that will always allow us to (sooner or later) distinguish a machine from a real person. The Turing Test is easy to stand on its head: given enough time, one can always tell the difference between a clever program and a real person.

chris kirk

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Posted: 19 June 2011 04:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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inthegobi - 19 June 2011 01:39 AM

The early-modern philosopher Cudworth uses the example of having several golden balls, equally spaced around you and practically identical in size, shape, purity etc. He is beginning much like Buridan: *of course* if asked to take one, you will. Neither an animal nor a person will fail to choose. But Cudworth used his example as an argument *for* free will in persons: since per the setup there is no ‘compelling’ difference between the golden balls, and since it’s implausible the person decided randomly like the donkey did (even if he decides to be random about it, that decision is itself implausibly random like the donkey’s randomness), therefore there is free will.

I would take compelling to mean nothing preventing us from taking any one of them.

But in the case of our freely willed choices we can usually say why we didn’t pick the other options and when we do so we are talking about what prevented us.

And when we reflect on people’s moral choices we think about what we would have done and believe there is such a thing.

Stephen

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