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Posted: 19 June 2011 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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inthegobi - 19 June 2011 01:39 AM

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.

I don’t see that this follows. But then I take it as demonstrated that a person is a machine, albeit a very complex and sophisticated machine.

At any rate, computer science has found ways of designing perfect random number generators in hardware. It’s not that hard to do: all you need is a detector delicate enough to pick out statistically random elements in thermal noise, or the equivalent of brownian motion. These are more capable of true randomness than any human ever could be. Indeed if you want to find a typically non random series, ask a human to produce it!

Of course, for any real-world application, good pseudo-random number generators would be more than sufficient to choose something in a situation like Buridan’s ass. Pseudo-random number generators have been designed that take inputs from least significant digits in extremely fine tracking of clock-cycles, mouse clicks, cursor movements, etc. And surely something like this is what happens when we choose randomly to pick one thing over another, where both things are of equal value to us.

One further thing: random choice is a terrible example of free choice. Choosing between two equally spaced, equally tasty bales of hay is something one does without conviction, and there’s a very real sense that one does not make the choice between them ‘freely’ in the sense of making it willfully. On the other hand, choosing to drink a glass of water when one is thirsty is an example of something that one wills freely; there’s no randomness in that, however.

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Posted: 19 June 2011 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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(To be clear, for the philosophically persnickety: one freely chooses one or the other bale of hay, but it’s not clear to me that one freely chooses this bale of hay rather than that one. One simply makes do with one or the other. The free choice here is to make a random motion in one direction or the other, such as to allow one to pick one or the other).

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Posted: 19 June 2011 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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StephenLawrence - 19 June 2011 04:11 AM
inthegobi - 19 June 2011 01:39 AM

. . . per the setup there is no ‘compelling’ difference between the golden balls . . . .

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. . . .

Stephen

I meant by ‘compelling’ that there is nothing about any golden ball that would make me *want* it over the others: no ball is prettier, or more valuable, or more convenient to hand. (Maybe that’s logically equivalent to being prevented from choosing the others, they weren’t as pretty/valuable/convenient). Cudworth is eliminating the possibility that emotion or desire - like that of donkeys or lions - was causing my choice. (there’s nothing wrong with such choice, but Cudworth is insuring that the example cannot be one of a choice pushed by mere desire.)

You’re right on tying it to morality, that was Cudworth’s purpose in bringing up the thought-experiment.

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Posted: 19 June 2011 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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dougsmith - 19 June 2011 07:05 AM
inthegobi - 19 June 2011 01:39 AM

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.

I don’t see that this follows. But then I take it as demonstrated that a person is a machine, albeit a very complex and sophisticated machine. . . .

Demonstrated? You mean - to be persnickity - literally demonstrated?

chris kirk

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Posted: 19 June 2011 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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inthegobi - 19 June 2011 04:36 PM

I meant by ‘compelling’ that there is nothing about any golden ball that would make me *want* it over the others: no ball is prettier, or more valuable, or more convenient to hand.

Ok.

(Maybe that’s logically equivalent to being prevented from choosing the others, they weren’t as pretty/valuable/convenient).

I think so.

My point is when we look at what we consider to be free choices we believe we know what prevented us from selecting other options in many cases, so we know we were compelled. And we think we know what we would have done, which is nonsensical unless ,again, we would have been compelled.

So we know free doesn’t mean free from this sought of compulsion.

Stephen

[ Edited: 19 June 2011 11:45 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 20 June 2011 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Stephen and Dougsmith:

Stephen said:

My point is when we look at what we consider to be free choices we believe we know what prevented us from selecting other options in many cases, so we know we were compelled. And we think we know what we would have done, which is nonsensical unless ,again, we would have been compelled. So we know free doesn’t mean free from this sought of compulsion.

Doug said:

At any rate, computer science has found ways of designing perfect random number generators in hardware. It’s not that hard to do . . . And surely something like this is what happens when we choose randomly to pick one thing over another, where both things are of equal value to us. . . .

Choosing between two equally spaced, equally tasty bales of hay is something one does without conviction, and there’s a very real sense that one does not make the choice between them ‘freely’ in the sense of making it willfully. On the other hand, choosing to drink a glass of water when one is thirsty is an example of something that one wills freely; there’s no randomness in that, however.

Cudworth’s thought-experiment eliminates compulsion (or conviction); there is no good reason to choose this one, or that one; there is only the choosing of one-of-them. Cudworth thinks it obvious that in humans, it’s one’s own free will that comes into play, while in the case of the donkey and his hay it’s some external factor (external to its donkey mind, that is).

Doug maybe mistook my saying ‘acute’ to mean ‘insoluble’; I know of some of the relevant literature, but it’s always nice to see it laid out. However:

The fact that we’ve designed a program for a robot to follow does not mean we’ve discovered such a module in human beings; in fact it’s rather implausible we have a random-generator so installed in us, of any sort.

But suppose Cudworth’s man *does* decide to choose randomly: he rolls a die, he looks out the window and uses the number of pigeons on the sill - whatever it takes. He may even use it as his little ‘program’: always make use of this random-choice generator. Still he chose that method; this is not what a robot does. The robot does, forcibly, whatever the program spits out.

It’s true that many of our choices have ‘compelling’ reasons. Even in Cudworth’s example, the left-hander will be more likely to pick a ball to his left, as will the man with a bad right eye. [1] But nothing prevents even those men, in a *strong* sense, from picking some other ball. [2] Moreover, our most characteristic choices have little to do with animal desires: our jobs, our friends, our considered notions of the world and beyond, and the discussion we’re having right now. Even when our ‘convictions’ (about more anon) play a large role in such decisions, none of them, as what they are essentially, fit easily into the language of compulsion: my decision to be a chemist, then a philosopher, is not much like reaching for a glass of water when thirsty.

Doug, it *appears* to me, seems to limit his examples to those (like thirst and hunger) that will fit easily into a model where compulsion or animal-desire is playing the chief role. Then he notes examples like Cudworth’s that lack that feature, and faults them for the lack. The golden ball example is however a very simple example of just the thing that faces a human being more often than not: choices whose outcomes do not and indeed cannot compel us like water to a thirsty man or hay to a hungry donkey.

Furthermore, trying to model human choosing as only a kind of animal desire fails to explain what happens when we discover or concentrate on our randomness or a conviction: the left-hander realizes he’s always taking the balls on the left; the socialist politician realizes one of the social programs he loves so much isn’t really doing the job he wanted. All this seems unlike the programmed robot; there is no way for him to discover such problems; even higher-order programs to solve them cannot themselves come under scrutiny, but it *seems* that humans can re-assess and re-choose indefinitely, at indefinitely many levels.

The use of ‘conviction’ and ‘wilfully’ is a pretty neat ambiguity here. I would argue that it’s exactly the lack of wilfulness in the *common* use of the word that Cudworth eliminates. Wilfulness is a bit like free-fall; once I decide to jump the cliff, gravity takes over and I am only ‘choosing’ to fall in an iffy sense of the word *choose*. Once the man chooses one ball over the others, *then* wilfulness kicks in: then the passions are excited, then the arm is moved, and the fingers grasp. Cudworth and I are focused on the step *before* that.

Sorry for the length.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 20 June 2011 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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I’m not really following Chris’s line of argument here. I’ll only say that I pick the examples I do because they are the clearest I know of someone doing something willfully. It certainly *appears* to me that descriptors like ‘animal desire’ are meant as some sort of slur, as though I am somehow unfree to choose the glass of water when I am thirsty. I certainly hope nobody is claiming that.

I’ll also add that adverting to more complex issues such as choosing one’s career or one’s political beliefs are different in being more complex. Complexity and its attendant obscurity is a cover for all sorts of sins in philosophy.

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Posted: 20 June 2011 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Chris,

inthegobi - 20 June 2011 07:05 AM

Cudworth’s thought-experiment eliminates compulsion (or conviction); there is no good reason to choose this one, or that one; there is only the choosing of one-of-them.


Yes, there is no such thing as what we would do in the circumstances and we can’t say what would prevent us from picking any of the balls.

But so what??? The point I persist with is when we think about free choices we do often know what we would do and what prevented us from selecting other options, so usually our free choices are different.

Cudworth thinks it obvious that in humans, it’s one’s own free will that comes into play, while in the case of the donkey and his hay it’s some external factor (external to its donkey mind, that is).

He’s thinking of the cause as internal, we can do it with the donkey, we can do it with anything. Take a window that breaks when a golf ball hits it, we can say the golf ball hitting it caused the break or we can say the window was insufficiently strong and that caused the break.

It’s true that many of our choices have ‘compelling’ reasons. Even in Cudworth’s example, the left-hander will be more likely to pick a ball to his left, as will the man with a bad right eye. [1] But nothing prevents even those men, in a *strong* sense, from picking some other ball.

We’ve established the sense of compulsion we are talking about, prevented from doing otherwise given the circumstances.

Usually as we know what prevented us from selecting other options, we are thinking in terms of being prevented in this way. And when we think about what we would do again we are thinking in terms of being prevented from doing other than what we would do. We don’t think we can do what we wouldn’t do, generally. We don’t think we see things happening which are what wouldn’t happen.

Stephen

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Posted: 20 June 2011 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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dougsmith - 20 June 2011 08:09 AM

I’m not really following Chris’s line of argument here. I’ll only say that I pick the examples I do because they are the clearest I know of someone doing something willfully. It certainly *appears* to me that descriptors like ‘animal desire’ are meant as some sort of slur, as though I am somehow unfree to choose the glass of water when I am thirsty. I certainly hope nobody is claiming that.

I’ll also add that adverting to more complex issues such as choosing one’s career or one’s political beliefs are different in being more complex. Complexity and its attendant obscurity is a cover for all sorts of sins in philosophy.

So is picking a subset of examples that conform to one’s theory and then pretending the really pertinent examples are just really complicated versions. This is also a cover for many sins in philosophy. So is coming up with a possible explanations that are not - and maybe cannot be - confirmed experimentally in the relevant case, like talking about a random-choice generator program that is almost certainly not how humans make choices. This is the ‘just-so’ story. But enough sniper’s shots.

I didn’t make a logically placed line of argument, to be honest: I gave a series of objections and clarifications. Thus the short(ish) individual paragraphs. Consider it half a defense of Cudworth’s thought-experiment and half an argument against trying to explain (away) free will as merely a complicated version of animal desire.

Animal desire is not a slur. Animals lack strictly rational desires. Humans even in thirst and hunger retain a propositional grasp of food and drink, but i’m willing for discussion’s sake to call such desires in people ‘largely’ like animal desire. In any case hardly anyone but naturalists *care* about them as examples of the human will - we grab the handy glass of water and don’t worry how we got to the decision. But again, they are not characteristic of even *simple* human choices, like two similar routes to your job. No human being experiences this as a very complex task.

You’ll note I’ve not used the word complex, you have. I’ve used ‘characteristic’ and ‘typical’ and most interesting’. Hunger and thirst aren’t interesting to me (philosophically!); they aren’t what makes humans characteristcially unique among animals. I find nothing very complex about picking a route to work. Naturalistic assumptions maybe require one to talk like that, but then i’m not bound by those assumptions.

(NB: You and I have likely very different general approaches: I look for characteristic subjects (start with the typical cat, not the hairless ones or the ones without kidneys); your approach often looks for possible ‘foundational’ or ‘elemental’ things (like hunger and thirst) and attempts to build up the rest from some favored or interesting element. It’s an interesting question for philosophers which is the better place to start.)

chris kirk

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Posted: 20 June 2011 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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inthegobi - 20 June 2011 09:47 AM
dougsmith - 20 June 2011 08:09 AM

I’m not really following Chris’s line of argument here. I’ll only say that I pick the examples I do because they are the clearest I know of someone doing something willfully. It certainly *appears* to me that descriptors like ‘animal desire’ are meant as some sort of slur, as though I am somehow unfree to choose the glass of water when I am thirsty. I certainly hope nobody is claiming that.

I’ll also add that adverting to more complex issues such as choosing one’s career or one’s political beliefs are different in being more complex. Complexity and its attendant obscurity is a cover for all sorts of sins in philosophy.

So is picking a subset of examples that conform to one’s theory and then pretending the really pertinent examples are just really complicated versions. This is also a cover for many sins in philosophy. So is coming up with a possible explanations that are not - and maybe cannot be - confirmed experimentally in the relevant case, like talking about a random-choice generator program that is almost certainly not how humans make choices. This is the ‘just-so’ story. But enough sniper’s shots.

To be fair, it was you who brought up the random-choice-generator as “one of the defects that will always allow us to (sooner or later) distinguish a machine from a real person”: viz., that computers were somehow incapable of acting randomly. My point with random-number-generators was not that we have some specialized one in our heads, but rather that that line of argument (or objection) doesn’t hold water. In fact humans aren’t good random-choice-generators at all, and machines are better. If you want to use randomness to find which is the human, you’ll find computers to be more human than humans.

That was my only point with it.

inthegobi - 20 June 2011 09:47 AM

Hunger and thirst aren’t interesting to me (philosophically!); they aren’t what makes humans characteristcially unique among animals.

Yes, and here is another key place where our approaches diverge. The most interesting thing about humans is that we are animals ourselves; as much animals as are apes and tigers. Sure, we have certain unique properties, perhaps the most important of which is that we have a fully fledged language. As Steven Pinker has put it, language is to humans what spinning webs is to spiders. It’s something specialized and useful that we do very, very well.

But philosophy got off on several centuries of wrong feet by thinking that what makes humans special and different is necessarily of philosophical importance. It may be in certain cases, but the importance needs to be established. Otherwise that approach threatens empty boosterism.

The scientific approach, beginning from Darwin, is to study our commonalities with our animal cousins, and to find the roots for our differences in those same cousins: the bower birds have aesthetic sense. Monkeys have specialized alarm calls. Bats reward altruism and punish selfishness. We may believe we do all these things to a greater or more exalted degree. Perhaps we do and perhaps we don’t. But if so it’s not because we have some special ‘stuff’ in us that makes us different in kind, or that makes our brains work in some fundamentally different way (e.g. through causation from some etherial ghost), or anything. It’s just a large, self-similar, tree of life, from single-celled bacteria up to us: chemical mechanisms all of it.

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Posted: 20 June 2011 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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dougsmith - 20 June 2011 11:58 AM

To be fair, it was you who brought up the random-choice-generator . . .

Yes, I did, and I repent of it. it was an unintended red-herring. But let my subsequent comments about random-choice generators stand. And, a more purely free choice, like Cudworth’s golden balls, is going to be more random over individuals than a situation where one of the balls has some evident advantage over the others.

[‘Cudworth’s golden balls’ - it’s hard not to snicker lewdly at least once.]

The most interesting thing about humans is that we are animals ourselves

That this is the *most* interesting thing about humans requires at least as much proof as that our differences are the most interesting: but really, our similarities *and* our differences require inquiry; but human beings *qua* human beings is to talk about what is importantly human, and not talk - interesting as it may be - as primates or mammals or animals or living things or lumps of elements or of subatomic particles. A statue has mass; I have mass. How interesting! but when I want to talk about being *human* versus being like a mass of clay, so what?

Another example (it’s Chesterton’s). Sure, men build houses and birds build nests; but human houses have so many differences from birds’ nests it’s perverse to lump the two together and call the things humans do with houses ‘merely more complicated’. That many philosophers today dont’ find it perverse is no guarantee they’re right to think so - as centuries of wrong-headed philosophy should warn us all.

But philosophy got off on several centuries of wrong feet by thinking that what makes humans special and different is necessarily of philosophical importance. It may be in certain cases, but the importance needs to be established. Otherwise that approach threatens empty boosterism.

Well, first, it seems your second statement rather guts the first one - unless you already know that the differences are unimportant (and what article or scholarly essay proved that?). Second, investigating the uniqueness of human beings doesn’t ‘threaten’ boosterism; idiots who want to puff themselves up do. It was very common in the Modern, post-Christian Era, but the pre-modern eras were pretty sure human beings had major problems of their own, even unique problems.

chemical mechanisms all of it.

The chemist in me loves that you’ve stopped there. It has never been demonstrated that chemical elements are merely more complicated versions of atomic structures - and a fortiori all the other levels of being, such as from animals to the human animal.

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Posted: 20 June 2011 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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inthegobi - 20 June 2011 04:18 PM

The chemist in me loves that you’ve stopped there. It has never been demonstrated that chemical elements are merely more complicated versions of atomic structures - and a fortiori all the other levels of being, such as from animals to the human animal.

Uh huh. So it’s all a big, obscure miracle that the levels mesh so well, then. To save the ghost in the machine, one must sacrifice physical coherence. Forgive me if I don’t follow you down that path. I think few will who don’t have a prior religious axe to grind.

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Posted: 20 June 2011 08:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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dougsmith - 20 June 2011 07:41 PM
inthegobi - 20 June 2011 04:18 PM

The chemist in me loves that you’ve stopped there. It has never been demonstrated that chemical elements are merely more complicated versions of atomic structures - and a fortiori all the other levels of being, such as from animals to the human animal.

Uh huh. So it’s all a big, obscure miracle that the levels mesh so well, then. To save the ghost in the machine, one must sacrifice physical coherence. Forgive me if I don’t follow you down that path. I think few will who don’t have a prior religious axe to grind.

To answer the last first, physicists and chemists often talk about ‘splitters’ versus ‘uniters’ in theories. There’s no prima facie religious sentiment that drives it. I’m still waiting for that total explanation of chemistry as just complicated physics. Name the article. It’s supposed to be the *easiest* task, if i understand your plaint that human beings are just more complicated versions of animals; so animals are just more complicated versions of chemical reactions, and chemical compounds are just more complicated versions of atomic physics. And by a simple transitive principle, particle physics should be the simplest. At the least, if it’s even *possible* to do such reductions, philosophers of all people should be *most* cautious about how they browbeat others into following them.

As for your first claim: I don’t know what a big, obscure miracle is: miracles are never obscure in Christian theology, and ‘miracle’ is not typically employed to describe the various levels of being; and I’ve never invoked a miracle, and have no sneaky plans to do so. There are several non-reductive relations on the philosophical market that attempt to describe the relations among the various levels. I can think of two off the top of my head, and i bet there are more.

But to return to choosing:.,
My plan here - insofar as I’ve had a plan - is a sort of extended *reductio*. Okay, some folk like you can make no sense of free will. Fine. None of the *other* explanations fare much better, and I’ve been attempting to bring out their absurdities. Those reading will have to fall to deciding for themselves which absurdities are the least noxious. I’ll only note they’ll want to choose with deliberation, unless they don’t believe in deliberation - the word denotes ‘from a free will’ - and then they’ll have to accept they’re being pushed around by forces chemical, neurological, social etc. and they’re not really choosing *rationally*. And it seems very odd why I should accept the word of anyone who accepts such a theory about their own decision-making.

That is my last objection to a non-free will in the classic sense: If Hume’s right, and the reason is at the mercy of a non-rational, undeliberative will, then any man’s theory of *anything* is just the result of what he ‘wants’. You find it very convenient to claim my philosophy is just the result of my christianity: why can’t I make the same (outrageous) claim about *you*?

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Posted: 21 June 2011 04:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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inthegobi - 20 June 2011 08:31 PM

To answer the last first, physicists and chemists often talk about ‘splitters’ versus ‘uniters’ in theories. There’s no prima facie religious sentiment that drives it. I’m still waiting for that total explanation of chemistry as just complicated physics. Name the article. It’s supposed to be the *easiest* task, if i understand your plaint that human beings are just more complicated versions of animals; so animals are just more complicated versions of chemical reactions, and chemical compounds are just more complicated versions of atomic physics. And by a simple transitive principle, particle physics should be the simplest. At the least, if it’s even *possible* to do such reductions, philosophers of all people should be *most* cautious about how they browbeat others into following them.

HERE‘s a good example of the sort of thing I’m talking about, re. finding the roots of human behavior in our animal cousins, from today’s NYTimes (may require login):

Despite the roundworm’s lowliness on the scale of intellectual achievement, the study of its nervous system offers one of the most promising approaches for understanding the human brain, since it uses much the same working parts but is around a million times less complex.

<snip>

The human brain, though vastly more complex than the worm’s, uses many of the same components, from neuropeptides to transmitters. So everything that can be learned about the worm’s nervous system is likely to help with the human system.

Though the worm’s nervous system is routinely described as simple, that is true only in comparison with the human brain. The worm has 22,000 genes, almost as many as a person, and its brain is a highly complex piece of biological machinery.

(My bold).

Or is it that there’s some miraculous difference between human neurons and those of c. elegans that makes this sort of research fundamentally useless? You really ought to get to informing those scientists that they’re wasting their time.

The stuff you’re talking about in this thread is just another example of the old God-of-the-gaps riposte that’s been going on since Darwin. Since science isn’t yet complete, the task for the committed theist is to find those places where there’s still work to be done and say, ‘That’s where science breaks down and the miracles are found.’ At its basis it’s an argument from ignorance: since we don’t yet have the complete theory, the theory must include miracles of theological import. Then when the argument gets to turning, the answer is that we must provide the complete theory or the miracles win out.

inthegobi - 20 June 2011 08:31 PM

As for your first claim: I don’t know what a big, obscure miracle is: miracles are never obscure in Christian theology, and ‘miracle’ is not typically employed to describe the various levels of being; and I’ve never invoked a miracle, and have no sneaky plans to do so. There are several non-reductive relations on the philosophical market that attempt to describe the relations among the various levels. I can think of two off the top of my head, and i bet there are more.

The credible non-reductive relations I’m aware of are supervenience and epiphenomenalism. Neither works the way you need in the present case. There are grave problems with supervenient causation: it can be made to work but only as causation in a manner of speaking; the real causal force always goes on at (and is explained by) the micro-level, or the micro-level plus something like etiology, in which case it’s really only causation in a manner of speaking. Epiphenomenalism is pretty much a non-starter in a scientific context.

The only move I’m aware of that makes any sense in the context we’re talking about (viz., making sense of libertarian free will) is miraculous. Though for reasons I’ve argued elsewhere, the theory one ends up with is incoherent.

inthegobi - 20 June 2011 08:31 PM

My plan here - insofar as I’ve had a plan - is a sort of extended *reductio*. Okay, some folk like you can make no sense of free will. Fine.

Argh. Au contraire! I’ve argued time and again here that free will is real and sensible. The incoherency is in libertarian free will in particular, which claims to find freedom in random chance. (Otherwise known as the ‘uncaused cause’, which is both uncaused and somehow ‘influenced by’ belief, desire and reason; a clear contradiction).

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Posted: 21 June 2011 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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dougsmith - 21 June 2011 04:29 AM

. . . a good example of the sort of thing I’m talking about, re. finding the roots of human behavior in our animal cousins, from today’s NYTimes (may require login):

NYT usually does require a login for anything interesting; but please, let a thousand scientific articles bloom. Sure, study worms; I was only expresses uninterest in doing such research; i dont’ much like worms. that’s all i meant. None of this amazing and fascinating research, however, really engages with the various issues of real, daily interest to humans as humans: free will, belief, morals, creativity. (I think the last one is too often neglected.) At best, they nibble at the edges: we gain a deeper understanding of human behavior; we understand the difficulty of monogamy a little better. The claim that all this scientific research *answers* major humanistic questions is a *mere claim* - pinching incense to the Naturalist Emperor’s genius. ‘Neuroethics’ - it *must* be a joke. It’s *phrenology*, for pity’s sake.

And regarding ‘roots’: do trees come from roots, or do trees come from seeds, or do trees come from trees? What causes a tree? Cause is ambiguous (in an interesting way).

[Is there] some miraculous difference between human neurons and those of c. elegans that makes this sort of research fundamentally useless? You really ought to get to informing those scientists that they’re wasting their time.

That would be awful. If I said it.
I’ve repeatedly said that scientific research is good, and let there be more. But AFAIK this has little to do with human beings *qua* human. Philosophy and even theology don’ need expensive equipment, and that’s reason enough not to give them the piles of cash needed for biological or physical research. It has nothing to do with their lack of worth.

The stuff you’re talking about in this thread is just another example of the old God-of-the-gaps riposte that’s been going on since Darwin.

That would be awful. If that’s what I said.
To point out that the various reductive enterprises have failed is not to claim ‘therefore God did it’. To decide that (e.g.) the various levels of being have not been successfully reduced to quantum mechanics is to point out a *fact*; I see no reason to become a non-naturalist *just* because of that. Cannot one be a ‘splitter’ naturalist?

You keep misusing the word ‘miracle’, btw. Jesus walking on water is a miracle (real or fictional); the healing of certain people or the multiplication of food beyond it’s actual amount are miracles. If chemistry is irreducible to physics, that’s not a miracle; that’s in invitation to investigate and develop a better theory as to their real relationship.

The credible non-reductive relations . . .

Credible if one insists on reduction of some sort. So? There are non-theistic non-naturalists, btw. Are you saying that non-naturalism, or even non-reductivism, of any sort, *entails* theism of some sort?

he only move I’m aware of that makes any sense in the context we’re talking about (viz., making sense of libertarian free will) is miraculous. Though for reasons I’ve argued elsewhere, the theory one ends up with is incoherent.

Yes, I know you think that: that’s why I haven’t pushed it. But that’s technically a sophistical refutation: you’ve silenced me because you can’t conceive of more than one kind of cause, and you think a will in a sort of free-fall is a kind of free will, and you’ve loudly proclaimed that anyone who says otherwise is stupid or perverse (in so many words, i hasten to add!). Until you at least *entertain* the possibility of a libertarian kind of free will, there’s just nothing to say to *you*. That’s okay: there’s plenty else to talk about.

Here’s one objection to ‘the will is ‘free’ because you’re doing what you want’ theory: there’s no way, using only this theory, for a court to decide between a sane but incorrigibly wicked man and an insane man. Both are doing what they want - both of their wills are in the free-fall of carrying out what they want - but only one is responsible. a libertarian definition easily explains it: the first man can decide otherwise, but just refuses to; the other man cannot change his mind.

In fact I don’t understand why you care about using the word ‘free’ for that kind of willing. why not just bite the bullet and call that a kind of *determined* will? Hume is the clear-sighted man in this case: reason is the slave of the passions.

chris kirk

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