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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 12 December 2012 12:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 226 ]
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Stumbled across this by accident whilst looking for another song as a result of TromboneAndrew’s thread on favourite folk songs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tDxVRw6yec

It’s what belief in no free will, in a positive sense, is about. Much as free will does mean more than one thing, it does refer to the idea we have some power that overcomes the luck of what genes we get and what past circumstances we get and what random chance events we get (if there are such things) that lead to us behaving as we do.

It’s strange people don’t see that combating this belief is of pragmatic importance.

Oh well.

Stephen

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Posted: 12 December 2012 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 227 ]
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GdB - 09 December 2012 10:52 PM
Lois - 09 December 2012 11:31 AM

The point you’re missing is that it doesn’t matter what the criminal’s motivations are.  They are not under the criminal’s conscious control.  Whether various criminal motivations ‘“deserve” the same response is a matter of opinion.  They will receive the punishment that others deem appropriate—and what they deem appropriate is also out of their conscious control.  The whole point is that NO ONE has conscious control, neither criminals nor those “deciding” punishment.  In every case it’s a matter of millions of individual genetic, experiential and environmental factors, many of which we have no awareness of and all of which we have no control over.

Lois, does a thermostat control the temperature?
Does a thrown away cigarette cause a fire?


Ll.  A thermostat is programmed to do certain things.  No one is programming human actions.  If there is any programming going on, it is from millions of genetic, environmental and experiential factors and every human being is “programmed” differently. Some are “programmed” to do some things, others are “programmed” to do other things. No entity is in charge. We are “programmed” in our decisions in the same way evolution is “programmed.” Certain actions are inevitable given the conditions of the moment.

If a cigarette causes a fire it is because of physical conditions present at the time. If a human being sets a fire it’s because of his or her genetic, environmental and experiential conditions at the time.  No separate entity has control.  The person him or herself cannot control the conditions, no matter how much we would like to think we can. If a human “takes responsibility” or fails to take it, it is out of the person’s conscious control.  If other people impose punishment on another person for taking a particular action or not taking a particular action, that, too, is out of their control.  They are acting on their own unconscious conditions at the time over which they have no control and much of which they have no awareness of.

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Posted: 12 December 2012 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 228 ]
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Lois - 12 December 2012 12:36 PM


Ll.  A thermostat is programmed to do certain things.  No one is programming human actions.  If there is any programming going on, it is from millions of genetic, environmental and experiential factors and every human being is “programmed” differently. Some are “programmed” to do some things, others are “programmed” to do other things. No entity is in charge. We are “programmed” in our decisions in the same way evolution is “programmed.” Certain actions are inevitable given the conditions of the moment.

If a cigarette causes a fire it is because of physical conditions present at the time. If a human being sets a fire it’s because of his or her genetic, environmental and experiential conditions at the time.  No separate entity has control.  The person him or herself cannot control the conditions, no matter how much we would like to think we can. If a human “takes responsibility” or fails to take it, it is out of the person’s conscious control.  If other people impose punishment on another person for taking a particular action or not taking a particular action, that, too, is out of their control.  They are acting on their own unconscious conditions at the time over which they have no control and much of which they have no awareness of.

Quite so Lois.

Stephen

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Posted: 12 December 2012 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 229 ]
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StephenLawrence - 12 December 2012 03:31 PM
Lois - 12 December 2012 12:36 PM


Ll.  A thermostat is programmed to do certain things.  No one is programming human actions.  If there is any programming going on, it is from millions of genetic, environmental and experiential factors and every human being is “programmed” differently. Some are “programmed” to do some things, others are “programmed” to do other things. No entity is in charge. We are “programmed” in our decisions in the same way evolution is “programmed.” Certain actions are inevitable given the conditions of the moment.

If a cigarette causes a fire it is because of physical conditions present at the time. If a human being sets a fire it’s because of his or her genetic, environmental and experiential conditions at the time.  No separate entity has control.  The person him or herself cannot control the conditions, no matter how much we would like to think we can. If a human “takes responsibility” or fails to take it, it is out of the person’s conscious control.  If other people impose punishment on another person for taking a particular action or not taking a particular action, that, too, is out of their control.  They are acting on their own unconscious conditions at the time over which they have no control and much of which they have no awareness of.

Quite so Lois.

Stephen

Thanks, Stephen.  It’s always nice to find someone who understands how derterminism works. It’s rare.

....

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Posted: 12 December 2012 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 230 ]
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FreeInKy - 11 April 2012 05:37 AM
dougsmith - 11 April 2012 04:56 AM

It matters to the law whether or not an action was your responsibility. Notions of personal responsibility just are notions of free action.

Are you saying that, if in fact there is no free will, then no one is responsible for their actions and therefore cannot be held accountable?

People will hold other people “acountable” only if they are determined to do it.  It doesn’t matter if we think the person under scrutiny has free will.  EVERYBODY’s decisions are controlled by their inconscious factors, including yours and mine.  What we think consciously has no effect on anything.    We simply react to genetic, environmental and experiential factors,  we don’t control them. 

....

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Posted: 12 December 2012 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 231 ]
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Lois - 12 December 2012 04:12 PM

Thanks, Stephen.  It’s always nice to find someone who understands how derterminism works. It’s rare.

....

That’s fine Lois, thank you and yes it is rare.

Stephen

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Posted: 12 December 2012 11:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 232 ]
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Lois - 12 December 2012 12:36 PM

Ll.  A thermostat is programmed to do certain things.  No one is programming human actions.  If there is any programming going on, it is from millions of genetic, environmental and experiential factors and every human being is “programmed” differently. Some are “programmed” to do some things, others are “programmed” to do other things. No entity is in charge. We are “programmed” in our decisions in the same way evolution is “programmed.” Certain actions are inevitable given the conditions of the moment.

Lois, do you realise you did not answer my question? I also fully agree with what you have written here, except the last sentence, at least what I assume you meant to say. (If I ask you “if only ‘certain’ actions are inevitable given the conditions of the moment, which actions are then not inevitable?” you possibly see that you meant something else.).

So I have to ask the question again: does a thermostat control the temperature?

Lois - 12 December 2012 12:36 PM

If a cigarette causes a fire it is because of physical conditions present at the time. If a human being sets a fire it’s because of his or her genetic, environmental and experiential conditions at the time.  No separate entity has control.  The person him or herself cannot control the conditions, no matter how much we would like to think we can. If a human “takes responsibility” or fails to take it, it is out of the person’s conscious control.  If other people impose punishment on another person for taking a particular action or not taking a particular action, that, too, is out of their control.  They are acting on their own unconscious conditions at the time over which they have no control and much of which they have no awareness of.

Funny. Also here you did not answer my question: does a thrown away cigarette cause a fire? You are answering with a sentence beginning with ‘If a cigarette…’.

I would add, great that you understand determinism, now it is time to understand the mind/body problem. You are mixing the concepts of ‘physical conditions’, ‘genetics’, with the concept of ‘person’ as if a person would be a physical object.

But first answer my simple questions:
Does a thermostat control the temperature?
Does a thrown away cigarette cause a fire?

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Posted: 13 December 2012 12:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 233 ]
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Occam. - 12 December 2012 12:07 AM

There’s a problem in that some of the posters wouldn’t agree with the summary.  For example, the Free Will thread, the longest in the forum.  I’d summarize it as:  Some think free will exists while others think our behavior is determined.  I’d imagine that both sides would be strongly annoyed because their arguments were not presented.

Please, please, please, don’t start that discussion here.  LOL

Occam

OK, I’ll do it here.
The summary is:

While nobody denies that our behaviour is determined, some think that this is a necessary condition for free will to exist, while others think that determinism contradicts any useful concept of free will.

If Scott Mayers read this, please go ahead, make a better summary…

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Posted: 13 December 2012 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 234 ]
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Excellent summary, GdB.  Now why didn’t someone say that at the beginning of the thread so we could have avoided all the extra pages?  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 13 December 2012 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 235 ]
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GdB - 12 December 2012 11:37 PM
Lois - 12 December 2012 12:36 PM

Ll.  A thermostat is programmed to do certain things.  No one is programming human actions.  If there is any programming going on, it is from millions of genetic, environmental and experiential factors and every human being is “programmed” differently. Some are “programmed” to do some things, others are “programmed” to do other things. No entity is in charge. We are “programmed” in our decisions in the same way evolution is “programmed.” Certain actions are inevitable given the conditions of the moment.

Lois, do you realise you did not answer my question? I also fully agree with what you have written here, except the last sentence, at least what I assume you meant to say. (If I ask you “if only ‘certain’ actions are inevitable given the conditions of the moment, which actions are then not inevitable?” you possibly see that you meant something else.).

So I have to ask the question again: does a thermostat control the temperature?

Lois - 12 December 2012 12:36 PM

If a cigarette causes a fire it is because of physical conditions present at the time. If a human being sets a fire it’s because of his or her genetic, environmental and experiential conditions at the time.  No separate entity has control.  The person him or herself cannot control the conditions, no matter how much we would like to think we can. If a human “takes responsibility” or fails to take it, it is out of the person’s conscious control.  If other people impose punishment on another person for taking a particular action or not taking a particular action, that, too, is out of their control.  They are acting on their own unconscious conditions at the time over which they have no control and much of which they have no awareness of.

Funny. Also here you did not answer my question: does a thrown away cigarette cause a fire? You are answering with a sentence beginning with ‘If a cigarette…’.

 

I would add, great that you understand determinism, now it is time to understand the mind/body problem. You are mixing the concepts of ‘physical conditions’, ‘genetics’, with the concept of ‘person’ as if a person would be a physical object.


Are you saying a person is not a physical object?

But first answer my simple questions:
Does a thermostat control the temperature?
Does a thrown away cigarette cause a fire?

Ok, is this better? A thrown away cigarete can cause a fire if conditions are right for a fire to start where the cigaret lands.  A thrown away cigaret does not have free will.

A thermostat can contol temperature if it’s been programmed by a human to control the temperature and the thermostat is functioning.  It does not have free will. 

I don’t see where either of these questions addresses free will.  Unless you think thrown away cigarettes and thermostats have free will, which would mean that they can make decisions that have nothing to do with their limitations. I really don’t know what you’re getting at.

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Posted: 13 December 2012 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 236 ]
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GdB - 13 December 2012 12:11 AM
Occam. - 12 December 2012 12:07 AM

There’s a problem in that some of the posters wouldn’t agree with the summary.  For example, the Free Will thread, the longest in the forum.  I’d summarize it as:  Some think free will exists while others think our behavior is determined.  I’d imagine that both sides would be strongly annoyed because their arguments were not presented.

Please, please, please, don’t start that discussion here.  LOL

Occam

OK, I’ll do it here.
The summary is:

While nobody denies that our behaviour is determined, some think that this is a necessary condition for free will to exist, while others think that determinism contradicts any useful concept of free will.

If Scott Mayers read this, please go ahead, make a better summary…

Yes, that’s about the same as giving a summary about the existence of god by saying that some people think a god is necessary for humans to exist and others do not.

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Posted: 13 December 2012 05:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 237 ]
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And the arguments for and against determinism/free-will and god/no god are just about equally a waste of time for the true believers.  smile

Occam

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Posted: 13 December 2012 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 238 ]
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Occam. - 13 December 2012 05:53 PM

And the arguments for and against determinism/free-will and god/no god are just about equally a waste of time for the true believers.  smile

Occam

But in these threads few are true believers. We pretty much all disbelieve in free will as you are using the term.

The reason the topic is important is because most people do believe in free will as you are using the term.

Stephen

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Posted: 14 December 2012 02:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 239 ]
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Lois - 13 December 2012 11:58 AM

Yes, that’s about the same as giving a summary about the existence of god by saying that some people think a god is necessary for humans to exist and others do not.

Yes, of course, it was not meant very seriously. It was a reaction on this thread, and I had to answer to Occam’s summary because it was wrong: but he did not allow me to do it there. smile
The pointe of my correction is of course that I do believe that our behaviour is determined, and that this is a condition for having free will. Determinism and free will are just false opposites. Correct opposites are determinism and randomness on the one side, and free will and forced will on the other side.

Now to the cigarette and the thermostat. Of course I do not claim that a cigarette causing a fire and a thermostat controlling the temperature are examples of free will. It was not necessary to add this. You seem to think that I am stupid or so. I also know that all the other conditions must be correct for a cigarette to be the cause of a fire: it must be dry, there must be burnable stuff around, there must be enough oxygen around, etc etc. Similar for the thermostat, with of course the addition that it was designed to control the temperature. Just as small addition: one could say we are designed too. Not as conscious act of a designer, but by the process of evolution: we are survival machines, as all other organisms are. Only the strategies differ.

Now what I accuse you of is inconsistent use of language. Let’s rephrase a little:

All other conditions being the same, the cause of the fire was a thrown away cigarette.

Now when I read your arguments against free will, you say that everything we do is determined, i.e. caused by previous events. Now why wouldn’t you not agree with the sentence:

All other conditions being the same, the cause of my action was my wish to do it.

You may add that my wish is determined by previous events, but that does not falsify the above. And having free will means that our actions are determined by our wishes and beliefs. The causal history of my wishes and beliefs has nothing to do with it. If you think it does, then you must deny that the thrown away cigarette was the cause for the fire, because the burning of the cigarette has a causal history too.

Now the thermostat: it does control the temperature, therefore we use these things. To add that the thermostat can be explained as a causal mechanism does not change the fact that it controls the temperature. So why would the fact that we are determined deny the fact that we are in control? It is just inconsistent.

The whole idea that determinism and free will are contradictory is based on wrong understanding of what these concepts really mean. We do as if causal laws force us to do things, but in reality causal laws allow us to be causal agents. And causal laws make us what we are, they do not force us to do things. A person can force us to do things, but natural laws can’t, at least not those that make our brains work.

[ Edited: 14 December 2012 04:28 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 14 December 2012 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 240 ]
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Narural laws resulting in me being tired this morning forced me not to get up on time as per my wishes—I was actually aware as this battle was taking place in my body. Nobody was holding a gun to my head, neither did I detect any supernatural forces at work. Was I free to sleep in?

It has nothing to do with my idea of free will, nevertheless, I wonder…

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