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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 15 October 2013 11:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 286 ]
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Lily,

I let you with your religious beliefs. This is a thread about free will.

LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

You assume that people without religious beliefs will draw humane conclusions to problems facing their societies.  That’s a completely unfounded conclusion not based on any evidence or fact, and I would say, in fact, ignoring past behavior of recent Communist societies which were atheist.  They were far from humane.

No, I did not say that. I said that the best method for having a humane society is to strive for it, and not underlying being human with some metaphysics, be it religious or not. Do you need God to behave morally? And if you believe in God, what do you think God would appreciate more: somebody who behaves humane for its own sake, or because he is threatened with eternal punishment in hell if he doesn’t? And is somebody who acts as he does under a threat of punishment acting freely?

LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

History teaches us just the opposite.  The US has a largely Christian population where everyone enjoys equality and Constitutional rights.  The former Soviet Union, on the other hand, rejected religion and any metaphysical ideas and was very oppressive to those with “differing opinions” killing and imprisoning millions of them.  Your conclusions are wishful thinking, not anything based on evidence.

The USSR is my example against those who believe we have no free will at all. Soviet psychiatry shows what happens when criminals are treated, and the powerful define what is a crime. And for the rest the USSR just shows what happens when people are oppressed. Oppression is oppression, it doesn’t matter in name of what: any religion, or historical materialism or whatever.

LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

Atheism doesn’t have a moral code. 

This is so true, and it shows why atheism is not a belief. The only thing you know about an atheist is that he does not believe in Odin, Zeus and Yahweh. To find out how he stands in life you have to find out his positive beliefs. You know, most people here are atheists. But some are humanists, others are not. Some people see a concept of free will that is perfectly in accord with determinism, others don’t.
And the Catholic church is perfectly showing how much guarantee a Christian belief is for acting morally. And if you say that your are not a Catholic: well I am not a Soviet communist.

LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

It is not at all absurd that an atheist in America has little chance of being president.

I happen to live in Switzerland, and am Dutch, so I never had the chance to vote an (American) president. But if you ask me, yes, I once voted for the socialist party in Holland, but the leader was a moderate protestant Christian. Why should I care? It were his political actions that counted, not his beliefs.

LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

My point to Stephen is that punishment via a court system is a deterrent to many people who live in our societies.  It is a circumstance under which they live, whether by free will or not.  There are many who commit crime anyway, and they must be removed from society if we are to maintain order.  The question is:  Will removing punishment via a court system in favor of “reeducation” maintain the deterrent to the people it now influences away from crime?  People are crafty.  They will weigh the consequences of their actions, and if the consequence isn’t that great, they may just commit the crime they wouldn’t otherwise do if the consequence were greater.

Do you realise you did not need any religious or metaphysical presupposition to write this? Stephen already agreed with what you write here, and I can also more or less (I would use a little other wordings).

[ Edited: 16 October 2013 03:17 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 16 October 2013 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 287 ]
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StephenLawrence - 15 October 2013 02:47 PM
LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

My point to Stephen is that punishment via a court system is a deterrent to many people who live in our societies.  It is a circumstance under which they live, whether by free will or not.  There are many who commit crime anyway, and they must be removed from society if we are to maintain order.  The question is:  Will removing punishment via a court system in favor of “reeducation” maintain the deterrent to the people it now influences away from crime? 

This is an argument for consequentialism. I’m a consequentialist so I don’t disagree.

But I think the consequences of belief in libertarian free will is that we are less compassionate, over punitive and less concerned about changing the circumstances that produce bad behaviour, since people could just free will themselves to behave differently and it’s entirely their fault if they don’t.

I disagree. IMO, nobody can consciously overcome the factors that drive his decisions. Punishment probably does have an effect on behavior, but not consciously. It simply goes into the soup of factors that drive one’s behavior. We’re somewhat aware of a few of them but we have no control over which of millions take precedence.

Lois

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Posted: 16 October 2013 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 288 ]
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Lois - 16 October 2013 07:56 AM
StephenLawrence - 15 October 2013 02:47 PM
LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

My point to Stephen is that punishment via a court system is a deterrent to many people who live in our societies.  It is a circumstance under which they live, whether by free will or not.  There are many who commit crime anyway, and they must be removed from society if we are to maintain order.  The question is:  Will removing punishment via a court system in favor of “reeducation” maintain the deterrent to the people it now influences away from crime? 

This is an argument for consequentialism. I’m a consequentialist so I don’t disagree.

But I think the consequences of belief in libertarian free will is that we are less compassionate, over punitive and less concerned about changing the circumstances that produce bad behaviour, since people could just free will themselves to behave differently and it’s entirely their fault if they don’t.

I disagree. IMO, nobody can consciously overcome the factors that drive his decisions. Punishment probably does have an effect on behavior, but not consciously. It simply goes into the soup of factors that drive one’s behavior. We’re somewhat aware of a few of them but we have no control over which of millions take precedence.

I don’t see any disagreement.

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Posted: 16 October 2013 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 289 ]
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dougsmith - 11 April 2012 06:29 AM
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?

If there were no free will, then there would be no sense to be made of responsibility. But there is in fact a notion of responsibility that we know quite well: causal responsibility. This is the way to a reasoned notion of free will. (Obviously, in the case of freely willed actions, the causal picture will be more complex than it would be with billiard balls).

There is no sense to be made of responsibility. We make our decisionns through unconscious means. After the fact we might decide we acted from a feling of responsibility because such an idea sounds good to us. There are no ” freely willed” actions. All actions are the result of determining factors, the majority of which we are not aware. But even the ones we are aware of we have no control over. We can’t will determining factors to stop taking precedence.

Los

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Posted: 16 October 2013 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 290 ]
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StephenLawrence - 16 October 2013 08:37 AM
Lois - 16 October 2013 07:56 AM
StephenLawrence - 15 October 2013 02:47 PM
LilySmith - 15 October 2013 01:44 PM

My point to Stephen is that punishment via a court system is a deterrent to many people who live in our societies.  It is a circumstance under which they live, whether by free will or not.  There are many who commit crime anyway, and they must be removed from society if we are to maintain order.  The question is:  Will removing punishment via a court system in favor of “reeducation” maintain the deterrent to the people it now influences away from crime? 

This is an argument for consequentialism. I’m a consequentialist so I don’t disagree.

But I think the consequences of belief in libertarian free will is that we are less compassionate, over punitive and less concerned about changing the circumstances that produce bad behaviour, since people could just free will themselves to behave differently and it’s entirely their fault if they don’t.

I disagree. IMO, nobody can consciously overcome the factors that drive his decisions. Punishment probably does have an effect on behavior, but not consciously. It simply goes into the soup of factors that drive one’s behavior. We’re somewhat aware of a few of them but we have no control over which of millions take precedence.

I don’t see any disagreement.


Stephen wrote, “The question is:  Will removing punishment via a court system in favor of “reeducation” maintain the deterrent to the people it now influences away from crime?”

My diagreement is we can’t be sure of any deterrent effect, anyway.  Even if we could it would have little bearing on our decisionmaking. No one will “remove punishment via a court system” unless he’s determined to do so by factors other than a conscious decision. Saying we should or shouldn’t do something consciously would have no effect. If any group of humans “decide” to exact punishment, they will do it as a result of unconscious factors—and they will rationalize their reasons for doing it into a conscious “free will” decision. It still won’t be one.

Lois

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Posted: 16 October 2013 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 291 ]
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Lois-We make our decisions through unconscious means. After the fact we might decide we acted from a feling of responsibility

Right and the biggest value behind this is:
We live in the past constantly.  It’s all memory.  That facilitates the idea that we are responsible.
Even when we are “thinking forward”(future thoughts, plans etc) that’s all just memory too.

So we are looking back and viewing what we did. Obviously our consciousness thinks we are responsible for it.
Because that’s how we learn. 
[internal dialog]
“Oh, I can choose this or that”....“oh no no, don’t “choose” that, remember what happened?”
Or: “yes yes yes, choose that, I liked that.”
or :  ” choose the unknown thing(that hasn’t been experienced before)....why?  Because I remember how good new experiences felt.(dopamine)
“Most consciousness is memory.  It’s stored data we get to review while our automatic corporeal machines advance into the future storing more memory.
Lot’s of lifeforms became cognizant of that memory(and it is only memory) so more advanced social species could evolve.
Evolve solely for the purpose of reproducing. Sex.
The rest of consciousness is chemical/electro stimulus brought on by hormones.

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Posted: 16 October 2013 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 292 ]
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StephenLawrence - 15 October 2013 02:47 PM

I think the consequences of belief in libertarian free will is that we are less compassionate, over punitive and less concerned about changing the circumstances that produce bad behaviour, since people could just free will themselves to behave differently and it’s entirely their fault if they don’t.

Even before learning of this debate between free will and determinism, I understood that people are a result of genetics and environment.  It just never crossed my mind to what degree we, as individuals, could or could not change ourselves.  I think most people understand a child raised in a poor or abusive situation will need special love and attention.  I also know from personal experience that some family members just aren’t going to be good people.  Their mothers never give up, but the rest of the family just won’t take the abuse any more. 

I am all for being compassionate to all people, and I’m with you on all people being treated with respect and dignity no matter their offense to society.  Some recent crimes in this country test that resolve, but I will not give up the belief.  If your understanding on free will helps more people treat others with respect, then I wish you well with the message.

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Posted: 16 October 2013 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 293 ]
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GdB,

I understand this is a philosophy discussion, so I won’t get into Christian apologetics here.  I didn’t post here for that.

Do you realise you did not need any religious or metaphysical presupposition to write this? Stephen already agreed with what you write here, and I can also more or less (I would use a little other wordings).

I’m only here to understand the debate, and I have a bit more to go on how you reconcile determinism and free will.

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Posted: 16 October 2013 01:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 294 ]
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LilySmith - 16 October 2013 12:42 PM

Even before learning of this debate between free will and determinism, I understood that people are a result of genetics and environment.

Yep.

It just never crossed my mind to what degree we, as individuals, could or could not change ourselves.

What ever the degree, the change is still determined by genetics and environment.

 

  If your understanding on free will helps more people treat others with respect, then I wish you well with the message.

Thank you Lily. Here is food for thought:http://www.einsteinandreligion.com/spinoza2.html

Upon a friend commending the Christian maxim “Love they enemy” Einstein replied:

I agree with your remark about loving your enemy as far as actions are concerned. But for me the cognitive basis is the trust in an unrestricted causality. ‘I cannot hate him, because he must do what he does.’ That means for me more Spinoza than the prophets.

[ Edited: 16 October 2013 01:30 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 16 October 2013 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 295 ]
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Lois - 16 October 2013 12:09 PM

My diagreement is we can’t be sure of any deterrent effect, anyway.

We can study human behaviour like any science.

Even if we could it would have little bearing on our decisionmaking. No one will “remove punishment via a court system” unless he’s determined to do so by factors other than a conscious decision.
Lois

If people believe it doesn’t work and also believe it isn’t deserved they won’t do it.

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Posted: 16 October 2013 10:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 296 ]
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LilySmith - 16 October 2013 01:02 PM

I’m only here to understand the debate, and I have a bit more to go on how you reconcile determinism and free will.

Free will is just not what it seems to us on the surface. VYAZMA and Lois are right that our conscious decisions do not come from nowhere, they have a causal history. Any ‘soul-magic’ interfering with the causal processes that run in my brain would, when discovered, immediately turn into a new class of natural causes. Except pure chance processes that quantum mechanics has on offer, there is no way out of the causal fabric of the universe.

However: the compatibilist notion of free will is not touched by this. Being free means being free to act, i.e. to do what you want. Incompatibilists want that we extend the notion of free will to that we can want what we want, which is of course an absurd notion. The libertarian however says that the notion is not absurd, and the incombatibilist determinist follows him in his incoherent notion of free will, but then denies that it exists. As the incombatibilist determinist thinks this notion of free will is the only one, he thinks that with that his work of denying free will is done.

The idea behind incompatibilism is that natural laws force us to do what we do. But natural laws do not force anything. They describe how natural processes, including those in my brain, run. (See here for a technical presentation of this idea, here for a more playful one) When my actions are determined by my wishes and believes (even if they are unconscious), then they are really my actions, and therefore an expression of a free will, i.e. a will free from external constraints. I am not free if I am coerced, i.e. are forced by somebody else, which means I act according to his wishes and believes, not mine.

The notion of responsibility is attached to this: if I am able to deliberate about my actions on moral grounds, if I practically show that I can plan my future actions, and that I act based on these, then I am responsible for my actions. It has nothing to do with any metaphysical notion of free will or souls or God.

There is of course a lot more to say about it, and there is a lot of misunderstanding, therefore the ‘free will’-threads here are so endless long…

PS There is some discussion about Smullyan’s article at the philosophy forums.

Edit: extended for clarity

[ Edited: 17 October 2013 01:00 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 17 October 2013 12:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 297 ]
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GdB - 16 October 2013 10:56 PM

The idea is that natural laws force us to do what we do. But natural laws do not force anything. They describe how natural processes, including those in my brain, run.

That’s an idea but it’s not like the problem is overcome once that is sorted out.

The problem is since we can’t want what we want, we are merely lucky or unlucky to get the want that we do, this is what people won’t accept. Circumstances beyond our control would have to be different for us to act differently.

http://www.naturalism.org/celebrities.htm

Bertrand Russell,

“When a man acts in ways that annoy us we wish to think him wicked, and we refuse to face the fact that his annoying behavior is the result of antecedent causes which, if you follow them long enough, will take you beyond the moment of his birth, and therefore to events for which he cannot be held responsible by any stretch of imagination…

[ Edited: 17 October 2013 12:47 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 17 October 2013 01:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 298 ]
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StephenLawrence - 17 October 2013 12:41 AM

That’s an idea but it’s not like the problem is overcome once that is sorted out.

No, it is not everything, therefore my posting was a little longer then this one sentence you cited alone.

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Posted: 17 October 2013 01:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 299 ]
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GdB - 17 October 2013 01:03 AM
StephenLawrence - 17 October 2013 12:41 AM

That’s an idea but it’s not like the problem is overcome once that is sorted out.

No, it is not everything, therefore my posting was a little longer then this one sentence you cited alone.

I think you were mixing ideas confusingly GdB.

The point about we can’t want what we is the want is out of our control. So one could say the want is forced upon us (in a sense). I think you mixed things up by implying that’s not true because the laws of nature are descriptive.

That’s how it seemed to me.

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Posted: 17 October 2013 02:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 300 ]
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StephenLawrence - 17 October 2013 12:41 AM

The problem is since we can’t want what we want, we are merely lucky or unlucky to get the want that we do, this is what people won’t accept. Circumstances beyond our control would have to be different for us to act differently.

I think I pick up the idea of self refutation from VYAZMA here.

You expect from me that I treat evil doers with understanding because they cannot help what they have done because of their history. You do this by arguing with me, i.e. treat me as a responsible person that can evaluate the reasons behind my behaviour, and change it when your arguments are convincing. That means you are presupposing responsibility in arguing that we are not responsible. That is self-defeating.

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