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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 01 November 2013 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 496 ]
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GdB - 01 November 2013 05:46 AM
volcanoman - 31 October 2013 08:48 PM

Seems to me that we will never know if we have a free will or not.  It certainly seems to me that we may not have a free will which was suggested by Darwin some time ago.  But how would we ever know. 

I am wondering what you mean with ‘knowing’. It seems that you think that the question of ‘having a free will or not’ is not a scientific question. If that is what you mean, I agree. But if you are also saying that because it is not a scientific question, we can say nothing about it, I do not agree. As Stephen pointed out there is more than one meaning people have when they use the concept of free will (there are many more than the two Stephen mentions of course). And it is certainly possible to have and understanding of free will that is useful in daily life, and does not contradict any scientific insight. That is the second one mentioned by Stephen. 

volcanoman - 31 October 2013 08:48 PM

So comments about police and the law, etc. see superfluous.

No it is not. If you define ‘coerced’ as acting against your own wishes and beliefs, and ‘free’ as acting according to your own wishes and beliefs, then we have a meaningful concept of free will that very well matters in areas where police and the law are involved.

volcanoman - 31 October 2013 08:48 PM

Just my opinion.

Your opinion is appreciated.

But discussed.  wink

sorry but not going to wade through 33 pages of a thread.  Wish I would have been in on it from the beginning but c’est la vie.  But if you wish to discuss I am willing.  I speak of “knowing” in terms of science.  I also think that there are no other ways of knowing except through science, logic and evidence.  That may not be a radical idea here but it certainly is in the academy where multiple ways of knowing courses are routinely taught.  There may be no free will but we are still being led to believe that there is free will (perhaps through a routing delay in our brains).  Consequently, it is superfluous to discuss ultimate responsibility for our actions.  This seemed obvious to me so I did not elaborate.  But I am willing to be dissuaded of my opinion.

Now you and Steve both seem to be saying that the first definition “Could have done otherwise in the actual situation in a way that makes us entirely responsible for our actions.”  is knowable.  Steve just said that we do have the information to know 1 is not true.  (maybe what he said confused me but this was my interpretation of his comment—He says we do have the information to know 1 is not true).  So what am I missing?  I sure would like to hear the answer.  How do you two know that we have this information and what is that information. 

I would argue that we are always acting in our own best interest even if it seems like we are being altruistic.  But then that implies that we have no choice which is why I suspect, although I cannot prove, that we have no free will.  Combine the data stream that hits us each moment with our genetic make up and I wonder how there can be any choice involved.  The best way to think about this is to look at the animal kingdom.  If there is free will, where does it begin?  I think most of us would agree that single cell organisms are not behaving with free wills—they are responding to their environment via biochemical reactions.  As you move up the line of life (not trying to imply that humans sit at the top—just implying that if we have a free will than maybe other animals do too), it seems odd that free will would magically appear in more complex organisms.  I hope this make sense. 

Now I don’t understand Steve’s second definition at all.  If there is no free will then acting in accordance with our desires and beliefs implies that there is choice and requires a free will does it not?  Said another way, if there is no free will and you think that you are acting in accordance with your desires and beliefs, nature is fooling you because you are simply responding to stimuli that makes you think that you are behaving this way.

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Posted: 01 November 2013 11:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 497 ]
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volcanoman - 01 November 2013 01:56 PM


  I also think that there are no other ways of knowing except through science, logic and evidence.

OK.

Now you and Steve both seem to be saying that the first definition “Could have done otherwise in the actual situation in a way that makes us entirely responsible for our actions.”  is knowable.  Steve just said that we do have the information to know 1 is not true.  (maybe what he said confused me but this was my interpretation of his comment—He says we do have the information to know 1 is not true).  So what am I missing?  I sure would like to hear the answer.  How do you two know that we have this information and what is that information.

OK, first how do we know the flying spaghetti monster did not create the universe? When dealing with the non existence of something lack of empirical evidence can be evidence against.

Secondly we have very good reason to believe there is a mistake over the ability to have done otherwise in the first place. This comes from a mixture of empirical evidence and reason. Both are explained by Dennett’s example of “Austin’s putt” . So there is good evidence that when people think about what we could have done we are not thinking about in the exact circumstances at all.

Thirdly science takes the view that we are evolved natural creatures the products of our nuture and nature. This does rule out Libertarian free will since our behaviour is traceable back to circumstances beyond our control on this view.

Fourth logic. Libertarian free will is logically impossible, it takes a little thought to see something out of our control would have had to be different for us to have done otherwise.

There is plenty here to know by ordinary standards of knowledge. 

 

If there is no free will then acting in accordance with our desires and beliefs implies that there is choice and requires a free will does it not?

I’ll alter this a little to check. If there is no free will then acting in accordance with our desires and beliefs requires us to be able to do otherwise in the actual situation in a way that makes us entirely responsible for our actions.

Nope it’s a complete non sequitur, which is interesting. The thing is to keep a grip on the definition of free will you are using and not let it move around.

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Posted: 01 November 2013 11:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 498 ]
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Volcanoman

Here is a link to “Austin’s putt” http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/kitdraft.htm

Determinism and Possibility (Thesis 1)

Now that we have some formal machinery in place, we can reconsider the spuriously “obvious” fear that determinism reduces our possibilities. We can see why the claim seems to have merit: let φ be the sentence “Austin holes the putt”, let X be the set of physically possible worlds that are identical to the actual world at some time t0 prior to the putt, and assume both that Austin misses and that determinism holds. Then in fact φ does not hold for any world in X (~X φ ), because X contains only one world: the actual one. Of course, this method of choosing X (call it the narrow method) is only one among many. We should note that the moment we admit into X worlds that differ in a few imperceptibly microscopic ways from actuality at t0 , we may well find that X φ, even when determinism obtains. (This is, after all, what recent work on chaos has shown: many phenomena of interest to us can change radically if one minutely alters the initial conditions.) So the question is: when people contend that events are possible, are they really thinking in terms of the narrow method?

Notice that Austin evidently endorses the narrow method of choosing X when he states that he is “talking about conditions as they precisely were” whenever he asserts he could have holed the putt. Yet in the next sentence he seemingly rescinds this endorsement, observing that “further experiments may confirm my belief that I could have done it that time, although I did not.” What “further experiments” might indeed confirm Austin’s belief that he could have done it? Experiments on the putting green? Would his belief be shored up by his setting up and sinking near-duplicates of that short putt ten times in a row? If so, then he is not as interested as he claims he is in conditions as they precisely were. He is content to consider “Austin holes the putt” possible if, in situations very similar to the actual occasion in question, he holes the putt.(19)

For the logical argument against libertarian free will see “luck swallows everything” a few posts back.

The logic is as simple as this: Arthur Schopenhauer: “You are free to do what you want, but you are not free to want what you want.” http://www.naturalism.org/celebrities.htm

Either the want comes out of the blue, so out of our control, or we set off a regress back to circumstances beyond our control.

All we are dealing with is stubborn resistance because people imagine they are somehow better off with more freedom than freedom compatible with determinism.

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Posted: 02 November 2013 04:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 499 ]
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Stephen already answered on a few of your points, so I’ll try to concentrate on some others.

volcanoman - 01 November 2013 01:56 PM

There may be no free will but we are still being led to believe that there is free will (perhaps through a routing delay in our brains).

If you discuss the topic of free will, you should always be clear about what you think that free will is. Stephen mentioned two different concepts, and rightly shows that the first, in philosophy called libertarian free will, is an incoherent concept. So, according to logic (one of the sources of knowledge you mention), we know we do not have this kind of free will. However, when discussing free will, even if people have understood the concept of compatibilist notion of free will, in arguing against it, it turns out that they use the concept of libertarian free will again and again. It is one reason why this thread is so long (and there are a few other threads, hundreds of pages!).

In your above statement it is clear you take the libertarian concept of free will. I can only say there is an illusion of libertarian free will: we feel somehow that we are not determined when we decide for something. But we are wrong.

volcanoman - 01 November 2013 01:56 PM

Consequently, it is superfluous to discuss ultimate responsibility for our actions.  This seemed obvious to me so I did not elaborate.  But I am willing to be dissuaded of my opinion.

Now you and Steve both seem to be saying that the first definition “Could have done otherwise in the actual situation in a way that makes us entirely responsible for our actions.”  is knowable.

It is libertarian free will that supposes that when all the circumstances are exactly the same (which includes my brainstate), still different actions can occur depending on me. However, this makes of ‘me’ a separate entity as uncaused cause of my actions, classically called a soul. This soul then would be the basis of ‘ultimate responsibility’. This idea is rubbish of course, so we also can safely do away with the concept of ultimate responsibility.

volcanoman - 01 November 2013 01:56 PM

I would argue that we are always acting in our own best interest even if it seems like we are being altruistic.  But then that implies that we have no choice which is why I suspect, although I cannot prove, that we have no free will.

That is not true of course. Even if you would do everything because of your own interest, you still might have to evaluate what the best action is to serve your interest. And then people are not psychologically consistent units: they might have different, conflicting interests. Which interest prevails is also an element of your choice. So choices definitely exist. But the compatibilist will add that your free choices are determined by your wishes and beliefs, and the whole process of evaluating them too.

volcanoman - 01 November 2013 01:56 PM

If there is free will, where does it begin?  I think most of us would agree that single cell organisms are not behaving with free wills—they are responding to their environment via biochemical reactions.  As you move up the line of life (not trying to imply that humans sit at the top—just implying that if we have a free will than maybe other animals do too), it seems odd that free will would magically appear in more complex organisms.  I hope this make sense. 

Yes and no. It makes sense insofar I can follow your train of thought. It does not make sense however, because you are using the concept of libertarian free will which we know by now, is nonsense. In fact you are asking here which animal is complex enough that it can harbour a soul. Rephrased in this way the nonsense is obvious.
The compabitibilist answer goes into this direction: when animals act by anticipating the future, then free will chimes in. And of course it is not a black or white question. There is a gradual difference between different animals. With my experiences with cats and dogs I am inclined to say that they have free will: I recognise wishes and beliefs in their behaviour. Other philosophers however think that we only can speak of free will when animals act based on conscious reflections on their reasons for acting, which would set humans pretty apart as only animals that have free will.

volcanoman - 01 November 2013 01:56 PM

If there is no free will then acting in accordance with our desires and beliefs implies that there is choice and requires a free will does it not?  Said another way, if there is no free will and you think that you are acting in accordance with your desires and beliefs, nature is fooling you because you are simply responding to stimuli that makes you think that you are behaving this way.

There is no difference in ‘responding to stimuli’ and acting out of free will, when in your responding your wishes and beliefs, your reasoning, i.e. evaluating possible actions, play decisive roles. That all these processes are also determined does not diminish your free will.

There is an absolute correct way of saying you have several choices of meals when you are sitting in a restaurant. That your physiology determines what meal you choose does not mean there is no choice, unless the waiter forces you to take the soup of the day.

PS The article linked by Stephen here really gives a nice overview.

[ Edited: 03 November 2013 04:22 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 02 November 2013 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 500 ]
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StephenLawrence - 01 November 2013 09:41 AM

Nope, there are deterministic and indeterministic interpretations of QM.

Do you mean hidden variable theory?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_variable_theory

Physicists supporting de Broglie-Bohm theory maintain that underlying the observed probabilistic nature of the universe is a deterministic objective foundation/property — the hidden variable. Others, however, believe that there is no deeper deterministic reality in quantum mechanics — experiments have shown a vast class of hidden variable theories to be incompatible with observations. Kirchmair and colleagues have shown that, in a system of trapped ions, quantum mechanics conflicts with hidden variable theories regardless of the quantum state of the system.

Although determinism was initially a major motivation for physicists looking for hidden variable theories, nondeterministic theories trying to explain what the supposed reality underlying the quantum mechanics formalism looks like are also considered hidden variable theories; for example Edward Nelson’s stochastic mechanics.

No such luck for determinism.  cheese

Yeah, that’s what compatibilists say free will is compatible with, of course.

Not so. Compatibilism is compatible with determinism.

Since it doesn’t overcome the problem it’s supposed to, the problem of luck, it doesn’t.

It does not need to overcome a non-problem.

Tosh. I just explained what luck swallows everything means. If circumstances beyond your control had been different you would be a murderer etc etc. Nothing to do with unpredictability or chance or anything else you mix the concept up with. It’s to do with circumstances beyond your control. Luck in that sense.

Circumstances beyond your control does not entail just pure luck per se.

And always fail. There can be no happy medium. If something out of your control had to be different for you to have done otherwise that’s 100% luck. No happy medium and obviously so. There are no degrees of this luck. It just stays precisely as it is.

That something out of your control is 100% luck is not necessarily so. This might be so in gambling!

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Posted: 02 November 2013 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 501 ]
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StephenLawrence - 01 November 2013 09:48 AM

Here is where the expression “Luck Swallows Everything” comes from Kkwan, I hope you’ll read it.

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/107995.article

I have printed the article to read, but it is not convincing.

OTOH, I hope you will read and consider this.

http://subloviate.blogspot.com/2008/12/galen-strawson-out-of-luck.html

As Strawson has constructed an argument filled with loopholes born of dubious assumptions, it seems to fair to suppose that he has run out of luck.

By way of explanation, if we can simply be lucky enough that our indeterministic desires consistently correlate to desired outcomes, then luck has ceased to have meaning. “Luck” transforms into a tautology explaining nothing if it supposedly explains anything and everything.

And this, as well.

http://users.tpg.com.au/raeda/website/why.htm

5 assertions answering Galen Strawson’s ‘luck swallows everything’ argument:

(14)  Our formed characters, our circumstances and laws of nature restrict the alternatives available to us, determine consciously-held reasons on the basis of which we decide between these alternatives, and also determine some unconscious tendencies.

(15)  However, because our decisions are made in part in response to gestalts that cannot engage with rules, we have the capacity to make decisions that are not wholly determined by the engagement of laws of nature with our formed characters and our circumstances.

(16)  Thus, the sense in which it is true that we do what we do because of the way we are is that (a) the way we are plus our circumstances plus laws of nature provide alternatives, inconclusive reasons, and unconscious tendencies, and also the capacity to decide between the alternatives on the basis of the reasons; and (b) what we do is what we decide in exercise of that capacity.

(17)  That leaves us at least partly responsible for what we do, even if we were not responsible for the way we are.

(18)  We do become partly responsible for the way we are, as our decisions, for which we are partly responsible, come to supplement the effects of genes and environment on the way we are.

And, from the conclusion:

Life is a handicap event, but most of us have some capacity to modify our handicaps and, within limits, to make our own luck and to shape our own lives.

In reality, within limits, we can “make our own luck and to shape our own lives” and as such, “that luck swallows everything” is not a tenable argument either on moral responsibility or to dismiss LFW.

Galen Strawson is “pulling the wool over your eyes”.

From http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/philosophers/strawsong/

Circular definitions:

Perhaps the best answer to this question at this juncture is the one that draws the present chain of definition — of freedom in terms of true responsibility and of true responsibility in terms of desert — into a firmly closed circle: given that an agent is a moral agent, it is capable of being truly deserving of praise and blame for its choices and actions when and only when it is capable of free choice and free action. Freedom is now defined in terms of true responsibility, true responsibility in terms of desert, and desert in terms of freedom.

Freedom equals truly responsible!

The equation is useful for another reason. The notion of responsibility — not necessarily moral responsibility — is in many ways a clearer notion than the notion of freedom. It is, for one thing, a notion with a strong and obvious causal element. It helps to have it always in mind when discussing freedom.

And from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galen_Strawson

Strawson’s Basic Argument has been criticized by a number of philosophers. Philosopher Randolph Clarke identifies what he takes to be two key problems with Galen Strawson’s presentation of the Basic Argument. Firstly, it is argued that the Basic Argument offered by Strawson is lacking in at least one key premise, with the premise in question being one that he and his opponents crucially disagree. Secondly, Randolph Clarke contends that Strawson employs a concept of moral responsibility which is quite striking, but there is a different and important conception of moral responsibility. In order to be thoroughly convincing he argues that Strawson will have to show that the other conception is inadequate or that the argument works regardless of this second conception.

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Posted: 02 November 2013 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 502 ]
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kkwan - 02 November 2013 09:40 AM


Not so. Compatibilism is compatible with determinism.

Yep and a perfectly good working definition of determinism for these purposes is one physically possible future we can get to from our actual pasts.

It does not need to overcome a non-problem.

Then you are a compatibilist since determinism is a non problem for free will.

Circumstances beyond your control does not entail just pure luck per se.

Yes it does because when I refer to circumstances beyond our control that’s what I mean by luck. So the circumstances of your birth are luck. Assuming determinism if they were different you would make different choices for better or worse.

Also why are you arguing since a regress back to circumstances beyond our control is a non problem according to you?

[ Edited: 02 November 2013 12:07 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 02 November 2013 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 503 ]
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kkwan - 02 November 2013 11:13 AM

In reality, within limits, we can “make our own luck and to shape our own lives” and as such, “that luck swallows everything” is not a tenable argument either on moral responsibility or to dismiss LFW.

We can only “make our own luck” in a sense compatible with determinism Kkwan. But assuming determinism how well we do at this depends upon circumstances before we were born so luck also swallows everything.

Secondly, Randolph Clarke contends that Strawson employs a concept of moral responsibility which is quite striking, but there is a different and important conception of moral responsibility.

But the difference concept of moral responsibility is compatible with determinism.

The motivation for your incompatibilism is to overcome the problem of luck that determinism poses.

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Posted: 27 January 2014 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 504 ]
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http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/reflections-on-free-will/

Reflections on FREE WILL
A Review by Daniel C. Dennett

Its malignance is due to its fostering the idea of Absolute Responsibility, with its attendant implications of what we might call Guilt-in-the-eyes-of-God for the unfortunate sinners amongst us and, for the fortunate, the arrogant and self-deluded idea of Ultimate Authorship of the good we do. We take too much blame, and too much credit, Harris argues. We, and the rest of the world, would be a lot better off if we took ourselves—our selves—less seriously. We don’t have the kind of free will that would ground such Absolute Responsibility for either the harm or the good we cause in our lives.
All this is laudable and right, and vividly presented, and Harris does a particularly good job getting readers to introspect on their own decision-making and notice that it just does not conform to the fantasies of this all too traditional understanding of how we think and act.

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Posted: 27 January 2014 09:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 505 ]
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A question for those who think we have any kind of free will and that our thoughts and actions are not completely determined by factore outside our control:


What part of the human brain is completely independent from the rest of the brain, is not affected by factors the rest of the brain is subject to, and is able to think and make decisions without those pesky determining factors we are unaware of that drive the other part of the brain?

Lois

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Posted: 27 January 2014 11:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 506 ]
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Lois - 27 January 2014 09:26 PM

A question for those who think we have any kind of free will and that our thoughts and actions are not completely determined by factore outside our control:


What part of the human brain is completely independent from the rest of the brain, is not affected by factors the rest of the brain is subject to, and is able to think and make decisions without those pesky determining factors we are unaware of that drive the other part of the brain?

I belong to the first group, not the the second, therefore I stroke that part. ‘Any kind of free will’ does not imply ‘our thoughts and actions are not completely determined by factors outside our control’.

My answer to your question:
None of course. But that does not touch compatibilist free will. You see Lois, on physical level we of course are not in control. But think about it: nothing else is either. If you do not see that, then you are inconsistent in your thinking. The idea of ‘control’ just doesn’t work that way. I would suggest you start with a few examples of entities, processes or events that are in control of anything. I guess you find none at all. But then you cannot use the idea of control to distinguish between simple causal chains, coerced and free actions. The criterion of control just does not work.

Remember? Does a thermostat control the temperature? If it doesn’t, why do we have so many uses for thermostats? No, a thermostat has no free will, just in case you think that I say such a thing. A thermostat has no wishes and beliefs. It just shows that there is no contradiction between being determined and being in control. If you use the idea of ‘control’ correctly then you see that humans can be in control, even if they are determined.

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Posted: 28 January 2014 12:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 507 ]
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GdB - 27 January 2014 11:12 PM
Lois - 27 January 2014 09:26 PM

A question for those who think we have any kind of free will and that our thoughts and actions are not completely determined by factore outside our control:


What part of the human brain is completely independent from the rest of the brain, is not affected by factors the rest of the brain is subject to, and is able to think and make decisions without those pesky determining factors we are unaware of that drive the other part of the brain?

I belong to the first group, not the the second, therefore I stroke that part. ‘Any kind of free will’ does not imply ‘our thoughts and actions are not completely determined by factors outside our control’.

My answer to your question:
None of course. But that does not touch compatibilist free will. You see Lois, on physical level we of course are not in control. But think about it: nothing else is either. If you do not see that, then you are inconsistent in your thinking. The idea of ‘control’ just doesn’t work that way. I would suggest you start with a few examples of entities, processes or events that are in control of anything. I guess you find none at all. But then you cannot use the idea of control to distinguish between simple causal chains, coerced and free actions. The criterion of control just does not work.

Remember? Does a thermostat control the temperature? If it doesn’t, why do we have so many uses for thermostats? No, a thermostat has no free will, just in case you think that I say such a thing. A thermostat has no wishes and beliefs. It just shows that there is no contradiction between being determined and being in control. If you use the idea of ‘control’ correctly then you see that humans can be in control, even if they are determined.

Then you must think that some part of our brains can override our determining factors. What would drive that part of our brain? Independent will that could bypass the determining factors? Or what? Where would that will come from? How would it work? 

Lois

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Posted: 28 January 2014 12:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 508 ]
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Lois,

GdB is a compatibilist.

He disbelieves in Libertarian free will just like you.

The difference between you two is what GdB calls free will you wouldn’t.

Only semantics.

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Posted: 28 January 2014 01:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 509 ]
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Lois - 28 January 2014 12:34 AM

Then you must think that some part of our brains can override our determining factors. What would drive that part of our brain? Independent will that could bypass the determining factors? Or what? Where would that will come from? How would it work? 

It is obvious that you never try to follow what I write. You just react as a bull on a red cloth at the words ‘free will’. You do not realise, exactly as Stephen says, that I give it another meaning. Its meaning fits to our daily practice of how we use concepts like decisions, responsibility, free choice etc. completely, without assuming that we are not determined. I partially explain it in my answer above, and I explicitly said that we are determined. Your reaction just beats air.

Read my answer and understand it. If you have problems to understand, then ask. But stop reacting like a Pavlov dog.

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Posted: 28 January 2014 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 510 ]
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GdB - 28 January 2014 01:36 AM
Lois - 28 January 2014 12:34 AM

Then you must think that some part of our brains can override our determining factors. What would drive that part of our brain? Independent will that could bypass the determining factors? Or what? Where would that will come from? How would it work? 

It is obvious that you never try to follow what I write. You just react as a bull on a red cloth at the words ‘free will’. You do not realise, exactly as Stephen says, that I give it another meaning. Its meaning fits to our daily practice of how we use concepts like decisions, responsibility, free choice etc. completely, without assuming that we are not determined. I partially explain it in my answer above, and I explicitly said that we are determined. Your reaction just beats air.

Read my answer and understand it. If you have problems to understand, then ask. But stop reacting like a Pavlov dog.

Your attitude is condescending and ad hominem. I haven’t done that. I have stuck to the issue. It’s you who have acted like Pavlov’s dog on this subject and you have shown that you have a problem with undertsanding my answers—which is, no doubt, why you have chosen to attack me instead of debating the issue.

Lois

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