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A pragmatic discussion about free will
Posted: 28 January 2014 10:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 511 ]
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Lois - 28 January 2014 12:05 PM

Your attitude is condescending and ad hominem.

Yes. I know. I am angry that when I write an answer on your question which clearly says that there are no ‘parts of our brains can override our determining factors’ that you insist that I must think there are.

Lois - 28 January 2014 12:05 PM

I haven’t done that.

No. But there are other ways to get somebody angry. One is when somebody gives an honest answer on a question, and then you react as if he has written something completely different.

Here is your question again:

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?

My answer:

None of course.

Then I add:

on physical level we of course are not in control

And then you react:

Then you must think that some part of our brains can override our determining factors.

Huh?

The rest of my reaction is to show that your criterion for free will (overriding the determining factors of your brain, being in control) is problematic. And that there is another meaning for the concept of free will, that fully supports our daily practice of assigning responsibility, calling some actions free and others not.

Got it? Another meaning. Not your ‘overriding the determining factors of your brain, being in control’.

But in your reaction you just use your meaning again. You do not even show that you understand that I say there is another meaning.

That makes me angry, yes.

I am not angry because you would not agree with me. I am angry because your reactions have nothing to do with what I wrote, and then you think you can tell me what I ‘must think’ How can you tell me what I ‘must think’ when you do not read what I write?

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Posted: 12 February 2014 11:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 512 ]
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http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-marionettes-lament/

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Posted: 13 February 2014 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 513 ]
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GdB - 28 January 2014 10:14 PM
Lois - 28 January 2014 12:05 PM

Your attitude is condescending and ad hominem.

Yes. I know. I am angry that when I write an answer on your question which clearly says that there are no ‘parts of our brains can override our determining factors’ that you insist that I must think there are.

Lois - 28 January 2014 12:05 PM

I haven’t done that.

No. But there are other ways to get somebody angry. One is when somebody gives an honest answer on a question, and then you react as if he has written something completely different.

Here is your question again:

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?

My answer:

None of course.

Then I add:

on physical level we of course are not in control

And then you react:

Then you must think that some part of our brains can override our determining factors.

Huh?

The rest of my reaction is to show that your criterion for free will (overriding the determining factors of your brain, being in control) is problematic. And that there is another meaning for the concept of free will, that fully supports our daily practice of assigning responsibility, calling some actions free and others not.

Got it? Another meaning. Not your ‘overriding the determining factors of your brain, being in control’.

But in your reaction you just use your meaning again. You do not even show that you understand that I say there is another meaning.

That makes me angry, yes.

I am not angry because you would not agree with me. I am angry because your reactions have nothing to do with what I wrote, and then you think you can tell me what I ‘must think’ How can you tell me what I ‘must think’ when you do not read what I write?

Ok, what is that “other” meaning of free will, how does it differ from determinism and and how does it work? This may just be a matter of semantics because we haven’t agreed on how to define our terms.

I also see you as having reactions that “have nothing to do with what I wrote” and then you tell me what ‘I must think’. I have to ask you the same question, How can you tell me what I ‘must think’ when you do not read (or understand) what I write?


Lois

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Posted: 13 February 2014 11:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 514 ]
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Lois - 13 February 2014 07:07 PM

Ok, what is that “other” meaning of free will, how does it differ from determinism and and how does it work? This may just be a matter of semantics because we haven’t agreed on how to define our terms.

 

Yes it is just a matter of semantics Lois, both the hard determinist and the compatibilst disbelieves in libertarian free will. And you (probably) believe we can act in accordance with our beliefs and desires, but you wouldn’t call that free will.

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Posted: 14 February 2014 12:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 515 ]
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Lois - 13 February 2014 07:07 PM

Ok, what is that “other” meaning of free will, how does it differ from determinism and and how does it work? This may just be a matter of semantics because we haven’t agreed on how to define our terms.

Don’t you realise how often I answered this question of yours already? For the 100th time: read this posting of mine.

I always have said that I use another meaning of ‘free will’ than you. But then, in your reactions on me, you attack what you think is meant by ‘free will’. So you are not attacking my standpoint. Now you may call that ‘just a matter of semantics’, but it is more. So, let’s mention them both, your version of what is meant with free will, and my version, short versions:

Lois: free will means that what we do is caused by me and not by any previous events.
GdB: free will means that I act according to my wishes and beliefs, that reasons are causes of my actions.

That’s it. Do you see that they differ? Do you see that my version does not contradict determinism? I nowhere say that my wishes and beliefs are not caused by previous events! I am convinced they are determined by previous events.

Now of course you can state that my idea does not count as ‘free will’. That’s fine. Then we can have a discussion, and exchange arguments. But you think I defend your version of free will. I do not not. I fully agree with you that if we take your version of ‘free will’, that it contradicts determinism, and because I, just as you, think that for all practical purposes determinism is true, we do not have that kind of free will. On that point we agree, and you do not see it: you always criticise me by attacking the existence of your version of free will.

Now why is the semantics important? Because there are people, notably neurologists, who say that because we are determined we have no free will, and therefore we should not punish people, but treat them. Said otherwise: they reduce humans to objects, instead of subjects. Now, if one can show that ‘my’ meaning of free will can cover everything we normally relate with free will (like decisions, responsibility, morality, blame, praise, non-coercion, authenticity, authority, ‘could have done otherwise’, etc etc), we have good grounds to say that we do have free will, and that our societal practices are logically and morally justified by it.

Lois - 13 February 2014 07:07 PM

I also see you as having reactions that “have nothing to do with what I wrote” and then you tell me what ‘I must think’. I have to ask you the same question, How can you tell me what I ‘must think’ when you do not read (or understand) what I write?

I nowhere have said what you ‘must think’. I have only said that it makes me angry that you are criticising me, where it is very clear that you do not attack my standpoint.

And please show me the point where I did not understand your viewpoint? I agree with you! Your idea of free will is incompatible with determinism. It just is not my idea of what free will is.

[ Edited: 14 February 2014 02:40 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 14 February 2014 12:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 516 ]
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Lois deserves defense on one (minor) point:  “Free will” is typically understood as libertarian free will.

In all other respects I think GdB communicated with the type of clarity that ought to have resulted in a clear understanding of his position.

My two cents.  Carry on.

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Posted: 14 February 2014 01:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 517 ]
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Bryan - 14 February 2014 12:54 AM

Lois deserves defense on one (minor) point:  “Free will” is typically understood as libertarian free will.

In all other respects I think GdB communicated with the type of clarity that ought to have resulted in a clear understanding of his position.

My two cents.  Carry on.

I agree

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Posted: 15 February 2014 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 518 ]
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Bryan - 14 February 2014 12:54 AM

Lois deserves defense on one (minor) point:  “Free will” is typically understood as libertarian free will.

In all other respects I think GdB communicated with the type of clarity that ought to have resulted in a clear understanding of his position.

My two cents.  Carry on.

I don’t like adjectives connected to free will. What is posited as “Libertarian free will” also has aspects I don’t agree with.

Wikipedia says this:

“Historically, the constraint of dominant concern has been determinism of some variety (such as logical, nomological, or theological), so the most prominent common positions are named for the relation they hold to exist between free will and determinism. Those who define free will as freedom from determinism are called incompatibilists, as they hold determinism to be incompatible with free will. The two main incompatibilist positions are metaphysical libertarianism, the claim that determinism is false and thus free will is at least possible; and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus free will is not possible. Hard incompatibilism posits that indeterminism is also incompatible with free will, and thus either way free will is not possible.

“Those who define free will otherwise, without reference to determinism, are called compatibilists, because they hold determinism to be compatible with free will. Some compatibilists hold even that determinism is necessary for free will, arguing that choice involves preference for one course of action over another, a process that requires some sense of how choices will turn out. Compatibilists thus consider the debate between libertarians and hard determinists over free will vs determinism a false dilemma.  Different compatibilists offer very different definitions of what free will even means, taking different types of constraints to be relevant to the issue; but because all agree that determinism is not the relevant concern, they are traditionally grouped together under this common name.”

With these definitions my position would be hard determinist or hard incompatibilist.  I do not accept that we have any free will that is not connected to a determining influence and I do not accept that we can, through independent will, overcome or in any way affect our determining influences.  GdB Makes a case that determinism can be compatible with free will. I can’t accept that.

GdB may well have communicated with clarity his position and understanding of free will. That is not the point.  I simply don’t agree with him. I think GdB and I will just have to agree to disagree on this point because we are too far apart on our definitions, understanding and philosophy of free will. GdB is evidently a compatibilist and that’s where we part company. Unfortunately he takes the position that since I disgree with his position that I don’t understand his argument.  I understand it very well. I just don’t agree with it. I could take a similar position that if he doesn’t agree with my position that he doesn’t understand it. I would prefer to let it drop as we will probaly never agree.

Lois

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Posted: 15 February 2014 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 519 ]
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Lois - 15 February 2014 01:48 PM
Bryan - 14 February 2014 12:54 AM

Lois deserves defense on one (minor) point:  “Free will” is typically understood as libertarian free will.

In all other respects I think GdB communicated with the type of clarity that ought to have resulted in a clear understanding of his position.

My two cents.  Carry on.

I don’t like adjectives connected to free will. What is posited as “Libertarian free will” also has aspects I don’t agree with.

No surprise, there.  You likely read “free will” as libertarian free will just as most folks do.

It’s a pity you don’t like adjectives connected to free will.  It effectively dooms you to communicating ambiguously on the topic when conversing with those who use the customary philosophical distinctions between different concepts of free will.

With these definitions my position would be hard determinist or hard incompatibilist.

Again, no surprise.

I do not accept that we have any free will that is not connected to a determining influence and I do not accept that we can, through independent will, overcome or in any way affect our determining influences.

Your foregoing statement is rife with ambiguity.  A libertarian/indeterminist would likewise affirm that free will is connected to a determining influence.  That’s why we need adjectives.

GdB Makes a case that determinism can be compatible with free will. I can’t accept that.

GdB also makes the point that the issue is best settled based on reason, and we can each compare our reasons for preferring one view over another (if we use enough adjectives).  He very reasonably suggests that if you disagree with his view then you have a good opportunity to disagree based on your reasons.  Obviously that would have to run deeper than “I can’t accept that,” and it’s a good idea to have some adjectives handy if you’re going to try.

GdB may well have communicated with clarity his position and understanding of free will. That is not the point.


That’s obviously not your point, but you attacked what he said with apparently no idea what he was saying.  That’s pretty much not good no matter what point you’re trying to make.  And if you’re not going to delve into your specific reasons for disagreeing with others on free will then what’s the point of joining the discussion?  Seems like you could say “I think determinism is true and free will is impossible,” take your bow and exit stage left.  We’ll let you know if you’re needed for encore bow.  wink

I simply don’t agree with him. I think GdB and I will just have to agree to disagree on this point because we are too far apart on our definitions, understanding and philosophy of free will.

There’s a great deal written on free will and determinism by philosophers.  GdB does a pretty good job of sticking with the standard terms (using them correctly).  If there’s disagreement on definitions then that’s probably an area you can shore up at your end with a little bit of study.  I doubt your interest in the topic is that deep.  That’s not meant as a criticism.  The impression that you give is that you’re satisfied with your view, and you’ve stated your disdain for an abundance of adjectives.  There’s nothing wrong with being interested in some topics more than others. 

Unfortunately he takes the position that since I disgree with his position that I don’t understand his argument.

I think he’s got good evidence (from you) that you don’t understand his argument.  You’re not sensitive to the applicable vocabulary like he is.

I understand it very well. I just don’t agree with it.

You could potentially make a valuable contribution to the discussion by stating specifically why you disagree with his argument.  I might even agree with you (I think compatibilism is an incorrect view).

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Posted: 16 February 2014 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 520 ]
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Lois,

Bryan put in better words what I am trying to say all the time. Please think it over. You do not have to discuss free will, if you don’t want. That’s up to you. Unless you open the discussion again, I’ll let the discussion with you be.

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Posted: 16 February 2014 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 521 ]
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Have you, guys, been following the exchange between Dannett and Harris? I figured I just wait and see who wins and then go with opinion of the winner. Kinda like I did with the Olympics: Czech Republic sucks so I am now proud to be a Canadian.  cheese

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Posted: 16 February 2014 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 522 ]
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StephenLawrence - 12 February 2014 11:35 PM

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-marionettes-lament/

Wow… What a waste of time.

What Harris calls voluntary action, is called a free action by Dennet.

It seems they both agree on what the practical consequences of determinism should be: get rid of the ideas of ‘Ultimate Responsibility’, of ‘Sin’, Guilt’ and ‘Evil’, humanise the ‘barbaric system of imprisonment’ in the US, etc etc. So I fully agree with Dennet: Harris is a compatibilist in everything but name.

Harris: (Yelling) ‘No I am not!’
Dennett: (In a deep voice) ‘O yes, you are’.
Harris: (Stamping his foot on the floor, yelling louder) ‘No I am not!!!’
etc…

I reread Harris’ pamphlet (you won’t call it a book, do you?): I can assure you, he is just another compatibilist, who for reasons I can only guess, doesn’t want to call free will ‘free will’.

PS Nearly a year ago I already wrote that Harris is a compatibilist, who doesn’t want to be called one.

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Posted: 16 February 2014 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 523 ]
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GdB - 16 February 2014 09:26 AM

PS Nearly a year ago I already wrote that Harris is a compatibilist, who doesn’t want to be called one.

As are most hard determinists including the other neuroscientists you worry about.

It’s a matter of focus. The hard determinists think we benefit from disbelief in ultimate responsibility just as you do. Many are especially concerned with the idea that people can deserve to suffer, as you are too.

The hard determinist tends to want to dwell on this and see how things can change for the better in the light of the information. Compatibilists tend to quickly nod in agreement but then swiftly move on to compatibilism, giving the impression nothing much changes.

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Posted: 16 February 2014 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 524 ]
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Yeah, as I said earlier I really don’t know anymore. I still think we are missing some important piece of the puzzle (something to do with consciousness) which is why neither side sounds entirely convincing to me. I find this whole thing extremely frustrating…

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Posted: 16 February 2014 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 525 ]
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George - 16 February 2014 09:59 AM

Yeah, as I said earlier I really don’t know anymore. I still think we are missing some important piece of the puzzle (something to do with consciousness) which is why neither side sounds entirely convincing to me. I find this whole thing extremely frustrating…

The thing is there aren’t really two sides. Compatibilists and hard determinists just use different labels.

Consciousness is confusing, what role it plays if any is not understood.

But what matters is we are not ultimately responsible and this subject is much less confusing since it comes from a mistake over CHDO combined with the idea of choices being up to us.

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