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Do non-human animals have free will?
Posted: 27 November 2012 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 181 ]
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GdB - 25 November 2012 11:43 PM

Oh man, so many confusions…

isaac - 25 November 2012 04:53 PM
Lois - 25 November 2012 12:51 PM

as gdb said, this usually comes in the form of a soul. However, many secularites still think in terms of ‘vestigial dualism’—particularly, many believe in a ‘self’ that is ‘trapped’ by determining factors, including the factors which more rightly *are* the self.

To start with the positive. This is true as true can be. Many of those incompatibilist determinists see it this way: there is ‘self’, and this self is ‘forced’ by the natural laws to do as it does. To state it very clear: natural laws do not force anything. They describe how nature runs.

A stone running downhill is not ‘forced’ to do so. This is metaphoric speech. Nature is just as it is, stones move in the direction of the centre of gravity. Why, one could even say the stone ‘wants’ to run downhill.

—that’s right, it is not coerced. It runs downhill because of the conditions of he moment—in other words, its determining factors.  Do you think i ripuns ownhill by its free will? 

isaac - 25 November 2012 04:57 PM

saying there is no ‘self’ is a lot like saying there is no free will.  Both are terms for useful concepts.

Yep, that was tricky of mine to say that. My answer to this: where there is no self, there are no ‘coercion’ and no ‘free will’. Only when there is a ‘self’ these concepts mean something. One cannot ‘coerce’ a stone to roll down. One can also not ‘convince’ a stone to roll down.

Now the problem of the incompatibilist determinists is that they apply concepts that do not work together: talking about determinism, and a self that is determined, is mixing two discourses that do not mix. The opposite of ‘free’ is ‘being coerced’, not ‘determined’.

So this is flat wrong:

Lois - 25 November 2012 09:09 PM

—My contention is that we cannot, we only think we can.  It’s ALL coerced.  A decision to marry is similar to our stomach digesting food, except we are not kidding ourselves that we are in charge of digestion.  We will marry or not depending on determining factors, whether that thought disturbs us or not. And we will insist that it was our free will that made the decision because that’s how our minds work.

On the level of determinism, nothing is coerced. Events happen as they do, and we can describe them with help of laws of nature and initial conditions. Part of what our brain does, is evaluating feelings and arguments, which does not happen with digestion. Of course, this evaluating feelings and arguments runs on a determined state machine. So, yes, we are determined. (I must repeat this again and again, people seem to miss this.) So the idea we are an independent, uncaused, self that has command over what we do, is definitely wrong. But that our brain processes on higher level constitute feelings, wishes, beliefs, reasons and consciousness etc. makes it possible to distinguish between free and coerced actions: free actions are actions in accordance with our wishes and beliefs; coerced when they are not.

—You are wrong to say my position is that anything is coerced.  Everything simply happens because if determining factors—just like the stone running down hill.  Nothing has coerced the stone and the stone has no free will to either run downhill or stay put. It moves not from coercion or free will, it moves because of the physical factors in place the moment.  Nobody’s in charge.

Do you also think that earthquakes and tornadoes are coerced!  Or are they happening out of free will?

I would very much prefer that people stop arguing as if I defend libertarian free will. Saying “You are wrong, we are determined!” is just not an argument against my position. Saying “But Libet!” neither: as said earlier, this is an experimental proof of something we know already: that the concept of libertarian free will is incoherent.

The ‘slogan’ version of my position is: free will means you can do what you want, but it is logical absurd to say it means you can want what you want.

Lois - 25 November 2012 09:02 PM

We will be exactly as responsible as our determining factors make us, no more and no less.  If you’re determined to feel guilty for a bad decision you will feel guilty and you will “try” to do better next time, but you have no actual choice.

So feeling guilty is the basis of responsibility? What about a criminal we sentence to jail, who does not feel guilty at all? Was he not responsible for his action? Don’t we say “Your action was based on the wrong reasons, and because you acted according to them, we punish you?” Was he ‘coerced’ to rob the bank? And therefore we punish him?

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Posted: 27 November 2012 10:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 182 ]
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GdB - 25 November 2012 11:43 PM

Oh man, so many confusions…


So feeling guilty is the basis of responsibility? What about a criminal we sentence to jail, who does not feel guilty at all? Was he not responsible for his action? Don’t we say “Your action was based on the wrong reasons, and because you acted according to them, we punish you?” Was he ‘coerced’ to rob the bank? And therefore we punish him?

—Another thing I never said. We punish him for our own determined reasons. It doesn’t always make sense. We punish or not for reasons that have nothing to do with whether a person fees guilt or claims to have been coerced.  If we’re determinedto punish we will punish.  If we are determined to not punish, we won’t.  Our consciousness has nothing to do with it.  Our consciousess is only observational.  It doesn’t make decisions.


.......

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Posted: 27 November 2012 11:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 183 ]
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isaac - 27 November 2012 04:02 PM
GdB - 27 November 2012 12:39 AM

I think we should explain how these concepts work in a natural world, instead of declaring them nonsense.

i agree very much. that’s one of my favorite general points.

so why do you still say ““The light is on, but there is nobody at home””

Thank you for understanding my ‘disclaimer’.

But do you think there is a contradiction between ‘understanding how the concepts of free will, determinism, responsibility etc work in the natural world’ and ‘The light is on, but there is nobody at home’? Saying we are forced to our actions by our brain, or that our consciousness is caused by the brain, and therefore we have no free will, shows that somebody does not understand how these concepts work, i.e. how they are interrelated.

If you suppose that ‘we’ exist, you get free will for free. And you cannot give the present back, sorry.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 12:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 184 ]
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Lois - 27 November 2012 10:30 PM

I never said there is no self.

And that is exactly the problem. If you want to be consistent, then you can talk about atoms and the forces between them: but not about a self. You will not find a self there. Neither at the level of neurons.

However, if you are at the level where ‘selves’ exist, then there also reasons, feelings, wishes, beliefs, and free will. It is simply inconsistent to say ‘we’ have no free will. (But note: not libertarian free will, an uncaused free will!) Of course we are determined: when the ‘implementation layer’ (the brain) is determined, then the higher levels are too.

You did not answer this question yet, Lois: can you distinguish between a coerced action and a free action?

Lois - 27 November 2012 10:30 PM

We have a self that observes and assesses.  It just doesn’t have the ability to act on its own—which is what free will implies.

Right, not on its own. But otherwise it can act, according to its observations and assessments: which is what compatibilist free will implies.
You also keep arguing against libertarian free will, which I do not defend.

Lois - 27 November 2012 10:44 PM
GdB - 25 November 2012 11:43 PM

A stone running downhill is not ‘forced’ to do so. This is metaphoric speech. Nature is just as it is, stones move in the direction of the centre of gravity. Why, one could even say the stone ‘wants’ to run downhill.

—that’s right, it is not coerced. It runs downhill because of the conditions of he moment—in other words, its determining factors.  Do you think i ripuns ownhill by its free will? 

No. Didn’t you read what I wrote? It is not coerced, and it is not free. It just rolls down as stones do.

Lois - 27 November 2012 10:52 PM
GdB - 25 November 2012 11:43 PM

So feeling guilty is the basis of responsibility? What about a criminal we sentence to jail, who does not feel guilty at all? Was he not responsible for his action? Don’t we say “Your action was based on the wrong reasons, and because you acted according to them, we punish you?” Was he ‘coerced’ to rob the bank? And therefore we punish him?

—Another thing I never said.

I know. But it was not clear for me, therefore the question mark.

Lois - 27 November 2012 10:52 PM

We punish him for our own determined reasons. It doesn’t always make sense. We punish or not for reasons that have nothing to do with whether a person fees guilt or claims to have been coerced.  If we’re determinedto punish we will punish.  If we are determined to not punish, we won’t.  Our consciousness has nothing to do with it.  Our consciousess is only observational.  It doesn’t make decisions.

That is saying that the brain causes consciousness. That is wrong. Our brain processes are consciousness. It is in the complex iterations (‘strange loops’?) of our brain process that our reasons to act arise. And these are consciousness, and are causally active. (But not uncaused of course!)

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Posted: 28 November 2012 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 185 ]
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GdB - 27 November 2012 11:22 PM

If you suppose that ‘we’ exist, you get free will for free.

huh?

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Posted: 28 November 2012 03:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 186 ]
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George - 27 November 2012 08:58 PM

Isaac,

To know and to reflect are not the same thing as being aware of knowing and reflecting.

so what is the difference, say, between ‘knowing that i’m thinking’ of doing something and ‘being aware’ of it?

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Posted: 28 November 2012 03:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 187 ]
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(i understand, of course, that neither is necessary in order to consider and plan and execute.)

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Posted: 28 November 2012 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 188 ]
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isaac - 28 November 2012 03:01 AM
GdB - 27 November 2012 11:22 PM

If you suppose that ‘we’ exist, you get free will for free.

huh?

‘we’ are many ‘selves’. If there is a self there is free will (or coercion of course).

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Posted: 28 November 2012 05:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 189 ]
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isaac - 28 November 2012 03:07 AM
George - 27 November 2012 08:58 PM

Isaac,

To know and to reflect are not the same thing as being aware of knowing and reflecting.

so what is the difference, say, between ‘knowing that i’m thinking’ of doing something and ‘being aware’ of it?

It depends how you use the word “know.” In your example it is a synonym for being aware, so there is no difference. But to gain knowledge through the process of thinking has nothing to do with being aware. Again, it depends what you are getting to know. The more complicated the subject, the more thinking is required, and the more aware you are of your brain doing the thinking, ultimately leading to knowledge. Not always, of course. Most of the things in your everyday life you learn without being aware of what’s going on.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 06:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 190 ]
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GdB, what is it with you and the atoms? Everything around us is made of atoms, the locomotive, the life organisms on which evolution operates, our brain making us feel we have free will, and the ink and paper creating an optical illusion. On the atomic level that is all these things are: a bunch of atoms. When they are organized in a specific way, however, they give a rise to new phenomena. And sometimes these phenomena can be misleading, making us feel that they are what in fact they are not. Evolution and locomotives are real, but free wil and the colour grey you think you are seeing in an optical illusion are fake. So please stop it with the atoms.

[ Edited: 28 November 2012 06:44 AM by George ]
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Posted: 28 November 2012 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 191 ]
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The analogy of an optical illusion is a good one, I think. If I design a street sign where I need to use the colour grey and for whatever reason I do it in such way that the colour grey is in fact not there, it still serves a purpose, which is, after all, why we have evolved to be fooled by optical illusions. The same goes for free will. Criminals are not free not to commit crime, but we treat them just like the colour grey in my street sign, because it serves a purpose. Compatibilistic free will and optical illusions are handy, but they are not really there.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 192 ]
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George - 28 November 2012 06:39 AM

GdB, what is it with you and the atoms? Everything around us is made of atoms, the locomotive, the life organisms on which evolution operates, our brain making us feel we have free will, and the ink and paper creating an optical illusion. On the atomic level that is all these things are: a bunch of atoms. When they are organized in a specific way, however, they give a rise to new phenomena. And sometimes these phenomena can be misleading, making us feel that they are what in fact they are not. Evolution and locomotives are real, but free wil and the colour grey you think you are seeing in an optical illusion are fake. So please stop it with the atoms.

Right. Now we get somewhere.

These new phenomena are amongst others: feelings, wishes, reasons, knowledge, consciousness, meaning, actions etc. It is in this field that ‘free will’ has a definite meaning: acting according to your wishes and beliefs. Thanks to determinism we are able to do that. If the world were totally indetermined it would be impossible.

Of course there is an illusion of free will: but that is that our wishes and beliefs arise independent of any causes. The reason that we have this illusion is that we do not have access to our own brain on the neuronal level. But that simply does not mean that the causal processes of the brain on higher level are not what they are: wishes and beliefs, and all other things we are aware of.

So, yes, I can stop talking about atoms, but I can only if you see that there is a way in which feelings, wishes, reasons, knowledge, consciousness, meaning, actions etc are real. Not independently, of course. They are implemented in the brain, and they are elements in the causal fabric of what we do.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 193 ]
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George - 28 November 2012 07:06 AM

The analogy of an optical illusion is a good one, I think. If I design a street sign where I need to use the colour grey and for whatever reason I do it in such way that the colour grey is in fact not there, it still serves a purpose, which is, after all, why we have evolved to be fooled by optical illusions. The same goes for free will. Criminals are not free not to commit crime, but we treat them just like the colour grey in my street sign, because it serves a purpose. Compatibilistic free will and optical illusions are handy, but they are not really there.

No. The optical illusion is that we have libertarian free will.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 194 ]
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George - 28 November 2012 07:06 AM

The analogy of an optical illusion is a good one, I think. If I design a street sign where I need to use the colour grey and for whatever reason I do it in such way that the colour grey is in fact not there, it still serves a purpose, which is, after all, why we have evolved to be fooled by optical illusions. The same goes for free will. Criminals are not free not to commit crime, but we treat them just like the colour grey in my street sign, because it serves a purpose.

It only serves a purpose if the criminal could have done otherwise in the compatibilist sense.

That’s why you are fundamentally wrong about CHDO, along with Jerry Coyne, Susan Blackmore, Sam Harris and others.

On the other hand if people *just could* do otherwise punishment would be pointless because people just could ignore it.

Stephen

[ Edited: 28 November 2012 07:50 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 28 November 2012 08:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 195 ]
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GdB - 28 November 2012 07:23 AM

So, yes, I can stop talking about atoms, but I can only if you see that there is a way in which feelings, wishes, reasons, knowledge, consciousness, meaning, actions etc are real. Not independently, of course. They are implemented in the brain, and they are elements in the causal fabric of what we do.

Of course wishes are real, as is the freedom (or a lack of it) to act on such wishes. But this has nothing to do with free will, which is an illusion, no matter how you spin it. Consciousness is also real, but (as per Lebel’s and other studies) the feeling that it plays a role in our decision making is fake.

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