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Do non-human animals have free will?
Posted: 28 November 2012 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 196 ]
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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.

Red is grey, and yellow, white.  But we decide which is right… and which is an illusion. 

Our perceptions (illusory or not) and our mental constructs (accurate or not) really do exist (if only as certain patterns of firing neurons).  And I think that they are often factors in determining our actions.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 08:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 197 ]
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George - 28 November 2012 08:33 AM

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.

Not really, it’s not like it doesn’t go away if you pay attention to what we experience. Erroneous belief would be a better description, quite unlike the colour grey.

It’s an error in thinking about could have done otherwise, combined with the belief that we can “be guilty in God’s eyes” as Dennett puts it, which serves no purpose, far from it.

Stephen

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Posted: 28 November 2012 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 198 ]
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George,

I’ll have another crack at this.

George - 28 November 2012 07:06 AM

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.

What we have evolved to do is be interested in whether somebody had to do it or not. In other words whether they could have done otherwise.

This makes sense because,  praise, blame, rewards, punishment etc only work in cases in which the ‘criminal’ didn’t have to do it.

If the criminal had to do it then he can’t be corrected as if the same circumstances arise again he’ll do the same and others in the same circumstances cannot be deterred.

For this to make sense “the same” needs to be meant more broadly than “exactly the same”.

This is what we really mean by the same, as two situations are never exactly the same and if “the same” was used to mean “exactly the same”, it wouldn’t serve a purpose, it would instead make a nonsense out of this.

Your mistake can be summed up as a mistake over the meaning of “the same”.

Stephen

[ Edited: 28 November 2012 10:09 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 28 November 2012 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 199 ]
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StephenLawrence - 28 November 2012 10:03 AM

...If the criminal had to do it then he can’t be corrected as if the same circumstances arise again he’ll do the same and others in the same circumstances cannot be deterred…

 

This sentence is only correct if “had to do it” means “coerced by an outside agent”.

If “had to do it” means “the only possible behavior due to the naturally occuring deterministic factors impinging on that person at that time”, then the sentence is not correct.

Here’s why:

Punishment or reinforcement that is delivered to an organism (including a human as an organism), when the organism emits a particular behavior, in a particular set of circumstances, changes the subsequent probability of the organism emitting that behavior again in the same circumstances.

So, if “had to do it” means “coerced by an outside agent” it would serve no good function to punish the person who “had to do it”.

If “had to do it” means “the only possible behavior due to the naturally occuring deterministic factors impinging on that person at that time”, then it does serve a reasonable function to deliver punishment, because it changes the subsequent probability of that person emitting that behavior again in the same circumstances.

It is important to remember that punishment and reinforcement are often determining factors relative to the probability of a behavior reccurring.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 200 ]
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GdB - 28 November 2012 03:33 AM
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).

Do non human animals have selves? Are they conscious? Do they have free will?

.....

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Posted: 28 November 2012 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 201 ]
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TimB - 28 November 2012 11:15 AM
StephenLawrence - 28 November 2012 10:03 AM

...If the criminal had to do it then he can’t be corrected as if the same circumstances arise again he’ll do the same and others in the same circumstances cannot be deterred…

 

This sentence is only correct if “had to do it” means “coerced by an outside agent”.

If “had to do it” means “the only possible behavior due to the naturally occuring deterministic factors impinging on that person at that time”, then the sentence is not correct.

 

How about being “coerced” by an inside agent—ones own determining factors?


......

Here’s why:

Punishment or reinforcement that is delivered to an organism (including a human as an organism), when the organism emits a particular behavior, in a particular set of circumstances, changes the subsequent probability of the organism emitting that behavior again in the same circumstances.

So, if “had to do it” means “coerced by an outside agent” it would serve no good function to punish the person who “had to do it”.

If “had to do it” means “the only possible behavior due to the naturally occuring deterministic factors impinging on that person at that time”, then it does serve a reasonable function to deliver punishment, because it changes the subsequent probability of that person emitting that behavior again in the same circumstances.

It is important to remember that punishment and reinforcement are often determining factors relative to the probability of a behavior reccurring.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 202 ]
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Lois - 28 November 2012 11:28 AM
TimB - 28 November 2012 11:15 AM
StephenLawrence - 28 November 2012 10:03 AM

...If the criminal had to do it then he can’t be corrected as if the same circumstances arise again he’ll do the same and others in the same circumstances cannot be deterred…

 

This sentence is only correct if “had to do it” means “coerced by an outside agent”.

If “had to do it” means “the only possible behavior due to the naturally occuring deterministic factors impinging on that person at that time”, then the sentence is not correct.

 

How about being “coerced” by an inside agent—ones own determining factors?


......

Here’s why:

Punishment or reinforcement that is delivered to an organism (including a human as an organism), when the organism emits a particular behavior, in a particular set of circumstances, changes the subsequent probability of the organism emitting that behavior again in the same circumstances.

So, if “had to do it” means “coerced by an outside agent” it would serve no good function to punish the person who “had to do it”.

If “had to do it” means “the only possible behavior due to the naturally occuring deterministic factors impinging on that person at that time”, then it does serve a reasonable function to deliver punishment, because it changes the subsequent probability of that person emitting that behavior again in the same circumstances.

It is important to remember that punishment and reinforcement are often determining factors relative to the probability of a behavior reccurring.


Punishment and reinforcement can become determining factors but we can’t be sure how they will work.  They go into the sea of determining factors but we can’t know what effect they will have. Sometimes they make the person less likely to engage in criminal behavior and sometimes they make the person more likely to engage in criminal behavior.  We just can’t know whether or how punishment and reinforcement are going to affect an individual set of determining factors.  For a good view of how punishment and reinforcement failed to improve a criminal’s behavior, read Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore, about his brother, Gary Gilmore.  There are other examples, of course, but this one is particularly informative and facinating to consider.

......

....

....

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Posted: 28 November 2012 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 203 ]
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Stephen,

If the criminal committed a crime, then he had no choice. Period. What I was after, was to explain why the illusion of free will is as practical as the illusion of seeing the colour as grey. And just like we have no choice to see the shade of colour as anything else than grey, we have no choice but to feel that the criminal is guilty. We may be aware that both are an illusion, but we will always feel differently. Just like knowing that my hand is composed mostly of an empty space won’t stop me from trying to grab an object.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 204 ]
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TimB - 28 November 2012 11:15 AM

If “had to do it” means “the only possible behavior due to the naturally occuring deterministic factors impinging on that person at that time”, then it does serve a reasonable function to deliver punishment, because it changes the subsequent probability of that person emitting that behavior again in the same circumstances.

 

Had to do it means could not do otherwise in the (same circumstances)

So if the same circumstances arise in the future he will have to do it again.

And so praise blame punishment etc have no influence in such cases.

This is why we consider whether someone had to do it or not.

Stephen

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Posted: 28 November 2012 12:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 205 ]
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George - 28 November 2012 11:48 AM

And just like we have no choice to see the shade of colour as anything else than grey, we have no choice but to feel that the criminal is guilty.

What you don’t see is there is a different between naturalised guilt, compatible with determinism and guilt as you mean it.

Yes we can see the difference and the difference matters.

And mostly your feelings have changed as a result of realising we don’t have libertarian free will.

The illusion of libertarian free will, is just a mistake. What happens is we correctly realise that a person could have done otherwise but miss out that in order to have done so he would have had to be in different circumstances.

So we have this wonky idea that it was totally his fault.

We can just ditch that, and you are an example of someone who has, funnily enough.

Stephen

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Posted: 28 November 2012 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 206 ]
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“Coerced by an inside agent—one’s own determining factors” (as you say), would fall under the category of “the only possible behavior due to the naturally occuring deterministic factors impinging on that person at that time”. Punishment of a committed crime could serve a reasonable function in this case.

There is a proviso that I did not bring up, however.  And the phrase “coerced by an inside agent” brings it to mind.  If someone is not in control of their faculties, then punishment for a commmitted crime might not serve a reasonable function. If they were too disorganized in their neural workings then, conceivably, they might be unable to effectively process their contingent experiences.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 207 ]
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George - 28 November 2012 08:33 AM

Of course wishes are real, as is the freedom (or a lack of it) to act on such wishes.

I am astonished. All the time I am saying that I am unhappy with the terms ‘free will’ because it suggest we are free from causes, where in reality it is about a will that is free to express itself, i.e. we are able to act according to our wishes. And now you say we can. That is all what I am saying, hundreds of pages long. You never said, something like ‘I agree that we are free to act, but I don’t call that free will’. All the time I, and Doug, and who more, contrasted this view with libertarian free will, the view you are opposing.

George - 28 November 2012 08:33 AM

But this has nothing to do with free will, which is an illusion, no matter how you spin it.

That means for you free will may only be called ‘free will’ when it is libertarian free will, unconditioned free will. For me that is just not the case: free will means to be able to act according your wishes and beliefs.

George - 28 November 2012 08:33 AM

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.

Libet. His name is Libet. And here is a question for you: did the reporting of the research subjects on what time they became conscious of their decision thinkable without consciousness? Is the executing of the task, flexing the hand, possible without being conscious of the instructions and how to execute them? Just to be sure: of course the action potential builds up before the research subjects flex their hands. How else could this be? But the whole setup is impossible without consciousness being involved. There is just not an exact place and time where in the brain where consciousness of an action or decision takes place. The whole to and fro of all these processes in the brain is consciousness.

Edit: typo. Thanks George.

[ Edited: 28 November 2012 11:14 PM by GdB ]
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Posted: 28 November 2012 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 208 ]
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George - 28 November 2012 11:48 AM

If the criminal committed a crime, then he had no choice.

I chose between mashed potato or rice tonight and selected rice. That’s a common all garden choice.

What you want to say is if I couldn’t have selected potato in exactly the same circumstances it isn’t a choice.

But your version of choice is meaningless, whilst mine refers to the sorts of choice we actually make.

I don’t see how you justify such a strange stance.

Stephen

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Posted: 28 November 2012 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 209 ]
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Lois - 28 November 2012 11:26 AM

Do non human animals have selves?

The highest ones, yes.

Lois - 28 November 2012 11:26 AM

Are they conscious?

Yes.

Lois - 28 November 2012 11:26 AM

Do they have free will?

Yes.

Lois - 28 November 2012 11:39 AM

How about being “coerced” by an inside agent—ones own determining factors?

Sorry, as such this is a category error. You are not determined by your brain. You are your brain. There is no way how you can be coerced by your brain.

An correct example of an ‘inner coercion’ could be drug addiction. At the moment one really wants to stop, and one falls back again and again, and one hates himself for it, the wish to consume the drug is not recognised as his own will anymore.

TimB - 28 November 2012 12:09 PM

There is a proviso that I did not bring up, however.  And the phrase “coerced by an inside agent” brings it to mind.  If someone is not in control of their faculties, then punishment for a commmitted crime might not serve a reasonable function. If they were too disorganized in their neural workings then, conceivably, they might be unable to effectively process their contingent experiences.

Exactly. If it was not so well formulated it could have been my words. wink

[ Edited: 28 November 2012 12:31 PM by GdB ]
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Posted: 28 November 2012 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 210 ]
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StephenLawrence - 28 November 2012 12:19 PM

But your version of choice is meaningless

Everything is meaningless, Stephen.

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