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Do non-human animals have free will?
Posted: 11 March 2013 05:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 466 ]
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George - 11 March 2013 03:58 PM

Lois,

I hope you can see, though, that VYAZMA (and I) argue that compatibilism is more unnecessary than wrong. The one problem I find with compatibilism (and one that drives me crazy), is how it seems to redefine some terms. What exactly is a “choice” in the comp. language? They will tell you at one point that a decision is determined, only to later add that one if fact has a choice to go for either X or Y. If a chain of reactions has determined that one week from now I’ll do X, I have no idea why to drag an “option” Y into the equation.

I agree. I don’t get it either.

Lois

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Posted: 12 March 2013 12:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 467 ]
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George - 11 March 2013 03:58 PM

Lois,

The one problem I find with compatibilism (and one that drives me crazy), is how it seems to redefine some terms. What exactly is a “choice” in the comp. language?

It would help if you gave your definitions.

Choice can refer to having options or to making a choice in which we deliberate over options. And it can refer to libertarian free choice.

The key is what are options?

Options in a broad sense are:  Things we can do if we choose to (an alternative is if we want to) . In a narrower sense, things we can do if we choose to and we are capable of or able to choose to.

The word able is being used by compatibilists in the same sense as I’m able to drive a car but my daughter is not. So I’m determined not to drive a car today but I posses the ability.

They will tell you at one point that a decision is determined, only to later add that one if fact has a choice to go for either X or Y. If a chain of reactions has determined that one week from now I’ll do X, I have no idea why to drag an “option” Y into the equation.

Free will is what we have to have to be morally responsible. A reason to drag option Y into the equation is we are not morally responsible for doing X unless we have an appropriate way of selecting Y, even though we are determined not to. This is to do with fairness, we need to at least have the opportunity to do the right thing and it’s also to do with the function of praise, blame. They don’t work unless they can influence choices and they can’t influence choices unless we are capable of selecting another option. Also if I’m sitting in my chair on the computer talking to you in accordance with my beliefs and desires it still makes a difference to my freedom whether I’m under house arrest or not, so it matters that if I desired to go out instead I would.

I suggest that you do apply all this in practice whilst denying it in theory.

Stephen

[ Edited: 12 March 2013 12:33 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 12 March 2013 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 468 ]
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Lois - 11 March 2013 12:29 PM

—Please define libertarian free will and tell us how it differs from plain old vanilla free will.

There is no difference. Libertarian free will is what most people think free will is. So that means ‘plain old vanilla free will’ is just as incoherent as libertarian free will. The idea is logically rooted in the dualist idea that our soul or something like that steers the body and is itself (at least partially) uncaused. Therefore it is also known as ‘contra-causal free will’, meaning that our soul can break through the causal fabric of the universe.

Nobody in this thread is defending libertarian free will.

The idea that determinism makes us unfree however, is also dependent on the idea of a soul: that our brain determines us, and that we are somehow separate from our body. We are caused, but we cause nothing. The so called hard determinists therefore make the same error as the libertarian free will proposers: they do as if the brain and the mind are separate entities. Without dualism it does not make sense to say that we have no free will. And that point, my dear Lois, is difficult to understand. It is the idea that we are separate from our brain, and that we are one directionally controlled by our brain. When we are not separate from our brain, it simply does not make sense to say we are controlled by our brain states, and therefore it makes no sense to say that we are determined by our brain: we are our brains.

Lois - 11 March 2013 12:29 PM

I thought you defended the compatibilist position.  If you did, that in itself is not consistent with science and logic.  If you didn’t, im sorry if i misunderstood your position.

I am defending the compatibilist positions and one of the basic ideas of compatibilism is that everything is determined.

Lois - 09 March 2013 10:34 AM

I’m not sure what you’re saying here. You may not be defending “indeterminism” but you appear to be saying that determinism can be overridden by free will. Is that your position? 

No. If you really would have read and understood what I wrote in this thread, that should have been clear from the beginning.

[ Edited: 12 March 2013 07:19 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 12 March 2013 04:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 469 ]
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Yes, Stephen, accoding to compabilitism one can choose between options X and Y even though one is determined to go for “option” X. grin

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Posted: 12 March 2013 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 470 ]
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We can choose in basically the same way a computer can choose. (Modulo the fact that of course our mental operations are much more complicated than a computer’s). For example, a chess playing computer has to choose which chess piece to move in a given situation. It does this by looking at all its available options (each piece it has on the board, where that piece can move, what an opponent might do in response, etc., down to some deep level of computation), then it chooses the option that maximizes whatever notion of “best” the system has internalized.

Animals and humans work very much the same way: we look at our available options and choose whatever option seems best to us.

Now, one can say in advance that given these options, etc., the chess playing computer would have been determined to choose, e.g., to move this pawn to that square. Sure. But part of what went into determining that move is that it had these desires (this maximization algorithm for “best”), these beliefs (about what pieces were located where), and when it did its calculations, moving this pawn to that square came out as the best option. That is all that choice ever is.

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Posted: 12 March 2013 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 471 ]
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... and it’s all that choice ever could be.

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Posted: 12 March 2013 05:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 472 ]
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George - 11 March 2013 03:58 PM

I hope you can see, though, that VYAZMA (and I) argue that compatibilism is more unnecessary than wrong.

That is a possible counter argument against compatibilism. I don’t think it is valid, but at least this argument does not argue against something compatibilism is not saying.

George - 11 March 2013 03:58 PM

The one problem I find with compatibilism (and one that drives me crazy), is how it seems to redefine some terms.

That can be. But if we see that some of these terms, like libertarian free will, the idea that we are free when we are uncaused, make no sense, why keep them? Why not redefine them in a way that it supports our daily use of free will? What is wrong with defining free will as ‘being able to do what want’? Is that so outlandish? Just notice that arguing ‘but what we want is determined!’ does not touch that definition, that’s all.

George - 11 March 2013 03:58 PM

What exactly is a “choice” in the comp. language? They will tell you at one point that a decision is determined, only to later add that one if fact has a choice to go for either X or Y. If a chain of reactions has determined that one week from now I’ll do X, I have no idea why to drag an “option” Y into the equation.

Say a stone rolls down the mountain, and it can do so into only two different valleys. Now it depends on the exact start position of the stone in which valley it will roll. One wouldn’t call this exactly a choice, as the stone has no single attribute that we associate with the term ‘choice’: it has no wish to go into a certain direction, no belief about the valleys, no consciousness, it cannot think and feel etc. etc.

Now you are sitting (again) in the restaurant, and after dinner you can choose between a cappuccino or an espresso. Now we can (in principle) give the completely determined neurological story about why you take the espresso. For you yourself however the story is different: you know you do not like milk, so you do not want to take a cappuccino. Your neurological state is the basis of your wish not to drink cappuccino. Your wish is not caused by your brain state, your brain state is your wish not to drink cappuccino. So it is perfectly sound to say that it is your wish that causes you to take an espresso. And it is the dependency on your wish, that makes you taking an espresso, instead of a cappuccino, that justifies to call this (determined!) event a choice.

‘Free will’ is the expression for the fact that, all other circumstances being the same, what will happen next depends on you (don’t forget, you are your brain!). And that is exactly true in a deterministic universe.

[ Edited: 12 March 2013 05:16 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 12 March 2013 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 473 ]
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dougsmith - 12 March 2013 04:27 AM

We can choose in basically the same way a computer can choose. (Modulo the fact that of course our mental operations are much more complicated than a computer’s). For example, a chess playing computer has to choose which chess piece to move in a given situation. It does this by looking at all its available options (each piece it has on the board, where that piece can move, what an opponent might do in response, etc., down to some deep level of computation), then it chooses the option that maximizes whatever notion of “best” the system has internalized.

Animals and humans work very much the same way: we look at our available options and choose whatever option seems best to us.

Now, one can say in advance that given these options, etc., the chess playing computer would have been determined to choose, e.g., to move this pawn to that square. Sure. But part of what went into determining that move is that it had these desires (this maximization algorithm for “best”), these beliefs (about what pieces were located where), and when it did its calculations, moving this pawn to that square came out as the best option. That is all that choice ever is.

Why stop at animals and chess? A rock rolling down a hill will choose the shortest path to get there, as dictated by its wishes of the law of gravitation. The only difference between a rock and a computer choosing a move is that the computer game will “roll many rocks down the hill” to see which one wins to tell it if to take the bishop now or later. The difference here is quantitative, not qualitative. Planning a trip or a murder or a checkmate is as mechanical as the movement of the rock.

If we have free will, the computer game indeed has one too, and so does the rock.

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Posted: 12 March 2013 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 474 ]
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George - 12 March 2013 05:17 AM

Why stop at animals and chess?

Because a rock does not anticipate the future. A chess computer, an animal, and we do.

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Posted: 12 March 2013 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 475 ]
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GdB - 12 March 2013 05:27 AM
George - 12 March 2013 05:17 AM

Why stop at animals and chess?

Because a rock does not anticipate the future. A chess computer, an animal, and we do.

So I presume it’s the drone’s fault when it kills innocent people, right? I mean, why go down to the level of the drone’s designer if the drone can anticipate the future on its own? And if you go down the next level, why stop there? Why not keep going all the way down to the atoms? Because they have no wishes? But the drones do have wishes. The one thing the atoms, rocks and drones don’t have is consciousness. Not that you think that consciousness has anything to do with this, correct?  wink

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Posted: 12 March 2013 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 476 ]
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GdB - 12 March 2013 05:09 AM

Now you are sitting (again) in the restaurant, and after dinner you can choose between a cappuccino or an espresso.

I am siting at the restaurant and I look at the menu and see they have a cappuccino and an espresso. I roll down an avalanche of rocks, and the one that gets first to the bottom of the hill will lead me to order an espresso.

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Posted: 12 March 2013 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 477 ]
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Desires and beliefs are representations of a certain sort. Rocks have no capacity to represent (e.g.) the laws of nature, nor to do any kind of computational symbolic manipulation with respect to them. Computer programs that play chess have (very thin) wishes in that they do have states that represent (e.g.) the state of the chessboard, and how they would prefer that state to be. This is how they reason about which move to make next, and how they (as GdB says) predict the future. They also manipulate the future, of course, so some of their predictions depend upon their ability to manipulate things.

This is how we distinguish thinking things from things that do not think: thinking things at least are things that can engage in active symbol manipulation.

It’s true that there is a vague difference between things that can think deeply enough to be considered fully fledged “persons” from things like chess computers; but then it’s also a vague difference between a planet and an asteroid, a homo sapiens and a homo neandertalensis, or between a gulf and a bay. That doesn’t mean there aren’t planets, aren’t homo sapiens, or aren’t gulfs.

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Posted: 12 March 2013 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 478 ]
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This is all about GdB wanting to use the term “free will” to describe how people choose what they want.  Even when he states that he knows choosing what we want
is determined.
How excruciatingly rude(?) .  For I believe he has been extending this long debate tongue in cheek knowing full well he is just getting our goats arguing over semantics.  Semantics he is using incorrectly…because for the sake of this argument he wants to use the term “free will” as an indicator of determined wanting and “choosing”. 
Determined wanting and choosing is contradictory.  The many participants of this thread have tried to keep determinism obviously separate from wanting and choosing….for obvious reasons.  The reason is that those are the contra-punctual ideas in any basic debate about determinism v. freewill!
The many participants who have tried to join in here… and perhaps get more info and understanding about these concepts have mostly faded off due to the
muddled, circling, contradictory elements of GdB’s and Stephen’s posts.
Yes there are many side chains to this debate…What is freedom?  What is consciousness?  What is the mind? Dualism.  Morals.(very unnecessary in this debate) etc. etc.
I’ve suspected this all along.  I wanted and waited to get a clearer picture of what Gdb and Steve were trying to convey.  Their semantics.  But I now fully realize that at least GdB is fully aware of the misuse of semantics on his part.  A misuse that has caused many untold numbers of pages of wasted debate.
This can clearly be seen-although not exclusively-above in his post where he splits a quote 3-4 times. Just above.  Here you see him slipping in an innocent
plea for semantical flexibilty. 
In a debate like this.  There is no need for semantical flexibilty!!  Everyone took for granted the meanings of basic terms.  That’s how intelligent, fluid discourse flows.
Instead we have gotten mush. Mush!
George, Lois, all the other participants…this is why the free-will thread has gone on for many more pages than it has had to.
Some participants have stubbornly refused to accept semantics.  It’s that simple!

[ Edited: 12 March 2013 06:33 AM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 12 March 2013 06:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 479 ]
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Here, VYAZMA, I’ll help you:

GdB - 08 March 2013 05:11 AM

So the whole quarreling is not about if we are free or not, but what the correct definition of free will is, and all the time you only consistently argue from your own definition. And I say your definition is wrong because it is incoherent, is not consistent with the fact that determinism is true (at least for the relevant processes), and is not able to account for the distinction we can make between free and coerced actions (both are determined).

‘You’ is Lois, and her definition is that of libertarian free will.

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Posted: 12 March 2013 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 480 ]
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dougsmith - 12 March 2013 06:13 AM

Desires and beliefs are representations of a certain sort. Rocks have no capacity to represent (e.g.) the laws of nature, nor to do any kind of computational symbolic manipulation with respect to them. Computer programs that play chess have (very thin) wishes in that they do have states that represent (e.g.) the state of the chessboard, and how they would prefer that state to be. This is how they reason about which move to make next, and how they (as GdB says) predict the future. They also manipulate the future, of course, so some of their predictions depend upon their ability to manipulate things.

This is how we distinguish thinking things from things that do not think: thinking things at least are things that can engage in active symbol manipulation.

It’s true that there is a vague difference between things that can think deeply enough to be considered fully fledged “persons” from things like chess computers; but then it’s also a vague difference between a planet and an asteroid, a homo sapiens and a homo neandertalensis, or between a gulf and a bay. That doesn’t mean there aren’t planets, aren’t homo sapiens, or aren’t gulfs.

I still think the question of free will is more like the optical illusion problem than the taxonomic one, but, as usual, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I don’t know what else to add here without repeating myself.

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