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Eddy Nahmias examines the belief that - Neuroscience is the Death of Free Will
Posted: 05 December 2014 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Sorry BugRip, but I think Dennett would agree with me.

BugRib - 02 December 2014 03:09 PM

Sorry about that, but Dan Dennett really annoys me.  He’s brilliant, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m getting tired of his arrogance and delusions of grandeur—and his complete unwillingness to understand the arguments of people like Sam Harris.  Harris knows that their disagreements about free will are purely semantic in nature.  Dennett clearly doesn’t get that, or refuses to accept it.

Sorry about that, but Sam Harris really annoys me.  He’s totally arrogant, really.  I’m getting tired of his arrogance and delusions of grandeur—and his complete unwillingness to understand the arguments of people like Dan Dennett, and many more philosophers. Harris has no understanding of the topic of free will at all. Harris clearly doesn’t get that, or refuses to accept it.

Same holds for Harris about moslem terrorists. His total lack of understanding of the backgrounds of the terrorist brings him to make sweeping statements about Islam that are a danger for peace and of human lifes.

Wikipedia:

Anthropologist Scott Atran has criticized Harris for unscientifically highlighting the role of belief in the psychology of suicide bombers. In the 2006 conference Beyond Belief, Atran confronted Harris for portraying a “caricature of Islam”. Atran later followed up his comments in an online discussion for Edge.org, in which he criticized Harris and others for combating religious dogmatism and faith in a way that Atran believes is “scientifically baseless, psychologically uninformed, politically naïve, and counterproductive for goals we share”. In The National Interest, Atran argued against Harris’s thesis in The Moral Landscape that science can determine moral values. Atran adds that abolishing religion will do nothing to rid mankind of its ills.

Just to mention: Scott Atran did research about the terrorists. Harris is just venting his opinions in the same way as in his favourite bar. And he does exactly the same in his pamphlet about free will.

I have read ‘Free will’ of Harris, and ‘Elbow room’ and ‘Freedom evolves’ of Dennett (and ‘Consciousness explained’, ‘Darwin’s dangerous idea’). I have won the deepest insights in reading Dennett. Harris just scratches the surface a bit, and thinks he has made a point.

Harris is just a victim of naive scientism. (‘Naive scientism’ is in fact a pleonasm…)

The only reason that he is accepted, is that he is such a great militant atheist.

PS
I regret you left the discussion here.

[ Edited: 05 December 2014 03:29 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 05 December 2014 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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GdB - 05 December 2014 03:22 AM

Sorry about that, but Sam Harris really annoys me.  He’s totally arrogant, really.  I’m getting tired of his arrogance and delusions of grandeur—and his complete unwillingness to understand the arguments of people like Dan Dennett, and many more philosophers. Harris has no understanding of the topic of free will at all. Harris clearly doesn’t get that, or refuses to accept it.

Touché.

GdB - 05 December 2014 03:22 AM

Same holds for Harris about moslem terrorists. His total lack of understanding of the backgrounds of the terrorist brings him to make sweeping statements about Islam that are a danger for peace and of human lifes.

I agree that Harris understates the role of politics and U.S. foreign policy in creating the conditions for Islamic radicalism in The End of Faith.  However, it does seem he’s come around somewhat on this issue, and has also softened his views about Israel being the absolute good guy in their conflict with Palestinians.  That being said, to say he has a “total lack of understanding of the backgrounds of the terrorists” is just ridiculous.  You’ve either never read the book, or you’ve completely forgotten it.

GdB - 05 December 2014 03:22 AM

Wikipedia:

Anthropologist Scott Atran has criticized Harris for unscientifically highlighting the role of belief in the psychology of suicide bombers. In the 2006 conference Beyond Belief, Atran confronted Harris for portraying a “caricature of Islam”. Atran later followed up his comments in an online discussion for Edge.org, in which he criticized Harris and others for combating religious dogmatism and faith in a way that Atran believes is “scientifically baseless, psychologically uninformed, politically naïve, and counterproductive for goals we share”. In The National Interest, Atran argued against Harris’s thesis in The Moral Landscape that science can determine moral values. Atran adds that abolishing religion will do nothing to rid mankind of its ills.

Just to mention: Scott Atran did research about the terrorists. Harris is just venting his opinions in the same way as in his favourite bar. And he does exactly the same in his pamphlet about free will.

That’s nice.  Someone has done “research” (unlike Sam Harris who just made it all up) and come to a different conclusion that is perfectly in line with the politically correct liberal position about Islam (I’m a hardcore liberal, by the way).  I hope Atran doesn’t consider Islam “a religion of peace”, because then I’d have to completely dismiss him out of hand.

GdB - 05 December 2014 03:22 AM

I have read ‘Free will’ of Harris, and ‘Elbow room’ and ‘Freedom evolves’ of Dennett (and ‘Consciousness explained’, ‘Darwin’s dangerous idea’). I have won the deepest insights in reading Dennett. Harris just scratches the surface a bit, and thinks he has made a point.

Harris is just a victim of naive scientism. (‘Naive scientism’ is in fact a pleonasm…)

The only reason that he is accepted, is that he is such a great militant atheist.

Well, you’re entitled to your opinion…

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Posted: 05 December 2014 06:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Just about everyone has had some experience with rain.  Among those who have, they do not require a meteorologist to tell them it is raining, if they can just look out the window.

Similarly, someone who is familiar with the basics of Islam and its various incarnations of Muslim sects and their various doctrinal interpretations and propensities to follow or submit to those particular dogmas, should not need an “expert” to tell them there is a serious problem for mankind, posed by certain interpretations of Islam.

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Posted: 06 December 2014 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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TimB - 05 December 2014 06:22 PM

Just about everyone has had some experience with rain.  Among those who have, they do not require a meteorologist to tell them it is raining, if they can just look out the window.

Similarly, someone who is familiar with the basics of Islam and its various incarnations of Muslim sects and their various doctrinal interpretations and propensities to follow or submit to those particular dogmas, should not need an “expert” to tell them there is a serious problem for mankind, posed by certain interpretations of Islam.

...Which is all Harris is saying.  I swear he is the most misinterpreted intellectual of all time—at least by those who should otherwise be on his ideological side.  Like Harris has said, if he was criticizing the doctrine of communism, would anyone call him a bigot?  Why are religions considered special kinds of ideologies that shan’t be criticized like any other?  Has anyone called him a bigot for his criticisms of any other religions?

All he’s saying is that Islam poses a greater threat to civilization than any other religion today.  He’s never said that all Muslims are bad or that American Muslims should be discriminated against (although he does believe in racial profiling in certain situations, which I think I actually agree with, though reluctantly).  And he absolutely never suggested that we should preemptively nuke the Middle East, or that people should be killed for their thoughts, or that torture is good (he simply pointed out that it’s no worse than collateral damage) as he is routinely accused of by other liberals and atheists who really should work on their reading comprehension.

Is it okay that we’re getting off topic?  I’m relatively new here.

Okay, back on topic of Free Will and neuroscience.

Dennett vs. Harris:  First of all, Harris only uses neuroscience in his arguments about Free Will for effect.  His real argument is that Free Will—as the vast majority of people understand it (and the vast majority of philosophers and theologians historically—have understood it), is simply logically incoherent.  Either our actions are determined, random, or a combination of the two—none of which adds up to the Free Will that most people believe in.

Dennett and other compatibilists, on the other hand, are redefining Free Will as very few people understand it.  Pretty much all theists (and a surprising number of atheists) are dualists, and believe that Free Will comes from our spirits or souls, or some part of our conscious selves that transcends the laws of cause and effect.

Dennett doesn’t believe this, so he redefines Free Will as free will.  He takes the special use of the term; “she acted of her own free will” as his definition of Free Will.  Now everyone knows that “free will” in the phrase “acted of her own free will” is not referring to the deep philosophical concept of Free Will.  In my opinion, it is just intellectually dishonest for Dennett and others compatibilists to redefine Free Will to mean something so banal.  The vast majority of people who hear about compatibilist philosophers’ support for Free Will aren’t going to read any of their books, they’re simply going to think that many (most?) philosophers now support the dualist, logically incoherent type of Free Will that they believe in.

And frankly, I think Dennett knows this, as evidenced by the fact that he has a huge ulterior motive—he thinks that if people don’t believe in Free Will, they will act less morally.  Watch any of his lectures about Free Will on Youtube and you might notice that he spends nearly half his time talking about the dangers of people not believing in Free Will.

So Dennett and Harris don’t actually disagree on any factual level about how consciousness relates to Free Will.  But based on Dennett’s snobbish attack on Harris—excuse me, a straw man version of Harris—several months back, Dennett doesn’t seem to understand this.  He sneeringly referred to Harris’ book/pamphlet Free Will as a “museum of mistakes”, which is odd since, again, they don’t actually disagree about anything other than whether the term “Free Will” should be redefined.  In Harris’ Free Will, he explained why he disagrees with Dennett, but he never took such a condescending tone nor accused Dennett of being factually wrong about anything.

This is why I think Harris has behaved in an exemplary manner in this debate, while I find Dennett to be acting arrogantly.  Dennett makes so many mistakes about what Harris is saying in Free Will that it feels like a fragile ego recklessly lashing out at a critic.  I had no problem understanding Harris’ argument, even though I’m probably not nearly as intelligent as Dennett.  So why is Dennett unable to understand Harris’ arguments?

You might want to read this response by Harris to Dennett’s sneering attack:

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

Okay, I’ve said my piece.

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Posted: 06 December 2014 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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BugRib - 06 December 2014 01:27 PM
TimB - 05 December 2014 06:22 PM

Just about everyone has had some experience with rain.  Among those who have, they do not require a meteorologist to tell them it is raining, if they can just look out the window.

Similarly, someone who is familiar with the basics of Islam and its various incarnations of Muslim sects and their various doctrinal interpretations and propensities to follow or submit to those particular dogmas, should not need an “expert” to tell them there is a serious problem for mankind, posed by certain interpretations of Islam.

...Which is all Harris is saying.  I swear he is the most misinterpreted intellectual of all time—at least by those who should otherwise be on his ideological side.  Like Harris has said, if he was criticizing the doctrine of communism, would anyone call him a bigot?  Why are religions considered special kinds of ideologies that shan’t be criticized like any other?  Has anyone called him a bigot for his criticisms of any other religions?

All he’s saying is that Islam poses a greater threat to civilization than any other religion today.  He’s never said that all Muslims are bad or that American Muslims should be discriminated against (although he does believe in racial profiling in certain situations, which I think I actually agree with, though reluctantly).  And he absolutely never suggested that we should preemptively nuke the Middle East, or that people should be killed for their thoughts, or that torture is good (he simply pointed out that it’s no worse than collateral damage) as he is routinely accused of by other liberals and atheists who really should work on their reading comprehension…

 

Bug, I recognized you as a good thinker, early on.  (Better than me, in this respect: You go out of your way to attend to what our current crop of “great minds” have to say on topics, then you critically analyze it.  Whereas I, only do a critical analysis of what they say if I happen to come across it.)

One other criticism that I have of Islam, whether, any “great minds” agree, or not, is that among today’s predominant and powerful religions, Islamic theology is unique in it’s amenability to be interpreted in ways that can promote followers to commit actual physical violence on others, but also, (and this is perhaps the greater threat), promote the abuse of various human rights.

Muhammed was an extraordinarily effective military leader.  For his time, he was also central to the construction of an extraordinarily successful new social order, a new form of government, with the Quran as its extraordinary manifesto.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, it is still an easy overlay wherever there is a breakdown of social order, or even the breakdown, for an individual, of trust in their particular society.

(BTW, a little bit of thread drift is commonly accepted.)

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Posted: 06 December 2014 03:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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BugRib - 06 December 2014 01:27 PM

....  The vast majority of people who hear about compatibilist philosophers’ support for Free Will aren’t going to read any of their books, they’re simply going to think that many (most?) philosophers now support the dualist, logically incoherent type of Free Will that they believe in.

And frankly, I think Dennett knows this, as evidenced by the fact that he has a huge ulterior motive—he thinks that if people don’t believe in Free Will, they will act less morally.  Watch any of his lectures about Free Will on Youtube and you might notice that he spends nearly half his time talking about the dangers of people not believing in Free Will…

As you may have surmised, I am not particularly interested in the cat-fights of renowned “experts”, (which I expect may be less motivated by intellectual integrity than by keeping themselves in the public light, thus increasing book sales and public speaking engagement profits). 

But the thought you referenced above, is intriguing to me.  I wonder…  If the masses suddenly became rational and recognized that dualistic interpretations of free will are nonsense, would society crumble?  (I’m asking.  I don’t have a ready answer.)

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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: 07 December 2014 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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BugRib,

I think I reacted already on these kind of points for months. Please look them up here.

Oh, btw, did you read the article that started this thread? I really would like to know what you think of it.

[ Edited: 07 December 2014 05:40 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 07 December 2014 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Hello GdB…

GdB - 07 December 2014 05:38 AM

BugRib,

I think I reacted already on these kind of points for months. Please look them up here.

Oh, btw, did you read the article that started this thread? I really would like to know what you think of it.

I did read it and found it unimpressive for the same reason I find compatibilism unimpressive and intellectually dishonest (desperate?).

I’ll take on all of the points made in the article below:

 

>>>¶4 ...  central problem: these scientists are employing a flawed notion of free will.<<<

Is he talking about the notion held by the vast majority of the population, and the vast majority of philosophers and theologians historically?  In other words, THE definition?

>>>¶5 When Haggard concludes that we do not have free will “in the sense we think,” he reveals how this conclusion depends on a particular definition of free will.  Scientists’ arguments that free will is an illusion typically begin by assuming that free will, by definition, requires an immaterial soul or non-physical mind, and they take neuroscience to provide evidence that our minds are physical.  ...<<<

By “particular definition”, does he mean..?  Well, see above…

>>>¶6 We should be wary of defining things out of existence.  Define Earth as the planet at the center of the universe and it turns out there is no Earth.  ...<<<

This is an astonishingly poor analogy.  I’m not even sure it qualifies as an analogy at all.  If the entire definition of the word “Earth” was “planet at the center of the universe”, then it would indeed be an incoherent concept that should be abandoned.  However, the word “Earth” primarily has always meant “the world where humans live”.  Whether it’s flat or round, whether it circles the sun or the sun circles it, whether it’s at the center of the universe or somewhere off to the left, these are all factual details about “the world where humans live” that can and should be revised whenever knew data comes in.

Free Will, on the other hand, has pretty much meant one thing to pretty much all people, philosophers, and theologians throughout history:  the special ability of humans—whether because of souls or some special property of the brain—to act in a way that is neither determinied nor random—an intuitively powerful but completely nebulous idea.  So what the compatibilists are doing is not updating the concept to be consistent with new facts we’ve learned about it (like learning that the sun does not orbit the Earth), but simply redefining it so that they can claim that it actually exists.  That’s the very definition of either poor thinking or intellectual dishonesty.

>>>¶7 The sciences of the mind do give us good reasons to think that our minds are made of matter.  But to conclude that consciousness or free will is thereby an illusion is too quick.  It is like inferring from discoveries in organic chemistry that life is an illusion just because living organisms are made up of non-living stuff.  ...<<<

Sheesh!  Another example of an absurd analogy.  First off, it is people like Dennett who claim that consciousness is an illusion, not neuroscientists like Harris.  The analogy used is actually a good one for discrediting Dennett’s claims about consciousness and the self being illusions (although I especially like yours about the magician and his imaginary audience).  But it has absolutely nothing to do with Free Will because Free Will (as the vast majority of the population defines it) is simply logically incoherent; organic chemistry and it’s ability to produce life, minds, and consciousness is not.

>>>¶8 Our brains are the most complexly organized things in the known universe, just the sort of thing that could eventually make sense of why each of us is unique, why we are conscious creatures and why humans have abilities to comprehend, converse, and create that go well beyond the precursors of these abilities in other animals.  ...<<<

Irrelevant.

>>>¶9 ...  understand free will as a set of capacities for imagining future courses of action, deliberating about one’s reasons for choosing them, planning one’s actions in light of this deliberation and controlling actions in the face of competing desires.  ...<<<

In other words, let’s redefine Free Will as free will, as in “acted of her own free will”—a special use of the term that has a quite different meaning than the deep philosophical concept of Free Will.  I think I’ll start calling the compatibilists the redefiners.

>>>¶10 These capacities for conscious deliberation, rational thinking and self-control are not magical abilities.  They need not belong to immaterial souls outside the realm of scientific understanding ...<<<

Irrelevant.

>>>¶15 However, the existing evidence does not support the conclusion that free will is an illusion.  First of all, it does not show that a decision has been made before people are aware of having made it.  It simply finds discernible patterns of neural activity that precede decisions.  If we assume that conscious decisions have neural correlates, then we should expect to find early signs of those correlates “ramping up” to the moment of consciousness. ...<<<

Irrelevant.  The findings of neuroscience are not main reason we should abandon the concept of Free Will.  We should abandon it because it is logically incoherent.

>>>¶16 This is what we should expect with simple decisions.  Indeed, we are lucky that conscious thinking plays little or no role in quick or habitual decisions and actions. ...<<<

“conscious thinking plays little or no role in quick or habitual decisions and actions.”  And this he calls Free Will?!!!  Also, irrelevant.

>>>¶17 ...  We should not begin by assuming that free will requires a conscious self that exists beyond the brain (where?), and then conclude that any evidence that shows brain processes precede action thereby demonstrates that consciousness is bypassed.  Rather, we should consider the role of consciousness in action on the assumption that our conscious deliberation and rational thinking are carried out by complex brain processes, and then ...<<<

Irrelevant.

>>>¶19 ...  It would mean that whatever processes in the brain are involved in conscious deliberation and self-control — and the substantial energy these processes use — were as useless as our appendix, that they evolved only to observe what we do after the fact, rather than to improve our decision-making and behavior.<<<

Irrelevant.

>>>¶21 If we put aside the misleading idea that free will depends on supernatural souls rather than our quite miraculous brains, and if we put aside the mistaken idea that our conscious thinking matters most in the milliseconds before movement, then neuroscience does not kill free will.  Rather, it can help to explain our capacities to control our actions in such a way that we are responsible for them. It can help us rediscover free will.<<<

In other words, if we simply put aside the definition of Free Will that has always been and then just redefine it, that somehow means Free Will actually does exist.  Hurray!

I guess I could use the same argument to say unicorns exist:  If we just put aside the notion that unicorns are magical horses with horns, and redefine them as simply being horses, hey, now unicorns do exist!  Hurray for little girls everywhere!  Thank goodness for unicorn compatibilists!  (And that’s actually an appropriate analogy, unlike those used by Eddy Nahmias.)

Sadly, Dennett makes many of the same mistakes and uses similarly poor analogies in his criticism of Harris’ Free Will.  He also make several bewildering factual errors in his criticism of Harris, for instance calling him a hard determinist (a person with average reading comprehension skills who has read Free Will would know he is not since he talks at length about quantum indeterminacy),  and he conflates Harris’ soft determinism with fatalism, which is such a rookie mistake that I’m bewildered Dennett would make it.  Like I said before, Dennett’s criticism of Harris comes across like a fragile ego recklessly lashing out.

Well, I have to end this post at some point, so how about right now?

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Posted: 07 December 2014 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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BugRib - 07 December 2014 08:43 AM

Well, I have to end this post at some point, so how about right now?

Not yet!

You have not reacted on my points here.

But let me give just another simple example about redefining: People have thought that that what makes us human is the soul. Now we know we haven’t one. Hurray, humans do not exist!

Or should we redefine humans in a way that is as close to the original idea, but in correspondence with science?

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Posted: 07 December 2014 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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GdB - 07 December 2014 09:08 AM
BugRib - 07 December 2014 08:43 AM

Well, I have to end this post at some point, so how about right now?

Not yet!

You have not reacted on my points here.

But let me give just another simple example about redefining: People have thought that that what makes us human is the soul. Now we know we haven’t one. Hurray, humans do not exist!

Or should we redefine humans in a way that is as close to the original idea, but in correspondence with science?

Again, a terrible analogy.  The word “human” has never been simply defined as having a soul.  A soul is something it is believed by many that humans have, but that is not the soul definition of “human”. (Pun intended)  So, arguing that human don’t have souls is not arguing the concept of “human” out of existence.  Just like arguing that the Earth is not the center of the universe is not arguing the concept of “the Earth” out of existence (Eddy Nahmias’ similarly misguided “analogy”).

Contrarily, the traditional definition of Free Will (and, again, the definition historically held by pretty much all philosophers and theologians, and still held today by the vast, vast, majority of the population) is simply not compatible with the relatively recent compatibilist redefinition.  It’s a straight up redefinition, not a revision based on new data.

One of the problems that I have with the compatibilist definition of Free Will is that it is so very banal.  We generally act in accordance with our will (i.e. our bodies do what our brains tell them to)?  That’s their deep philosophical definition of Free Will?  That’s it?  That’s what Dennett and others have written 500 page books about?  Really?

As for not responding to your previous points, I’ll check them out.  I’m kind of mood-swingy so I often lose the will to continue a discussion, while other times I’m typing a million words a minute.  Mood disorders, aren’t they wonderful?

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Posted: 07 December 2014 12:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Re the title of this thread: what has never existed cannot die.  What might die is the belief that we have free will, but probably not. People will believe anything that makes them feel better, reality—or even probability—be damned. And consequences.

Lois

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Posted: 08 December 2014 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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BugRib - 07 December 2014 09:43 AM

Again, a terrible analogy.  The word “human” has never been simply defined as having a soul.

Really? What is the difference between an animal and a human? How many people have answered this (or are still answering this) with “humans have a soul, animals don’t”.

BugRib - 07 December 2014 09:43 AM

Contrarily, the traditional definition of Free Will (and, again, the definition historically held by pretty much all philosophers and theologians, and still held today by the vast, vast, majority of the population) is simply not compatible with the relatively recent compatibilist redefinition.  It’s a straight up redefinition, not a revision based on new data.

Well, the concept of libertarian free will is incoherent, and is more or less logically connected to the idea of a soul. Today we are convinced that the soul does not exist. We did not need neurologists for that. So doesn’t that mean that it is time to give a coherent concept of free will, that on on side is in correspondence with science and on the other side with our daily praxis of praising, blaming, punishing and responsibility? Compatibilist free will is exactly that.

BugRib - 07 December 2014 09:43 AM

One of the problems that I have with the compatibilist definition of Free Will is that it is so very banal.  We generally act in accordance with our will (i.e. our bodies do what our brains tell them to)?  That’s their deep philosophical definition of Free Will?  That’s it?  That’s what Dennett and others have written 500 page books about?  Really?

First: the compatibilist stance is not that ‘our bodies do what our brains tell them to’. The compatibilist stance is that our actions correspond to our own wishes and believes, in contrast of being against my own wishes and believes but according to the wishes or beliefs of somebody else. And, second, the reason why such books are so thick is that there are so many prejudices against this position that it needs many pages to refute them all. And some illusions are so strong, that it takes many tough arguments to awaken from our ‘sweet dreams’. Especially the illusion that I am not part of the causal network is very strong. To show that we are part of it, and can still be free takes a lot of work.

Here is my ‘slogan version’ of the free will debate:

Compatibilist free will means ‘to be able to do what you want’.
Libertarian free will means ‘to be able to want what you want’.

Which one is absurd: CFW or LFW?

BugRib - 07 December 2014 09:43 AM

As for not responding to your previous points, I’ll check them out.  I’m kind of mood-swingy so I often lose the will to continue a discussion, while other times I’m typing a million words a minute.  Mood disorders, aren’t they wonderful?

That’s ok. But I really hope you will find time for it, I think it is important for our discussion.

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Posted: 08 December 2014 01:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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GdB - 08 December 2014 06:36 AM
BugRib - 07 December 2014 09:43 AM

Again, a terrible analogy.  The word “human” has never been simply defined as having a soul.

Really? What is the difference between an animal and a human? How many people have answered this (or are still answering this) with “humans have a soul, animals don’t”.

There are many, many, many differences between human and non-human animals.  The fact that some people would say the difference is souls is interesting, but a definition is not the same thing as a differential description

I think you’re confusing descriptions and definitions.  Having a soul has never been the whole definition of “human”, nor is it integral to most definitions.  In fact, the origin of the word human derives from the Latin “homo”, which simply means “same” or “similar”, as in “same as us”.  Look up the definition of the noun “human” in any dictionary, and the soul will probably not be mentioned, or, if it is, it will be mentioned as part of one of several definitions.

Now, to see the contrast between one part of a description and an actual definition, look up “free will” in its noun form and you’re likely to get two short one sentence definitions.  From my Merriam Webster Dictionary:

1:  voluntary choice or decision “I do this of my own free will.”  All of the workers at the homeless shelter are unpaid and are there of their own free will.

2:  freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention He argues that all humans have free will.

See the difference?  “Has a soul” is not the or even a definition of “human”, it’s part of a description.  Whereas, the sentences above are actual definitions of “free will”.

Also, notice that the first definition is basically akin to compatibilist free will (henceforth CFW), but the examples given are the special conversational cases of “I do this of my own free will” and “All of the workers at the homeless shelter are unpaid and there of their own free will” (“of___own free will” being the only grammatical situation in which “free will” is stripped of its deeper meaning), whereas the second is actually talking about the deep philosophical concept of Free Will as evidenced by its example sentence “He argues that all humans have free will”.  In other words, example 1 is the conversational (I would say banal) form and example 2 is the philosophical form.

Granted, there are many dictionaries where the distinction is not so clear.  For instance, my Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary merges ALL the definitions into one(!):

the ability to act or make choices as a free and autonomous being and not solely as a result of compulsion or predestination

Which is oddly clever, but not in line with actual mainstream usage (which is what a non-technical dictionary is supposed to reflect) since “she acted of her own free will” is a valid saying whether one believes in predestination or not.  In any case, I’ll take the Merriam Webster over the Microsoft Encarta or any online dictionary any day.

Continued in my next post.

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Posted: 08 December 2014 03:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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One of the substantialndifferences between humans and non human animals is, that as far as we know, non human animals can’t ptetend they have free will of any kind. This can be seen as an adventage.

The soul claim is irrational. There is no way to show evidence of a soul. You might as well drop that myth completely if you wish to be seen as rational.

Lois

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[color=red“Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand.”
― George Eliot, Silas Marner[/color]

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Posted: 08 December 2014 05:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Note:  I was just unable to post a response.  I was not trying to import any reference site - or anything.  It was just a simple post.  But try as I might it was rejected as possible spam.

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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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