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Free Will Compatibilism and Incompatibilism
Posted: 17 March 2015 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Some will jump to the conclusion we don’t need another free will thread but I think what I want to address is worth a thread of it’s own.

So the problem is the way the free will question is traditionally framed is, is free will compatible with determinism or not?  And do we have free will or not? So what do people take that to mean? They take it to mean there is this thing called free will and it either is compatible with determinism or it isn’t and we either have it or we don’t.

This is what causes most of the endless circling because the truth is free will can be defined in ways incompatible with determinism and in ways compatible with determinism. It isn’t either or.

So when people like Lois or peacegirl come along and say we don’t have free will they are not wrong. They are defining free will in a way that we don’t and can’t have. And more importantly when a compatibilist such as GdB argues we do have free will he’s not disagreeing because he’s arguing we do have free will by a different definition. But it looks like he’s disagreeing.

Now of course most people aren’t going to get this, they will think there is a real disagreement, rather than a semantic one.

My point is the way this debate is framed needs to change to avoid this confusion.

[ Edited: 17 March 2015 03:22 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 17 March 2015 11:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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StephenLawrence - 17 March 2015 03:20 PM

Some will jump to the conclusion we don’t need another free will thread but I think what I want to address is worth a thread of it’s own.

So the problem is the way the free will question is traditionally framed is, is free will compatible with determinism or not?  And do we have free will or not? So what do people take that to mean? They take it to mean there is this thing called free will and it either is compatible with determinism or it isn’t and we either have it or we don’t.

This is what causes most of the endless circling because the truth is free will can be defined in ways incompatible with determinism and in ways compatible with determinism. It isn’t either or.

So when people like Lois or peacegirl come along and say we don’t have free will they are not wrong. They are defining free will in a way that we don’t and can’t have. And more importantly when a compatibilist such as GdB argues we do have free will he’s not disagreeing because he’s arguing we do have free will by a different definition. But it looks like he’s disagreeing.

Now of course most people aren’t going to get this, they will think there is a real disagreement, rather than a semantic one.

My point is the way this debate is framed needs to change to avoid this confusion.

Ok, reframe it, then.

Lois

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Posted: 17 March 2015 11:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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StephenLawrence - 17 March 2015 03:20 PM

My point is the way this debate is framed needs to change to avoid this confusion.

I once gave a very short summary of this free will discussion, along this line:

Where nearly everybody agrees that there is no such thing as libertarian free will, compatibilists defend that there is a definition that perfectly fits to our honest experience what free will is (i.e. not necessarily to our metaphysical ideas about it), takes determinism as starting point, and that gives the necessary justification for praising, blaming and assigning responsibility.

The problem with Lois, peacegirl, George, VYAZMA etc is that they, conscious or not, keep hammering on libertarian free will. Lois doesn’t even notice it, the others think that I do some cheap trick in suggesting people are ‘really free’ where I secretly know that everybody is determined and so we in fact have no free will at all. VYAZMA is rather explicit in suggesting I have a secret agenda.

What those people do not notice at all, is that the real discussion can only be about the following points:
1) Does compatibilist’s definition of free will explain our (honest) experience of free will?
2) Can compatibilist’s definition bear the load of justifying our practice of praising, blaming and assigning responsibility?

You, while fully understanding what the discussion is about, seem to think that 2) is not true. And somehow you seem to be worried about what wrong thoughts a majority of the people have about free will.

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Posted: 17 March 2015 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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He Lois,

Now that you are there again, answer my questions here.

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Posted: 21 March 2015 12:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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GdB - 17 March 2015 11:31 PM

What those people do not notice at all, is that the real discussion can only be about the following points:
1) Does compatibilist’s definition of free will explain our (honest) experience of free will?
2) Can compatibilist’s definition bear the load of justifying our practice of praising, blaming and assigning responsibility?

You, while fully understanding what the discussion is about, seem to think that 2) is not true. And somehow you seem to be worried about what wrong thoughts a majority of the people have about free will.

I will come back on this when I have more time.

I think even if you are right about 1 and 2 still compatibilism and incompatibilism are wrong.

I say that because if one person defines free will in one way and says no we don’t have it. And another defines it in a different way and says we have it that is not a real disagreement.

It so is being made to look like a real disagreement rather than a semantic one and that’s what’s causing 80% of the circling.

We can be much clearer about the free will we do have and the free will we don’t have if we drop these labels.

Once you say free will is compatible with determinism or is incompatible with determinism the brain just leaps to the conclusion there is one thing called free will and there is a real disagreement.

It’s a fruitless way of dealing with it, so why do it?

Wouldn’t it be better to make progress and go beyond compatibilism and incompatibilism, so everybody can see what the debate is really about, not just a few?

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Posted: 23 March 2015 01:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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LoisL - 17 March 2015 11:10 PM

Ok, reframe it, then.

 

OK. What is important is what different it makes to how we think feel and behave if we disbelieve in LFW and only believe in CFW.

There are those like me who thinks it makes a big positive difference. Others like GdB who thinks things do change for the better but doesn’t think the change is as great as I think. And there are people like you who think it makes no difference at all.

This is what matters, who’s right about that. And so this is how we’d be better dividing ourselves up.

The rest is mere semantics unless you’re a libertarian.

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Posted: 24 March 2015 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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What’s wrong with compatibilism is its incredibly misleading. When philosophers say free will is compatible with determinism people just imagine they’re saying the free will illusion is compatible with determinism.

What’s wrong with saying we don’t have free will is people imagine fatalism follows and we can’t be held responsible.

Surely the answer is both approaches are wrong.

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Posted: 05 April 2015 03:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Quoted from here.

Pec of Uliar - 04 April 2015 06:27 PM
GdB - 03 April 2015 09:58 AM

I think if you read here and here, you have a pretty good summary of my viewpoints. I let it to Stephen to explain why he does not agree with me.

Consider:

1. Antecedent conditions, coupled with the laws of nature, entail what I do.

2. No one can change the facts of the past, or the laws of nature.

3. Therefore, no one can do, other than what she/he does, because no one can change the facts of the past, present or future or the laws of nature.

I suppose this is what you see as the core of a determinism that excludes the possibility of free will. Still I think it does not suffice: in a compatibilist view there is still no problem. What people do is determined, but people also determine what happens: this ‘human determining’ runs via reflection, anticipating possible future paths, knowledge, motives, etc etc. It is only when you define free will as the possibility that with your brain given in a certain state, different paths can be taken and that these somehow correspond to your will, that above point rule out free will.

I must note I have sever problems with phrases like ‘changing the present/past/future’: change from what to what. I can change the colour of a wall by painting it, but I have no idea what changing the present/past/future could even mean.

Pec of Uliar - 04 April 2015 06:27 PM

Response:

1. Laws of nature are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are a subclass of all the true propositions that describe the world.

2. Therefore, if at some time I did other, than what I in fact did, then the laws of nature (descriptive, not prescriptive) would have been different. In doing x or y, I generate “laws”: Law x, or Law y—bearing in mind that, like Gresham’s Law, laws of nature are descriptive, not prescriptive, and are a subclass of all true propositions.

3. Given that the laws of nature are descriptive and not prescriptive, no natural “law” can compel me to do anything, because natural laws are not actually laws: descriptions are not prescriptions.

4. It is true that I cannot change any (descriptive) “laws” of nature, such as E=MC2. Nor can I change the past, future, or for that matter, the present. However, no account of free will requires that I be able to change the past, present or future. Nor does any such account require that I be able to change true propositions that describe the world.

Right. The idea that we are ‘compelled’ by the laws of nature to do something looses all its power if you see what the laws of nature really are: descriptions of how things happen. Laws of nature do not make facts true, facts make laws of nature true. Laws of nature force nothing, so they also do not force me to do anything. Facts about me make laws of nature true.

However, you have not broken the complete spell of determinism with this idea. Determinism says that given the state of the universe at a certain time, that for every time afterwards there is only one possible state. This definition is not affected by changing the view of laws of nature from prescriptions to descriptions.

And except your further use of ‘change the present/past/future’ I agree with your train of thought.

Pec of Uliar - 04 April 2015 06:27 PM

5. “Free will” only requires that I be able to make the past, present and future be what they were, are and will be—not change the past, present, or future. In the present moment, when I lift my hand, I do not change the present. I make it be, what it actually is.

6. Since the “laws” of nature describe but do not prescribe events, including human acts, what we have is a neo-Humean regularity theory of nature—there happen to be certain regularities in nature, which the “laws” of nature describe but do not prescribe.

7. Were these regularities absent, free will would be impossible, because I would not be able to plan ahead: anything could happen. Creatures with evaluative, planning brains would never have evolved; indeed it’s doubtful that life could exist at all.

8. From this it follows that free will requires natural regularities that are described, but not prescribed, by the “laws” of nature.
9. “Free will” depends on what we call causal determinism, though these deterministic regularities are described, but not prescribed, by “laws” of nature. In fact there are no natural laws, in the prescriptive sense. Since these “laws” describe the world but do not prescribe my actions, the alleged incompatibility of free will and causal determinism is a pseudo-problem.

Yep.

But you said you were a libertarian, so I am awaiting your followup…

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Posted: 05 April 2015 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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StephenLawrence - 17 March 2015 03:20 PM

So when people like Lois or peacegirl come along and say we don’t have free will they are not wrong.

Actually, she is wrong, because she says ludicrous things such as that we have no kind of free will whatsoever, and that compatibilist free will doesn’t even exist and is contradictory.

StephenLawrence - 17 March 2015 03:20 PM

So the problem is the way the free will question is traditionally framed is, is free will compatible with determinism or not?  And do we have free will or not? So what do people take that to mean? They take it to mean there is this thing called free will and it either is compatible with determinism or it isn’t and we either have it or we don’t.

My point is the way this debate is framed needs to change to avoid this confusion.

I agree. A better way of framing it is to first distinguish between libertarian and compatibilist free will, and then ask which kind is more relevant to our considered conceptions of praise, blame, moral responsibility, and autonomy.

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Posted: 05 April 2015 04:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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StephenLawrence - 24 March 2015 01:47 PM

What’s wrong with compatibilism is its incredibly misleading. When philosophers say free will is compatible with determinism people just imagine they’re saying the free will illusion is compatible with determinism.

What’s wrong with saying we don’t have free will is people imagine fatalism follows and we can’t be held responsible.

Surely the answer is both approaches are wrong.

Maybe philosophers could explain themselves better. Maybe people should just pay closer attention to what philosophers are actually saying. smile

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Posted: 05 April 2015 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yes the fundamental problem is the necessary link between past and present.

Not dualism and not laws of nature prescriptive or descriptive.

We are prevented from doing otherwise always by the fact the distant past wasn’t as it would have had to have been for that to be our one physically possible future.

So though it’s true that we could have done otherwise if we’d chosen to, it’s also true that we were prevented from choosing to.

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Posted: 05 April 2015 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Spacemonkey - 05 April 2015 04:00 AM

Maybe philosophers could explain themselves better. Maybe people should just pay closer attention to what philosophers are actually saying. smile

I don’t think either idea help. People just do interpret compatibilists to mean we have CCFW whatever they say, ask GdB.

If the aim is to get people to see the truth about this compatibilism is very unsuccessful.

Also fundamentally it seems wrong to claim the term free will for only one concept when clearly there is more than one.

[ Edited: 05 April 2015 04:16 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 05 April 2015 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Spacemonkey - 05 April 2015 03:58 AM

I agree. A better way of framing it is to first distinguish between libertarian and compatibilist free will, and then ask which kind is more relevant to our considered conceptions of praise, blame, moral responsibility, and autonomy.

Yep. Though I’d add that since almost everybody believes in CCFW and the moral responsibility which is supposed to follow from that, what we’re most interested in is what changes when we straighten this out.

I see a positive change as does peacegirl and this is why it matters.

[ Edited: 05 April 2015 04:17 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 05 April 2015 04:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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LoisL - 05 April 2015 03:11 AM
BreakUp - 04 April 2015 08:36 PM
Write4U - 04 April 2015 07:40 PM

Thus, blind conformity is a restrictive function. But when we introduce sentience (among other things), symmetry is broken by the ability to “plan” for the future. How this relates to FW (of any kind), I leave up to more knowledgeable people.

The ability to plan would seem to indicate that there are several different courses that can be planed for, and this would seem to negate determinism in that determinism would seem to indicate that there was only one future possible and planning would not be viable.

Planning is also determined. If the right factors were not in place no planning would take place or your plans would be different. You seem to not understand that EVERYTHING is determined, even your plans. You would never reach the point of making plans if certain determining factors were not operating. And what you think you “decide” about your plans is also determined, even before the “planning” process starts.

Of course planning is determined. But nevertheless, planning is based on the capability to see possible courses of actions and evaluate them against the background of what we know: the physical consequences of it, and the reactions of the community I live in. If I do something which I know that my community despise of, I must bear the consequences: i.e. the community makes me responsible. You will not get away with a ‘I could not have done otherwise’, because in an essential way, you could. There might have been other options, true options that would not have morally offended my community. You being determined does not change that.

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Posted: 05 April 2015 04:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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StephenLawrence - 05 April 2015 04:10 AM

I don’t think either ideas help.

Surely one kind of freedom or the other is relevant to our conceptions of moral responsibility and autonomy.

StephenLawrence - 05 April 2015 04:10 AM

People just do interpret compatibilists to mean we have CCFW whatever they say, ask GdB.

Such people need correcting. If they can’t be corrected then they are probably not worth discussing this with.

StephenLawrence - 05 April 2015 04:10 AM

If the aim is to get people to see the truth about this compatibilism is very unsuccessful.

It has worked fine for me. But compatibilism is more of a position than a strategy. If it is correct, then we just need a better way of explaining and conveying it to others.

StephenLawrence - 05 April 2015 04:10 AM

Also fundamentally it seems wrong to claim the term free will for only one concept when clearly there is more than one.

I agree that neither compatibilists nor libertarians should be claiming the term free will for only one concept.

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Posted: 05 April 2015 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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StephenLawrence - 05 April 2015 04:15 AM
Spacemonkey - 05 April 2015 03:58 AM

I agree. A better way of framing it is to first distinguish between libertarian and compatibilist free will, and then ask which kind is more relevant to our considered conceptions of praise, blame, moral responsibility, and autonomy.

Yep. Though I’d add that since almost everybody believes in CCFW and the moral responsibility which is supposed to follow from that, what we’re most interested in is what changes when we straighten this out.

I don’t think most people have thought about it carefully enough for it to be accurate to say that they believe in CCFW. I’d agree that most people find CCFW more intuitively appealing than CFW when they do first start thinking about it carefully. But I think most people can be brought to see the incoherence of CCFW if they think it through further. I would agree that our interests and values can certainly change at either step.

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