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Free Will (Merged)
Posted: 02 February 2007 02:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 241 ]
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Obviously we’ve taken this about as far as we can.  We’ll never agree on whether free will exists, because apparently we define it in different ways.  You say it depends upon “could do otherwise”, but no matter what examples we give, you rule out a priori any chance of “doing otherwise”!

So we’re back to responsibility, which you also define in this specific, self-serving fashion.  Yet you recognize that society could not really exist without the concept of responsibility.  For the sake of argument, do you have anything to suggest that might take the place of “responsibility based on free will”?

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Posted: 02 February 2007 03:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 242 ]
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[quote author=“advocatus”]Obviously we’ve taken this about as far as we can.

Ok

We’ll never agree on whether free will exists, because apparently we define it in different ways.  You say it depends upon “could do otherwise”, but no matter what examples we give, you rule out a priori any chance of “doing otherwise”!

I am worried about belief in a type of free will that is based on could do otherwise only . If you believe in another type of free will, I might be able to agree with you that we have it. What difference would it make though, it is not that I am concerned about and it is not that, that 90% of the population believe in.

So we’re back to responsibility, which you also define in this specific, self-serving fashion.

I think this is unfair. It is belief in could do otherwise and only that, that I think is harmful. It is not a question of self serving. It is a case of, it is that belief that I am worried about.

  Yet you recognize that society could not really exist without the concept of responsibility.  For the sake of argument, do you have anything to suggest that might take the place of “responsibility based on free will”?

I’m happy to take responsibility and accept that for the foreseeable future we may have to hold people responsible, although it worries me because in fact they are not.


How we do this exactly? I don’t know but the point that goes missed is we need to find out what harm basing it on could do otherwise might be doing if we have got that wrong.

That is my focus and my concern.

Pointing out what we have got wrong is the first step.

I don’t think one needs to know what is right (if such a thing exists} to do that.

Stephen

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Posted: 05 February 2007 03:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 243 ]
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[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]I don’t know but the point that goes missed is we need to find out what harm basing it on could do otherwise might be doing if we have got that wrong.

I’m not convinced that it does harm.  If I were to accept your “could do otherwise” definition, I’m afraid I’d find it harder to give up smoking.  After all, if I couldn’t do otherwise than whatever it is I end up doing, what’s the incentive for me to struggle against what seems to be my natural desire to smoke?

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Posted: 06 February 2007 02:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 244 ]
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Do the relatively new and fascinating discoveries in neuroplasticity strengthen both the case for self (a mind that can focus thought to condition and even repair the brain) and also fee will?

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Posted: 15 February 2007 09:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 245 ]
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[quote author=“advocatus”][quote author=“StephenLawrence”]I don’t know but the point that goes missed is we need to find out what harm basing it on could do otherwise might be doing if we have got that wrong.

I’m not convinced that it does harm.

You may not be convinced it does harm but my argument is that it is of high priority to find out what the effects of belief in free will are.

Regardless of whether I’m right or not about the damage it does, it is the most commonly held and most influential belief, in terms of behaviour and decision making that there is.

I would say the belief is more certainly false than belief in God and when I say that I don’t mean belief in compatibilist free will because it is not compatibilist free will which is commonly believed in. People in general believe in libertarian free will or contra-causal free will and even if they don’t they were brought up believing in it and the affects run deep.


[quote author=“advocates”]If I were to accept your “could do otherwise” definition,

This is what people believe in that makes them think themselves or others are deserving of praise or blame or responsible in the deep sense, the sense that in my opinion does the damage.

[quote author=“advocates”]I’m afraid I’d find it harder to give up smoking.  After all, if I couldn’t do otherwise than whatever it is I end up doing, what’s the incentive for me to struggle against what seems to be my natural desire to smoke?

Firstly if you’d find it harder to give up if you didn’t believe in could do otherwise, then you are saying that you find it easier to give up believing in could do otherwise, so you do believe in free will in the could do otherwise sense.

Why does it follow that if you didin’t believe in could do otherwise you would find it harder to give up?

You have precisely the same incentive to struggle against your natural desire as before. and of course the desire to struggle and achieve your goal of not giving in and enduring hardship for a longer term gain is natural too.

Stephen

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Posted: 18 February 2007 09:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 246 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Sorry Stephen, I can’t understand the problem. In particular, this doesn’t make sense:

[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]They wanted them to have access to the infomation that was in another possible world, which their theory led them to conclude that people could do.

Nobody ever “has access to information in another possible world”, except by extrapolation from their knowledge of the actual world.

Hi Doug, having been mulling this over for a while, I think I can ask the question that I’m actually trying to get an answer to with this case.

If you remember it is about parliament making a law but not telling any body in the actual world, only in other possible worlds.

My question is this.

If a person could drive below the new speed limit in appropriately different circumstances, they had free will and deserved punishment.

But why aren’t appropriately different circumstances those in which the government had told them about the speed limit?

Of course this looks like a crazy example but that is the point.

Is it any more crazy than saying somebody deserves punishment for drinking tea because they could have done otherwise, if they’d had a bad experience with tea as a child?

In the actual world the man didn’t have a bad experience with tea as a boy, just as in the actual world the government didn’t tell anybody about the speed limit.

Why is this fact relevant in one case and not relevant in the other?

Either the man couldn’t have been expected to know about the speed limit and the boy couldn’t have been expected to have a bad experience with tea. Or they were both able to and could have been expected to.

It is no easier to have a bad experience with tea when you don’t have one, than it is to be told about the new speed limit, when you are not told about the new speed limit. 

Stephen

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Posted: 19 February 2007 01:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 247 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]

Retributive justice has nothing to do with freedom of the will, except in the banal sense that any ethics begins with the notion of personal responsibility.

I think this is why you are not worried about the possible negative consequences of belief in free will (not necessarily compatibilist) as I am.

It is because you think retributive justice has nothing to do with freedom of the will.

If you thought you were wrong about that, you may change your mind.

I think belief in freedom of the will strengthens and lengthens the desire for retributive justice.

People just do not desire this as strongly if they believe that somebody did not have free will, if they think “they couldn’t help it.”

I think this could be tested and shown to be true.

If I’m right this does not just have implications at the criminal justice level, it has implications at every other level of life too, right down to scraps in the primary school playground and right up to conflict between nations.

Stephen

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Posted: 19 February 2007 02:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 248 ]
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[quote author=“StephenLawrence”] You have precisely the same incentive to struggle against your natural desire as before. and of course the desire to struggle and achieve your goal of not giving in and enduring hardship for a longer term gain is natural too.

What I don’t understand is how I can be said to even HAVE “incentive” (at least conscious incentive) if I don’t have Free Will?  You seem to be saying that every action I take is determined by some automatic equation that takes place in my subconscious, and that any conscious “decision” I make is completely irrelevant to that.  Or am I misunderstanding the whole point again?

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Posted: 19 February 2007 08:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 249 ]
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[quote author=“advocatus”]What I don’t understand is how I can be said to even HAVE “incentive” (at least conscious incentive) if I don’t have Free Will?  You seem to be saying that every action I take is determined by some automatic equation that takes place in my subconscious, and that any conscious “decision” I make is completely irrelevant to that.  Or am I misunderstanding the whole point again?

I don’t think your conscious decisions are irrelevant to that. I’ve know idea how it all works though.

If you make a decision not to smoke, you may smoke you may not.

The more scientists find out and understand about how it works, the more that knowledge can help us to achieve our goals. this is true if we don’t have free will, funnily enough I think it would be harder to see how it could be true if we did. 

Getting a spacecraft to Mars is hard enough for instance but imagine if the spacecraft had free will. I think it is the same for us we are in a better position to achieve what we want, if we don’t have free will.

If you make bad choices and decisions you will most probably have a bad future, incentive enough to try, I think.

What I think is when you make a choice, you must pick the option you prefer, the one that has the highest value at the time. the reason I think that, is because that is what choice is by definition, if you don’t do this, then you aren’t choosing.

Firstly what is impossible is to prefer what you don’t prefer, obviously.

Secondly you can’t want what you want.

You don’t need to do any science or philosophy to see this so I don’t think what we do is determined by some automated equation necessarily.

However it works, we can all observe ourselves and see the position we find ourselves in.

But people in general think and feel and behave as if this wasn’t the case.

I’ll give you an example, unfortunately I do not have the link.

There was a thread on the aol message boards about people trying to illegally emigrate from Mauritius to the Canary islands in inadequate boats.

Thousands were dying per month.

The resulting chat was full of mirth rather than concern and compassion.

After all nobody forced them to get on the boats, a gun wasn’t held to their heads.

But so what? they were condemned to choose in the fashion I’ve described and were forced to behave as they did, by the fact that boarding the boats was their preferred option they couldn’t prefer what they didn’t prefer and could not want what they wanted. 

Stephen

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Posted: 21 February 2007 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 250 ]
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I think we have just enough free will to give us the illusion of free will.

We do have the will to make choices, and the will not to make them…same thing really :?

And we must take responsibility for the choices we make even if we don’t have the free will to form the basis of those choices.

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Posted: 23 February 2007 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 251 ]
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Hello doubter

[quote author=“Doubter”]

We do have the will to make choices, and the will not to make them…same thing really :?

Of course but this is not an illusion, it is what we do, so why do you think we experience the illusion of free will?

I think what the majority of people believe is, we could do otherwise in the circumstances at the time.

We can’t possibly experience the illusion of doing this but can only believe that we might be able to.

I think the belief is a cultural meme going back a few thousands years, where as man has been making choices for a very long time.

Stephen

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Posted: 23 February 2007 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 252 ]
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I was sat in a canoe not of my making and thrust into a river not of my choosing.
I was then given a paddle and told than I could travel wherever I wanted.

The current is strong and there are many obstacles in my way.

The only will I have is what side of the river I travel and how to steer myself around the obstacles.

I guess it all comes down to how you contrast yourself and the environment you exist within.

As the sole generator of my reality I may see myself as having a totally free will but given that the essence of that reality is founded upon the entirety of human reality ( what I call co reality) then free will appears to have limitations.

There is no right or wrong answer to this one, just each individual’s personal stance. The important thing is that each of us has exercised some of our limited free will (or choice) to develop that stance.
Unfortunately the majority of people just accept whatever stance is dished up to them without them even being aware of it.

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Posted: 23 February 2007 09:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 253 ]
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[quote author=“Doubter”]I was sat in a canoe not of my making and thrust into a river not of my choosing.
I was then given a paddle and told than I could travel wherever I wanted.

The current is strong and there are many obstacles in my way.

The only will I have is what side of the river I travel and how to steer myself around the obstacles.

I guess it all comes down to how you contrast yourself and the environment you exist within.

As the sole generator of my reality I may see myself as having a totally free will but given that the essence of that reality is founded upon the entirety of human reality ( what I call co reality) then free will appears to have limitations.

There is no right or wrong answer to this one, just each individual’s personal stance. The important thing is that each of us has exercised some of our limited free will (or choice) to develop that stance.
Unfortunately the majority of people just accept whatever stance is dished up to them without them even being aware of it.

You seem to think that choice = free will

Is that right?

 

Stephen

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Posted: 23 February 2007 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 254 ]
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[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]
You seem to think that choice = free will

Is that right?
Stephen

Limited free will Vs choice?
I think it’s just a matter of semantics.

I have more of an existentialist’s stance on life. Not that I call myself an existentialist but more that I have a similar perspective, so choice is simply a word that suits me best.

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Posted: 06 March 2007 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 255 ]
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Well, I just read through 18 pages of this, and it is the wee hours of morning.

Doug, if I have understood your argument correctly, then I still cannot fathom why you would call ‘free actions’ free will. I’ll try to explain my position more fully later, but for now, I will enumerate some points (most should be uncontroversial because they’ve already been agreed upon by most of the discussants).

1. No-one is arguing libertarian free will. No-one is suggesting that there are uncaused causes. Libertarian free will is incoherent.

2. No-one believes we have any control over beliefs and desires. I can’t believe something different to what I do and I can’t desire something other than I desire.

3. The part that makes will free seems to depend on action. If I am free to act on my beliefs and desires, freedom from coercive outside forces, then I have ‘free will.’

It is with (3) I take issue, but it may be to do with the word ‘will’. My will *is* my belief and desire. Since (2) is true, my will can’t be free.

I also have a great deal of trouble with the coercive outside forces. If someone overpowers me, and I am strapped to a chair, I am plainly not free. What if someone points a gun to my head and tells me to sit, but does not otherwise physically manipulate me? Is this coercive? If it is, at what level would it no longer be coercive? What if he had a gun with rubber bullets that will hurt me a lot but not kill me? If I choose to sit have I been as coerced as in the gun with real bullets? What if he blackmails me, and the information he has will hurt my family and damage my reputation?

4. One example I find particularly useful is the ‘pulling the fire-alarm cord.’ This is where, no matter how I turn it about in my head, I can’t imagine free will. Let me explain.

4a. Let’s say I have been physically overpowered and strapped to a chair in a rarely-used room in a large high school. My assailant informs me he is going to start a fire and has disabled the sensors on the fire-alarms (but they can still be set off manually by pulling a cord). He leaves and sets fire to the school. I am safe from the fire, I want to warn others, but I can’t pull the cord because I was coerced into being tied up. Most people would agree I was not responsible because I could not have done anything, whether or not I’d wanted to.

4b. Let’s say, as soon as my assailant leaves, by luck I almost immediately am able to get out of the ropes binding me to the chair. But let’s say that I simply leave without pulling the cord because I just don’t want to pull the cord. If I understand you correctly, I should be held responsible for this as this was a free choice.

4c. Let’s say everything is the same as (4a) except for one thing: I have no desire to warn others, and if I could, I would get up out of the chair and leave without pulling the cord. If I understand you correctly, my beliefs and desires are irrelevant because I was unable to pull the cord anyway.

These situations, as I hope you’ll see, don’t seem to me clear cut. I am guilty in 4b but not in 4c, even though there was no difference in my belief or desire, and that this guilt comes about solely because of the environmental difference. It’s blind luck that I was able to carry out my antisocial behaviour in 4b and not in 4c. So it seems to me blind luck as to whether I should be held responsible or not?

5. My biggest problem is equating freedom to act on beliefs and desires as free will. If this is what you mean, then

6. Whatever this is, I don’t think it should be called free ‘will’, perhaps free action; and

7. I don’t understand the argument that makes me culpable for free actions

Finally,

8. Beliefs and desires seem to have some special causative power, in the sense that only actions that have come from beliefs and desires are ‘free will’ actions. I find this incredibly hard to accept. This is possibly just because I don’t understand it, but beliefs and desires seem to have no special place as causative processes.

9. This is the biggest problem of all, and I can’t resolve this to any degree of satisfaction in my reasoning. You say there are kinds of beliefs and desires that don’t lead to ‘free’ actions - eg the desire to use drugs for an addict, or insanity, or let’s say someone has an epileptic fit and as they are convulsing, they strike someone and break their jaw. I agree that for all these actions, there behaviour was compelled.

But whether by someone physically overpowering me, or by someone holding a gun to my head, or by physiological drives or by belief and desire, all my actions are compelled. There can’t be any distinction between ‘pathological’ beliefs and desires (eg the Devil repeatedly told me to do it) and nonpathological ones (I just didn’t feel like doing it), both of them are caused by events beyond the agents’ control.

10. Some of this debate seems to be driven by a deep-seated belief in the need for personal responsibility. But an appeal to consequences, cannot, of course, inform us of the truth-value of an account of free will.

I hope I’ve made some of my problems with a compatibilist account of free will clear.

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