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Free Will (Merged)
Posted: 29 October 2006 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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It’s very simple. A freely willed action is one that you do because of your beliefs and desires. Just take any example you want. For one, say you go to the store to get some bread. Well, you believe they have bread in the store, and want to have a sandwich.

Those beliefs and desires cause (i.e. determine) your action. They’re what make your action ‘free’.

What would be the other option? That your action was uncaused by anything.

What is the paramount example of an uncaused action? A quantum fluctuation of some sort.

What would such a supposed action be like? It would be like a random twitch.

But random twitches aren’t actions. They don’t have intentionality—which means they aren’t directed at anything. They’re just movements.

In order for movements to have intentionality, or direction, they have to be linked causally to beliefs and desires. That’s what turns a movement into an action: the right sort of causal link.

You’re having the same problem a lot of people do—unlearning a lot of bad philosophy about free will. Much of it is church inculcated, IMO.

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Posted: 31 October 2006 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]You’re having the same problem a lot of people do—unlearning a lot of bad philosophy about free will. Much of it is church inculcated, IMO.

Nah, I just see free-will and God in the same set, both fairytales.

Occam

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Posted: 31 October 2006 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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Then perhaps it’s an issue of semantics. You call ‘free will’ the contra-causal sort and say it doesn’t exist.

I call ‘free will’ the phenomenon that happens all the time when we choose what to do and call it compatible with determinism.

:wink:

Again, Dennett talks about this in a very good way in his book Elbow Room. He also has a newer book on freedom of the will that I haven’t read.

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Posted: 02 November 2006 03:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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Causal freewill

We make our own determinants: if we have been naughty with one set of friends, we change friends to influence us     for the better, for example. :wink:  8)

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 23 December 2006 08:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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Hi Doug and all.

Doug and I have been discussing free will on another thread on the recent Susan Blackmore episode.

I thought it might be more useful to bring the debate here.

I’ll start with Doug’s last post.

“I think you are misconstruing what I’m saying. There are no “special powers” involved. Any other animals with beliefs and desires that cause their actions have free will just as much as humans do. If primates have beliefs and desires, they have free will too. Since children have beliefs and desires, they have free will too.”

Free will how ever it is defined is the thing that is used to show that we are morally responsible for our actions.

if all you believe in is the type of free will that children have and almost certainly some animals have, then I believe in it too.

But it is clear that you believe in something more than this. A type of free will that makes us responsible for our actions. (there are examples of this throughout the thread)

So you see I am not misconstruing what you have said. You have also claimed that something more than this is needed, to have free will all ready.

You think that it needs to be possible for something else to happen at the time.

The trouble is that would not be enough to give us free will, we would have to have the power to make something else happen at the time.

When one thing is happening, we would have to have the power to make another thing be happening. If not then, when?

I think you inadvertaintly believe in a special magic power as an atheist, just as the theists who believe in free will do.

If not where does our moral responsibility come from?

If this appears to be unclear, isn’t it best to have a healthy scepticism.

I think so and yet almost all atheists do not.

They appear to have faith that we are morally responsible without any evidence.

Stephen

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Posted: 24 December 2006 01:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]Free will how ever it is defined is the thing that is used to show that we are morally responsible for our actions.

if all you believe in is the type of free will that children have and almost certainly some animals have, then I believe in it too.

But it is clear that you believe in something more than this. A type of free will that makes us responsible for our actions. (there are examples of this throughout the thread)

Free will is clearly necessary for responsibility, in that we are not responsible for acts we do under duress. However, free will is not sufficient for responsibility, since it construes to any creature with beliefs and desires that determine action. We also require a mature sort of ethical or moral conscience.

The reason we do not put animals or little children in jail for committing crimes is partly because we do not view them as having any sort of mature moral conscience.

(There are other reasons that we kill rabid animals and put children into youth detention: in order to protect the general public. But insofar as jail is supposed to be rehabilitory, it cannot be useful for creatures without the moral conscience to be aware of the evil of their actions).

[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]I think you inadvertaintly believe in a special magic power as an atheist, just as the theists who believe in free will do.

Nope.

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Posted: 24 December 2006 10:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]I think you inadvertaintly believe in a special magic power as an atheist, just as the theists who believe in free will do.

[quote author=“DougSmith”]Nope.

Ok let’s analyis this and see.

You started by disagreeing with Susan Blackmore for the following reason.

[quote author=“Dougsmith”]I would prefer to say that we do have freedom of the will. How so? What I mean is that we are able to act based upon our beliefs and desires. That is what it is to be free to act.

Ok well I think we can agree on this and that sometimes we are in circumstances where we have a greater or lesser degree of freedom in this sense.

This type of freedom has nothing to do with whether we could do anything else at the time or not, we have it regardless of whether hard determinism is true or not.

[quote author=“DougSmith”]
All we need to be free, I claim, is that “it might not have happened”. That is, that if we’d had different beliefs and desires, we would have done something different.

Now you are claiming we need something else to have free will.

You actually believe in two different types of free will.

1. A type that we have varying degrees of depending on whether we are able to match our actions to our beliefs and desires. this type has nothing to do with whether something else could have happened or not and would not make us responsible for our actions.

2. A type of free will that does depend on it being possible for something else to have happened.

This second type is what you base your belief that we are responsible for our actions on.

of course it would not be enough for it to be possible for something else to have happened, if we didn’t have the power to make something else happen, it would make no difference. You believe it makes a difference so you believe in this power

This second type of free will you believe in is contra-causal free will or the type of free will that comes from Christianity and Judaism, otherwise known as free choice.

You’ve stopped believing in God but as most other Atheists do kept the elements of religious belief that you like, regardless of the fact that there is no more and it could be argued less evidence for the existence of this second type of free will that you believe in, than for the existence of God.

The unusual thing about faith in the second type of free will is that it is a faith, most people, like you, aren’t aware that they have.

Stephen

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Posted: 25 December 2006 03:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]You actually believe in two different types of free will.

1. A type that we have varying degrees of depending on whether we are able to match our actions to our beliefs and desires. this type has nothing to do with whether something else could have happened or not and would not make us responsible for our actions.

2. A type of free will that does depend on it being possible for something else to have happened.

This second type is what you base your belief that we are responsible for our actions on.

of course it would not be enough for it to be possible for something else to have happened, if we didn’t have the power to make something else happen, it would make no difference. You believe it makes a difference so you believe in this power

This second type of free will you believe in is contra-causal free will or the type of free will that comes from Christianity and Judaism, otherwise known as free choice.

You’ve stopped believing in God but as most other Atheists do kept the elements of religious belief that you like, regardless of the fact that there is no more and it could be argued less evidence for the existence of this second type of free will that you believe in, than for the existence of God.

The unusual thing about faith in the second type of free will is that it is a faith, most people, like you, aren’t aware that they have.

Look, I have nothing against your attempting to describe your own form of free will, to see if you can make it work. But please DON’T keep misconstruing my own position. What you have described is based on nothing more than misunderstanding; I would chalk it up only to a misunderstanding except for the fact that in the prior thread (the Susan Blackmore thread) I explained in some detail how I, and naturalist philosophers generally, make sense of “possibility” in a deterministic world: that is, how we make sense of modality. You need to understand the position we are putting forward before attempting to critique it.

Your view of the world appears literally to leave no room for possibility; everything to you happens necessarily and couldn’t have been otherwise. But this is a fatal flaw for your theory. The only way to make sense of causal influence is to ask, “Had the cause not happened, would the effect have happened anyway?” But to ask such a question just is to entertain the possibility that the cause might not have happened: that is, to entertain different possibilities that didn’t actually take place.

To claim that I am expressing some sort of “contra-causal” free will, or even assuming it in some hidden way, is simply false, and I don’t appreciate people rejecting my views by falsely misconstruing them.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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Debating about “free will” is almost like debating the origin of the universe, but its actually worse.

Of course there is no such thing as “free will” in the traditionally understood sense, which is very much a Christian construct that emerged from the merger of Jewish mythology and Greek philosophy.

“Free will” is basically the Christian justification for “original sin” and the Christian means of letting their “perfect God” off the hook.

True “free will” cannot exist under ANY circumstance. There isn’t even any theoretical means that you can logically support free will, even if you weren’t constrained by reality. “Free will” is illogical.

If the universe is deterministic, which I believe that it is, then there can be no “true” free will because each “decision” is the outcome of physical processes that unfold in the one and only way that they possibly could, just like when a cue ball hits a billiard ball, or a series of dominoes falls down. “Choices” emerge from the physical process, just like a machine that we built to sort items.

If the universe is not deterministic, then that means that certain events are random, but the fact that there are random elements in a physical process doesn’t create free will. If I built a sorting machine that sorts ball on a conveyor belt by weight, but this is controlled by a computer and I program the computer to put balls under 5 lbs in one basket and balls over 5lbs in another basket, but then I add in a random number generator and multiply the actual weight by a random number and then have the machine sort based on that random number plus the actual weight, then the addition of this randomness doesn’t create free will.

Indeed randomness would negate the very concept of will itself, and thus we arrive at the conclusion that:

1) If the universe is fully deterministic then there is no true “freedom”
2) If the universe has random elements, then there is no true “will”

Determinism negates freedom, and randomness negates will.

I would say that David Hume, in the 18th century, fully addressed the issue of free will and the discussion has never moved beyond his treatment of it, and it never can. As Hume concluded, free will is an oxymoron and can’t possibly exist under any circumstance, the only thing that can exist is the freedom of individuals not to be constrained by other individuals.

“Free will”, then, at best, can only mean freedom from obstruction by others, not having your possible options limited by other people in ways that are beyond your control.

We don’t “make our own choices” this is an illusion of the self, which in fact does not exist.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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Agreed with the substance of everything you say, rationalrevolution, except that I would make one crucial distinction. I would say that contra-causal free will cannot exist, hence our notion of free will is not contra-causal.

Contra-causal free will is an essentially Christian notion, one that was created by theologians to get around the problem of evil, by saying that god was not responsible for human acts because human acts were “uncaused causes”, hence god did not cause them and is not responsible for them.

However, as you note, the idea of an uncaused act is impossible to conceive. Either the purported act is caused (by beliefs and desires), or it is random. But purportedly random acts are like twitches or jerks and are hence not acts at all.

The analysis of free will I am suggesting is roughly the same as the one that Dan Dennett gives in his book Elbow Room.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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Using the dominoes analogy:

Freedom is allowing the dominoes to fall as they will once the process starts.

Lack of freedom is obstructing the path of the falling dominoes.

In either case, we can’t say that the dominoes have “true freedom”, but only a certain form of freedom when they are not obstructed.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Using the dominoes analogy:

Freedom is allowing the dominoes to fall as they will once the process starts.

Lack of freedom is obstructing the path of the falling dominoes.

In either case, we can’t say that the dominoes have “true freedom”, but only a certain form of freedom when they are not obstructed.

Once again, I agree with all the substance of what you’re saying. I just don’t believe that “true freedom” is contra-causal freedom. “True freedom” is doing what we want to do, when we want to do it.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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Right, but “what we want to do” is caused.

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Posted: 27 December 2006 02:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Right, but “what we want to do” is caused.

Of course.

But this shows (to me, at least, although I know I am far from alone in philosophy circles) that free will is compatible with determinism.

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Posted: 27 December 2006 02:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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Hi Doug

I apologise for the way I put my points in the last post, it was bound to be irritating and I’d rather I hadn’t done that, as you would.

To press on

[quote author=“dougsmith”]

Your view of the world appears literally to leave no room for possibility; everything to you happens necessarily and couldn’t have been otherwise. But this is a fatal flaw for your theory. The only way to make sense of causal influence is to ask, “Had the cause not happened, would the effect have happened anyway?” But to ask such a question just is to entertain the possibility that the cause might not have happened: that is, to entertain different possibilities that didn’t actually take place.

I have explained that this is not true. I am sitting looking at my table and there is a bicycle saddle on it. It makes no difference whether it is possible that the bicycle saddle could not be on the table or not and if it is on the table neccesarily or not because as far as I am concerned I can have no power over the fact that the saddle is on the table.

My point of view amounts to, you can’t change the present.

On the one hand you say (I’ll quote from you latest post]

“True freedom” is doing what we want to do, when we want to do it.

I agree with this but you also believe in a kind of free will that is derived from could have done otherwise, I’ll quote again.

All we need to be free, I claim, is that “it might not have happened”. That is, that if we’d had different beliefs and desires, we would have done something different.

 

These are two completely different views of freedom.

We all recognise and experience the first type of freedom but the second type we do not, as we only experience the one thing that happens, not any alternative possibilities.


How would “it might not have happened” give us freedom?

How would, it might not have happened, make us responsible for our actions?

Best

Stephen

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