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Free Will (Merged)
Posted: 27 January 2009 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 976 ]
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StephenLawrence - 26 January 2009 12:47 PM
Bryan - 26 January 2009 08:44 AM

The point is that there isn’t any sort of deep explanation to be had either way. 

Right, so indeterminism has nothing extra to offer and so the freedom, responsibility and control we have must be compatible with determinism

If you think that follows then explain how it follows.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 977 ]
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As regards Christian theology, it is only tangentially related to the free will discussion in that most of the common theistic arguments in favor of LFW require some kind of substance dualism. I initially assumed you subscribed to this, but I understand that you are not making that argument (though this soul-as-emergent-property stuff seems a form of property dualism without supervenience, which may be your way of getting around materialism while still denying that the will is just a function of the materialistic functions of brain). However, you have also denied that substance dualism is a necessary part of mainstream Christian doctrine, and I don’t believe you are correct in that. For example,

“The human person is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. In man spirit and matter form one nature. This unity is so profound that, thanks to the spiritual principle which is the soul, the body which is material, becomes a living human body and participates in the dignity of the image of God.

70. Where does the soul come from?
The spiritual soul does not come from one’s parents but is created immediately by God and is immortal. It does not perish at the moment when it is separated from the body in death and it will be once again reunited with the body at the moment of the final resurrection.”
From the official Catechism of the Catholic Church

“The Gospel language is popular, not technical. Psyche and pneuma are used indifferently either for the principle of natural life or for spirit in the strict sense. Body and soul are recognized as a dualism and their values contrasted: “Fear ye not them that kill the body . . . but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Terrestrial life is a punishment and a remedy for prenatal sin. “Soul” is properly degraded spirit: flesh is a condition of alienation and bondage (cf. Comment. ad Romans 1:18

Obviously, non-Catholic Christians might disagree with the details, and so might many Catholics for that matter. My point, though, is that it is unorthodox at the least to assert that the core of mainstream Christian doctrines could somehow dispense with the essentially non-material nature of the soul. The sould and the body differ in substance, and this difference is an important component of salvation because following God faithfully requires privileging the things of the spirit over the things of the material world. We enter the material world in a state of sin and, apart from some Calvinist doctrines, we are required to do something (recieve the sacraments, baptism at a minimum, or make a conscious decision to accept Christ, or whatever depending on the sect) to achieve salvation, though of course grace is required as well and cannot be earned. All of this requires a clear distinction intheory between the material and the spiritual, even if not every Christian has to intellectualize it that way. So I still think that your approach is unorthodox. But, as I said, that’s something of a digression from the isse of free will, even if most Christians see LFW in terms of substance dualism.


How do you know it isn’t an indeterministic process where the outcome is only 99.9999999% likely?

Here, and in other statements above, you seem to require epistemic perfection in order to demonstrate determinism is more accurate as an explanation than indeterminism. If there is a 0.000000001% chance of an exception, you see this as proof that the system is indeterminate. I see it as evidence that the methods by which we analyze and predict are imperfect, so even if the system is completely deterministic we can’t expect perfection in our predictions. This seems an impasse to me. I still think you are obfuscating by claiming epistemic uncertainty is really proof of indeterminism. It seems far more reasonable to me to accept that if my billiard balls go where I predict they will go the overwhelming majority of the time, that my heuristic model is superior to one that says they are essentially unpredictable in nature, even if they are highly predictable in practice. But obviously, the opposite conclusion seems more reasonable to you. The difference in interpretation seems, at its core, one of intuition, so I’m not sure how either of us could convince the other. I would say that on a pragmatic basis, the deterministic model has proven far more successful than those that went before it. I’d rather have such a model when planning the trajectory of my space ship ride than one that says my efforts are vain since the ship can really do whatever it likes. Do you have anything additional to offer, other than your previous assertion that any exception at all in predictive perfection is proof of indeterminism which then opens the door for LFW?


As for the model, I guess I’m a lousy philosopher because I prefer the real world to thought experiments. You can, of course, stipulate what you like for a model. And you’ve stipulated indeterminism, so yes your balls can go where they like regardless of initial conditions. Again, this only proves you can imagine such a thing, not that it explains thought or acts of the will. I’ve already explained why I think determinism works better in practice, and why I think errors in prediction are epistemelogical, not fundamental flaws in the model, so I’m not sure what else we can get out of your thought experiment.

How about we talk a bit more directly about free will as it relates to human choices. Are you saying that such choices are not constrained by the conditions of the brain because

a) thought is not strictly dependant on brain activity (in which case, what is the relationship between the two? The “reflection of sensory input” idea above? Property dualism? Anything else?)
b) thoughts do arise from the brain in a materialist or proerty dualist way, but like quantum phenomenon the system is indeterministic, so thoughts an choices cannot be determined by the initial conditions but are essentially random, even with a low probability of deviating from the trajectory that a deterministic model would predict?
c) something else?

Where does the freedom come from?

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Posted: 27 January 2009 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 978 ]
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Jackson - 27 January 2009 05:26 AM

Maybe you can refresh me with the definition the group is using for “free will”. 

I don’t think the group is using a definition.

The compatibilist definition is that your actions are caused by your beliefs and desires and that human choice making and decision making are compatible with strict determinism. That doesn’t mean that the compatibilist believes determinism is true, just that could do otherwise in the circumstances is randomness and gets us nothing in terms of power, freedom or responsibility and so is irrelevent.

My definition of incompatibilist free will is:

1) You could have done otherwise in the circumstances at the time

2) It’s your fault that you didn’t.

I use this and similar definitions because this is what people tend to believe and I’m much more interested in what people actually believe, than philosophers definitions.

My argument against free will by my definition isn’t that we could not do otherwise in the circumstances but that if we could that is randomness and so 2) is a non sequitur.

In one sense there is no such thing as free will.  The past is fixed.  We cannot change the past, or make decisions which affect the past.  The fact that the past if fixed is not usually associated with what I think of as “free will”. But it there were absolutely no “free will” it might suggest that the future is equally fixed as the past.  In another sense this is true—SOMETHING happens. But again I don’t think that’s what people mean by “free will” either.

What we want the past to be cannot affect the past. what we want the future to be and that motivating us to act, can affect the future, because we have causal power.

Incompatibilism is the belief that we have more power, freedom and responsibility for our actions than this gives us (assuming the incompatibilist believes in free will)

If you think we might need to “fake” free will it seems you have something incompatible with (strict) determinism in mind?

Stephen

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Posted: 27 January 2009 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 979 ]
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mckenzievmd - 27 January 2009 10:30 AM

As regards Christian theology, it is only tangentially related to the free will discussion in that most of the common theistic arguments in favor of LFW require some kind of substance dualism. I initially assumed you subscribed to this, but I understand that you are not making that argument (though this soul-as-emergent-property stuff seems a form of property dualism without supervenience, which may be your way of getting around materialism while still denying that the will is just a function of the materialistic functions of brain).

Essentially correct, though dualism is not the only alternative to materialism by any stretch of the imagination.

However, you have also denied that substance dualism is a necessary part of mainstream Christian doctrine, and I don’t believe you are correct in that.

http://www.mckenziestudycenter.org/philosophy/articles/dualism.html
http://www.ismbook.com/dualism.html

How do you know it isn’t an indeterministic process where the outcome is only 99.9999999% likely?

Here, and in other statements above, you seem to require epistemic perfection in order to demonstrate determinism is more accurate as an explanation than indeterminism.

No, you’re missing the point.  I emphasize that LFW and indeterminism are compatible with any degree of determinism short of the absolute.  So it isn’t an issue of which “is more accurate.”  I would quite agree that determinism is “more accurate” in that more events are causally determined than not.  And it may even be the case that most LFW decisions are described probabilistically in terms that might be mistaken for determinism (as might happen using the reasoning you describe).  The point is that means you propose for distinguishing between a LFW model (which might consist predominantly of causally determined events:  99.999% and above, for example) and absolute causal determinsm is very probably inadequate.

If there is a 0.000000001% chance of an exception, you see this as proof that the system is indeterminate.

Like I said, you’re missing the point.  It isn’t that I see the lack of proof that determinism is true as a proof that indeterminism is true (that would be a fallacy of argument from silence, of course).  On the contrary, I specifically the random formation of quantum particles as my evidence that absolute determinism is not true, and regarding the weakness of your evidence I simply draw the sensible conclusion that since determinism is not proved we leave open the possibility of indeterminism.

I could hardly be more reasonable on this point.  smile

Accordingly, I’m deleting your following paragraph that belabored the issue.

As for the model, I guess I’m a lousy philosopher because I prefer the real world to thought experiments. You can, of course, stipulate what you like for a model. And you’ve stipulated indeterminism, so yes your balls can go where they like regardless of initial conditions. Again, this only proves you can imagine such a thing, not that it explains thought or acts of the will. I’ve already explained why I think determinism works better in practice, and why I think errors in prediction are epistemelogical, not fundamental flaws in the model, so I’m not sure what else we can get out of your thought experiment.

I note that you have avoided explicitly answering my question as to whether we may apply the same test to determinism.  In what respect does the deterministic model “work better” such that we expect that determinism is universal rather than simply common?  And how would you explain away our vestigial consciousness?  What aspects of determinism should lead us to expect the evolution or brute existence of a consciouness that adds nothing (except subjective experience) to our functioning?

How about we talk a bit more directly about free will as it relates to human choices. Are you saying that such choices are not constrained by the conditions of the brain

Your sentence above is too ambiguous to warrant anything but a cautious assent based on my subsequent narrowing of its meaning.  Within the LFW model, choices are utterly constrained by conditions in the brain unless we refer merely to the physical brain.  And even then choices might be constrained by the physical brain in that not any and every outcome might occur (in contrast to one single outcome based on (philosophical) sufficiency of conditions).

because

a) thought is not strictly dependant on brain activity (in which case, what is the relationship between the two? The “reflection of sensory input” idea above? Property dualism? Anything else?)
b) thoughts do arise from the brain in a materialist or proerty dualist way, but like quantum phenomenon the system is indeterministic, so thoughts an choices cannot be determined by the initial conditions but are essentially random, even with a low probability of deviating from the trajectory that a deterministic model would predict?
c) something else?

Where does the freedom come from?

For example, physical condition of the brain B may be compatible with choice X or choice ~X.  Freedom stems from B’s responsibility in determining X as opposed to ~X (or vice versa).  As illustrated in the earlier example, there is no need to invoke dualism.  For the added dimension of increased moral freedom we simply need to posit a realistic awareness of the context in which the decision is executed with a reasonable expectation of outcomes.

I assert that the system I recommend is resistant to charges of incoherence and provides a type of responsibility absent in compatibilist accounts of freedom.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 980 ]
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Bryan - 27 January 2009 01:24 PM

http://www.mckenziestudycenter.org/philosophy/articles/dualism.html

As always, anything goes when it comes to religion. If Paul held the Greek dualistic world view then… If Paul rejected the competing Greek view of his age, and held to his traditional Hebrew upbringing then…  What nonsense. I understand, though, why you merely provided a link instead of trying to make some sense of this mess.

[ Edited: 27 January 2009 02:28 PM by George ]
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Posted: 27 January 2009 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 981 ]
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George - 27 January 2009 02:25 PM
Bryan - 27 January 2009 01:24 PM

http://www.mckenziestudycenter.org/philosophy/articles/dualism.html

As always, anything goes when it comes to religion.

You can take that argument up with mckenzievmd, who apparently thinks otherwise.  Have fun.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 982 ]
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I emphasize that LFW and indeterminism are compatible with any degree of determinism short of the absolute.  So it isn’t an issue of which “is more accurate.“  I would quite agree that determinism is “more accurate” in that more events are causally determined than not.  And it may even be the case that most LFW decisions are described probabilistically in terms that might be mistaken for determinism (as might happen using the reasoning you describe). 

Ok, reasonable. I’m not sure what constitutes “absolute” determinism. Is it simply the idea that everything that happens is the only thing that could happen given the initial conditions of the universe, or some such? I would disavow that idea, since I accept the unpredictability and, apparently as far as current understanding goes, the inherent randomness of some things, such as quantum phenomena. But I’ve already said I’m happy with a high degree of determinism in that I think our choices are determined by the state of our brain preceding the choice. If you disagree with this, and require some degree of indeterminism to explain choice and allow for soime kind of freedom, what sort of mechanism would explain the selection of one alternative over another in the brain without determinism? In other words, if it’s not the inevitable chain of causal events associated with electrons/neurons and so on, what is the determining factor? What leads to one choice over another?

In what respect does the deterministic model “work better” such that we expect that determinism is universal rather than simply common?

Well, it works better in the sense that it is more successfully predictive than the alternative. Indeed, I’m not sure how indeterminism would allow us to predict anything, except that systems might sometimes behave unpredictably. Where’s the heuristic value of that as a model for thought or choice?

And how would you explain away our vestigial consciousness?  What aspects of determinism should lead us to expect the evolution or brute existence of a consciouness that adds nothing (except subjective experience) to our functioning?

I don’t know what you mean by “vestigial consciousness.” Could you elaborate?

As for expecting the evolution of consciousness, I don’t know that determinism would lead us to expect it, in that we don’t understand the causal processes involved well enough to make such a prediction. The functional value of consciousness from the point of view of evolutionary theory, which is based on the presumption of materialism and some high degree of determinism, can be explained to a reasonable extent. But this is not to say such a thing ought to have evolved or had to evolve. The appropriate raw materials and selective environment had to exist, and there are elements of chance in that as well as non-random events that can be explained as causally determined. I think the evolution of consicousness is compatible with determinism, but determinism doesn’t require such a thing evolve.

Within the LFW model, choices are utterly constrained by conditions in the brain unless we refer merely to the physical brain.

As opposed to the “non-physical brain?” WHat is that? Can you demonstrate that it exists or has relevance. Surely, you understand my position well enough to recognize that when I say “the brain” I am referring to the organ in a strictly materialistic sense. You’ve denied anything non-material is necessary for LFW, so what is this non-physical brain?

Freedom stems from B’s responsibility in determining X as opposed to ~X (or vice versa).

So what exactly determines x vs ~X? If not the deterministic chain of physical events taking place in the brain, then what? You say that substance dualism is not required, yet you still seem to locate the faculty of assessment and choice somewhere other than in the actions of the physical brain. Where?

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Posted: 27 January 2009 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 983 ]
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You dont need a website essay to know that substance dualism is a necessary part of mainstream christianity.

just ask random christians, “do you think we are just our bodies or are we a body and soul”?

i doubt you will find one self-proclaimed christian in a hundred who will say we are just our bodies. they will say we are both. we are material and supernatural, and the latter encompasses the former.

knowing what Paul thought 2000 years ago is completely irrelevant to what mainstream christians think today - paul thought a woman should cover her head because she is below men, even though mainstream christianity does not find this a necessary part of their faith or something that is widely exercised.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 984 ]
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Brennen was referring to a “mainstream Christian doctrine”, not some babbling Christian apologist.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 03:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 985 ]
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Not sure how you can get an eternal soul, heaven, hell, etc., without substance dualism. I suppose that there may be some who literally believe that the body is resurrected and is carried up to some physical heaven, but that has its own grave problems (so to say). E.g., is there no material that is shared between two bodies, such that they cannot both be completely resurrected? If the body is a physical object why does it not decay? Why is the resurrected brain as fallible and prone to evil as the brain that is not resurrected? Where precisely is this heaven and hell that resurrected bodies go to? Etc.

In traditional Christian theology (at least that of which I’m most familiar) God is not a physical being but a disembodied reasoning mind. To say that persons are made in his image is to say that our mental substances are also rational. I believe that this goes back to Augustine.

Of course, when we ask what is “mainstream” we get into all sorts of useless detours about which mainstream we are interested in ...

Brennen is on the right tack here asking about where that reasoning faculty resides that apparently causes the X or ~X. One should add, of course, that insofar as we’re looking to QM to give us the ~X, it’s going to do so perhaps once in the age of the universe, or less. It’s not much room for freedom. Further, if all free will amounts to is the lack of deterministic causality, do rocks possess free will? They lack deterministic causality just as much (or as little) as our brains. Now, there might be something interesting if we were to find that the brain was less deterministic than the rock. But as of yet we have no evidence for such a supposition.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 11:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 986 ]
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StephenLawrence - 27 January 2009 12:56 PM

My definition of incompatibilist free will is:

1) You could have done otherwise in the circumstances at the time

2) It’s your fault that you didn’t.

I use this and similar definitions because this is what people tend to believe and I’m much more interested in what people actually believe, than philosophers definitions.

I’m curious as to what you do when people accept philosophers’ definitions (or on those occasions when philosophers are people).  smile

My argument against free will by my definition isn’t that we could not do otherwise in the circumstances

... fallaciously begs the question unless you have an argument that supports your conclusion.

but that if we could that is randomness and so 2) is a non sequitur.

... and in this case your argument will benefit from the identification of “randomness” or “chance” as an ontological entity.  Otherwise you apparently don’t have anything since chance patterns are what we should predict of indeterministic choosing.  And how you get from the expected random patterns to the conclusion that 2 is a non sequitur ... well, I’d like to see that argument.

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Posted: 28 January 2009 12:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 987 ]
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mckenzievmd - 27 January 2009 02:47 PM

I emphasize that LFW and indeterminism are compatible with any degree of determinism short of the absolute.  So it isn’t an issue of which “is more accurate.“  I would quite agree that determinism is “more accurate” in that more events are causally determined than not.  And it may even be the case that most LFW decisions are described probabilistically in terms that might be mistaken for determinism (as might happen using the reasoning you describe). 

Ok, reasonable. I’m not sure what constitutes “absolute” determinism. Is it simply the idea that everything that happens is the only thing that could happen given the initial conditions of the universe, or some such?

Determinism” is routinely defined as the proposition that all phenomena are the result of lawful and predictable interactions of physical entities.  I add “absolute” to make clear that I refer to the normal understanding of “determinism.”  There are other varieties such as logical determinism, and if (for example) random quantum events were literally the cause of specific decisions of the human will I’d argue that as a form of determinism—though clearly not the traditional understanding of the term.

I would disavow that idea, since I accept the unpredictability and, apparently as far as current understanding goes, the inherent randomness of some things, such as quantum phenomena.

OK, so when you use the term “determinism” in the present context you’re unlikely to be using it in the traditional sense.  It may help facilitate clear communication if you settle on a modifying term when you’re not using “determinism” in its traditional sense.

But I’ve already said I’m happy with a high degree of determinism in that I think our choices are determined by the state of our brain preceding the choice. If you disagree with this, and require some degree of indeterminism to explain choice and allow for soime kind of freedom, what sort of mechanism would explain the selection of one alternative over another in the brain without determinism?  In other words, if it’s not the inevitable chain of causal events associated with electrons/neurons and so on, what is the determining factor? What leads to one choice over another?

As I’ve already stated, the consciousness could assume that role where a given physical state of the mind is not taken as a sufficient condition for a single outcome (IOW, simply refraining from assuming determinism with respect to thoughts and reasoning).  I’ll emphasize again that it makes no sense to ask for an explanatory mechanism.  If I provided such an explanation (see my response to George recently) then I would simply demonstrate that I had failed to construct an indeterministic model in the first place.  I hope you’ll agree that it would be ludicrous to fault me for declining to explain an indeterministic model in terms of determinism.  The request is nonsense.  And if I understand you incorrectly then I apologize—but at the same time I would ask that you clarify what it is you’re asking.

In what respect does the deterministic model “work better” such that we expect that determinism is universal rather than simply common?

Well, it works better in the sense that it is more successfully predictive than the alternative.

That is not a reasonable rationale.  Determinism is predictable in principle while indeterminism is not.  In effect, you’re saying that the deterministic model is better because it is deterministic.  You may, in fact, mean to say that the expectation of determinism aids epistemology and the gathering of information, as with the scientific enterprise, but nothing restricts those who do not accept universal determinism from making use of methodological naturalism as part of the epistemological toolbox.

Indeed, I’m not sure how indeterminism would allow us to predict anything, except that systems might sometimes behave unpredictably. Where’s the heuristic value of that as a model for thought or choice?

There doesn’t really need to be any, though I suppose I could digress and use Lewis’ argument that determinism results in the futility of reason (Victor Reppert is the chief contemporary proponent of that argument).

As I pointed out above, nothing stops the indeterminist from using methodological naturalism as a tool for the gathering of knowledge.  You admit as much when you accept quantum randomness, unless you’re intentionally finding fault with your own views.

I don’t know what you mean by “vestigial consciousness.” Could you elaborate?

Sure.  I’m just reiterating what we’ve been over before.  If the consciousness is an emergent property in an utterly mechanistic sense then it can be done without.  If we suppose that a computer can add 2+2 with the resulting value of 4 without being conscious of it then there appears to be no limit to the complexity of decisions that could be made unconsciously.  In short, there’s no need to be conscious if the consciousness serves no function beyond that of the configuration of matter that gave it its deterministic existence.  There no reason to expect consciousness under those conditions, and consciousness could confer no evolutionary advantage under those conditions.  It’s gills on a rock.

As for expecting the evolution of consciousness, I don’t know that determinism would lead us to expect it, in that we don’t understand the causal processes involved well enough to make such a prediction.

In evolutionary terms, you expect things that evolve widely to offer some sort of evolutionary advantage.

The functional value of consciousness from the point of view of evolutionary theory, which is based on the presumption of materialism and some high degree of determinism, can be explained to a reasonable extent.

Do tell.  It seems pretty clear to me that if neuronal configuration A results in choice X then it doesn’t matter if A also results in mental impression I.  A will result either way.  In short, the reasonable explanation is that consciousness confers absolutely no evolutionary advantage under causal determinism.

But this is not to say such a thing ought to have evolved or had to evolve.

So much for useful predictions, eh?  We love science!  smile

The appropriate raw materials and selective environment had to exist, and there are elements of chance in that as well as non-random events that can be explained as causally determined. I think the evolution of consicousness is compatible with determinism, but determinism doesn’t require such a thing evolve.

Consciousness is an absurd (ridiculous, not self-contradictory) thing for a causally determined universe to evolve.  And the illusion of relevance (I think I want to move my right hand—my right hand moves!) is eminently suspicious.  The vestigial consciousness might as well have you subjectively experience a day at the County Fair rather than the appearance of your next animal patient.  Your body could go about its business and the consciousness could act as the Holodek.  Both should get along very well on their own in a causally determined world.

That they seem to act in concert is extremely suspicious—the sort of thing that produces a reasonable expectation that the consciousness is responsible for action beyond the mere results of a sufficient physical neuronal process (using “sufficient"according to its role in the philosophy of causation).

Within the LFW model, choices are utterly constrained by conditions in the brain unless we refer merely to the physical brain.

As opposed to the “non-physical brain?” WHat is that?

Your consciousness, of course.  We’re talking about the LFW model, remember.  The physical brain could apparently play its part in a p-zombie.

Can you demonstrate that it exists or has relevance.

No, I can’t prove that anyone is conscious.  The best I can do is something akin to the Turing test.  Lacking that proof, shall we assume that we are unconscious and stop having this discussion since it is silly for two unconscious beings to engage in discussion?

Freedom stems from B’s responsibility in determining X as opposed to ~X (or vice versa).

So what exactly determines x vs ~X?

B.

If not the deterministic chain of physical events taking place in the brain, then what?

B.

You say that substance dualism is not required, yet you still seem to locate the faculty of assessment and choice somewhere other than in the actions of the physical brain. Where?

The indeterministic consciousness, as opposed to the p-zombie.

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Posted: 28 January 2009 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 988 ]
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Bryan - 27 January 2009 09:35 AM

If Feynman made that statement regarding philosophy instead of physics then he would be an idiot indeed.  No doubt he restricted himself to physics.

Feynman was no idiot.  His perspective on science was that it should be predictive and anchored in explaining our world.

Four years later he gave a commencement address in 1974 [ on Cargo Cult Science, which was incorporated into one of the popular books about him] . The lecture is pretty readable.

The lecture deals with pseudoscience and how scientists need to take care not to fool themselves.  But with thirty years perspective it became clear to me that every argument against pseudoscience also applies to religion as well (after all what is a Cargo Cult….)

As to philosophy, Feynman suggested [  ” A Philosophy of Ignorance”]  —my interpretation would be that he was williing to admit ignorance and doubt.  To the extent that religion and philosophy claim knowledge which they don’t really have he would challenge them.

‘‘Scientists . . . are used to dealing with doubt and uncertainty,’’ he says, an experience the value of which ‘‘extends beyond the sciences. I believe that to solve any problem that has never been solved before, you have to leave the door to the unknown ajar. You have to permit the possibility that you do not have it exactly right.’’

He argues that this scientific appreciation of uncertainty is reflected in the thinking behind the Constitution: ‘‘The Government of the United States was developed under the idea that nobody knew how to make a government, or how to govern. The result is to invent a system to govern when you don’t know how. And the way to arrange it is to permit a system, like we have, wherein new ideas can be developed and tried out and thrown away. The writers of the Constitution knew of the value of doubt. In the age that they lived, for instance, science had already developed far enough to show the possibilities and potentialities that are the result of having uncertainty, the value of having the openness of possibility.’’

This was particularly perspicacious in 1963, when many American academics still imagined that science could flourish under the totalitarian regimes of China and the Soviet Union. Feynman shared no such delusions. He saw that science demands genuine freedom

[ Edited: 28 January 2009 05:43 AM by Jackson ]
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Posted: 28 January 2009 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 989 ]
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Jackson,

Are you practicing some kind of bizarre form of back handed slap? You’ve highlighted Bryan’s comment in two post that I see. The odd part is that you are obviously misreading him, making it seem you are, for a reason that I could only guess, engaging in an ad hominem.

Or, am I misreading you somehow?

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Posted: 28 January 2009 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 990 ]
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Robert Buhn - 28 January 2009 05:31 AM

Jackson,

Are you practicing some kind of bizarre form of back handed slap? You’ve highlighted Bryan’s comment in two post that I see. The odd part is that you are obviously misreading him, making it seem you are, for a reason that I could only guess, engaging in an ad hominem.

Or, am I misreading you somehow?

Probably.

I’m not sure what you are referring to, but I realize you are trying to be constructive.

What is obvious to you isn’t necessarily obvious to me. And vice versa of course.

[ Edited: 28 January 2009 05:48 AM by Jackson ]
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