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Old 08-28-2019, 07:46 PM
begbert2 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Idaho
Posts: 13,639
Hi again!

Looks like it would be most efficient to deal with this right off the bat:

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I have a strong feeling that what you call random, I call chaotic. To me, random and non-deterministic are synonyms. Random does not mean "nobody gets to choose", that would be physical randomness. Maybe I need to ask. What exactly do you mean when you say random?
Consider a random number generator that we (somehow) know always produces output in a standard bell curve. In other words any output could be produced, but ones towards the center of the curve are far, far likelier than the ones on the extremes.

You apparently would say that that's randomity, through and through.

I would say that it's plainly obvious that something is causing the outputs to be in a bell curve. That which is causing the distribution to be nonchaotic is, by my view of things, a deterministic effect - something about the generator is determining that the output follow that specific probability pattern.

All expressions of randomity have constraints to their output set; you can't flip a coin and get 7 as a result. The fact a coin only has two sides (and an extremely improbable edge) is a deterministic factor effecting the output of the flip. All constraints, and all inherent determined properties of the random number generator (like the improbability of it landing on the edge) are deterministic factors in my opinion. The randomity that exists is the chaotic randomity that is permuted into the result set by the deterministic properties of the generator.

So yeah - to me, the only randomity is chaotic randomity. If your distribution isn't equiprobable I don't just shrug that off - I take that as indisputable* evidence that there's something deterministic that is operating behind the scenes to permute any equiprobable randomity present into the distribution we see.

* indisputable presuming that we somehow know that the distribution really isn't chaotic. Because, of course, it's always possible for complete randomity to appear like any specific distribution or even any completely nonrandom sequence you want. It's just unlikely to the point of nigh-impossibility.

(Note: I'm going to be making a lot of statements that could effectively be countered by the above fact: in theory everything everywhere always could just be completely random and only look like there's rules and consistency due to dumb luck. However the odds against that are nigh-infinite, so I will be carrying on as if things that clearly aren't random are non-random, and marking everywhere I am (indeed) making that assumption with a *.)

So, to summarize, I consider it absurd to claim that there isn't a deterministic cause behind every non-equiprobable random distribution, and the less random the outputs are, the less random the thing generating them is. *

Okay. Keeping that in mind...

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Personally I have a different definition of falsifiability but I see no harm in adopting yours. We can go back to post #128 where I wrote:If I may now revise that:
It does not follow. Just because minds do not change with "wild randomity", doesn't mean every change in state flows from a cause. For example, a nonmaterial mind may change state randomly for no cause, but still never change with wild randomity. How could you know? You cannot directly examine a nonmaterial mental state. You cannot apply the laws of physics to the nonmaterial substance, so you cannot possibly test a hypothesis concerning the inner workings of the mind. As such, your claim that minds "flow from one state to another based on causes" is not a testable claim, and cannot possibly be disproven by science. This marks the first assumption: every change in mental state flows from a cause.

Also note that the causes themselves can be random or otherwise nondeterministic, regardless of whether the causes are physical or nonphysical in nature.
I don't have to be able to examine the inner workings of something to test hypotheses against it, and the fact that brains clearly aren't chaotic* allows us to test a hypothesis concerning the inner workings of the mind - to wit, there clearly are inner workings in there that operate in a deterministic manner. I dunno what those workings are, but something in there is determining that people don't act randomly.

And seriously, minds don't really act random at all. If there's any randomity in there, it's extremely tamped down by the mechanism generating the mind.

So yeah, the fact I like strawberries is most definitely based on a cause. We know this because it continues to be true over time, which wouldn't* be the case if randomity were the cause of this preference because randomity wouldn't* cause me to still consistently like them as time went on.

And we know that even if the mind is based in a nonmaterial substance or whatever.

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I disagree. Randomity is merely the lack of a definite pattern or method. Random is the exact opposite of deterministic. I touched on this before, but if a God-like entity is above physics, it is random by definition. Free will without a random element is not free will at all.
Physics-as-we-know-them aren't the only possible set of deterministic rules out there, and for any God to continue to exist it has to be operating on some set of deterministic rules that, at a minimum, determine that it doesn't randomly cease to exist.

You're literally the first person I've heard who has stated or implied that God is random, much less that he must be random. Seriously, the guy is typically defined as being all about rules, and half the time is defined as being unchanging!

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
What is wrong with souls or gods being the agent of randomness? If a soul has the power to effect an alternate reality, to actually make a single choice or not, and if the soul can make this choice freely, and is not absolutely bound to one choice, then the soul acts randomly, the soul has free will, and reality is nondeterministic. The same goes for a god, if you replace "soul" with "god". I build this argument a priori.
What's wrong with the idea that souls are "agents of randomness" is that the people they allegedly control don't act random at all.

And as I've been arguing, there's nothing about choice that requires or even implies randomity, by the common definition of the term. Choices can and are made based on, determined by, preferences. That's how choosing works - you choose the outcome you want, the one you think is the best option at the time. There is precisely nothing random about those approaches to choice - decisions made for reasons aren't random.

Heck, I'd be willing to argue that any "choice" made randomly isn't actually a choice. The closest that comes is you can choose to accept the outcome of a random source (like, you flip a coin), but the choice there is that you've you determined that you don't wish to make the choice yourself at all!

So if souls are 'agents of randomness' injecting randomity into the decision-making process, I would argue that they're agents that fight against the free will.

Summary: It's patently obvious by their behavior that our minds have little or no randomity influencing their behavior. If souls are injecting randomity, then that's not introducing free will and honestly wouldn't help anything at all. Which doesn't mean it's not happening; just that it's something our minds would have to compensate for or in some other way ignore in order to make actual choices and have free will.

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
So there are limitations on how random the mind can "act". That's fine. Any physical effects have to follow the laws of physics. It does not follow that randomness is inconsequential, iff the laws of physics allow for multiple solutions AND reality does not constantly split into multiple Schrödinger-esque universes.
Human behavior shows that the minds driving the humans only have an inconsequential amount of randomness in them; that's clear by observation of the fact that people think rather than spazzing out and acting unthinkingly random all the time.

Of course, just because the randomness is inconsequential doesn't mean it can't have consequences. If you really don't care whether you grab the package of meat on the left or the same-size same-price package of meat on the right, then maybe the mind relies on a random number generator to decide to pick the one on the right. The mind doesn't care; it just randomly grabs one.

And the one it grabs was tainted and poisons you and you die. Consequence!

(Of course in reality people would have a bias for one package or the other so it wouldn't be picked randomly at all; they'd take whichever was is closer, whichever was in better lighting, whichever is more to the left if they're in a left-to-right country...)

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Just because the outputs are constrained does not mean the inputs are constrained, too. And I don't think it has been established that minds act without any randomness, or that the randomness is inconsequential. So I am denying both of your premises.
If the inputs are random and every single one of the outputs are "I will eat the strawberries rather than the broken glass, and are you insane?", then that means that the decision making process is clearly ignoring the randomity. *

Observational evidence of human behavior proves that human minds are not driven by randomity in any consequential way. (Give or take tainted meat scenarios like above that have nothing to do with choice or free will.)

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
A probability function describes quantum state, and unless you subscribe to some form of hidden variable or multiverse theory, that wave function is the state.
I subscribe to the idea that things can (and clearly do) have states, which are unchanging at any specific moment.

You can get all quantum and stuff, but minds clearly don't operate like that - my taste for strawberries isn't some kind of Schrodinger's preference without a determined value.

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Unless the mind does things without causes some of the time, in which case the things that usually cause the mind don't fully cause the mind or don't exist. Have we ruled out that possibility? Certainly some of the time I think as if my thoughts were immune from the laws of physics, as if I could think of almost anything I want, as if I could determine what I want to think about at will.
Forget the laws of physics - we're still operating on the assumption that maybe we're being puppeted by ghosts. The laws that matter here are your laws - the laws that your mind is clearly operating under. The law that you'd rather eat strawberries than broken glass. The law that you know what cheese is. Those are the laws you are talking about being free of, the laws and mechanisms that cause the mind to retain state and preferences and be able to apply them to the decision-making process.

And we haven't ruled out the possibility that random effects are perturbing our mental processes; we've simply ruled out that they have any consequential effect whatsoever or that taking actions based on randomity could sensibly be called an act of will - free or otherwise.

Seriously, the concept of will itself is about intention - "It is my will that this will happen". The notion that randomity can have intention is impossible by definition.

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Aw jeez, sorry to keep you waiting. I must have accidentally marked this thread as read without reading it.
Eh, whatever. You're back now; all good.

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
An interesting read, but still besides the point. Such a position as the one I laid out is libertarian by virtue of affirming free will and denying determinism. Tu quoque.

I am less interested in what you think of generic libertarian arguments, and more interested in what you think of mine, because I am here to defend myself, even if I have not set my heart on libertarianism.
Tu quoque? That "not graceful at all" comment was a pun. Grace of the mind as being a supernatural thing? Purely physical brains being 'ungraceful'? Get it? Get it?


Anyway, as for your argument, I think you're making a categorical error in thinking that just because something is nonmaterial and outside the laws of physics that it's random. I also think that your preferred definition of "random" is a way of taking mostly or completely deterministic processes and calling them random, which seems like a pretty poor way to achieve 'libertarian free will' to me.

Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Can you though? You can't observe them, only what they do. They don't necessarily follow the laws of physics, it's not like they are invisible or can be found or looked at or have physical parts. Yes they function somehow, but as far as I am concerned, they function by magic, because they don't physically exist but they produce physical events. They can have preferences and be influenced by physical things, but we cannot conclude that they are deterministically controlled by such things.

If you want to criticize this position as unscientific, you are within your rights. If you want to say it is demonstrably wrong, inconsistent, or incompatible with facts or science, I challenge you to back up that assertion.
I am of the opinion that behavior that clearly has causes has causes. I clearly am choosing the strawberries because I prefer the strawberries. If the decision is being made by a supernatural soul, then the supernatural soul clearly prefers strawberries. Laws of physics don't matter; observability doesn't matter, magic doesn't matter - the choice is still clearly and observably being made deterministically based on my preferences.

I'm still cheerfully entertaining the idea of souls here, so the facts of science aren't an issue here. At issue is the fact that we can clearly tell by observation that the choice isn't random; it's mostly or entirely determined by my preference for strawberries over broken glass. Claims that I randomly grabbed and just happened to not grab the glass are clearly wrong based on the observable facts. Therefore the things that lead you to think that the mind making this choice is random (your definition of randomity, your assumption that the metaphysical must be random) must logically be wrong, because they lead you to a false conclusion. Disproof by contradiction, and all that.