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  #151  
Old 09-05-2019, 03:30 PM
begbert2 is offline
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As a nitpick, several people here are using the term "chaos" in a nonstandard way. (Or at least; not the way mathematicians or physicists use it. And the word in a colloquial sense doesn't have a firm enough definition to contrast it with "randomness", as some here have)

Chaotic systems are by definition deterministic (although we may see chaotic behaviour in systems with nondeterministic elements / subsystems).
And, let's imagine we have a chaotic system that at each iteration delivers an integer between 1 and 100. The fact that it's chaotic does not necessarily mean even that all the numbers in that range will be visited, let alone that they will be visited at equal probability. Our hypothetical chaotic system may have zero probability of ever returning the number 71, say.
Chaotic, equiprobable, I think that we all get the point.
  #152  
Old 09-05-2019, 06:43 PM
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Chaotic, equiprobable, I think that we all get the point.
Chaotic does not mean equiprobable. See strange attractors for example.

As far as I can tell, you are using the word chaotic in the colloquial sense, but as though this casual word is a concrete mathematical concept.

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  #153  
Old 09-05-2019, 07:10 PM
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Chaotic does not mean equiprobable. See strange attractors for example.

As far as I can tell, you are using the word chaotic in the colloquial sense, but as though this casual word is a concrete mathematical concept.
Yep!

And I'm unapologetic about it, too.
  #154  
Old 09-08-2019, 12:44 AM
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It's either free will or determinism, and I think modern physics pretty much rules out determinism.
  #155  
Old 09-08-2019, 03:39 AM
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It's either free will or determinism, and I think modern physics pretty much rules out determinism.
The thing is, the "no such thing as free will" guys will just say something like "how can the froth of randomness at the quantum level have implications for free will at the level of a mind?" without realizing the implication for how we're defining free will:

If an action is in theory predicable, that's not free will, they would say. But if it's unpredictable, but for reasons not based on knowledge or reasoning, that doesn't count either.

But how can we have unpredictable knowledge-based decisions? In a hypothetical universe with free will, how are free decisions made?

This is why I personally believe the whole topic is stupid: free will is being defined in this context in an incoherent / meaningless way. And it's equally meaningless to therefore say it doesn't exist.

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  #156  
Old 09-09-2019, 10:26 AM
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I am 50% atheistic and I half believe in free will.
  #157  
Old 09-10-2019, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
The thing is, the "no such thing as free will" guys will just say something like "how can the froth of randomness at the quantum level have implications for free will at the level of a mind?" without realizing the implication for how we're defining free will:

If an action is in theory predicable, that's not free will, they would say. But if it's unpredictable, but for reasons not based on knowledge or reasoning, that doesn't count either.

But how can we have unpredictable knowledge-based decisions? In a hypothetical universe with free will, how are free decisions made?

This is why I personally believe the whole topic is stupid: free will is being defined in this context in an incoherent / meaningless way. And it's equally meaningless to therefore say it doesn't exist.

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Science is always more complicated then either/or and this is apparently the case with randomness versus non-randomness in decision making. What if the brain incorporates its own neural noise as one part of the process of decision making?

(from the Atlantic: "A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked")
  #158  
Old 09-10-2019, 04:20 PM
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Science is always more complicated then either/or and this is apparently the case with randomness versus non-randomness in decision making. What if the brain incorporates its own neural noise as one part of the process of decision making?

(from the Atlantic: "A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked")
In my reading of the article, I didn't notice them suggesting that the "neural noise" was random. And I would consider it axiomatic that the brain state is part of the mechanics of decision-making.
  #159  
Old 09-10-2019, 05:13 PM
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[Full disclosure for this drive-by: I am a lifelong atheist, an ordained Taoist rabbi, a card-carrying Discordian, a Reasonably Merry Prankster, a former Psychology major, a former National Merit Scholar, and a total fuckup. You may use any or all or none of these facts to assess my post, as you .... well, that rather begs the question if I use the cliché "as you see fit," doesn't it, so let's go with "any or all or none, whichever."]

I think that unless and until neuroscience and/or data science yield a far better understanding of the processes by which the emergent phenomenon of consciousness is (apparently/evidently/subjectively, pick your adverb) produced by neurochemical activity, the discussion of "free will" is premature. And of course any discussion without agreed-upon common terminology is more frustrating than enlightening, which is not to discourage the attempt.

Having said that: I am convinced that I have some degree of free will, and I am further convinced that if free will does not exist, nonetheless the subjective perception I have that my actions are to some extent volitional is, although illusory, still beneficial. And if the free will I perceive myself to possess is in fact illusory, then I have no choice but to believe this -- by definition.

And now I believe it's time for a beer. L'chaim!

HAIL ERIS!
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  #160  
Old 09-10-2019, 05:17 PM
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[Full disclosure for this drive-by: I am a lifelong atheist, an ordained Taoist rabbi, a card-carrying Discordian, a Reasonably Merry Prankster, a former Psychology major, a former National Merit Scholar, and a total fuckup. You may use any or all or none of these facts to assess my post, as you .... well, that rather begs the question if I use the cliché "as you see fit," doesn't it, so let's go with "any or all or none, whichever."]

I think that unless and until neuroscience and/or data science yield a far better understanding of the processes by which the emergent phenomenon of consciousness is (apparently/evidently/subjectively, pick your adverb) produced by neurochemical activity, the discussion of "free will" is premature. And of course any discussion without agreed-upon common terminology is more frustrating than enlightening, which is not to discourage the attempt.

Having said that: I am convinced that I have some degree of free will, and I am further convinced that if free will does not exist, nonetheless the subjective perception I have that my actions are to some extent volitional is, although illusory, still beneficial. And if the free will I perceive myself to possess is in fact illusory, then I have no choice but to believe this -- by definition.

And now I believe it's time for a beer. L'chaim!

HAIL ERIS!
So I see you saying that any discussion without agreed-upon terminology is more frustrating than enlightening...and then you go on to talk about "free will" without defining what you mean by the term.

Yep, discordian prankster.
  #161  
Old 09-10-2019, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
So I see you saying that any discussion without agreed-upon terminology is more frustrating than enlightening...and then you go on to talk about "free will" without defining what you mean by the term.

Yep, discordian prankster.
As advertised. And tbh, by Page 4 of this thread, there are more than too many proffered/proposed/supposed definitions already in play; I very seriously doubt that an explanation of my personal definition would prove welcome, and I am certain that I would not find it worthwhile.

But here's an exegesis that's perhaps not unwelcome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpOyQhgM1FU

fnord
  #162  
Old 09-10-2019, 05:35 PM
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As advertised. And tbh, by Page 4 of this thread, there are more than too many proffered/proposed/supposed definitions already in play; I very seriously doubt that an explanation of my personal definition would prove welcome, and I am certain that I would not find it worthwhile.
I for one have reached the conclusion that any arguments about free will should start with the definition of free will the person is using.

That way people can argue that everyone else is using the wrong definition of the term, rather than arguing whether we have the stuff, which at least would be a nice change.

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But here's an exegesis that's perhaps not unwelcome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpOyQhgM1FU

fnord
The device I'm on doesn't have its sound plugged in, so...

Last edited by begbert2; 09-10-2019 at 05:35 PM. Reason: typo
  #163  
Old 09-10-2019, 11:09 PM
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I think that unless and until neuroscience and/or data science yield a far better understanding of the processes by which the emergent phenomenon of consciousness is (apparently/evidently/subjectively, pick your adverb) produced by neurochemical activity, the discussion of "free will" is premature.
Yes good point.

Any time there is a phenomenon with significant unknowns we should be wary of ruling out possibilities. Even if I agreed that free actions need to thread the needle between not being deterministic and yet based on past experience / understanding, maybe there is such a mechanism that no-one has conceived of yet.
(And even if I thought this was threading the needle between p and !p, while in formal logic these are the only two possibilities, empiracally things can often be more complicated than that.)

So I will update my stock response on free will:
1. It's usually defined in a self-inconsistent way; the problem is with the definition, not any limitation of our universe
2. I am reluctant to rule out possibilities for consciousness while there are still so many unknowns about this phenomenon. There may well be additional mechanisms or patterns that we have not discovered yet and have some bearing on the notion of free will.
  #164  
Old 10-14-2019, 03:19 PM
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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.
Bullseye! I would say the bell curve is a probability distribution and the output "produced" is a normally distributed random variable. But remember, it is impossible for a deterministic process to create a random output without any random inputs. The best you can do within the bounds of determinism is a pseudorandom number generator. Your function/machine must have random inputs, or it must be non-deterministic.

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I would say that it's plainly obvious that something is causing the outputs to be in a bell curve.
Of course: the structure of the function shapes the distribution; or if we are talking about a physical machine, the structure of the machine does so. If we are talking about the mind and the brain, the structure of the brain itself constrains the possible events the mind can effect, and the possible "choices" the mind can make. The mind cannot effect a physical event that contradicts the laws of physics, or we would adjust the laws of physics. The brand of libertarianism I laid out depends on the laws of physics allowing reality to unfold in a number of physically valid ways; a function that accurately describes a physical brain will allow for multiple solutions. That is an assumption on my part.

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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.
If you wish to call the structure of a machine a "deterministic factor", I won't stop you. For me that is a medical term, but I have no problem adopting your terminology.

Looking back at my post #146, I see that I accidentally used chaos/chaotic in two different senses. Sorry about the confusion.
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Equiprobability (equal probability) leads to chaos and is only one form of randomness.
This should have read "madness" instead of chaos.
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Just because your mind isn't constantly effecting chaotic physical changes, doesn't mean your mind isn't random.
This should have read "irrational" instead of chaotic.

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I have a strong feeling that what you call random, I call chaotic. To me, random and non-deterministic are synonyms.
Here I meant "deterministic, but impossible to approximate and unpractical to predict" instead of chaotic.
I understand that by "nonchaotic" you mean "not equiprobable" or "in the shape of a bell curve", but seeing the word nonchaotic threw me off.

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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.
Very well.

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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 you mean to say the original input is random, I agree.

If you mean to say the original input is necessarily equiprobable over some arbitrary domain, I disagree. A function which outputs random variates according to a normal distribution (a normally distributed random number generator) needs not uniform random variates as its input. Sure, that is one way to do it, but the function could also transform an existing normal random variate, or it could build a normal distribution off of multiple independent but identically distributed random variables.

The output of a function with a normal probability distribution is a (normal) random variate. To me that is a form of random. If you want to use a different definition where "random" means "uniformly random" or "equiprobable", that's very fine and all, but then you can replace my usage of "random" in this discussion with "nondeterministic".

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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.
Correct me if I am wrong. You appear to assume that the only primaeval form of nondeterminism is equiprobability; in your opinion other probability distributions are the result of some "deterministic process" which permutes the primaeval equiprobability into some non-uniform distribution.

In reference to physics, you would admit the possibility of stochastic wave function collapse, but only if such stochastic events are ultimately determined by pure equiprobability.

This necessarily precludes those souls I was talking about, and free will as I understand it, and God for that matter (but God is already out of the picture in this thread). The brand of libertarianism I was and am describing depends on stochastic wave function collapse within the brain being the result of the non-deterministic but non-equiprobable will of a nonmaterial soul.

As I imagine it, that soul can pick and choose between options it is given. Those options are determined by physical constraints, namely the physical structure of the brain. The soul would make decisions with or without regard to the inputs presented to it (bodily signals). It is influenced by such inputs, but it is not controlled by them. You cannot predict with 100% accuracy what the soul will choose by looking at the inputs. Even if you know all there is to know, the soul is a prime mover and cannot be definitely predicted.

But the soul does not make uniformly random decisions. Most of the time, its actions (physical events effected by the soul via the body) can be predicted with great accuracy based on history and the inputs it is presented with. This is because the soul is a somewhat rational agent. Even so, the soul has the capacity to act unpredictably. Therefore the soul may act randomly, but it does not flow from equiprobability. The soul is god-like, and within physical constraints set by the body it effects physical actions however it pleases. There are factors, but no set of factors fully constitute deterministic causation.

I identify the soul as self. I might be given the choice between strawberries and peppers, and although I usually want the strawberries, I am not necessarily bound to want them. Maybe I want to try something new one day, or just to pick peppers out of spite. In at least some situations I have it in my power to pick the peppers despite my history of choosing strawberries over peppers. There are enough opportunities for whatever magick that connects me to this body to effect the reality where I choose peppers, without violating any physical laws. This last part is in theory a testable hypothesis, but in current practice the brain is too complex and our understanding of it too lacking to build an experiment.

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I don't have to be able to examine the inner workings of something to test hypotheses against it
You do have to be able to examine the inner workings of something to test hypotheses that concern its inner workings.

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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.
The conclusion does not follow because I denied the other premise.

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I dunno what those workings are, but something in there is determining that people don't act randomly.
Much earlier, I said it was the structure of the brain. Perhaps the mind is also deterministic, but that is non-falsifiable and incompatible with my understanding of free will.

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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.
I think this demonstrates that we are not on the same page. I don't think there is a mechanism "generating" the mind. My mind, that is, I - I act based on preferences and feelings, etc. But at least some of the time, I have the power to do otherwise, to contradict my own preferences and feelings, for no reason other than "just because I want to".

I don't have to have a reason to want something, but there are usually plenty of reasons to pick from. Preferences, feelings, and experience might prefer one course of action, but the other course of action is almost never without its own (if less preferred) benefits. I have the power to want and choose the alternative, and have done so often, even if it makes less sense to me, even if I think about the question for a long time instead of just "picking at random". I may willfully cut short consideration of other options without a compelling reason to do so.

The theoretically testable hypothesis is that the physics of the brain creates a superposition of multiple brain states, one for each possible choice in every decision I make. The nonfalsifiable assumption is that a nonphysical consciousness collapses the wave function.

Or perhaps you meant to write "deterministic factors between the mind and physical actions of the body" instead of "the mechanism generating the mind", where "deterministic factors" means the physical structure of the brain. In that case we may simply disagree as to how "extremely tamped down" the future is by the physical state of the present. See the previous paragraph.

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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!
Well, I said God-like and this is a thread about atheist positions. I continue to think you are using a different sense of the word "random" than I am, but I have already addressed that in this post. Maybe after this we can do a thread about God. Which reminds me, I probably should check on the religion thread because it may have been marked as read, too...

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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.
Nothing I wrote in that quote makes sense if "random" means equiprobable, and nothing in this part of your post follows if "random" includes souls or people doing things or wanting things without being forced to do so by the rules of physics.

People do act as if they have free will, on the macro scale. Some people will actually respond, "yeah, I believe that I have free will". People often make one decision for so-so reasons despite a more rational alternative being available. They don't have to play eeny-meeny-miny-moe to make a nondeterministic decision. What about the decision to continue considering options?

Nevertheless, my understanding of the current science is that the brain is too complicated for us to definitively follow any assumed chain of causation of any "willful act" from the body through the brain and back outside of the brain. And therefore we cannot functionally test or observe (or confirm) that such a chain of causation exists. I will admit that if such a chain of causation does exist, my position would become untenable.

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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.
Human behavior says little about the internal workings of human minds. Human behavior does not even prove that minds exist, we have to make that assumption. Instead, I thought we were going with your own mind, the one you have intimate (but incomplete) knowledge of. You think and do not act with wild abandon. The other premise is that the mind of one who thinks and does not act with wild abandon is functionally deterministic, and I reject that premise.

The premise of determinism, of functional determinism, the fundamental assumption of physics, is ultimately a generalization of directly observed phenomena. On account of the fact that we cannot directly and passively observe the very small, physics is imprecise. Here we entertain the idea that there exist certain ambiguities in the laws of physics, namely when and how wavefunctions collapse. And the libertarian says, it is a non-material soul which induces the collapse, by making nondeterministic "decisions" based on "free will".

You seem to counter by asserting that this non-material soul, if it exists, must necessarily abide to some sort of physics, either uniformly stochastic or deterministic. This assertion functionally rules out libertarianism. You can either back that up, which I believe is impossible with deductive logic, or add it to the list of assumptions necessary to support your argument.

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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!
Well yes, there's that. But I don't think that counts as free will because, as you said, the mind doesn't care.

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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.)
Free will implies that I could in fact choose and want to eat the glass. It's not like this is simple enough to build an experiment. There are too many variables to control for. One of the possible outputs would involve eating broken glass, eg: me eating broken glass (what happened to the peppers?) to prove a point.

Now, there are reasons for me to pick the strawberries. I like strawberries more than broken glass. I am told that eating broken glass is painful, and all the indicators are that it will be painful.

There are also reasons to choose the broken glass, mainly spite but also principle and curiosity. In most situations I would still choose the strawberries, but I can imagine certain situations where I freely choose to eat broken glass. It should be possible to eat thin glass if you first chew it into sand. Don't try this at home, kids.

If you did a blinded experiment, I doubt anybody who understands the choices would eat broken glass. But what does that prove? In real life, people aren't always blinded as to the consequences and interpretation of their choices. I hesitate to extrapolate any finding from a blinded experiment of human behavior to human behavior in general.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
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.
Perhaps you and I have a different understanding of physics. You probably know better than I, as I haven't been formally educated in these matters. But my understanding is that the brain state is in fact a "Schrodinger's preference", meaning that it is most accurately described by a quantum wave function. There are, to my knowledge, three major ways of interpreting this: one, some magical entity (an "observer") determines which classical state is real; two, all possible classical states constitute distinct realities; three, there is only one reality underneath the wave function but we do not/can not have the information to describe it.

Further, my understanding is that the third interpretation is largely discredited, the second interpretation is unpopular (but less so recently), and the first interpretation is widespread.

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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.
I don't think those are laws to begin with, certainly not in the mathematical sense. I have already said that there are circumstances under which I might eat hot peppers instead of strawberries - to disprove your point, for example. Certainly I have it within my power to eat broken glass, under certain circumstances, for the same reason. You could take this to the extreme and ask if I would mortally harm myself or others to prove a point - absent some extreme circumstances, the answer will be no. But I can attribute extreme limits to the "deterministic factors" that I do not identify as self, the same way that two dice cannot usually come up with thirteen dots, even if I arranged them by hand instead of "rolling" them.

And this arranging of dice by myself is a very good analogy of the nondeterminism or randomness that I speak of, in contrast to rolling of dice as you seem to think is the only possible form of randomness or nondeterminism.

When we talk about the mind retaining state and preferences, there is no occasion to say that there is some mechanism that determines how such properties exist. Preferences change over time, for example. And mental state only exists so far as we stipulate that it exists. There is no evidence for the existence of a mind, or its relation to the brain, except what we stipulate. I am here refusing to stipulate that there is any fully deterministic mental process, while also refusing to stipulate that the only mental nondeterminism is based on some mechanical permutation of uniform randomness. You point to the rational behavior of humans as evidence that their minds are either deterministic or functionally deterministic; I say that the same evidence only establishes that their minds are for the most part rational.

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Eh, whatever. You're back now; all good.
Or so we hope I am.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
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.
I think this stems from a misunderstanding between us over the definition of "random", with either you misunderstanding what I mean or me misunderstanding what you mean.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
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 don't understand how you get from a decision made based on preferences to a decision made deterministically. Preferences are not what we have been calling "deterministic factors". If you were to look at a deterministic timeline, there is no such thing as "preferences". There are causes, and there are effects, and literally nothing bears relation to any event except as a cause or effect. Deterministic means it is possible for me to predict with perfect accuracy and precision exactly what will be done in the future, much like a devil replaying a film, or reading a book, who can simply look ahead a couple minutes or paragraphs and see into the future. There is no provision to say, the story may change based on the character's preferences, because in a deterministic sense the character has no agency, his fate is written in permanent ink, as far as the devil is concerned, he does not exist except as a character in a book.

That may be fine with you, and under a different set of axioms than those of libertarianism it may be fine with me, but it still does not follow that clear preferences indicate the property of determinism. I could add an assumption of mental determinism to the list, but you have rejected that before.

What does follow is that the existence of determinism is plainly incompatible with libertarianism. That should be a surprise to neither of us, as the definition of libertarianism is the presence of free will coupled with the absence of determinism.

So, in direct response, I dispute that preferences clearly cause people to act in certain ways. Preferences are mere suggestions. As a counterexample, preferences can be contradictory and can change over time. I might prefer to continue sitting in a comfortible position, but I also prefer to drink water when I feel thirsty. I might prefer if our country allocated so much money to so many national programs, but I might also prefer that total national expenditures are less than national revanue. Preferences can get complicated very quickly, and it is impossible for anyone except yourself to know what preferences factor into any particular decision. Even thinking about my own actions, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether the preferences were considered before or after the act, or which preferences (if any) carried the day. Your take away is that preferences cause people to act, like the downward force on one side of a lever causes the other end to press upward. My take away is that preferences cause actions just as much as advisers cause executives to make decisions - it is not an absolute law of nature.

I have a sneaking suspicion that you may think, if not preferences then surely something - some mechanism, some law, some thing - must cause people to act so orderly. I cannot refute such an assertion, except to say it is as groundless as, and incompatible with, libertarian free will.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
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.
I've said it a few times in this post, but I think you used the word "random" in a different way than I would. I don't see a contradiction between a nondeterministic entity making a rational choice. It is true that rational decision making is usually deterministic, and usually corresponds with "preferences", but it is also true that humans can and have acted both rationally and irrationally, and even rationally-until-they-think-about-it-after-the-fact. The soul can choose to act rationally, and praise be the soul which does so, but it has the power to do otherwise.

~Max
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Old 10-15-2019, 01:28 AM
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In my reading of the article, I didn't notice them suggesting that the "neural noise" was random. And I would consider it axiomatic that the brain state is part of the mechanics of decision-making.
Noise is random by definition. As in not a signal.
But I think this only debunks simple determinism. Say you had a computer which measured internal noise (or the decay of an atom) and branched depending on the result. That program would not be deterministic, but it certainly does not imply any sort of free will.
Whatever free will means.
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Old 10-15-2019, 08:14 AM
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Let's define free will as human action/feelings/thoughts being causally or absolutely determined as opposed to Daniel Dennet's Compatibilism which essentially defines free will as an internal sense of choice.
Dennet's definition makes more sense. In order for free will to be determined in any way, one must first show what is doing the determining. And so far, nobody has.
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Old 10-15-2019, 09:32 AM
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Noise is random by definition. As in not a signal.
But I think this only debunks simple determinism. Say you had a computer which measured internal noise (or the decay of an atom) and branched depending on the result. That program would not be deterministic, but it certainly does not imply any sort of free will.
Whatever free will means.
Noise can result in a deterministic system, it doesn't have to be fundamentally random. In electronics, noise can be just what we use to denote things whose generation is sufficiently opaque, that to us it looks random, even though at rock-bottom it might result from deterministic processes.

As an analogy, think of rolling dice on a craps table. For most purposes, you'd say that the results are random, even though they can be fully described with classical (deterministic) mechanics. It's just that the process of rolling involves so many variables where a slight change makes a large change in the result, that if we're just looking at the large-scale result, we say it's random.
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Old 10-15-2019, 12:50 PM
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Noise can result in a deterministic system, it doesn't have to be fundamentally random. In electronics, noise can be just what we use to denote things whose generation is sufficiently opaque, that to us it looks random, even though at rock-bottom it might result from deterministic processes.

As an analogy, think of rolling dice on a craps table. For most purposes, you'd say that the results are random, even though they can be fully described with classical (deterministic) mechanics. It's just that the process of rolling involves so many variables where a slight change makes a large change in the result, that if we're just looking at the large-scale result, we say it's random.
IC feature sizes are now small enough to get into quantum effects, and so are inherently random. And my example of a switch built around radioactive decay is - unless you think that radioactive decay is somehow deterministic.
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Old Yesterday, 04:15 PM
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Max S, I'm gonna distill our exchange down quite a bit, because it's getting kind of big.

It's become clear that the 'randomity' you talk about is actually this 'soul' thing you're positing. As best I can tell, the soul things you're positing have the following properties:

1) They don't behave randomly in actual practice. Virtually no eating of glass occurs. You attribute this to the soul being a "somewhat rational agent".

2) You maintain that the souls are still somewhat random though, because that serves the end of allowing your definition of free will. Glass eating might happen, any second now!

3) You think it's very important to consider the souls to have no internal logic, laws, or mechanics. Enough so to assert that things that cannot be directly observed cannot be studied, despite 90+%* of science being the study of unobservable things via indirect observation of things they impact that we can observe.

* It might be more correct to say that 100% of science is the result of indirect observation, since simple visual observation is itself indirect via light ricocheting off of things and then that light is what's collected and interpreted by our optical systems.


Suffice to say, the instant people tell me that a soul processes memories, engages in deductive reasoning, and generally behaves in a logical manner, I instantly conclude with absolute certainty that souls clearly must have internal mechanics. The notion that that sort of output is random is nonsense. I mean, it's completely absurd. A brain doesn't randomly decide that it would rather eat strawberries than broken glass - such a decision inherently includes enough deliberation to understand what strawberries and glass are. There is data processing happening. Memory access. Cognitive processing. Thoughts. Opinions. A process is most definitely occurring. Heck, we detect some of the the thoughts as they're happening!

The argument that we cannot conclude this because we cannot observe the souls directly, besides being absurd, is somewhat reminiscent of the notion that because we can crack people's skulls open and only find an inert gray sponge in there that clearly isn't doing the thinking, something else must be doing it. You can't see neurons processing, so it clearly isn't happening, therefore the heart is doing it or maybe pixies or whatever.

Suffice to say, I reject this. If something is behaving in a "rational" manner, it clearly is rationalizing. Now its rationalization my not be perfectly logical, leading to "irrational" or "mad" behavior, but there's still a rationalization process occurring. If there are souls, then those souls do indeed function and calculate and remember things and make assessments based on opinions in a very systematic and mechanized manner, because that's the only way to get they "output" they produce (not to mention the thinking experience).

So, putting aside nonsense about souls being ineffable, where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us with a decision-making process that references remembered data and new inputs and calculates responses based on them. This decision-making process might be taking place in a meat-computer brain, or it might be taking place in an ectoplasm-computer soul, but either way it's definitely happening. Where it's happening doesn't matter in the slightest, as far as the free will discussion goes.

What does matter is the answer to these two questions:
1) Is non-rational randomity based on no stored data and no new inputs being included as a factor in the rational decision making process?

2) If randomity is permuting the results of decision making, how is that a good thing?

My personal answers to these questions are 1) No, irrational based-on-nothing randomity is not a significant factor in human decision making, and 2) it wouldn't be a good thing if it was.
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