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  #101  
Old 08-07-2019, 02:52 PM
begbert2 is offline
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For the record, I don't assume that crazy people lack free will, and have never heard anybody but you suggest they do. They see reality different than I do and have different priorities, but still make decisions from their own perspective.

I also don't consider having a gun to your head to rob you of your free will; you could always choose death, after all. There are probably some actions you would choose death rather than do. In either case you are still making the decision yourself - you just have to choose amongst terrible options.
  #102  
Old 08-07-2019, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
...

It only "sure seems like it" when you haven't thought about it long and hard enough. I think if people were more familiar with neuroscience, they would see that free will doesn't have a lot of usefulness. It is feel-good pap for those who don't care to dig deeper.
Just curious - what is your neuroscientific education/training/experience?
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  #103  
Old 08-07-2019, 03:09 PM
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For the record, I don't assume that crazy people lack free will, and have never heard anybody but you suggest they do. They see reality different than I do and have different priorities, but still make decisions from their own perspective.
I find that hard to believe. You've never heard someone say insane people don't know right from wrong? What this implies is that crazy people can't be judged as immoral because something in their mind prevents them from making good choices. They see a knife and are uninhibited in picking it up and stabbing someone, because their brain fails to override this impulse. They become convinced God has commanded them to drown their baby and lack the cognitive ability to ignore this order.

Everyone sees reality differently and has different priorities. If that was enough to make someone crazy, we'd all need to be committed.

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I also don't consider having a gun to your head to rob you of your free will; you could always choose death, after all. There are probably some actions you would choose death rather than do. In either case you are still making the decision yourself - you just have to choose amongst terrible options.
If choosing to eat vanilla instead of chocolate ice cream is as much of an exercise of "free will" as choosing to do anything under the threat of murder, then its a meaningless concept and a rather shallow philosophical exercise to talk about it.

Last edited by you with the face; 08-07-2019 at 03:11 PM.
  #104  
Old 08-07-2019, 03:20 PM
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For the record, I don't assume that crazy people lack free will, and have never heard anybody but you suggest they do. They see reality different than I do and have different priorities, but still make decisions from their own perspective.
By the way, all I did was google free will and insanity and I found this PubMed abstract: Free will, neuroscience, and choice: towards a decisional capacity model for insanity defense evaluations.

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]Free will has often been considered central to criminal responsibility. Yet, the concept of free will is also difficult to define and operationalize, and, moreover, it is intensely debated. In particular, the very existence of free will has been denied based on recent neuroscience findings. This debate has significant implications on those fields in which the link between free will and behaviour is the main focus of interest, such as forensic psychiatry. In fact, a tension is often experienced between the centrality of the notion of free will on the one hand, and its controversial status on the other. This tension needs to be addressed, especially in forensic psychiatry, since it is relevant for actual assessments of legal insanity. In the present paper we will try to operationalize “free will” using a fourpartite decision-making capacity model, which can be used in forensic assessment of insanity. We will describe its advantages and application to guide mental insanity assessments. Whereas free will is often considered problematic from a neuroscience perspective, this model, we argue, is compatible with neuroscience; moreover, evaluations using this model can also be informed and strengthened by neuroscientific findings, for example regarding inhibitory control.
  #105  
Old 08-07-2019, 03:24 PM
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Just curious - what is your neuroscientific education/training/experience?
I am a biologist by training. And I have read several books about neuroscience and its discoveries, though they were geared towards lay people.

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  #106  
Old 08-07-2019, 03:26 PM
begbert2 is offline
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I find that hard to believe. You've never heard someone say insane people don't know right from wrong? What this implies is that crazy people can't be judged as immoral because something in their mind prevents them from making good choices. They see a knife and are uninhibited in picking it up and stabbing someone, because their brain fails to override this impulse. They become convinced God has commanded them to drown their baby and lack the cognitive ability to ignore this order.

Everyone sees reality differently and has different priorities. If that was enough to make someone crazy, we'd all need to be committed.
There's a huge difference between not knowing right from wrong and being incapable of freely choosing between options based on your blue and orange morality. I mean, you say it yourself - it's not knowing right from wrong - it's a knowledge and awareness issue. There have been many times where I didn't know right from wrong and made choices - and then somebody angrily told me what they thought was right and wrong. The crazy people you're talking about just aren't cognitively capable of comprehending and incorporating an understanding of objective reality into their decision-making process.

And most of the people I know claim that their God has commanded them to do things, and "lack the cognitive ability" to ignore the orders. If that's a benchmark for being too crazy to have free will, then I'm not sure I know many sane people.

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If choosing to eat vanilla instead of chocolate ice cream is as much of an exercise of "free will" as choosing to do anything under the threat of murder, then its a meaningless concept and a rather shallow philosophical exercise to talk about it.
Whether a subject is worthy of discussion is a value judgement, and I don't agree with you. Discussing free will is fun.

And "free will" is not the same thing as "is fortunate enough to always have only pleasant options to choose between".

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By the way, all I did was google free will and insanity and I found this PubMed abstract: Free will, neuroscience, and choice: towards a decisional capacity model for insanity defense evaluations.
Mm-hmm. I'm already talking to a few people with odd definitions of free will in this very thread. Am I to be disturbed by a summary that implies somebody else is trying (explicitly!) to redefine the term to mean something different?
  #107  
Old 08-07-2019, 03:39 PM
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Any atheists here who believe in free will?
Why? Should I?

-or-

Why should I?

Non-atheists and many atheists believe we all give it a whole lot of thought, like they do. The excluded muddle stopped at "a god isn't needed to make shit work," and left it at that.
  #108  
Old 08-07-2019, 04:18 PM
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There's a huge difference between not knowing right from wrong and being incapable of freely choosing between options based on your blue and orange morality. I mean, you say it yourself - it's not knowing right from wrong - it's a knowledge and awareness issue.
To be clear, “not knowing right from wrong” isn’t any educated person’s definition of insanity, but its a common enough view that to claim never encountering it defies belief.

And really, you’re still defying it by parsing the word “know” literally. If insanity was thought to be a simple lack of knowledge, we’d be committing the mentally ill to schools rather than hospitals. Calling it a “knowledge and awareness issue” is so obviously wrong that it’s borderline offensive. Someone who eats a bullet after being tormented with suicidal ideation is not just ignorant or misinformed; their brain is producing pathological thought patterns that are beyond their control, driving them to do harm to themselves.

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The crazy people you're talking about just aren't cognitively capable of comprehending and incorporating an understanding of objective reality into their decision-making process.
Some of them are. Depressed people who commit suicde often rationally know killing themselves is bad. The person who is unable to resist the impulse to grab and stab also might know this is bad. Where things breakdown is not their comprehension of reality; it’s their ability to regulate their behavior. The mental checks and balances that keep normal people in line are faulty in the mental ill.

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Whether a subject is worthy of discussion is a value judgement, and I don't agree with you. Discussing free will is fun.
So what deeper insights are obtainable from a discussion about free will if we start with the premise that that everyone from the mental ill, hostage victims, two year olds, and Jane Doe miscelllanious person on the street, all exercise free will? What is there really to talk about if we’re not supposed to see important differences in the kind of choices available to these people based on the limitations of their mind?

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Mm-hmm. I'm already talking to a few people with odd definitions of free will in this very thread. Am I to be disturbed by a summary that implies somebody else is trying (explicitly!) to redefine the term to mean something different?
Not at all. You’re supposed to merely see how insular and unread it looks to say you’ve never heard it argued the mentally ill are deficient in free will. It’s like saying you never heard of California.
  #109  
Old 08-07-2019, 04:33 PM
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If anyone should believe in free will, it’s atheists. The opposite of free will, as originally conceived, specifically requires us to be constrained in our behavior by a creator.

And in reality, we should know by now that it is not a simple dichotomy anyway. There are degrees and grades of freedom, depending on the complexity of the particular system and it’s relationship to the environment and other systems.

It also seems like the whole free will debates that are typically made are often mislabeled attempts to really argue about the nature of consciousness rather choice.
  #110  
Old 08-07-2019, 04:48 PM
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To be clear, “not knowing right from wrong” isn’t any educated person’s definition of insanity, but its a common enough view that to claim never encountering it defies belief.

And really, you’re still defying it by parsing the word “know” literally. If insanity was thought to be a simple lack of knowledge, we’d be committing the mentally ill to schools rather than hospitals. Calling it a “knowledge and awareness issue” is so obviously wrong that it’s borderline offensive. Someone who eats a bullet after being tormented with suicidal ideation is not just ignorant or misinformed; their brain is producing pathological thought patterns that are beyond their control, driving them to do harm to themselves.

Some of them are. Depressed people who commit suicde often rationally know killing themselves is bad. The person who is unable to resist the impulse to grab and stab also might know this is bad. Where things breakdown is not their comprehension of reality; it’s their ability to regulate their behavior. The mental checks and balances that keep normal people in line are faulty in the mental ill.
Cognition is not an emotionless, analytical process. Emotion is involved as well. Emotion can effect decision-making, of course. It's not all about rationality, and if you're trying to define "free will" as "only makes purely rational, analytical decisions", then you have excluded pretty much all of humanity.

It's interesting to ponder the effect that mind-altering chemicals have on cognition, but things get odd when you try to say that introducing them eliminates free will because there are 'mind-altering chemicals' in everyone's brains all the time. It's sort of like the earlier argument that getting really angry could somehow abrogate free will; people always have an emotional state, so why would some emotions and not others interfere? And on a similar point, if a person's insanity is generated by their own brain chemicals, why does their arrangement of chemicals break it, and not everyone's?

Externally introducing mind-altering chemicals alters cognitive function. (Not to state the obvious or anything.) But does it abrogate free will? And if so, when? Does taking a whiff of a beer and letting a handful of aerosol alcohol particles enter your nasal vessels shut it off? Does taking an aspirin to reduce a headache shut it off?

Myself, I come at this from the approach that free will is being free from something. Traditionally that 'something' was God, gods, or the fates. Supernatural entities that reach in and take control.

If your position is instead that your own brain is what you need to be free of, then nobody has free will, obviously. And 'their own brain' is the thing that these insane people are being manipulated by. I don't think it's sensible to say that they have to be free of their own brains to have free will.

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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
So what deeper insights are obtainable from a discussion about free will if we start with the premise that that everyone from the mental ill, hostage victims, two year olds, and Jane Doe miscelllanious person on the street, all exercise free will? What is there really to talk about if we’re not supposed to see important differences in the kind of choices available to these people based on the limitations of their mind?
Well, first you can notice that hostage victims aren't suffering from limitations on their minds, and that if your approach to free will is reliant on grouping them in with people who arguably do then your approach to free will has a problem. Of all the things which could theoretically abrogate free will, having a gun to your head is not one of them.

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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
Not at all. You’re supposed to merely see how insular and unread it looks to say you’ve never heard it argued the mentally ill are deficient in free will. It’s like saying you never heard of California.
I'll concede I haven't engaged in many discussion of free will where people try to say that large swaths of the human population don't have it, but others do. Because, to be frank, that's absurd. Honestly it sounds like the first steps towards justifying a pogrom.
  #111  
Old 08-07-2019, 05:18 PM
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'Imagine you're blue. In this allegory you're blue, therefore you're really blue.'

...

The Demon doesn't actually see into the future; it only extrapolates from the data available in the present.
I fail to see any functional difference between extrapolating the future with 100% accuracy and actually seeing the future. The point of the allegory was not to proclaim that you or reality is fictional, but to show that your "choice" is pre-determined just like a character's choices in a fiction movie.

I wasn't totally sure that you admitted this stipulation, but it is clear now that you do.

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Mental math on these preferences is carried out, concluding with the decision that I should eat the strawberries.

...

That "mental math"? That's a choice.
As I said before, you must be using an unorthodox definition of "decision". Normally it is nonsensical to talk of a person making a decision where only one option is presented. Could you elaborate on this?

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Now, for some reason you are saying that choices don't matter if the outcome is predictable. This is, of course, false - if my mental math had mechanically resulted in me eating the ghost peppers, I can say with confidence the resulting agony would have mattered to me, what with pain not being my friend. (The knowledge of that being why my mechanics would probably direct me not to eat them.)
Having stipulated that your "choices" are all pre-determined, I can only guess that you have redefined "choice". In my understanding of the word, a choice between one option only is no choice at all. It is not even a Hobson's choice. Your mental cognition could not, or should I say will not result in you eating the ghost peppers; that would be physically impossible. You do not have it in your power to eat the ghost peppers, or to eat neither. You think you can choose otherwise, but to the demon this is demonstrably false because it is physically impossible for you to "choose" anything except the strawberries. You say that is a choice, but how can it be a choice if you have not the power to effect an alternative result?

You say "if my mental math had mechanically resulted in me eating the ghost peppers", but this is moot because if the demon predicts that you will eat the strawberries, your mental math cannot result in you eating the ghost peppers.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
And honestly, I don't see why I should be bothered by the fact that the mechanics of my brain and mind and thoughts determine what I'm going to do.
I'm not bothered when you bring up predeterminism, and I am not necessarily bothered with the union of predeterminism and free will (depending on the definition of free will). I am bothered when you say predeterminism is compatible with the ability for people to make decisions or choices, because it would seem that makes a contradiction.

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Because what's the alternative?
A lack of appealing alternatives does not remove the apparent incohesiveness of your own philosophy. One alternative is found in dualism. Another alternative is found by rejecting free will. Yet another alternative is a rejection of free will and determinism.

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Of course the murderer had a choice; his brain went through with the process of assessing his situation, options, opinions, feelings, and beliefs, and based on that weird stew of emotion, stimulus, and sociopathy he chose to do something terrible.
Here you are redefining "choice" to include a situation where only one path is physically impossible, or perhaps I misunderstand. How can it still be a choice if it is physically impossible to select any other option? Assuming predeterminism, I could only say he did something terrible, or that he appeared to choose to do something terrible, not that he chose to do something terrible.

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In any case, the fact that Sandy Hook was predeterminied (presuming no random events occur) does not by any measure mean that we shouldn't hold criminals responsible for their actions. Sure their choices were ultimately determined by their state and environment, but the bulk of the state that resulted in those decisions was in their head, so removing that head from a position where it can decide to do more crimes will result in a more pleasant experience for everybody else.
I don't understand you. Metaphysically you are saying that everything, everything can be determined by the previous state of the universe. That includes the murderer's state of mind. The murderer's state of mind at the moment he fires into a schoolhouse can be determined with 100% accuracy by looking at the state of the universe at the previous instant. The murderer's state of mind at the previous instant can be determined by looking at the state of the universe the instant before that. Etcetera until we reach the point where the murderer's mind exists in one instant and does not exist in the previous instant, or if you want to avoid the sorites paradox, at some point the murderer did not exist at all yet with enough information we could extrapolate exactly when and where he will shoot schoolchildren. There is no room for alternatives - our prediction, if we were as informed as Laplace's demon, would be exact.

For you to assign culpability is then to redefine culpability, because in the normal sense of the word there is no culpability when one has no power to effect an alternative; there is no culpability if one has no choice. Let's say you had a neurological disorder which caused you to constantly pinch and unpinch your thumb and forefinger as if you were using a television remote. This specific disorder also makes it so that your brain is essentially hotwired to consciously perform this action; you want to pinch your fingers together. I place an unarmed button-style nuclear detonator in your hand, such that it cannot be removed, and tell you not to press the button or millions of people will die. Your neurological disorder means you want to press the button anyways, so you do so. Your "decision" takes place entirely within your head. I tell you the button will be armed in one minute. One minute later some city blows up. I am obviously a monster, but I escape while you are caught by the authorities. Assuming you can prove exactly what happened, do you have any sort of culpability?

~Max
  #112  
Old 08-07-2019, 06:15 PM
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As I said before, you must be using an unorthodox definition of "decision". Normally it is nonsensical to talk of a person making a decision where only one option is presented. Could you elaborate on this?
A choice is a selection between multiple possible options, and when the deterministic meat robot named begbert2 is staring at those two plates, it is considering multiple possible options. The processes it uses to assess the options are deterministic, yes, and in the end a single specific outcome will be decided upon, but that outcome was chosen from among several options. And the fact that in the end only a single one of those choices was picked doesn't mean there weren't multiple options being considered and selected from.

Look at it this way: by your argument, you have never made a choice in your life. Because when you look back, you only selected one of the possible options, and that's the one you selected. That's the one option that occurred; only one outcome took place, and none of the others.

In hindsight, one outcome was inevitable, because it was the one outcome you didn't evit. (Avoid). Foresight is the same way: you look into the future, and only see one outcome. In both cases it doesn't mean that other options weren't considered and chosen from.

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Having stipulated that your "choices" are all pre-determined, I can only guess that you have redefined "choice". In my understanding of the word, a choice between one option only is no choice at all. It is not even a Hobson's choice. Your mental cognition could not, or should I say will not result in you eating the ghost peppers; that would be physically impossible. You do not have it in your power to eat the ghost peppers, or to eat neither. You think you can choose otherwise, but to the demon this is demonstrably false because it is physically impossible for you to "choose" anything except the strawberries. You say that is a choice, but how can it be a choice if you have not the power to effect an alternative result?

You say "if my mental math had mechanically resulted in me eating the ghost peppers", but this is moot because if the demon predicts that you will eat the strawberries, your mental math cannot result in you eating the ghost peppers.
You demonstrate awareness that "could not" and "will not" don't mean the same thing. Which is correct. And in this discussion, it's very important.

That's the subtle thing about this - free will doesn't require you to choose a different option - it only states that you have to have been able to pick a different option if you wanted to. And that still applies here - it's just that you don't want to. The scenario in question, between a desirable thing and an undesirable thing, it can occur within any model of free will. Choosing the desirable thing doesn't automatically mean you don't have free will. You only lack free will if you didn't have the ability to choose differently even if you had wanted to.

In the deterministic model, if I had wanted to eat the death peppers I could have done so. But I didn't - and that fact is observable by examining my brain state. The mind works on sensible rules - the mind, the desires of the mind, determines what it chooses. To argue that that's not the case is to say that humans are completely random, which conflicts with all evidence. Which means that we do indeed have state that determines our actions - under any non-absurd cognition model, even one involving souls.

The Demon simply has an insider line into our internal state. It doesn't change that state - if I had wanted to eat peppers, it couldn't do anything about that. But I didn't, so it saw my choice coming, based on knowing what I want, based on knowing my mental state.

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I'm not bothered when you bring up predeterminism, and I am not necessarily bothered with the union of predeterminism and free will (depending on the definition of free will). I am bothered when you say predeterminism is compatible with the ability for people to make decisions or choices, because it would seem that makes a contradiction.
Again, it depends on how the predetermination works. If your actions are predetermined against your will, where an external force is manipulating your environments or even your thoughts to force you to kill your father and screw your mother, then that's incompatible with free will because it posits an external force you aren't free from. But if your fate is predetermined by your own actions and choices, as in my model, then that's not an abrogation of free will - that's you making your own bed and lying in it.

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A lack of appealing alternatives does not remove the apparent incohesiveness of your own philosophy. One alternative is found in dualism. Another alternative is found by rejecting free will. Yet another alternative is a rejection of free will and determinism.
And, of course, there's making a closer examination and determining that what was apparently incohesiveness, wasn't.

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Here you are redefining "choice" to include a situation where only one path is physically impossible, or perhaps I misunderstand. How can it still be a choice if it is physically impossible to select any other option? Assuming predeterminism, I could only say he did something terrible, or that he appeared to choose to do something terrible, not that he chose to do something terrible.
But he did make choices. He made his bed and lay in it - and just because the train wreck would be predictable to a sufficiently informed outside observer doesn't mean he didn't do it himself.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I don't understand you. Metaphysically you are saying that everything, everything can be determined by the previous state of the universe. That includes the murderer's state of mind. The murderer's state of mind at the moment he fires into a schoolhouse can be determined with 100% accuracy by looking at the state of the universe at the previous instant. The murderer's state of mind at the previous instant can be determined by looking at the state of the universe the instant before that. Etcetera until we reach the point where the murderer's mind exists in one instant and does not exist in the previous instant, or if you want to avoid the sorites paradox, at some point the murderer did not exist at all yet with enough information we could extrapolate exactly when and where he will shoot schoolchildren. There is no room for alternatives - our prediction, if we were as informed as Laplace's demon, would be exact.

For you to assign culpability is then to redefine culpability, because in the normal sense of the word there is no culpability when one has no power to effect an alternative; there is no culpability if one has no choice.
Whether or not you can predict it, it's still the murder's mind making the troublesome decision calculations - the choices. It doesn't matter that he only chose one course of action in the end, or that other people's choices resulted in him being born. His choices were still his own, and he definitely still made them.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Let's say you had a neurological disorder which caused you to constantly pinch and unpinch your thumb and forefinger as if you were using a television remote. This specific disorder also makes it so that your brain is essentially hotwired to consciously perform this action; you want to pinch your fingers together. I place an unarmed button-style nuclear detonator in your hand, such that it cannot be removed, and tell you not to press the button or millions of people will die. Your neurological disorder means you want to press the button anyways, so you do so. Your "decision" takes place entirely within your head. I tell you the button will be armed in one minute. One minute later some city blows up. I am obviously a monster, but I escape while you are caught by the authorities. Assuming you can prove exactly what happened, do you have any sort of culpability?

~Max
Okay, this is a response to not understanding that just because you are predictable that doesn't mean you still aren't taking your own actions. This is not a proper analogy, because in your analogy I never make any decisions that lead to the negative outcome. That very much does not apply to people who make the choice to murder on their own with their own minds.

Last edited by begbert2; 08-07-2019 at 06:16 PM.
  #113  
Old 08-07-2019, 06:23 PM
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I am a biologist by training. And I have read several books about neuroscience and its discoveries, though they were geared towards lay people.

...
Cool, you've definitely got more science than I do.

Reminds me of when my HS dtr was working in the library shelving books. She brought home a book on genetics. Said it was directed at lay people, but didn't distort things too much. I made it through page 17. When I told her, she said, Good to know. Next time I'm shelving in juvenile I'll look for something for you with pop-ups!"

Doubt I'll have much more to add here.
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  #114  
Old 08-07-2019, 07:21 PM
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That's the subtle thing about this - free will doesn't require you to choose a different option - it only states that you have to have been able to pick a different option if you wanted to. And that still applies here - it's just that you don't want to.
But don't you see? Predeterminism means it is impossible for you to want otherwise, therefore it is meaningless to say you "have been able to pick a different option if you wanted to". The alternative reality where you picked the death peppers did not, does not, will not ever possibly exist. There is no path between T0 and T1 where you eat peppers at T1.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
In the deterministic model, if I had wanted to eat the death peppers I could have done so.
You could not have wanted to eat the death peppers. Assuming predeterminism, you don't have a choice in what you "want" any more than you have a choice in what you "do".

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Okay, this is a response to not understanding that just because you are predictable that doesn't mean you still aren't taking your own actions. This is not a proper analogy, because in your analogy I never make any decisions that lead to the negative outcome. That very much does not apply to people who make the choice to murder on their own with their own minds.
Either I misunderstand you or you misunderstand me, because I fail to see the difference between the "choice" made in the detonator analogy and the "choice" made in the strawberry analogy. Specifically I don't see any functional difference between a brain disorder which leaves only one possible option and predetermination which leaves only one possible option. Could point how they are different?

I had thought about an analogy where I pushed you over and you fell on a child, but it occurred to me that you might object in that your brain and cognition had no role in the child's injury. In the analogy of the detonator, your brain with its disorder actually causes the bomb to detonate, and does so willingly after considering the millions of lives at stake. I don't expect you to argue that you are more than your brain, and I don't expect you to absolve yourself of culpability on the basis of a neurological disorder unless you claim that you did not press the button, or that you were not a person. In those cases, the followup question is "why not?" and I think the answer will contradict something else you said.

~Max
  #115  
Old 08-07-2019, 07:55 PM
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Either I misunderstand you or you misunderstand me, because I fail to see the difference between the "choice" made in the detonator analogy and the "choice" made in the strawberry analogy. Specifically I don't see any functional difference between a brain disorder which leaves only one possible option and predetermination which leaves only one possible option. Could point how they are different?

~Max
I'll take a stab at it.

We can observe and identify a brain disorder. We can even induce one. We've not yet identified predetermination except as a hypothesis. So they are different in the way that we can reproduce one and not the other.
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  #116  
Old 08-07-2019, 08:37 PM
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Some of them are. Depressed people who commit suicde often rationally know killing themselves is bad. The person who is unable to resist the impulse to grab and stab also might know this is bad. Where things breakdown is not their comprehension of reality; it’s their ability to regulate their behavior. The mental checks and balances that keep normal people in line are faulty in the mental ill.

I'm going to quibble with you here, as someone who has experienced suicidal ideation.

When I was in the throes of depression, I intellectually understood that my suicide would hurt others and thus was "bad". But did I emotionally understand this? Nah. The idea of dying felt good. Really, really good. The idea of my family being stricken by grief registered very little emotion in me. It was something I needed to be regularly reminded of because it was easy to forget (please don't hate me! I was sick!).

I don't know why I didn't kill myself. But I suspect it was because my suicidal ideation would come and go. I would experience it for a several minutes (like while sitting in a dreadful staff meeting) and then it would fade. And when it wasn't there, I could usually look back and see how much I was buggin'. I suspect if my suicidal thoughts had been persistent and not paired with the afterwash shaming thought of "You are buggin'!", I probably would have done...something..

So I don't think that mentally ill people just have a problem with regulating their behavior (which is a facile argument, if you think about it). I think their behavior would actually make sense if it was possible to look into their thought processes and see the decision tree their brains used to make that choice. I think thought processes are what distinguish so-called sane from so-called insane brains. For the latter, their thoughts aren't connected to the kind of emotions that coerce "sane" behavior, and the content of their thoughts is more disinhibited. They don't think "cute animal" when they see a goat, but instead think "Satan coming to kill me". A less crazy person may have thoughts like this sometimes, but their brains don't bother "tagging" them with any emotion. So the thought just disappears harmlessly. But a crazy brain hangs on to these crazy thoughts and actually treats them like they are "regular" thoughts by associating them with strong emotions. The behavior that follows is thus logical, given the programming they follow from.

This is why I think it is wrong to conclude that so-called normal people have free will but so-called crazy people don't. So-called normal people behave according to the thoughts+feelings that coerce them (whether consciously or subconsciously) just like so-called crazy people do. The difference between them is in the content of their thoughts and the rapid post-processing of those thoughts (i.e., which emotions get attached to them). There is no little/no difference in the degree of "impulsiveness" because none of us are really spending a lot of time thinking before we act. We all act then tell ourselves a "just so" story after the fact that explains our reasoning...and even then, we only do this for acts that we are called out on. For 99% of the acts we perform, we do them seamlessly, without any conscious deliberation and with no Monday morning quarterbacking afterwards.

One gets called "impulsive" when they commit an act that defies (apparent) reasoning. However, if an act makes sense to everyone else or the act winds up having a positive outcome, then the actor gets called wise and contemplative.
  #117  
Old 08-07-2019, 09:23 PM
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I think people severely underestimate the role of emotions in decision-making.

I think the reason I'm so passionate about this topic is because I know what it feels like to not have the sensation of free will. When I was in the worst phase of my depression several years ago, I experienced catatonia. I would be walking down the street on my way to work and suddenly I would freeze. My feet would instantly feel glued to the sidewalk. It was as if I had no "will" to move.

Not only was I always conscious during these spells, but I was hyperconscious of both the world around me and my inner world. My mindspace would always fill with all these swirling, opposing, loud thoughts.

"Move."

"No."

"We will be late to work if you don't move."

"No."

"The cars are honking at us because we are standing in the middle of the intersection. So let's at least get back on the curb."

"No."

"It's hot. Can we at least walk over into the shade."

"No."

"This is weird. We should at least call for help."

"No."

And while all of this would be occurring, there was nothing but numbness. Zero emotions. Not even fear. Even when people were yelling at me.

My hypothesis is that I would freeze up like this whenever my brain stopped being able to associate thoughts with emotions. Without any coercive push (fear of being late or fear of getting run over by cars), my brain couldn't land on any decision. Cuz all the decisions were equal. Standing in the middle of the street seemed just as reasonable as anything else I could come up with.

I have no idea what would occurr in my brain to "unstick" me. All I know is that one moment I wouldn't be stuck and then the next moment, I would be moving in the direction of my office. I never did anything consciously to get myself out of the "no will" moment. It would just happen.

So I think this experience is what helped me to see that (at least for me) I ain't doing any contemplative, deep, fact-based thinking when I make decisions. My feet move not because I consciously will them to move, not because I've weighed the pros and cons of them moving beforehand, but because of impulses coming from my brain that I'm not aware of. If I need emotion to help me decide whether to do something as basic as getting out of the middle of rush hour traffic, then I need emotion to help me make all other decisions. And since I don't consciously decide what my affective state is or whether one particular emotion is associated with one particular thought, then I can't say I authored my decisions free from external constraint, independent of initial conditions (like my brain's executive functioning ability or affective state). All I can say is that I made a decision and maybe it was because of X, Y, or Z.

I don't know why I need to tack on anything more to that statement than that. And I don't know why others feel compelled to tack on anything else either.
  #118  
Old 08-08-2019, 07:01 AM
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I am a biologist by training. And I have read several books about neuroscience and its discoveries, though they were geared towards lay people.

...
Cool, you've definitely got more science than I do.

Reminds me of when my dtr was in HS, and working in the local library shelving books. She brought home a book on genetics. Said it was directed at lay people, but didn't distort things too much. I made it through page 17. When I told her, she said, "Good to know. Next time I'm shelving in juvenile I'll look for something for you with pop-ups!"

Doubt I'll have much more to add here.
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  #119  
Old 08-08-2019, 10:12 AM
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I've said this before but it doesn't seem to provoke discussion; but I'll try again:

In all these discussions of free will versus determinism, we spend a lot of time unpacking what "free" or "choice" or "causal" or "volition" mean. But we treat the "self" -- the consciousness that either is or is not freely choosing, etc -- as if it were self-explanatory.

Let's posit for a moment that Joe Blow, individual, at the moment of behavior-selecting, is "determined by the previous state of the universe" as Max S so eloquently expressed it above. And yet there's a consciousness that experiences emotional intensities, the desire for certain outcomes, as monstro in turn describes, also above. If Joe is not choosing of free will, maybe it makes more sense to say that the Self isn't actually Joe. Joe is just the meatware that acts as the antenna that receives and processes the net sum of all the stimuli and serves as a a localized focus for the "previous state of universe", but the true Self is the comprehensive total of all that's happening and, in its entirely the entire system experiences itself, localized within Joe, as doing all of this deliberately.

We do experience ourselves as thinking, feeling, choosing. We are not an illlusion to ourselves. But perhaps our individual personhood is the illusion.

Before you dismiss this as lots of woo: I'm quite certain that this is true of the social self. In other words, never mind (for now) the whole universe of deterministic physics, let's just look at individual person in the social sea of other people who constitute one's culture. We think we are thinking, feeling, developing opinions at the individual level. We're mostly not. We're mostly processing, at the individual level, ongoing long-term thoughts that the species as a whole (or the culture at any rate) is mulling over, and our input as individuals feeds into what the collective Us is deciding. The vast majority of the concepts we're using as well as the vast majority of the specific opinions that we as individuals hold are actually things we picked from an array of attitudes and beliefs that were "already out there", floating around in our social space, for us to select from. Social-science types (e.g. sociologists) deny free will not in the physics-spacetime-particles-causal-determinism sense but in the social-determinism sense. That we're puppets of our socialization, etc. They're wrong too: the self is not an individual but that doesn't mean there's no self. We're integrated; the species is conscious.

Well, perhaps when you extend the question to the whole gamut of universal physical determinism, which could be used to argue that the entire freaking species doesn't have free will either since it's being acted on by the surrounding universe etc, the self is actually present in the whole situation, being purposeful and not merely passively reacting to something non-Self that constitutes an externalia.
  #120  
Old 08-08-2019, 10:40 AM
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Just want to chime in and say that I concur with monstro 100%, but don't think I have much to add that hasn't been said already. But I will note, in response to:

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So the debate is:
science hasn't proven the existence/mechanism of free will VS it sure seems like we have FW, yet current science is unable to explain it.

. . . that more and more science comes out challenging the idea of free will/choice every day. We witness and understand environmental pressures having predictable outcomes on decision making all the time. The trajectory of the research is that free will is non-existent, yet we continue as a society to fight for policy decisions that ignore this; that sacrifice people/populations at the feet of the god of Free Will.

I'll conclude by saying, I'm going to click the "Post Quick Reply" button. Sometimes I type something and don't. But I choose to today. But maybe it's because I got enough sleep last night. Or maybe what I ate for breakfast. Or that I just scratched my ear and got distracted by the cat. Or maybe the fact that I had a decent childhood. Or maybe my particular balance of hormones combined with my height and weight.

Or, truly, it's a combination of all of those factors, plus an infinite number of others, all influencing what I do in this moment. Clicking the button. Or not. Now I'm feeling like maybe this is nonsense and I shouldn't share it. But I didn't choose to feel that. Will that feeling override my desire to participate in the conversation? I don't know, but I do know that the "choice" I'm about to make is about a chemical assessment of feelings/motivators I'm experiencing; my choice will be directly because of those things, and not in spite of them, or outside of them.
  #121  
Old 08-08-2019, 11:24 AM
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The philosophical question of free will comes down to definition. How you define free will determines whether or not we have free will. You can make either argument, depending on which assumptions you are starting with. This does not, to me, seem all that interesting. I did like the analogy of the video though. If you start with the assumption that people have free will, then if you video someone throughout their day, when you play it back, do they still have free will?

The more interesting question is what effect does the existence or nonexistence free will have on our actual lives.

If someone is charged with a crime, can they claim that they didn't have free will, and so had no choice? If they argue that, can the court argue that it, too, doesn't have free will, and therefore, will punish him anyway?
  #122  
Old 08-08-2019, 12:14 PM
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You can hook up a machine to output different things depending on the clicks of a Geiger counter and the movement of a feather in a turbulent windstorm, but no one would argue that the machine had free will.
If said machine also passed the Turing test and claimed it had free will, I would certainly consider the possibility that it did.
  #123  
Old 08-08-2019, 12:41 PM
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If said machine also passed the Turing test and claimed it had free will, I would certainly consider the possibility that it did.
If you met a person who operated unpredictably, would you think they were of sound mind and body?

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  #124  
Old 08-08-2019, 01:23 PM
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The philosophical question of free will comes down to definition. How you define free will determines whether or not we have free will. You can make either argument, depending on which assumptions you are starting with. This does not, to me, seem all that interesting. I did like the analogy of the video though. If you start with the assumption that people have free will, then if you video someone throughout their day, when you play it back, do they still have free will?

The more interesting question is what effect does the existence or nonexistence free will have on our actual lives.

If someone is charged with a crime, can they claim that they didn't have free will, and so had no choice? If they argue that, can the court argue that it, too, doesn't have free will, and therefore, will punish him anyway?
I have yet to hear a definition of free will other than the one monstro poses that isn't meaningless or fails to, ultimately, have any "there" there.

In your example above, you've reduced the issue to its most meaningless extreme while not examining what true cultural and individual impacts are of an understanding of "no free will". "lah lah, I can do whatever I want because no free will" is not a real argument about free will. Society can still enact rules and structures

A major failing of our judicial system is that we punish people as if they have free will, while at the same time semi-acknowledging that personal biology and background play a huge part in whether or not a particular individual is going to have committed a particular crime.

Granted that there's a huge selective enforcement issue also at play, poor and black people end up in prison at dramatically higher rates than wealthy white people (I know I don't need to convince you of that; cite is for thoroughness). Do poor black people just choose to commit crimes? Is it just kind of a random happenstance? Of course not. I'm not going to unpack this super-complex example here, but suffice to say, there are economic and cultural factors at work, both in society at large, and within interpersonal and family relationships, that keep poor people poor. And then we turn around and imprison them for it. This is the moral tragedy of "free will" thinking. That people who do bad things are operating from the exact same set of inputs as the "good" people, and yet just somehow choose to be bad, and so deserve to pay for that choice.

Society has enacted this "free will" concept of justice and retribution, and clings tightly to it, while we see again and again that crimes and anti-social behavior correlates to identifiable experiences, past or existing trauma, and other contextual details.

In your example, I'd say both the criminal and the court are right to a degree. The problem is that the court (and modern society in general) is not ready to let go of the idea of free will and 100% culpability in favor of . . . something else. I don't know what, and whatever it is would require massive cultural shifts.

Maybe there's a world in which we identify the social contexts under which people are most likely to be anti-social and we focus on removing those contexts. Maybe there's a world in which, because we appreciate that personal "choice" is a response to factors outside of our control, we don't revel in prison rape and abuse and continue to refuse to address the issue, while building more and more prisons.

Any time we admit the truth that "because of X, people in this group are more likely to X," we admit to lack of free will.

Free will seems to require a complete lack of context for everything, both personal physiological context and external context.

As soon as there is a "reason" why a choice was made, there was necessarily a judgment about how important that reason was, in relation to the reasons for not doing a thing. And what that judgment was based upon is a mass of background that is uncontrollable.

Why do I want the things I want? Why do I want some of them more than others? I don't know, and I'm certainly not in control of it on any fundamental level.
  #125  
Old 08-08-2019, 01:30 PM
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But don't you see? Predeterminism means it is impossible for you to want otherwise, therefore it is meaningless to say you "have been able to pick a different option if you wanted to". The alternative reality where you picked the death peppers did not, does not, will not ever possibly exist. There is no path between T0 and T1 where you eat peppers at T1.


You could not have wanted to eat the death peppers. Assuming predeterminism, you don't have a choice in what you "want" any more than you have a choice in what you "do".
Let's step back from determinism for a moment and talk about how minds work - how they must work, based on observation of their behavior and outcomes. It's my intention to make statements here that apply to any model, even ones with a nondeterministic universe and/or supernatural souls.

Minds demonstrate a reasonable consistency of state - they change, but not with wild randomity. It's a flow from one state to another based on causes that drive it from one state to another; it's not like static snow on a screen without a signal, where the random mess of static one moment is completely unrelated to the snow a moment before.

So the brain changes based on causes. These causes could be random, I suppose, but the reactions are not.

This means that, because brains aren't static-snow random, that their previous states are in a sense limited by their prior states. The past matters.

If you have a preference one instant, you will have it the next instant, give or take logical modification based on a cause. (Possibly an internal cause and/or a cause you're unaware of.)

If you're experiencing an emotion one instant, you will still experience it the next instant, give or take logical modification based on a cause. (Possibly an internal cause and/or a cause you're unaware of.)

If you are aware/unaware of a piece of information one instant, you will still know/not-know it the next instant, give or take logical modification based on a cause. (Possibly an internal cause and/or a cause you're unaware of.)

We know all this because, as noted, minds demonstrate a reasonable consistency of state. And we know this is true regardless of which model of reality is right, because we didn't derive this based on any model.

So. We know that the mind is in a given state at the instant of any decision-making, and that as the decision-making process proceeds things will not be changing wildly without cause. We know that the knowledge that in the mind is the knowledge that's in it; we know that the emotions it is feeling are the emotions it is feeling; we know that its preferences and inclinations are whatever they happen to be. All of this is fixed at the moment of the decision, regardless of model.

Whence comes decision?

If choices are based on what you know, feel, and want, then they are based on your mental state - which is not random and at any and every given instant is fixed (regardless of model). If they are based on something that's not what you know, feel, or want, like randomity or control signals from an outside god or something, is that free will?

As best I can tell, based on even a casual examination of how thought works and the fact that the mind does, in fact, have a state, I can only conclude that regardless of model, the decisions a human brain makes are determined by their mental state at the time. The only possible exceptions to this are if randomity overrides reason or an external meddler overrides reason. And in my opinion* those violate free will. (*Definitions of free will may vary. No warranty is implied. Use at own risk.)

Given that this is, as best I can tell, how all minds have worked ever, I can only conclude that the definition of "choice" as used in modern parlance is compatible with this reality. This means, perforce, that when one talks about having multiple options to pick from, one is implicity but unavoidably deliberately ignoring the mind's state when they assess the situation and say "There are multiple options." They are saying that before the mind gets done with them there are multiple options; however once the mind and its workings are added to the equation only one option remains. You see that as a contradiction of some kind. I see that as the definition of the term "making a decision".

And again, I believe that this is how minds work regardless of model - minds are, by nature, deterministic. (That's what making choices is: determining what you're going to do.) The fact that this works nicely within a completely deterministic model of the universe, well, if minds as I understand them didn't fit within such a model, I would reject the model.
  #126  
Old 08-12-2019, 04:11 AM
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Let's posit for a moment that Joe Blow, individual, at the moment of behavior-selecting, is "determined by the previous state of the universe" as Max S so eloquently expressed it above. And yet there's a consciousness that experiences emotional intensities, the desire for certain outcomes, as monstro in turn describes, also above.
Depending on definition, consciousness may or may not be incompatible with determinism. For instance, the definition I would associate with "consciousness" is incompatible with physicalism (and by extension, physicalist determinism).

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We do experience ourselves as thinking, feeling, choosing. We are not an illlusion to ourselves. But perhaps our individual personhood is the illusion.
I am having trouble understanding you from here on. Are you rejecting the existence of other minds - is this a form of solipsism?

But then you get into consciousness as a species in a sociological sense. It is true that we personify groups of people as if the group were one person; I might say Britain eats Dutch bacon, or Britain can't make up her mind about Brexit, as if Britain was a person. I think this is a feature of human thought and language, not evidence that Britain is a person. To say Britain "eats" bacon is to use an entirely different definition than one would use when talking about people.

Perhaps you could say the human race has a consciousness, but it would be a very different kind of consciousness than what I have in mind. Even using a more 'scientific' definition of consciousness, I just don't see the patterns and structure necessary to compare humans/the human race with neurons/the human brain, which is to my knowledge the only reference on consciousness available. There are certainly patterns, as predicted and documented in the social sciences, but these patterns do not hold the confidence necessary for me to say it is a definite thing. Indeed, I think all laws of the social sciences to be heuristics.

But then you must realize that if the behavior of humans is deterministic, the behavior of the human race is also deterministic. That puts us back at square one for the free will question. You seem to recognize this:

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Well, perhaps when you extend the question to the whole gamut of universal physical determinism, which could be used to argue that the entire freaking species doesn't have free will either since it's being acted on by the surrounding universe etc, the self is actually present in the whole situation, being purposeful and not merely passively reacting to something non-Self that constitutes an externalia.
But the bolded section makes no sense to me. You are saying the self is present in the whole situation, and I believe "self" in this sentence means the unitary consciousness of the collective human race. But what situation are you talking about? Does the "whole situation" mean 'when the self is being acted on by the surrounding universe etc'? What does it mean for the self to be purposeful and not merely passively reacting, wouldn't that be a rejection of determinism?

This is what I've tried to gleam from your final paragraph:
'When assuming causal predeterminism, it can be argued that the unitary consciousness of the collective human race is without free will. The argument might go: if the individual human self has no free will because its actions are determined by circumstances in the immediate past, then the collective human self has no free will because its actions are determined by circumstances in the immediate past.'
~Max
  #127  
Old 08-12-2019, 04:12 AM
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In your example above, you've reduced the issue to its most meaningless extreme while not examining what true cultural and individual impacts are of an understanding of "no free will".
I don't think it's a philosophically meaningless debate, although in practice, we simply assume some sort of free will exists.

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Society can still enact rules and structures
The philosophical question is not whether society can do something, but whether society should do something, and in this case, why. For example, why should society punish a murderer who did not have the power to spare the victim's life? Why should I praise the firefighter whose heroic actions were causally deterministic? Is there any culpability or responsibility if one has no power to choose?

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A major failing of our judicial system is that we punish people as if they have free will, while at the same time semi-acknowledging that personal biology and background play a huge part in whether or not a particular individual is going to have committed a particular crime.

Granted that there's a huge selective enforcement issue also at play, poor and black people end up in prison at dramatically higher rates than wealthy white people (I know I don't need to convince you of that; cite is for thoroughness). Do poor black people just choose to commit crimes? Is it just kind of a random happenstance? Of course not. I'm not going to unpack this super-complex example here, but suffice to say, there are economic and cultural factors at work, both in society at large, and within interpersonal and family relationships, that keep poor people poor. And then we turn around and imprison them for it. This is the moral tragedy of "free will" thinking. That people who do bad things are operating from the exact same set of inputs as the "good" people, and yet just somehow choose to be bad, and so deserve to pay for that choice.
I strongly disagree with you, in that I think this is an entirely different debate topic. That is not a question of free will, that is a question of nature versus nurture as resolved in Trading Places (1983), combined with a question about whether the ends justify the means (deontology versus consequentialism). The "biology" factor can be about free will, but we're talking about determinism and the brain state at the time of decision, not any particular socioeconomic factors or the discredited theory of racialism. A comparison can be made to the justice system, but it would be made with regards to the insanity defense and not racism.

~Max
  #128  
Old 08-12-2019, 04:23 AM
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It's my intention to make statements here that apply to any model, even ones with a nondeterministic universe and/or supernatural souls.
This being your intention, I will gladly point out some of the assumptions you have made.

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Minds demonstrate a reasonable consistency of state - they change, but not with wild randomity. It's a flow from one state to another based on causes that drive it from one state to another; it's not like static snow on a screen without a signal, where the random mess of static one moment is completely unrelated to the snow a moment before.
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 randomly for no cause, but still never change with wild randomity. How could you know? Nonmaterial claims are nonfalsifiable. 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.

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So the brain changes based on causes.
We must assume that the mind is nothing more than the brain, which rules out all of the ancient treatments on philosophy and many of the classical philosophical treatises. If you had said "the mind changes based on causes", this assumption would be unnecessary. I think this may have been a Freudian slip, and I won't include this assumption as I think it is unnecessary for your arguments.

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These causes could be random, I suppose, but the reactions are not.
This does not follow either. In the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics there is a correspondence principle, and in probability theory we have the law of large numbers. Even then, it only follows that the function constrains the outputs when given random inputs. It does not follow that random inputs will lead to nonrandom outputs. Luckily that is the conclusion you draw.

The assumption here is that a sample average converges in probability towards the expected value.

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This means that, because brains aren't static-snow random, that their previous states are in a sense limited by their prior states. The past matters.
I concur.

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We know that the mind is in a given state at the instant of any decision-making, and that as the decision-making process proceeds things will not be changing wildly without cause.
Right, but remember that the causes could be random.

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If choices are based on what you know, feel, and want, then they are based on your mental state
It seems that you are defining "mental state" as "what you know, feel, and want" exclusively. This is another assumption.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
your mental state - which is not random and at any and every given instant is fixed (regardless of model).
This is another assumption, because we did not establish that your mental state is nonrandom. We said it was not "changing wildly without cause", but we did not establish that one's mental state is fixed at every given instant.

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If they are based on something that's not what you know, feel, or want, like randomity or control signals from an outside god or something, is that free will?
Undoubtedly, if that influence is both nondeterministic and is one's self, eg: one's nonmaterial soul, such an influence on the mental state would constitute free will. Were it God in the traditional sense, that would constitute free will (on the part of God; as in 'God has free will'). Such a philosophy is non-deterministic by definition.

But you gave a rhetorical question, with an implied answer of "no". In order to join your answer I will need to deny the possibility of a nonmaterial soul or any other nondeterministic self-influence on one's mental state. This makes another assumption.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
As best I can tell, based on even a casual examination of how thought works and the fact that the mind does, in fact, have a state, I can only conclude that regardless of model, the decisions a human brain makes are determined by their mental state at the time. The only possible exceptions to this are if randomity overrides reason or an external meddler overrides reason. And in my opinion* those violate free will.
If I agree to a number of assumptions listed above, I can join your opinion. For convenience, here is the running list:
  • Every change in mental state flows from a cause.
  • A sample average converges in probability towards the expected value.
  • Mental state is what one knows, feels, and wants, and nothing more.
  • One's mental state is fixed at every given instant.
  • There are no nondeterministic self-influences on one's mental state (such as a nonmaterial soul).

This last item in particular rules out all forms of libertarianism, which is by definition the only philosophy that allows for free will without a compatibilist definition of free will. Libertarianism lends itself to god-of-the-gaps style logic (magic), but it is still a philosophy.

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Given that this is, as best I can tell, how all minds have worked ever, I can only conclude that the definition of "choice" as used in modern parlance is compatible with this reality.
It does not follow. You could very well leave the definition of choice alone and conclude that choice does not exist in reality. This is another assumption, which is that choice is the illusion of having the power to effect an alternative; when you say choice (your def.) exists, it is really the illusion of choice (my def.) that exists.

***

You didn't bring the argument to full circle, because you did not make the jump from the "existence" of choice to the existence of free will. I must point out that free will implies "free" choice, and it is a misnomer at best to freely decide when one is given the illusion of choice. If you had made that jump you would rule out hard determinism.

In making your argument you ruled out by assumption libertarianism. You are one step away from dismissing hard incompatibilism and hard determinism out of hand. It is no surprise that you come across with a compatibilist vibe, because you have assumed the conclusion.

~Max
  #129  
Old 08-12-2019, 09:13 AM
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Well, perhaps when you extend the question to the whole gamut of universal physical determinism, which could be used to argue that the entire freaking species doesn't have free will either since it's being acted on by the surrounding universe etc, the self is actually present in the whole situation, being purposeful and not merely passively reacting to something non-Self that constitutes an externalia.
But the bolded section makes no sense to me. You are saying the self is present in the whole situation, and I believe "self" in this sentence means the unitary consciousness of the collective human race. But what situation are you talking about? Does the "whole situation" mean 'when the self is being acted on by the surrounding universe etc'? What does it mean for the self to be purposeful and not merely passively reacting, wouldn't that be a rejection of determinism?
No, having extended the question to the whole gamut of universal physical determinism, I am no longer speaking merely of the unitary consciousness of the collective human race, but rather the consciousness of the whole situation. I'm saying we already know there is a consciousness choosing here. A causal-deterministic analysis would tend to say that the surrounding universe creates (or constitutes) the stimuli to which the entire species responds, and therefore that it is still a deterministic behavior. I'm saying that instead of that, the entire system ("external" universe and species as a collective set) is the self, or at least is not to be relegated strictly to being external to the self and then posited as the cause of a self that it is, in actuality, a component of.

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  #130  
Old 08-12-2019, 10:01 AM
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No, having extended the question to the whole gamut of universal physical determinism, I am no longer speaking merely of the unitary consciousness of the collective human race, but rather the consciousness of the whole situation. I'm saying we already know there is a consciousness choosing here. A causal-deterministic analysis would tend to say that the surrounding universe creates (or constitutes) the stimuli to which the entire species responds, and therefore that it is still a deterministic behavior. I'm saying that instead of that, the entire system ("external" universe and species as a collective set) is the self, or at least is not to be relegated strictly to being external to the self and then posited as the cause of a self that it is, in actuality, a component of.
I am still not fully understanding. Even if we designate the entire universe as a single holistic entity called "self", thus removing any "external" factors, I may still cling to the notion of causality. It may be said that my arm moves because my self willed it to move, but I have not yet escaped the fact that my will to move my arm has a number of exact causes. Whether we extend the idea of self to envelope all possible causes makes no difference for the question of free will, if the chain of causality is unbroken. It can be said that the self presently has no choice as to its state, for the current state was determined by the previous state; that the self had no choice as to its previous state, for that state was determined by the state proceeding it; etcetera ad infinitum. There may be no end to the chain of causation, or there may be a single origin point at which a God or supernatural non-self being decided to arrange the universe, but either way it does not follow that the self has any choice or free will at any point in existence.

~Max
  #131  
Old 08-12-2019, 10:21 AM
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It may be said that my arm moves because my self willed it to move, but I have not yet escaped the fact that my will to move my arm has a number of exact causes
But if those causes are not external to the self, strictly speaking, their existence does not obviate the accuracy of "I did it because I chose to".
  #132  
Old 08-12-2019, 11:28 AM
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But if those causes are not external to the self, strictly speaking, their existence does not obviate the accuracy of "I did it because I chose to".
What I am saying is that the chain of causation effectively removes the choice. You will look at the current time step and say, there was no choice, it was determined by X. Then you look at X and say, there was no choice, it was determined by Y. The chain goes back forever, and it turns out you cannot point to a choice being made. ETA: Even if everything is self.

~Max

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  #133  
Old 08-12-2019, 12:37 PM
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What I am saying is that the chain of causation effectively removes the choice. You will look at the current time step and say, there was no choice, it was determined by X. Then you look at X and say, there was no choice, it was determined by Y. The chain goes back forever, and it turns out you cannot point to a choice being made. ETA: Even if everything is self.

~Max
I think we're talking past each other. There is no chain. There is no X that is separate from the locus of the choice. X and Y are part of the self that is making the choice.

ETA: that includes time as well as space. There is no prior event either.

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  #134  
Old 08-12-2019, 01:16 PM
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This being your intention, I will gladly point out some of the assumptions you have made.

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 randomly for no cause, but still never change with wild randomity. How could you know? Nonmaterial claims are nonfalsifiable. 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.
Firstly, the phrase "Nonmaterial claims are nonfalsifiable" is nonsense. The claim "Ghosts are always able to pass through walls, and also they're never able to pass through walls" is definitely falsifiable (and false). One can absolutely logic about the immaterial.

And one can determine that the mental state is not suffused with static by observation. As I noted random perturbation could be occurring within the mind, but it clearly doesn't have notable effect. Emotions don't change randomly, beliefs don't change randomly, opinions don't change randomly, knowledge doesn't change randomly. These are observable facts about minds.

If you wish to assert that being nonmaterial means that the mind can't have consistent state that doesn't change randomly, then what you're actually doing is forwarding a proof that minds aren't driven by anything nonmaterial.

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We must assume that the mind is nothing more than the brain, which rules out all of the ancient treatments on philosophy and many of the classical philosophical treatises. If you had said "the mind changes based on causes", this assumption would be unnecessary. I think this may have been a Freudian slip, and I won't include this assumption as I think it is unnecessary for your arguments.
Yep, it was a slip. Sorry.

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This does not follow either. In the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics there is a correspondence principle, and in probability theory we have the law of large numbers. Even then, it only follows that the function constrains the outputs when given random inputs. It does not follow that random inputs will lead to nonrandom outputs. Luckily that is the conclusion you draw.

The assumption here is that a sample average converges in probability towards the expected value.
You misunderstand - I merely am stating that if the mind is being influenced by randomity (which is possible), that the mind isn't allowing randomity to influence it randomly (so to speak). Any randomity that is influencing the mind is extremely limited in the effects it has on the mental state, to the point that it would be more accurate to say that mind is using the randomity in the way a computer program might use a random number generator, and only to determine cases where its determinations are so close to being a tie that random perturbations are the only difference between one choice being ahead and the other.

Again, this conclusion is based on observation of behavior - we know randomity is not a major part of human cognition because minds don't act random. Or put another way, we know the mind doesn't use many random inputs because there aren't random outputs.


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I concur.
I should hope so!

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Right, but remember that the causes could be random.
Except, as you said, they can't be, not to any significant degree, because mental states observably doesn't fluctuate randomly. There could be a trivial amount of randomity being accessed to break exact ties, but the massive, massive bulk of cognition cannot possibly be based on randomity.

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It seems that you are defining "mental state" as "what you know, feel, and want" exclusively. This is another assumption.
You're affirming the consequent here (a fallacy). I actually make no such limiting assumption.

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This is another assumption, because we did not establish that your mental state is nonrandom. We said it was not "changing wildly without cause", but we did not establish that one's mental state is fixed at every given instant.
Okay there are two things here:
1) I totally did establish that the mental state is nonrandom, based on observation of how it behaves combined with your statement "It does not follow that random inputs will lead to nonrandom outputs". Brain state observably doesn't fluctuate randomly, so clearly randomity is not a consequential factor in its function.

2) In any given instant the brain state must be constant, because it's a single instant. Even something that is fluctuating completely randomly will have a fixed state at each single instant. This part is actually axiomatically true - to say otherwise is to say that there's no such thing as a brain state. (Material or not.)

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Undoubtedly, if that influence is both nondeterministic and is one's self, eg: one's nonmaterial soul, such an influence on the mental state would constitute free will. Were it God in the traditional sense, that would constitute free will (on the part of God; as in 'God has free will'). Such a philosophy is non-deterministic by definition.

But you gave a rhetorical question, with an implied answer of "no". In order to join your answer I will need to deny the possibility of a nonmaterial soul or any other nondeterministic self-influence on one's mental state. This makes another assumption.
Firstly, while it's true that when you condition your statement with "if that influence is [...] nondeterministic]" that that philosophy is "non-deterministic by definition", there's actually nothing about a nonmaterial soul that implies non-determinism on its own. A nonmaterial soul could totally be deterministic. Why wouldn't that be possible?

Secondly, the entire argument to this point was repeatedly pointing out the readily observable fact that humans simply don't behave in a random way. They simply don't. The mind clearly doesn't make choices randomly, so it's clearly not being jerked around by randomity in any significant way. That's pretty much the point.

If your position is that non-material souls must be significantly driven by randomity, then I see that as you arguing that humans can't possibly have non-material souls because humans clearly aren't significantly driven by randomity. But that's you saying that - at this point I'm leaving open the possibility of a nonmaterial souls - they simply have to be mostly or completely deterministic, to match what we observe.


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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
If I agree to a number of assumptions listed above, I can join your opinion. For convenience, here is the running list:
  • Every change in mental state flows from a cause.
  • A sample average converges in probability towards the expected value.
  • Mental state is what one knows, feels, and wants, and nothing more.
  • One's mental state is fixed at every given instant.
  • There are no nondeterministic self-influences on one's mental state (such as a nonmaterial soul).
  • By observation.
  • This flowed from your misundertanding.
  • This flowed from your fallacy of affirming the consequent.
  • This is axiomatically true, being pretty much the definition of a "state".
  • Not any significant ones anyway. By observation.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
This last item in particular rules out all forms of libertarianism, which is by definition the only philosophy that allows for free will without a compatibilist definition of free will. Libertarianism lends itself to god-of-the-gaps style logic (magic), but it is still a philosophy.
YES! That's exactly my point! I'm arguing that by observation of how minds work at an external level we can conclude with certainty that libertarian free will is nonsense. That's exactly what I'm arguing.

So-called libertarian free will is the argument that our choices are made in defiance of our mental state. It argues that the important part of our choices is the part that's made for no reason whatsoever - if you are eating strawberries because you like strawberries the libertarian argument says that that's not you eating them of your own free will. Only if you spastically flail about and randomly shove the strawberries in your mouth is that a freely-made decision.

Libertarian free will is stupid. It's a stupid reaction to panic about the fact that minds might exist in a deterministic universe, when any sensible person can see that minds function in a deterministic way anyway.

And libertarian free will doesn't presuppose magic - that's what nonmaterialism offers, but libertarian free will doesn't have anything to do with nonmaterialism. A non-material mind could be fully deterministic and the libertarians wouldn't like it either; all they care about is that decisions be made without being determined by your mental state. Which, again, is stupid.

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It does not follow. You could very well leave the definition of choice alone and conclude that choice does not exist in reality. This is another assumption, which is that choice is the illusion of having the power to effect an alternative; when you say choice (your def.) exists, it is really the illusion of choice (my def.) that exists.
What I'm saying is that your definition of choice doesn't match with the common definition of choice. By the common definition of choice it's entirely possible for choices to be made deterministically.

Choice, by the common use of the term, is when there are multiple options to choose from and one of them is chosen. This absolutely can be done in a deterministic way, and the fact that there were multiple options being considered was no illusion.

My argument is that claiming that a given mental state has to be able to end up preferring more than one outcome simultaneously is a nonsensical way to define "choice" - it doesn't match up with reality.

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You didn't bring the argument to full circle, because you did not make the jump from the "existence" of choice to the existence of free will. I must point out that free will implies "free" choice, and it is a misnomer at best to freely decide when one is given the illusion of choice. If you had made that jump you would rule out hard determinism.

In making your argument you ruled out by assumption libertarianism. You are one step away from dismissing hard incompatibilism and hard determinism out of hand. It is no surprise that you come across with a compatibilist vibe, because you have assumed the conclusion.
I am dismissing nothing out of hand; I am examining the way minds work and based on those observations concluding that certain definitions of "choice" and "free will" must be wrong, at least if they're trying to describe the reality that our minds clearly are operating in.

Oh, and:
I dismiss "illusion of choice", based on observed evidence.
I dismiss libertarianism, based on observed evidence.
I dismiss hard incompatiblism, based on observed evidence.
I am totally cool with hard determinism, based on observed evidence. (Though I'm also cool with randomity existing, keeping in mind it clearly has little influence on mental function.)
I am totally cool with compatiblism, not because I assumed the conclusion, but because observation of mental behavior reveals that minds work in a way that is compatible with hard determinism.
  #135  
Old 08-14-2019, 12:12 AM
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I think we're talking past each other. There is no chain. There is no X that is separate from the locus of the choice. X and Y are part of the self that is making the choice.

ETA: that includes time as well as space. There is no prior event either.
If you do not reject the notion of causality, please join me in the thought experiment:
My arm moved.
Why did my arm move?
I willed it to move.
Why did I will my arm to move?
I chose to will my arm to move.
Why did I choose to will my arm to move?
If you keep asking "why?" I suspect you will have to look into the past and therefore establish a chain of causation, even if everything is self. There can be more than one reason. Would you care to continue the introspective dialogue, or point out where you disagree?

~Max
  #136  
Old 08-14-2019, 12:14 AM
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Firstly, the phrase "Nonmaterial claims are nonfalsifiable" is nonsense. The claim "Ghosts are always able to pass through walls, and also they're never able to pass through walls" is definitely falsifiable (and false). One can absolutely logic about the immaterial.
In order to be falsifiable, a claim must be open to refutation through physical evidence. Assuming you cannot directly or indirectly observe ghosts, the above premisses are contradictory but not falsifiable.

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And one can determine that the mental state is not suffused with static by observation. As I noted random perturbation could be occurring within the mind, but it clearly doesn't have notable effect. Emotions don't change randomly, beliefs don't change randomly, opinions don't change randomly, knowledge doesn't change randomly. These are observable facts about minds.
First, the only mind I can actually observe is my own. I assume the existence of other minds but I cannot observe them; I can only observe their physical brains and only then in the hypothetical. We can mark the existence of other minds as another assumption made.

I agree with you that mental states are stable - based on my own memory, my own emotions do not change with "wild randomity", nor do my beliefs, opinions, or knowledge. I agree that the mind "is not suffused with static". The part I disagree with is that all changes in mental state flow from causes. You say this is supported by observation, but I don't think it is. I will admit that there are some changes in mental state which have causes.

For example, take the seemingly random sensation of numbness in my left pinky finger this morning. Sensation is a mental phenomenon, but in this case, it had a physical cause: an overtight wristwatch band. My understanding of anatomy is that the tight band applies pressure to the wrist, which compresses the tissue in and around Guyon's canal. This in turn restricts blood flow in the little arteries supplying the ulnar nerve with blood. The neurons, starved of oxygen, switch to anaerobic metabolism which produces less ATP. With insufficient ATP, the nerve's ion transporters eventually malfunction. This causes the neuron to send the wrong signals up the nerve and to the brain. Exactly where, when, and how this produced a sensation of numbness in my mind is unknown and possibly unknowable without making further assumptions. I could design an experiment where I intentionally over-tighten my wristwatch band to induce an experience of numbness, to reinforce the hypothesis that tightening of the band causes a sensation of numbness. I won't do so because I am already confident that the hypothesis is true, and I don't want to risk nerve damage. Nevertheless, the conclusion drawn is that tightening of the band causes a sensation of numbness.

But let's think about it the other way. Mental events can cause physical events, at least to an interactionalist dualist. I could think to myself, 'in two seconds I will touch my left pinky to my left thumb', wait two seconds without changing my mind, then touch my left pinky to my left thumb. The hypothesis here is that my thoughts caused or at least contributed to my fingers snapping. Although the mechanism of thoughts is unknown and possibly unknowable, the mechanism of the somatic nervous system is better understood. In short, I believe your brain sends acetylocholine down the spinal column and ulnar nerve to the hands where it depolarizes the muscle cell membrane, which releases calcium into the cytosol, which feeds the cross-bridge muscle contraction cycle and ultimately causes the pinky finger to touch the thumb.
SPOILER:
A nerve signal, or rather multiple signals, originate in the upper motor neurons of the primary motor cortex, which release acetylcholine into the synapse between the upper motor neuron and the first alpha motor neuron of a long chain of alpha motor neurons. This chain relays the signal (acetylcholine), out the brain stem, down the spinal cord, along the ulnar nerve, and to the various neuromuscular junctions in the hand - the small space between a nerve ending and muscle cell. The muscle cell contains nicotinic acetylocholine receptors at this junction. When two molecules of acetylocholine bind to those receptors, the receptor opens a non-selective cation channels. The subsequent rush of sodium cations coming in quickly depolarizes the muscle cell's plasma membrane. Some potassium cations trickle out but not enough to balance out the sodium influx. Once the membrane is depolarized, slow-acting voltage-gated potassium ion channels across the cell membrane start letting out potassium, which activate fast-acting voltage-gated sodium ion channels. Within the space of a few microseconds, the muscle cell's membrane is depolarized, repolarized, hyperpolarized (the potassium channels take time to close, too), then repolarized again. This quick fluctuation in voltage spreads across the cell membrane at about 5 meters per second, and activate voltage-dependent dihydropyridine receptors in the muscle's transverse tubules (extensions of the cell membrane that reach inside the cell). These open calcium selective cation channels, and are mechanically linked to ryanodine receptors on the attached sarcoplasmic reticulum, which is basically a calcium repository. Calcium cations flow from the sarcoplasmic reticulum into the cytosol.

Now, skeletal muscle cells each contain what looks like a bundle of smooth red licorice sticks called myofibrils. Each myofibril is divided along its length into many equal segments called sarcomeres. Each sarcomere is made of thick myosin filaments and thin filaments (actin, tropomyosin, and troponin), and they are arranged in a pattern so that the thin filaments form a cup shape on the left and right sides of the thick filament, sort of like your hands holding each end of a pen. Calcium ions in the cytosol bind to troponin proteins on the thin filaments, and the troponin changes shape, causing adjacent tropomyosin proteins to unblock myosin-binding sites on the actin protein. These bind to hook-shaped myocin proteins in the adjacent myocin filament. When the myocin binds to actin, it releases inorganic phosphate, which causes the myocin to "pull" against the actin in what is called a power stroke. The sarcomere shortens about 10nm. Then ADP is released and the myocin remains bound to actin (a cross-bridge) until another ATP molecule from the cytosol binds to the myocin. At that point, the myocin head detaches from the actin site (the recovery stroke) and hydrolizes ATP into ADP and inorganic phosphate, and waits until another myocin-binding site becomes available. This cross-bridge process occurs on both ends of each sarcomere in each myofibril due to the increased calcium concentration, thus causing the muscles in my palm controlling my pinky finger to contract.


What I can't say is that, based on observation, thoughts are always caused by physical events. Certainly physical events can cause sensations, as demonstrated by the wristwatch band giving me a sensation of numbness in my pinky finger. Certainly thoughts can cause or influence physical events, as demonstrated when I thought to touch my pinky and thumb together, then did so. I cannot say with certainly that thoughts are caused by sensations, because the mechanisms of the non-material mind are unobservable and possibly not causal. I cannot observe that tightening my wristwatch band necessarily causes me to touch my thumb and pinky finger together, although there is a logical reason for me to do so (to test whether my finger is numb). If you were to ask me why I picked my thumb instead of the table-top or some other object, I would not necessarily have an answer and might resort to post-hoc justification, or just say it was the first thing that came to my mind. But what process, if any, determined what came to my mind? It is certainly not wildly random, but I could not say whether or not my thoughts are a little random, with consequence.

It may be that there is a physical explanation, but the current state of science does not come close to explaining the physiology of an individual thought. Indeed, science often works on the assumption that there is a physical explanation, and not a stochastic one unless we work in the correspondence principle. If you are unwilling to make the basic assumption of physicalism, I don't think you can conclude that all mental states flow from causes.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
You misunderstand - I merely am stating that if the mind is being influenced by randomity (which is possible), that the mind isn't allowing randomity to influence it randomly (so to speak). Any randomity that is influencing the mind is extremely limited in the effects it has on the mental state, to the point that it would be more accurate to say that mind is using the randomity in the way a computer program might use a random number generator,
I agree with all of this.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
and only to determine cases where its determinations are so close to being a tie that random perturbations are the only difference between one choice being ahead and the other.
I don't agree with this at all and have no idea how you got came to this conclusion. Random is not the same as equiprobable.

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Again, this conclusion is based on observation of behavior - we know randomity is not a major part of human cognition because minds don't act random.
I might agree with you, if we define cognition as the physical behavior caused by the mind. But then all you've done is make a tautology. I had a different definition of cognition in mind, I won't bother trying to make a good written definition but I would want "cognition" to include pure thinking, even the parts that are normally private and unobservable to others.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Or put another way, we know the mind doesn't use many random inputs because there aren't random outputs.

...

Except, as you said, they can't be, not to any significant degree, because mental states observably doesn't fluctuate randomly. There could be a trivial amount of randomity being accessed to break exact ties, but the massive, massive bulk of cognition cannot possibly be based on randomity.
That's not what I said. Are you familiar with the pigeonhole principle? The output of a surjective function says nothing about the domain of its input. I concurred with your statement that brains are in a sense limited by their prior states, that the past matters, and that is still the extent of my agreement.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
You're affirming the consequent here (a fallacy). I actually make no such limiting assumption.
I didn't quote the rest of the paragraph, but maybe I should have.
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
If choices are based on what you know, feel, and want, then they are based on your mental state - which is not random and at any and every given instant is fixed (regardless of model). If they are based on something that's not what you know, feel, or want, like randomity or control signals from an outside god or something, is that free will?
The implication is that "something that's not what you know, feel, or want, like randomity or control signals from an outside god or something" is different from "your mental state". Otherwise your rhetorical question seems out of place. Maybe you are right and I am reading too much into your post.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
I totally did establish that the mental state is nonrandom, based on observation of how it behaves combined with your statement "It does not follow that random inputs will lead to nonrandom outputs". Brain state observably doesn't fluctuate randomly, so clearly randomity is not a consequential factor in its function.
We haven't established that all mental states have nonrandom causes, nor that random causes lead to random outcomes, so how can you say the mental state is nonrandom a priori?

Regarding the observations you allude to, what observations? My allegory of the pinky in this post basically says I don't always know why I think one way or another. Just a few sentences prior, you wrote "it would be more accurate to say that mind is using the randomity ... to determine cases where its determinations are so close to being a tie that random perturbations are the only difference between one choice being ahead and the other". I don't agree with that statement and it sounds like you don't agree, either.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
In any given instant the brain state must be constant, because it's a single instant. Even something that is fluctuating completely randomly will have a fixed state at each single instant. This part is actually axiomatically true - to say otherwise is to say that there's no such thing as a brain state. (Material or not.)
You are mixing up "brain state" and "mental state" again, but without making any further assumptions I believe your statement does not follow either way. A brain state in a single instant might really be described with a wave function. If you subscribe to a hidden variable theory that's fine, but it is another assumption to add to the list.

With a mental state, the rules are off - you can't rule out the possibility of a nonmaterial "perturbation" affecting the mental state, and you can't really pinpoint which instant such a thing occurred.

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YES! That's exactly my point! I'm arguing that by observation of how minds work at an external level we can conclude with certainty that libertarian free will is nonsense. That's exactly what I'm arguing.
I have yet to be convinced, but it's been an interesting debate so far.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
So-called libertarian free will is the argument that our choices are made in defiance of our mental state. It argues that the important part of our choices is the part that's made for no reason whatsoever - if you are eating strawberries because you like strawberries the libertarian argument says that that's not you eating them of your own free will. Only if you spastically flail about and randomly shove the strawberries in your mouth is that a freely-made decision.
Conversely, libertarians might assume your mind is influenced but not determined by physical actions. They would deny that every change in mental state flows from a cause. As I understand it, libertarianism empowers the mind with the godly power of being a prime cause. The mind is free to make a choice without any physical reason at all, even in contradiction to logic built on physical evidence; but this is unlikely, because physical things are influential.

Also, to like strawberries is a mental preference, and we could say "it caused you to eat strawberries", but the Libertarian would say this is only a manner of speaking. The consumption of strawberries was only by the grace of the mind which had the power to reject both logic and the strawberries, and could have effected an alternate reality where strawberries were not eaten. It does not follow that the decision to eat strawberries is made without free will just because it makes sense.

Neither must the mind always have free will; I doubt any libertarian would deny that some of the time, the mind is unable to physically effect its decisions; and I'm sure some libertarians consume mind-altering drugs for the express purposes of forcibly altering the mind. Libertarianism is not necessarily incompatible with the concept of a mental disease restricting free will, either.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
And libertarian free will doesn't presuppose magic - that's what nonmaterialism offers, but libertarian free will doesn't have anything to do with nonmaterialism.
If by magic you mean antimaterialism, I disagree and assert that libertarianism does require antimaterialism. Libertarianism and antimaterialism are not the same, but it's like the rectangle and the square: libertarianism is a form of antimaterialism.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
I am totally cool with compatiblism, not because I assumed the conclusion, but because observation of mental behavior reveals that minds work in a way that is compatible with hard determinism.
When I said "hard determinism", I actually meant the view that determinism is true and incompatible with free will. Hard determinism is mutually exclusive with compatibilism by definition. But I agree with you that hard determinists and compatibilists are using different words to describe the same thing. There is no real debate to be had between philosophers of those two groups.

~Max
  #137  
Old 08-14-2019, 09:02 AM
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If you do not reject the notion of causality...
I do not reject the usefulness of thinking in terms of causality but causality is like the flat earth model. I use the flat earth assumptions for most everyday navigation when I'm traveling -- pretending that I'm on a flat plane with east over there, north hither, west thither, and south yon. I know it's an oversimplification but it's a highly useful one; thinking about the curvature of the earth and keeping in mind that east and west will collide or will disappear as I approach the poles doesn't help me get to Huntington or Philadelphia, so I mostly ignore it, even though it's true.

Ultimately though, no, we do not live in a causal universe. It's an illusion.



Quote:
please join me in the thought experiment:
My arm moved.
Why did my arm move?
You wanted it to


Quote:
I willed it to move.
Why did I will my arm to move?


I chose to will my arm to move.
** nods along with you **


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If you keep asking "why?" I suspect you will have to look into the past and therefore establish a chain of causation, even if everything is self. There can be more than one reason. Would you care to continue the introspective dialogue, or point out where you disagree?
Somewhere between 12 billion and 15 billion years ago both space and time came into being; there was no "before", and there was no prior cause. Even these sentences are of questionable construction (we almost lack the language to express it; "came into being" isn't quite accurate). The division of everything that has happened over those 12-15 billion years into events is, like the flat-earth navigation thingie, a useful thing but those divisions aren't intrinsically objectively "there". We impose them, mentally, on what is the only "event" (see previous disclaimer about the limits of our vocabulary) that has ever taken place. We are a part of that event. So if I do as you say and look in the past, I do not establish a chain of causation, or at least not until I arbitrarily slice up the entirety into Event A and Subsequent Event B and pretend that one causes the other.

See also Alan Watts on the "head-tailed cat".

Last edited by AHunter3; 08-14-2019 at 09:03 AM.
  #138  
Old 08-14-2019, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
I do not reject the usefulness of thinking in terms of causality but causality is like the flat earth model... I know it's an oversimplification but it's a highly useful one...

Ultimately though, no, we do not live in a causal universe. It's an illusion.
Is it time that is an illusion, or the existence of a "past" universe? If things aren't as normally understood with some semblence of causality, what is real? Are you saying all of the states of the universe at different time-steps actually exist together? My current definition of free will presupposes the existence of time, so unless you reimpose such a notion or redefine terms, I will have trouble understanding your position.

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Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
Somewhere between 12 billion and 15 billion years ago both space and time came into being; there was no "before", and there was no prior cause.
There are ad-hoc explanations to be found in theism and deism, or in the alternative there are theories that "before" is the negative or imaginary of "after". There is also the viewpoint that there is ultimately no cause, that the initial state of the universe "just is". But if you do establish a chain by which, given the initial state of the universe, you can determine the state of the universe now, the implication is that the "universal consciousness" has no free will and never had free will. Aside from the initial moment (if that exists), every time you point to a decision or choice that seems to be free will, it can be determined from a previous state of the universe. Therefore the previous state of the universe absolutely constrains the freedom of the current state of the universe to make a decision, such that the universe is only free to "choose" one thing, therefore free will is not found in the current instant. This lack of free will extends back to the initial state of the universe, or if there is no initial state, it extends back forever.

There is another question as to whether consciousness can possibly exist if there is no distinction between self and non-self or the whole and its parts.

~Max
  #139  
Old 08-14-2019, 10:12 AM
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Is it time that is an illusion, or the existence of a "past" universe?
Sorry, I don't understand the question. I think you're assuming I was asserting something other than what I was asserting (?)... I stated that causality is an illusion. Time is not illusory, but the separation of time into "events" is an illusion.


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There is also the viewpoint that there is ultimately no cause, that the initial state of the universe "just is".
This, for me.

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But if you do establish a chain by which, given the initial state of the universe, you can determine the state of the universe now, the implication is that the "universal consciousness" has no free will and never had free will.
Why would you say that? It's here; do you have reason to believe it is here for any reason other than "it wanted to be"?


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Aside from the initial moment (if that exists), every time you point to a decision or choice that seems to be free will, it can be determined from a previous state of the universe.
Yes, but that's because all the states of the universe are the same continuous self; the splitting of things into Event A and Event B is something we do in our heads but it isn't intrinsically there. Just as you can't logically argue "You, AHunter3, do not have free will, you have to do what your self makes you do" -- because there aren't two of me, my "self" and the "me" that is determined by it -- you can't argue that the universe at Time A is the cause of the universe at Time B.
  #140  
Old 08-14-2019, 12:53 PM
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In order to be falsifiable, a claim must be open to refutation through physical evidence. Assuming you cannot directly or indirectly observe ghosts, the above premisses are contradictory but not falsifiable.
Falsifiable claims are just claims that can be proven wrong one way or the other. The term tends to be associated with physicality because the bulk of important non-falsifiable statements in common parlance are about things that nobody can show to exist, but the term is not limited to the non-material, and being nonmaterial doesn't mean that statements about you are nonfalsifiable.

Being a theorized nonmaterial entity/object doesn't make something immune from being logic'd about and even disproven, no matter how much people might wish that was the case.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
First, the only mind I can actually observe is my own. I assume the existence of other minds but I cannot observe them; I can only observe their physical brains and only then in the hypothetical. We can mark the existence of other minds as another assumption made.
Naah, my argument is fine with my mind being the only mind in existence. I'm only making an argument about all the minds that work the way that I observe my mind to work. If solipsism happens to be true, my argument is content to merely prove that my mind (the only mind!) operates in a functionally deterministic way such that free will and choice cannot sensibly rely on nondeterministic factors.

I mean, if I have the only mind in existence, then that's all the free will there is to talk about, right?

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I agree with you that mental states are stable - based on my own memory, my own emotions do not change with "wild randomity", nor do my beliefs, opinions, or knowledge. I agree that the mind "is not suffused with static". The part I disagree with is that all changes in mental state flow from causes. You say this is supported by observation, but I don't think it is. I will admit that there are some changes in mental state which have causes.
Tell you what - I'm willing to be entirely unconcerned with cases where small random perturbations damage the stability of any part of mental state, because I recognize that logically it makes no damn sense to consider any introduction of randomity as an addition of will. It doesn't matter if randomity is slightly screwing with your ability to make decisions, or if it's slightly screwing with your ability to remember things, or if it's slightly screwing with your ability to clearly read your senses. There could be small random perturbations all over the place - we just know that for most people (which is to say me, since as you say we're all solipsists here) the amount of randomity isn't sufficient to upend the entire apple cart. I mean, I'm not senile, not yet anyway.

And we are talking about damage here. In a discussion like this one where I'm not restricting myself to minds located in the physical universe, non-determinism only comes in one flavor: not determined by anything, be it physics, souls, or gods. Pure randomity. That's what non-determinism means: randomity. Pure mindless randomity.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
What I can't say is that, based on observation, thoughts are always caused by physical events. Certainly physical events can cause sensations, as demonstrated by the wristwatch band giving me a sensation of numbness in my pinky finger. Certainly thoughts can cause or influence physical events, as demonstrated when I thought to touch my pinky and thumb together, then did so. I cannot say with certainly that thoughts are caused by sensations, because the mechanisms of the non-material mind are unobservable and possibly not causal. I cannot observe that tightening my wristwatch band necessarily causes me to touch my thumb and pinky finger together, although there is a logical reason for me to do so (to test whether my finger is numb). If you were to ask me why I picked my thumb instead of the table-top or some other object, I would not necessarily have an answer and might resort to post-hoc justification, or just say it was the first thing that came to my mind. But what process, if any, determined what came to my mind? It is certainly not wildly random, but I could not say whether or not my thoughts are a little random, with consequence.
Since when are we talking about physical stuff? My argument is still intended to cover wherever the mind is living, be it a physical brain, some spiritual thing, or a curiously aware tomato. I'm extrapolating back from observable behaviors of the mind, so these conclusions reach back to whatever mechansim or medium is causing the mind.

Which brings us to your "the mechanisms of the non-material mind are unobservable and possibly not causal" comment. It's nonsense. You seem to be presupposing that if you talk about a nonmaterial thing it can do any silly thing you want it to, but when you start talking about a non-material thing we can observe that ceases to be the case. And if this non-material stuff is causing the minds I'm observing the effects of, then the effects of the non-material thing in question are observable.

If I like strawberries, and I choose to eat strawberries because I like them, then whatever is making that decision clearly and demonstratively is working in a causal fashion. The magical ghost mind is holding the preference for strawberries, and that preference within the magical ghost mind caused the magical ghost mind to choose to eat the strawberries. That's causation. Which means that minds operate in a causal manner, whether they are physical minds or magical ghost minds or some other kind of minds. Doesn't matter what they are; we can plainly see that causation is going on.

I mean, sure, there could be some magical ghost randomity messing with the magical ghost mind, the same way that there could be physics-based randomity messing with physical minds, but in both cases the randomity is equally irrelevent to will, because it's randomity. Randomity doesn't have will by definition. (And it didn't stop me from choosing the strawberries anyway.)

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
It may be that there is a physical explanation, but the current state of science does not come close to explaining the physiology of an individual thought. Indeed, science often works on the assumption that there is a physical explanation, and not a stochastic one unless we work in the correspondence principle. If you are unwilling to make the basic assumption of physicalism, I don't think you can conclude that all mental states flow from causes.
I've already conceded that randomity can crap around with with minds in various ways; while holding firm that any such randomity has minimal/controlled effect and can't possibly add to will in any case. Whether the mind is physical or magical or whatever has literally nothing to do with it; I'm talking about how it observably works.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I agree with all of this.
Yay!

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I don't agree with this at all and have no idea how you got came to this conclusion. Random is not the same as equiprobable.
And I have no idea why you thing I'm talking about equprobablity. I'm quite confident I never mentioned the term; I can't even spell it.

In any case I'm willing to ratchet back my assertions about where randomity is in the mind - I'm willing to allow that there is a constant hiss of random static all throughout the mind everywhere, conditioned on the realization that its effect on cognition is contained and very close to nil. The static doesn't wipe out the thoughts, it doesn't erase the emotions, it doesn't fuzz out the opinions, it doesn't snow away all the knowledge and memories. Not immediately, anyway.

And of course it doesn't contribute will, because it's frickin' randomity.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I might agree with you, if we define cognition as the physical behavior caused by the mind. But then all you've done is make a tautology. I had a different definition of cognition in mind, I won't bother trying to make a good written definition but I would want "cognition" to include pure thinking, even the parts that are normally private and unobservable to others.
Dude, I've been trying very hard (and imperfectly) to keep the physicalness out of it. I'm talking about how minds observably work, regardless of where they're housed. And when I define "cognition" I only mean "that thing that's doing the thinking and decision-making that I'm clearly observing to be happening". If your definition is incompatible with that, then I'm not sure what discussion we're even having.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
That's not what I said. Are you familiar with the pigeonhole principle? The output of a surjective function says nothing about the domain of its input. I concurred with your statement that brains are in a sense limited by their prior states, that the past matters, and that is still the extent of my agreement.
And that's all the agreement I need, really.

The things that can influence your mind's behavior are exclusively limited to:
1) Your mental state, which is a major factor in your subsequent mental states.
2) Randomity messing around with your developing mental state.
3) Things that are not part of your mental state, influencing it from the outside.

That's the entire possible list. Anything you might mention: gods, souls, the enticing aroma of strawberries - those all fall into one of those categories, because A ∨ ¬A covers all bases by definition. (The randomity also falls under either A or ¬A by defintion, and I don't particularly care where you put it, because it can't possibly impart will anyway because randomity isn't willful.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I didn't quote the rest of the paragraph, but maybe I should have.The implication is that "something that's not what you know, feel, or want, like randomity or control signals from an outside god or something" is different from "your mental state". Otherwise your rhetorical question seems out of place. Maybe you are right and I am reading too much into your post.
A ∨ ¬A, yo. In that sentence I considered randomity to be in the ¬A category, because it totally is; random perturbations can't be part of your mental state because they only occur as perturbations in the advancement from one mental state to another. A given fixed snapshot of a mental state doesn't have chunks of 'determined randomity' sitting in it; the closest you could get is a chunk of the mental state that has a value that is completely not determined by anything about the mental state immediately prior.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
We haven't established that all mental states have nonrandom causes, nor that random causes lead to random outcomes, so how can you say the mental state is nonrandom a priori?

Regarding the observations you allude to, what observations? My allegory of the pinky in this post basically says I don't always know why I think one way or another. Just a few sentences prior, you wrote "it would be more accurate to say that mind is using the randomity ... to determine cases where its determinations are so close to being a tie that random perturbations are the only difference between one choice being ahead and the other". I don't agree with that statement and it sounds like you don't agree, either.
A mental state, by definition, is a state. A state, by definition, has a state. Things that are random don't have a state while they're being random; they only have a state once they've resolved out to one outcome or another. Even if you have some kind of nexus of randomity it will produce an actualized outcome at some point; whatever its outcome happens to be at the moment the state is examined can be taken as the static condition of that part of the state at that moment.

Randomity, if it's occurring, can only be perturbing things as you change from one state to the next. That's literally the only place it can be.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
You are mixing up "brain state" and "mental state" again, but without making any further assumptions I believe your statement does not follow either way. A brain state in a single instant might really be described with a wave function. If you subscribe to a hidden variable theory that's fine, but it is another assumption to add to the list.

With a mental state, the rules are off - you can't rule out the possibility of a nonmaterial "perturbation" affecting the mental state, and you can't really pinpoint which instant such a thing occurred.
Yeah, yeah, I messed up again. The problem is that I have a 100% certainty that brains cause minds which is burned deep into my consciousness, so holding this discussion without talking about brains is like talking about walking decaying brain-eating undead without ever saying "zombie".

And the rules most certainly aren't off - there is a rule that the thing that is causing the minds is causing the minds, and so examination of the behavior of the mind constitutes examination of the behavior of the thing that is causing the minds. Which means that while we can't rule out various small perturbations, we can most certainly rule out that perturbations (rather than preferences) are a driving force of my will. Regardless of where that will is residing.


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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
I have yet to be convinced, but it's been an interesting debate so far.
I love debates like this!


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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Conversely, libertarians might assume your mind is influenced but not determined by physical actions. They would deny that every change in mental state flows from a cause. As I understand it, libertarianism empowers the mind with the godly power of being a prime cause. The mind is free to make a choice without any physical reason at all, even in contradiction to logic built on physical evidence; but this is unlikely, because physical things are influential.
Actually in my experience proponents of libertarian free will never, ever talk about godly power or souls. Maybe because the don't want to get laughed out of the discussion, but more probably because libertarian free will isn't about gods, it's about randomity.

As best I can tell, libertarian free will was created to operate completely within the framework of physical reality. Prior to physicalism people didn't frame the free will discussion as one about how minds worked; they assumed that minds were magic soul things that worked by magic. The bigger concern was whether gods of fate were screwing around with us. So whether or not our will was free had nothing to do with how we worked; it had everything to do with what other things were doing to us, whether they were predetermining our futures for us.

The introduction of physicalism handily wiped away the concerns about being externally controlled because we clearly don't have strings physically attached to our limbs. (They didn't know about radio and the martian mind control beams back then.) Instead the big concern was that once the mind actually lived in the brain it seemed fair to wonder how the stupid thing worked. And since reality, by and large, seems to run on cause, what would it be like if our minds ran on causes. And they noticed that if minds ran completely on causes, then a given mind and thought process would cause the same outcomes each time, predictably. We'd just got rid of the fates controlling us, do we now have to worry about physics controlling out every move??

Predictably, people freaked out at the idea of being predictable; it's long been thought that our actions would only be predictable if we were being externally controlled, and "physics", being a giant universal thing, sounds a lot like a giant uncaring god puppeting you. (Well it does if you don't think too hard anyway.) So some people came up with the idea of leaning very hard on randomity, because introducing randomity, non-determinism, at least reintroduces the idea of unpredictability. Which seemed to matter a lot.

Compatiblist free will is what happened when people said, "Wait a minute, this is stupid. The problem was never whether we were unpredictable; it was whether something else is controlling us. And our own brains aren't 'something else'." And then everybody the world over slapped their foreheads, admitted they'd been being dumb, and then nobody ever discussed free will again.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Also, to like strawberries is a mental preference, and we could say "it caused you to eat strawberries", but the Libertarian would say this is only a manner of speaking. The consumption of strawberries was only by the grace of the mind which had the power to reject both logic and the strawberries, and could have effected an alternate reality where strawberries were not eaten. It does not follow that the decision to eat strawberries is made without free will just because it makes sense.

Neither must the mind always have free will; I doubt any libertarian would deny that some of the time, the mind is unable to physically effect its decisions; and I'm sure some libertarians consume mind-altering drugs for the express purposes of forcibly altering the mind. Libertarianism is not necessarily incompatible with the concept of a mental disease restricting free will, either.
A libertarian free will proponent most certainly wouldn't say anything about the grace of the mind. Remember, libertarian free will argues from a presumed materialist framework where the mind is located in the physical brain and isn't graceful at all. The libertarian would simply say "but thanks to random perturbation we could never have known that you would have chosen strawberries; it's definitely possible that random influences on the deterministic parts of your mind could have caused you to eat that cow pie instead. Unpredictablity for the win! Woo!"

Libertarian free will, at its core, maintains that people's future actions can't be predicted, due to randomity existing in the physical world and perturbing the decision-making process. It's not overly concerned with whether the alternative options make sense; it's more concerned (very concerned) with always maintaining unpredictability. Since, again, that's the whole reason it was invented: to preserve the unpredictability that determinism was threatening to take away. They mistakenly believe that free will = unpredictability and thus logicked that if free will means unpredictable and determinism means unpredictable, we clearly must be driven by nondeterminism because clearly we have free will. Nondeterminism! Randomity! Woo!

Or at least, that's how libertarian free will was always explained to me.

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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
If by magic you mean antimaterialism, I disagree and assert that libertarianism does require antimaterialism. Libertarianism and antimaterialism are not the same, but it's like the rectangle and the square: libertarianism is a form of antimaterialism.
Libertarian free will has always been explained to me as operating within a materialistic framework, every time I've heard it mentioned or discussed. (You excepted). It's very very explicitly about randomity, not souls or whatever.

People discussing souls usually just say "but souls!" and stand there smugly, without bothering to acknowledge that we can totally examine the behavior of souls by examining the behavior of the people they allegedly control. They certainly don't consider the fact that the souls' preferences doubtlessly are a controlling factor in determining the souls' decision-making processes; they prefer to pretend that souls have no moving parts, despite the fact that they obviously function somehow, and clearly aren't random. (Again, presuming the things exist.)

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When I said "hard determinism", I actually meant the view that determinism is true and incompatible with free will. Hard determinism is mutually exclusive with compatibilism by definition. But I agree with you that hard determinists and compatibilists are using different words to describe the same thing. There is no real debate to be had between philosophers of those two groups.
Hmm, turns out upon doing further research, you're right that that's how that term is used. How stupid, using two terms about determinism to describe the exact same physical deterministic world with all the exact same behaviors and events at every level and having the separate 'determinism' terms designate differing opinions about something entirely unrelated to the determinism of the world itself (whether people have free will, specifically).

Okay, I'll concede that I do indeed reject hard determinism. You were absolutely right about that and I was wrong.
  #141  
Old 08-14-2019, 03:00 PM
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OP: to clarify, are you advocating that sense God gave everyone free will, atheists shouldn't be able to refute it because it actually exists?
  #142  
Old 08-15-2019, 01:42 PM
begbert2 is offline
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OP: to clarify, are you advocating that sense God gave everyone free will, atheists shouldn't be able to refute it because it actually exists?
It doesn't sound like that; it more sounds like he's proposing his own idea of how free will might work, something that supposedly would be functional within an atheist worldview. Way back in this post he said

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Free will, from a Newtonian perspective, would outright violate the laws of physics (let's forget quantum mechanics just for a minute). In order for there to be a decision via free will, some chemical reaction in the brain must have taken place that wouldn't have taken place otherwise. If it was simply reacting according to known laws, then it wasn't free will. I'm talking here about the very genesis of the decision, not the resulting chain of reactions (that may very well follow the laws of nature). But at that moment of free decision, some chemical reaction must have been stopped or started by something that violates the laws of chemistry.
So he wants decisions to be made by something that violates the laws of physics/chemistry, which sure sounds like it could be an appeal to souls, doesn't it? However he then proceeds to argue that quantum mechanics are the source of the decision making, presumably via QM having some sort of sentience or something. I didn't really attempt to follow that too closely myself; it makes little sense to me that decisions can be made by anything that doesn't have access to (and an understanding of) all the mental state. And in a non-spiritualist model all that can safely be assumed to be being stored in the brain, not in the quantum layer or whatever.
  #143  
Old 08-16-2019, 09:33 AM
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So are there any atheist Dopers out there who believe in free will who have an argument any better than "because life would be intolerable otherwise?"
Atheist here. I believe in free will.

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Originally Posted by KidCharlemagne View Post
I remember being appalled by Richard Dawkin's comments in an interview wherein he said he believed in free will because "life would be intolerable otherwise" and that the notion of free will "is just an inconsistency we'd have to live with." I was stunned how little he had thought about it.
I don't have access to the interview you mention, but I expect that Professor Dawkins has thought a great deal about free will. He is usually very thoughtful on issues like this. I can understand that you might be disappointed if he didn't go into his reasons in great detail in a short media interview though.

I don't know Professor Dawkins' reasons but I'll describe mine as best as I can. Let's get some assumptions out of the way first.

I have a naturalistic worldview without supernatural or mystical elements. I worship no God of the Gaps and I reject souls of all kinds. There might be a Science of the Gaps though and I'll get to that in a moment.

I don't believe that compatibilism does anything but redefine some common words. It's just warmed over determinism. Determinism is not compatible with free will.


As far as I know, physics gives us only two options to explain how things happen the way they do.

1. Randomness at the quantum level.
2. Cause and effect at the macro level.

In other words, settled science tells us that our actions are either pre-determined or they are random and neither of these options leaves room for free will. But — and here's the science of the gaps bit — at the end of the 19th century, scientists thought they were almost done with physics and just a handful of gaps remained that would be explained once they found evidence of the ether. Twenty years later, there was a whole new paradigm for science and all the old certainties were swept away. I don't expect that we will solve the problem of free will until we find a new paradigm.

So what will this paradigm look like? I think there are a few options.

The most promising among them is the discovery that Epicurus had it right with his Theory of The Swerve and that uncaused brain activity can have some causal effect on the path of sub-atomic articles. No one has found this yet but then, no one has looked for it either. They didn't find the Higgs boson until they looked. Wouldn't it be funny if they find it in the pineal gland?

Also promising is the idea that reductionism is inadequate to explain how lower levels of abstraction apply at higher levels. Chaos Theory is a recently discovered paradigm that addresses this problem. Maybe we'll find another one that makes room for free will in the gaps between layers of abstraction. I don't believe that Manchester United beating Chelsea four-nil on Sunday was pre-determined and I don't believe that it was random either. We don't have a good theory to explain it yet but I bet we find one one day and I bet it has something to do with the mind of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.


The best evidence for free will is that some people seem to have more of it than others. Some people seem compelled to do things that are harmful to themselves and others manage to avoid them. Some people are able to exercise restraint and self-discipline and make choices that result in better outcomes.

A trip to the zoo shows more of the same. The lower animals seem to respond entirely to triggers. As you get closer to our branch of the evolutionary tree, animals seem to have more intentions and more agency to effect them. They are able to plan for specific outcomes rather than just reacting to their environment. Higher animals have more options and make more choices.

Free will versus determined is not just a binary choice between two options. They exist along a spectrum that goes from carnivorous crickets that will eat their own guts given the right feeding trigger to Lionel Messi who seems to conjure up new options from thin air.

Admittedly, Libertarians like me are currently stuck with a paradox but the determinists are not entirely paradox-free. As far as I can tell, determinists necessarily reject justice, merit, blame, good, evil and all of the other things that make life worth living. Note that I am not appealing to consequences here. I'm claiming that the determinist's worldview is riddled with paradoxes and inconsistencies where my side has only one small paradox to sort out.

This Atlantic article, for example, argues that even though free will is an illusion, we should continue to teach that free will is real because…

Quote:
It seems that when people stop believing they are free agents, they stop seeing themselves as blameworthy for their actions. Consequently, they act less responsibly and give in to their baser instincts.
This presupposes that we have a choice in whether to teach or not to teach that free will is real. The argument is self-refuting. If free will is real, it's real. If it's not real, we have no choice in what we teach. I've never heard a determinist address this paradox.

Determinists live, love and administer justice as though they have free will. They say it's just an illusion but we need to keep it a secret because, otherwise, society will apart. They say this as though they have a choice and they say it with no apparent irony.

From the same article,

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In fact, belief in free will turned out to be a better predictor of job performance than established measures such as self-professed work ethic.
and

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For example, he and colleagues found that students with a weaker belief in free will were less likely to volunteer their time to help a classmate than were those whose belief in free will was stronger. Likewise, those primed to hold a deterministic view by reading statements like “Science has demonstrated that free will is an illusion” were less likely to give money to a homeless person or lend someone a cellphone.
I sometimes wonder if determinists are all psychopaths who really do have less free will than the rest of us. Or perhaps they are perpetual underachievers who cling conveniently to a story that absolves them from blame.

Still, if the determinists are right—and free will really does not exist—they deserve no credit for being right and I deserve no blame for being wrong. In fact, those words would have no meaning.
  #144  
Old 08-16-2019, 10:37 AM
Gukumatz is offline
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Strange question to ponder. (Thanks!)

Is my brain deterministic? The amount of input to consider is so enormous that every human being is a n=1 experiment. A universe without free will would be indistinguishable from a universe with it.
  #145  
Old 08-16-2019, 01:25 PM
begbert2 is offline
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Originally Posted by kevlaw View Post
I don't believe that compatibilism does anything but redefine some common words. It's just warmed over determinism. Determinism is not compatible with free will.
Well, one of the words we redefine is "free will". Doing that really does change the picture somewhat - among other things, determinism is totally compatible with free will (as we define it).

Quote:
Originally Posted by kevlaw View Post
As far as I know, physics gives us only two options to explain how things happen the way they do.

1. Randomness at the quantum level.
2. Cause and effect at the macro level.

In other words, settled science tells us that our actions are either pre-determined or they are random and neither of these options leaves room for free will. But — and here's the science of the gaps bit — at the end of the 19th century, scientists thought they were almost done with physics and just a handful of gaps remained that would be explained once they found evidence of the ether. Twenty years later, there was a whole new paradigm for science and all the old certainties were swept away. I don't expect that we will solve the problem of free will until we find a new paradigm.
Under my view of the universe, the two options we have are actually:

1) Randomness at any level, from any source.
2) Cause and effect at any level, from any source.

I don't care if your cause and effect is happening with subatomic particles, and I don't care if your randomity is coming out of a random number generator the size of a house. It doesn't even matter if the randomity/causes are coming from outside puppetmasters or supernatural entities. It's not about where it's from at all; it's about whether the outcomes are determined by the prior state of something somewhere, or whether they're not (and thus are completely random).

And given that that's an A ∨ ¬A situation, I don't see room for any gaps. No matter what is invented, discovered or imagined, I see no space for Free Will Particles to leak through.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kevlaw View Post
The best evidence for free will is that some people seem to have more of it than others. Some people seem compelled to do things that are harmful to themselves and others manage to avoid them. Some people are able to exercise restraint and self-discipline and make choices that result in better outcomes.

A trip to the zoo shows more of the same. The lower animals seem to respond entirely to triggers. As you get closer to our branch of the evolutionary tree, animals seem to have more intentions and more agency to effect them. They are able to plan for specific outcomes rather than just reacting to their environment. Higher animals have more options and make more choices.
To me that just looks like varying levels of complexity, and varying levels of range in tolerable preferences. There are a lot of restaurants that I and my friend go to where he loves half the things on the menu, but there's only one thing on there I'll eat. (I am such an accommodating guy.) To an outside observer that looks like I have way less free will than he does, but it really comes down to me seeing a different world than he does due to my differing preferences. He sees a menu of tasty; I see a menu full of messiness and spice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kevlaw View Post
Admittedly, Libertarians like me are currently stuck with a paradox but the determinists are not entirely paradox-free. As far as I can tell, determinists necessarily reject justice, merit, blame, good, evil and all of the other things that make life worth living. Note that I am not appealing to consequences here. I'm claiming that the determinist's worldview is riddled with paradoxes and inconsistencies where my side has only one small paradox to sort out.
Dunno about the non-compatiblist determinists out there, but this compatiblist at least simply perceives the operation of choice and will differently than you do. Within my compatiblist framework justice, merit, blame, good, and evil all are accepted and reasonable and recognized things, and so are cookies, which are what make life worth living.

Last edited by begbert2; 08-16-2019 at 01:28 PM. Reason: typos
  #146  
Old 08-28-2019, 05:00 PM
Max S. is offline
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Falsifiable claims are just claims that can be proven wrong one way or the other. The term tends to be associated with physicality because the bulk of important non-falsifiable statements in common parlance are about things that nobody can show to exist, but the term is not limited to the non-material, and being nonmaterial doesn't mean that statements about you are nonfalsifiable.
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:
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Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Minds demonstrate a reasonable consistency of state - they change, but not with wild randomity. It's a flow from one state to another based on causes that drive it from one state to another; it's not like static snow on a screen without a signal, where the random mess of static one moment is completely unrelated to the snow a moment before.
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 randomly for no cause, but still never change with wild randomity. How could you know? Nonmaterial claims are nonfalsifiable. 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.
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.
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Being a theorized nonmaterial entity/object doesn't make something immune from being logic'd about and even disproven, no matter how much people might wish that was the case.
Agreed.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Naah, my argument is fine with my mind being the only mind in existence. I'm only making an argument about all the minds that work the way that I observe my mind to work. If solipsism happens to be true, my argument is content to merely prove that my mind (the only mind!) operates in a functionally deterministic way such that free will and choice cannot sensibly rely on nondeterministic factors.

I mean, if I have the only mind in existence, then that's all the free will there is to talk about, right?
Alright.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Tell you what - I'm willing to be entirely unconcerned with cases where small random perturbations damage the stability of any part of mental state, because I recognize that logically it makes no damn sense to consider any introduction of randomity as an addition of will.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
It doesn't matter if randomity is slightly screwing with your ability to make decisions, or if it's slightly screwing with your ability to remember things, or if it's slightly screwing with your ability to clearly read your senses. There could be small random perturbations all over the place - we just know that for most people (which is to say me, since as you say we're all solipsists here) the amount of randomity isn't sufficient to upend the entire apple cart. I mean, I'm not senile, not yet anyway.
Don't confuse randomness with equiprobability. Equiprobability (equal probability) leads to chaos and is only one form of randomness. Equiprobability is wild randomity. Randomness is not necessarily wild. If there's a general pattern, but the pattern is not 100% predictable, that is still randomness. If things usually happen for physical reasons, but sometimes happen for no reason at all, that is still randomness. If random things happen, but the results are strictly confined to a number of physically valid outcomes (assuming multiple solutions are possible), that is still randomness.

Just because your mind isn't constantly effecting chaotic physical changes, doesn't mean your mind isn't random.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
And we are talking about damage here. In a discussion like this one where I'm not restricting myself to minds located in the physical universe, non-determinism only comes in one flavor: not determined by anything, be it physics, souls, or gods. Pure randomity. That's what non-determinism means: randomity. Pure mindless randomity.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
And I have no idea why you thing I'm talking about equprobablity. I'm quite confident I never mentioned the term; I can't even spell it.
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?

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
In any case I'm willing to ratchet back my assertions about where randomity is in the mind - I'm willing to allow that there is a constant hiss of random static all throughout the mind everywhere, conditioned on the realization that its effect on cognition is contained and very close to nil. The static doesn't wipe out the thoughts, it doesn't erase the emotions, it doesn't fuzz out the opinions, it doesn't snow away all the knowledge and memories. Not immediately, anyway.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Dude, I've been trying very hard (and imperfectly) to keep the physicalness out of it. I'm talking about how minds observably work, regardless of where they're housed. And when I define "cognition" I only mean "that thing that's doing the thinking and decision-making that I'm clearly observing to be happening". If your definition is incompatible with that, then I'm not sure what discussion we're even having.
I can use that definition for cognition. That is also the definition I use for the mind. If we go back to post #134, you wrote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Again, this conclusion is based on observation of behavior - we know randomity is not a major part of human cognition because minds don't act random.
Now, I replace "cognition" with "mind":
Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Again, this conclusion is based on observation of behavior - we know randomity is not a major part of [the] human [mind] because minds don't act random.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
And that's all the agreement I need, really.

The things that can influence your mind's behavior are exclusively limited to:
1) Your mental state, which is a major factor in your subsequent mental states.
2) Randomity messing around with your developing mental state.
3) Things that are not part of your mental state, influencing it from the outside.

That's the entire possible list. Anything you might mention: gods, souls, the enticing aroma of strawberries - those all fall into one of those categories, because A ∨ ¬A covers all bases by definition. (The randomity also falls under either A or ¬A by defintion, and I don't particularly care where you put it, because it can't possibly impart will anyway because randomity isn't willful.)

...
A ∨ ¬A, yo. In that sentence I considered randomity to be in the ¬A category, because it totally is; random perturbations can't be part of your mental state because they only occur as perturbations in the advancement from one mental state to another. A given fixed snapshot of a mental state doesn't have chunks of 'determined randomity' sitting in it; the closest you could get is a chunk of the mental state that has a value that is completely not determined by anything about the mental state immediately prior.
I can agree with that classification, not with your distinction between randomity and (free) will. If the mind itself can be random, within constraints, that constitutes the mind's free will.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
A mental state, by definition, is a state. A state, by definition, has a state. Things that are random don't have a state while they're being random; they only have a state once they've resolved out to one outcome or another. Even if you have some kind of nexus of randomity it will produce an actualized outcome at some point; whatever its outcome happens to be at the moment the state is examined can be taken as the static condition of that part of the state at that moment.

Randomity, if it's occurring, can only be perturbing things as you change from one state to the next. That's literally the only place it can be.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
And the rules most certainly aren't off - there is a rule that the thing that is causing the minds is causing the minds...
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
I love debates like this!
Aw jeez, sorry to keep you waiting. I must have accidentally marked this thread as read without reading it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Actually in my experience proponents of libertarian free will never, ever talk about godly power or souls...

A libertarian free will proponent most certainly wouldn't say anything about the grace of the mind. Remember, libertarian free will argues from a presumed materialist framework where the mind is located in the physical brain and isn't graceful at all...
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
People discussing souls usually just say "but souls!" and stand there smugly, without bothering to acknowledge that we can totally examine the behavior of souls by examining the behavior of the people they allegedly control.
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.

~Max
  #147  
Old 08-28-2019, 06:46 PM
begbert2 is offline
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Hi again!

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

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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...


Quote:
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.

Quote:
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!

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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...)

Quote:
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.)

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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?

(sigh.)

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.


Quote:
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.
  #148  
Old 09-04-2019, 05:03 PM
Corry El is offline
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Atheist here. I believe in free will.

1. The best evidence for free will is that some people seem to have more of it than others. Some people seem compelled to do things that are harmful to themselves and others manage to avoid them. Some people are able to exercise restraint and self-discipline and make choices that result in better outcomes.

...
2. Admittedly, Libertarians like me are currently stuck with a paradox but the determinists are not entirely paradox-free. As far as I can tell, determinists necessarily reject justice, merit, blame, good, evil and all of the other things that make life worth living. Note that I am not appealing to consequences here. I'm claiming that the determinist's worldview is riddled with paradoxes and inconsistencies where my side has only one small paradox to sort out.

3. This , for example, argues that even though free will is an illusion, we should continue to teach that free will is real because…

This presupposes that we have a choice in whether to teach or not to teach that free will is real.

4. Determinists live, love and administer justice as though they have free will. They say it's just an illusion but we need to keep it a secret because, otherwise, society will apart. They say this as though they have a choice and they say it with no apparent irony.
I'm Catholic and believe in free will according to Catholic teaching (which may or may not correspond exactly to other forms of Christianity and is potentially significantly at odds with any given cartoon/straw man presentation of Christianity by anti-Christians on the internet ).

I generally agree with your post (hope that doesn't make other people who previously agreed change their minds).

1. I don't know if this is objective evidence of a such thing as free will, but I do agree it's evidence society is on the right track to organize itself on the assumption most people in most situations can make better or worse choices and need to be incentivized to make the better ones. There is no contraction between this general idea and recognizing that some people lack this ability for mental health particularly, but also potentially other reasons, and that on a 'moral' basis it makes a difference how much 'temptation' the person faces to make the wrong choice. If one were to say 'OK but that's beside the point of our intramural atheist debate about free will' I'd respond that then the whole debate is beside the point. In fact a lot of the posters clearly track back their abstract ideas about 'free will' to concrete public policies like who if anyone to hold responsible for their actions.

2. There's always a paradox someplace, but I agree if you take determinism far enough then most concepts like the ones you listed become meaningless.

3. This is somewhat reminiscent of the idea that religious faith makes people behave better (though I guess if one were to present some study showing that it would get a lot more instantaneous and vociferous push back here than the article you quoted ). My only point is that they are similar in that if 'everyone' concludes the belief is false, you can't really teach it effectively and it becomes irrelevant if it's practically beneficial to believe it. Although as of now I think the % of people in the world who don't believe in free will, as I'd define it practically, is pretty tiny. It's a lot smaller than the % with no specific belief in a God's role in their life.

4. I also agree there, assuming as in 2 it's a meaningful discussion at all. In which case it would impinge on the basic practical question of if/when to hold people responsible for their actions. If you basically don't, with some exceptions, I don't see how you have a society. Whereas believing people should be basically responsible for their actions except in extraordinary circumstances, the concept of which can evolve, seems to have proven workable.

Last edited by Corry El; 09-04-2019 at 05:06 PM.
  #149  
Old 09-04-2019, 05:14 PM
begbert2 is offline
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I'm Catholic and believe in free will according to Catholic teaching (which may or may not correspond exactly to other forms of Christianity and is potentially significantly at odds with any given cartoon/straw man presentation of Christianity by anti-Christians on the internet ).
Out of curiousity, what is the non-cartoon/strawman definition of free will, in your opinion?

Specifically, what is it supposed to be freed from?
  #150  
Old 09-05-2019, 03:05 PM
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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.
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