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  #51  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:28 PM
Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I don't know about you, but I see evidence of my "not free will" all the time. I make a myriad of decisions every day without thinking about them first. Hell, sometimes I don't even remember making them.
This is the word problem. What do we mean by choices? What do we mean by a decision? What do we mean by not thinking about our actions?

Well, obviously we make decisions out of habit, experience, expedience, and convenience. But all those things are part of our history. They do not arrive by god's carrier pigeon. You do a thousand things every day, or week, or year that are contrary to your normal decision path. Typing on a message board is an excellent example. Sometimes you type, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you say one thing but not another. Sometimes you delete a message, or phrase it a different way, or edit it after posting. Sometimes you make typos. I don't ever want to make a typo, but I do. Does that mean I don't have free will? Or does it merely mean my finger slipped, or I was thinking ahead of my typing speed, or that I momentarily forgot how to spell a word? Do I really have to accept that the universe of physical causes from the beginning of time forced my fingers to hit the wrong keys? Nuts. If the universe were determined we wouldn't need spellcheck.

I like begbert2's thesis. Free will is only a problem because people can't handle the reality that they are responsible for their own deeds.
  #52  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:36 PM
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This whole "being good" is totally another herring of the reddish hue.

Look, if I'm the determiner of my own damn actions, then at any given point I do what I deem to be good. That's the basis on which I decide my actions, and I'm the one who defines what IS good in the first place.

The archaic notion of "being good" assumes that God wrote down a bunch of moral rules and then you, being a "person of free will", are either a good boy or girl and obey those rules or else you're bad and chose to be bad, disobeying those rules. But if the rules actually do indeed apply to you, they are coterminous with your own sense of where your own best interests lie. Because if there are some external rules that you get measured against but which are not all about how best to serve your own interests, that itself conflicts with free will; it imposes a coercive force (of punishment, or judgement) upon you. (Or, if it doesn't, the notion of "being good" disappears in a puff of irrelevant smoke, being neither about how best to serve yourself NOR about badass retribution coming your way if you don't obey).
  #53  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
I don't believe that's true with regard to QM. If you check the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, you'll see that this is true at best only if "nothing ever interrupts Schrödinger evolution, and the wavefunctions governed by the equation tell the complete physical story," an interpretation hotly disputed by many.

To echo what I said earlier, people are trying to use words to develop new science, instead of using math. This never works.

I see your later posts, which are a wonderful example of using words to create pseudoscientific nonsense. First, you can't ignore QM randomness. Second, the output of a reaction, even given known laws, may be random or non-predictable. Nothing about free will is prevented or forbidden because we must work within the laws of physics. Or have you a solution to the three-body problem in your back pocket you're not telling anyone about? Third, you provide no definition of free will that makes it possible to know if other beings than humans have it. That's because you also have no definition of consciousness, which, as I keep saying, you need before you make any
statements about free will. Nothing in your argument makes sense at all.
Always so pleasant. Nothing in your response makes sense at all either. I never said I was ignoring qm randomness. I mentioned I'd be addressing it later in the post.

Just because we can't predict something doesn't mean it's not governed by physical laws. Chaotic systems may be difficult to model, but they still follow the laws of physics and certainly don't appear to contradict them. Afaik, and I could very well be wrong, the three body problem can't be solved with an analytic solution because it's got 18 degrees of freedom and 9 differential equations - that doesn't mean it's not governed by known laws. But does it appear to violate them?

I've already said I believe the universe is causally determined and that Dennet's definition via Compatibilism is not free will. We are biological machines. What we experience as free will is an illusion. On a Newtonian level, if we started the universe over from scratch with the same initial conditions and there were no quantum effects, we'd always make the exact same decisions.

Adding back quantum effects definitely leaves the door open for free will, but there is no evidence for it and brain scan studies show we make decisions before we are even consciously aware of them. The only possible reason one can believe free will exists given current theories and without invoking God is because you FEEL like it's true and don't like the idea that you're a machine.

Rather than define consciousness which obviously exists on a gradient let me ask you - Do you believe simple bacteria is concious and/or has free will? And how about lay off the hostility when answering?
  #54  
Old 08-06-2019, 04:29 PM
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I think you've got it all wrong. Laplace's demon was not motivated by theism, as he was evidently a deist.

~Max
I did a quick google of Laplace's Demon, and I don't see how the Demon refutes any sort of free will except the nonsensical kind. Laplace's Demon argues that if the universe operates deterministically then all outcomes are predictable if sufficient knowledge is available. And I agree. I think that people are fully deterministic, and that they would be fully predictable if a Demon (like, say, God) had full knowledge of literally everything about the present state of the universe.

The thing is, though, I don't consider that to be a problem. Because, like I said, people manifestly make decisions based on preference. If you offer me choice between eating a fresh strawberry or a fresh ghost pepper, I will pick the strawberry 100% of the time. My decisions can be predicted if you know me well. But that doesn't mean I'm not making decisions freely - only a complete idiot would say that free will means that your own preferences aren't included in your decision process.

Just because your will is predictable doesn't mean it isn't free.

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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
So neither the word "choice" nor "preferences" implies any volition? The preferences are preloaded into the machine, and the choice is merely a switch flipping predictability IRT input?
Define "volition", please. M-W defines it as "the power of choosing or determining". based on that, the word "choice" axiomatically implies volition.
  #55  
Old 08-06-2019, 04:47 PM
Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Do any of these possibilities really make sense to you?
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Originally Posted by KidCharlemagne View Post
It makes no sense to give the benefit of doubt to the argument that violates the laws of physics as we understand them.
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Originally Posted by KidCharlemagne View Post
Always so pleasant. Nothing in your response makes sense at all either.
Somehow, since I was using your word, I assumed you couldn't find offense in it. Live and learn. I will in the future only state my beliefs without commenting on yours.

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I've already said I believe the universe is causally determined...
And I've said that I am agnostic on this. We simply don't know.

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We are biological machines. What we experience as free will is an illusion.
I've also said that I do not see the connection between these two statements. I dislike the term "biological machines" because I think it's intended to gloss over a enormous number of issues we don't have answers to. Whatever we are is a product of multiple influences, both internal and external, that cannot be explained today. Brain scan studies are interesting, but cannot and should not at this stage be taken as evidence that the bottom level has been reached. Consciousness is the important problem. If we don't have any idea what it is we cannot say that it exists on a gradient. It might, or it might be an emergent property that only a few select species have. Are emergent properties casually determined? If so, how?

My personal belief is that we are at the state physics was in 1900. We thought we knew everything, only to find that we knew only a few basics, and not the interesting stuff. Our knowledge of the brain and consciousness, whatever that is, is basic. The interesting stuff is still hidden.
  #56  
Old 08-06-2019, 04:59 PM
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Doesn't free will require some sort of agent that makes those decisions, though? Quantum mechanics and chaos theory may make the outcome uncertain, but it's still not decided by any agent. I don't have free will to turn left instead of right just because an electron is a wave and a particle, and my brain is super complicated.
I was framing the argument in terms of free will vs determinism and then proving free will by disproving determinism. While it's a classical debate, you note correctly that a third answer is possible: random chance.
  #57  
Old 08-06-2019, 06:33 PM
monstro is online now
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
This is the word problem. What do we mean by choices? What do we mean by a decision? What do we mean by not thinking about our actions?
I will tell you what I infer from the statement "I have free will".

I surmise that someone saying this means that they believe when they perform an action (i.e., make a choice), they are exerting their conscious will. They consciously deliberated the pros and cons of that action and consciously determined that they selected the wisest course. They didn't just "randomly" act. They didn't carry out that act like how an automaton, a puppet, or hypnotized person might carry out that act. When they give an explanation for why they performed that act, that is always the right explanation since they were fully aware of all the information that compelled them to make that choice and nothing external to their consciousness (i.e., their environment and biology) forced their hand.

Furthermore, I don't assume they are merely taking about "volition". You can be severely mentally impaired and express volition. A baby can perform voluntary actions ("Aw...look at him chasing after the ball! And now he's throwing it like a champ!"). But we don't grant babies free will. And if you have an IQ of, say, 50, most people aren't going to assume you have free will. You can confess to committing a crime and there could be video footage of you gleefully committing it, laughing and everything. But your lawyer will be able to successfully convince others that that your ability to reason is so constrained that you don't really understand what you're doing and thus lack free will. Because we associate free will with high executive function.

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Well, obviously we make decisions out of habit, experience, expedience, and convenience. But all those things are part of our history. They do not arrive by god's carrier pigeon. You do a thousand things every day, or week, or year that are contrary to your normal decision path. Typing on a message board is an excellent example. Sometimes you type, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you say one thing but not another. Sometimes you delete a message, or phrase it a different way, or edit it after posting. Sometimes you make typos. I don't ever want to make a typo, but I do. Does that mean I don't have free will? Or does it merely mean my finger slipped, or I was thinking ahead of my typing speed, or that I momentarily forgot how to spell a word? Do I really have to accept that the universe of physical causes from the beginning of time forced my fingers to hit the wrong keys? Nuts. If the universe were determined we wouldn't need spellcheck.


I like begbert2's thesis. Free will is only a problem because people can't handle the reality that they are responsible for their own deeds.
I don't understand a lot of what you've written here, to be honest. I think you're all over the place. And I don't think you've distilled begbert2's thesis correctly if that's what you think he's been arguing. But I could be wrong.

Last edited by monstro; 08-06-2019 at 06:34 PM.
  #58  
Old 08-06-2019, 06:42 PM
Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I will tell you what I infer from the statement "I have free will".

I surmise that someone saying this means that they believe when they perform an action (i.e., make a choice), they are exerting their conscious will. They consciously deliberated the pros and cons of that action and consciously determined that they selected the wisest course. They didn't just "randomly" act.
IANAPhilosopher, but I'm fairly sure this is not what "free will" normally means in these discussions.

This lack of agreement on basic terms makes these discussions frustrating.
  #59  
Old 08-06-2019, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I will tell you what I infer from the statement "I have free will".

I surmise that someone saying this means that they believe when they perform an action (i.e., make a choice), they are exerting their conscious will. They consciously deliberated the pros and cons of that action and consciously determined that they selected the wisest course. They didn't just "randomly" act. They didn't carry out that act like how an automaton, a puppet, or hypnotized person might carry out that act. When they give an explanation for why they performed that act, that is always the right explanation since they were fully aware of all the information that compelled them to make that choice and nothing external to their consciousness (i.e., their environment and biology) forced their hand.

Furthermore, I don't assume they are merely taking about "volition". You can be severely mentally impaired and express volition. A baby can perform voluntary actions ("Aw...look at him chasing after the ball! And now he's throwing it like a champ!"). But we don't grant babies free will. And if you have an IQ of, say, 50, most people aren't going to assume you have free will. You can confess to committing a crime and there could be video footage of you gleefully committing it, laughing and everything. But your lawyer will be able to successfully convince others that that your ability to reason is so constrained that you don't really understand what you're doing and thus lack free will. Because we associate free will with high executive function.
Er, this is the first I've ever heard it hinted that babies and idiots don't have free will.

And I wouldn't expect (or believe) that most people would or even could give a right and complete explanation for why they do things. I've known way too many people to believe that.

I think your definition of "free will" is far, far more restrictive than most other people's.


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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I don't understand a lot of what you've written here, to be honest. I think you're all over the place. And I don't think you've distilled begbert2's thesis correctly if that's what you think he's been arguing. But I could be wrong.
I really couldn't say - I don't know under what circumstances he thinks free will is "a problem".
  #60  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:19 PM
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I don't think that the universe - or our brains - developed as they did such that they could be understood by us at this point in time. I can say, "I don't know" without buying into a particular fairy tale.

So, do some respondents actually believe in strict determinism? Every thought and action of everyone is predictable? Do you envision yourself an automaton? When confronted by a choice, do you make an effort to simulate choosing?
No, I don't think of myself of an automaton. I think of myself as a biological organism--one ruled by the physics and chemistry--who operates in a manner that can be predicted through the prisms of psychology and neuroscience. Is science advanced enough where we can predict everything with 100% accuracy? Of course not. Is science ever going to meet that goal? Probably not. Does that mean we have free will? Of course not.

Am I supposed to be bothered by the notion that my behavior is 100% predictable? Because I'm not. Knowing I'm predictable doesn't mean I'm not a very special person to those who know me.

At any rate, randomness <> free will.


Let me pose a thought exercise.

Pretend you are in a car accident caused by you being momentarily distracted while changing the radio dial. This accident intrigues an alien from an uber advanced civilization and the alien decides to recreate the whole scenario a hundred times--each run the same except with a minor change to a unique variable. And they place you (unknowingly) in each scenario to see if you make the same string of choices that led to the accident.

In Run 1, your bladder is halfway full instead of almost full.
In Run 2, the car temperature is 81-degrees instead of 75-degrees.
In Run 3, it is an overcast day instead of a sunny day.
In Run 4, the radio channel is tuned to your favorite song rather than your least favorite song.
In Run 5, you're wearing loose pants instead of tight pants.

Do you think that your behavior is going to be the exact same as what you exhibited in the original scenario?

Or do you think that your behavior may be identical in many of the scenarios, slightly different in others, and maybe substantially different in a few?

Or do you think your behavior will be widely different in all of them?

Because when I hear someone making an appeal to free will, I assume they are arguing that they have the ability to operate however they want (the third hypothesis), no matter what variables they are operating under. If they make a stupid choice, it's because they made a stupid choice. It's not because they were under the control of environmental factors X, Y, and Z interacting with the biological factors 1,2, and 3.

As a determinist, I'm going to go with the second hypothesis. I believe if the alien collects enough data and runs enough souped-up scenarios (e.g., multiple tweaked variables rather than one), they will be able to figure out, with high accuracy, how you might behave in a future scenario. Just like a skilled scientist can predict with high accuracy how a laboratory rat will respond in a future scenario after studying it long and hard enough.

All of this seems rather noncontroversial to me. But YMMV.
  #61  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:26 PM
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IANAPhilosopher, but I'm fairly sure this is not what "free will" normally means in these discussions.

This lack of agreement on basic terms makes these discussions frustrating.
I gave my definitions. What are yours?
  #62  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:37 PM
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As my theist friends are wont to point out, "believe" means to take on faith. No proof (and apparently little logic) is required to believe. So yes in that sense I believe in free will. I can't explain it, but it definitely feels like I have it.

Cogito ergo liberum arbitrium habere.
  #63  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:43 PM
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Er, this is the first I've ever heard it hinted that babies and idiots don't have free will.
Really? You've never heard someone argue that a person shouldn't be held responsible for his crimes by reason of insanity or mental impairment? You've never heard of juveniles getting lighter sentences than adults based on the argument that "they don't know better"?

You've never heard someone try to excuse their behavior by saying they were drunk, sleep-waking, or blind with rage at the time?

If you have heard these things, then you've heard "hints".

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And I wouldn't expect (or believe) that most people would or even could give a right and complete explanation for why they do things.
Exactly. So why should we believe these people when they say they have free will? If they are so wrong so frequently, why should we trust they know what the hell is going on in their own cognition?

Compare these statements:

"I don't know why I killed that person, Your Honor. I was insane at the time. Please spare me."

"I don't know why I killed that person, Your Honor. But because I believe in free will, I guess I performed an act of free will? What do you think?"

I think if you say you're committing an act through your own "will", you know good and well why you're committing it. Otherwise you're functionally no different than a puppet on a string. A slave to your subconscious--like someone who has been hypnotized. Do you think a hypnotized person has free will?


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I think your definition of "free will" is far, far more restrictive than most other people's.
That may be. But if free will was as simple as the majority of posters seem to think it is, why has it been the subject of debate for so long? Volition is pretty self-evident and thus not worth caring about. But the ability to carry out actions completely independent of external factors and events is a different matter all together. This is what "free will" means to people who spend a lot of time thinking about it.
  #64  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:45 PM
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Because when I hear someone making an appeal to free will, I assume they are arguing that they have the ability to operate however they want (the third hypothesis), no matter what variables they are operating under. If they make a stupid choice, it's because they made a stupid choice. It's not because they were under the control of environmental factors X, Y, and Z interacting with the biological factors 1,2, and 3.
And when I hear people talking about free will, I assume they're saying that the free-willed person is able to make decisions based on available knowledge without their decision-making process being interfered with by outside manipulation. I would consider "are my pants tight" to be part of available knowledge. The fact that somebody acts differently depending on whether they like the song on the radio or not doesn't show they don't have free will; it shows that they have varying preferences for various stimuli and react differently to the stimuli depending on their preferences and the current situation as they perceive it.

There's absolutely nothing in that that conflicts with any version of free will that I'm aware of, except maybe yours.

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I gave my definitions. What are yours?
Free will = "Sentient external forces aren't controlling decision-making process with an aim to alter my outcomes to match their intentions."
  #65  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:56 PM
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Really? You've never heard someone argue that a person shouldn't be held responsible for his crimes by reason of insanity or mental impairment? You've never heard of juveniles getting lighter sentences than adults based on the argument that "they don't know better"?

You've never heard someone try to excuse their behavior by saying they were drunk, sleep-waking, or blind with rage at the time?

If you have heard these things, then you've heard "hints".
None of that has anything at all to do with free will. Not even slightly.

I'm really having a hard time even articulating your version of free will. It's like you think that when a person is annoyed, free will shuts off on account of...what? Free will only being possible if you're coldly logical or free of emotion?

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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
Exactly. So why should we believe these people when they say they have free will? If they are so wrong so frequently, why should we trust they know what the hell is going on in their own cognition?

Compare these statements:

"I don't know why I killed that person, Your Honor. I was insane at the time. Please spare me."

"I don't know why I killed that person, Your Honor. But because I believe in free will, I guess I performed an act of free will? What do you think?"
Free will has nothing whatsoever do to with people being logical.

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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I think if you say you're committing an act through your own "will", you know good and well why you're committing it. Otherwise you're functionally no different than a puppet on a string. A slave to your subconscious--like someone who has been hypnotized. Do you think a hypnotized person has free will?
Your subconsciousness is not a different person from you.

Look. You have a head. (Or at least I assume you do.) Inside that head is your brain. That brain is you. What your brain decides to do, you decide to do.

Getting drunk doesn't mean that alcohol has gained sentience and taken control of your body. Being a little sleepy doesn't mean you're possessed by a demon. Altered mental states can make you confused (possibly to the point where people see no justice in holding you culpable), but they don't imply that you have had control of your will taken over by an external entity.

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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
That may be. But if free will was as simple as the majority of posters seem to think it is, why has it been the subject of debate for so long? Volition is pretty self-evident and thus not worth caring about. But the ability to carry out actions completely independent of external factors and events is a different matter all together. This is what "free will" means to people who spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Free will has been the subject of debate for so long because people disagree about the definitions. You see that stopping?
  #66  
Old 08-06-2019, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
And when I hear people talking about free will, I assume they're saying that the free-willed person is able to make decisions based on available knowledge without their decision-making process being interfered with by outside manipulation. I would consider "are my pants tight" to be part of available knowledge.
And what if a person isn't aware that those tight pants are negatively impacting their blood circulation, resulting in inefficient cerebral metabolism, resulting in poor decision-making? How does this get factored into a "free will" framework?

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The fact that somebody acts differently depending on whether they like the song on the radio or not doesn't show they don't have free will; it shows that they have varying preferences for various stimuli and react differently to the stimuli depending on their preferences and the current situation as they perceive it.
Without any evidence, you are presuming that the song on the radio is the best predictor. Perhaps it is the car temp +pants snugness + bladder fullness that predicts whether Dinsdale gets so distracted he misses the red light. Is this evidence of free will or it is evidence that Dinsdale is an entity whose behavior can be predicted as long as you collect enough information about him?

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There's absolutely nothing in that that conflicts with any version of free will that I'm aware of, except maybe yours.
I disagree. :shrug*

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Free will = "Sentient external forces aren't controlling decision-making process with an aim to alter my outcomes to match their intentions."
You will not find a definition in any scholarly text that matches this definition. No one claims that an amoeba is governed by "sentient" forces. But 99% of people think that amoebas lack free will.
  #67  
Old 08-06-2019, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Laplace's Demon argues that if the universe operates deterministically then all outcomes are predictable if sufficient knowledge is available. And I agree. I think that people are fully deterministic, and that they would be fully predictable if a Demon (like, say, God) had full knowledge of literally everything about the present state of the universe.

The thing is, though, I don't consider that to be a problem. Because, like I said, people manifestly make decisions based on preference. If you offer me choice between eating a fresh strawberry or a fresh ghost pepper, I will pick the strawberry 100% of the time. My decisions can be predicted if you know me well. But that doesn't mean I'm not making decisions freely - only a complete idiot would say that free will means that your own preferences aren't included in your decision process.

Just because your will is predictable doesn't mean it isn't free.
You are either using an unorthodox definition of "decision" or you are using the word "predictable" in two different senses. Laplace's demon doesn't just know you well, it knows every single particle that makes you, and all of their velocities and other properties. The demon can predict exactly how you will behave at every instant in the future. This isn't at all the kind of prediction such as, I like strawberries more than ghost peppers, so I will always pick strawberries. When you say that you have "preferences" and that those preferences influence your decision, and make you predictable, that is totally different than saying a demon can literally predict the future.

It's like you are a character in a fictional movie, and the demon is watching your movie for the fifth time. Sure, your character has a choice... maybe you have a backstory which says you don't like ghost peppers as much as strawberries. But the demon isn't going by your backstory, it is going by the fact that it already knows what you are going to do because it has already seen the film. Your backstory might not even be part of the film. In this allegory, the movie is fictional, therefore the choices of your character are fictional, too.

Overall, I think you are missing the implications of predeterminism. If the physical state of the universe at the next instant statenext can always be determined by the physical state of the universe now statecurrent, and such a chain of causation extends back ad infinitum, then no matter what "choice" you think you can make now, the universe will always reach statenext=strawberries in the next instant. It may seem that you are given a choice between a ghost peppers and strawberries, but ultimately it is a choice that is pre-determined. It is physically impossible for you to choose ghost peppers tomorrow, or possibly to want to choose ghost peppers. How is that a choice at all?

So what you may wonder? What happens when instead of you "choosing" between ghost peppers and strawberries, it is a mass murderer "choosing" to shoot schoolchildren? I'm not talking about the old environment versus character debate, but the implication is that it is physically predetermined that a certain person would shoot and kill twenty children at Sandy Hook Elementary; that the murderer may have thought he had a choice, but in reality he did not and those children were doomed to gruesome deaths from the day they were born. When we talk about the implications of hard- or causal determinism, these are the sort of things that make people say "it can't be that way".

~Max
  #68  
Old 08-06-2019, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro
Really? You've never heard someone argue that a person shouldn't be held responsible for his crimes by reason of insanity or mental impairment? You've never heard of juveniles getting lighter sentences than adults based on the argument that "they don't know better"?

You've never heard someone try to excuse their behavior by saying they were drunk, sleep-waking, or blind with rage at the time?

If you have heard these things, then you've heard "hints".
Quote:
Originally Posted by begbert2
None of that has anything at all to do with free will. Not even slightly.
Oh really?

Free will and the Criminal Justice System

Free will and psychiatric assessments of criminal responsibility: a parallel with informed consent


Neuroscience, Free Will, and CriminalResponsibility

The Illusion of Free Will and Mental Illness Stigma

Human Biology and Criminal Responsibility: Free Will or Free Ride?

073003JONES.DOC09/03/034:55 PMOVERCOMING THE MYTH OF FREE WILL INCRIMINAL LAW: THE TRUE IMPACT OF THEGENETIC REVOLUTION


You can disagree with me all you want, but it is wrong to argue that nothing I've said relates to free will--or more precisely, how plenty of people through history have conceptualized free will. If you continue to dismiss me like this, I will be compelled to ignore you since I don't want to spend a whole lot of time educating you on the entirety of the discourse.

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Originally Posted by begbert2
I'm really having a hard time even articulating your version of free will. It's like you think that when a person is annoyed, free will shuts off on account of...what? Free will only being possible if you're coldly logical or free of emotion?
You don't understand what I'm talking about if you think I've been talking about "free will shutting off". So maybe you need to stop lecturing me about what is and isn't free will (and so confidently!) and simply ask for clarification.

To clarify (since you're confused): I think the notion of free will that most people have is bullshit. That notion being that we can make decisions free (free is supposed to mean something!!) from biological constraints, both known and unknown. And no, I don't consider all of one's brain to be them. No one really does. No one pats themselves on the back for their awesome peristalasis. The brain does all matter of things a person isn't aware of, that they aren't in control of. I personally think that is a disingenuous cop-out to argue that involuntary processes are free will. Because that means humans are no different than amoebas in the will department. And no one believes we make have the same will as amoebas.

The whole "free will" concept was invented so we could see ourselves differently (better than) all other life forms. The concept is used to distinguish organisms that do things "unthinkingly" from those that do. And it has been logically extended to distinguish people with impairments or undeveloped executive functioning from healthy, mature individuals. I'm sorry if this is all brand new to you, but that's really not my problem.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:14 PM
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I gave my definitions. What are yours?
The one I already delivered that you said was all over the place.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:35 PM
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The one I already delivered that you said was all over the place.
So you can't come up with something more coherent?
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Old 08-07-2019, 06:35 AM
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I think one of the major reasons why Atheists exist is because they wanted freewill. So, every Atheists believed in freewill, that is why they are one in the first place.
I'm not sure this will be fruitful, but there are Atheists in this very thread that don't believe free will exists (I'm not sure why you capitalize that). So, please provide a cite for your claim, since it seems pretty much disproven by this very thread. I didn't become an atheist so I could believe in free will -- I was never brought up in any belief system so never had any belief in the supernatural. Believe me, when I was 5 years old, I wasn't thinking about free will, its existence or not, and the implications of such.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:08 AM
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I will tell you what I infer from the statement "I have free will".

I surmise that someone saying this means that they believe when they perform an action (i.e., make a choice), they are exerting their conscious will. They consciously deliberated the pros and cons of that action and consciously determined that they selected the wisest course. They didn't just "randomly" act. They didn't carry out that act like how an automaton, a puppet, or hypnotized person might carry out that act. When they give an explanation for why they performed that act, that is always the right explanation since they were fully aware of all the information that compelled them to make that choice and nothing external to their consciousness (i.e., their environment and biology) forced their hand.
No, we don't make conscious choices for ever single action we take. But at some point in the past we did make those choices. Consider the act of typing. You don't consciously decide which key to hit, with which finger, and with which degree of pressure. But remember when you first used a keyboard, you actually did make these conscious choices. You had to find each key and decide which finger to strike it with. But after a while, with enough repetition, your subconscious took over, and you remembered having made the same choices over and over. So thanks to your subconscious memory, you no longer had to made the same choices.

Or remember the first time you drove a car. You had to make so many choices, they seemed overwhelming. But now when you drive, most of the time your subconscious takes over, and you're not at all conscious of what you're doing.

But if an exception happens - if you have to type a special character, or if you have to pull over to allow an ambulance to pass - that's when your consciousness kicks in and overrides the automatic decisions of the subconscious.

But none of this violates the principal of free will. Even when your typing or driving seems to be automatic, it's all based on conscious decisions you made in the past, decisions that due to repetition your subconscious has made automatic.

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Because when I hear someone making an appeal to free will, I assume they are arguing that they have the ability to operate however they want (the third hypothesis), no matter what variables they are operating under. If they make a stupid choice, it's because they made a stupid choice. It's not because they were under the control of environmental factors X, Y, and Z interacting with the biological factors 1,2, and 3.
Like everything else in the universe, free will is contextual. You don't have the free will to swim somewhere if you're not near any water, or if you're paralyzed. Free will is the subset of the reality within which it operates. But it's not that reality that determines your choices. Even if your choice is limited to "think or not think", you are still the agent that makes that choice. In fact, that's the fundamental choice you will ever make.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:12 AM
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If you are an atheist, that means you believe that there is no entity or "power" that plans or determines anything. So, wouldn't you have to believe in "free will" by default? I mean, if you aren't calling the shots in life, who or what is?
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:21 AM
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If you are an atheist, that means you believe that there is no entity or "power" that plans or determines anything. So, wouldn't you have to believe in "free will" by default? I mean, if you aren't calling the shots in life, who or what is?
Physics and chemistry?

Does a bacterium have free will? A plant? Who calls the shots when a plant angles itself towards the sunlight?
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:47 AM
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There's absolutely nothing in that that conflicts with any version of free will that I'm aware of, except maybe yours.
begbert2, I agreed with everything you've said in this thread, up to this point.

Because "free will" is actually defined in lots of ways, and is the root of the whole problem.

1. Mostly, people just define it in a very vague way that doesn't really mean anything e.g. "Could have chosen differently"

2. But others define it in a self-contradictory way. e.g. Implying that free will cannot be causally connected to the past, but that random events also don't count. So...a reasoned decision that cannot be based on any reasons (which would link it to the past).

3. Then finally of course you have the baggage of religion. Free will is often used as a defence against the problem of evil; God is not culpable in any way because...free will.
This kind of free will is based on the listener being satisfied enough to not bother to think about what free will is, how decisions are made and how it therefore absolves God of responsibility. Any attempt to do so and it falls apart.

From my point of view it is so frustrating, because it will forever be considered as one of the great problems of philosophy. And yet, the whole problem is down to loose or self-contradictory definitions.
Every coherent definition for free will I have seen, free will either trivially does or does not exist, based on the definition, and there is no debate.

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Old 08-07-2019, 09:51 AM
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No, we don't make conscious choices for ever single action we take. But at some point in the past we did make those choices. Consider the act of typing. You don't consciously decide which key to hit, with which finger, and with which degree of pressure. But remember when you first used a keyboard, you actually did make these conscious choices. You had to find each key and decide which finger to strike it with. But after a while, with enough repetition, your subconscious took over, and you remembered having made the same choices over and over. So thanks to your subconscious memory, you no longer had to made the same choices.
So all this tells me is that sometimes I have awareness of what I do and sometimes I do not. Sometimes I have the sensation of making deliberate decisions and sometimes I don't. None of this points to free will.


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Or remember the first time you drove a car. You had to make so many choices, they seemed overwhelming. But now when you drive, most of the time your subconscious takes over, and you're not at all conscious of what you're doing.
I infer from this that consciousness is not only unnecessary to carry out actions, but it can actually hinder actions. What I don't infer is that we have free will.



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But if an exception happens - if you have to type a special character, or if you have to pull over to allow an ambulance to pass - that's when your consciousness kicks in and overrides the automatic decisions of the subconscious.
All this tells me is that my consciousness is always on stand-by. It doesn't tell me anything about the process I used to come to decisions.

If I am driving along a road on mental automatic and then suddenly a deer darts out into my path, which comes first: my awareness of the deer or my foot pressing on the brake? I have not tested this out, but I am guessing that a video camera would catch me moving my foot before the time I would report being aware of the deer. Now if this hypothesis is true, if I don't stop in time to avoid hitting the deer, who is to blame? The conscious part of me--the one who likes to brag about making only smart, responsible decisions? Or the reptilian part of me that I have no awareness of, that does stuff I have no awareness of, that doesn't brag since reptiles can't speak?


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But none of this violates the principal of free will. Even when your typing or driving seems to be automatic, it's all based on conscious decisions you made in the past, decisions that due to repetition your subconscious has made automatic.

You are presuming that your conscious is working independently of your subconscious. You are presuming that your conscious is the thing feeding information to your subconscious rather the other way around. These are presumptions without evidence.

I think the thing that I call my consciousness is just a tiny window into my cognition. Like, sometimes I am conscious of the content of my dreams, but I know I have had many dreams that left no mark on my consciousness since I have no memory of them. However, I don't assume that means those unremembered dreams aren't influencing my behavior. There have been many instances where I have gotten out of bed in a foul mood. At no time in the middle of the night did I consciously plan for that to happen. But it happens. So I gotta think that whatever happened "behind the scenes" of my consciousness is directly responsible. That is the control center, not my consciousness. So if it is my subconscious that is setting the initial stage for all subsequent thoughts and actions, at what point can I say I was in conscious control of anything? I can make guesses, but that is all they would be. I can't objectively know when conscious me is in control or reptile me is. So instead of thinking I have some ability I can never know I have, I assume I don't.

And somehow I am still a happy, high-functioning, non-nihilistic individual.



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Like everything else in the universe, free will is contextual. You don't have the free will to swim somewhere if you're not near any water, or if you're paralyzed. Free will is the subset of the reality within which it operates. But it's not that reality that determines your choices. Even if your choice is limited to "think or not think", you are still the agent that makes that choice. In fact, that's the fundamental choice you will ever make.
I have never been able to "not think" on command. I have never been able to "not feel" on command.

I have experienced the sensation of making myself think and feel certain things. But I have no way of knowing whether these are not merely illusions. My brain creates illusions and delusions all the time. For all I know, when it seems I have successfully convinced myself I am looking cute today just by saying it enough times, really what did the trick was my repitilian brain waking me up this morning with an extra infusion of oxytocin in my blood stream. So why do I pat myself on the back for having the self-discipline to recite mantras? Because I have been programmed to think that I can make myself act and feel "right" just through sheer will. Almost everyone has been programmed to think like this. But perhaps if we were programmed to think of ourselves as walking bags of hormones and nerve impulses, we would be more humble.

As a determinist, if someone were to ask me why I have such great self esteem, I would start off by saying I don't know and then rattle off some guesses. A stereotypical free willer (which may not describe you) would give a more confident response. A free willer is more likely to advise a person with low self-esteem with a platitude like "just believe in yourself!"than a determinist is. A determinist is more likely to prescribe certain re-programming tricks (like CBT) that get at the root problems--which are typically buried in the subconscious. A someone who says they believe in free will, but who leans more on re-programming approaches than "just try harder!" solutions, is a functional determinist.

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Old 08-07-2019, 10:01 AM
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If you are an atheist, that means you believe that there is no entity or "power" that plans or determines anything. So, wouldn't you have to believe in "free will" by default? I mean, if you aren't calling the shots in life, who or what is?
Free will means being able to act freely independent of initial conditions. It does not just mean the ability to act independent of an "entity" or "power".

So no, I don't think free will is the default.

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Old 08-07-2019, 10:08 AM
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I think this severely conflicts with the atheistic view towards God. It is like arguing that because the universe is so complex that is impossible to develop a unifying theory to explain everything in it, we may as well assume God exists."
Sure, if that's where your trillions of neural pathways take you based on the inputs you have received. As far as I know, the atheistic view toward God is that there is no evidence of such a thing, whereas we do know that brains exist and have some idea of how complex they are.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:14 AM
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Sure, if that's where your trillions of neural pathways take you based on the inputs you have received. As far as I know, the atheistic view toward God is that there is no evidence of such a thing, whereas we do know that brains exist and have some idea of how complex they are.
But how does a complex brain equate to free will?

We have complex computers. We may as well say they have free will, right? Well, no, because someone knows how they work and understands their programming.

One day our complex brains may cease to be a mystery to us. If this happens, do you think people will still conclude we may as well believe in free will, or do you think they will adopt a different ideological framework?

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Old 08-07-2019, 10:37 AM
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But how does a complex brain equate to free will?
Only in the sense of being indistinguishable in practice, like a computer-generated pseudorandom sequence being indistinguishable from a million dice-rolls. I'm not using the complexity of the brain to prove free will, I just argue that the complexity of the brain (relative to our current understanding of its mechanics and probably our future understanding for at least the next several decades) means we may as well act as if it operates by free will.

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We have complex computers. We may as well say they have free will, right? Well, no, because someone knows how they work and understands their programming.
Even this is slipping away from us, with computer systems becoming sufficiently complex that no human can grasp how they overall work. (reference: CGP Grey, "How Machines Learn")

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One day our complex brains may cease to be a mystery to us. If this happens, do you think people will still conclude we may as well believe in free will, or do you think they will adopt a different ideological framework?
I think at that point, "free will" as a concept will probably be abandoned. Arguably, humanity will have to do this at some point to ensure its long-term survival, since without some significant tinkering with human instinct, future technology will empower psychopaths to kill millions the way contemporary psychopaths use modern firearms to kill dozens.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:41 AM
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Even this is slipping away from us, with computer systems becoming sufficiently complex that no human can grasp how they overall work. (reference: CGP Grey, "How Machines Learn")
I have buttons on my remote controls that I've never used and have no idea what they do.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:52 AM
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Only in the sense of being indistinguishable in practice, like a computer-generated pseudorandom sequence being indistinguishable from a million dice-rolls. I'm not using the complexity of the brain to prove free will, I just argue that the complexity of the brain (relative to our current understanding of its mechanics and probably our future understanding for at least the next several decades) means we may as well act as if it operates by free will.







Even this is slipping away from us, with computer systems becoming sufficiently complex that no human can grasp how they overall work. (reference: CGP Grey, "How Machines Learn")







I think at that point, "free will" as a concept will probably be abandoned. Arguably, humanity will have to do this at some point to ensure its long-term survival, since without some significant tinkering with human instinct, future technology will empower psychopaths to kill millions the way contemporary psychopaths use modern firearms to kill dozens.
I think we will reach a turning point in our social development when people no longer feel "icky" over using biometrics to identify potential sociopaths so that they can either be fixed or isolated from others. When society makes that shift, that will indicate we have collectively let go of the primitive idea that sociopaths are simply people who have just chosen to be bad for badness' sake. Whether posters here want to admit it or not, that is what the free will connotes to most people.


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Old 08-07-2019, 10:59 AM
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I think we will reach a turning point in our social development when people no longer feel "icky" over using biometrics to identify potential sociopaths so that they can either be fixed or isolated from others. When society makes that shift, that will indicate we have collectively let go of the primitive idea that sociopaths are simply people who have just chosen to be bad for badness' sake. Whether posters here want to admit it or not, that is what the free will connotes to most people.


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Sociopathology, any pathology really, is a scale with mitigating factors. Before we take to isolating people based on their genetic predispositions, we better be damn sure we know what we're doing.

(We won't. We almost never do.)
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Old 08-07-2019, 11:23 AM
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Sociopathology, any pathology really, is a scale with mitigating factors. Before we take to isolating people based on their genetic predispositions, we better be damn sure we know what we're doing.



(We won't. We almost never do.)
Eh, nothing we do is ever perfect. But if we identify a set of factors that predict sociopathy in 90% of cases, with a false positive error of 10%, it would be irreponsible for us not to do anything with this information.

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Old 08-07-2019, 11:30 AM
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Physics and chemistry?

Does a bacterium have free will? A plant? Who calls the shots when a plant angles itself towards the sunlight?
Well, since there aren't any plant or animal "atheists" that I know of, I assumed the question was directed at humans regarding humans.
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Old 08-07-2019, 11:38 AM
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Well, since there aren't any plant or animal "atheists" that I know of, I assumed the question was directed at humans regarding humans.
Neuroscience of free will.
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Old 08-07-2019, 11:41 AM
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Well, since there aren't any plant or animal "atheists" that I know of
Most praying mantises are just yielding to peer pressure.
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:02 PM
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Every time I bathe my 10-month old, I can appreciate how much control my subconscious mind has over my actions.

My daughter is a chub of wriggly energy. When she's in the bathtub, she gets excited and wants to grab all the toys and all the soap bubbles. She normally can sit up just fine, but because she's so top heavy, you can never be sure that she won't topple over. I don't trust her not to drown herself the second I turn my back on her.

When I sit by the tub watching her play, sometimes my arms will shoot out to catch her when she falls. Before it registers in my mind that she's even lost her balance, my hands have already grabbed her. It's like an alien is literally controlling my body. It has happened enough times that I've stopped being startled by it and I just embrace it for what it is: my subconsciousness insists on taking the wheel when my baby is in the bathtub. Probably because it knows my conscious mind is too slow to react to subtle signs she's teetering towards death.

But here's the thing: my subconsciousness takes the wheel in situations like this one, but I'm wise enough to know that doesn't mean it's influence is limited to just those times. Isn't it quite likely it is almost always behind the wheel and I'm simply unaware of it because the actions its driving aren't as obvious as alien arms moving without my control? Most of these "actions" aren't going to be actions at all. They are going to be thoughts, feelings, and impulsive gestures. My conscious mind might take the credit for all of this stuff, but like any executive writing up his/her performance report at the end of the year, it's really the subconscious machinery that is doing the work.

Eve was tempted by the snake into eating the apple. Believers in free will focus on this simple action (taking the apple and eating it) when judging her for choosing wrongly. But given the nature of her brain, personality, and the sum total of knowledge that she had at the point this whole scene went down, could she control whether she would be curious about the apple? Could she control the persuasive effect the snake's words had on her? Could she will herself not to be hungry at the exact moment she saw the apple? Could she will herself not to find the apple visually pleasing? If her subconscious mind compelled her to impulsively reach up and grab the thing because of all these drivers in the background that she has no control over--the same way mine commands me to grab my bathing daughter--is this "free will"?

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Old 08-07-2019, 12:43 PM
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Eh, nothing we do is ever perfect. But if we identify a set of factors that predict sociopathy in 90% of cases, with a false positive error of 10%, it would be irreponsible for us not to do anything with this information.
I think this topic is interesting although a bit removed from athiesm and free will, so I created a separate debate thread on this subject titled "Sociopath Screening".

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Old 08-07-2019, 12:56 PM
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Well, since there aren't any plant or animal "atheists" that I know of, I assumed the question was directed at humans regarding humans.
I either really don't understand your original question or I really don't understand this response. If you want to clarify the question or claim, I'll try to answer again.

You asked, what power was controlling a person since an atheist doesn't believe in a higher power (or something like that) and I responded that it was physics and chemistry -- your brain has a certain physical and chemical configuration at each moment and will respond a certain (unpredictable) way given the same inputs. I don't see any room for whatever "free will" means. I also gave examples of other living things that respond to stimulus, but no one would claim that a plant has free will. And yet, using chemistry and physics, it will orient towards the sun.
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:58 PM
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I honestly find "natural" free will more believable than free will under an omniscient creator. If he knows everything, he knows everything then he knows everything we will do.

Outside of an omniscient god, we have nothing that can predict our every move with 100% precision. I think that would be the the only "proof" that free will doesn't exist. Until that time, I think it is fine to think that free will exists and I will not fault a person for thinking one way or another (btw, I also think it's absolutely fine to believe in God). I think our unpredictability is pretty convincing evidence that we have something like free will.

I believe a "choice" is created by an immensely complex set of factors related to past experiences, beliefs, your peers, your brain chemistry, stress, etc. It is such a unique signature, that while I believe a machine could probably predict your actions with pretty good accuracy, I do not think it could do it within your lifetime, as all those factors are constantly changing. I do not think choice is necessary always a conscious choice either.

I do believe people can change and make different choices than the would have at different times under similar circumstances (e.g. become "better" or "worse" people). One could easily argue that transformation was not due to choice either, but it's close enough for me.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:13 PM
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your brain has a certain physical and chemical configuration at each moment and will respond a certain (unpredictable) way given the same inputs.
Could you clarify what you mean by "unpredictable" in this sentence? Do you mean practically unpredictable but still deterministic? Or do you really mean non-deterministic, as in the Copenhagen interpretation? Or do you mean stochastic? Or what?

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Old 08-07-2019, 01:37 PM
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Somehow, since I was using your word, I assumed you couldn't find offense in it. Live and learn. I will in the future only state my beliefs without commenting on yours.
Well forgetting for a sec that for one of those examples you'd have had to travel forward in time to reference, it was really the claim that my post was pseudoscientific that raised my hackles. There is nothing pseudoscientific in that post. But hey, let bygones be bygones.

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I've also said that I do not see the connection between these two statements. I dislike the term "biological machines" because I think it's intended to gloss over a enormous number of issues we don't have answers to. Whatever we are is a product of multiple influences, both internal and external, that cannot be explained today. Brain scan studies are interesting, but cannot and should not at this stage be taken as evidence that the bottom level has been reached. Consciousness is the important problem. If we don't have any idea what it is we cannot say that it exists on a gradient. It might, or it might be an emergent property that only a few select species have. Are emergent properties casually determined? If so, how?

My personal belief is that we are at the state physics was in 1900. We thought we knew everything, only to find that we knew only a few basics, and not the interesting stuff. Our knowledge of the brain and consciousness, whatever that is, is basic. The interesting stuff is still hidden.
I don't like "biological machines" either but you weren't happy with causal determinism without compatibilism. I think that should be enough to start the conversation (though it may require further refinements).

I don't think the idea that conciousness exists on a gradient is controversial. We know there is a difference between sentience and self-awareness, and that humans can be unconcious but still dream.

Most emergent properties are causally determined. I don't know of any that don't make sense (though conciousness is obviously hard to get our heads around). Note that most emergent phenomena seem intentional but aren't. IMO that seems closer to an implication that there's no free will (I'm certainly not sold on that notion though).

I'm not sure free will doesn't exist - I'm just blown away by how many otherwise scientifically-minded people default to tossing Occam's Razor in the trash just because they don't like how they look in the mirror after using it in this case.
  #94  
Old 08-07-2019, 01:38 PM
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Could you clarify what you mean by "unpredictable" in this sentence? Do you mean practically unpredictable but still deterministic? Or do you really mean non-deterministic, as in the Copenhagen interpretation? Or do you mean stochastic? Or what?

~Max
It's surely unpredictable, even in theory, because of the wavelike qualities of electrons in your neurons. It's probably also unpredictable, even in theory, due to chaos effects, sensitive dependence on initial conditions and so on, although I'm willing to be talked out of that one.

Leaving quantum effects aside, is it possible to predict, even in theory, how a spinning die will land after falling through turbulent air, for example? It's possible that there are too many variables to be solvable before the heat death of the universe or something.

Anyway, that's a hijack from the main point for me which is, even though you can't predict the outcome, that doesn't mean "free will" was involved. 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.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
Oh really?

Free will and the Criminal Justice System

Free will and psychiatric assessments of criminal responsibility: a parallel with informed consent


Neuroscience, Free Will, and CriminalResponsibility

The Illusion of Free Will and Mental Illness Stigma

Human Biology and Criminal Responsibility: Free Will or Free Ride?

073003JONES.DOC09/03/034:55 PMOVERCOMING THE MYTH OF FREE WILL INCRIMINAL LAW: THE TRUE IMPACT OF THEGENETIC REVOLUTION


You can disagree with me all you want, but it is wrong to argue that nothing I've said relates to free will--or more precisely, how plenty of people through history have conceptualized free will. If you continue to dismiss me like this, I will be compelled to ignore you since I don't want to spend a whole lot of time educating you on the entirety of the discourse.



You don't understand what I'm talking about if you think I've been talking about "free will shutting off". So maybe you need to stop lecturing me about what is and isn't free will (and so confidently!) and simply ask for clarification.

To clarify (since you're confused): I think the notion of free will that most people have is bullshit. That notion being that we can make decisions free (free is supposed to mean something!!) from biological constraints, both known and unknown. And no, I don't consider all of one's brain to be them. No one really does. No one pats themselves on the back for their awesome peristalasis. The brain does all matter of things a person isn't aware of, that they aren't in control of. I personally think that is a disingenuous cop-out to argue that involuntary processes are free will. Because that means humans are no different than amoebas in the will department. And no one believes we make have the same will as amoebas.

The whole "free will" concept was invented so we could see ourselves differently (better than) all other life forms. The concept is used to distinguish organisms that do things "unthinkingly" from those that do. And it has been logically extended to distinguish people with impairments or undeveloped executive functioning from healthy, mature individuals. I'm sorry if this is all brand new to you, but that's really not my problem.
Only tangential to the topic but - I remember reading those studies about how people act more antisocial when recently exposed to the idea there is no free will. I ended up writing a Vonnegutian short story about how Homeland Security finds out that a scientist is about to publish a research paper showing conclusive proof there's no free will. Scientists at Home Sec run simulations that predict public disbelief in free will would essentially end civilization as we know it. They attempt to convince..well I don't want to spoil the rest.
  #96  
Old 08-07-2019, 01:58 PM
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I...the primitive idea that sociopaths are simply people who have just chosen to be bad for badness' sake. Whether posters here want to admit it or not, that is what the free will connotes to most people.
If you care about convincing people, you might eschew unfounded generalizations such as this. Whether or not "most people" believe this, I've seen nothing to suggest this is a position held by any posters to this thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mijin
Because "free will" is actually defined in lots of ways, and is the root of the whole problem.

1. Mostly, people just define it in a very vague way that doesn't really mean anything e.g. "Could have chosen differently"
...
To which monstro responds
Quote:
Free will means being able to act freely independent of initial conditions.
I doubt anyone in this thread would question that actions are not INFLUENCED by prior conditions. My perception is that the disagreement is whether EVERY action is ENTIRELY DETERMINED by those conditions. In other words, in Mijin's definition - could you have decided otherwise?

I do not know the answer. I'm certainly not a neurochemist/physicist. But it sure FEELS like I'm able to decide which flavor of ice cream to have. And I (and it seems most people) seem to view life as more enjoyable and meaningful if we act under what may be a shared delusion that we each have at least some limited degree of personal agency.

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.

Decide which side you prefer and live your life accordingly.
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  #97  
Old 08-07-2019, 02:01 PM
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It's surely unpredictable, even in theory, because of the wavelike qualities of electrons in your neurons. It's probably also unpredictable, even in theory, due to chaos effects, sensitive dependence on initial conditions and so on, although I'm willing to be talked out of that one.
I'm not sure what the argument is here, but chaotic phenomenon (including sensitive dependence) are deterministic and in theory predictable.
  #98  
Old 08-07-2019, 02:01 PM
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You are either using an unorthodox definition of "decision" or you are using the word "predictable" in two different senses. Laplace's demon doesn't just know you well, it knows every single particle that makes you, and all of their velocities and other properties. The demon can predict exactly how you will behave at every instant in the future. This isn't at all the kind of prediction such as, I like strawberries more than ghost peppers, so I will always pick strawberries. When you say that you have "preferences" and that those preferences influence your decision, and make you predictable, that is totally different than saying a demon can literally predict the future.
Actually it's only different quantitatively. Qualitatively it's exactly the same.

When a human announces that I will choose strawberries, they are making an educated guess about the paths my thought process will take. They say to themselves, "my experience tells me that begbert2 prefers strawberries, so now that he's been given the choice, I speculate that his preference for strawberries will make him pick the strawberries."

The Demon does exactly the same thing, except he's not speculating. He looks into my head, notices that my neurons are pulling up (or going to pull up) information about my preferences, and can with absolute precision determine every other cognitive influence that will influence the decision, and predict how those influences will interact at the mechanical level. This allows him to predict the result - through informed inference and deduction. Which, again, is exactly the same thing the human predictor does, except the Demon has more and more certain information to work with.

Quote:
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It's like you are a character in a fictional movie, and <snip> In this allegory, the movie is fictional, therefore the choices of your character are fictional, too.
I have problem with your allegory.

'Imagine you're blue. In this allegory you're blue, therefore you're really blue.'

Anyway, with that out of the way, let's rewind and review the meat of that paragraph.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
It's like you are a character in a fictional movie, and the demon is watching your movie for the fifth time. Sure, your character has a choice... maybe you have a backstory which says you don't like ghost peppers as much as strawberries. But the demon isn't going by your backstory, it is going by the fact that it already knows what you are going to do because it has already seen the film. Your backstory might not even be part of the film. In this allegory, the movie is fictional, therefore the choices of your character are fictional, too.
That's not how Laplace's Demon works. The Demon doesn't actually see into the future; it only extrapolates from the data available in the present. The backstory, so to speak. So, obviously, it's flat-out wrong to say that "the demon isn't going by your backstory, it is going by the fact that it already knows what you are going to do because it has already seen the film". That is, again, completely and flagrantly in opposed to the definition of Laplace's Demon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
Overall, I think you are missing the implications of predeterminism. If the physical state of the universe at the next instant statenext can always be determined by the physical state of the universe now statecurrent, and such a chain of causation extends back ad infinitum, then no matter what "choice" you think you can make now, the universe will always reach statenext=strawberries in the next instant. It may seem that you are given a choice between a ghost peppers and strawberries, but ultimately it is a choice that is pre-determined. It is physically impossible for you to choose ghost peppers tomorrow, or possibly to want to choose ghost peppers. How is that a choice at all?
I understand the implications just fine. I'm just not ignoring the mechanics.

Supposing at time T I'm sitting with two plates in front of me, one with strawberries on it and one with suffering on it. At time T+1 I'm sitting there happily munching on strawberries and ignoring the plate of doom. That's the scenario, and you can describe it by just mentioning those two points and nothing else.

But in actuality, one has to actually get from T to T1 in real time, and during that time processes are happening. Light enters my eyes telling me about the food and mockery-of-food in front of me. Cognitive processes interpret this information to identify the objects in front of me. My memories are accessed, and based on them I can identify strawberries by sight, and the peppers as some kind of pepper maybe. Preferences for known tasty fruit and unknown probably-vegetables are weighed, as well as an assessment of my hunger levels as relayed by my stomach and the absence of observed indication that there will be negative consequences for eating the strawberries (like a price tag). Mental math on these preferences is carried out, concluding with the decision that I should eat the strawberries. This triggers a cascade of other decisions at the conscious and unconscious levels of my mind to manipulate my arm and finger muscles into picking up the strawberries and put them in my mouth, and to manipulate my mouth muscles into chewing and swallowing them in a manner that savors their flavor.

Between time T and T1 many physical processes occur, notably including that "mental math" I mentioned. That "mental math"? That's a choice. That's the process of choosing, of assessing different options, weighing them, and choosing between them.

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.)

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. Because what's the alternative? Making decisions not based on knowledge and preferences? Randomity taking over and spastically shoving ghost peppers into my mouth against my will? No thanks. I'm perfectly happy to know that who I am determines what I choose to do. The choices I make will be real choices, of course, with real consequences, and the fact that they're controlled by me, the physical matter that makes up my body and brain, is exactly the way I like it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
So what you may wonder? What happens when instead of you "choosing" between ghost peppers and strawberries, it is a mass murderer "choosing" to shoot schoolchildren? I'm not talking about the old environment versus character debate, but the implication is that it is physically predetermined that a certain person would shoot and kill twenty children at Sandy Hook Elementary; that the murderer may have thought he had a choice, but in reality he did not and those children were doomed to gruesome deaths from the day they were born. When we talk about the implications of hard- or causal determinism, these are the sort of things that make people say "it can't be that way".
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. That he was driven to this end by the course his life took is unfortunate but inevitable, because that's the course his life took. That the poor murdered children found themselves in the position to be killed is also unfortunate, but it's also the natural result of the events leading up to that point in their lives. Events happened, billions of decisions were made, and each decision altered the situation from one moment to the next.

Though I do feel I should mention, that while I think it's self-evident that brains make virtually no use of ghost-pepper-grabbing randomity, it's quite possible that randomity exists in the rest of the world that can butterfly up to have significant effects. I believe that (if randomity exists) brains edit out any effects of randomity via mechanical processes (much like how computers ignore most random voltage perturbations), because I don't think randomity helps reasoned decision-making and I think evolution would have corrected it away. However the rest of reality had no reason to develop in a way to filter out randomity, so there could be random events in our surrounding environment significant enough to alter the course of events. Just, not within anybody's decision-making processes.

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.

Presuming the state in our heads determines that such an action should be taken, anyway.



Quote:
Originally Posted by monstro View Post
Free will means being able to act freely independent of initial conditions. It does not just mean the ability to act independent of an "entity" or "power".

So no, I don't think free will is the default.

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"Initial conditions"? It sounds like you think "my emotional and mental state this specific instant" is an "initial condition".

It sounds like you want decisions to be made not based on anything about me as a person - my emotions, my preferences, my knowledge, my beliefs, my awareness of my surroundings and situation. All these things are in place predating the decision - so none of them can be used, huh?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
begbert2, I agreed with everything you've said in this thread, up to this point.

Because "free will" is actually defined in lots of ways, and is the root of the whole problem.

1. Mostly, people just define it in a very vague way that doesn't really mean anything e.g. "Could have chosen differently"

2. But others define it in a self-contradictory way. e.g. Implying that free will cannot be causally connected to the past, but that random events also don't count. So...a reasoned decision that cannot be based on any reasons (which would link it to the past).

3. Then finally of course you have the baggage of religion. Free will is often used as a defence against the problem of evil; God is not culpable in any way because...free will.
This kind of free will is based on the listener being satisfied enough to not bother to think about what free will is, how decisions are made and how it therefore absolves God of responsibility. Any attempt to do so and it falls apart.

From my point of view it is so frustrating, because it will forever be considered as one of the great problems of philosophy. And yet, the whole problem is down to loose or self-contradictory definitions.
Every coherent definition for free will I have seen, free will either trivially does or does not exist, based on the definition, and there is no debate.
Yeah, pretty much. Though as you can tell from my rambling, there's a fair amount of interesting conversation possible discussing how or why reality does or does not meet the criteria for a given definition.

And I really do like these discussions as a result. Though it is best when people can be at least somewhat on the same definitional page.
  #99  
Old 08-07-2019, 02:07 PM
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Anyway, that's a hijack from the main point for me which is, even though you can't predict the outcome, that doesn't mean "free will" was involved. 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.
It may be worth noting that the term "free will" has two words in it: "free" and "will". The bulk of free will discussion is about people, who tend to be generally accepted as having "will" unless somebody thinks they can make an argument from absurdity that determinism makes will impossible, or somesuch. So, most of the time, the discussion of free will is about whether people's wills are free or not.

When you start talking about feathers and geiger counters, you're suddenly talking about "will" too, which sort of muddies the discussion a but. Sure your machine lacks will - but is it or isn't it "free"?
  #100  
Old 08-07-2019, 03:09 PM
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If you care about convincing people, you might eschew unfounded generalizations such as this. Whether or not "most people" believe this, I've seen nothing to suggest this is a position held by any posters to this thread.


As with most threads we have had here about free will, most posters here arguing for free will are all arguing different things. You have people here arguing that subconsciously-driven actions are free will. You have people here arguing that a discussion of mental impairment has no relevance to free will. You have people implying that anything that acts randomly has free will.

So I don't have to work that hard to convince someone (maybe not you) that the notion of free will is a bunch of bullshit. All I have to do is point them to the diversity of ad hoc, diosyncratic, and contradictory definitions and they will at least walk away thinking that it is a problematic concept with little intellectual rigor behind it.



Quote:

I doubt anyone in this thread would question that actions are not INFLUENCED by prior conditions. My perception is that the disagreement is whether EVERY action is ENTIRELY DETERMINED by those conditions. In other words, in Mijin's definition - could you have decided otherwise?
I have no way of knowing whether an action is entirely dictated by prior conditions or whether it is merely influenced. So instead of being arrogant and assuming something I cannot know, I choose to take the more parsimonious position-- one that simply allows me to say I performed an act. I don't have to say I performed that act under my free will. I don't have to give an unqualified explanation for why I committed that act. I can just say I committed an act. The end.


Quote:
I do not know the answer. I'm certainly not a neurochemist/physicist. But it sure FEELS like I'm able to decide which flavor of ice cream to have.
Do you choose what kind of ice cream you prefer? If I offered you the choice between your favorite ice cream flavor and shit-flavored ice cream, do you think you would ever choose the latter? If you chose the latter, don't you think that would indicate that you were insane? Don't we normally deny free will to the insane?

I know that for me, I would never choose shit ice cream unless I was being coerced (someone was holding a gun to my head or threatened to fire me from my job). Being coerced into an act is the opposite of free will. Now as a determinist, I view the ice cream choice as coercion even without a gun. I don't feel anyone pushing my hand to select my favorite ice cream, but since I did not choose to have a preference for it in the first place and since I did not choose to be repulsed by shit, I believe my hand is indeed being pushed. I can imagine myself selecting a bowl of shit to eat just to make observers recoil in horror, but that does not mean I ever would make this choice freely, without some external condition pushing me into this action.

I gotta think that if you met someone who had to deliberate long and hard over whether it makes more sense to eat shit than vanilla ice cream, you would immediately assume something was wrong with that person. Either they are mentally challenged or they are mentally ill. And because of this, you would likely conclude that they did not have free will. Or at least the same kind of free will as a "normal" person. Normal people act predictably yet people assume they have free will. Crazy people are unpredictable, but we assume they aren't mentally "free". That is crazy to me!!

Quote:
And I (and it seems most people) seem to view life as more enjoyable and meaningful if we act under what may be a shared delusion that we each have at least some limited degree of personal agency.

I too share in this delusion most of the time. But the difference is, I stop indulging in this delusion when it loses its benefits. And I am not afraid to call it a delusion.


Quote:
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.

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.





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