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  #1  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 05:52 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Free Will

This thread is a continuation of a conversation of Free Will that started on page 4 of the "Intelligent Design and Why Not" thread with post #31. Please read those posts if you want the background.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TomJrzk
Here are Tom's thoughts on free will in a nutshell:

1. All behaviors, personality, thoughts, feelings, and dreams come from our brains. There's nothing supernatural or spiritual.

2. Therefore, whatever choices we make are predetermined, they rely solely on the current conditions of our brains: memories/prior experiences, instincts/personality and what we sense from our environment; there's nothing else to tip the balance between 'yes' and 'no'.

3. Every individual's choices are essential to our collective predetermined future.

4. Criminals and obnoxious people should be pitied for their lack of compatibility with society, not hated.

My predetermined choice to post this has changed your 'prior experiences'. Hopefully, enough of us will realize that we humans are the only beings that can consciously change our futures, and do so for the better. We are all cogs in the machine, there is no omniscient being that will straighten out whatever messes we make.


Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
1) Mr X discovers Mrs X in bed with another man. They divorce. Several years later Mr X goes out and buys a gun... He formulates a plan (writes it in his diary, let us say), and goes and shoots her.

2) Mr Y is being held at gunpoint. The person pointing a gun in his face hands him a gun and tells him: 'Either you shoot this person in front of you or I shall shoot that person and I shall shoot 5 other people as well'.

Lets imagine the trial...
Lets also consider moral responsibility...

Do you agree when I say that most people would think that Mr X should be locked up for a very long time (at the very least) whereas Mr Y... Shouldn't be locked up at all?
Yes, the trial would go as you described, as well it should. I appreciate your adding another example to your list but I still go back to my earlier question: "What is the ultimate source of Mr X's 'decision'? If there is a coin flipping in his brain or some other random-number generator then maybe you can call that a choice of some sort.

But, please tell me, maybe in 10 words or less, with what is Mr. X choosing??? When you realize that you can't answer this question without going supernatural on me, you'll be faced with the choice of either being a 'hard' determinist or a non-determinist; there really is no compatibility that I can see. Yet.

Last edited by TomJrzk; February 13th, 2006 at 11:34 AM. Reason: Add Tom's summary
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  #2  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 05:56 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
I guess I was expecting a little more rigor and honesty here. If that’s all there is, then your DNA “morality” is really not “morality,” it’s simply genes/algorithms, and the resulting behavior we might see, say, in a wolf pack; the result of random mutations and natural selection; and it merely has to do with the fitness of creatures that are little more than automatons.
So now you're calling me a stupid liar? I'd expect a bit more 'morality' out of you.

But, you see my point of view, we are but automatons. But ones with the power to communicate, learn, hope, dream, and improve our species as no other. IF we accepted that we are all there is, we MIGHT stop killing because of a cartoon or two and MIGHT be able to live in a peace that would allow us to guard better against evolution saying 'Next'. We might even stop calling each other stupid liars.

We would at least have an outpost on the moon that might protect our progress in the event of a nuclear war. We might have an outpost on Mars that might protect our progress in the event of a really large asteroid. But you are too busy insulting people, maybe in the hopes of saving them to the grace of god where wars and natural disasters have no effect. Your illusions are going to be the cause of our ultimate demise. That's what really scares me.
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  #3  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 05:58 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
Or did Todd convince you that we do have some sort of free will? Although such a view is incompatible with Todd’s purported atheism . . . but that’s b/c Todd is actually agnostic or possibly a closet theist/deist, which explains why he’s such a nice guy.
No, he didn't. And thanks, again, for implying that I'm a terrible person because I'm not a closet theist/deist.

He offered a lot of words, none of which seemed to me to offer a non-supernatural mechanism to support his views. He mentioned discussions with a friend for many months and he was still of this view. I didn't see much hope without quitting my day job. And I used to not want to disillusion people out of the protective shells that made them so comfortable. But now I see how truly dangerous those illusions are...

I understand the allure of free will, and the expectation of hopelessness with its loss. I see a lot of people walking around denying that their arms are paralyzed because their brains can not allow them to question their firmly-held beliefs. But, it's not hopeless, and not scary in the least. We HAVE gotten this far and maybe we ARE the first in the universe. I'd hate to lose it all to people fighting over their equally-imaginary religions.
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  #4  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 06:03 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
One last thought: Put yourself in my shoes and try to imagine how laughable you’d find the so-called “morality” of accidental automatons that’s essentially nothing more than the result of accidental DNA.
I have seen your perspective, that's why I noted your definition of morality. It is self-supporting in that it insists on 2 things: that morality be 'objective' and that anything coming from the mere mind of man is 'subjective'. But, again, your 'truth' was written by Man, all by himself, and is therefore as 'subjective' as anything I could dream up.
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  #5  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 06:05 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
JimB’s been a great barkeep, it’s getting late, and we need to finish this thread—you and Tom get the last word, if you so desire.
Maybe, Fred, your decision not to post anything further is best for me; that you suggest that the thread end altogether without you, too, is expected. I hope you do, however, continue to read with as much of an open mind as you can afford (and, yes, I know this thread will stop if Alexandra agrees or stops arguing until someone else is willing to wade through your insults). And I know that you will still offer your views on other threads to help focus discussions such as this. Non-God's people love you, too, Fred.
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  #6  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 06:07 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
I'm happy to not claim any victory here on the question of free will. But I do feel somewhat vindicated at that next level up (belief system theory).
I understand the wisdom of keeping the door open. It's something, though, I can do no longer. When others scan through this discussion, their paralyzed arms will chalk your statement up to agreement with theirs after either not thinking deeply into the disagreement that you're implying or actively ignoring the true meaning of your words.

I prefer to say, "There is no free will", but we can affect each other's environment to put us on a better pre-determined course. How's that for an 'apparent' contradiction?

Keep the great posts coming...even if you do agree with me .
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  #7  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 06:08 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
Given their environment and their genes they could not have done otherwise from what they did in fact do. No libertarian free will allowed...
Hmmm. On another read of your post, I focused on this statement. It seems like you're saying that they had no choice (they didn't choose their environment or genes) but they are responsible for their choice. This is a contradiction that truly confuses me. So, it seems like your 'free will' is just rhetoric to lessen the blow to those that 'feeeeeeeel' like they're making a choice, even though you agree that there is no chouce. As I wrote to Margaret, I think this kind of waffling gives people who disagree an excuse to blow you off as either confused or unsure.

Could you describe your position without making what seem to me as opposing statements?
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  #8  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 10:06 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Free will is a tricky topic... Dare I say... It is especially tricky for the non-philosopher. That is because in philosophy... One acquires a tool-kit for conceptual analysis... There are distinctions that non-philosophers tend not to make. Those distinctions have been devised by philosophers precisely because... the absense of them... results in conceptual confusion. I shall try my best to be as clear as possible. But it is hard. And I don't have it all worked out yet either...

When people are debating whether it is possible for people to have free will or not... The first thing you need to be clear on is 'what is free will'?

The libertarian conception of free will is often considered to be most in line with people's pre-theorietical conception of free will (which is to say before they have thought hard about it and seen what sorts of contradictions they are going to end up indorsing). There is no such thing as libertarian free will. I'm prepared to argue for that... In fact I shall argue (briefly) for that near the end. If you are prepared to grant that there is no such thing as libertarian free will (which I think you are) then we are faced with two choices as to what moral we take:

1) there is no such thing as free will (your line)
2) the libertarian conception of free will does not tell us what free will really is. free will must be a little different from what we had supposed (hence the title of Dennett's book: Elbow Room: Varieties of free will worth wanting). This latter line... Is my line (and the line of the majority of current philosophy consensus - I think that is fair to say - amongst philosophers who take science seriously).

>> Given their environment and their genes they could not have done otherwise from what they did in fact do. No libertarian free will allowed...

> Hmmm. On another read of your post, I focused on this statement. It seems like you're saying that they had no choice (they didn't choose their environment or genes) but they are responsible for their choice. This is a contradiction that truly confuses me.

If free will requires that we could have done otherwise from what we did in fact do (as the libertarians maintain) then... it follows that there is no such thing as free will. I want to say that free will does not require that we could have done otherwise from what we did in fact do. This is counter-intuitive to be sure. It takes a bit to get your head around. But... Isn't freedom worth the effort? I mean... Think what is at stake ;-)

Pre-theorietically... People seem to think that a caused act cannot be a free act. But then if my act is not caused by my beliefs and desires, then how is it MY act? It seems that for an act to be MY act it must be caused by ME. But ME... Was caused by factors outside my control (my environment and my genes). What I want to say is... Yup. We don't choose our environment or our genes. We don't choose our beliefs and our desires. BUT... (very roughly) our action must be caused by my beliefs and desires in order to be MY act. But... That is not the end of the story... It is not...

The confusion / contradiction comes from persistently trying to read 'free will' as meaning 'libertarian free will'. I have already granted you that there is no such thing as libertarian free will. The question now becomes... We typically consider acts of type one (I hope I remember this the correct way) free. We typically consider acts of type two not free. So why is this? What do the acts we typically consider free have in common? In other words... Look at the range of phenomena in the world that we typically consider free... And given what we know about the world... What on earth might freedom be?

That is the real question. What could freedom be? And a constraint on the theory... Is that it should take science seriously. And it might well turn out to be the case that this world has deterministic laws (though I think you should be careful here because at this point it might well turn out to be the case that the world has an irreducible probabilistic element to it too...)

> So, it seems like your 'free will' is just rhetoric to lessen the blow to those that 'feeeeeeeel' like they're making a choice, even though you agree that there is no chouce.

What they will choose is determined by their beliefs and desires.
Their beliefs and desires are determined by their environment and their genes.
Their choice determines their action...

There is choice. But the choice is determined. There is no contradiction unless you thump on the table and say 'but choice isn't allowed to be determined by definition!!!!!'.

> But, please tell me, maybe in 10 words or less, with what is Mr. X choosing??? When you realize that you can't answer this question without going supernatural on me, you'll be faced with the choice of either being a 'hard' determinist or a non-determinist; there really is no compatibility that I can see. Yet.

Mr X's choice is determined by his beliefs and desires. those in turn were determined by his environment and his genes. his choice determines his behaviour. 'with what is he choosing'? his choice is based (most proximally) on his beliefs and desires. That isn't supernatural... And throughout I"ve assumed determinsim to be true. So... Compatibilism...


regarding the 'maybe free will can arise from quantum indeterminicies' idea. Sorry... but that is a bad idea...

how can a random event result in MY choice?
i don't choose the random event.
a random event isn't caused by me.
randomness doesn't help.
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  #9  
Unread February 11th, 2006, 10:22 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

responsibility without the possibility of having done otherwise...

this little example might help:

suppose you have a kid. maybe... age 6. you take the kid into a shop. the kid (accidentally or intentionally it doesn't matter) breaks something.

you are responsible and must pay for damages
(i'm assuming you will grant me that)

and here you are responsible for something you didn't even do!

ah... but you COULD have watched the child more carefully. or you COULD have not taken the child into that shop.

what does the COULD mean?

well... you didn't think to do this...
your environment and your genes were such that that didn't occur to you...
but in being held responsible...
that becomes a new environmental influence
it acts as a punisher
which means that
in the future your environment and your genes are such that... that is more likely to occur to you (and be acted upon) in the future.

hence... justice isn't about retribution, it is about rehabilitation and prevention of future reoffending.

regarding type one and two cases... maybe it has something to do with the liklihood of recurrance... when the guy shot his wife... well... he might go on to shoot other people who do things he doesn't like. so... best lock him up. regarding the person with the gun in their face... how likely is that situation to recurr? not very. so we let them off. regarding the person holding the gun to their face... might recurr. hence... lock them up.

but that is law. legal responsibility.
regarding morality... it is harder...
but then i think ethics should be naturalised (given an evolutionary explanation) too.
that will involve altering our conception of moral responsibility most probably.
but i think thats okay. but i don't have that all worked out...
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  #10  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 10:29 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
TomJ: Your illusions are going to be the cause of our ultimate demise. That's what really scares me.
So on the one hand we humans lack free will in an indifferent world of a blind deterministic and/or random physical forces and genetic replication; and yet, nevertheless, it’s somehow my “illusions” (what, that 1+1=2 and that the infinite number of primes are objective truths?) that will cause our ultimate demise? Wow, that is scary, and so unfair somehow . . . or maybe it’s just laughable.
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