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  #31  
Unread February 18th, 2006, 04:26 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
As Tom mentioned yesterday, these forum exchanges are a lot of fun. And this one about Free Will, after a lot of verbal combat seems to be reaching exhaustion
In spite of the verbal combat, this discussion has been of huge benefit to me. The four of us: Margaret, Alexandra, Todd and I, have nearly exact ideas about free will. I'm not sure about Margaret but Alexandra, Todd and I agree that our choices are deterministic; the two of them would add an element of 'free will' but one that is outside my concept of free will so I can accept that difference as something that we don't know, yet, and I can't argue against. Much as I can accept the fact that I don't know what ultimately created the universe, or what created that which created the universe...

So thank you all, this was a huge success.
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  #32  
Unread February 19th, 2006, 12:18 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
TJ: The four of us: Margaret, Alexandra, Todd and I, have nearly exact ideas about free will. I'm not sure about Margaret but Alexandra, Todd and I agree that our choices are deterministic; the two of them would add an element of 'free will' but one that is outside my concept of free will so I can accept that difference as something that we don't know, yet, and I can't argue against.
IOW, all four of you all have “nearly exact ideas,” that “choices are deterministic,” except that you’re not sure about Margaret, and except that Alex & Todd add “an element of free will,” and except that that is outside “your” concept of free will, and except that that difference is “something that we don't know yet?” And you conclude that this was a “huge success?”

Well Tom, you’ve convinced me—your free will and/or discernment is obviously an illusion. Might as well add me to your consensus with maybe this caveat: Fred also has nearly exact ideas about free will, that choices are deterministic, except when they’re not.

Ah yes, that nice warm fuzzy feeling of consensus . . . kind of like urinating in the swimming pool and believing that nobody will notice.
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  #33  
Unread February 19th, 2006, 03:29 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Pretty good Fred. Not as good as your earlier misrepresentation of someone's thoughts:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
MM: Long before we had intellect we had emotion and that is how we know most things - but sometimes our intellect adds another dimension to that "knowing".
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
So creatures with only emotion and no intellect “know most things?” What, like insects, fish, reptiles, alley cats? Yeah, right.
Regardless of your rhetoric, we do agree on determinism, which is a fundamental understanding, and that is very rewarding. And I can see how you find that threatening and want to do something in our pool.
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  #34  
Unread February 20th, 2006, 12:26 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
TJ: And I can see how you find that threatening.
Except that you can also “see” how you all have “nearly exact ideas,” that “choices are deterministic,” except that Alex & Todd add “an element of free will,” and except that that is outside “your” concept of free will, and except that that difference is “something that we don't know yet.”

More likely you’re just projecting . . . and really don’t “see” all that much. But then how could it be otherwise since you do, after all, lack free will?

Think about it.
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  #35  
Unread February 20th, 2006, 01:02 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
More likely you’re just projecting . . . and really don’t “see” all that much. But then how could it be otherwise since you do, after all, lack free will?
Alex adds free will only for political reasons and Todd grants his concept of free will to programmed machines, I can't argue with either of those and wouldn't want to. So our differences are not substantial at all.

Plus, you're still misrepresenting my understanding of free will. But, I know why you do and I know that you can't do otherwise in your current condition. I also know that I would necessarily do the same, given the same conditions. So I really do value you as a person and sympathize with your plight.
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  #36  
Unread February 21st, 2006, 02:06 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
But, I know why you do and I know that you can't do otherwise in your current condition. I also know that I would necessarily do the same, given the same conditions. So I really do value you as a person and sympathize with your plight.
Bizarre.
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  #37  
Unread February 22nd, 2006, 05:38 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Free Will Challenge & Conclusion

Free Will Challenge & Conclusion

In the challenge it was asserted that we humans “conjure a belief in free will because our ego loves the idea that our conscious mind is in charge,” and that we “choose the behavior that feels best from the alternatives, that we have no other choice.” IOW, that free will is some sort of illusion. However, from our discussion and the various arguments and explanations provided, it is concluded that we humans do indeed have some amount of free will—

Although “free will” may be difficult to clearly define, we seem to all have some intuitive sense of what it is—essentially choice, choice made by our higher cognitive conscious self, choice that is something more than merely a conscious cognitive illusion being driven by primitive algorithmic subconscious neural mechanisms, mechanisms concerned primarily with survival and reproduction; and free will seems to require, using LeDoux’s term, “downward causation.”

The available evidence indicates that human consciousness—sentience, sapience, self-awareness—is indeed something real, something that does indeed exist; although it also seems to be beyond the precise explanation of any currently available science. More to the issue, the available evidence also indicates that we humans use our cognitive consciousness to discern objective mathematical truth, and that we then use that objective truth to understand, explain, and, to some extent manage, our physical world and ourselves.

Accordingly, the available evidence overwhelming supports the view that we humans do indeed have some sort of, and some amount of, free will (and also implies that we humans are probably the only creatures that do have it.)

(Additionally, for those asserting that we humans do not have free will, that free will is some sort of illusion, then the burden is on them to come up with a definition and/or theory for this “illusion of free will,” to show that this definition/theory is falsifiable; and also to show how creatures that lack free will and that are unable to discern objective truth could ever “know” and/or “prove,” and/or evaluate the reality of anything.)
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  #38  
Unread February 23rd, 2006, 12:18 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Lightbulb Re: A Free Will Challenge

My general conclusions at this point regarding free will.

When we think of physical events, we always think in terms of physical causes. I think this is an epistemological constraint rather than a metaphysical one. We cannot imagine a physical event without physical causes of some sort. Descartes' infamous dilemma was the difficulty, perhaps even impossibility, of finding a way that "minds" and "bodies" can interact if we conceive of bodies as physical and minds as something distinctly else.

I would say that mechanical causal models gradually become less accurate at describing the behavior of increasingly sophisticated systems in nature. Probably the most sophisticated systems we know of are human minds. Thus we have evolved ways of thinking of these more sophisticated systems using less mechanical kinds of model, such as intentional psychology (attitudes, beliefs, striving for goals).

I don't think there is a definitive resolution for how real the entities of intentional psychology might be, but I think we know two important things about them:

(1) Our intutions about the entities of intentional psychology are often strikingly inaccurate ("the illusion of conscious will", Dan Wegner) - and we can contrive experimental conditions that demonstrate this illusion.

(2) The entites of intentional psychology are generally very useful in our daily life and some form of them may actually be unavoidable for human social interaction (imagine trying to deal with other people day to day without assuming they have minds, your interactions would be bizarre, others would soon perceive you as mentally ill).

So I conclude that our perception of free will is probably not accurate, but that human beings do make choices, that animals and even machines make choices, but that the sophistication and kinds of choices differ from one type of decision maker to another. And our natural tendency to see complex things as intentional systems is in general very helpful, even where it is not entirely accurate. There is possibly some better form of intentional psychology than the one we evolved with, especially if we add massive computational power, but this can only be speculation at this point. I doubt that a purely mechanical model, even with massive computational power, can do a better job with human behavior than intentional psychology does.

Although I agree that we *can* define free will in such a way that humans have it and nothing else does, I think this is the very approach that makes it impossible to reconcile physical causality with choice. If our goal is to understand the mechanisms and processes of decision making (as it is in cognitive science), then it makes more sense to define agency in terms that are continuous with the rest of the natural world.

As is often the case, the best conceptual model to choose depends a lot on the question we are trying to answer. People looking for naturalistic mechanisms should define free will in terms that let them make natural sense of it. People looking for something else probably have good reason to define it differently.

kind regards,

Todd
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  #39  
Unread February 23rd, 2006, 09:23 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will Challenge & Conclusion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
it is concluded that we humans do indeed have some amount of free will—
We have concluded no such thing. There is no free will, especially if you imply animals do not have it. The onus is on you to prove that humans have free will since the null case is valid: we can easily be merely smarter than the average chimp and still have exactly what we have. Occam's razor.

I think most people's concept of free will excludes brain dead people; if yours doesn't, and you want to stay within the realm of science or nature, you need to define the vessel for this concept. Many would also exclude mentally insufficient people who can't be responsible for their actions and accept this as a limitation of their 'free will'; how can something that's free be physically caused to the point where we can remove part of Fred's brain and say he no longer has free will?
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  #40  
Unread February 23rd, 2006, 03:27 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
Todd: So I conclude that our perception of free will is probably not accurate, but that human beings do make choices, that animals and even machines make choices, but that the sophistication and kinds of choices differ from one type of decision maker to another.
“Machines make choices?” Yep, I agree Todd, your perception of free will is not accurate, nor meaningful.

I suppose you’re actually referring to the software, the algorithms, that we humans place inside the hardware, your “machines.”

So the machine “choices” you refer to are really just the resulting actions of algorithms—algorithms designed (or discovered) and placed in the hardware by a human consciousness that possesses sentience, sapience, self-awareness, and is capable of discerning and utilizing objective mathematical truth.

Next I suppose you’ll assert that human consciousness is also the result of algorithms—but rather than being generated by hardware and humanly designed algorithms, human consciousness is generated by naturally selected accidental tissue and accidental algorithms—algorithms that somehow manage to avoid that pesky halting problem, and/or Godel’s incompleteness theorem.

If that’s actually your view Todd, fine, but shouldn’t you strive for a bit more rigor and honesty? Your “free will” here would be nothing more than the inevitable determinism of such underlying algorithms, regardless of whatever complexity you might attribute to them.

But of course we’ve been down this road b/f Todd, and I’ve pretty much concluded that you’re essentially, more or less, agnostic about these deeper issues. And that’s fine. I just wish I could convince you that bullshit is not nuance.

Last edited by Fred H.; February 23rd, 2006 at 03:48 PM.
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