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  #11  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 01:10 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

thanks, that really helped me understand your position :-)

> libertarianism is generally held to be the combination of the following beliefs:
1. that free will is incompatible with determinism
2. that human beings do possess free will, and
3. that determinism is false

and hard determinism (your view) is (as you said)

> 1. that free will is incompatible with determinism
2. that human beings do not possess free will, and
3. that determinism is true

okay. i am a compatibilist and thus i disagree with one. i think that
1. free will is compatible with determinism
i agree with the libertarian 2
2. human beings do possess free will
and regarding three I am agnostic, not wanting to commit either way
3. determinism might be true or there might be an irreducibly probabilistic element to laws of nature (either confined to the sub-atomic level or percolating up to the macroscopic level as well).

But I think that even if determinism is true it is still possible for us to have free will hence i am a compatibilist (otherwise known as a soft determinist).

> I think any discussion of free will that does not depend entirely on the state of the brain belongs right beside Astrology.

I agree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

> I can accept compatiblism as your best current guess, but not stated as fact; for that, I'd need proof.

And I can accept incompatibilism as your best current guess, but not stated as fact; for that, I'd need a jolly good argument ;-)

So...

I think free will consists in ones mental states being caused appropriately by the world and ones actions being caused appropriately by ones mental states. I think... That is what free will is (a certain kind of causation) and hence... We actually NEED causation in order to be free and we actually NEED causation in order to be morally responsible. And thus... It is a good thing indeed that determinism might be true ;-) (and that indeterminism can be recast in deterministic form at any rate)

:-)
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  #12  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 01:30 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

> it always seems to me to come down to whether or not human behavior is due to natural mechanisms inside the human central nervous system (even though we may not have a complete understanding of just how those mechanisms work physically) - or, whether there is some supernatural causation for human behavior - something that is beyond our neurons, synapses, neurotransmitters and other physical elements - some extraordinary mental force that can over-ride our physicality.

That is what people initially think of as the debate and so I thought that was the trouble that I was having in my discussion with Tom. I agree with Tom that 'human behaviour is due to natural mechanisms inside the human central nervous system'. I think determinism may well be true, and even if it is false and indeterminism is true (because sub atomic particles seem to behave - perhaps irreducibly - in an indeterministic way) I still think that 'human behaviour is due to natural mechanisms inside the human central nervous system'.

The second part, the 'supernatural causation for human behaviour' is part of the libertarian notion of free will. Both Tom and I seem to agree that libertarianism is false. There is no supernatural causation for human behaviour. Maybe Fred disagrees with us on that.

I think that maybe Tom would be willing to grant that indeterminism might be true - but that the prospects for free will would be the same regardless of whether the universe is deterministic or indeterministic?

I think that maybe Fred would be willing to grant that causation is due to physical causes rather than supernatural causes - so long as we can still have free will?

Thats why I'm trying to get clearer on what people are saying... So we can find the genuine points of difference (rather than the verbal ones). That way... We might actually be able to achieve something of a consensus... Or at least... Argue about the real points of difference rather than getting lost in verbal dispute....

Regarding non-physical causation of behaviour... One would need to deny that the physical world is causally closed (which seems to fly in the face of modern science though I suppose it is more of a presupposition than something they argue for).

Regarding supernatural causation of behaviour... The question I have for Fred is if my behaviour is caused by something supernatural instead of something that is due to the facts about the way I am, then how is the 'free act' MY act? How does it help to be at the whim of supernatural forces rather than at the whim of facts about the way I am?
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  #13  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 07:32 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
MM: I believe that Fred does attribute behavior to some supernatural mental force - although he's never described it and seems careful not to get pinned down on that. (Am I wrong about that, Fred?)
Well MM, since you yourself believe, as you’ve asserted many times, that you believe only what feels good to you, and use your brains to justify it, and that so does everyone else, then whatever I, or anyone else, happen to believe, ultimately can have no more significance to you other than it happens to be whatever happens to “feel good” to us.

Be that as it may, I don’t recall ever having “attributed behavior to some supernatural mental force” (and if I ever did, wouldn’t that instead imply that we humans don’t have freewill after all?). However MM, since you yourself believe only what feels good to you, and use your brains to justify it, then you undoubtedly will believe that what I’ve “asserted” is whatever you happen to believe is what I’ve asserted, so long as it feels good to you, and then you’ll use your brains to justify it . . . so essentially, this has all been for naught. Hello?

Also, for those who don’t just believe only what feels good to you, “supernatural” seems to be another one of those meaningless terms since we don’t really know a whole lot about what exactly is “natural” (e.g., there are many interpretations of the “measurement problem” in QM, and what it implies regarding what’s natural or real; or since we really don’t truly begin to understand the how and why of human consciousness, we conjure up buzz words like “emergence” to mask our ignorance).
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  #14  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 08:43 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Wow, I think we're finally getting somewhere. Great posts, everyone!
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
I think that maybe Tom would be willing to grant that indeterminism might be true - but that the prospects for free will would be the same regardless of whether the universe is deterministic or indeterministic?
Yes, to both. Quantum uncertainty seems real as far as we can test, so, for all 'practical' purposes, there seems to be some rolling of dice. My intuition on that is there is some physical cause that we're currently unable to discern. Regardless, unless our will was free to affect (and/or effect) that uncertainty, it's only 'unfree and very slightly random'. I say 'very slightly' because I don't see the percolation to the macro level.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
The question I have for Fred is if my behaviour is caused by something supernatural instead of something that is due to the facts about the way I am, then how is the 'free act' MY act?
IF I can argue for the perspective we might be wrongly attributing to Fred: my concept of their view is that humans possess and control that supernatural force, so it is entirely their act. But, of course, this force is at least in large part affected by railroad spikes in the brain as well as repressor and regret modules, so it's probably entirely natural.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
But I think that even if determinism is true it is still possible for us to have free will hence i am a compatibilist (otherwise known as a soft determinist).
This just sounds like an oxymoron to me. How can anything be free if it's deterministic? If your only concern is ethics, then you might be comforted by this quote that much better says what I've been attempting to convey:
Quote:
Originally Posted by wiki
That is, a person with the character of a murderer has no choice other than to murder, but can still be punished because it is right to punish those of bad character.
The human race is like a living body. It has all sorts of constituents that are often at odds; the stomach would digest the whole body, all cells dump pollution into the environment, etc. It's not a melanoma's fault that it is cancerous, but it must still be removed from the body.

So, a question: if will is truly free, why are so many more men in prison than women? Are men just inherently less 'moral'? Or is prison not a good measure of morality?
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  #15  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 09:21 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
[TomJ to Alex:] So, a question: if will is truly free, why are so many more men in prison than women? Are men just inherently less 'moral'? Or is prison not a good measure of morality?
Let me get this one for you Alex—

Unfortunately Tom, it seems that a higher percentage of males are jerks—some are perhaps genetically predisposed, some may have had lousy upbringing, some apparently can think only with their penises and/or have too much testosterone, some just choose to do illegal and/or bad things for whatever reasons. And the rest of us, who understand the obvious fact that we adult humans must be morally responsible, and are morally responsible, enforce our morality and will on the misbehaving individuals and punish them (except that we generally don’t punish children, animals, machines, or the truly insane); and sometimes we even execute the more egregious offenders.
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  #16  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 09:37 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
a higher percentage of males are jerks—some are perhaps genetically predisposed, ..., some apparently can think only with their penises and/or have too much testosterone, ...
Think, Fred. Think about what you just wrote.

Did each man choose how much testosterone he 'wanted'. Did they choose their genes? How can you punish someone who was born with a high level of testosterone and praise someone who was born with none (relatively)? It was not their choice.

They should be prevented from more antisocial behavior but no parent would condemn their son to burn in hell for eternity if he had less control than his harp-playing sister.

Think.....think.....think.....think.....think..... ..thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiink.
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  #17  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 09:49 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Er... I'm not sure how much it helps discussion to parody / caricature / scoff at other peoples views, rather than attempting to engage with them.

Do you think that Margaret caricatured your views on freedom? I'd be interested to talk about libertarian free will and reasons why I don't believe in supernatural causation (in fact I think Tom wants to discuss that too).

There is indeed trouble with how to characterise the natural vs the supernatural. I like this quote from Tye:

'There have been any number of different ways of understanding the term 'natural'. So different philosophers have had very different conceptualisations of what it is to be a naturalist about a given domain, for example, the mental. The intuitive idea, I suggest, is simply that, on the naturalist view, the world contains nothing supernatural, that, at the bottom level, there are microphysical phenomena, governed by the laws of microphysics'..
'Ten Problems of Consciousness: A Representational theory of the phenomenal mind', Michael Tye.

And basically that once god fixed the micro-physical facts and the laws of nature (whether they be deterministic or indeterministic) he fixed all the natural facts about the world. (If you fix the physical facts then you get the chemical facts for free and the biological facts for free and the psychological facts for free etc). God only needed to fix the microphysical facts and the laws of nature and then he could rest. All the physical facts were settled :-)

(One can worry about facts about consciousness, ethics, mathematics, logic and so forth... These might be non-natural phenomenon... I guess one might want to argue that they are super-natural phenomenon... Interesting questions about whether these facts can cause changes to the physical world e.g., can we grasp mathematical facts? Ack. I'm giving myself a headache).

He also talks about different senses of emergence. There are different notions of emergence, I was just wanting James to clarify what kind he meant so I could engage with his views a bit more...
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  #18  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 10:52 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

> Wow, I think we're finally getting somewhere.

:-)
Yep.

> Quantum uncertainty seems real as far as we can test, so, for all 'practical' purposes, there seems to be some rolling of dice.

The best physical theory we have at present... seems to involve... Some rolling of dice, yes.

> My intuition on that is there is some physical cause that we're currently unable to discern.

That is the 'hidden variable thesis'. Physicists have looked and looked for the hidden variable/s... They haven't found any at present. If they did... Then they wouldn't be 'hidden' anymore lol. It is possible that there is a theory of physics which wouldn't make use of probabilistic laws, and it is possible that there isn't one. The physicists are trying to find / construct one though, yes.

> Regardless, unless our will was free to affect (and/or effect) that uncertainty...

It can't do that. The probability weightings are objective. If 'free will' was causing a possible event to become actual then free will would be a hidden variable. If free will wasn't natural then it wouldn't be able to cause changes to the physical world (unless you deny that the physical world is causally closed which is one of the major assumptions of physics).

> IF I can argue for the perspective we might be wrongly attributing to Fred...

Sure. I'll just say that you are going to play devils advocate for libertarian free will.

> humans possess and control that supernatural force, so it is entirely their act.

So then states of my brain cause the supernatural force to cause my actions. Why bother with the supernatural force? What role is it playing? Why not just say that states of my brain causes my actions? The latter theory is simpler... Why multiply entities beyond necessity?

But maybe it is that I freely choose my beliefs and desires? Then the trouble is that we seem to want our beliefs to be caused by the world (so they are true) and we seem to want our desires to be caused by what our body needs / what is good for our body. How can I choose my beliefs and desires? Does that mean my beliefs and desires cause my beliefs and desires? What causes the first lot? Further beliefs and desires? Problem of the infinite regress...

>> But I think that even if determinism is true it is still possible for us to have free will hence i am a compatibilist (otherwise known as a soft determinist).

> This just sounds like an oxymoron to me. How can anything be free if it's deterministic?

Because I maintain that free will JUST IS a certain kind of causation.

I'll try and put it simply...

P1) 'Free will' means one could have done otherwise (according to libertarianism)
P2) If determinism is true then one couldn't have done otherwise.
__________________________________________________ _______
C) Either 'Free will' does not mean one could have done otherwise, or we do not have free will.

So... If our everyday concept of 'free will' entails P1 and we grant P2 (for simplicity because indeterminism won't help us anyway) then we have a decision to make. We can either deny that we have free will, or we can revise our concept of free will. I vote for conceptual revision.
The conceptual revision buys us COMPATIBILISM (if determinism is true then we can still have free will)

P1) 'Free will' means that one freely chooses ones beliefs and desires.
P2) Uncaused beliefs and desires could not have been freely chosen by me
[If something is uncaused then how can it be MY free choice?]
__________________________________________________ ______________
C) My freely chosen beliefs and desires must have been caused by me
[What can this mean except that they were caused by my previous beliefs and desires?]

This argument is designed to show that the notion of something uncaused being caused by me is deeply incoherant. If the common sense conception of freedom requires that something can be freely chosen by me yet that it not be caused by me then it is incoherent. We either revise the concept or we don't have free will. Again... I'm all for conceptual revision.

Hence... It is looking as though... Causation is required for freedom...

[Of course beliefs are often caused by the state of the world and desires are often caused by body states such as the state of thirst and the desire to drink. These beliefs and desires are not typically thought to be ones we freely choose to accept, however, they seem to be more passive... Caused by the state of the world and ones body respectively]

The conceptual revision buys us GENES + ENVIRONMENT CAUSES OUR BELIEFS AND DESIRES (with no supernatural intervention) and that is okay :-) In fact... The above argument was supposed to show us that we jolly well want that to be the case really... Beliefs and desires that we 'freely choose' are beliefs and desires that were caused by other beliefs and desires that we have. Eventually this must bottom out at the beliefs and desires that are NOT choosen by us (they are caused by the world) otherwise we would have an infinite regress of beliefs and desires.

One last shot:

P1) 'Free will' means that one freely chooses ones actions.
P2) Actions that aren't caused by me can't be freely chosen by me.
__________________________________________________ ___________
C) In order for an act to be freely chosen by me it must be caused by me (by my beliefs and desires)

Hence... 'Free will' seems to require causation (by me) once again...

I'm having trouble seeing how free will can't REQUIRE determinism (or something like it).

But I guess I've revised my conception of free will...

Why? Because it is a choice. Either we revise our concept of free will (so that it is something worth wanting: Ie something that it is possible for us to have) or refuse to revise our concept and conclude that we don't have free will.

I've chosen conceptual revision (that is the soft determinist line)
Others choose not to revise their concepts (that is the hard determinist line, these people would rather say that we don't have any free will - by which they mean libertarian free will).

Why do I choose conceptual revision? Because ultimately... I think that is more in line with our common sense conception... Ask the man on the street 'do we have free will????' and you will get a resounding YES!!!!! Basically... Something has to give.

But seems the dispute is really over whether we should revise our concept of free will (we have learned something of its nature huh). Or whether we should refuse to revise our concept - but then I'd like you to say something about how that is really more in keeping with common sense given the man on the streets resounding YES OF COURSE I HAVE FREE WILL!!!!!

Then... An account of how 'free' and 'not free' is used in law...
Then... An account of how 'free' and 'not free' is used in ethics etc...

'Cause if we don't have 'free will' then what distinctions are these people really drawing? Or are they just saying meaningless words?

Last edited by alexandra_k; July 13th, 2006 at 11:15 AM.
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  #19  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 11:07 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

An analogy:

Descartes radical scepticism... What moral should we take from that?
IF knowledge requires certainty then the only thing we can be certain of is the cogito therefore we can't have knowledge of anything other than the cogito.
So... Either certainty isn't required for knowledge or the only thing we have knowledge of is the cogito. You choose... It is counter-intuitive to deny we have knowledge of everything other than the cogito, it is counter-intuitive to deny that certainty isn't required for knowledge. Personally I think it is more counter-intuitive to say that the only thing we can have knowledge of is the cogito hence I revise my concept of knowledge so that certainty isn't required for knowledge. A lot of philosophy works like this... That is why it is important to get clear on what people mean by their terms (like 'knowledge' and 'free will').

And what that means... Is that I can't PROVE that we have free will (I'm not certain that we have it. I'm not certain of anything aside from the cognito and that contradictions cannot be the case). But I think we can KNOW that we have free will even though I can't prove it... Though... All hinges on what you mean by free will ;-)

The free will case shows us (most plausibly IMO) that uncaused beliefs / desires / actions aren't free. What is actually required for me to be free is for ME to cause my acts hence for my acts to be caused by ME hence... Free will actually REQUIRES causation.

Free will JUST IS a certain kind of causation.

The main research project within philosophy... Is trying to spell that out in more detail (necessary and sufficient conditions for the 'right kind' of causation).

Last edited by alexandra_k; July 13th, 2006 at 11:27 AM.
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  #20  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 12:02 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Alex:
Quote:
Free will JUST IS a certain kind of causation.
Yeeeeeessss.

Behavior has cause. Obvious, no? Emotion is what I propose as the functional cause of behavior. (That is my very broad definition of emotion.)

Our awareness of emotion (feeling) is secondary. It (feeling) can cause us to think about our behavior - propose alternatives, evaluate them logically, etc.

But, the emotion itself (without the feeling) can cause us to do that as well. We can just find ourself considering various college choices, for example, not really seeing the TV show we are watching at the time - without noticing that we are feeling anxious because we haven't made a decision yet - without realizing that our thoughts were generated to eliminate that anxiety.

Strange coincidence (Cue Rod Serling's voice here): Another Alexandra (last name Doonesbury) just went through an agonizing college choice dilemma in May that was only resolved in favor of MIT by the votes of over 152,000 concerned fans. Most of the fans' comments took the form of logical justifications for their various alma maters - an obvious emotional choice emanating from their identity beliefs IMO .

There were strong suspicions that MIT computer science students had hacked the vote in the best Diebold tradition. Another indicator of the strong ideological emotions involved in this historic event.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 13th, 2006 at 01:40 PM.
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