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  #21  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 12:13 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
> the man on the street's 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?
Yes, this whole conversation started with 'the illusion of free will'. It feels like we make choices, in fact we mull over alternatives and 'choose' the 'right' one; but that's all an illusion. But we still rely on everyone's mulling, otherwise, mull-less decisions would result in a different, but deterministic result. So, our brains are an integral part of the future that is destined. That's why I don't scream from the mountaintops; this subject is easy to get confused by, and I don't need a bunch of nihilists running around.

I had hoped that my quote on 'character' would clear up the moral/legal ramifications. Even if someone has no 'ultimate' control over decisions, they can and must still be held accountable for the sake of the human organism; we're only here, in my opinion, because we have evolved social instincts that caused us not to kill each other. So far. Our offensive weapons far exceed our defenses, and have for a long time.

So, we don't have any need for free will (Occam's Razor), we have 'Evolved Psychology'! Hey, maybe someone should start a forum on that topic!
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  #22  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 02:35 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
TomJ: 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)?
Well Tom, look at it this way: Bill Clinton seems to have had a lot of testosterone, but I still think he could have chosen to refuse that infamous Oval Office BJ . . . hell Tom, even Hillary believed that he could have chosen differently. (OTOH Tom, I’ll have to admit that since Bill Clinton does seem to be a pathological liar, maybe he really didn’t have much “choice” when it came to him perjuring himself regarding said Oval Office BJ.

Be that as it may, I’ve noticed, Tom, that you yourself often tend to be somewhat impulsive, especially after one of my occasionally, albeit admittedly, provocative posts, when it seems that you unthinkingly respond with whatever brain-fart happens to pop into your mind (like you did here with the above nonsense). So as an experiment, to prove to yourself that you actually can exercise some self control, self restraint, freewill, next time you feel provoked, count to one billion, take a few deep breaths, and then attempt to respond intelligently rather than emotionally.
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  #23  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 02:45 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
to prove to yourself that you actually can exercise some self control, self restraint, freewill, next time you feel provoked, count to one billion, take a few deep breaths, and then attempt to respond intelligently rather than emotionally.
Yes, that was the kind of thinking I expected of you. I'm sorry to have bothered you; I knew full well that you could not be other than what you are.
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  #24  
Unread July 13th, 2006, 02:59 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Possibly a major source of misunderstanding about my premise is that most people think of emotion as feelings, as something one notices. I believe that almost all the underlying emotions that influence our behavior go by un-noticed.

I believe that we are constantly awash with emotions that don't rise to the intensity that we notice them - yet they are continuously guiding our behavior, determining what we think about and the conclusons we reach (which are also behavior).

Again, this is a trick of consciousness. Consciousness makes us think that the only things that happen in our CNS are those things that we are consciously aware of. Therefore we know what we think about - and we are aware of emotions as feelings, but only when they become intense enough that they obviously affect us or when they seem to interfere with our thinking.

Consciousness is an egotistical process. (Would Freud say that was redundant?)

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 13th, 2006 at 05:02 PM.
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  #25  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 12:35 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Okay. Did you follow what I said about conceptual revision? Sorry... I probably tried to cover too much ground in one post.

Clarification of points of difference:

The common sense notion of free will seems to require that one 'could have done otherwise'.

You think that it is too counter-intuitive for us to revise our concept of free will so that free will just is a certain kind of causation.

I think that it is too counter-intuitive for us to revise our beliefs about free will so that we come to believe that we don't have any.

Compatibilists think we should revise our concept...
Hard determinists think we should revise our beliefs about 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...

If nobody has free will then why is it that some people get sent to mental institutions / get compassionate sentances (because we judge they are not free) while others face sentances to the full extent of the law (because we judge that they acted freely)?

The compatibilist can say that these 'free' and 'not free' distinctions refer to whether there was appropriate causation of behaviour or not.

And... You could agree... It is just that you think it is more counter-intuitive to conclude that 'free' and 'not free' refer to appropriate causation than to conclude that there is no such thing as free will. I disagree. I think it is more counter-intuitive to conclude that we don't have free will.

I would say that mulling over alternatives compared to reflexive responding is a freely chosen / not freely chosen distinction. Reflecting makes an action freer than an action that is done in the absense of reflection. Sure our process of reflection is a process of causation but that is okay. Causation is necessary for free will.

> So, we don't have any need for free will (Occam's Razor)

Occam's razor is a metaphysical principle: 'don't multiply entities beyond necessity'. If I posited such a thing as a non physical immortal soul as the seat of our free will then I would be multiplying entities beyond what is necessary to explain the phenomenon.

When we say that chairs and tables exist we aren't multiplying entities beyond necessity because chairs and tables are nothing over and above microphysical phenomena that is subject to the laws of nature. Likewise when I say that we have free will I'm not multiplying entities beyond necessity because free will is nothing over and above microphysical phenomena that is subject to laws of nature.

I think conceptual revision (so free will requires causation) is more in line with common sense than belief revision (so that we don't have free will).
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  #26  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 08:52 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Philosophy for the feeble-minded. Thanks, that actually helps a lot.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
You think that it is too counter-intuitive for us to revise our concept of free will so that free will just is a certain kind of causation.
I think it's more than counter-intuitive, I think it's unfair. You just seem to be redefining the term 'free will' to cover the illusion of free will. So, now I can't say that free will is an illusion? That's just not the tack I would have taken.

I can certainly agree that the illusion of free will is just as important to our collective, uninformed sanity as truly free will is. Unless every person takes that extra step and understands that it being an illusion changes almost nothing, hopelessness sets in. That's where you got the completely untrue notion that people dying for freedom would have died for nothing; let's discuss this further if you don't understand what I'm saying. And this half-understanding of determinism is where the problem lies, in my opinion.

An imperfect analogy is that religion as a concept and a property of the human condition is real though all religions, themselves, are false; a behavior based on myth is still a behavior, and one that can be scientifically studied. Religion is real. And people operating under the illusion of free will is real. I think you want to call that realness 'free will'. That's as close to your concept as I can bring myself.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
If nobody has free will then why is it that some people get sent to mental institutions / get compassionate sentances (because we judge they are not free) while others face sentances to the full extent of the law (because we judge that they acted freely)?
That's complicated, but perfectly clear to me. First, it informs my opinion that all anti-social people should be treated as if they're insane, what's wrong with just separating offenders from their temptations instead of punishing them? That would certainly be best but most expensive, which leads to the second point: as a shortcut we punish offenders to 'make examples of them'; the punishment adds another fact to the brains of the rest of the population when they're weighing whether to do the right or wrong thing. We give a 'bye' to those that are deeply insane (or can act like it) and punish those that are mildly insane. Yes, I would call everyone 'at least mildly insane'. And I hate nobody, even Fred, because it's not their fault; they can not help who they are.

So, there is less distinction in my book between free sane people and unfree insane people; they're differences in degree, not kind. I feel a need to treat pedophiles humanely because I have no urge to treat children that way, so who am I to judge? Would I be in their shoes if I had their urges? I think so, and I think you would, too. I'm not 'better' or 'more moral' except by the accident (too harsh a term with evolution factored in) of geneology.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
Occam's razor is a metaphysical principle: 'don't multiply entities beyond necessity'. If I posited such a thing as a non physical immortal soul as the seat of our free will then I would be multiplying entities beyond what is necessary to explain the phenomenon.
You're not positing such a physical thing because you're avoiding the task of explaining exactly how free will arises. If you ever got there, then you'd HAVE to posit something physical. I think that's Chapter 11211 in the Bright handbook . (A very unfortunate term, BTW; way too arrogant so I can't support it.)

Oh, and I finally remembered: I wrote something in an earlier post about avoiding philosophers within a paragraph and I meant in the context of whole posting. So, I was complaining about the contrast in left-right thinking as a whole; not implying that I had problems with you redefining my point. Sorry.
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  #27  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 10:26 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

> You think that it is too counter-intuitive for us to revise our concept of free will so that free will just is a certain kind of causation.

> I think it's more than counter-intuitive, I think it's unfair. You just seem to be redefining the term 'free will' to cover the illusion of free will. So, now I can't say that free will is an illusion? That's just not the tack I would have taken.

If you were to say 'libertarian free will is an illusion' I would agree 100%.
Libertarian free will is an illusion. But you know what? The libertarian notion of free will (an uncaused act / belief / desire that is somehow 'freely chosen' by ME) is deeply incoherant so as to not be worth wanting anyway. What could 'could have done otherwise' mean except that HAD my beliefs and desires been other than what they were I would have been caused to do something different from what I did in fact do?

I sympathise with the notion that I seem to have played some verbal trick...
I agree that the majority of the population think they have libertarian free will and that the majority of the population are thus under the illusion that they have libertarian free will when they can't have any such thing (and nor would they really want it).

But I still think it is more counter-intuitive to say that we don't have free will than to simply say that we have learned something about free will and seems that free will requires causation after all. When we thought that free will was incompatible with determinism we just had some false beliefs about free will is all. When we thought a free act was an uncaused act we just had some false beliefs about free will is all. Turns out free will is a little different than we had supposed.

I mean... Empirical investigation teaches us new things about the world. We come to learn that some of our beliefs were simply mistaken. Reasoning about things (such as free will) can teach us new things about our concepts too. We can come to learn that some of our beliefs about them were simply mistaken.

I think we are in agreement regarding offenders. I'm all for rehabilitation rather than retribution. I think I am very lucky indeed not to have pathological desires. I have sympathy because I think that if my consciousness was associated with your body (and seems to be random that I got to be associated with mine) well then I would be along for your ride. I'd be experiencing your regrets and your dreams and your hopes and so forth. I have sympathy for most people because I think I could have very well been them.

> there is less distinction in my book between free sane people and unfree insane people; they're differences in degree, not kind.

Sure. And I grant that acts are more or less free. Which is to say they are more or less caused in the appropriate way (yet to be specified). But we aren't going to make progress on how to specify the relevant kind of causation if I can't get you on board the project in the first place. Freedom is relative.

I am sitting in a chair I decide to leave the room I get up from the chair and leave the room. Free or not free?

I am tied to a chair I decide to leave the room but I can't untie myself so I don't leave the room. Free or not free?

I want to say 'free' in the first case and 'not free' in the second case. What would you say about those?

I decide to shoot Paul in the head so I shoot Paul in the head. Free or not free?

You hold a gun to my head and tell me that if I don't shoot Paul in the head then you will shoot both of us in the head. I believe you. I shoot Paul. Free or not free?

Should there be different sentences in those cases? I would say that in the first I should go to jail whereas in the second I shouldn't go to jail but you should.

A certain kind of deer never strays more than 2ks in any direction from its place of birth. Bambi is born in the middle of an enclosure 20ks wide. Is it free?

A certain kind of deer never strays more than 2ks in any direction from its place of birth. Bambi is born in the middle of an enclosure half a k wide. Is it free?

I think revising our conception of free will allows us to make 'free' and 'not free' judgements that are in line with the way in which we typically use the terms. You could do a survey and see whether the majority of people would say that certain cases are free while other cases are not. Whereas you have to say 'not free' in every single case... I still think your theory is more counter-intuitive than mine ;-)

> you're avoiding the task of explaining exactly how free will arises. If you ever got there, then you'd HAVE to posit something physical.

I've been explaining a little. Free will arises from causal processes between the world and mental states and between mental states and the world. Mental states can be explained in terms of brain states. Brain states can be explained in terms of micro-physics. Mental states and brain states and micro-physical entities and causation are entities that probably appear in your science too, however, so I don't end up with any more entities than you in order to explain free will.

Great discussion :-)
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  #28  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 11:20 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
I am sitting in a chair I decide to leave the room I get up from the chair and leave the room. Free or not free?

I am tied to a chair I decide to leave the room but I can't untie myself so I don't leave the room. Free or not free?

I want to say 'free' in the first case and 'not free' in the second case. What would you say about those?
Of course:
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
Whereas you have to say 'not free' in every single case...
When you decided to leave the room, your decision was based on the state of your brain; you were hungry and bored so you went to the fridge. Or maybe you wanted to prove to me that you could decide to leave the chair, but that, too, was based on the state of your brain. Of course, you're going to agree with this but still contend that you had freedom. If it's freedom from the brain you're talking about then you have to show 'with what'. If it's not free from the brain then it's not free, just the result of electro-chemical reactions.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
Should there be different sentences in those cases? I would say that in the first I should go to jail whereas in the second I shouldn't go to jail but you should.
Sure, but it's a matter of guilt (they even say 'guilty by reason of insanity'), and that is a measure of your character, which should be taken into account when jailing is considered. You didn't have an ultimate choice but neither did I; I obviously should be separated from society, though.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
I've been explaining a little. Free will arises from causal processes between the world and mental states and between mental states and the world. Mental states can be explained in terms of brain states. Brain states can be explained in terms of micro-physics. Mental states and brain states and micro-physical entities and causation are entities that probably appear in your science too, however, so I don't end up with any more entities than you in order to explain free will.
Once you get to the ultimate detail, you'll understand my point. Or show the physical embodiment of this will that is free and I'll thank you for that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
Great discussion :-)
Amen!
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  #29  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 11:59 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
TomJ: And I hate nobody, even Fred, because it's not their fault; they can not help who they are.
How wonderful that Tom does not hate even Fred . . . but then by Tom’s reckoning, he really cannot help being so wonderful, can he? (Tom needs to check my theorem on circular BS.)

Anyhoo, regarding punishment and incarceration, my own view is that most drugs should be legalized, controlled, and taxed (like alcohol and tobacco), education provided on the evils of drug abuse, rehabilitation programs made available, and any prisoners incarcerated only for drug offenses should be released (thereby substantially shrinking the population of our overcrowded prisons). Then everyone should be informed that they themselves are responsible, morally and otherwise, for their choices and behavior; and anyone refusing to accept or acknowledge that they do indeed have moral responsibility for their choices and behavior, should immediately be incarcerated . . . b/c that’s almost certainly where they’re going to end up anyway (plus there’ll be all that extra prison space from having released the drug offenders).
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  #30  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 12:38 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: free will, determinism, and morality

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
he really cannot help being so wonderful, can he?
No, I can't. I'm just REALLY glad that I am so wonderful. It makes my life very pleasant.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
that’s almost certainly where they’re going to end up anyway
You're forgetting about our social instincts. We're social animals and like to have friends. We like to be respected. We like to be a part of a conversation where someone says, "Great conversation". We like to have religious people agree with us. We're uncomfortable when someone is unfairly hurt. And on, and on, and on.

I've had plenty to keep me from jail. So far...

Again, we make choices that suit our characters; but those choices are pre-determined (though not necessarily predeterminable), so there is no free will. And, again, a thorough understanding of determinism makes one more hopeful for the future, not buried in helplessness.
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