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The original post

Posted by Mertal on 30.05.2006 at 01:00
Hello.

On this thread I would like you all to discuss whether free will exists or not. Is everything decided by birth. Is it only nature or nurture? Or do we have a free will?



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wormdrink414

Posts: 1254

Age: 23
From: USA

  31.01.2013 at 10:56
Kapow.



Tried but can't disagree with his argument.
Candlemass
Defaeco

Posts: 527
From: Israel

  31.01.2013 at 17:58
Written by IronAngel on 30.01.2013 at 22:59

The above is so jumbled and incoherent that it makes my head hurt. In what sense are you trying to do something, or convince yourself you have free will, or plan, if it's all mechanically predetermined? That whole claim makes no sense, because you can't really evaluate whether something is "hard" or "useful" in a well-oiled machine that simply produces effects without meaning or intention. The whole question of whether it's beneficial or necessary to assume we have some free will is absurd, if we didn't have a choice in the matter in the first place.

It may be that there is no free will. I don't think there's a very good case to be made, though. In solving a dilemma, you'll have to find the solution that most corresponds with our experiences, intuitions and rational principles. Whether a purely mechanical causality is such a solution, one thing is clear: we cannot even think or talk without assuming intentionality and agency, so you can't really posit an intelligible theory that denies all intention and choice. It simply doesn't fit within our cognitive faculties. Trying to make sense of it in such everyday terms as the quote above stumbles in its own impossibility.

Now maybe reality really is such that it cannot be comprehended and our lives are an illusion. But is it the best, most plausible explanation that deals with the majority of our experience and beliefs satisfactorily? If a reductivist view of causal physicalism logically leads to conclusions that are almost impossible to accept or even understand, isn't that good reason to suspect the explanation has gone astray? It seems arbitrary to choose certain observations and principles as primary, and dismiss others. Why should we consider highly technical and theoretical data on brain chemistry as more compelling than our immediate experience of free will? You would be just as consistent in assuming that because you do in fact experience free will and know it exists, the reductive physicalist conclusion from some other data must be false.


A. Why do you think machines (a closed system of causation) cannot have intentions? There is no reason that a mental state could not cause (big concept, I know. Bare with me) a physical state ans vise versa as a part of a working theory which (i.e. gives us good predictions). That is what we do in cognitive science. Alvin Goldman and others have argued in favor of this position.
B. As an epistemic position (i.e. useful explanation) we are giving thing mental states. That may not be a metaphysical description. Hence, No contradiction is made.
C. You maybe believe in believing in free will, but we certainly do not experience free will or agency. I did my thought experiments (in a form of meditation and contemplation) as a part of eastern philosophy, which argues without dogma, the exact opposite. What we di experience is a bundle of experiences, some which seem utterly random (close your eyes for 3 minutes, observe the thought sand emotions that "pop-up"). Kant address this issue (surprise, surprise) as a reply to Hume (which support the position I lined above) positing a (transcendent) ego, but not as a part of experience (rather as a way to try and make sense of them [as a "logically necessity"]).
D. "Why should we consider highly technical and theoretical data on brain chemistry as more compelling than our immediate experience of free will?"
In addition to (C), which renders this notion false, scientific explanations give us better predictions, hence better ways to navigate and mapping our world.

As a side comment: Your metaphilosophy has been critiqued. For example, "Philosophy without Intuitions" (2012) by Herman Cappelen or an older critique "Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and its Role in Philosophical Inquiry" (1998) by Michael DePaul and William Ramsey.
----
‎"If you can't change your mind - are you sure you still have one?" - Twelve Virtues of Rationality
Candlemass
Defaeco

Posts: 527
From: Israel

  31.01.2013 at 18:23
Written by IronAngel on 31.01.2013 at 10:24

Except that's not how evolution works (it's a crass carichature, even if the general idea seems right) and you still seem to posit intentionality. You just described a machine with a purpose. It's very problematic to describe evolution, because we tend to resort to teleological explanations. In fact, there can be no goal of survival or reproduction, organs have no purpose, and planning is impossible in mechanical causation. Causation only looks backwards. You can't coherently claim animals run away to avoid danger and death, you should be saying they run away because of immediately preceding physical causes. To explain the illusion of free will as a prerequisite to good society is a teleological explanation, and it certainly doesn't explain the emergence or nature of the phenomenon.



"You can't coherently claim animals run away to avoid danger".
Correct in principle. An antelope runs because it was selected to react that way when the suited mentally stimulated is in place.
Darwin gave a mechanistic explanation to the variation of life. It holds no teleology in principle. There is no goal to survival or reproduction. Organs have no purpose, you assign them purpose because you find in them purpose. You are blindly selected to find in things purpose.

Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, "This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!" This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.
-Douglas Adams

As a physics student I tended to say "the body wanted to move that way, so the static friction must point the other way". In no way this implies that Newtonian mechanics is teleological. it is a matter of language and explanation, not metaphysics.
In short Appealing to natural selection proper is not teleological in principle.
----
‎"If you can't change your mind - are you sure you still have one?" - Twelve Virtues of Rationality
IronAngel

Posts: 4363

Age: 25
From: Finland

  31.01.2013 at 19:56
Written by Candlemass on 31.01.2013 at 17:58

A. Why do you think machines (a closed system of causation) cannot have intentions? There is no reason that a mental state could not cause (big concept, I know. Bare with me) a physical state ans vise versa as a part of a working theory which (i.e. gives us good predictions). That is what we do in cognitive science. Alvin Goldman and others have argued in favor of this position.
B. As an epistemic position (i.e. useful explanation) we are giving thing mental states. That may not be a metaphysical description. Hence, No contradiction is made.
C. You maybe believe in believing in free will, but we certainly do not experience free will or agency. I did my thought experiments (in a form of meditation and contemplation) as a part of eastern philosophy, which argues without dogma, the exact opposite. What we di experience is a bundle of experiences, some which seem utterly random (close your eyes for 3 minutes, observe the thought sand emotions that "pop-up"). Kant address this issue (surprise, surprise) as a reply to Hume (which support the position I lined above) positing a (transcendent) ego, but not as a part of experience (rather as a way to try and make sense of them [as a "logically necessity"]).
D. "Why should we consider highly technical and theoretical data on brain chemistry as more compelling than our immediate experience of free will?"
In addition to (C), which renders this notion false, scientific explanations give us better predictions, hence better ways to navigate and mapping our world.

As a side comment: Your metaphilosophy has been critiqued. For example, "Philosophy without Intuitions" (2012) by Herman Cappelen or an older critique "Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and its Role in Philosophical Inquiry" (1998) by Michael DePaul and William Ramsey.


A: Perhaps so. I suspect there's a confusion of terminology on someone's part here. I don't suppose there is an autonomous, isolated spirit with freedom to think what it pleases. Isn't freedom, in the common and apparently proper use, the capacity of that unit to have agency? If the self or the will is specifically the bunch of our mental states happening in the appropriate physical context, then the ability of those mental states to cause changes (as I've argued before) is essentially what free will means. It doesn't have to mean independence from physical stimuli, but it does mean that it's an active, functioning agent that can genuinely cause effects rather than just passively reflect them. I'm perfectly satisfied with a mental agent conditioned by external circumstances, but there's no reason to assume that mental agent can't be an active entity not reductible to its parts. (A purely mechanical, Newtonian causation probably won't hold even in physics, so I wouldn't make too much of an issue of it.)

B: No argument there. There are good reasons to believe mental states can't be reduced to physical states, even if they may be caused by them. But the issues are separate. (Not sure what B responds to, though.)

C: I am not sure what to say about that. I would say that most people believe and experience they have free will. We are constantly making choices, or so it seems. Epistemologically, we have the classical problem: do we start from an epistemic theory and see what it allows us to know, or do we start from things we seem to know and try to find a theory to explain them? I don't recall the technical term right now, but I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. But if we have no propositions we know, we have nothing to formulate a theory on. If we don't have a theory, we have no way to differentiate between knowing and just believing (falsely or correctly by chance). Either way, if we have a basic belief about free will that people seem convinced they know, then it seems arbitrary to accept it can be dismissed. If our epistemic theory results in dismissing a large part of what we believe to know, it seems like a bad theory. At least you would need extremely convincing reasons that force such a paradigm shift.

D: That is something I don't subscribe to. It's not true that we can explain human behavior better by dismissing intentionality and choice. (Though you have a stricter view of freedom and might grant this; see A.) It may be that the best possible system of beliefs requires us to dismiss such notions to remain coherent, but that's not obvious. I would much rather tweak our concepts of causation or the formal principles that make up our epistemic systems. And in general, I'm not very sympathetic of the common values of predictability and "mapping" that have become popular in epistemology. I would rather have explanations, but these are all pragmatic and not strictly epistemic principles. It is not clear that such explanations do predict better, but even if they did, there's no reason to apply them uniformly to every area of knowledge and language.

As for natural selection, I agree. It's a perfectly useful model of explanation and I'm not criticizing teleological language per se. But I fail to see how it helps us in this situation. It doesn't explain the emergence of (the illusion of) free will or more importantly, the things the original quote used to explain it. Evolutionary biology doesn't work as a model on the level of social organization and social ethics. The attempt to explain the perception of free will as a result of evolution because it's beneficial to society to be able to punish and reward is certainly outside the scope of what Darwin and modern biologists try to explain. It's not like a few apes were born with the notion that naughty apes should be punished, and as a result shagged more girls. Social Darwinism was a failed trend, too. In general, very little good has come from trying to enforce methodological uniformity and reducing individual disciplines to one model. Purely from the perspective of philosophy of science (which is my main focus in philosophy), taking no metaphysical stance, there's very little grounds for such.
Jaeryd17‍
Desert Mouse

Posts: 603

Age: 23
From: USA

  31.01.2013 at 20:58
Written by wormdrink414 on 31.01.2013 at 10:56

Kapow.

[video]

Tried but can't disagree with his argument.

Thank you.
----
"It is not your sin—it is your self-satisfaction that crieth unto heaven; your very sparingness in sin crieth unto heaven!

Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the frenzy with which ye should be inoculated?"

Candlemass
Defaeco

Posts: 527
From: Israel

  31.01.2013 at 23:47
Written by IronAngel on 31.01.2013 at 19:56

It's not like a few apes were born with the notion that naughty apes should be punished, and as a result shagged more girls. Social Darwinism was a failed trend, too. In general, very little good has come from trying to enforce methodological uniformity and reducing individual disciplines to one model. Purely from the perspective of philosophy of science (which is my main focus in philosophy), taking no metaphysical stance, there's very little grounds for such.


A. "I'm perfectly satisfied with a mental agent conditioned by external circumstances" - I'm too.
That's enough for me to reject libertarian free will. The rest is a different subject.
I didn't go into reductionism enough, I could suggest you to read some Alexander Rosenberg for a 'greedy' account of reductionism.

C. paradigm shift? I think if people take a moment to contemplate - they will indeed see they do not experience any feel will. Rather, I would point out to the genealogy of the idea - seems like it started as an unwise idea as a response to another unwise idea (fatalism) in ancient Mesopotamia. People maybe forgot where it came from into their heads and take it as granted as many other bad ideas they did not contemplate about.
Choices, as you pointed out in (a), isn't a matter of "free will". I tend to favor a sort of Scientific-Pragmatism on this issue. You start with a while defined system and revise it as you go along, while testing it against experience. This is what after all allows us to progress.
D. The 'mapping' is a popular part of explanations and explanatory virtues.
"there's no reason to apply them uniformly to every area of knowledge and language." - I agree.
The thing is, you are using folk psychology which gives you so-so predictions with measurable biases in judgment. Scientific psychology does a better work on all accounts.

Yes it does. Sociobiology. That's beside the point of course. Pointing out it is an imperfect explanation does not add anything virtue to intuitive explanations Those explanations are on all accounts - better (this is in the context of theistic explanations, the principles are still relevant).
"enforce methodological uniformity" there is no need. The question is what you want and what you expect out of your theories.
----
‎"If you can't change your mind - are you sure you still have one?" - Twelve Virtues of Rationality
Death To Posers
Hate Thy King

Posts: 267

Age: 29
From: USA

  02.03.2013 at 03:08
We're programmed by genes just like other animals...
----
The word gen means "illusion" or "apparition." In India, a man who uses conjury is called a genjutsushi ["a master of illusion technique"]. Everything in this world is but a marionette show. Thus we use the word gen.
helofloki

Posts: 184

Age: 29
From: USA
  26.03.2013 at 12:47
Recently wrote a blog entry on this subject if anyone is interested: http://thecephalogue.blogspot.com/2013/03/you-were-destined-to-read-this.html
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http://thecephalogue.blogspot.com/
4look4rd
The Sasquatch

Posts: 769

Age: 22
From: USA

  31.03.2013 at 02:52
Took a class in Game Theory last semester and we did an analyses of a problem that could very well apply to this (Newcomb's Paradox)

Here is the scenario:

Two boxes are put in front of you, one is transparent and you can clearly see that it contains $1,000, the second box contains either $0 or $1,000,000, however you don't know what is inside.

The contents of the second box depend on the prediction of a fortune teller who is ALWAYS right. If he predicted that you will take both boxes he will put $0 in the second box, but if he predicts that you will only take the second box he will put $1,000,000 inside of it.

He makes the prediction and puts the money (or no money) inside of the second box before you make your choice. The money from the second box WILL NOT magically appear or disappear.

Lastly, you cannot randomly generate your decision. That will result in an empty second box.

Are you better off by taking both boxes or just the second box?

Well at a first glance it seems as if taking both boxes is the dominant strategy because:
If there is nothing inside the second box....
A)...and you take both boxes you will have $1,000
B)...and you take the second box you will have $0

If there is $1,000,000 in the second box...
C)...and you take both boxes you will have $1,000,000 + $1,000
D)...and you take the second box you will have $1,000,000

HOWEVER

Given that our fortune teller always predicts correctly outcomes B and C are impossible to occur. Therefore the rational thing to do is to ALWAYS choose only the second box.

The interesting part about this scenario is that your decision is irrelevant. The fortune teller, through his perfect forecasting, has already put the money inside the box and he knows exactly what you are going to do. You have no choice but to fulfill his prediction.

So under the assumption of perfect forecasting (aka as Omniscience) Free Will cannot exist, well at least in the traditional sense. You may still believe that what you do matters, but ultimately the outcome is already pre-determined and you have no way to change its course. This makes many religious beliefs incompatible with notion of Free Will.
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IronAngel

Posts: 4363

Age: 25
From: Finland

  31.03.2013 at 11:58
There are some problems with the above. Namely, it's begging the question. Your premise is that there is a fortune teller who already knows the future, and that's supposed to show the irrelevance of choice. But such a premise may be entirely imaginary and mistaken in some fundamental way. It already assumes a singular history, rather than branching possible worlds. It assumes cause comes before effect. It assumes a metaphysical connection between knowing something, and the state of affairs itself. It seems our commonsensical understanding of time and causation are insufficient to explain artificial paradoxes with imaginary premises, because they were never that clear and precise in the first place - or at least not formulated for that kind of use.
Jaeryd17‍
Desert Mouse

Posts: 603

Age: 23
From: USA

  01.04.2013 at 10:39
Written by IronAngel on 31.03.2013 at 11:58

There are some problems with the above. Namely, it's begging the question. Your premise is that there is a fortune teller who already knows the future, and that's supposed to show the irrelevance of choice. But such a premise may be entirely imaginary and mistaken in some fundamental way. It already assumes a singular history, rather than branching possible worlds. It assumes cause comes before effect. It assumes a metaphysical connection between knowing something, and the state of affairs itself. It seems our commonsensical understanding of time and causation are insufficient to explain artificial paradoxes with imaginary premises, because they were never that clear and precise in the first place - or at least not formulated for that kind of use.

See, right there is the best argument that I've seen from you--or it's at least the most clear and concise. Assuming cause/effect is a real thing beyond a simple illusory human construct, and that cause always comes before effect, then it does not make sense that there would be such a thing as free will. But that is an assumption, with which yet another assumption is made after working through the idea with human logic. And again, there's even the assumption being made that human logic is a reliable, infallible tool to help us understand the world.

But, as you said, we may be completely deluded. Our linear, logical, cause/effect mentality may actually distort the true nature of reality. Cause/effect may not exist at all how we think it does. We can already see that logic is not without flaws; otherwise there would be no such thing as a paradox. Paradoxes do not appear to exist in nature; they only exist when our logic conflicts with itself.

The thing is, based on the evidence we have, it's certainly reasonable to believe that there is no such thing as free will until proven otherwise. Of course, it would be foolish to remain trapped in that conclusion to the refusal of all new evidence supporting a contrary perspective, but I doubt that any of us plan on doing that.

Still, all interesting ideas to consider.
----
"It is not your sin—it is your self-satisfaction that crieth unto heaven; your very sparingness in sin crieth unto heaven!

Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the frenzy with which ye should be inoculated?"

Widows Son

Posts: 9
From: UK

  25.04.2013 at 16:58
"Do we have a free will?"

I freely and of my own accord signed up to Metal Storm and began posting. I was not solicited to do so nor inspired by any other cause other than a love for metal-based music (the effect being in this instance my wish to discuss metal-based music with like-minded individuals).

I chose to reply to this question. I did not have to, I chose to. That I was "compelled to" reply to this question -perhaps owing to an interest in the nature of free will, perhaps owing also to a host of external factors such as environment and upbringing- does not however negate the fact that I CHOSE to do so, freely.

The "compulsion" to sign up to Metal Storm, to post and to reply to this question, could have been resisted also. There existed the "potential" for me to have resisted the compulsion and to have not signed up; to have have not posted and to have not replied to this question.

I had a choice.

We are free to choose even in the most dire of environments and situations. For example, someone steals from you. It is outwith your will that you be stolen from or not, but in having been stolen from, there ALWAYS exists the free will to choose HOW you are going to treat the situation. Hate the thief? Forgive the thief? ...But two prominent, base options made available as a result of free will. We may have been raised to forgive, but that does not stop us hating the thief. The point is the potential for choice is always present.

In reply to this possibly poorly expressed post someone may say that I am talking nonsense. I have the choice between engaging with them in a constructive manner, for the sake of mutual learning and development, or I could tell them they are a moron (or some such thing - insert choice of inflammatory remark here). Again, my upbringing (to use the same example) may have instilled in me the notion that to call someone a moron is not in any way reasonable or productive, but I still have the potential to do so, for I am human, and humans by nature are imperfect, and they are imperfect because of their ability to make free choices, and hence forth, mistakes.

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