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Compatibilism: What's that About?

Marvin Edwards

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Compatibilism asserts that free will remains a meaningful concept within a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. There is no conflict between the notion that my choice was causally necessary from any prior point in time (determinism) and the notion that it was me that actually did the choosing (free will).

The only way that determinism and free will become contradictory is by bad definitions. For example, if we define "determinism" as "the absence of free will", or, if we define "free will" as "the absence of determinism", then obviously they would be incompatible. So, let's not do that.

Determinism asserts that every event is the reliable result of prior events. It derives this from the notion of a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. Our choices, for example, are reliably caused by our choosing operation. The choosing operation is a deterministic event that inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and, based on that evaluation, outputs a single choice. The choice is usually in the form of an "I will X", where X is the thing that we have decided we will do. Our chosen intent then motivates and directs our subsequent actions.

Free will is literally a freely chosen "I will". The only issue here is what that choice is expected to be "free" of. Operationally, free will is when we decide for ourselves what we will do while "free of coercion and undue influence". The notion of "undue influence" includes things like a mental illness that distorts our view of reality with hallucinations or delusions, or impairs the ability of the brain to reason, or imposes an irresistible impulse. Undue influence would also include things like hypnosis, or the influence of those exercising some control over us, such as a parent/child, doctor/patient, commander/soldier. It can also include other forms of manipulation that are too subtle or too strong to resist. These are all influences that can be reasonably said to remove our control of our choices.

The operational definition of free will is used when assessing someone's moral or legal responsibility for their actions.

Note that free will is not "free from causal necessity". It is simply free from coercion and undue influence.

So, there is no contradiction between a choice being causally necessitated by past events, and the most meaningful and relevant of these past events being the person making the choice.

Therefore, determinism and free will are compatible notions.
 

Wiploc

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I don't pay attention to the free will discussions. They seem like interminable exercises in talking past each other.

I may be a compatibilist, though I'd have to look it up to know for sure.

I'm a free willy; I experience free will all the time.

The world isn't perfectly deterministic. But what isn't determined may be random, which hardly helps us us defend free will.

But, if you say free will is an illusion, then I'll point out that the illusion is free will. If A equals B then B equals A. What we experience, that we call free will, is what we mean by free will. And, as a practical matter, everybody believes in free will. Nobody says, "Oh, it's okay that you mug me, because, philosophically speaking, you don't have a choice."
 

fromderinside

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Compatibilism asserts that free will remains a meaningful concept within a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. There is no conflict between the notion that my choice was causally necessary from any prior point in time (determinism) and the notion that it was me that actually did the choosing (free will).
OK Wellington. Handle this cannonball of a conundrum. How can that be true for human beings who are only privy to past information for making present decisions?
 

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Compatibilism asserts that free will remains a meaningful concept within a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. There is no conflict between the notion that my choice was causally necessary from any prior point in time (determinism) and the notion that it was me that actually did the choosing (free will).

The only way that determinism and free will become contradictory is by bad definitions. For example, if we define "determinism" as "the absence of free will", or, if we define "free will" as "the absence of determinism", then obviously they would be incompatible. So, let's not do that.

Determinism asserts that every event is the reliable result of prior events. It derives this from the notion of a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. Our choices, for example, are reliably caused by our choosing operation. The choosing operation is a deterministic event that inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and, based on that evaluation, outputs a single choice. The choice is usually in the form of an "I will X", where X is the thing that we have decided we will do. Our chosen intent then motivates and directs our subsequent actions.

Free will is literally a freely chosen "I will". The only issue here is what that choice is expected to be "free" of. Operationally, free will is when we decide for ourselves what we will do while "free of coercion and undue influence". The notion of "undue influence" includes things like a mental illness that distorts our view of reality with hallucinations or delusions, or impairs the ability of the brain to reason, or imposes an irresistible impulse. Undue influence would also include things like hypnosis, or the influence of those exercising some control over us, such as a parent/child, doctor/patient, commander/soldier. It can also include other forms of manipulation that are too subtle or too strong to resist. These are all influences that can be reasonably said to remove our control of our choices.

The operational definition of free will is used when assessing someone's moral or legal responsibility for their actions.

Note that free will is not "free from causal necessity". It is simply free from coercion and undue influence.

So, there is no contradiction between a choice being causally necessitated by past events, and the most meaningful and relevant of these past events being the person making the choice.

Therefore, determinism and free will are compatible notions.

Any number of organisms/species have the neural processing power to think and act, yet are not considered to be moral agents. An information processor of sufficient capacity has the ability to make decisions based on given sets of criteria without consciousness or will.

Conscious Will has nothing to do with decision making or motor action.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Compatibilism asserts that free will remains a meaningful concept within a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. There is no conflict between the notion that my choice was causally necessary from any prior point in time (determinism) and the notion that it was me that actually did the choosing (free will).
OK Wellington. Handle this cannonball of a conundrum. How can that be true for human beings who are only privy to past information for making present decisions?

Choosing involves speculation. We have two options and all we know at the outset is the fact that we can choose A or we can choose B. So, we estimate the likely outcome of choosing A. Then we estimate the likely outcome of choosing B. We compare the two estimates and choose the best one.

We only have knowledge of the past, but we have an imagination that can estimate the likely result of each option.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Any number of organisms/species have the neural processing power to think and act, yet are not considered to be moral agents. An information processor of sufficient capacity has the ability to make decisions based on given sets of criteria without consciousness or will.

Conscious Will has nothing to do with decision making or motor action.

Morality is species specific. What is good for the lion is bad for the antelope. So, all intelligent species are moral agents within the context of the morality of their own species.

Our species has sophisticated vocal abilities. From a very young age, we have often been asked, "Why did you do that?". This potential need to explain ourselves, both to ourselves and to others, plays a role in significant decisions. For example, if your unconscious brain decided to rob a bank, both your conscious and unconscious brain would go to jail. So, any significant decision making (other than reflexes or habits or learned skills) will usually involve conscious awareness.

Consider the subjects in Libet's experiments. Before they could carry out the experiment, they had to volunteer to participate (of their own free will), then the experimenters had to explain the apparatus to the subject and explain what the subject was expected to do. All of this setup involved conscious participation by the subject. It was only after this conscious preparation that the experiment, to squeeze his fist at random intervals, or to push a button, or some other minimally conscious action, could take place.
 

rousseau

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Compatibilism asserts that free will remains a meaningful concept within a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. There is no conflict between the notion that my choice was causally necessary from any prior point in time (determinism) and the notion that it was me that actually did the choosing (free will).

The only way that determinism and free will become contradictory is by bad definitions. For example, if we define "determinism" as "the absence of free will", or, if we define "free will" as "the absence of determinism", then obviously they would be incompatible. So, let's not do that.

Determinism asserts that every event is the reliable result of prior events. It derives this from the notion of a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. Our choices, for example, are reliably caused by our choosing operation. The choosing operation is a deterministic event that inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and, based on that evaluation, outputs a single choice. The choice is usually in the form of an "I will X", where X is the thing that we have decided we will do. Our chosen intent then motivates and directs our subsequent actions.

Free will is literally a freely chosen "I will". The only issue here is what that choice is expected to be "free" of. Operationally, free will is when we decide for ourselves what we will do while "free of coercion and undue influence". The notion of "undue influence" includes things like a mental illness that distorts our view of reality with hallucinations or delusions, or impairs the ability of the brain to reason, or imposes an irresistible impulse. Undue influence would also include things like hypnosis, or the influence of those exercising some control over us, such as a parent/child, doctor/patient, commander/soldier. It can also include other forms of manipulation that are too subtle or too strong to resist. These are all influences that can be reasonably said to remove our control of our choices.

The operational definition of free will is used when assessing someone's moral or legal responsibility for their actions.

Note that free will is not "free from causal necessity". It is simply free from coercion and undue influence.

So, there is no contradiction between a choice being causally necessitated by past events, and the most meaningful and relevant of these past events being the person making the choice.

Therefore, determinism and free will are compatible notions.
This is along the lines of what I've been trying to express for a few years now. Think I'm going to save this post to refer back to later.

Thank you.
 
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DBT

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Any number of organisms/species have the neural processing power to think and act, yet are not considered to be moral agents. An information processor of sufficient capacity has the ability to make decisions based on given sets of criteria without consciousness or will.

Conscious Will has nothing to do with decision making or motor action.

Morality is species specific. What is good for the lion is bad for the antelope. So, all intelligent species are moral agents within the context of the morality of their own species.

Our species has sophisticated vocal abilities. From a very young age, we have often been asked, "Why did you do that?". This potential need to explain ourselves, both to ourselves and to others, plays a role in significant decisions. For example, if your unconscious brain decided to rob a bank, both your conscious and unconscious brain would go to jail. So, any significant decision making (other than reflexes or habits or learned skills) will usually involve conscious awareness.

Consider the subjects in Libet's experiments. Before they could carry out the experiment, they had to volunteer to participate (of their own free will), then the experimenters had to explain the apparatus to the subject and explain what the subject was expected to do. All of this setup involved conscious participation by the subject. It was only after this conscious preparation that the experiment, to squeeze his fist at random intervals, or to push a button, or some other minimally conscious action, could take place.

Morality is a human concept formulated and enabled by a brain of sufficient information processing ability.

Which is not a matter of Will, be it conscious or unconscious. To call decision making "will" is a fallacy. Decisions are made by neural networks, not Will.

Will, not being the actual agent of decision making - which is the function of neural networks - is not free to make decisions. It is not Will that makes decisions.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Morality is a human concept formulated and enabled by a brain of sufficient information processing ability.

Which is not a matter of Will, be it conscious or unconscious. To call decision making "will" is a fallacy. Decisions are made by neural networks, not Will.

Will, not being the actual agent of decision making - which is the function of neural networks - is not free to make decisions. It is not Will that makes decisions.

Whenever we decide what we will do, our decision causally determines our will. Will I have the banana? Or, will I have the apple? I think I will have the banana. Having set our intent upon having the banana, that intention then motivates and directs our subsequent actions: I peel the banana, I eat the banana, I throw away the peel. That intent was set by my choice. So, you're right, it is not Will that makes decisions. It is Decisions that make will.

We cannot directly observe neural networks making decisions. We can watch the flow of blood throughout different areas of the brain during choosing by using a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). But we cannot physically see the thoughts that the brain is having. The only way to see the thoughts is through the patient's narration of what he is thinking. So, for now, we need to rely upon that report of the experience.

From that report, or from our own experience of thinking over a problem, we have a model of what the neural network is doing. And, it is making decisions. And those decisions are causally determining what we will do.
 

DBT

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Morality is a human concept formulated and enabled by a brain of sufficient information processing ability.

Which is not a matter of Will, be it conscious or unconscious. To call decision making "will" is a fallacy. Decisions are made by neural networks, not Will.

Will, not being the actual agent of decision making - which is the function of neural networks - is not free to make decisions. It is not Will that makes decisions.

Whenever we decide what we will do, our decision causally determines our will. Will I have the banana? Or, will I have the apple? I think I will have the banana. Having set our intent upon having the banana, that intention then motivates and directs our subsequent actions: I peel the banana, I eat the banana, I throw away the peel. That intent was set by my choice. So, you're right, it is not Will that makes decisions. It is Decisions that make will.

We cannot directly observe neural networks making decisions. We can watch the flow of blood throughout different areas of the brain during choosing by using a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). But we cannot physically see the thoughts that the brain is having. The only way to see the thoughts is through the patient's narration of what he is thinking. So, for now, we need to rely upon that report of the experience.

From that report, or from our own experience of thinking over a problem, we have a model of what the neural network is doing. And, it is making decisions. And those decisions are causally determining what we will do.


According to research, decision making and response is the result of information input acting upon the brain, which processes that information and represents some of that processing activity in conscious form.

Our ability to think and reason being determined by the non-chosen condition of brain architecture.

The condition of the brain determining its output in terms of adaptive and maladaptive behaviours.

A person may be intelligent, yet lack empathy. Not through choice, but simply how their brain is wired.

A person may be intelligent, able to understand morality, understand right from wrong, yet behave in destructive ways because that is how their brain is wired;


On the neurology of morals
''Patients with medial prefrontal lesions often display irresponsible behavior, despite being intellectually unimpaired. But similar lesions occurring in early childhood can also prevent the acquisition of factual knowledge about accepted standards of moral behavior.''

Prefrontal Cortex damage:
'The 20-year-old female subject studied by Damasio et al. was intelligent and academically competent, but she stole from her family and other children, abused other people both verbally and physically, lied frequently, and was sexually promiscuous and completely lacking in empathy toward her illegitimate child. In addition, the researchers say, "She never expressed guilt or remorse for her misbehavior'' ''Both of the subjects performed well on measures of intellectual ability, but, like people with adult-onset prefrontal cortex damage, they were socially impaired, failed to consider future consequences when making decisions, and failed to respond normally to punishment or behavioral interventions. "Unlike adult-onset patients, however," the researchers say, "the two patients had defective social and moral reasoning, suggesting that the acquisition of complex social conventions and moral rules had been impaired." While adult-onset patients possess factual knowledge about social and moral rules (even though they often cannot follow these rules in real life), Damasio et al.'s childhood-onset subjects appeared unable to learn these rules at all. This may explain, the researchers say, why their childhood-onset subjects were much more antisocial, and showed less guilt and remorse, than subjects who suffered similar damage in adulthood.''
 

fromderinside

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Compatibilism asserts that free will remains a meaningful concept within a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. There is no conflict between the notion that my choice was causally necessary from any prior point in time (determinism) and the notion that it was me that actually did the choosing (free will).
OK Wellington. Handle this cannonball of a conundrum. How can that be true for human beings who are only privy to past information for making present decisions?

Choosing involves speculation. We have two options and all we know at the outset is the fact that we can choose A or we can choose B. So, we estimate the likely outcome of choosing A. Then we estimate the likely outcome of choosing B. We compare the two estimates and choose the best one.

We only have knowledge of the past, but we have an imagination that can estimate the likely result of each option.

your argument doesn't get past the problem that what is processed by one has already been determined. Using your approach any speculation in any environment would be an example of free choice which it is obviously can not be because every environment is already determined in to which you speculate. No compatibility possible.

DBT's indentification of the development of a nervous system being determined makes obvious the being is determined if you want to quibble. The being is determined. The outcomes from the determined being in a determined environment already in place are also determined and accelerant to the being's demise.

In the human the state of Schrodinger's cat is also already known. That is obvious because what one is processing, experiencing, is already fixed and determined. You may make an erroneous judgement but your judgement will fall in to a known fixed world which forms the basis for your future experience and so forth.

In short you are too late to the game for your judgement to have possible determinate value. I believe that is a requirement for a choice to be freely made.

Another way to look at human behavior is to consider it as irrelevant noise. In fact My view is that what humans do actually increases the rate at which humans cease to exist. You're late, you're wrong most of the time, so eventually your actions will determine your death. I'm not prepared to call that free will.
 
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Marvin Edwards

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Morality is a human concept formulated and enabled by a brain of sufficient information processing ability.

Which is not a matter of Will, be it conscious or unconscious. To call decision making "will" is a fallacy. Decisions are made by neural networks, not Will.

Will, not being the actual agent of decision making - which is the function of neural networks - is not free to make decisions. It is not Will that makes decisions.

Whenever we decide what we will do, our decision causally determines our will. Will I have the banana? Or, will I have the apple? I think I will have the banana. Having set our intent upon having the banana, that intention then motivates and directs our subsequent actions: I peel the banana, I eat the banana, I throw away the peel. That intent was set by my choice. So, you're right, it is not Will that makes decisions. It is Decisions that make will.

We cannot directly observe neural networks making decisions. We can watch the flow of blood throughout different areas of the brain during choosing by using a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). But we cannot physically see the thoughts that the brain is having. The only way to see the thoughts is through the patient's narration of what he is thinking. So, for now, we need to rely upon that report of the experience.

From that report, or from our own experience of thinking over a problem, we have a model of what the neural network is doing. And, it is making decisions. And those decisions are causally determining what we will do.


According to research, decision making and response is the result of information input acting upon the brain, which processes that information and represents some of that processing activity in conscious form.

Our ability to think and reason being determined by the non-chosen condition of brain architecture.

The condition of the brain determining its output in terms of adaptive and maladaptive behaviours.

A person may be intelligent, yet lack empathy. Not through choice, but simply how their brain is wired.

A person may be intelligent, able to understand morality, understand right from wrong, yet behave in destructive ways because that is how their brain is wired;


On the neurology of morals
''Patients with medial prefrontal lesions often display irresponsible behavior, despite being intellectually unimpaired. But similar lesions occurring in early childhood can also prevent the acquisition of factual knowledge about accepted standards of moral behavior.''

Prefrontal Cortex damage:
'The 20-year-old female subject studied by Damasio et al. was intelligent and academically competent, but she stole from her family and other children, abused other people both verbally and physically, lied frequently, and was sexually promiscuous and completely lacking in empathy toward her illegitimate child. In addition, the researchers say, "She never expressed guilt or remorse for her misbehavior'' ''Both of the subjects performed well on measures of intellectual ability, but, like people with adult-onset prefrontal cortex damage, they were socially impaired, failed to consider future consequences when making decisions, and failed to respond normally to punishment or behavioral interventions. "Unlike adult-onset patients, however," the researchers say, "the two patients had defective social and moral reasoning, suggesting that the acquisition of complex social conventions and moral rules had been impaired." While adult-onset patients possess factual knowledge about social and moral rules (even though they often cannot follow these rules in real life), Damasio et al.'s childhood-onset subjects appeared unable to learn these rules at all. This may explain, the researchers say, why their childhood-onset subjects were much more antisocial, and showed less guilt and remorse, than subjects who suffered similar damage in adulthood.''

Right. In criminal cases where mental illness is, in effect, controlling the behavior, it is the illness that is held responsible, and it is the illness that is subject to correction, through medical or psychiatric treatment. If the offender's behavior can be sufficiently corrected by treatment to prevent any serious harm to themselves or others, then they can return to normal life. But if it cannot be reasonably assured that they will not continue to harm others, then they need to be secured in a mental facility.

Significant mental illness, sufficient to remove a person's normal ability to control their behavior, is an undue influence. And those bad choices would be considered NOT of their own free will.

The point of the notion of free will is to make such distinctions.

No one gets to choose their original neural architecture. Free will never implies "freedom from oneself". It only implies freedom from coercion and other forms of undue influence. A mental illness that plays a significant role in causing bad behavior would be an undue influence.
 
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Marvin Edwards

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Choosing involves speculation. We have two options and all we know at the outset is the fact that we can choose A or we can choose B. So, we estimate the likely outcome of choosing A. Then we estimate the likely outcome of choosing B. We compare the two estimates and choose the best one.

We only have knowledge of the past, but we have an imagination that can estimate the likely result of each option.

your argument doesn't get past the problem that what is processed by one has already been determined. Using your approach any speculation in any environment would be an example of free choice which it is obviously can not be because every environment is already determined in to which you speculate. No compatibility possible.

DBT's indentification of the development of a nervous system being determined makes obvious the being is determined if you want to quibble. The being is determined. The outcomes from the determined being in a determined environment already in place are also determined and accelerant to the being's demise.

In the human the state of Schrodinger's cat is also already known. That is obvious because what one is processing, experiencing, is already fixed and determined. You may make an erroneous judgement but your judgement will fall in to a known fixed world which forms the basis for your future experience and so forth.

In short you are too late to the game for your judgement to have possible determinate value. I believe that is a requirement for a choice to be freely made.

Another way to look at human behavior is to consider it as irrelevant noise. In fact My view is that what humans do actually increases the rate at which humans cease to exist. You're late, you're wrong most of the time, so eventually your actions will determine your death. I'm not prepared to call that free will.

Ah! When you say that "your argument doesn't get past the problem that what is processed by one has already been determined", you're making the predetermination argument. You're suggesting that everything has already been determined before you even get there, leaving you with nothing to do. But that's not really the case. Our prior causes cannot leapfrog or bypass us and bring about our actions without our knowledge and consent. No event is fully caused until all of its prior causes have played themselves out. And the final responsible cause of a deliberate act is the act of deliberation that precedes it.

Another expression of this argument is that we are not the "real" causes of our choices, because we have prior causes, and therefore those prior causes are the "real" causes. The problem with this argument is that all of our prior causes also have prior causes. So, if we are not real causes, then neither are they! The responsibility would shift off of us and all the way back to some imaginary "original" cause. But there is nothing we can do about that cause. So, this argument is fruitless.

What we care about is the meaningful and relevant causes of events. A cause is meaningful if it efficiently explains why something happened. A cause is relevant if we can actually do something about it. So, in matters of behavior, the meaningful and relevant cause of a deliberate act is the act of deliberation that precedes it. And we would want to address that in the person who actually performed the deliberation.

If we presume a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect (and I do) then every event, from the motion of the planets to the thoughts going through our head right now, is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. Basically, one thing reliably leads to another, through normal everyday cause and effect, from any prior point to now. Every event has a history of causation going back as far as anyone cares to imagine.

So what? This logical fact is neither a meaningful nor a relevant fact to any practical human issue. It's just a background constant that is always true of every event. It cannot help us to make any meaningful decisions, because it offers only one piece of information, "Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be". If we ask it, "Should I choose A or should I choose B?" Causal necessity responds, "I don't know, but I can tell you that, whatever you choose will have been causally necessary from any prior point in history". Thanks a lot. The logical fact of universal causal necessity/inevitability is useless. It makes itself irrelevant by its own ubiquity.

I'm a bit concerned about your statements, "Another way to look at human behavior is to consider it as irrelevant noise. In fact My view is that what humans do actually increases the rate at which humans cease to exist. You're late, you're wrong most of the time, so eventually your actions will determine your death." That seems a bit cynical if not downright depressing.
 

rousseau

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Another way to look at human behavior is to consider it as irrelevant noise. In fact My view is that what humans do actually increases the rate at which humans cease to exist. You're late, you're wrong most of the time, so eventually your actions will determine your death. I'm not prepared to call that free will.

I think the question we need to be looking at is whether the term free will has any relevance at all. If determinism implies a lack of free will, then we're not looking to prove free will. What is actually relevant are the properties of living things and trying to define those properties. Do people feel free? Why not explore that instead of endlessly focusing on why determinism implies a lack of freedom?

IOW, the conversation on free will is dead if determinism is the long and short of it. But we're still left with the question of why we have billions of people who would very much describe themselves as free beings.

To me the answer there is essentially that we are that which is determining. Where those who deny free will have some sense that determinism is happening to us.

So yes, determinism is a thing, but why not move beyond that and explore what is there.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Another way to look at human behavior is to consider it as irrelevant noise. In fact My view is that what humans do actually increases the rate at which humans cease to exist. You're late, you're wrong most of the time, so eventually your actions will determine your death. I'm not prepared to call that free will.

I think the question we need to be looking at is whether the term free will has any relevance at all. If determinism implies a lack of free will, then we're not looking to prove free will. What is actually relevant are the properties of living things and trying to define those properties. Do people feel free? Why not explore that instead of endlessly focusing on why determinism implies a lack of freedom?

IOW, the conversation on free will is dead if determinism is the long and short of it. But we're still left with the question of why we have billions of people who would very much describe themselves as free beings.

To me the answer there is essentially that we are that which is determining. Where those who deny free will have some sense that determinism is happening to us.

So yes, determinism is a thing, but why not move beyond that and explore what is there.

I agree. The way that I moved beyond determinism was by going through it. It was like a black hole that you had to get through to get to the other side. Universal causal necessity/inevitability is a logical fact, but neither a meaningful nor a relevant fact. The notion of freedom itself logically implies a world of reliable cause and effect. Without reliable causation, we could never reliably cause any effect, and would have no freedom to do anything at all. So, freedom itself is deterministic.

There will certainly be one single inevitable future (after all, we have only one past to put it in), but how we get there is by imagining many possible futures and choosing the one we want. Ironically, within the domain of human influence, we get to choose which future is inevitable.

The determinist errs in viewing causation as a force that controls us against our will. Causation never causes anything, and determinism never determines anything. These two concepts are descriptive, not causative. Only the actual objects and forces that make up the physical universe can cause events. The notion of causation is what we use to describe the interaction of these objects and forces as they bring about events.

We happen to be one of those objects that goes about in the world causing stuff to happen, and doing so in a way that satisfies needs that are uniquely located within us, and in no other objects in the universe. And we have brains that let us deliberately choose what we will cause to happen next.

We are both the result of reliable cause and effect and the original causes of new effects.
 

DBT

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According to research, decision making and response is the result of information input acting upon the brain, which processes that information and represents some of that processing activity in conscious form.

Our ability to think and reason being determined by the non-chosen condition of brain architecture.

The condition of the brain determining its output in terms of adaptive and maladaptive behaviours.

A person may be intelligent, yet lack empathy. Not through choice, but simply how their brain is wired.

A person may be intelligent, able to understand morality, understand right from wrong, yet behave in destructive ways because that is how their brain is wired;


On the neurology of morals
''Patients with medial prefrontal lesions often display irresponsible behavior, despite being intellectually unimpaired. But similar lesions occurring in early childhood can also prevent the acquisition of factual knowledge about accepted standards of moral behavior.''

Prefrontal Cortex damage:
'The 20-year-old female subject studied by Damasio et al. was intelligent and academically competent, but she stole from her family and other children, abused other people both verbally and physically, lied frequently, and was sexually promiscuous and completely lacking in empathy toward her illegitimate child. In addition, the researchers say, "She never expressed guilt or remorse for her misbehavior'' ''Both of the subjects performed well on measures of intellectual ability, but, like people with adult-onset prefrontal cortex damage, they were socially impaired, failed to consider future consequences when making decisions, and failed to respond normally to punishment or behavioral interventions. "Unlike adult-onset patients, however," the researchers say, "the two patients had defective social and moral reasoning, suggesting that the acquisition of complex social conventions and moral rules had been impaired." While adult-onset patients possess factual knowledge about social and moral rules (even though they often cannot follow these rules in real life), Damasio et al.'s childhood-onset subjects appeared unable to learn these rules at all. This may explain, the researchers say, why their childhood-onset subjects were much more antisocial, and showed less guilt and remorse, than subjects who suffered similar damage in adulthood.''

Right. In criminal cases where mental illness is, in effect, controlling the behavior, it is the illness that is held responsible, and it is the illness that is subject to correction, through medical or psychiatric treatment. If the offender's behavior can be sufficiently corrected by treatment to prevent any serious harm to themselves or others, then they can return to normal life. But if it cannot be reasonably assured that they will not continue to harm others, then they need to be secured in a mental facility.

Significant mental illness, sufficient to remove a person's normal ability to control their behavior, is an undue influence. And those bad choices would be considered NOT of their own free will.

The point of the notion of free will is to make such distinctions.

No one gets to choose their original neural architecture. Free will never implies "freedom from oneself". It only implies freedom from coercion and other forms of undue influence. A mental illness that plays a significant role in causing bad behavior would be an undue influence.


It matters not whether its mental illness or the brain is functioning normally, producing rational thought and behaviour: it is the state of the brain/system in any given instance of response that determines its response.

Being of 'sound mind' is no more a choice thn it is to be a Sociopath. The state of the system does not equal free will.

To label rational response, non coerced decisions, etc, as examples of free will does not take the nature of the system into account, it just applies and asserts the label.
 

Marvin Edwards

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According to research, decision making and response is the result of information input acting upon the brain, which processes that information and represents some of that processing activity in conscious form.

Our ability to think and reason being determined by the non-chosen condition of brain architecture.

The condition of the brain determining its output in terms of adaptive and maladaptive behaviours.

A person may be intelligent, yet lack empathy. Not through choice, but simply how their brain is wired.

A person may be intelligent, able to understand morality, understand right from wrong, yet behave in destructive ways because that is how their brain is wired;


On the neurology of morals
''Patients with medial prefrontal lesions often display irresponsible behavior, despite being intellectually unimpaired. But similar lesions occurring in early childhood can also prevent the acquisition of factual knowledge about accepted standards of moral behavior.''

Prefrontal Cortex damage:
'The 20-year-old female subject studied by Damasio et al. was intelligent and academically competent, but she stole from her family and other children, abused other people both verbally and physically, lied frequently, and was sexually promiscuous and completely lacking in empathy toward her illegitimate child. In addition, the researchers say, "She never expressed guilt or remorse for her misbehavior'' ''Both of the subjects performed well on measures of intellectual ability, but, like people with adult-onset prefrontal cortex damage, they were socially impaired, failed to consider future consequences when making decisions, and failed to respond normally to punishment or behavioral interventions. "Unlike adult-onset patients, however," the researchers say, "the two patients had defective social and moral reasoning, suggesting that the acquisition of complex social conventions and moral rules had been impaired." While adult-onset patients possess factual knowledge about social and moral rules (even though they often cannot follow these rules in real life), Damasio et al.'s childhood-onset subjects appeared unable to learn these rules at all. This may explain, the researchers say, why their childhood-onset subjects were much more antisocial, and showed less guilt and remorse, than subjects who suffered similar damage in adulthood.''

Right. In criminal cases where mental illness is, in effect, controlling the behavior, it is the illness that is held responsible, and it is the illness that is subject to correction, through medical or psychiatric treatment. If the offender's behavior can be sufficiently corrected by treatment to prevent any serious harm to themselves or others, then they can return to normal life. But if it cannot be reasonably assured that they will not continue to harm others, then they need to be secured in a mental facility.

Significant mental illness, sufficient to remove a person's normal ability to control their behavior, is an undue influence. And those bad choices would be considered NOT of their own free will.

The point of the notion of free will is to make such distinctions.

No one gets to choose their original neural architecture. Free will never implies "freedom from oneself". It only implies freedom from coercion and other forms of undue influence. A mental illness that plays a significant role in causing bad behavior would be an undue influence.


It matters not whether its mental illness or the brain is functioning normally, producing rational thought and behaviour: it is the state of the brain/system in any given instance of response that determines its response.

Being of 'sound mind' is no more a choice thn it is to be a Sociopath. The state of the system does not equal free will.

To label rational response, non coerced decisions, etc, as examples of free will does not take the nature of the system into account, it just applies and asserts the label.

Yes, it is the brain that is determining the response. When the brain is healthy enough to make decisions, and when the person is not subject to coercion or undue influence, then that is "operational" free will. Free will never requires that the brain be free from itself (that is an impossibility). It only requires that it be free from coercion and other forms of undue influence.

The nature of the brain's system is that it is a collaborative collection of specialized functions that work together to keep the body working, so that the living organism can survive, thrive, and reproduce. One of those functions is to organize sensory data into a model of reality that can be logically manipulated to provide mental capabilities like imagination, evaluation, and choosing.

The ability to imagine alternative ways to accomplish the organism's goals, to estimate the likely outcomes of each option, and to choose the one it calculates will have the best result, gives the species a survival advantage when facing a variety of environmental challenges.

And that's how free will works, by the brain choosing what the body will do next. Will I have an apple? Or, will I have a banana? My brain will figure that out. And what my brain chooses, I have chosen.
 

fromderinside

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So we're back to playing with subjective rather than objective will. Fine.

I call that relative (practical) free will as do many philosophers.

Absolute vs. Practical Free Will https://danielmiessler.com/blog/absolute_vs_practical_free_will/

practical free will is the ability for an individual to experience having options, considering the outcomes of those options within the context of their value system, and then experience making a choice from among them based on what they want to happen.On my view, and the view of most incompatibilists, this type of free will is completely consistent with absolute free will being impossible.
Just because we couldn’t have actually done otherwise than what we did—at the chemical and physical level—doesn’t make the experience of making choices insignificant to us as humans.

If one looks at the history of such one finds a continuous suite of logical dead ends as do relative free will constructions. We apply will against behavior, how one understand it as human do, which isn't even up to the level of rationality. Arguments wind up in dead ends there as well but less so than with those for political and morality systems.

We think we are free to decide so we construct a frame that permits it always to fail because what exists is a determined world.

Naw. I don't want to play.

I'll leave it as in a determined world there is no compatibilism and no free will. Free will is an entirely subjective human thing. It isn't part of objective reality.

This discussion is beginning to remind me of a previous academic - nineteenth and early twentieth century - discussion about the value of abstraction ladders which ended with the explosion of the genetic superiority movement.

You might remember when the co-inventor of the transistor published "The Bell Curve" resurrecting's that thinking for about 10 years in the sixties and seventies. Bad but popular folk thinking can be dangerous. Again I cite Trump.
 

skepticalbip

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... snip ...

I'll leave it as in a determined world there is no compatibilism and no free will.
I like that, especially as an alibi during trial, "Honest, your honor, I had no free choice in the matter. My actions are determined so beyond my control." ... Unfortunately court judges always have said, "I understand because it is determined that I have to convict you but I would have dropped the charges if I had the freedom of choice to."

;)
 

DBT

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It matters not whether its mental illness or the brain is functioning normally, producing rational thought and behaviour: it is the state of the brain/system in any given instance of response that determines its response.

Being of 'sound mind' is no more a choice thn it is to be a Sociopath. The state of the system does not equal free will.

To label rational response, non coerced decisions, etc, as examples of free will does not take the nature of the system into account, it just applies and asserts the label.

Yes, it is the brain that is determining the response. When the brain is healthy enough to make decisions, and when the person is not subject to coercion or undue influence, then that is "operational" free will. Free will never requires that the brain be free from itself (that is an impossibility). It only requires that it be free from coercion and other forms of undue influence.

The nature of the brain's system is that it is a collaborative collection of specialized functions that work together to keep the body working, so that the living organism can survive, thrive, and reproduce. One of those functions is to organize sensory data into a model of reality that can be logically manipulated to provide mental capabilities like imagination, evaluation, and choosing.

The ability to imagine alternative ways to accomplish the organism's goals, to estimate the likely outcomes of each option, and to choose the one it calculates will have the best result, gives the species a survival advantage when facing a variety of environmental challenges.

And that's how free will works, by the brain choosing what the body will do next. Will I have an apple? Or, will I have a banana? My brain will figure that out. And what my brain chooses, I have chosen.

You are simply asserting free will. The brain, its structures, functions, attributes and features do not function on the principle of will. Will is experienced in conscious form as a prompt or urge to respond, to act.

The brain no more functions on the principle of will (be it conscious or unconscious) than the 'laws' of physics, the world or the universe. If it claimed the brain has 'free will' so then has the world, the universe and everything in it that functions 'freely' - as in unimpeded or without coercion.

To function freely, without coercion, does not entail will, be it conscious or unconscious. whether you are being coerced or not, the brain is able to weigh the cost to benefit and respond. The brain has evolved to respond.

The brain, while functional, responds according to its inputs and past experience in every situation.


Hallet for instance argues;
''Recognizing that consciousness is awareness does change the way we can look at the fundamental problem of free will. Free will is more correctly defined as “the perception that we choose to make movements.” Looking at it in this way produces at least two possibilities. The first is that there is a process of free will, an aspect of consciousness, that does choose to make a specific movement. The second is that the brain’s motor system produces a movement as a product of its different inputs, consciousness is informed of this movement, and it is perceived as being freely chosen. It is not certain which of these is correct, but there are some good arguments in favor of the latter.''
 

DBT

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... snip ...

I'll leave it as in a determined world there is no compatibilism and no free will.
I like that, especially as an alibi during trial, "Honest, your honor, I had no choice in the matter. My actions are determined so beyond my control." ... Unfortunately court judges always have said, "I understand because it is determined that I have to convict you but I would have dropped the charges if I had been able to."

;)


The threat of punishment acts as a deterrent, assessment of cost to benefit, discouraging some, but not all who are tempted to do the wrong thing. That some are willing and able to do the wrong thing motivated the implantation of laws to discourage that sort of behaviour....
 

Marvin Edwards

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So we're back to playing with subjective rather than objective will. Fine.

I call that relative (practical) free will as do many philosophers.

Absolute vs. Practical Free Will https://danielmiessler.com/blog/absolute_vs_practical_free_will/

practical free will is the ability for an individual to experience having options, considering the outcomes of those options within the context of their value system, and then experience making a choice from among them based on what they want to happen.On my view, and the view of most incompatibilists, this type of free will is completely consistent with absolute free will being impossible.
Just because we couldn’t have actually done otherwise than what we did—at the chemical and physical level—doesn’t make the experience of making choices insignificant to us as humans.

If one looks at the history of such one finds a continuous suite of logical dead ends as do relative free will constructions. We apply will against behavior, how one understand it as human do, which isn't even up to the level of rationality. Arguments wind up in dead ends there as well but less so than with those for political and morality systems.

We think we are free to decide so we construct a frame that permits it always to fail because what exists is a determined world.

Naw. I don't want to play.

I'll leave it as in a determined world there is no compatibilism and no free will. Free will is an entirely subjective human thing. It isn't part of objective reality.

This discussion is beginning to remind me of a previous academic - nineteenth and early twentieth century - discussion about the value of abstraction ladders which ended with the explosion of the genetic superiority movement.

You might remember when the co-inventor of the transistor published "The Bell Curve" resurrecting's that thinking for about 10 years in the sixties and seventies. Bad but popular folk thinking can be dangerous. Again I cite Trump.

But free will is objective, not subjective. We can walk into a restaurant and observe it in action. People come in, they sit at a table, they browse the menu, and they place their order. After they finish their meal, the waiter brings them their bill, holding them responsible for their deliberate act. We notice that the waiter does not bring the bill to their prior causes. He does not bring the bill to their parents. He does not bring the bill to the Big Bang. He does not bring the bill to Causal Necessity. He does not bring the bill to the Big Bang.

So, free will happens in physical reality, and we can observe it. We also can observe someone working out a complex decision with pencil and paper, perhaps listing the pros and cons of one automobile versus another, to help decide which car to buy. We also observe groups of people discussing their options and making decisions as a collective, such as at a Parent Teacher Association meeting, or a club, or a legislature.

Choosing what we will do is an actual event we can observe taking place in empirical reality. And when someone decides for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and undue influence, it is a freely chosen "I will", or simply "free will".
 

fromderinside

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People who invented 'free will' will most always observe that other people who execute such are doing so objectively from their perspective. "From one's perspective" one observing is one (another one) is not doing so objectively! Read your Wundt!!! Where is the control? Experiments tend to be designed independent of one. Sheesh!

A little hand wave and everything is fine. Nope. Subjective actual events happen all the time. A word pairing doesn't accomplish a thing.

Think about it. What is a magic act? Why it's another person deceiving you because that person, aware of your limitations, is taking advantage of that knowledge. Slip and shod walked on a wet floor. Slip fell down shod did not. Experiment? Observation? Objective? Subjective? Word game?

Seldom has so much been said about so little. Better, conduct AND PUBLISH an experiment, not correlational study, involving people.

Step up your 'splaining.

Take an experimental psychology course.

Sometimes, like now, I hate the idea of social science taught by non-scientific persons.
 
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Marvin Edwards

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It matters not whether its mental illness or the brain is functioning normally, producing rational thought and behaviour: it is the state of the brain/system in any given instance of response that determines its response.

Being of 'sound mind' is no more a choice thn it is to be a Sociopath. The state of the system does not equal free will.

To label rational response, non coerced decisions, etc, as examples of free will does not take the nature of the system into account, it just applies and asserts the label.

Yes, it is the brain that is determining the response. When the brain is healthy enough to make decisions, and when the person is not subject to coercion or undue influence, then that is "operational" free will. Free will never requires that the brain be free from itself (that is an impossibility). It only requires that it be free from coercion and other forms of undue influence.

The nature of the brain's system is that it is a collaborative collection of specialized functions that work together to keep the body working, so that the living organism can survive, thrive, and reproduce. One of those functions is to organize sensory data into a model of reality that can be logically manipulated to provide mental capabilities like imagination, evaluation, and choosing.

The ability to imagine alternative ways to accomplish the organism's goals, to estimate the likely outcomes of each option, and to choose the one it calculates will have the best result, gives the species a survival advantage when facing a variety of environmental challenges.

And that's how free will works, by the brain choosing what the body will do next. Will I have an apple? Or, will I have a banana? My brain will figure that out. And what my brain chooses, I have chosen.

You are simply asserting free will. The brain, its structures, functions, attributes and features do not function on the principle of will. Will is experienced in conscious form as a prompt or urge to respond, to act.

The brain no more functions on the principle of will (be it conscious or unconscious) than the 'laws' of physics, the world or the universe. If it claimed the brain has 'free will' so then has the world, the universe and everything in it that functions 'freely' - as in unimpeded or without coercion.

To function freely, without coercion, does not entail will, be it conscious or unconscious. whether you are being coerced or not, the brain is able to weigh the cost to benefit and respond. The brain has evolved to respond.

The brain, while functional, responds according to its inputs and past experience in every situation.


Hallet for instance argues;
''Recognizing that consciousness is awareness does change the way we can look at the fundamental problem of free will. Free will is more correctly defined as “the perception that we choose to make movements.” Looking at it in this way produces at least two possibilities. The first is that there is a process of free will, an aspect of consciousness, that does choose to make a specific movement. The second is that the brain’s motor system produces a movement as a product of its different inputs, consciousness is informed of this movement, and it is perceived as being freely chosen. It is not certain which of these is correct, but there are some good arguments in favor of the latter.''

Yes, I think you've got the notion of "will" right. A person's will is their specific intent for the immediate (I will have a cheeseburger now) or distant (last will and testament) future. Once the intent is set, it motivates and directs our subsequent actions.

The response of the brain when solving a problem, such as making a significant decision, is not governed by the past and the current stimulus. The past and the current problem are inputs into the current process, and it is the current process that works out a solution or decision.

Free will is not "how the brain functions". Free will is specifically the cases where a brain makes a decision while the person is free of coercion and undue influence. The decision-making function is performed by the brain. When another brain is pointing a gun at it, then that other brain gets to dictate what that decision will be. In this case, the brain holding the gun is held responsible for the behavior.

The notion of free will is used to make the distinction between the brain being coerced versus the brain holding the gun. The distinction is used to assign responsibility for the behavior. So, the notion of free will makes a meaningful distinction. But, if the brains belong to two twins, then the neural structures and genetic dispositions are likely to be indistinguishable. It is in the realm of behavior that free will makes a significant distinction.

Only the person (and his brain) can be said to have free will. Only the brain is capable of imagining, evaluating, and choosing. So, a freely chosen "I will" is only possible within an intelligent brain. The universe has no brain. So, the universe makes no choices.

Generally speaking, purpose and reason exist locally. Purpose arrived in the universe with the first living organisms. Living organisms have biological drives to survive, thrive, and reproduce. Reasoning, the rational causal mechanism, arrived in the universe when the first intelligent species evolved. Purpose and reason exist locally, and uniquely in each living organism of an intelligent species.
 

Marvin Edwards

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People who invented 'free will' will most always observe that other people who execute such are doing so objectively from their perspective. "From one's perspective" one observing is one (another one) is not doing so objectively! Read your Wundt!!! Where is the control? Experiments tend to be designed independent of one. Sheesh!

A little hand wave and everything is fine. Nope. Subjective actual events happen all the time. A word pairing doesn't accomplish a thing.

Think about it. What is a magic act? Why it's another person deceiving you because that person, aware of your limitations, is taking advantage of that knowledge.

Seldom has so much been said about so little. Better, conduct AND PUBLISH an experiment, not correlational study, involving people.

Step up your 'splaining.

Take an experimental psychology course.

No, I had to drop out before taking experimental psych because I got involved with student government and changing the honor court into a student court based upon protecting rights rather than securing the honor of the student body.

Free will is a simple matter of definition. It applies to overt behavior that we're all familiar with. Either the person decided for themselves what they would do, or the choice was imposed upon them by someone or something else. If the person made the bad decision then he is held responsible for his behavior. If someone or something else imposed a choice upon him, then they are held responsible. It's a simple concept, although it has been confused by a lot of philosophical speculations.
 

fromderinside

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People who invented 'free will' will most always observe that other people who execute such are doing so objectively from their perspective. "From one's perspective" one observing is one (another one) is not doing so objectively! Read your Wundt!!! Where is the control? Experiments tend to be designed independent of one. Sheesh!

A little hand wave and everything is fine. Nope. Subjective actual events happen all the time. A word pairing doesn't accomplish a thing.

Think about it. What is a magic act? Why it's another person deceiving you because that person, aware of your limitations, is taking advantage of that knowledge.

Seldom has so much been said about so little. Better, conduct AND PUBLISH an experiment, not correlational study, involving people.

Step up your 'splaining.

Take an experimental psychology course.

No, I had to drop out before taking experimental psych because I got involved with student government and changing the honor court into a student court based upon protecting rights rather than securing the honor of the student body.

Free will is a simple matter of definition. It applies to overt behavior that we're all familiar with. Either the person decided for themselves what they would do, or the choice was imposed upon them by someone or something else. If the person made the bad decision then he is held responsible for his behavior. If someone or something else imposed a choice upon him, then they are held responsible. It's a simple concept, although it has been confused by a lot of philosophical speculations.

So is objective. Your reason for moving from one discipline to another (see bolded) describes for me your problem. You needed to change why things got done. Objective reason false science. All you did was change the goal posts not the operations. Relative objectivity is lazy man's science. It works for people today. But, if you read history, you'd conclude one shouldn't make a science of it. You'd have to redefine you parameters every time something new came up. I believe I laid that out.

There was a radical break about 500 years ago, could have been 2200 year ago had people read Archimedes carefully, when rationalism gave way to empiricism. Going back one sees things didn't move forward very rapidly until Galileo.

We still haven't figured out enough about how humans in groups behave to construct a system for governing that is adaptable enough to survive changes in attitude or technology. We have done that going from rationalism to empiricism. Rationalism is still very comfortable, but incomplete. Empiricism makes use of rationalism by adding control, independence and well defined operations. Having a logical conversation is nice but does it move the discipline forward? Probably not.

Did we use Galileo's discovery of gravity to move science forward. Well we're at the big bang in explaining how the world works and it holds together pretty well. Babbage's work on number works pretty well too.

I've spent 50 years working with thresholds but there are still people out there telling me there are none. Shrug.

Apparently defining a threshold as requiring movement of four atoms to define a limit to hearing isn't good enough.
 

DrZoidberg

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I don't pay attention to the free will discussions. They seem like interminable exercises in talking past each other.

I may be a compatibilist, though I'd have to look it up to know for sure.

I'm a free willy; I experience free will all the time.

The world isn't perfectly deterministic. But what isn't determined may be random, which hardly helps us us defend free will.

But, if you say free will is an illusion, then I'll point out that the illusion is free will. If A equals B then B equals A. What we experience, that we call free will, is what we mean by free will. And, as a practical matter, everybody believes in free will. Nobody says, "Oh, it's okay that you mug me, because, philosophically speaking, you don't have a choice."

All definitions of free will work. They define the components, "will", "what it means to be free", and "what it's free from" and then set out to make a philosophically coherrent explanation. Everybody is correct, because they define the components differently. Nobody has said anything meaningful.

There is no model of free will that is applicable to anything in the real world. The discussion is a complete waste of time.
 
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DBT

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You are simply asserting free will. The brain, its structures, functions, attributes and features do not function on the principle of will. Will is experienced in conscious form as a prompt or urge to respond, to act.

The brain no more functions on the principle of will (be it conscious or unconscious) than the 'laws' of physics, the world or the universe. If it claimed the brain has 'free will' so then has the world, the universe and everything in it that functions 'freely' - as in unimpeded or without coercion.

To function freely, without coercion, does not entail will, be it conscious or unconscious. whether you are being coerced or not, the brain is able to weigh the cost to benefit and respond. The brain has evolved to respond.

The brain, while functional, responds according to its inputs and past experience in every situation.


Hallet for instance argues;
''Recognizing that consciousness is awareness does change the way we can look at the fundamental problem of free will. Free will is more correctly defined as “the perception that we choose to make movements.” Looking at it in this way produces at least two possibilities. The first is that there is a process of free will, an aspect of consciousness, that does choose to make a specific movement. The second is that the brain’s motor system produces a movement as a product of its different inputs, consciousness is informed of this movement, and it is perceived as being freely chosen. It is not certain which of these is correct, but there are some good arguments in favor of the latter.''

Yes, I think you've got the notion of "will" right. A person's will is their specific intent for the immediate (I will have a cheeseburger now) or distant (last will and testament) future. Once the intent is set, it motivates and directs our subsequent actions.

The response of the brain when solving a problem, such as making a significant decision, is not governed by the past and the current stimulus. The past and the current problem are inputs into the current process, and it is the current process that works out a solution or decision.

Free will is not "how the brain functions". Free will is specifically the cases where a brain makes a decision while the person is free of coercion and undue influence. The decision-making function is performed by the brain. When another brain is pointing a gun at it, then that other brain gets to dictate what that decision will be. In this case, the brain holding the gun is held responsible for the behavior.

The notion of free will is used to make the distinction between the brain being coerced versus the brain holding the gun. The distinction is used to assign responsibility for the behavior. So, the notion of free will makes a meaningful distinction. But, if the brains belong to two twins, then the neural structures and genetic dispositions are likely to be indistinguishable. It is in the realm of behavior that free will makes a significant distinction.

Only the person (and his brain) can be said to have free will. Only the brain is capable of imagining, evaluating, and choosing. So, a freely chosen "I will" is only possible within an intelligent brain. The universe has no brain. So, the universe makes no choices.

Generally speaking, purpose and reason exist locally. Purpose arrived in the universe with the first living organisms. Living organisms have biological drives to survive, thrive, and reproduce. Reasoning, the rational causal mechanism, arrived in the universe when the first intelligent species evolved. Purpose and reason exist locally, and uniquely in each living organism of an intelligent species.

How the brain functions excludes the idea of free will. As pointed out, the brain does not work on the principle of will, architecture, memory/experience and input being its principle elements and drivers.

Saying ''Only the person (and his brain) can be said to have free will'' is simply saying or stating a person has free will. A statement that fails to account for how the brain actually works and how the brain actually produces response.

Compatibilism merely asserts ''the freedom to act is free will.'' Which is done at the expense of ignoring the nature of brain, mind and behaviour.

Why Compatibilism Is Mistaken.
''There are some major difficulties in compatibilism, which I think damage it irreparably.

Take Hobbes’ claim, largely accepted by Hume, that freedom is to act at will while coercion is to be compelled to act by others. This does not give us a sure reason to choose this ‘freedom’.

''Hobbes famously said that man was as free as an unimpeded river. A river that flows down a hill necessarily follows a channel, but it is also at liberty to flow within the channel. The voluntary actions of people are similar. They are free because their actions follow from their will; but the actions are also necessary because they spring from chains of causes and effects which could in principle be traced back to the first mover of the universe, generally called God. So on this view, to be at liberty is merely to not be physically restrained rather than to be uncaused. For Hobbes, to be free is to act as we will, and to be un-free is to be coerced by others.''

Imagine that you were a free-floating spirit, equal to God in your capacity to choose. God gives you the unwelcome news that shortly you are to be placed on Earth, and that you will be endowed with a range of fundamental passions, chosen entirely at the caprice of God. Would you choose to be free, in Hobbes’sense of acting at will, or might you consent to being coerced?

It is very far from clear that you would automatically choose to be free. Much would depend on the nature of the coercion. If you did not know what your fundamental desires were going to be, you might well decide to hedge your bets and back the field. It might be far better to be coerced by others (perhaps most people are good) than to be free to pursue un-chosen but possibly dubious desires. A free-floating ethically-minded spirit that feared an imminent endowment of psychopathic desires would certainly wish for an alert constabulary and swift incarceration: this spirit would wish to be coerced............''

''It seems that we are either caused, and our actions are caused events, or we are free. The middle, compatibilism, is excluded.''
 

rousseau

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Another way to look at human behavior is to consider it as irrelevant noise. In fact My view is that what humans do actually increases the rate at which humans cease to exist. You're late, you're wrong most of the time, so eventually your actions will determine your death. I'm not prepared to call that free will.

I think the question we need to be looking at is whether the term free will has any relevance at all. If determinism implies a lack of free will, then we're not looking to prove free will. What is actually relevant are the properties of living things and trying to define those properties. Do people feel free? Why not explore that instead of endlessly focusing on why determinism implies a lack of freedom?

IOW, the conversation on free will is dead if determinism is the long and short of it. But we're still left with the question of why we have billions of people who would very much describe themselves as free beings.

To me the answer there is essentially that we are that which is determining. Where those who deny free will have some sense that determinism is happening to us.

So yes, determinism is a thing, but why not move beyond that and explore what is there.

I agree. The way that I moved beyond determinism was by going through it. It was like a black hole that you had to get through to get to the other side. Universal causal necessity/inevitability is a logical fact, but neither a meaningful nor a relevant fact. The notion of freedom itself logically implies a world of reliable cause and effect. Without reliable causation, we could never reliably cause any effect, and would have no freedom to do anything at all. So, freedom itself is deterministic.

There will certainly be one single inevitable future (after all, we have only one past to put it in), but how we get there is by imagining many possible futures and choosing the one we want. Ironically, within the domain of human influence, we get to choose which future is inevitable.

The determinist errs in viewing causation as a force that controls us against our will. Causation never causes anything, and determinism never determines anything. These two concepts are descriptive, not causative. Only the actual objects and forces that make up the physical universe can cause events. The notion of causation is what we use to describe the interaction of these objects and forces as they bring about events.

We happen to be one of those objects that goes about in the world causing stuff to happen, and doing so in a way that satisfies needs that are uniquely located within us, and in no other objects in the universe. And we have brains that let us deliberately choose what we will cause to happen next.

We are both the result of reliable cause and effect and the original causes of new effects.

I find a bit of dissonance with this topic because in many ways I know exactly where fromderinside is coming from, and am pretty much on board with the idea that my determining behaviour is inevitable. And yet no matter how hard I try I just don't feel like an unfree actor in the world. I behave on the premise that I'm a free actor and that I control my fate. And even then, I still get some solace over the idea that I don't control my fate.

Which is why I move us toward something in between where the concept of willing otherwise is absurd and irrelevant, and yet our behaviour is still ours, and it is still completely natural to be what we are. I don't see any value in thinking our way into alienation over the form in which we exist.

So, based on that, I think any conversation about freedom essentially has to centre on freedom from undue influence. Willing otherwise is an absurd concept and has no practical application to a material being, and yet that doesn't make the same being some irrelevant and pointless object who is at the complete whims of the environment.
 

Marvin Edwards

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People who invented 'free will' will most always observe that other people who execute such are doing so objectively from their perspective. "From one's perspective" one observing is one (another one) is not doing so objectively! Read your Wundt!!! Where is the control? Experiments tend to be designed independent of one. Sheesh!

A little hand wave and everything is fine. Nope. Subjective actual events happen all the time. A word pairing doesn't accomplish a thing.

Think about it. What is a magic act? Why it's another person deceiving you because that person, aware of your limitations, is taking advantage of that knowledge.

Seldom has so much been said about so little. Better, conduct AND PUBLISH an experiment, not correlational study, involving people.

Step up your 'splaining.

Take an experimental psychology course.

No, I had to drop out before taking experimental psych because I got involved with student government and changing the honor court into a student court based upon protecting rights rather than securing the honor of the student body.

Free will is a simple matter of definition. It applies to overt behavior that we're all familiar with. Either the person decided for themselves what they would do, or the choice was imposed upon them by someone or something else. If the person made the bad decision then he is held responsible for his behavior. If someone or something else imposed a choice upon him, then they are held responsible. It's a simple concept, although it has been confused by a lot of philosophical speculations.

So is objective. Your reason for moving from one discipline to another (see bolded) describes for me your problem. You needed to change why things got done. Objective reason false science. All you did was change the goal posts not the operations. Relative objectivity is lazy man's science. It works for people today. But, if you read history, you'd conclude one shouldn't make a science of it. You'd have to redefine you parameters every time something new came up. I believe I laid that out.

There was a radical break about 500 years ago, could have been 2200 year ago had people read Archimedes carefully, when rationalism gave way to empiricism. Going back one sees things didn't move forward very rapidly until Galileo.

We still haven't figured out enough about how humans in groups behave to construct a system for governing that is adaptable enough to survive changes in attitude or technology. We have done that going from rationalism to empiricism. Rationalism is still very comfortable, but incomplete. Empiricism makes use of rationalism by adding control, independence and well defined operations. Having a logical conversation is nice but does it move the discipline forward? Probably not.

Did we use Galileo's discovery of gravity to move science forward. Well we're at the big bang in explaining how the world works and it holds together pretty well. Babbage's work on number works pretty well too.

I've spent 50 years working with thresholds but there are still people out there telling me there are none. Shrug.

Apparently defining a threshold as requiring movement of four atoms to define a limit to hearing isn't good enough.

There were practical (empirical) problems with the Honor Court. It had a single sanction: expulsion. And students would not report incidents of cheating because they didn't want to be responsible for another student being expelled from college. Changing the philosophy to one based in law opened up a wide range of penalties that would be more appropriate. The William Bowers 1964 study "Student Dishonesty and its Control in College" surveyed about 5000 students in 99 colleges. On average, 50% admitted cheating while in college. And a little less that half of those reported that they had cheated only once. So, expulsion could not be justified as the automatic penalty in every case. Many students stopped on their own, without any intervention.

The Honor Code used to include a "failure to report" clause, that threatened to expel anyone who witnessed cheating but failed to report it. The students held a referendum and voted to remove that clause a year before I made my changes. (At the time I had written a flyer supporting the failure to report clause).

I'm not sure what you are saying about thresholds, so I'll avoid trying to comment on that.
 

Marvin Edwards

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I don't pay attention to the free will discussions. They seem like interminable exercises in talking past each other.

I may be a compatibilist, though I'd have to look it up to know for sure.

I'm a free willy; I experience free will all the time.

The world isn't perfectly deterministic. But what isn't determined may be random, which hardly helps us us defend free will.

But, if you say free will is an illusion, then I'll point out that the illusion is free will. If A equals B then B equals A. What we experience, that we call free will, is what we mean by free will. And, as a practical matter, everybody believes in free will. Nobody says, "Oh, it's okay that you mug me, because, philosophically speaking, you don't have a choice."

All definitions of free will work. They define the components, "will", "what it means to be free", and "what it's free from" and then set out to make a philosophically coherrent explanation. Everybody is correct, because they define the components differently. Nobody has said anything meaningful.

There is no model of free will that is applicable to anything in the real world. The discussion is a complete waste of time.

The operational definition of free will (freedom from coercion and undue influence) applies to practical problems in the real world. It is used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions.

The "philosophical" definition of free will (freedom from causal necessity) contains a self-contradiction resulting in a paradox, thus the interminable debate. There is no such thing as freedom from reliable cause and effect. Without reliable cause and effect, I could never reliably cause any effect, and I would have no freedom to do anything at all. Thus, the paradox. The correct resolution is to discard the philosophical definition and embrace the operational definition.
 

Marvin Edwards

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You are simply asserting free will. The brain, its structures, functions, attributes and features do not function on the principle of will. Will is experienced in conscious form as a prompt or urge to respond, to act.

The brain no more functions on the principle of will (be it conscious or unconscious) than the 'laws' of physics, the world or the universe. If it claimed the brain has 'free will' so then has the world, the universe and everything in it that functions 'freely' - as in unimpeded or without coercion.

To function freely, without coercion, does not entail will, be it conscious or unconscious. whether you are being coerced or not, the brain is able to weigh the cost to benefit and respond. The brain has evolved to respond.

The brain, while functional, responds according to its inputs and past experience in every situation.


Hallet for instance argues;
''Recognizing that consciousness is awareness does change the way we can look at the fundamental problem of free will. Free will is more correctly defined as “the perception that we choose to make movements.” Looking at it in this way produces at least two possibilities. The first is that there is a process of free will, an aspect of consciousness, that does choose to make a specific movement. The second is that the brain’s motor system produces a movement as a product of its different inputs, consciousness is informed of this movement, and it is perceived as being freely chosen. It is not certain which of these is correct, but there are some good arguments in favor of the latter.''

Yes, I think you've got the notion of "will" right. A person's will is their specific intent for the immediate (I will have a cheeseburger now) or distant (last will and testament) future. Once the intent is set, it motivates and directs our subsequent actions.

The response of the brain when solving a problem, such as making a significant decision, is not governed by the past and the current stimulus. The past and the current problem are inputs into the current process, and it is the current process that works out a solution or decision.

Free will is not "how the brain functions". Free will is specifically the cases where a brain makes a decision while the person is free of coercion and undue influence. The decision-making function is performed by the brain. When another brain is pointing a gun at it, then that other brain gets to dictate what that decision will be. In this case, the brain holding the gun is held responsible for the behavior.

The notion of free will is used to make the distinction between the brain being coerced versus the brain holding the gun. The distinction is used to assign responsibility for the behavior. So, the notion of free will makes a meaningful distinction. But, if the brains belong to two twins, then the neural structures and genetic dispositions are likely to be indistinguishable. It is in the realm of behavior that free will makes a significant distinction.

Only the person (and his brain) can be said to have free will. Only the brain is capable of imagining, evaluating, and choosing. So, a freely chosen "I will" is only possible within an intelligent brain. The universe has no brain. So, the universe makes no choices.

Generally speaking, purpose and reason exist locally. Purpose arrived in the universe with the first living organisms. Living organisms have biological drives to survive, thrive, and reproduce. Reasoning, the rational causal mechanism, arrived in the universe when the first intelligent species evolved. Purpose and reason exist locally, and uniquely in each living organism of an intelligent species.

How the brain functions excludes the idea of free will. As pointed out, the brain does not work on the principle of will, architecture, memory/experience and input being its principle elements and drivers.

Saying ''Only the person (and his brain) can be said to have free will'' is simply saying or stating a person has free will. A statement that fails to account for how the brain actually works and how the brain actually produces response.

Compatibilism merely asserts ''the freedom to act is free will.'' Which is done at the expense of ignoring the nature of brain, mind and behaviour.

Why Compatibilism Is Mistaken.
''There are some major difficulties in compatibilism, which I think damage it irreparably.

Take Hobbes’ claim, largely accepted by Hume, that freedom is to act at will while coercion is to be compelled to act by others. This does not give us a sure reason to choose this ‘freedom’.

''Hobbes famously said that man was as free as an unimpeded river. A river that flows down a hill necessarily follows a channel, but it is also at liberty to flow within the channel. The voluntary actions of people are similar. They are free because their actions follow from their will; but the actions are also necessary because they spring from chains of causes and effects which could in principle be traced back to the first mover of the universe, generally called God. So on this view, to be at liberty is merely to not be physically restrained rather than to be uncaused. For Hobbes, to be free is to act as we will, and to be un-free is to be coerced by others.''

Imagine that you were a free-floating spirit, equal to God in your capacity to choose. God gives you the unwelcome news that shortly you are to be placed on Earth, and that you will be endowed with a range of fundamental passions, chosen entirely at the caprice of God. Would you choose to be free, in Hobbes’sense of acting at will, or might you consent to being coerced?

It is very far from clear that you would automatically choose to be free. Much would depend on the nature of the coercion. If you did not know what your fundamental desires were going to be, you might well decide to hedge your bets and back the field. It might be far better to be coerced by others (perhaps most people are good) than to be free to pursue un-chosen but possibly dubious desires. A free-floating ethically-minded spirit that feared an imminent endowment of psychopathic desires would certainly wish for an alert constabulary and swift incarceration: this spirit would wish to be coerced............''

''It seems that we are either caused, and our actions are caused events, or we are free. The middle, compatibilism, is excluded.''

Compatibilism is not a middle position. Compatibilism asserts that (1) all our actions are caused events and that (2) the meaningful and relevant cause of a deliberate action is the act of deliberation that precedes it. That act of deliberation is a choosing operation. The choosing operation inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and outputs a single choice, usually in the form of an "I will X", where X is what we have chosen to do. So, we usually choose our specific intent and then carry out that intention (our will) with specific actions, motivated and directed by that intent.

All uses of the terms "free" or "freedom" are only meaningful when they reference, implicitly or explicitly, some meaningful constraint. For example, we can set a bird free from its cage (the meaningful constraint). However, we cannot set the bird free from reliable cause and effect. Without reliable causation, flapping his wings would be literally ineffective. In fact, the bird's freedom to fly away requires reliable causation. The notion of freedom from causation is an oxymoron, a self-contradicting logical impossibility. So, it is about time that we simply discarded that notion.

So, what is the meaningful constraint that the "free" in free will references? It is those things which prevent someone from deciding for themselves what they will do: Coercion and other Undue (extraordinary) influences. Causation does not impair our ability to choose for ourselves what we will do. Reliable causation enables us to perform the choosing operation.

The only reason anyone thinks they must be free of causation is that the hard determinist has depicted causation as a boogeyman, an agent that controls their lives and eliminates all of their freedom. This boogeyman sends the theist running to the supernatural and sends the atheist seeking escape through quantum indeterminism.

But reliable causal mechanisms are the very source of all of our freedoms. And we employ the notion of cause and effect to understand how things work and to exercise control over events. We use causation, causation does not use us.

Also, thanks for the lovely quotes. It's always interesting to see how other people have worked out these issues for themselves.
 
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fromderinside

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All definitions of free will work. They define the components, "will", "what it means to be free", and "what it's free from" and then set out to make a philosophically coherrent explanation. Everybody is correct, because they define the components differently. Nobody has said anything meaningful.

There is no model of free will that is applicable to anything in the real world. The discussion is a complete waste of time.

Thank you very much.

But you know me. I'm time waster for 20 years now.
 

fromderinside

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So is objective. Your reason for moving from one discipline to another (see bolded) describes for me your problem. You needed to change why things got done. Objective reason false science. All you did was change the goal posts not the operations. Relative objectivity is lazy man's science. It works for people today. But, if you read history, you'd conclude one shouldn't make a science of it. You'd have to redefine you parameters every time something new came up. I believe I laid that out.

There was a radical break about 500 years ago, could have been 2200 year ago had people read Archimedes carefully, when rationalism gave way to empiricism. Going back one sees things didn't move forward very rapidly until Galileo.

We still haven't figured out enough about how humans in groups behave to construct a system for governing that is adaptable enough to survive changes in attitude or technology. We have done that going from rationalism to empiricism. Rationalism is still very comfortable, but incomplete. Empiricism makes use of rationalism by adding control, independence and well defined operations. Having a logical conversation is nice but does it move the discipline forward? Probably not.

Did we use Galileo's discovery of gravity to move science forward. Well we're at the big bang in explaining how the world works and it holds together pretty well. Babbage's work on number works pretty well too.

I've spent 50 years working with thresholds but there are still people out there telling me there are none. Shrug.

Apparently defining a threshold as requiring movement of four atoms to define a limit to hearing isn't good enough.

There were practical (empirical) problems with the Honor Court. It had a single sanction: expulsion. And students would not report incidents of cheating because they didn't want to be responsible for another student being expelled from college. Changing the philosophy to one based in law opened up a wide range of penalties that would be more appropriate. The William Bowers 1964 study "Student Dishonesty and its Control in College" surveyed about 5000 students in 99 colleges. On average, 50% admitted cheating while in college. And a little less that half of those reported that they had cheated only once. So, expulsion could not be justified as the automatic penalty in every case. Many students stopped on their own, without any intervention.

The Honor Code used to include a "failure to report" clause, that threatened to expel anyone who witnessed cheating but failed to report it. The students held a referendum and voted to remove that clause a year before I made my changes. (At the time I had written a flyer supporting the failure to report clause).

I'm not sure what you are saying about thresholds, so I'll avoid trying to comment on that.

As far as I can tell you were redoing politics from the Queen Elisabeth era. You start with a misstatement. Practical is NOT empirical. Practical may be explored using empirical methods which are not those you describe.

There is only so much word salad needed to present a method. After reading your stuff I felt like cars were smashing into each other willy-nilly. You exceeded it by way too much. Fingers seem to point everywhere. Not an empirical bone in your discussion. Go to  Scientific method. Read. Evaluate, apply.
 

fromderinside

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I find a bit of dissonance with this topic because in many ways I know exactly where fromderinside is coming from, and am pretty much on board with the idea that my determining behaviour is inevitable. And yet no matter how hard I try I just don't feel like an unfree actor in the world. I behave on the premise that I'm a free actor and that I control my fate. And even then, I still get some solace over the idea that I don't control my fate.

Which is why I move us toward something in between where the concept of willing otherwise is absurd and irrelevant, and yet our behaviour is still ours, and it is still completely natural to be what we are. I don't see any value in thinking our way into alienation over the form in which we exist.

So, based on that, I think any conversation about freedom essentially has to centre on freedom from undue influence. Willing otherwise is an absurd concept and has no practical application to a material being, and yet that doesn't make the same being some irrelevant and pointless object who is at the complete whims of the environment.

Willing and middle earth have a lot in common. Not the least of which is irrelevance. First. Determinism isn't actually causal at all unless you have something that sets time t = 0 before things. As I understand it things are at time t = -1 as well. Will is a human construct searching for relevance because we believe in it so. We are individuals, separate and distinct entities for chissake. We were mindless chickens pecking at stuff until we began surviving. Now we're the height of life doing the work entropy was doing so poorly.

rat, tat, bumfp?
 

Marvin Edwards

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Willing and middle earth have a lot in common. Not the least of which is irrelevance. First. Determinism isn't actually causal at all unless you have something that sets time t = 0 before things. As I understand it things are at time t = -1 as well. Will is a human construct searching for relevance because we believe in it so. We are individuals, separate and distinct entities for chissake. We were mindless chickens pecking at stuff until we began surviving. Now we're the height of life doing the work entropy was doing so poorly.

rat, tat, bumfp?

A person's will is their specific intent for the immediate ("I think I will have a banana now") or distant ("last will and testament") future. We usually choose what we will do. The choice is expressed as "I will X", where X is what we have decided to do. Once the will is set, that intention motivates and directs our subsequent actions (going to the fruit bowl, peeling and eating the banana, then disposing of the peel).

I think that's pretty much how our "will" works in empirical reality. The notion of "free will" has to do with the choosing operation itself. It is literally a freely chosen "I will".

What is it supposed to be free of? Cause and effect? No. If it were free of reliable causation we could never carry out our intent.

How about our own genetic dispositions and appetites? No. If it were free from us, then it would be someone else's will, not ours.

The choice only needs to be free of coercion and other forms of undue influence to be truly free will.
 

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How the brain functions excludes the idea of free will. As pointed out, the brain does not work on the principle of will, architecture, memory/experience and input being its principle elements and drivers.

Saying ''Only the person (and his brain) can be said to have free will'' is simply saying or stating a person has free will. A statement that fails to account for how the brain actually works and how the brain actually produces response.

Compatibilism merely asserts ''the freedom to act is free will.'' Which is done at the expense of ignoring the nature of brain, mind and behaviour.

Why Compatibilism Is Mistaken.
''There are some major difficulties in compatibilism, which I think damage it irreparably.

Take Hobbes’ claim, largely accepted by Hume, that freedom is to act at will while coercion is to be compelled to act by others. This does not give us a sure reason to choose this ‘freedom’.

''Hobbes famously said that man was as free as an unimpeded river. A river that flows down a hill necessarily follows a channel, but it is also at liberty to flow within the channel. The voluntary actions of people are similar. They are free because their actions follow from their will; but the actions are also necessary because they spring from chains of causes and effects which could in principle be traced back to the first mover of the universe, generally called God. So on this view, to be at liberty is merely to not be physically restrained rather than to be uncaused. For Hobbes, to be free is to act as we will, and to be un-free is to be coerced by others.''

Imagine that you were a free-floating spirit, equal to God in your capacity to choose. God gives you the unwelcome news that shortly you are to be placed on Earth, and that you will be endowed with a range of fundamental passions, chosen entirely at the caprice of God. Would you choose to be free, in Hobbes’sense of acting at will, or might you consent to being coerced?

It is very far from clear that you would automatically choose to be free. Much would depend on the nature of the coercion. If you did not know what your fundamental desires were going to be, you might well decide to hedge your bets and back the field. It might be far better to be coerced by others (perhaps most people are good) than to be free to pursue un-chosen but possibly dubious desires. A free-floating ethically-minded spirit that feared an imminent endowment of psychopathic desires would certainly wish for an alert constabulary and swift incarceration: this spirit would wish to be coerced............''

''It seems that we are either caused, and our actions are caused events, or we are free. The middle, compatibilism, is excluded.''

Compatibilism is not a middle position. Compatibilism asserts that (1) all our actions are caused events and that (2) the meaningful and relevant cause of a deliberate action is the act of deliberation that precedes it. That act of deliberation is a choosing operation. The choosing operation inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and outputs a single choice, usually in the form of an "I will X", where X is what we have chosen to do. So, we usually choose our specific intent and then carry out that intention (our will) with specific actions, motivated and directed by that intent.

All uses of the terms "free" or "freedom" are only meaningful when they reference, implicitly or explicitly, some meaningful constraint. For example, we can set a bird free from its cage (the meaningful constraint). However, we cannot set the bird free from reliable cause and effect. Without reliable causation, flapping his wings would be literally ineffective. In fact, the bird's freedom to fly away requires reliable causation. The notion of freedom from causation is an oxymoron, a self-contradicting logical impossibility. So, it is about time that we simply discarded that notion.

So, what is the meaningful constraint that the "free" in free will references? It is those things which prevent someone from deciding for themselves what they will do: Coercion and other Undue (extraordinary) influences. Causation does not impair our ability to choose for ourselves what we will do. Reliable causation enables us to perform the choosing operation.

The only reason anyone thinks they must be free of causation is that the hard determinist has depicted causation as a boogeyman, an agent that controls their lives and eliminates all of their freedom. This boogeyman sends the theist running to the supernatural and sends the atheist seeking escape through quantum indeterminism.

But reliable causal mechanisms are the very source of all of our freedoms. And we employ the notion of cause and effect to understand how things work and to exercise control over events. We use causation, causation does not use us.

Also, thanks for the lovely quotes. It's always interesting to see how other people have worked out these issues for themselves.

Correct, that is what compatibilism asserts.

An assertion that does not account for the problems, where simply applying and asserting the label ''free will'' does not prove the proposition.

Basically, that ''every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature (causal determinism) does not equate or equal free will.

So asserting 'free will' where it does not necessarily apply is false.

That every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature required neither free will or volition.

The brain as an inseparable part of a causal world works not on the basis of will or free will, but the ''way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.''

Human Will as an aspect of a determined system where all things progress according to the 'way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law,' is not free.

''If brain states are completely determined by earlier physical facts and regular connections, so are mental states. Accordingly, so goes the argument, determinism also applies to mental states. Mental phenomena are, according to this view, determined entirely by facts of the past and, given this past, cannot be any different from what they actually are. This means that it is not up to agents to determine what their mental phenomena are. A person’s will is determined by the past, and not by the agent himself. Therefore, there is no free will and, to the extent that responsibility is based on free will, there is no responsibility either.''

'The case is either that, a), acts are determined through the determination of the will, and then there is no free will, or that, b), the will which underlies acts originates in an arbitrary way, and then there is no free will either, or that, c), if arbitrary will is identified with free will, that kind of free will cannot be a basis for personal responsibility.''
 
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Marvin Edwards

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How the brain functions excludes the idea of free will. As pointed out, the brain does not work on the principle of will, architecture, memory/experience and input being its principle elements and drivers.

Saying ''Only the person (and his brain) can be said to have free will'' is simply saying or stating a person has free will. A statement that fails to account for how the brain actually works and how the brain actually produces response.

Compatibilism merely asserts ''the freedom to act is free will.'' Which is done at the expense of ignoring the nature of brain, mind and behaviour.

Why Compatibilism Is Mistaken.
''There are some major difficulties in compatibilism, which I think damage it irreparably.

Take Hobbes’ claim, largely accepted by Hume, that freedom is to act at will while coercion is to be compelled to act by others. This does not give us a sure reason to choose this ‘freedom’.

''Hobbes famously said that man was as free as an unimpeded river. A river that flows down a hill necessarily follows a channel, but it is also at liberty to flow within the channel. The voluntary actions of people are similar. They are free because their actions follow from their will; but the actions are also necessary because they spring from chains of causes and effects which could in principle be traced back to the first mover of the universe, generally called God. So on this view, to be at liberty is merely to not be physically restrained rather than to be uncaused. For Hobbes, to be free is to act as we will, and to be un-free is to be coerced by others.''

Imagine that you were a free-floating spirit, equal to God in your capacity to choose. God gives you the unwelcome news that shortly you are to be placed on Earth, and that you will be endowed with a range of fundamental passions, chosen entirely at the caprice of God. Would you choose to be free, in Hobbes’sense of acting at will, or might you consent to being coerced?

It is very far from clear that you would automatically choose to be free. Much would depend on the nature of the coercion. If you did not know what your fundamental desires were going to be, you might well decide to hedge your bets and back the field. It might be far better to be coerced by others (perhaps most people are good) than to be free to pursue un-chosen but possibly dubious desires. A free-floating ethically-minded spirit that feared an imminent endowment of psychopathic desires would certainly wish for an alert constabulary and swift incarceration: this spirit would wish to be coerced............''

''It seems that we are either caused, and our actions are caused events, or we are free. The middle, compatibilism, is excluded.''

Compatibilism is not a middle position. Compatibilism asserts that (1) all our actions are caused events and that (2) the meaningful and relevant cause of a deliberate action is the act of deliberation that precedes it. That act of deliberation is a choosing operation. The choosing operation inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and outputs a single choice, usually in the form of an "I will X", where X is what we have chosen to do. So, we usually choose our specific intent and then carry out that intention (our will) with specific actions, motivated and directed by that intent.

All uses of the terms "free" or "freedom" are only meaningful when they reference, implicitly or explicitly, some meaningful constraint. For example, we can set a bird free from its cage (the meaningful constraint). However, we cannot set the bird free from reliable cause and effect. Without reliable causation, flapping his wings would be literally ineffective. In fact, the bird's freedom to fly away requires reliable causation. The notion of freedom from causation is an oxymoron, a self-contradicting logical impossibility. So, it is about time that we simply discarded that notion.

So, what is the meaningful constraint that the "free" in free will references? It is those things which prevent someone from deciding for themselves what they will do: Coercion and other Undue (extraordinary) influences. Causation does not impair our ability to choose for ourselves what we will do. Reliable causation enables us to perform the choosing operation.

The only reason anyone thinks they must be free of causation is that the hard determinist has depicted causation as a boogeyman, an agent that controls their lives and eliminates all of their freedom. This boogeyman sends the theist running to the supernatural and sends the atheist seeking escape through quantum indeterminism.

But reliable causal mechanisms are the very source of all of our freedoms. And we employ the notion of cause and effect to understand how things work and to exercise control over events. We use causation, causation does not use us.

Also, thanks for the lovely quotes. It's always interesting to see how other people have worked out these issues for themselves.

Correct, that is what compatibilism asserts.

An assertion that does not account for the problems, where simply applying and asserting the label ''free will'' does not prove the proposition.

Basically, that ''every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature (causal determinism) does not equate or equal free will.

So asserting 'free will' where it does not necessarily apply is false.

That every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature required neither free will or volition.

The brain as an inseparable part of a causal world works not on the basis of will or free will, but the ''way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.''

Human Will as an aspect of a determined system where all things progress according to the 'way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law,' is not free.

''If brain states are completely determined by earlier physical facts and regular connections, so are mental states. Accordingly, so goes the argument, determinism also applies to mental states. Mental phenomena are, according to this view, determined entirely by facts of the past and, given this past, cannot be any different from what they actually are. This means that it is not up to agents to determine what their mental phenomena are. A person’s will is determined by the past, and not by the agent himself. Therefore, there is no free will and, to the extent that responsibility is based on free will, there is no responsibility either.''

'The case is either that, a), acts are determined through the determination of the will, and then there is no free will, or that, b), the will which underlies acts originates in an arbitrary way, and then there is no free will either, or that, c), if arbitrary will is identified with free will, that kind of free will cannot be a basis for personal responsibility.''

There is no "equating" of determinism and free will. They are about two entirely different subjects.

The opposite of determinism (the effect of a given cause is reliable and theoretically predictable) is indeterminism (the effect of a given cause is unreliable and thus unpredictable). Free will is not the opposite of determinism.

The opposite of free will (a freely chosen "I will") is a coerced or unduly influenced choice. Determinism is not the opposite of free will.

All events occur within the context of universal causal necessity/inevitability. Within this context we will find the context of human behavior, and the physical, biological, and rational causal mechanisms. All three of which we will assume, for the sake of determinism, are perfectly reliable within their own domain, such that we may further assume that every event is always the reliable result of some specific combination of physical, biological, and/or rational causes.

Within the context of the rational causal mechanism, the mechanism that operates by modeling reality, imagining possibilities, estimating the outcomes of different options, and choosing what the organism will do next, we find all human concepts. These include the concepts of possibilities and freedom and causation.

When we say that the rational causal mechanism is reliable, we do not mean free from error. The mechanism runs upon a physical infrastructure, and errors can be introduce through physical forces (for example, someone hits us on the head with a baseball bat). Errors can also occur due to biological causes, such as failures in neurological functions. And, errors can be introduced by incorrect thinking. However, the rational causal mechanism is still reliable causation in that all errors will be reliably caused. If we are in the habit of making a logical error or the information we're using is incomplete (always the case) or false, then those errors in our conclusions will be reliably caused.

So, all of the events that ever happen are reliably caused, from the motion of the planets to the thoughts going through our heads. And all events are "deterministic", including the events involved in deciding what we will do.

Because of this, we can conclude that choosing is a deterministic operation, and choosing for ourselves what we will do (free will) is deterministic.

So, free will is a deterministic event. And, a coerced choice, the opposite of free will, is also a deterministic event. But then, every event, without distinction, is equally deterministic and necessarily will happen.

And that's the problem. Universal causal necessity makes no distinctions at all between any two events. But we need to make meaningful and relevant distinctions in order to survive. So, while universal causal necessity is a logical fact, it is not a meaningful or relevant fact. There are no practical human scenarios where it is appropriate to bring up the fact of universal causal necessity. All of the utility of the notion of reliable cause and effect comes from knowing the specific causes of specific effects. For example, knowing that a virus causes covid-19 and knowing that our immune system can be primed to fight that virus by vaccination, gives us control over the illness caused by the virus.

The notion of free will makes a meaningful distinction. It distinguishes deliberate actions from accidental actions, or coerced actions, or insane actions, allowing us to apply the most appropriate corrective measures when those actions have bad results.

All of these actions and events are causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. But that is not a meaningful or relevant fact. The intelligent mind simply acknowledges it and then ignores it.
 

DBT

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Correct, that is what compatibilism asserts.

An assertion that does not account for the problems, where simply applying and asserting the label ''free will'' does not prove the proposition.

Basically, that ''every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature (causal determinism) does not equate or equal free will.

So asserting 'free will' where it does not necessarily apply is false.

That every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature required neither free will or volition.

The brain as an inseparable part of a causal world works not on the basis of will or free will, but the ''way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.''

Human Will as an aspect of a determined system where all things progress according to the 'way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law,' is not free.

''If brain states are completely determined by earlier physical facts and regular connections, so are mental states. Accordingly, so goes the argument, determinism also applies to mental states. Mental phenomena are, according to this view, determined entirely by facts of the past and, given this past, cannot be any different from what they actually are. This means that it is not up to agents to determine what their mental phenomena are. A person’s will is determined by the past, and not by the agent himself. Therefore, there is no free will and, to the extent that responsibility is based on free will, there is no responsibility either.''

'The case is either that, a), acts are determined through the determination of the will, and then there is no free will, or that, b), the will which underlies acts originates in an arbitrary way, and then there is no free will either, or that, c), if arbitrary will is identified with free will, that kind of free will cannot be a basis for personal responsibility.''

There is no "equating" of determinism and free will. They are about two entirely different subjects.


Given the Compatibilist claim that free will is compatible with determinism, the two clearly are related.

According to Compatibilists, will has freedom, commonly called ''free will.''

This is asserted despite the brain being no different to the motions and activities of rivers, clouds, waterfalls, rain, planets in orbit, galaxies that spin, etc, etc, including the universe at large in terms of determinism....its architecture and activity unfolding according to the ''way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.''

Yet the human brain is deemed by the Compatibilist to be an exception to the rule ; that the human brain has free will.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Correct, that is what compatibilism asserts.

An assertion that does not account for the problems, where simply applying and asserting the label ''free will'' does not prove the proposition.

Basically, that ''every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature (causal determinism) does not equate or equal free will.

So asserting 'free will' where it does not necessarily apply is false.

That every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature required neither free will or volition.

The brain as an inseparable part of a causal world works not on the basis of will or free will, but the ''way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.''

Human Will as an aspect of a determined system where all things progress according to the 'way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law,' is not free.

''If brain states are completely determined by earlier physical facts and regular connections, so are mental states. Accordingly, so goes the argument, determinism also applies to mental states. Mental phenomena are, according to this view, determined entirely by facts of the past and, given this past, cannot be any different from what they actually are. This means that it is not up to agents to determine what their mental phenomena are. A person’s will is determined by the past, and not by the agent himself. Therefore, there is no free will and, to the extent that responsibility is based on free will, there is no responsibility either.''

'The case is either that, a), acts are determined through the determination of the will, and then there is no free will, or that, b), the will which underlies acts originates in an arbitrary way, and then there is no free will either, or that, c), if arbitrary will is identified with free will, that kind of free will cannot be a basis for personal responsibility.''

There is no "equating" of determinism and free will. They are about two entirely different subjects.


Given the Compatibilist claim that free will is compatible with determinism, the two clearly are related.

According to Compatibilists, will has freedom, commonly called ''free will.''

This is asserted despite the brain being no different to the motions and activities of rivers, clouds, waterfalls, rain, planets in orbit, galaxies that spin, etc, etc, including the universe at large in terms of determinism....its architecture and activity unfolding according to the ''way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.''

Yet the human brain is deemed by the Compatibilist to be an exception to the rule ; that the human brain has free will.

No exceptions. The brain functions deterministically. But it behaves differently than a river, just like a car behaves differently than a microwave oven. Matter behaves differently according to how it is organized (that "architecture" you mentioned).

For example:
1. Inanimate objects behave "passively" in response to physical forces. Place a bowling ball on a slope and it will always roll down hill, its behavior governed by the force of gravity.
2. Living organisms behave "purposefully" in that they are biologically driven to survive, thrive and reproduce. Place a squirrel on that same slope and he may go uphill, down, or any other direction where he hopes to find his next acorn. While he is still affected by gravity, he is not governed by it. He is governed more by his biological need for food and a mate.
3. Intelligent species can behave "deliberately", by reason and calculation. While still affected by gravity and biological drives, they are not governed by them. They can decide when, where, and what they will eat. They can imagine alternative ways to satisfy their needs. And they can choose how they will go about satisfying them. This is where free will shows up in the universe.

So, there are three different causal mechanisms, physical, biological, and rational. Each made possible by a different architecture, like different machines constructed to perform according to different rules for different purposes.

Free will is not some mystical quality of the will. Free will is a deterministic empirical event in which a person chooses for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and undue influence. Reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive or undue. Only specific causes, such as a guy holding a gun to our head, are coercive. Reliable causation itself is quite ordinary, and is always expected to be the case.

There are some freedoms that are impossible, like "freedom from causation" or "freedom from oneself" or "freedom from reality". Because they are impossible, it would be an error to suggest that any use of the terms "free" or "freedom" imply anyone of them. Because they cannot, they do not.

So, what can the "free" in "free will" mean? It means our choice was free of coercion and undue influence. Nothing more. That is all that is required when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions. It makes no claims to being uncaused. It requires nothing supernatural. It simply works.
 

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Given the Compatibilist claim that free will is compatible with determinism, the two clearly are related.

According to Compatibilists, will has freedom, commonly called ''free will.''

This is asserted despite the brain being no different to the motions and activities of rivers, clouds, waterfalls, rain, planets in orbit, galaxies that spin, etc, etc, including the universe at large in terms of determinism....its architecture and activity unfolding according to the ''way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.''

Yet the human brain is deemed by the Compatibilist to be an exception to the rule ; that the human brain has free will.

No exceptions. The brain functions deterministically. But it behaves differently than a river, just like a car behaves differently than a microwave oven. Matter behaves differently according to how it is organized (that "architecture" you mentioned).

For example:
1. Inanimate objects behave "passively" in response to physical forces. Place a bowling ball on a slope and it will always roll down hill, its behavior governed by the force of gravity.
2. Living organisms behave "purposefully" in that they are biologically driven to survive, thrive and reproduce. Place a squirrel on that same slope and he may go uphill, down, or any other direction where he hopes to find his next acorn. While he is still affected by gravity, he is not governed by it. He is governed more by his biological need for food and a mate.
3. Intelligent species can behave "deliberately", by reason and calculation. While still affected by gravity and biological drives, they are not governed by them. They can decide when, where, and what they will eat. They can imagine alternative ways to satisfy their needs. And they can choose how they will go about satisfying them. This is where free will shows up in the universe.

So, there are three different causal mechanisms, physical, biological, and rational. Each made possible by a different architecture, like different machines constructed to perform according to different rules for different purposes.

Free will is not some mystical quality of the will. Free will is a deterministic empirical event in which a person chooses for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and undue influence. Reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive or undue. Only specific causes, such as a guy holding a gun to our head, are coercive. Reliable causation itself is quite ordinary, and is always expected to be the case.

There are some freedoms that are impossible, like "freedom from causation" or "freedom from oneself" or "freedom from reality". Because they are impossible, it would be an error to suggest that any use of the terms "free" or "freedom" imply anyone of them. Because they cannot, they do not.

So, what can the "free" in "free will" mean? It means our choice was free of coercion and undue influence. Nothing more. That is all that is required when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions. It makes no claims to being uncaused. It requires nothing supernatural. It simply works.


That a brain behaves differently to a river doesn't make its complex mechanisms and activity any less determined than a river, waterfall, planetary orbits, etc. All actions, however complex, are equally fixed as a matter of time t conditions and progression of event as a matter of natural law within a determined World.

Complexity does not free the brain from determinism. However complex the system, all events within a determined world unfold according to the conditions at time t and the way things go thereafter, fixed as a matter of natural law.''

There are no loopholes. We can't have it both ways.

We can't be in a determined world, yet have regulative control. Our actions cannot be determined, yet have the ability to have done otherwise.

Our will, being determined, doing precisely what is determined by the system (however complex) cannot be said to be free to do otherwise. Without the option to do otherwise....what is freedom? Asserting freedom does not establish it.

Within a determined world, our freedom is no more than that of anything else. Our determined actions, like falling rain, clouds scudding through the sky unimpeded, are performed freely. Which does not equate to free will. If we are claimed to have free will, then - we being inseparable from the universe/matter/energy - so has the universe and everything in it.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Given the Compatibilist claim that free will is compatible with determinism, the two clearly are related.

According to Compatibilists, will has freedom, commonly called ''free will.''

This is asserted despite the brain being no different to the motions and activities of rivers, clouds, waterfalls, rain, planets in orbit, galaxies that spin, etc, etc, including the universe at large in terms of determinism....its architecture and activity unfolding according to the ''way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.''

Yet the human brain is deemed by the Compatibilist to be an exception to the rule ; that the human brain has free will.

No exceptions. The brain functions deterministically. But it behaves differently than a river, just like a car behaves differently than a microwave oven. Matter behaves differently according to how it is organized (that "architecture" you mentioned).

For example:
1. Inanimate objects behave "passively" in response to physical forces. Place a bowling ball on a slope and it will always roll down hill, its behavior governed by the force of gravity.
2. Living organisms behave "purposefully" in that they are biologically driven to survive, thrive and reproduce. Place a squirrel on that same slope and he may go uphill, down, or any other direction where he hopes to find his next acorn. While he is still affected by gravity, he is not governed by it. He is governed more by his biological need for food and a mate.
3. Intelligent species can behave "deliberately", by reason and calculation. While still affected by gravity and biological drives, they are not governed by them. They can decide when, where, and what they will eat. They can imagine alternative ways to satisfy their needs. And they can choose how they will go about satisfying them. This is where free will shows up in the universe.

So, there are three different causal mechanisms, physical, biological, and rational. Each made possible by a different architecture, like different machines constructed to perform according to different rules for different purposes.

Free will is not some mystical quality of the will. Free will is a deterministic empirical event in which a person chooses for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and undue influence. Reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive or undue. Only specific causes, such as a guy holding a gun to our head, are coercive. Reliable causation itself is quite ordinary, and is always expected to be the case.

There are some freedoms that are impossible, like "freedom from causation" or "freedom from oneself" or "freedom from reality". Because they are impossible, it would be an error to suggest that any use of the terms "free" or "freedom" imply anyone of them. Because they cannot, they do not.

So, what can the "free" in "free will" mean? It means our choice was free of coercion and undue influence. Nothing more. That is all that is required when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions. It makes no claims to being uncaused. It requires nothing supernatural. It simply works.


That a brain behaves differently to a river doesn't make its complex mechanisms and activity any less determined than a river, waterfall, planetary orbits, etc. All actions, however complex, are equally fixed as a matter of time t conditions and progression of event as a matter of natural law within a determined World.

Complexity does not free the brain from determinism. However complex the system, all events within a determined world unfold according to the conditions at time t and the way things go thereafter, fixed as a matter of natural law.''

There are no loopholes. We can't have it both ways.

We can't be in a determined world, yet have regulative control. Our actions cannot be determined, yet have the ability to have done otherwise.

Our will, being determined, doing precisely what is determined by the system (however complex) cannot be said to be free to do otherwise. Without the option to do otherwise....what is freedom? Asserting freedom does not establish it.

Within a determined world, our freedom is no more than that of anything else. Our determined actions, like falling rain, clouds scudding through the sky unimpeded, are performed freely. Which does not equate to free will. If we are claimed to have free will, then - we being inseparable from the universe/matter/energy - so has the universe and everything in it.

As you say, there are no loopholes. Every event, from the motion of the planets to the thoughts going through our heads right now, is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. There is not such thing as "freedom from causal necessity".

But there most certainly is "freedom from coercion and undue influence". And that is all that operational free will claims to be free of.

Whether you choose for yourself what you will do (a freely chosen "I will"), or whether someone forces you to do something you don't want (coercion), the event will be causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. Causal necessity makes no meaningful distinction between any two events. Causal necessity makes itself irrelevant by its own ubiquity (it's always everywhere).

Complexity does not change anything. But function does. The brain makes choices which affect behavior. The river has no brain, so it makes no choices. Choosing what we will do controls what we do. If I choose to have the banana I will peel and eat the banana and throw away the banana peel. If I choose to eat the apple, I will bite into the apple, and when I'm done I'll throw away the core. If I choose to have MacDonald's I'll drive to the window, place my order, and pay for it, take my Quarter Pounder with Cheese home, and eat it. Choosing what I will do controls what I do.

So, what about the ability to do otherwise? The hard determinist makes a semantic error when he claims "you could not have done otherwise". Whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, it will always be the case that there will be at least two distinct things that we "can" do. For example, there are bananas and apples in the fruit bowl, and I'm feeling hungry. But I can't satisfy that hunger until I choose whether to eat a banana or whether to eat an apple.

"I can choose to eat a banana" is true, because there are bananas in the bowl. "I can choose to eat an apple" is true because there are apples as well. But I don't want to eat both, because dinner is only a couple hours later. At the beginning of any choosing operation there will be at least two "I can's", two real possibilities. After I make my choice I will still have two items. One is the thing that "I will" do. The other is the thing that "I could have done, but didn't do".

So, whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, I will always end up with exactly one thing that I will do, and at least one other thing that I could have done.

At the end of a choosing operation, "I could have done otherwise" will always be a true statement, because the "could have" is simply the past tense of one of the "I can's". It is only "I would have done otherwise" that will always be false due to causal necessity.

People generally object to the notion that "I could have done otherwise" is false, because they saw the two "I can's" right before their eyes at the beginning of the choosing operation. At least one of them will become an "I could have" at the end.

But, how would they react to the statement that "I would have done otherwise" is false? Well, if they had good reasons for their choice, then why "would" they have chosen differently? This makes sense. It creates no cognitive dissonance, because it conforms to the facts of what actually happened.

What we "can" do is very different from what we "will" do. The error happens when we conflate the two notions, destroying the distinction. Something that "will" happen will simply happen. Something that "can" happen may happen, but then again it may never happen.

Here's another example. You're driving down the road with your determinist friend. You notice a traffic light up ahead. Currently the light is red. Will the light remain red so that you will have to stop when you get there? Or, will the light turn green as you arrive, so that you can continue down the highway? You don't know the single thing that "will" happen. But you can imagine two different things that "can" happen. The light "could" remain red and the light "could" change to green as you arrive. Both are real possibilities.

So, in case the light remains red, you slow down. But, as it turns out, the light switches to green, so you pick up speed again and continue down the highway. Your determinist friend asks, "Why did you slow down back there?" You answer, "The light could have remained red". Your friend retorts, "No, the light never could have remained red. It was always causally necessary that it would turn green. Remaining red was an impossibility. ... So, why did you slow down?"

You answer, "But it COULD have remained red!" Because it was one of the two things that could have happened. It "would" not happen, but it "could" have happened.
 

DBT

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That a brain behaves differently to a river doesn't make its complex mechanisms and activity any less determined than a river, waterfall, planetary orbits, etc. All actions, however complex, are equally fixed as a matter of time t conditions and progression of event as a matter of natural law within a determined World.

Complexity does not free the brain from determinism. However complex the system, all events within a determined world unfold according to the conditions at time t and the way things go thereafter, fixed as a matter of natural law.''

There are no loopholes. We can't have it both ways.

We can't be in a determined world, yet have regulative control. Our actions cannot be determined, yet have the ability to have done otherwise.

Our will, being determined, doing precisely what is determined by the system (however complex) cannot be said to be free to do otherwise. Without the option to do otherwise....what is freedom? Asserting freedom does not establish it.

Within a determined world, our freedom is no more than that of anything else. Our determined actions, like falling rain, clouds scudding through the sky unimpeded, are performed freely. Which does not equate to free will. If we are claimed to have free will, then - we being inseparable from the universe/matter/energy - so has the universe and everything in it.

As you say, there are no loopholes. Every event, from the motion of the planets to the thoughts going through our heads right now, is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. There is not such thing as "freedom from causal necessity".

But there most certainly is "freedom from coercion and undue influence". And that is all that operational free will claims to be free of.

Whether you choose for yourself what you will do (a freely chosen "I will"), or whether someone forces you to do something you don't want (coercion), the event will be causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. Causal necessity makes no meaningful distinction between any two events. Causal necessity makes itself irrelevant by its own ubiquity (it's always everywhere).

Complexity does not change anything. But function does. The brain makes choices which affect behavior. The river has no brain, so it makes no choices. Choosing what we will do controls what we do. If I choose to have the banana I will peel and eat the banana and throw away the banana peel. If I choose to eat the apple, I will bite into the apple, and when I'm done I'll throw away the core. If I choose to have MacDonald's I'll drive to the window, place my order, and pay for it, take my Quarter Pounder with Cheese home, and eat it. Choosing what I will do controls what I do.

So, what about the ability to do otherwise? The hard determinist makes a semantic error when he claims "you could not have done otherwise". Whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, it will always be the case that there will be at least two distinct things that we "can" do. For example, there are bananas and apples in the fruit bowl, and I'm feeling hungry. But I can't satisfy that hunger until I choose whether to eat a banana or whether to eat an apple.

"I can choose to eat a banana" is true, because there are bananas in the bowl. "I can choose to eat an apple" is true because there are apples as well. But I don't want to eat both, because dinner is only a couple hours later. At the beginning of any choosing operation there will be at least two "I can's", two real possibilities. After I make my choice I will still have two items. One is the thing that "I will" do. The other is the thing that "I could have done, but didn't do".

So, whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, I will always end up with exactly one thing that I will do, and at least one other thing that I could have done.

At the end of a choosing operation, "I could have done otherwise" will always be a true statement, because the "could have" is simply the past tense of one of the "I can's". It is only "I would have done otherwise" that will always be false due to causal necessity.

People generally object to the notion that "I could have done otherwise" is false, because they saw the two "I can's" right before their eyes at the beginning of the choosing operation. At least one of them will become an "I could have" at the end.

But, how would they react to the statement that "I would have done otherwise" is false? Well, if they had good reasons for their choice, then why "would" they have chosen differently? This makes sense. It creates no cognitive dissonance, because it conforms to the facts of what actually happened.

What we "can" do is very different from what we "will" do. The error happens when we conflate the two notions, destroying the distinction. Something that "will" happen will simply happen. Something that "can" happen may happen, but then again it may never happen.

Here's another example. You're driving down the road with your determinist friend. You notice a traffic light up ahead. Currently the light is red. Will the light remain red so that you will have to stop when you get there? Or, will the light turn green as you arrive, so that you can continue down the highway? You don't know the single thing that "will" happen. But you can imagine two different things that "can" happen. The light "could" remain red and the light "could" change to green as you arrive. Both are real possibilities.

So, in case the light remains red, you slow down. But, as it turns out, the light switches to green, so you pick up speed again and continue down the highway. Your determinist friend asks, "Why did you slow down back there?" You answer, "The light could have remained red". Your friend retorts, "No, the light never could have remained red. It was always causally necessary that it would turn green. Remaining red was an impossibility. ... So, why did you slow down?"

You answer, "But it COULD have remained red!" Because it was one of the two things that could have happened. It "would" not happen, but it "could" have happened.


There is "freedom from coercion and undue influence" in a relative, but not in the absolute sense. The brain as an information processor responds according to architecture, memory and input regardless the presence or absence of external pressure. Pressure or constraint - a gun at your head - is just another input: options presented, cost to benefit weighed - its better to lose money than lose your life....here, take my wallet, I don't want any trouble.

Decision making is not free will. The state of the system, options presented, information in, response output.....
 
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Marvin Edwards

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That a brain behaves differently to a river doesn't make its complex mechanisms and activity any less determined than a river, waterfall, planetary orbits, etc. All actions, however complex, are equally fixed as a matter of time t conditions and progression of event as a matter of natural law within a determined World.

Complexity does not free the brain from determinism. However complex the system, all events within a determined world unfold according to the conditions at time t and the way things go thereafter, fixed as a matter of natural law.''

There are no loopholes. We can't have it both ways.

We can't be in a determined world, yet have regulative control. Our actions cannot be determined, yet have the ability to have done otherwise.

Our will, being determined, doing precisely what is determined by the system (however complex) cannot be said to be free to do otherwise. Without the option to do otherwise....what is freedom? Asserting freedom does not establish it.

Within a determined world, our freedom is no more than that of anything else. Our determined actions, like falling rain, clouds scudding through the sky unimpeded, are performed freely. Which does not equate to free will. If we are claimed to have free will, then - we being inseparable from the universe/matter/energy - so has the universe and everything in it.

As you say, there are no loopholes. Every event, from the motion of the planets to the thoughts going through our heads right now, is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. There is not such thing as "freedom from causal necessity".

But there most certainly is "freedom from coercion and undue influence". And that is all that operational free will claims to be free of.

Whether you choose for yourself what you will do (a freely chosen "I will"), or whether someone forces you to do something you don't want (coercion), the event will be causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. Causal necessity makes no meaningful distinction between any two events. Causal necessity makes itself irrelevant by its own ubiquity (it's always everywhere).

Complexity does not change anything. But function does. The brain makes choices which affect behavior. The river has no brain, so it makes no choices. Choosing what we will do controls what we do. If I choose to have the banana I will peel and eat the banana and throw away the banana peel. If I choose to eat the apple, I will bite into the apple, and when I'm done I'll throw away the core. If I choose to have MacDonald's I'll drive to the window, place my order, and pay for it, take my Quarter Pounder with Cheese home, and eat it. Choosing what I will do controls what I do.

So, what about the ability to do otherwise? The hard determinist makes a semantic error when he claims "you could not have done otherwise". Whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, it will always be the case that there will be at least two distinct things that we "can" do. For example, there are bananas and apples in the fruit bowl, and I'm feeling hungry. But I can't satisfy that hunger until I choose whether to eat a banana or whether to eat an apple.

"I can choose to eat a banana" is true, because there are bananas in the bowl. "I can choose to eat an apple" is true because there are apples as well. But I don't want to eat both, because dinner is only a couple hours later. At the beginning of any choosing operation there will be at least two "I can's", two real possibilities. After I make my choice I will still have two items. One is the thing that "I will" do. The other is the thing that "I could have done, but didn't do".

So, whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, I will always end up with exactly one thing that I will do, and at least one other thing that I could have done.

At the end of a choosing operation, "I could have done otherwise" will always be a true statement, because the "could have" is simply the past tense of one of the "I can's". It is only "I would have done otherwise" that will always be false due to causal necessity.

People generally object to the notion that "I could have done otherwise" is false, because they saw the two "I can's" right before their eyes at the beginning of the choosing operation. At least one of them will become an "I could have" at the end.

But, how would they react to the statement that "I would have done otherwise" is false? Well, if they had good reasons for their choice, then why "would" they have chosen differently? This makes sense. It creates no cognitive dissonance, because it conforms to the facts of what actually happened.

What we "can" do is very different from what we "will" do. The error happens when we conflate the two notions, destroying the distinction. Something that "will" happen will simply happen. Something that "can" happen may happen, but then again it may never happen.

Here's another example. You're driving down the road with your determinist friend. You notice a traffic light up ahead. Currently the light is red. Will the light remain red so that you will have to stop when you get there? Or, will the light turn green as you arrive, so that you can continue down the highway? You don't know the single thing that "will" happen. But you can imagine two different things that "can" happen. The light "could" remain red and the light "could" change to green as you arrive. Both are real possibilities.

So, in case the light remains red, you slow down. But, as it turns out, the light switches to green, so you pick up speed again and continue down the highway. Your determinist friend asks, "Why did you slow down back there?" You answer, "The light could have remained red". Your friend retorts, "No, the light never could have remained red. It was always causally necessary that it would turn green. Remaining red was an impossibility. ... So, why did you slow down?"

You answer, "But it COULD have remained red!" Because it was one of the two things that could have happened. It "would" not happen, but it "could" have happened.


There is "freedom from coercion and undue influence" in a relative, but not in the absolute sense. The brain as an information processor responds according to architecture, memory and input regardless the presence or absence of external pressure. Pressure or constraint - a gun at your head - is just another input: options presented, cost to benefit weighed - its better to lose money than lose your life....here, take my wallet, I don't want any trouble.

Decision making is not free will. The state of the system, options presented, information in, response output.....

Free will is when someone decides for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and other forms of undue influence. This is the definition of free will that is used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions.

ALL events are causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in eternity. Free will is a deterministic event, just like every other event. That is how the paradox is resolved.

Wikipedia said:
The lyrics refer to a Buddhist saying originally formulated by Qingyuan Weixin, later translated by D.T. Suzuki in his Essays in Zen Buddhism, one of the first books to popularize Buddhism in Europe and the US. Qingyuan writes

Before I had studied Chan (Zen) for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it's just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.[2]

First there is free will. Then there is not free will. Then there is free will.
 

Copernicus

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Great thread and defense of compatibilism, Marvin. I'm largely in agreement with the positions you've been taking on this subject, although I have problems with Libet's interpretation of his results. Basically, I think of human beings as automatons that run on autopilot in real time. What gives us the illusion of free will is that we are constantly adjusting and tweaking the autopilot, as our model of reality changes. So the real decision to take an action occurs before the brain actually implements the behavior. That is, there is a time discrepancy between the adjustment of the autopilot and the behavior that it controls. You get the same effect in an automobile that has cruise control, if you keep tweaking the cruise control to slow down or speed up the car. The real decision to slow down or speed up appears to lag more than if you just directly controlled the gas pedal. Hence, you become aware of the speed up or slow down effect after it is actually commanded.

This entire debate over free will vs. determinism strikes me as a bit beside the point. The original issue had to do with how one could justify the existence of a god that had perfect knowledge of all future events but nevertheless judged its creations for choosing to disobey its commands, which it presumably knew in advance would be obeyed or disobeyed. God comes off as the clumsy carpenter who blames the hammer for hitting his thumb instead of the nail. So believers in this platonic ideal of a perfect being tied themselves up in knots trying to figure out how they could absolve God from a charge of idiocy or pure malevolence. Somehow, God had to be able to blame people for the choices they made.

Philosophers then abstracted away from the religious conundrum and tried to figure out how choices could be "free" in a deterministic universe, as if there were some incompatibility that existed when God wasn't an issue. So they end up debating endlessly over how choices can be non-random and non-determined, i.e. some kind of excluded middle option. The debate has always struck me as fueled by sophistry.

Most people seem to think that Scott Adams, creator of the "Dilbert" cartoon, first coined the expression "moist robot" to describe human beings. I think that that is an apt metaphor. We build lots of machines with sophisticated guidance systems that have rudimentary awareness of their surroundings and their own health. A modern airliner is an example of a very complex machine that monitors its own health, communicates it to ground stations and human pilots, and adjusts its behavior to correct potential problems. Of course, human pilots must necessarily be in control, but we keep building ever more autonomous vehicles that operate under uncertain conditions without human intervention. So the goal of robotics really is to build fully conscious machines that need no human intervention to survive. There is no principled reason to believe that we cannot artificially construct machines that are just as sentient as human beings. In fact, that is exactly what female bodies do, although they aren't really aware of how they do it.
 

DBT

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There is "freedom from coercion and undue influence" in a relative, but not in the absolute sense. The brain as an information processor responds according to architecture, memory and input regardless the presence or absence of external pressure. Pressure or constraint - a gun at your head - is just another input: options presented, cost to benefit weighed - its better to lose money than lose your life....here, take my wallet, I don't want any trouble.

Decision making is not free will. The state of the system, options presented, information in, response output.....

Free will is when someone decides for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and other forms of undue influence. This is the definition of free will that is used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions.

ALL events are causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in eternity. Free will is a deterministic event, just like every other event. That is how the paradox is resolved.

Wikipedia said:
The lyrics refer to a Buddhist saying originally formulated by Qingyuan Weixin, later translated by D.T. Suzuki in his Essays in Zen Buddhism, one of the first books to popularize Buddhism in Europe and the US. Qingyuan writes

Before I had studied Chan (Zen) for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it's just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.[2]

First there is free will. Then there is not free will. Then there is free will.

Deciding for oneself is not done in isolation, within a determined system all decisions are inevitable consequences of events in the world at large. A decision implies a possible alternative, but for any given person in any given instance in time, there is no alternative, the response is fixed as a matter of law.

Without a realizable alternative, no decision was made, only the perception of a decision based on incomplete information.

Free will is an illusion based on an incomplete understanding of the underlying deterministic processes. Compatibilism ignores this and attempts to define free will into existence through semantics.
 
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