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Compatibilism: What's that About?

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Yeah.
Um, so you accidentally did it or was a conscious decision?
 
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pood

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Yeah.
Um, so you accidentally did it or was a conscious decision?
Accidentally did what? Never mind, it’s another rhetorical question. As mentioned, from now on I’ll pass over your stuff in silence, unless, unlikely as it may seem, you have some sort of substantive response to what I wrote or will write. Again, I hope, and for the moment trust, that you are not a fair specimen of this board.
 

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You made a post.
That much I know, at least some here would agree.
I'm interested in how it got there. If you are not willing to discuss that, fine.
This is the philosophy section, a thread about compatiblism.
There are others on this thread more eloquent than myself, how did that happen?
 

Marvin Edwards

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I just signed up and have mostly skimmed this thread, apologies, but I was attracted here by the posts of Marvin Edwards. His thinking seems to comport with mine, a line of thought I find rather underrepresented in the debate on causal determinism and free will.

As he has pointed out, there is a difference between will and must. It is a distinction so important that there is even a fallacy, from modal logic, attached to this confusion, called the modal scope or just modal fallacy.

Suppose today it is true that tomorrow there will be a sea battle. The worry, going back to the ancient Greeks, is that if this is right, tomorrow there must be a sea battle; fatalism obtains, and no one has free will.

The modal fallacy lies in confusing necessity (could not have been otherwise) with contingency (could have been otherwise).

In the case of the sea battle, if today it is true that tomorrow there will be a sea battle, sure enough, tomorrow there will be a sea battle. But it does not follow that there must be a sea battle.

All that follows is that true propositions, and the events that they describe or predict, must match — otherwise the propositions would be false.

If, then, tomorrow there is not a sea battle, then a different prior proposition would have been true — today it is true that tomorrow there will not be a sea battle.

Suppose God exists and knows in advance everything that I will do. If he knows today that tomorrow I will eat eggs for breakfast, then, intuition inclines us to think, tomorrow I must eat eggs for breakfast. But, as with the sea battle example, this is a modal fallacy. It’s true if God knows in advance I will eat eggs for breakfast, then sure enough I will do so. But it doesn’t follow that I must do so. If I have pancakes instead, then God would have had a different propositional foreknowledge, viz., that I will eat pancakes for breakfast tomorrow.

So it is with causal determinism. Given a vast ensemble of antecedent events — stretching all the way to the Big Bang? — tomorrow there will be a sea battle, or tomorrow I will eat eggs. But neither has to be the case. Rather, if there is no sea battle, or I eat pancakes instead of eggs, then a different ensemble of antecedent events would have preceded these choices or events.

As Marvin notes, determinism does not hold sway over us or cause us to do anything. The laws of nature are descriptive and not prescriptive. In fact, the idea that the so-called laws of nature govern the universe seems to be a hangover from theism, in which we have a lawgiver laying down the laws. But with no lawgiver there are no laws, only descriptions of what happens in the world, including our own freely willed acts.

I take a slightly different approach. Unlike Dennett, I have no qualms about using the word "inevitable". Most of the time, when we use the term "inevitable", it means that matters are out of our control, and that there is nothing we can do about it. But in the context of universal causal necessity/inevitability, the inevitability incorporates our control within the overall scheme of causation.

If my choice is inevitable, then it was also inevitable that it would be me, and no other object in the physical universe, that would do the choosing. In other words, my being "that which controls the choice" is also inevitable.

And, it will also be inevitable that, either I will make this choice of my own free will, or, my choice will be coerced or otherwise unduly influenced. So, my making this choice for myself, that is, of my own free will, would have been inevitable.

I don't think I can go along with the assessment of "must". Causal necessity would seem to logically imply a "must". The fact that I would make the choice of my own free will, was something that must happen, but the most meaningful and relevant cause of that choice would be me. The final responsible prior cause of a deliberate act is the act of deliberation that precedes it.

However, we would not normally assert that a sea battle must happen tomorrow, unless we were certain that the battle would take place. And if we were indeed certain, then we would not waste time on philosophy, but would instead busy ourselves making every preparation we could to assure that we would win that battle. Fatalism would prove fatal.

Prediction is not causation. So, even though a man's choice for dinner could theoretically be predicted in advance by an omniscient being (God, Laplace's Daemon, or his wife), it would still be him making that choice, for his own reasons.

I don't think we need to trace the causes of our actions back to the Big Bang. All we really care about are the most meaningful and relevant causes, the causes that efficiently explain why the event happened, and the causes that we can actually do something about.
 

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Marvin,

I think we mostly agree here, though perhaps are using slightly different terminology.

I am skeptical of the idea of causal necessity. This is also called physical or nomological necessity, and I don’t believe it exists. Necessity pertains entirely to logic, I think. It is necessarily true that triangles have three sides. It is necessarily true that bachelors are unmarried. It is necessarily true that two plus two equals four, and so on. It is not necessarily true that I will have breakfast tomorrow, even if God foreknows I will or if there is a true prior proposition that I will.

Except for the “universal causal/necessity” part, I agree with you on this:

Most of the time, when we use the term "inevitable", it means that matters are out of our control, and that there is nothing we can do about it. But in the context of universal causal necessity/inevitability, the inevitability incorporates our control within the overall scheme of causation.
[/QUOTE]

For example, there is a hypothesis, due to Minkowski/Einstein but mostly Minkowski, that we live in a block universe in the sense that the past, present and future all exist. If this is true, it would render the future as unchangeable as the past.

But does mean we lack relevant free will? I don’t think so. We don’t complain that we lack free will because the past is fixed. If the future if fixed, why should it be any different?

If past, present and future are indeed fixed, it means, when it comes to us, that they were, are, and will be, fixed by our actions. It may indeed be the case that no one can change the past, present or future. But I would suggest that changing past, present, or future, is not a prerequisite for relevant free will. Rather, our free acts made the past be what it was, make the present be what it is, and will make the future be, what it will be.
 

pood

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Crap, I’ve totally screwed up the quote formats. o_O Let me try to edit.
 

pood

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This should be a clean version:

Marvin,

I think we mostly agree here, though perhaps are using slightly different terminology.


I am skeptical of the idea of causal necessity. This is also called physical or nomological necessity, and I don’t believe it exists. Necessity pertains entirely to logic, I think. It is necessarily true that triangles have three sides. It is necessarily true that bachelors are unmarried. It is necessarily true that two plus two equals four, and so on. It is not necessarily true that I will have breakfast tomorrow, even if God foreknows I will or if there is a true prior proposition that I will.

Except for the “universal causal/necessity” part, I agree with you on this:

Most of the time, when we use the term "inevitable", it means that matters are out of our control, and that there is nothing we can do about it. But in the context of universal causal necessity/inevitability, the inevitability incorporates our control within the overall scheme of causation.

For example, there is a hypothesis, due to Minkowski/Einstein but mostly Minkowski, that we live in a block universe in the sense that the past, present and future all exist. If this is true, it would render the future as unchangeable as the past.

But does mean we lack relevant free will? I don’t think so. We don’t complain that we lack free will because the past is fixed. If the future if fixed, why should it be any different?

If past, present and future are indeed fixed, it means, when it comes to us, that they were, are, and will be, fixed by our actions. It may indeed be the case that no one can change the past, present or future. But I would suggest that changing past, present, or future, is not a prerequisite for relevant free will. Rather, our free acts made the past be what it was, make the present be what it is, and will make the future be, what it will be.

There does not seem to be a preview post function here?
 

Bomb#20

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I take it by "has been demonstrated" and "have been given", you're referring to some incident where you blerk-will debaters, after borrowing a word from the broader community and redefining it under the baleful influence of a theistic religion and using it to commit equivocation fallacies, and after some in the broader community took back our word and used it correctly, told us you own the word now.


No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....

That's ridiculous. I considered whether to click your link, and then, by act of will, I clicked it -- and that's how I acquired the information that it's a dead link. "404 Not Found The resource requested could not be found on this server!". Of course will is means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response.


and determinism by definition does not allow us the option of doing otherwise in any given instance.
I.e., you're using an idiosyncratic definition of "option".

Everything id fixed as a matter of natural law.
No. "The only thing constant is change". Hardly anything is fixed as a matter of natural law: the speed of light, the quantum of action, the excess of matter over antimatter, and a handful of other things. Everything else changes constantly.

Will plays no part in freedom.

To simply claim that uncoerced behaviour is free will ignores the role of will, the inevitability or necessity of determinism and the nature of cognition.
That's what I said: you're de facto claiming that your lot own the word "free". You don't. Whatever it is about the role of will and the nature of cognition that you are claiming would have to be otherwise in order for your concept of "free" to correctly apply to them, you have no case for thinking "free" is an appropriate word for your concept.

Which reduces compatibilism to mere word play.
When you take a word that's already in common use, you redefine it, and then you tell the original users they're using it wrong, you're the one who's doing mere word play.

Again:
''Wanting to do X is fully determined by these prior causes (and perhaps a dash of true chance). Now that the desire to do X is being felt, there are no other constraints that keep the person from doing what he wants, namely X. At this point, we should ascribe free will to all animals capable of experiencing desires (e.g., to eat, sleep, or mate). Yet, we don’t; and we tend not to judge non-human animals in moral terms.''
See, this is the point where blerk-will debaters break out of their navel-gazing and inflict their equivocation fallacies on broader philosophy. Free will and moral judgment don't have to go together. I know cats pretty well at this point, having lived with them my whole life; it's obvious they have free will. That doesn't make us judge them in moral terms. Morality evolves like everything else in biology, so of course species makes a difference. Humans have human morals; monkeys have monkey morals; dogs have dog morals; cats have no morals.


Quote:
If you accept regulative control as a necessary part of free will, it seems impossible either way:
1. Free will requires that given an act A, the agent could have acted otherwise
2. Indeterminate actions happens randomly and without intent or control
3. Therefore indeterminism and free will are incompatible
4. Determinate actions are fixed and unchangeable
5. Therefore determinism is incompatible with free will
I.e., the author is claiming he owns the word "free". Also the word "could", the word "fixed", and the word "unchangeable". (Also he's committing an ordinary non sequitur in statement 2: just because an action isn't determined doesn't mean we can't intentionally change the odds.)
 

Marvin Edwards

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This should be a clean version:

Marvin,

I think we mostly agree here, though perhaps are using slightly different terminology.


I am skeptical of the idea of causal necessity. This is also called physical or nomological necessity, and I don’t believe it exists. Necessity pertains entirely to logic, I think. It is necessarily true that triangles have three sides. It is necessarily true that bachelors are unmarried. It is necessarily true that two plus two equals four, and so on. It is not necessarily true that I will have breakfast tomorrow, even if God foreknows I will or if there is a true prior proposition that I will.

Except for the “universal causal/necessity” part, I agree with you on this:

Most of the time, when we use the term "inevitable", it means that matters are out of our control, and that there is nothing we can do about it. But in the context of universal causal necessity/inevitability, the inevitability incorporates our control within the overall scheme of causation.

For example, there is a hypothesis, due to Minkowski/Einstein but mostly Minkowski, that we live in a block universe in the sense that the past, present and future all exist. If this is true, it would render the future as unchangeable as the past.

But does mean we lack relevant free will? I don’t think so. We don’t complain that we lack free will because the past is fixed. If the future if fixed, why should it be any different?

If past, present and future are indeed fixed, it means, when it comes to us, that they were, are, and will be, fixed by our actions. It may indeed be the case that no one can change the past, present or future. But I would suggest that changing past, present, or future, is not a prerequisite for relevant free will. Rather, our free acts made the past be what it was, make the present be what it is, and will make the future be, what it will be.

There does not seem to be a preview post function here?

The Preview button is in the upper right corner. The icon looks like a piece of paper with a magnifying glass. It's a toggle, so clicking it again returns to edit mode.

The block universe is a bit of fiction used to depict a deterministic universe. No such block exists in empirical reality. Time is the distance between events. Events are changes in the structure and location of objects. No object can be in different places at the same time, we simply do not have room for that.

No event is fully caused until its final prior causes have played themselves out. The meaningful causes are usually the most direct causes of the event. As we trace the causes of causes back through the chain, each cause becomes less meaningful and less relevant, and more incidental.

So, nothing in the future is already fixed. Causal necessity only means that future events will be necessitated by prior events. And that seems to be the case when we look around us at what is happening and the most recent history of the prior events leading up to the current events. In fact, we may view history as the proof of causal necessity.

The necessity you were describing is called "logical necessity". And just like it is logically necessary that 2 + 2 = 4, it is also logically necessary that every choosing operation begins with at least two real possibilities, two things that we can choose to do. For example, when choosing between A and B, it is logically necessary that "I can choose A" must be true and equally necessary that "I can choose B" is also true. If either is false, then choosing halts, because it is impossible to choose between a single possibility.

So, "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" must both be true statements, by logical necessity. And, at the end of our choosing operation, this guarantees that we end up with one "I will choose X" (A or B) and one "I could have chosen Y" (B or A).

The ability to do otherwise comes built-in, free of charge, with the choosing operation.

If I shift my weight to my left leg, and lift my right leg, then I will necessarily take one step. This is not a logical necessity, but a physical necessity. If I choose to walk to the kitchen, then I will necessarily walk to the kitchen. That is neither a logical nor a physical necessity, but rather a rational necessity, brought about by my reasoned choice to go there.
 

pood

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1. Free will requires that given an act A, the agent could have acted otherwise

2. Indeterminate actions happens randomly and without intent or control

3. Therefore indeterminism and free will are incompatible

4. Determinate actions are fixed and unchangeable

5. Therefore determinism is incompatible with free will



  1. Does it? Or does it merely require that she would have acted otherwise, given different antecedent circumstances? There is a difference between “would” and “could.
  2. Ok.
  3. Why? If some events are not determined, then they are part of the historical stream of events that one considers in making a choice.
  4. Why would free will involve changing anything? If you act in some fashion, you have not changed history. You have played a small part in making history be, what it in fact is.
  5. I believe this is a non sequitur. I would say, rather, that free will depends upon determinism. To me, determinism just means that there are regularities in the world that are described, but not prescribed, by the so-called laws of nature. For sentient creatures to exist at all there must be regularities so that we can reliably predict the outcomes of our free acts. A world of unpredictable chaos would probably not have life at all, at least not life as we know it, to borrow from Mr. Spock.
 

pood

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This should be a clean version:

Marvin,

I think we mostly agree here, though perhaps are using slightly different terminology.


I am skeptical of the idea of causal necessity. This is also called physical or nomological necessity, and I don’t believe it exists. Necessity pertains entirely to logic, I think. It is necessarily true that triangles have three sides. It is necessarily true that bachelors are unmarried. It is necessarily true that two plus two equals four, and so on. It is not necessarily true that I will have breakfast tomorrow, even if God foreknows I will or if there is a true prior proposition that I will.

Except for the “universal causal/necessity” part, I agree with you on this:

Most of the time, when we use the term "inevitable", it means that matters are out of our control, and that there is nothing we can do about it. But in the context of universal causal necessity/inevitability, the inevitability incorporates our control within the overall scheme of causation.

For example, there is a hypothesis, due to Minkowski/Einstein but mostly Minkowski, that we live in a block universe in the sense that the past, present and future all exist. If this is true, it would render the future as unchangeable as the past.

But does mean we lack relevant free will? I don’t think so. We don’t complain that we lack free will because the past is fixed. If the future if fixed, why should it be any different?

If past, present and future are indeed fixed, it means, when it comes to us, that they were, are, and will be, fixed by our actions. It may indeed be the case that no one can change the past, present or future. But I would suggest that changing past, present, or future, is not a prerequisite for relevant free will. Rather, our free acts made the past be what it was, make the present be what it is, and will make the future be, what it will be.

There does not seem to be a preview post function here?

The Preview button is in the upper right corner. The icon looks like a piece of paper with a magnifying glass. It's a toggle, so clicking it again returns to edit mode.

The block universe is a bit of fiction used to depict a deterministic universe. No such block exists in empirical reality. Time is the distance between events. Events are changes in the structure and location of objects. No object can be in different places at the same time, we simply do not have room for that.

No event is fully caused until its final prior causes have played themselves out. The meaningful causes are usually the most direct causes of the event. As we trace the causes of causes back through the chain, each cause becomes less meaningful and less relevant, and more incidental.

So, nothing in the future is already fixed. Causal necessity only means that future events will be necessitated by prior events. And that seems to be the case when we look around us at what is happening and the most recent history of the prior events leading up to the current events. In fact, we may view history as the proof of causal necessity.

The necessity you were describing is called "logical necessity". And just like it is logically necessary that 2 + 2 = 4, it is also logically necessary that every choosing operation begins with at least two real possibilities, two things that we can choose to do. For example, when choosing between A and B, it is logically necessary that "I can choose A" must be true and equally necessary that "I can choose B" is also true. If either is false, then choosing halts, because it is impossible to choose between a single possibility.

So, "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" must both be true statements, by logical necessity. And, at the end of our choosing operation, this guarantees that we end up with one "I will choose X" (A or B) and one "I could have chosen Y" (B or A).

The ability to do otherwise comes built-in, free of charge, with the choosing operation.

If I shift my weight to my left leg, and lift my right leg, then I will necessarily take one step. This is not a logical necessity, but a physical necessity. If I choose to walk to the kitchen, then I will necessarily walk to the kitchen. That is neither a logical nor a physical necessity, but rather a rational necessity, brought about by my reasoned choice to go there.
Ah, I see, Mystery Meat navigation! (This is what a prominent designer once used to describe employing enigmatic icons on the web to describe simple functions. My suggestion would be to just have words saying, “Preview Post.”

Anyway, will respond later. Right now I’m dealing with a drunk who wants to know my favorite color. :D I told him yellow, but he is not happy with that response.:(
 

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Yep, sure..was in San Anton' you know nice weather that time of year around the river... you know just off downtown and there was a big sign
something to do with Healthcare doctors
And on each table was a bottle of wine
Go figure, drunks
 

pood

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That would be “you’re,” not “your.”
 

pood

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Yeah, details.. care to start over?
No. I don’t even know what you are on about. On an up note, the guy who was a bit in the bag and whose favorite color is blue bought one of my blue artworks for 300 bucks, so that is cool. :)
 

DBT

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I take it by "has been demonstrated" and "have been given", you're referring to some incident where you blerk-will debaters, after borrowing a word from the broader community and redefining it under the baleful influence of a theistic religion and using it to commit equivocation fallacies, and after some in the broader community took back our word and used it correctly, told us you own the word now.


No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....

That's ridiculous. I considered whether to click your link, and then, by act of will, I clicked it -- and that's how I acquired the information that it's a dead link. "404 Not Found The resource requested could not be found on this server!". Of course will is means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response.


What is ridiculous is that you are simply labeling your ability to respond ''free will.'' The ability to respond is enabled by neural networks processing information, not ''will'' - especially not ''free will'' for the given reasons.


How Can There Be Voluntary Movement Without Free Will?

''Humans do not appear to be purely reflexive organisms, simple automatons. A vast array of different movements are generated in a variety of settings. Is there an alternative to free will? Movement, in the final analysis, comes only from muscle contraction. Muscle contraction is under the complete control of the alpha motoneurons in the spinal cord.

When the alpha motoneurons are active, there will be movement. Activity of the alpha motoneurons is a product of the different synaptic events on their dendrites and cell bodies. There is a complex summation of EPSPs and IPSPs, and when the threshold for an action potential is crossed, the cell fires.

There are a large number of important inputs, and one of the most important is from the corticospinal tract which conveys a large part of the cortical control. Such a situation likely holds also for the motor cortex and the cells of origin of the corticospinal tract. Their firing depends on their synaptic inputs. And, a similar situation must hold for all the principal regions giving input to the motor cortex.

For any cortical region, its activity will depend on its synaptic inputs. Some motor cortical inputs come via only a few synapses from sensory cortices, and such influences on motor output are clear. Some inputs will come from regions, such as the limbic areas, many synapses away from both primary sensory and motor cortices. At any one time, the activity of the motor cortex, and its commands to the spinal cord, will reflect virtually all the activity in the entire brain. Is it necessary that there be anything else? This can be a complete description of the process of movement selection, and even if there is something more -- like free will -- it would have to operate through such neuronal mechanisms.

The view that there is no such thing as free will as an inner causal agent has been advocated by a number of philosophers, scientistsand neurologists including Ryle, Adrian, Skinner and Fisher

 

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1. Free will requires that given an act A, the agent could have acted otherwise

2. Indeterminate actions happens randomly and without intent or control

3. Therefore indeterminism and free will are incompatible

4. Determinate actions are fixed and unchangeable

5. Therefore determinism is incompatible with free will



  1. Does it? Or does it merely require that she would have acted otherwise, given different antecedent circumstances? There is a difference between “would” and “could.


Different antecedent circumstances produce different outcomes, that is the point.

That how things unfold within a determined system is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Will, itself an inseparable part of the weave of determinism, cannot alter outcomes.
  1. I believe this is a non sequitur. I would say, rather, that free will depends upon determinism. To me, determinism just means that there are regularities in the world that are described, but not prescribed, by the so-called laws of nature. For sentient creatures to exist at all there must be regularities so that we can reliably predict the outcomes of our free acts. A world of unpredictable chaos would probably not have life at all, at least not life as we know it, to borrow from Mr. Spock.

Free will is a label being pasted upon one aspect of events that are fixed as a matter of natural law. Events unfold as they are determined. That we act without without being forced by someone doesn't mean we aren't being pressured, shaped and formed and swept along by the events of the world.

The feeling of being a 'free agent' doesn't take into account all of the elements that make us who we are, but have no control over....which is the illusion of conscious or 'free' will. We have will, which is not free will.
 

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Yes, that is the role of will. But unfortunately for those who argue for free will, will itself doesn't run the show. The role that will plays is the prompt, the will to act.

That doesn't make our will free. It's just another cognitive function.

Nothing special in the scheme of things.

The brain chooses what it will do. The chosen intent then motivates and directs the body as it carries out that will.

The "free" part of free will simply means that, during the choosing of the will, we were not coerced or unduly influenced.


The brain acquires and processes information, 'selecting' the only possible action from a set of options in any given moment in time.

The unconscious action of response being determined by information conditions, inputs, architecture, chemical balance, etc, in that moment in time, is not an act of will, certainly not 'free will.'

Having nothing to do with will, be it conscious or not, it is incorrect to label the action of a brain processing information for a determined result, 'free will'

The illusionary nature of cognition;


Quote:
we presented evidence that the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions, can quickly adopt another human form as its own, no matter how different it is. We designed two experiments. In the first one, the researchers fitted the head of a mannequin with two cameras connected to two small screens placed in front of the volunteer's eyes, so that the volunteer could see what the mannequin ''saw.''

When the mannequin's camera eyes and the volunteer's head, complete with the camera goggles, were directed downwards, the volunteer saw the dummy's body where he or she would normally have seen his or her own body. By simultaneously touching the stomachs of both the volunteer and the mannequin, we could create the illusion of body swapping.
 

steve_bank

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Can what we see as free will be just a higher order of reflexivity?
 

Marvin Edwards

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Yes, that is the role of will. But unfortunately for those who argue for free will, will itself doesn't run the show. The role that will plays is the prompt, the will to act.

That doesn't make our will free. It's just another cognitive function.

Nothing special in the scheme of things.

The brain chooses what it will do. The chosen intent then motivates and directs the body as it carries out that will.

The "free" part of free will simply means that, during the choosing of the will, we were not coerced or unduly influenced.


The brain acquires and processes information, 'selecting' the only possible action from a set of options in any given moment in time.

The unconscious action of response being determined by information conditions, inputs, architecture, chemical balance, etc, in that moment in time, is not an act of will, certainly not 'free will.'

Having nothing to do with will, be it conscious or not, it is incorrect to label the action of a brain processing information for a determined result, 'free will'

The illusionary nature of cognition;


Quote:
we presented evidence that the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions, can quickly adopt another human form as its own, no matter how different it is. We designed two experiments. In the first one, the researchers fitted the head of a mannequin with two cameras connected to two small screens placed in front of the volunteer's eyes, so that the volunteer could see what the mannequin ''saw.''

When the mannequin's camera eyes and the volunteer's head, complete with the camera goggles, were directed downwards, the volunteer saw the dummy's body where he or she would normally have seen his or her own body. By simultaneously touching the stomachs of both the volunteer and the mannequin, we could create the illusion of body swapping.

In the experiment, the only point where choosing happens is before the experiment begins, when the subject chooses to participate. Assuming the subject volunteered, and was not coerced or unduly influenced to participate, that choice was of their own free will (that is, they chose for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and undue influence).

Your quoted experiment is an example of an induced illusion, in which "the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions" reaches some odd conclusions. This is similar to the Phantom Limb effect.

The brain organizes sensory data into a model of reality. When the model is accurate enough to be useful, as when we navigate our body through a doorway, then this is called "reality", because the model is our only access to reality. But when the model is inaccurate enough to cause problems, as when we walk into a glass door, thinking it was open. Then that is called an "illusion".

To say that cognition is always an illusion, suggests that the brain is unable to produce an accurate model of reality. If that were the case, then we'd be unable to walk through a doorway, because we would be unable to perceive ourselves as ourselves, and to perceive the doorway as a doorway. So, the correct thing to say is that cognition is always a model, not that it is always an illusion.
 

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I take it by "has been demonstrated" and "have been given", you're referring to some incident where you blerk-will debaters, after borrowing a word from the broader community and redefining it under the baleful influence of a theistic religion and using it to commit equivocation fallacies, and after some in the broader community took back our word and used it correctly, told us you own the word now.


No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....

That's ridiculous. I considered whether to click your link, and then, by act of will, I clicked it -- and that's how I acquired the information that it's a dead link. "404 Not Found The resource requested could not be found on this server!". Of course will is means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response.


What is ridiculous is that you are simply labeling your ability to respond ''free will.'' The ability to respond is enabled by neural networks processing information, not ''will'' - especially not ''free will'' for the given reasons.


How Can There Be Voluntary Movement Without Free Will?

''Humans do not appear to be purely reflexive organisms, simple automatons. A vast array of different movements are generated in a variety of settings. Is there an alternative to free will? Movement, in the final analysis, comes only from muscle contraction. Muscle contraction is under the complete control of the alpha motoneurons in the spinal cord.

When the alpha motoneurons are active, there will be movement. Activity of the alpha motoneurons is a product of the different synaptic events on their dendrites and cell bodies. There is a complex summation of EPSPs and IPSPs, and when the threshold for an action potential is crossed, the cell fires.

There are a large number of important inputs, and one of the most important is from the corticospinal tract which conveys a large part of the cortical control. Such a situation likely holds also for the motor cortex and the cells of origin of the corticospinal tract. Their firing depends on their synaptic inputs. And, a similar situation must hold for all the principal regions giving input to the motor cortex.

For any cortical region, its activity will depend on its synaptic inputs. Some motor cortical inputs come via only a few synapses from sensory cortices, and such influences on motor output are clear. Some inputs will come from regions, such as the limbic areas, many synapses away from both primary sensory and motor cortices. At any one time, the activity of the motor cortex, and its commands to the spinal cord, will reflect virtually all the activity in the entire brain. Is it necessary that there be anything else? This can be a complete description of the process of movement selection, and even if there is something more -- like free will -- it would have to operate through such neuronal mechanisms.

The view that there is no such thing as free will as an inner causal agent has been advocated by a number of philosophers, scientistsand neurologists including Ryle, Adrian, Skinner and Fisher


One of the problems the authors of that article will encounter is that the word "voluntary" is defined in the OED by repeatedly using the notion of "free will". For example:
A. adj.
I. Characterized by free will or choice; freely done or bestowed.
 

Marvin Edwards

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1. Free will requires that given an act A, the agent could have acted otherwise

2. Indeterminate actions happens randomly and without intent or control

3. Therefore indeterminism and free will are incompatible

4. Determinate actions are fixed and unchangeable

5. Therefore determinism is incompatible with free will



  1. Does it? Or does it merely require that she would have acted otherwise, given different antecedent circumstances? There is a difference between “would” and “could.


Different antecedent circumstances produce different outcomes, that is the point.

That how things unfold within a determined system is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Will, itself an inseparable part of the weave of determinism, cannot alter outcomes.
  1. I believe this is a non sequitur. I would say, rather, that free will depends upon determinism. To me, determinism just means that there are regularities in the world that are described, but not prescribed, by the so-called laws of nature. For sentient creatures to exist at all there must be regularities so that we can reliably predict the outcomes of our free acts. A world of unpredictable chaos would probably not have life at all, at least not life as we know it, to borrow from Mr. Spock.

Free will is a label being pasted upon one aspect of events that are fixed as a matter of natural law. Events unfold as they are determined. That we act without without being forced by someone doesn't mean we aren't being pressured, shaped and formed and swept along by the events of the world.

The feeling of being a 'free agent' doesn't take into account all of the elements that make us who we are, but have no control over....which is the illusion of conscious or 'free' will. We have will, which is not free will.
In most ordinary dictionaries, free will has two distinct definitions. One can be called the operational definition, and it is used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions. It can be derived from the legal precedents in use as "a choice free of coercion and other forms of undue influence". The other is called the philosophical definition, and it is used to...well, it is only used to generate endless debate. It can be summarized as "a choice free of causal necessity".

Free Will
Merriam-Webster on-line:
1: voluntary choice or decision 'I do this of my own free will'
2: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

Short Oxford English Dictionary:
1 Spontaneous will, inclination to act without suggestion from others.
2 The power of directing one's own actions unconstrained by necessity or fate.

Wiktionary:
1. A person's natural inclination; unforced choice.
2. (philosophy) The ability to choose one's actions, or determine what reasons are acceptable motivation for actions, without predestination, fate etc.
 

Bomb#20

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No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....

That's ridiculous. I considered whether to click your link, and then, by act of will, I clicked it -- and that's how I acquired the information that it's a dead link. "404 Not Found The resource requested could not be found on this server!". Of course will is means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response.


What is ridiculous is that you are simply labeling your ability to respond ''free will.'' The ability to respond is enabled by neural networks processing information, not ''will'' - especially not ''free will'' for the given reasons.
How do you figure I'm simply "labeling" something "free will"? Please point out where you are quoting from in your quotation of my words. Are you now claiming you own the word "will" too, and redefining it as a synonym for "free will"? Are you claiming there's no such thing as an act of will? Just how much of the English language are you planning to torpedo?
 

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No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....

That's ridiculous. I considered whether to click your link, and then, by act of will, I clicked it -- and that's how I acquired the information that it's a dead link. "404 Not Found The resource requested could not be found on this server!". Of course will is means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response.


What is ridiculous is that you are simply labeling your ability to respond ''free will.'' The ability to respond is enabled by neural networks processing information, not ''will'' - especially not ''free will'' for the given reasons.
How do you figure I'm simply "labeling" something "free will"? Please point out where you are quoting from in your quotation of my words. Are you now claiming you own the word "will" too, and redefining it as a synonym for "free will"? Are you claiming there's no such thing as an act of will? Just how much of the English language are you planning to torpedo?
Excellent point. I like to call it the "incredible shrinking dictionary". First there is no free will. Then there's no responsibility. Then there's no self. And I suppose that once self is gone, there's nobody around to use the dictionary anyway.
 

Bomb#20

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On the other hand, physics is also a fact of human psychology. And it presumes a reliable cause in everything it describes. It has no facility for describing uncaused events, as they would be irrational.
Why would physics be unable to describe uncaused events? When a photon hits glass it has a 4% chance of being reflected and a 96% chance of passing through. And when you say something can't happen because it's "irrational", you're philosophizing, not doing physics, rather like when astronomers tried to disprove Kepler by calling ellipses imperfect. "Irrational" is a property of decisions, not events.

... of staying up longer than about five seconds, even if no external horizontal forces act on it other than the table's reaction to the horizontal component of the force exerted by the pencil on the table due to compression of the pencil along its axis due to the earth's gravitational attraction of the pencil and the table's electrical repulsion of the pencil, because the pencil's finite momentum guarantees it has nonzero uncertainty in the positions of its upper and lower ends, which in turn guarantees that the horizontal component of the compression vector along its length cannot be exactly zero. :)

Well, that was a quick turnabout from "even if no external horizontal forces act on it" to "other than" a list of forces acting upon it.
"Turnaround". That is rather the point. It's an "equal and opposite reaction" to a horizontal force from the pencil itself: a force that as far as we can tell is completely random.

And, of course, "the pencil's finite momentum guarantees it has nonzero uncertainty" reminds us that uncertainty is a matter of missing knowledge, and not a matter of unreliable causation.
Not according to QM. Uncertainty in QM is not a matter of missing knowledge; there is simply no fact of the matter to be known or unknown. The uncertainty in the position times the uncertainty in the momentum is never less than Planck's Constant. So whenever the uncertainty in the momentum is less than infinity, the pencil does not have a position more precise than a certain positive distance.

This goes beyond not discovering a cause. We haven't even been able to come up with a fantasy guess at any hypothetical something that could possibly cause it if that something were real -- never mind whether we can discover evidence for that something actually existing and actually causing quantum events.

Well, there is always the "God of the gaps".
Which is pretty much what determinists sound like when they talk about quantum mechanics. It's Cause of the Gaps.


He just says, "My GPS would still work, same as always. Time slowing down is just an illusion due to our movement in the Lorentz Ether." And then he can run the numbers and show the LET calculations and prove his GPS still works.

Oh. So the Lorentz Ether was the "God of the gaps". Cool.
Well, it would have been, if "Goddidit" were a differential equation that allowed us to predict what we'd see in an experiment.

I.e., the force of the earth on the moon is propagated from the one to the other -- it's mediated by physical events we can describe and quantify taking place at every point between the two.

So, if we had an explanation like that for quantum entanglement then physicists would no longer find it spooky. Actually, an explanation as to why it happens is unnecessary. It is sufficient that it reliably happens in order for it to qualify as a common law of physics.
Exactly. But what we observe to happen reliably is not an event -- it's a statistical correlation between two or more events. If X happens on this side of the lab then there's an elevated probability of Y happening on that side of the lab. So the statement of probabilities qualifies as a common law of physics. But X and Y individually are unreliable.

This poses a big problem to anybody trying to come up with a deterministic model of the phenomenon. If we assume there's some prior event W that's a cause of X, then W becomes a potential point for intervention by the experimenter. If she can do something to make W happen or not happen, that will change the odds of X happening. But there's a reliable correlation between X and Y, so changing the odds of X will change the odds of Y. And when the odds of Y happening are changed, that will be observable on that side of the lab, simply by measuring the frequency of Y. So an observer on that side of the lab can tell whether the experimenter on this side of the lab is making W happen. I.e., if there's some prior event W that's a cause of X, then it seems this will make it possible to send a message from this side of the lab to that side of the lab, faster than the speed of light. But according to Relativity, you can't send a message any faster than light. This is why it's so difficult mathematically to reconcile Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and Determinism. "Pick any two."

The theory of predictability is that every effect is reliably caused. It's that ordinary notion of reliable "cause and effect".
That's not a theory. For it to be a theory you'd have to be able to get a testable prediction out of it.

But reliable cause and effect is very testable. We all test it every day and in everything we do. We move one foot forward and shift our weight and walk to the kitchen and back. That's reliable causation in every step.

It is the opposing theory, that some events are uncaused, that has yet to be demonstrated with experimental evidence.
It looks like you're using "reliable" in two different senses. For philosophizing about determinism, you use it to mean "metaphysical certainty". But for testing your hypothesis, you're using it to mean "able to be relied on". But we rely on uncertain things all the time. If there's a 99.99% chance that our foot will hold our weight, that's plenty good enough to rely on being able to walk to the kitchen and back. And people do that -- we rely on it -- even though sometimes we fall down. Whether the 0.01% chance of falling results from true randomness or merely chaotic cause and effect makes no difference to our ability to rely on our feet.

For testing the hypothesis that every effect is reliably caused, you'd need a way to observationally distinguish a true-random fall from a chaotic fall. You don't have that. Therefore "every effect is reliably caused" is not a theory. It's metaphysics.
 

steve_bank

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Uncertainty relates to what are called conjugate variables. Given two conjugate variables when you try to increase measured formation about one variable the other diminishes.

It is not theoretical or philosophical, it is an experimental fact. It does not mean the universe is uncertain, it means a measurement problem.
 

Marvin Edwards

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did you choose to be born?
Nope. But I've made a lot of choices since then, choices that would not have been made without me. From the moment we're born, we become active participants in our environment. We change the environment and the environment changes us. Consider the parents awakened at 2AM by their newborn's cries for food. From the beginning of us, we are negotiating for control with our physical (the crib) and social (the parents) environments.
 

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For my part, I would say that, after months of being cooped up in a womb, I was anxious to get out.
 

none

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did you choose to be born?
Nope. But I've made a lot of choices since then, choices that would not have been made without me. From the moment we're born, we become active participants in our environment. We change the environment and the environment changes us. Consider the parents awakened at 2AM by their newborn's cries for food. From the beginning of us, we are negotiating for control with our physical (the crib) and social (the parents) environments.
and proto life?
 

Marvin Edwards

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did you choose to be born?
Nope. But I've made a lot of choices since then, choices that would not have been made without me. From the moment we're born, we become active participants in our environment. We change the environment and the environment changes us. Consider the parents awakened at 2AM by their newborn's cries for food. From the beginning of us, we are negotiating for control with our physical (the crib) and social (the parents) environments.
and proto life?

Non-intelligent living organisms are biologically driven to survive, thrive, and reproduce. They too interact with their environment, changing that environment in some ways, and being changed by that environment in return. However, they cannot act deliberately, because they lack the neurological infrastructure required to imagine, evaluate, choose, etc. They are, however, goal-directed. Their behavior is "purposeful", and the purpose is to survive and reproduce. But they are not aware of this purpose, even though they act upon it.
 

none

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LoL, sure yeah and your diction is wonderful....
 

Marvin Edwards

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On the other hand, physics is also a fact of human psychology. And it presumes a reliable cause in everything it describes. It has no facility for describing uncaused events, as they would be irrational.
Why would physics be unable to describe uncaused events? When a photon hits glass it has a 4% chance of being reflected and a 96% chance of passing through. And when you say something can't happen because it's "irrational", you're philosophizing, not doing physics, rather like when astronomers tried to disprove Kepler by calling ellipses imperfect. "Irrational" is a property of decisions, not events.

I think your example of the light reflection is not an uncaused event:
When the light is reflected there is a cause. It has encountered atoms that reflect the light.
When the light is not reflected there is also a cause. It has missed those atoms that would reflect it.

So, if we had an explanation like that for quantum entanglement then physicists would no longer find it spooky. Actually, an explanation as to why it happens is unnecessary. It is sufficient that it reliably happens in order for it to qualify as a common law of physics.
Exactly. But what we observe to happen reliably is not an event -- it's a statistical correlation between two or more events. If X happens on this side of the lab then there's an elevated probability of Y happening on that side of the lab. So the statement of probabilities qualifies as a common law of physics. But X and Y individually are unreliable.

This poses a big problem to anybody trying to come up with a deterministic model of the phenomenon. If we assume there's some prior event W that's a cause of X, then W becomes a potential point for intervention by the experimenter. If she can do something to make W happen or not happen, that will change the odds of X happening. But there's a reliable correlation between X and Y, so changing the odds of X will change the odds of Y. And when the odds of Y happening are changed, that will be observable on that side of the lab, simply by measuring the frequency of Y. So an observer on that side of the lab can tell whether the experimenter on this side of the lab is making W happen. I.e., if there's some prior event W that's a cause of X, then it seems this will make it possible to send a message from this side of the lab to that side of the lab, faster than the speed of light. But according to Relativity, you can't send a message any faster than light. This is why it's so difficult mathematically to reconcile Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and Determinism. "Pick any two."

Well, if it turns out that pushing X moves Y, then that is the law of nature. "Pushing X causes Y to move". We don't know why pushing X causes Y to move, we just know that it does. The same applies to gravity. We do not know why the masses are attracted to each other, we just know that they are. And, we can calculate the amount of acceleration toward each other using the "law of gravity". But we do not really know why such an attraction exists, we only know that it does. The same would apply to the entanglement of particles at a distance. I assume physics has calculated this effect, but does not know why it works as it does.

The determinism is in the reliability of the cause and the effect. Moving X causes Y to move. That's the cause and that's the effect. The behavior is deterministic.


... For philosophizing about determinism, you use it to mean "metaphysical certainty". But for testing your hypothesis, you're using it to mean "able to be relied on". But we rely on uncertain things all the time. If there's a 99.99% chance that our foot will hold our weight, that's plenty good enough to rely on being able to walk to the kitchen and back. And people do that -- we rely on it -- even though sometimes we fall down. Whether the 0.01% chance of falling results from true randomness or merely chaotic cause and effect makes no difference to our ability to rely on our feet.

A random event is one where the behavior is difficult to predict due to incomplete information, and a chaotic event is one where the behavior is difficult to predict because the behavior begins to vary soon after the initial conditions, so it is difficult to reset those conditions accurately enough to get the same result a second time.

The reason we call certain events random or chaotic is because they are practically unpredictable. The problem is not in the causation, but in the ability to predict the effect. We cannot "determine" (as in "to know") whether the coin will land heads up or tails. But we know the vectors involved, so that we could, with sufficient measurement of those vectors, theoretically predict how the coin would land with 100% accuracy.

Oh, and I do not know how "metaphysical" certainty differs from plain ol' certainty. If you're going to use that adjective, it would be nice to see what its semantic content is (I am skeptical, and currently believe it has no true meaning).
 

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1. Free will requires that given an act A, the agent could have acted otherwise

2. Indeterminate actions happens randomly and without intent or control

3. Therefore indeterminism and free will are incompatible

4. Determinate actions are fixed and unchangeable

5. Therefore determinism is incompatible with free will



  1. Does it? Or does it merely require that she would have acted otherwise, given different antecedent circumstances? There is a difference between “would” and “could.


Different antecedent circumstances produce different outcomes, that is the point.

That how things unfold within a determined system is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Will, itself an inseparable part of the weave of determinism, cannot alter outcomes.
  1. I believe this is a non sequitur. I would say, rather, that free will depends upon determinism. To me, determinism just means that there are regularities in the world that are described, but not prescribed, by the so-called laws of nature. For sentient creatures to exist at all there must be regularities so that we can reliably predict the outcomes of our free acts. A world of unpredictable chaos would probably not have life at all, at least not life as we know it, to borrow from Mr. Spock.

Free will is a label being pasted upon one aspect of events that are fixed as a matter of natural law. Events unfold as they are determined. That we act without without being forced by someone doesn't mean we aren't being pressured, shaped and formed and swept along by the events of the world.

The feeling of being a 'free agent' doesn't take into account all of the elements that make us who we are, but have no control over....which is the illusion of conscious or 'free' will. We have will, which is not free will.
In most ordinary dictionaries, free will has two distinct definitions. One can be called the operational definition, and it is used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions. It can be derived from the legal precedents in use as "a choice free of coercion and other forms of undue influence". The other is called the philosophical definition, and it is used to...well, it is only used to generate endless debate. It can be summarized as "a choice free of causal necessity".

Free Will
Merriam-Webster on-line:
1: voluntary choice or decision 'I do this of my own free will'
2: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

Short Oxford English Dictionary:
1 Spontaneous will, inclination to act without suggestion from others.
2 The power of directing one's own actions unconstrained by necessity or fate.

Wiktionary:
1. A person's natural inclination; unforced choice.
2. (philosophy) The ability to choose one's actions, or determine what reasons are acceptable motivation for actions, without predestination, fate etc.

Dictionaries are merely a reflection of word use, how words and terms are commonly used.

If the question of free will could be resolved by pointing to a dictionary, the debate could have been resolved centuries ago.

As it stands, it is the dictionary but neuroscience that informs us on the nature of cognition and decision making.....and that is not looking good for the idea of free will.
 

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No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....

That's ridiculous. I considered whether to click your link, and then, by act of will, I clicked it -- and that's how I acquired the information that it's a dead link. "404 Not Found The resource requested could not be found on this server!". Of course will is means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response.


What is ridiculous is that you are simply labeling your ability to respond ''free will.'' The ability to respond is enabled by neural networks processing information, not ''will'' - especially not ''free will'' for the given reasons.
How do you figure I'm simply "labeling" something "free will"? Please point out where you are quoting from in your quotation of my words. Are you now claiming you own the word "will" too, and redefining it as a synonym for "free will"? Are you claiming there's no such thing as an act of will? Just how much of the English language are you planning to torpedo?

I'm not talking about you personally, what you do or what you believe. I am pointing out the failure of compatibility, that freedom of will is incompatible with determinism for all the given reasons.....which is not my personal argument, but by the terms and conditions of determinism - which is defined as: everything that happens is FIXED as a matter of natural law.

Which means everything that happens is FIXED as determined, allowing no freedom to diverge, to choose or do other than what is determined.

Which everything within a determined system does, planets orbit, plants grow, animals hunt, people go about their business under the illusion that they are in control, that they are able to do otherwise, that their decisions and actions are not determined.

Compatibilism merely asserts freedom of will. ''He was not coerced, he acted freely, he has free will'' - ignoring the underlying drivers of his thoughts, decisions and action, which within a determined system are FIXED as a matter of natural law.
 

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Yes, that is the role of will. But unfortunately for those who argue for free will, will itself doesn't run the show. The role that will plays is the prompt, the will to act.

That doesn't make our will free. It's just another cognitive function.

Nothing special in the scheme of things.

The brain chooses what it will do. The chosen intent then motivates and directs the body as it carries out that will.

The "free" part of free will simply means that, during the choosing of the will, we were not coerced or unduly influenced.


The brain acquires and processes information, 'selecting' the only possible action from a set of options in any given moment in time.

The unconscious action of response being determined by information conditions, inputs, architecture, chemical balance, etc, in that moment in time, is not an act of will, certainly not 'free will.'

Having nothing to do with will, be it conscious or not, it is incorrect to label the action of a brain processing information for a determined result, 'free will'

The illusionary nature of cognition;


Quote:
we presented evidence that the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions, can quickly adopt another human form as its own, no matter how different it is. We designed two experiments. In the first one, the researchers fitted the head of a mannequin with two cameras connected to two small screens placed in front of the volunteer's eyes, so that the volunteer could see what the mannequin ''saw.''

When the mannequin's camera eyes and the volunteer's head, complete with the camera goggles, were directed downwards, the volunteer saw the dummy's body where he or she would normally have seen his or her own body. By simultaneously touching the stomachs of both the volunteer and the mannequin, we could create the illusion of body swapping.

In the experiment, the only point where choosing happens is before the experiment begins, when the subject chooses to participate. Assuming the subject volunteered, and was not coerced or unduly influenced to participate, that choice was of their own free will (that is, they chose for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and undue influence).

Your quoted experiment is an example of an induced illusion, in which "the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions" reaches some odd conclusions. This is similar to the Phantom Limb effect.

The brain organizes sensory data into a model of reality. When the model is accurate enough to be useful, as when we navigate our body through a doorway, then this is called "reality", because the model is our only access to reality. But when the model is inaccurate enough to cause problems, as when we walk into a glass door, thinking it was open. Then that is called an "illusion".

To say that cognition is always an illusion, suggests that the brain is unable to produce an accurate model of reality. If that were the case, then we'd be unable to walk through a doorway, because we would be unable to perceive ourselves as ourselves, and to perceive the doorway as a doorway. So, the correct thing to say is that cognition is always a model, not that it is always an illusion.


It's not exactly a matter of 'choosing.'

Within a determined system, all actions are fixed as a matter of natural law. If determinism is true, the brain follows its determined path to whatever end with no possibility of divergence. The brain necessarily produces a determined outcome.

(1) P(A.B) > P(A).P(B)
(2) P(A.B|C) = P(A|C).P(B|C)

1- If determinism allows multiple options to be realized by an agent, as a matter of choice, why call it determinism?

2- If freedom does not require the possibility of realizable options, that the world proceeds along a determined, singular, course of events, why call it freedom?

3- If 'freedom' does not require a means for the selection an option from set of realizable alternatives, what is freedom?

4 - Without regulative control or realizable options, why call it free will?

''The argument is exceedingly familiar, and runs as follows. Either determinism is true or it is not. If it is true, then all our chosen actions are uniquely necessitated by prior states of the world, just like every other event. But then it cannot be the case that we could have acted otherwise, since this would require a possibility determinism rules out. Once the initial conditions are set and the laws fixed, causality excludes genuine freedom.'' - Colin McGinn is an Anglo-American Analytic (AAA) philosopher who presented the standard argument against free will.
 

Marvin Edwards

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It's not exactly a matter of 'choosing.'

Within a determined system, all actions are fixed as a matter of natural law. If determinism is true, the brain follows its determined path to whatever end with no possibility of divergence. The brain necessarily produces a determined outcome.

(1) P(A.B) > P(A).P(B)
(2) P(A.B|C) = P(A|C).P(B|C)

1- If determinism allows multiple options to be realized by an agent, as a matter of choice, why call it determinism?

2- If freedom does not require the possibility of realizable options, that the world proceeds along a determined, singular, course of events, why call it freedom?

3- If 'freedom' does not require a means for the selection an option from set of realizable alternatives, what is freedom?

4 - Without regulative control or realizable options, why call it free will?

''The argument is exceedingly familiar, and runs as follows. Either determinism is true or it is not. If it is true, then all our chosen actions are uniquely necessitated by prior states of the world, just like every other event. But then it cannot be the case that we could have acted otherwise, since this would require a possibility determinism rules out. Once the initial conditions are set and the laws fixed, causality excludes genuine freedom.'' - Colin McGinn is an Anglo-American Analytic (AAA) philosopher who presented the standard argument against free will.

There are a lot of figurative assumptions there. The first is the assumption that since the choice was causally necessary, "it is AS IF choosing did not happen". Thus, the false suggestion, "It's not exactly a matter of 'choosing.' "

What "exactly" is choosing? Choosing is an operation that (1) inputs two or more options, (2) applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and (3) outputs a single choice, typically in the form of an "I will X", where X is what we will do. This series of events is called "choosing". When we observe this series of events, it is "exactly a matter of 'choosing' ".

For example, we can walk into any restaurant and observe people browsing the menu and then placing their order. At the end of their meal, the waiter brings them the bill, holding them responsible for their deliberate actions (choosing has consequences). In the restaurant a person is (1) presented with a literal menu of options, (2) they weigh these options by their own goals, which may include dietary, taste, satisfaction, price, etc., and (3) based upon this evaluation they tell the waiter, "I will have the Chef Salad, please". Each event is the reliable result of the prior events.

Choosing is a real event in the real world. Choosing is deterministic.

Within a determined system, all actions are fixed as a matter of natural law.

Actually, the laws of nature are descriptive, not causative. Only the actual objects and forces that make up the physical universe can be said to "cause" events. Objects, such as the Moon and the Earth, are attracted to each other by the force of gravity. The Moon's current orbit around the Earth is caused by the Moon's original trajectory plus the gravitational attraction of its mass to the mass of the Earth. Neither the Earth, nor the Moon, consults any legal text to see what they should do next. The only behavior that is actually governed by the laws of nature, is the behavior of the astrophysicist who must calculate where these objects will be, so that, for example, the rocket and the Moon will show up at the same place at the same time.

So, the laws of nature are not some entity that goes about in the world causing things to happen. The Moon and the Earth are the actual entities, and the force of gravity between them is an actual force. The "laws" are metaphors for the "reliability" of the behavior they describe. The laws have no causal force, only gravity has causal force.

This distinction between real objects and forces, versus metaphorical "laws", clarifies what is doing the "fixing" of events. And this distinction is important to us, because we happen to be one of those actual objects, that go about in the world, causing things to happen, and doing so for our own goals, our own reasons, and our own interests.

"If determinism is true, the brain follows its determined path to whatever end with no possibility of divergence."

Some neural pathways, like those involved in our reflexes (jerking our hand away from a hot stove) and our autonomic functions (keeping our hearts beating), are fixed in advance. But the neural pathways involved in imagination, evaluation, and choosing, will be formed and fixed by our interactions with our internal and external environments. There is an evolutionary advantage to have this ability to adapt creatively to the challenges we encounter.

Choosing what we will do, is one of those processes that uses and shapes these neural pathways.

Determinism is neither an object nor a force. It is not an entity that acts upon us. Determinism does not control or constrain what we do. It simply asserts that all events, including our mental events, are always reliably caused by prior events.

"The brain necessarily produces a determined outcome."

The brain, when choosing, necessarily produces an outcome that is consistent with our own goals, our own reasons, our own beliefs and values, our own genetic dispositions and prior life experiences, and any other of those things that make us who and what we are. Choosing is a deterministic operation, in which the choice is the reliable result of who and what we are at the moment of choosing.

(1) P(A.B) > P(A).P(B)
(2) P(A.B|C) = P(A|C).P(B|C)

I'm pretty sure that determinism works more simply, just like this: A->B->C->...

For example, (A) We encounter a problem or issue that requires us to make a choice between two or more real possibilities. (B) We consider each option and estimate the likely outcome of choosing each. (C) Based on that evaluation, we decide what we will do.

1- If determinism allows multiple options to be realized by an agent, as a matter of choice, why call it determinism?

Choosing allows multiple realizable options to be considered by an agent, but only one is actually realized. Choosing is deterministic because the option that is chosen is reliably determined by the process of consideration.

2- If freedom does not require the possibility of realizable options, that the world proceeds along a determined, singular, course of events, why call it freedom?

Every option on the restaurant menu is realizable, the chef is able to prepare any item you select. But only one of them will be realized. A "possibility" is something that "can" happen, but it is not something that "must" happen or that "will" happen.

The terms "free" and "freedom" are only meaningful when they explicitly or implicitly references some meaningful and relevant constraint. For example, in the case of "free will", the constraint is "coercion or other undue influence".

Universal causal necessity/inevitability is neither a meaningful nor a relevant constraint. What you will inevitably do is exactly identical to you just being you, choosing what you choose, and doing what you do. And that is not a meaningful constraint. It is not something that you can, or need to be, free of. To view it as a constraint is an illusion.

3- If 'freedom' does not require a means for the selection an option from set of realizable alternatives, what is freedom?

Freedom is the ability to do what we want. Freedom is the absence of some meaningful and relevant constraint. The specific freedom depends upon the specific constraint.

Choosing is the means of selecting an option from a set of realizable alternatives. An alternative is still realizable even if it is never realized. At the end of the choosing operation, there will be precisely one thing that we "will" do, plus any number of things that we did not do, but could have done if we had chose to.

"4 - Without regulative control or realizable options, why call it free will?"

"Free will" is short for "a freely chosen will". The choosing is free if it is not constrained by coercion or other extraordinary influences.
Our "will" is our specific intent for the immediate or distant future. It motivates and directs our actions.
Choosing is regulative control. It causally determines what we will do next.

''The argument is exceedingly familiar, and runs as follows. Either determinism is true or it is not. If it is true, then all our chosen actions are uniquely necessitated by prior states of the world, just like every other event. But then it cannot be the case that we could have acted otherwise, since this would require a possibility determinism rules out. Once the initial conditions are set and the laws fixed, causality excludes genuine freedom.'' - Colin McGinn is an Anglo-American Analytic (AAA) philosopher who presented the standard argument against free will.

Let me take that apart for you:
Either determinism is true or it is not

Determinism is true in that every event is the reliable result of prior events.

If it is true, then all our chosen actions are uniquely necessitated by prior states of the world, just like every other event.

Our chosen actions are uniquely necessitated by our own choosing process. It is rather silly to suggest that we need to know the "prior states of the world" in order to understand why we made our choice.

But then it cannot be the case that we could have acted otherwise, since this would require a possibility determinism rules out.

What "can" happen is not the same as what "will" happen. Choosing between A and B requires that "I can choose A" is true and also that "I can choose B" is true. Both are true by logical necessity, because they are required by the operation. At the end of the operation, we are left with the one thing that I "will" do, and the other thing that I "could have done" but didn't do.

Determinism does not rule out any possibilities. In fact, it guarantees that multiple possibilities will show up as mental events in every choosing operation. Determinism only rules out multiple actualities.

Whenever a choosing operation appears in a causal chain, "I could have done otherwise" will always be true. It is only "I would have done otherwise" that will always be false.

Like many before him, Colin McGinn is conflating what "can" happen with what "will" happen. What "can" happen constrains what "will" happen. But what "can" happen is only constrained by the imagination.

Once the initial conditions are set and the laws fixed, causality excludes genuine freedom.

Actually, reliable causation is a requirement of every freedom. Without reliable cause and effect, I could never reliably cause any effect, and would thus have no freedom to do anything at all. So, the notion of freedom logically implies the notion of reliable causation.

And that is why the philosophical definition of free will, as a choice "free of causal necessity", creates a paradox. One cannot be free of that which freedom requires. It is a self-contradiction. The philosophical definition is hopelessly flawed, and must be discarded.
 

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I was going to venture to write something very like the above, but Marvin did it for me. :)
 

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It should be noted perhaps that the above-mentioned Colin McGinn presented the standard argument against free will but then rejected it. Not that appeals to authority should matter much.
 

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Why would physics be unable to describe uncaused events? When a photon hits glass it has a 4% chance of being reflected and a 96% chance of passing through. And when you say something can't happen because it's "irrational", you're philosophizing, not doing physics, rather like when astronomers tried to disprove Kepler by calling ellipses imperfect. "Irrational" is a property of decisions, not events.

I think your example of the light reflection is not an uncaused event:
When the light is reflected there is a cause. It has encountered atoms that reflect the light.
When the light is not reflected there is also a cause. It has missed those atoms that would reflect it.
That theory is actually a lot older than quantum mechanics and doesn't depend on the debate between determinism and randomness...

Lastly, were the rays of Light reflected by impinging on the solid parts of Bodies, their reflexions from polished Bodies could not be so regular as they are. For in polishing Glass with Sand, Putty or Tripoly, it is not to be imagined that those substances can by grating and fretting the Glass bring all its least particles to an accurate polish; so that all their surfaces shall be truly plain or truly spherical, and look all the same way, so as together to compose one even surface. The smaller the particles of those substances are, the smaller will be the scratches by which they continually fret and wear away the Glass until it be polished, but be they never so small they can wear away the Glass no otherwise than by grating and scratching it, and breaking the protuberances, and therefore polish it no otherwise than by bringing its roughness to a very fine Grain, so that the scratches and frettings of the surface become too small to be visible. And therefore if Light were reflected by impinging upon the solid parts of the Glass, it would be scattered as much by the most polished Glass as by the roughest. So then it remains a Problem, how Glass polished by fretting substances can reflect Light so regularly as it does. And this Problem is scarce otherwise to be solved than by saying, that the reflexion of a ray is effected, not by a single point of the reflecting Body, but by some power of the Body which is evenly diffused all over its surface, and by which it acts upon the ray without immediate contact. For that the parts of Bodies do act upon Light at a distance shall be shewn hereafter.

- Isaac Newton​
 

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Thanks for the Newton quote. I read about this recently. It appears he kind of anticipated QM, or at least outlined a problem that QM finally addressed.
 

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No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....

That's ridiculous. I considered whether to click your link, and then, by act of will, I clicked it -- and that's how I acquired the information that it's a dead link. "404 Not Found The resource requested could not be found on this server!". Of course will is means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response.


What is ridiculous is that you are simply labeling your ability to respond ''free will.'' The ability to respond is enabled by neural networks processing information, not ''will'' - especially not ''free will'' for the given reasons.
How do you figure I'm simply "labeling" something "free will"? Please point out where you are quoting from in your quotation of my words. Are you now claiming you own the word "will" too, and redefining it as a synonym for "free will"? Are you claiming there's no such thing as an act of will? Just how much of the English language are you planning to torpedo?

I'm not talking about you personally, what you do or what you believe. I am pointing out the failure of compatibility, that freedom of will is incompatible with determinism for all the given reasons.....which is not my personal argument, but by the terms and conditions of determinism - which is defined as: everything that happens is FIXED as a matter of natural law.

Which means everything that happens is FIXED as determined, allowing no freedom to diverge, to choose or do other than what is determined.

Which everything within a determined system does, planets orbit, plants grow, animals hunt, people go about their business under the illusion that they are in control, that they are able to do otherwise, that their decisions and actions are not determined.

Compatibilism merely asserts freedom of will. ''He was not coerced, he acted freely, he has free will'' - ignoring the underlying drivers of his thoughts, decisions and action, which within a determined system are FIXED as a matter of natural law.

As Marvin has noted, natural “laws” are descriptive and not prescriptive. I do not think that natural law compels, determines, causes, or forces me to do anything. Natural laws describe regularities. Some regularities, like gravity, occur without exception. Some, like the second ”law” of thermodynamics, describe statistical regularities. And some descriptions, such as of human behavior, are of unpredictable acts of humans acting on motives and desires. Antecedent events no doubt influence our behavior. But I do not see how they cause or determine our behavior.
 

Marvin Edwards

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1. Free will requires that given an act A, the agent could have acted otherwise

2. Indeterminate actions happens randomly and without intent or control

3. Therefore indeterminism and free will are incompatible

4. Determinate actions are fixed and unchangeable

5. Therefore determinism is incompatible with free will



  1. Does it? Or does it merely require that she would have acted otherwise, given different antecedent circumstances? There is a difference between “would” and “could.


Different antecedent circumstances produce different outcomes, that is the point.

That how things unfold within a determined system is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Will, itself an inseparable part of the weave of determinism, cannot alter outcomes.
  1. I believe this is a non sequitur. I would say, rather, that free will depends upon determinism. To me, determinism just means that there are regularities in the world that are described, but not prescribed, by the so-called laws of nature. For sentient creatures to exist at all there must be regularities so that we can reliably predict the outcomes of our free acts. A world of unpredictable chaos would probably not have life at all, at least not life as we know it, to borrow from Mr. Spock.

Free will is a label being pasted upon one aspect of events that are fixed as a matter of natural law. Events unfold as they are determined. That we act without without being forced by someone doesn't mean we aren't being pressured, shaped and formed and swept along by the events of the world.

The feeling of being a 'free agent' doesn't take into account all of the elements that make us who we are, but have no control over....which is the illusion of conscious or 'free' will. We have will, which is not free will.
In most ordinary dictionaries, free will has two distinct definitions. One can be called the operational definition, and it is used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions. It can be derived from the legal precedents in use as "a choice free of coercion and other forms of undue influence". The other is called the philosophical definition, and it is used to...well, it is only used to generate endless debate. It can be summarized as "a choice free of causal necessity".

Free Will
Merriam-Webster on-line:
1: voluntary choice or decision 'I do this of my own free will'
2: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

Short Oxford English Dictionary:
1 Spontaneous will, inclination to act without suggestion from others.
2 The power of directing one's own actions unconstrained by necessity or fate.

Wiktionary:
1. A person's natural inclination; unforced choice.
2. (philosophy) The ability to choose one's actions, or determine what reasons are acceptable motivation for actions, without predestination, fate etc.

Dictionaries are merely a reflection of word use, how words and terms are commonly used.

If the question of free will could be resolved by pointing to a dictionary, the debate could have been resolved centuries ago.

As it stands, it is the dictionary but neuroscience that informs us on the nature of cognition and decision making.....and that is not looking good for the idea of free will.
The problem is that we have a meaningful and operational definition of free will, one that is clearly about how we assess a person's moral and legal responsibility for their actions, that requires nothing supernatural, that makes no claim about uncaused events. It just humbly does its job, by distinguishing voluntary, deliberate behavior from accidental, coerced, or unduly influenced behavior.

And then we have a so-called "philosophical" definition of free will, one that requires freedom from reliable cause and effect, a logical absurdity. By using this second definition, we force people to choose between reliable causation and freedom. By using this second definition we end up attacking the operational meaning of free will, and attacking moral and legal responsibility. And that is not a good thing.

Ironically, half of those using the philosophical definition spend their time arguing that it is an impossibility. And the other half end up denying science. The solution here should be obvious to everyone, drop the philosophical definition and adopt the operational definition of free will.
 

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No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....

That's ridiculous. I considered whether to click your link, and then, by act of will, I clicked it -- and that's how I acquired the information that it's a dead link. "404 Not Found The resource requested could not be found on this server!". Of course will is means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response.


What is ridiculous is that you are simply labeling your ability to respond ''free will.'' The ability to respond is enabled by neural networks processing information, not ''will'' - especially not ''free will'' for the given reasons.
How do you figure I'm simply "labeling" something "free will"? Please point out where you are quoting from in your quotation of my words. Are you now claiming you own the word "will" too, and redefining it as a synonym for "free will"? Are you claiming there's no such thing as an act of will? Just how much of the English language are you planning to torpedo?

I'm not talking about you personally, what you do or what you believe. I am pointing out the failure of compatibility, that freedom of will is incompatible with determinism for all the given reasons.....which is not my personal argument, but by the terms and conditions of determinism - which is defined as: everything that happens is FIXED as a matter of natural law.

Which means everything that happens is FIXED as determined, allowing no freedom to diverge, to choose or do other than what is determined.

Which everything within a determined system does, planets orbit, plants grow, animals hunt, people go about their business under the illusion that they are in control, that they are able to do otherwise, that their decisions and actions are not determined.

Compatibilism merely asserts freedom of will. ''He was not coerced, he acted freely, he has free will'' - ignoring the underlying drivers of his thoughts, decisions and action, which within a determined system are FIXED as a matter of natural law.
If natural laws are both causative and immutable, and we attempt to hold them responsible, instead of ourselves, then how do we go about correcting those laws when they do something criminal, like robbing a bank?
 

Marvin Edwards

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Why would physics be unable to describe uncaused events? When a photon hits glass it has a 4% chance of being reflected and a 96% chance of passing through. And when you say something can't happen because it's "irrational", you're philosophizing, not doing physics, rather like when astronomers tried to disprove Kepler by calling ellipses imperfect. "Irrational" is a property of decisions, not events.

I think your example of the light reflection is not an uncaused event:
When the light is reflected there is a cause. It has encountered atoms that reflect the light.
When the light is not reflected there is also a cause. It has missed those atoms that would reflect it.
That theory is actually a lot older than quantum mechanics and doesn't depend on the debate between determinism and randomness...

Lastly, were the rays of Light reflected by impinging on the solid parts of Bodies, their reflexions from polished Bodies could not be so regular as they are. For in polishing Glass with Sand, Putty or Tripoly, it is not to be imagined that those substances can by grating and fretting the Glass bring all its least particles to an accurate polish; so that all their surfaces shall be truly plain or truly spherical, and look all the same way, so as together to compose one even surface. The smaller the particles of those substances are, the smaller will be the scratches by which they continually fret and wear away the Glass until it be polished, but be they never so small they can wear away the Glass no otherwise than by grating and scratching it, and breaking the protuberances, and therefore polish it no otherwise than by bringing its roughness to a very fine Grain, so that the scratches and frettings of the surface become too small to be visible. And therefore if Light were reflected by impinging upon the solid parts of the Glass, it would be scattered as much by the most polished Glass as by the roughest. So then it remains a Problem, how Glass polished by fretting substances can reflect Light so regularly as it does. And this Problem is scarce otherwise to be solved than by saying, that the reflexion of a ray is effected, not by a single point of the reflecting Body, but by some power of the Body which is evenly diffused all over its surface, and by which it acts upon the ray without immediate contact. For that the parts of Bodies do act upon Light at a distance shall be shewn hereafter.​
- Isaac Newton​
Our reflection in a still pond is clear until the surface is disturbed by a tossed pebble and light is reflected out in different directions, rather than in a consistent pattern. The polished glass is like the still pond, after its waves have been settled by polishing.
 
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