# Compatibilism: What's that About?

#### Jarhyn

##### Wizard
This is what I mean by objective.

The laws of thermodynamics define a group of physical quantities, such as temperature, energy, and entropy, that characterize thermodynamic systems in thermodynamic equilibrium. The laws also use various parameters for thermodynamic processes, such as thermodynamic work and heat, and establish relationships between them. They state empirical facts that form a basis of precluding the possibility of certain phenomena, such as perpetual motion. In addition to their use in thermodynamics, they are important fundamental laws of physics in general, and are applicable in other natural sciences.
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Hmm. Looks like the laws of thermodynamics are clearly defined by measurable goals that make things literally objective. You have the objective, such as predicting the amount of energy expended reaching the end of a marathon walk (or perhaps losing 10 pounds). And you can objectively measure how close you've come to your goal, by measuring physical quantities such as temperature, energy, and entropy. And, because the goal is well-defined and the measurement is well-defined, all observers can objectively agree as to the result.
And not only this, the goal is a part of the geometry of the object, a part of it's physical reality.

It can't not be what it is in that moment holding that goal and experiencing the unique momentary force vectors created by that geometry in the various contexts it exists in.

That they are momentary makes them.no less objective. That they are complicated and translates through a giant mess of squishy stuff makes them no less objective.

Objectively, these goals exist and their geometry causes the systems that hold this geometry to seek things.

#### Marvin Edwards

##### Veteran Member
The compatibilist proposition is simply that free will is a meaningful concept within a deterministic world.

The proof is this:
P1: A freely chosen will is when someone chooses for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and other forms of undue influence.
P2: A world is deterministic if every event is reliably caused by prior events.
P3: A freely chosen will is reliably caused by the person's own goals, reasons, or interests (with their prior causes).
P4: An unfree choice is reliably caused by coercion or undue influence (with their prior causes).
C: Therefore, the notion of a freely chosen will (and its opposite) is still meaningful within a fully deterministic world.

P1: A freely chosen will is when someone chooses for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and other forms of undue influence.

What happens on a cellular level is not chosen. Cells process information and once readiness potential is achieved information, conscious experience is generated.

But what happens in the restaurant is chosen. We have a menu of dinners to choose from, and the chef is capable of preparing any one of them for us. So, each dinner on the menu is a real possibility. The only thing standing between us and dinner is that we must make a choice. No choosing, no dining.

Given determinism, the outcome is determined.

Of course. And one of the things that is determined is that we must make a choice before we can have our dinner.

There goes any real choice.

False. A real choice must be made or we'll have no dinner! It is causally necessary that we must make a choice in order to eat tonight.

Unconscious mechanisms processing information can hardly be called a free will choice.

Apparently they can, because we know that a lot of the brain's activity happens below conscious awareness, and, that conscious awareness itself is a product of specific functional areas of the brain, and, we also know that we must make a choice in the restaurant or we'll go without dinner.

Therefore, it logically follows that "unconscious mechanisms processing information" does not prevent us from choosing, but rather enable us to make choices.

Given determinism, the outcome is determined. There goes any real choice. 'Someone chooses for themselves' is misleading. Unconscious mechanisms processing information can hardly be called a free will choice.

"Someone choosing for themselves" is an empirically accurate description of what happens in the restaurant.

Sure, but still not a choice given the outcome is fixed. Which means no possibility of an alternate action.

The possibility of an alternate action was guaranteed by the choosing operation itself. In the same fashion that the logical operation of addition requires at least two numbers, the logical operation of choosing requires at least two real possibilities before it can begin. Without two numbers, addition cannot begin. Without two options, choosing cannot begin.

Fortunately, we have a literal menu of real possibilities in the restaurant. And it is possible for us to choose any one of them. Nothing prevents us from choosing the steak dinner. Nothing prevents us from choosing the lobster dinner.

"I can choose the steak dinner" is true and "I can choose the lobster dinner" is equally true. These are two facts of which we have certain knowledge. The only thing we are uncertain about is which one we will choose. Will I choose the steak or will I choose the lobster? I don't know! But the waiter is standing there. Everyone else has already made up their mind and told the waiter what they will have. And if I cannot make up my mind, then I will have neither the steak nor the lobster!

So, it is really necessary that I make a choice, right now. So, I flip a coin. Heads, steak. Tails, lobster. "I will have the lobster dinner, please", I tell the waiter, and breathe a sigh of relief.

Would the punters be happy placing their bets on a fixed race? In fact the horse that wins is the only possible result in any race, just that nobody has deliberately fixed the race and punters do not know which horse must necessarily win.

Well, my first question was why only the kickers were betting on the horses. What about the quarterback or the tight ends? "America and England, two countries divided by a common language." Thank God for the OED.

The punters were uncertain which horse would win. But they bet on their own horse because they were certain that their horse could win.

Nevertheless, no other outcome was possible.

Sounds believable, doesn't it? But, no, the statement is literally false.

Because of the uncertainty at the beginning of the race, there was a real possibility that each of the selected horses could win. It was never "impossible" that any of those horses could win. It simply did not turn out that way.

The fact that a horse would not win does not logically imply that the horse could not win. In fact, the statement "my horse could have won if he had the right jockey" may be quite accurate. All uses of "could have" logically imply that (a) it did not happen and (b) things would have had to be different in order for it to happen. With those two implications already built into the term "could have", we get potentially true statements, like "he could have won".

The fact that the horse did not win never implies that it was impossible for the horse to win.

What happens within the brain determines outcome. You can call it a persons choice, but rather than the work of a 'person' it is specifically the brain that processes information and determines output, itself being determined by input, architecture, chemistry, etc. None of it open to choice.

Rather than the work of a 'person'? What do you think is the result of all that information processing, architecture, chemistry, etc., if not to function as a person?

The reductionist fallacy is to presume that having explained how something works that we have somehow "explained it away". But that is not what is happening. We are simply explaining how a 'person' works. The person is still there, right in front of us, flipping a coin to decide whether he will have steak or lobster for dinner.

Sometimes it sounds like hard determinists are carefully wording their terms in order to support their propositions and conclusions. Fortunately, compatibilists are pragmatic empiricists, so they can keep the facts straight.

Unless you want to challenge my definition of free will, P1 still holds true.

#### Copernicus

##### Industrial Grade Linguist
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As you can see, I don't think the use of certain words helps at all.

I'm picking up a sense of nihilism in some of your comments. Keep in mind that "if everything is an illusion, then nothing is".

Technically, everything is an illusion, since our models of reality are all interpretations of sense data. That is, the way we experience and interact with reality is always filtered through passive sense data that the mind actively imposes interpretations on. However, there are different types of illusions and different senses of meaning to the word "illusion". Usually, it is used to refer to a perceptual experience that is misleading or causes us to impose a flawed model of reality on our perceptions. So optical illusions are ambiguous visual perceptions that flip between contradictory sensory experiences. Rainbows are a different type of illusion, because they aren't really ambiguous but only exist as a unique visual experience from a particular location. Hence, they can't have an end where a pot of gold could exist, although they appear to have a physical location. Even the most concrete physical objects are ultimately illusory objects built up out of complex sensory experiences.

The philosophical problem that illusions pose is that there is always some perspective from which they disappear from our model of reality. If we had different bodies with different sensory equipment, then we would make sense out of reality in different ways. Ants and whales can interact with apples and oranges, but would the brains in either animal treat them as similar to each other in the way that humans see their similarity? They interact with a very different version of reality from the one we interact with.

It is easy to see where eliminativism comes from. Anything that can be made to disappear from an imagined perspective becomes nonexistent from that perspective. From the perspective of a determinist, time is illusory, since outcomes of causal events are as well-known as antecedent events that cause them. There is no "free choice" from that perspective. If one takes the position of a soft determinist or compatibilist, then one can also shift perspective to one where consequences are unknown. From that perspective the future does not exist, only alternative versions of what it is likely to become. Hard determinists simply refuse to acknowledge that reality can be perceived differently--experienced from different angles. They cling to the delusion that there can be only one possible way to experience of reality. So you have to choose between the reality where all future outcomes are known and the one where they are not known. You can't have both.

#### Jarhyn

##### Wizard
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As you can see, I don't think the use of certain words helps at all.

I'm picking up a sense of nihilism in some of your comments. Keep in mind that "if everything is an illusion, then nothing is".

Technically, everything is an illusion, since our models of reality are all interpretations of sense data. That is, the way we experience and interact with reality is always filtered through passive sense data that the mind actively imposes interpretations on. However, there are different types of illusions and different senses of meaning to the word "illusion". Usually, it is used to refer to a perceptual experience that is misleading or causes us to impose a flawed model of reality on our perceptions. So optical illusions are ambiguous visual perceptions that flip between contradictory sensory experiences. Rainbows are a different type of illusion, because they aren't really ambiguous but only exist as a unique visual experience from a particular location. Hence, they can't have an end where a pot of gold could exist, although they appear to have a physical location. Even the most concrete physical objects are ultimately illusory objects built up out of complex sensory experiences.

The philosophical problem that illusions pose is that there is always some perspective from which they disappear from our model of reality. If we had different bodies with different sensory equipment, then we would make sense out of reality in different ways. Ants and whales can interact with apples and oranges, but would the brains in either animal treat them as similar to each other in the way that humans see their similarity? They interact with a very different version of reality from the one we interact with.

It is easy to see where eliminativism comes from. Anything that can be made to disappear from an imagined perspective becomes nonexistent from that perspective. From the perspective of a determinist, time is illusory, since outcomes of causal events are as well-known as antecedent events that cause them. There is no "free choice" from that perspective. If one takes the position of a soft determinist or compatibilist, then one can also shift perspective to one where consequences are unknown. From that perspective the future does not exist, only alternative versions of what it is likely to become. Hard determinists simply refuse to acknowledge that reality can be perceived differently--experienced from different angles. They cling to the delusion that there can be only one possible way to experience of reality. So you have to choose between the reality where all future outcomes are known and the one where they are not known. You can't have both.
You can't have "either", either. You can only have one: the outcome where they are not known absolutely, and are rightly identified as merely assumed due to statistical trends.

Unless the hard determinist wishes to claim that they are God...

In which case I would have a sword to show to them.

#### Copernicus

##### Industrial Grade Linguist
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You can't have "either", either. You can only have one: the outcome where they are not known absolutely, and are rightly identified as merely assumed due to statistical trends.

Unless the hard determinist wishes to claim that they are God...

In which case I would have a sword to show to them.

You can have as many different perspectives as you can imagine. You can't even have a conversation, if you can't imagine what is in the mind of the person you are talking to. So you have your perspective and at least that imaginary one. Similarly, you can have a godlike omniscient perspective on the universe, where you know both its future and its past--sort of like the author of a novel knowing the past and future of the characters in the novel. Readers of the novel can only imagine what the future of the characters will be until they reach the end of the novel. Then it is all history. So there is a sense in which the imaginary characters have free will. Until they no longer do. And, since the novel is fiction, you know that they don't really have free will. That is an illusion.

#### Jarhyn

##### Wizard
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You can't have "either", either. You can only have one: the outcome where they are not known absolutely, and are rightly identified as merely assumed due to statistical trends.

Unless the hard determinist wishes to claim that they are God...

In which case I would have a sword to show to them.

You can have as many different perspectives as you can imagine. You can't even have a conversation, if you can't imagine what is in the mind of the person you are talking to. So you have your perspective and at least that imaginary one. Similarly, you can have a godlike omniscient perspective on the universe, where you know both its future and its past--sort of like the author of a novel knowing the past and future of the characters in the novel. Readers of the novel can only imagine what the future of the characters will be until they reach the end of the novel. Then it is all history. So there is a sense in which the imaginary characters have free will. Until they no longer do. And, since the novel is fiction, you know that they don't really have free will. That is an illusion.
Except that we have this assumption of objective reality being "out there" somewhere being observed. If you wish to take a gods eye view of it that way, you have to acknowledge the material geometries that exist objectively. Those objects, which have a real property of locality that determines the shape they scribe through time in a predictable way, describe trends in the data of that history.

Even if it's all a crystalline block, that crystalline block contains these geometric results from the system that projects it intersected with the data it was "created" with.

You can easily, even as a god, point to some segment of the thing and say "that will is constraining this will from this point to this point, objectively".

The issue is that a book contains a fiction, a mere image and soul without a body that could ever exist in reality.

As soon as a non-contradictory system exists in which this thing that is described is described by, it contains real, objective decisions even from a gods eye view.

#### Copernicus

##### Industrial Grade Linguist
Except that we have this assumption of objective reality being "out there" somewhere being observed. If you wish to take a gods eye view of it that way, you have to acknowledge the material geometries that exist objectively. Those objects, which have a real property of locality that determines the shape they scribe through time in a predictable way, describe trends in the data of that history...

My point is that there can be no "objective reality" for us in the end, because we can only interact with our subjective experience of it. Note that you said--"out there" somewhere being observed. You can try to imagine yourself being an omniscient observer of reality, but that makes you a subjective observer, since omniscience gets you into a paradoxical situation where you have to ask whether this godlike perspective can see its own future and therefore be unable to change itself in any way (i.e. have volition). Not a good position for an allegedly omnipotent being to be in. That's the point at which true believers in God start mumbling and gibbering things about the ineffability of God.

Anyway, objects only mean anything in terms of how you interact with them, whether passively or actively. A house is a physical object in a location, but only in the minds of beings that can make holistic sense of it. Otherwise, it is just a collection of things that the being actually is able to make sense of. The problem you have is that objects don't exist except in terms of how you interact with them. If you can't interact with them in any way, then they don't exist from your perspective. Our minds construct reality purely out of sensory experience.

#### Jarhyn

##### Wizard
Except that we have this assumption of objective reality being "out there" somewhere being observed. If you wish to take a gods eye view of it that way, you have to acknowledge the material geometries that exist objectively. Those objects, which have a real property of locality that determines the shape they scribe through time in a predictable way, describe trends in the data of that history...

My point is that there can be no "objective reality" for us in the end, because we can only interact with our subjective experience of it. You can try to imagine yourself being an omniscient observer of reality, but that makes you a subjective observer, since omniscience gets you into a paradoxical situation where you have to ask whether this godlike perspective can see its own future and therefore be unable to change itself in any way (i.e. have volition). Not a good position for an allegedly omnipotent being to be in. That's the point at which true believers in God start mumbling and gibbering things about the ineffability of God.

Anyway, objects only mean anything in terms of how you interact with them, whether passively or actively. A house is a physical object in a location, but only in the minds of beings that can make holistic sense of it. Otherwise, it is a collection of things that the being actually is able to make sense of. The problem you have is that objects don't exist except in terms of how you interact with them. If you can't interact with them in any way, then they don't exist from your perspective. Our minds construct reality purely out of sensory experience.
So, this is where we part ways, then. One of my axioms, in fact one of THE axioms that we all tacitly assume despite claiming otherwise is that there is a universe, objectively, out there somewhere and that we observe it.

This further implies, whether someone wants to admit it or not, that our "subjective" experience has an "objective" nature which drives it.

This is not up for discussion for me really.

If you can provide a better axiom than to accept the universe outside myself and in it's material composing this self and existing as a basis, it's wants and needs reflections of real geometries even if the things they draw force towards are insufficient to maintain the existence, in general of those forces... Then I will happily evaluate and accept it.

Those forces which "I" am subject to are caused by objective reality, even when I do not entirely understand "how".

#### Marvin Edwards

##### Veteran Member
Technically, everything is an illusion, since our models of reality are all interpretations of sense data.

The term "model" is correct. The brain organizes sensory data into a model of reality consisting of objects and events. When the model is accurate enough to be useful, as when we navigate our bodies through a doorway, then we call that "reality", because the model is our only access to reality. It is only when the model is inaccurate enough to cause a problem, as when we walk into a glass door thinking it is open, that the word "illusion" is appropriate.

The notions of "reality" and "illusion" are used to make that important distinction.

... Anything that can be made to disappear from an imagined perspective becomes nonexistent from that perspective.

That which is ignored is not nonexistent. This is also an important distinction.

There is no "free choice" from that perspective.

That would be an illusion. But I do not think the illusion is that time disappears. The illusion is that causal necessity has some sort of agency, which it does not.

If one takes the position of a soft determinist or compatibilist, then one can also shift perspective to one where consequences are unknown. From that perspective the future does not exist, only alternative versions of what it is likely to become.

And we have all experienced that uncertainty and humans have evolved specific language and logic to deal with it. When we do not know what "will" happen, we imagine what "can" happen, to prepare for what "does" happen.

Hard determinists simply refuse to acknowledge that reality can be perceived differently--experienced from different angles. They cling to the delusion that there can be only one possible way to experience of reality. So you have to choose between the reality where all future outcomes are known and the one where they are not known. You can't have both.

But the ordinary "man on the street" has no problem using the correct logic in the correct situation. He speaks and acts with certainty in matters of certainty, like when he is hammering a nail. He speaks and acts with uncertainty, referring to things that he "can" do (like hammering a nail) even when he is not hammering a nail. He imagines building a dog house for his pet, and knows instinctively that his dog cannot sleep in the "possibility" of a dog house but only in an "actual" dog house.

So, ordinary language provides the hard determinist with all the tools he needs to keep things straight in his head. And it is only when he confuses himself with abstractions and draws false inferences from his concepts that he ends up creating paradoxes that are too complex for him to climb out of.

#### Copernicus

##### Industrial Grade Linguist
So, this is where we part ways, then. One of my axioms, in fact one of THE axioms that we all tacitly assume despite claiming otherwise is that there is a universe, objectively, out there somewhere and that we observe it.
We do not part ways on this, since that is exactly my position. The difference I see between us is that you don't want to think of an illusion as an observation, even though illusions are perceptual phenomena by definition. The real problem that most people have with my use of "illusion" is that I don't always use it to mean a kind of deceptive or misleading observation. Illusions are grounded in sensory experiences, and so are our models of what is real. So illusions are real in that sense, even though they may sometimes lead to flawed assumptions about what you refer to as "objective reality". Illusion is a design feature of human perception, not a bug.