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Compatibilism: What's that About?

DBT

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Compatibilism based on ''the Right Stuff'' and the Pereboom rebuttal:

Character-based account:
A decision can be said to be “free” if it is caused by, and not out of character for, a particular agent. This is the view traditionally associated with the likes of David Hume. It is probably too simplistic to be useful. Other compatibilist accounts offer more specific conditions.

Second-order desire account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a first-order desire (e.g. I want some chocolate) that is reflexively endorsed by a second-order desire (e.g. I want to want some chocolate). This is the account associated with Harry Frankfurt (and others).

Reasons-responsive account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a decision-making mechanism that is sufficiently responsive to reasons. In other words, if the mechanism had been presented with a different set of reasons-for-action, it would have produced a different decision (in at least some possible worlds). This is the account associated with Fischer and Ravizza, and comes in several different forms (weak, moderate and strong responsiveness).

Moral reasons-sensitivity account: A decision can be said to be free if it is produced by a decision-making mechanism that is capable of grasping and making use of moral reasons for action. This is the account associated with R. Jay Wallace. It is similar to Fischer and Ravizza’s account, but pays particular attention to the role of moral reasons in decision-making.

As you can see, all of these accounts claim that a certain type of causal sequence has the “right stuff” for free will, irrespective of whether the decisions produced are fully determined by those causal sequences.


To put it more formally, Pereboom adopts the following argument against compatibilism:

(1) If one agent's decision is manipulated by another agent, then that first agent's action is not freely willed.

(2) There is no difference between a manipulation by another agent and causation by a causal factor external to the agent.

(3) On determinism, all of an agent's actions are determined (causally influenced) by at least some factors beyond that agent's control.

(4) Therefore, on determinism, no agent can be said to freely will their actions (or be morally responsible for them). (from 1, 2 and 3)
 

The AntiChris

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Compatibilism based on ''the Right Stuff'' and the Pereboom rebuttal:

Character-based account:
A decision can be said to be “free” if it is caused by, and not out of character for, a particular agent. This is the view traditionally associated with the likes of David Hume. It is probably too simplistic to be useful. Other compatibilist accounts offer more specific conditions.

Second-order desire account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a first-order desire (e.g. I want some chocolate) that is reflexively endorsed by a second-order desire (e.g. I want to want some chocolate). This is the account associated with Harry Frankfurt (and others).

Reasons-responsive account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a decision-making mechanism that is sufficiently responsive to reasons. In other words, if the mechanism had been presented with a different set of reasons-for-action, it would have produced a different decision (in at least some possible worlds). This is the account associated with Fischer and Ravizza, and comes in several different forms (weak, moderate and strong responsiveness).

Moral reasons-sensitivity account: A decision can be said to be free if it is produced by a decision-making mechanism that is capable of grasping and making use of moral reasons for action. This is the account associated with R. Jay Wallace. It is similar to Fischer and Ravizza’s account, but pays particular attention to the role of moral reasons in decision-making.

As you can see, all of these accounts claim that a certain type of causal sequence has the “right stuff” for free will, irrespective of whether the decisions produced are fully determined by those causal sequences.


To put it more formally, Pereboom adopts the following argument against compatibilism:

(1) If one agent's decision is manipulated by another agent, then that first agent's action is not freely willed.

(2) There is no difference between a manipulation by another agent and causation by a causal factor external to the agent.

(3) On determinism, all of an agent's actions are determined (causally influenced) by at least some factors beyond that agent's control.

(4) Therefore, on determinism, no agent can be said to freely will their actions (or be morally responsible for them). (from 1, 2 and 3)
Pereboom is arguing against what he calls "basic desert moral responsibility" (SEP - Basic Desert moral responsibility).

Similarly Galen Strawson rejects "ultimate moral responsibility" while accepting everyday moral responsibility (Discussed earlier on this forum)

I think you'll find most compatibilists reject basic desert/ultimate moral responsibility but accept everyday moral responsibility.
 

WAB

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Compatibilism based on ''the Right Stuff'' and the Pereboom rebuttal:

Character-based account:
A decision can be said to be “free” if it is caused by, and not out of character for, a particular agent. This is the view traditionally associated with the likes of David Hume. It is probably too simplistic to be useful. Other compatibilist accounts offer more specific conditions.

Second-order desire account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a first-order desire (e.g. I want some chocolate) that is reflexively endorsed by a second-order desire (e.g. I want to want some chocolate). This is the account associated with Harry Frankfurt (and others).

Reasons-responsive account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a decision-making mechanism that is sufficiently responsive to reasons. In other words, if the mechanism had been presented with a different set of reasons-for-action, it would have produced a different decision (in at least some possible worlds). This is the account associated with Fischer and Ravizza, and comes in several different forms (weak, moderate and strong responsiveness).

Moral reasons-sensitivity account: A decision can be said to be free if it is produced by a decision-making mechanism that is capable of grasping and making use of moral reasons for action. This is the account associated with R. Jay Wallace. It is similar to Fischer and Ravizza’s account, but pays particular attention to the role of moral reasons in decision-making.

As you can see, all of these accounts claim that a certain type of causal sequence has the “right stuff” for free will, irrespective of whether the decisions produced are fully determined by those causal sequences.


To put it more formally, Pereboom adopts the following argument against compatibilism:

(1) If one agent's decision is manipulated by another agent, then that first agent's action is not freely willed.

(2) There is no difference between a manipulation by another agent and causation by a causal factor external to the agent.

(3) On determinism, all of an agent's actions are determined (causally influenced) by at least some factors beyond that agent's control.

(4) Therefore, on determinism, no agent can be said to freely will their actions (or be morally responsible for them). (from 1, 2 and 3)
Pereboom is arguing against what he calls "basic desert moral responsibility" (SEP - Basic Desert moral responsibility).

Similarly Galen Strawson rejects "ultimate moral responsibility" while accepting everyday moral responsibility (Discussed earlier on this forum)

I think you'll find most compatibilists reject basic desert/ultimate moral responsibility but accept everyday moral responsibility.


/Bugs Bunny's (not God's! [Cliffs Notes' version] ) voice:

M'eeeeeeeeeeeaah...(chewing noises), woodha bin nice if Summ-body remembid to tell me dat Speaky and faaast was BOTE in dat tread, doc. Coodha saved DIS raabit a lot o time crawwwlin don DAT raabit hole! M'eeeeeeaaaah...(more chewing noises...cue Porky Pig...) M'eeeeeeea... - - -



Screeeeech!
 

Marvin Edwards

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

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

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

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

Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga also has a problem with Libet's interpretation:
Michael Gazzaniga said:
"What difference does it make if brain activity goes on before we are consciously aware of something? Consciousness is its own abstraction on its own time scale and that time scale is current with respect to it. Thus, Libet’s thinking is not correct."
-- Gazzaniga, Michael S.. Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain (p. 141). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

But I like to point out that Libet's subjects were conscious when asked to volunteer to participate in the study (volunteer = choose to do so of their own free will). They were also conscious when the researchers explained to them the apparatus and what they were expected to do with it, usually something simple and mechanical like squeezing their fist or pressing a button when they felt the urge.

Free will does not provide God with a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, then he is also omni-responsible for everything that happens. After all, he could have created Heaven in the first place and put us all in it. On top of that, we have a Hell of eternal torture which cannot be justified. There is nothing we could do in a finite time on Earth that would justify even having our knuckles rapped for all eternity. Eventually, the accumulated punishment would far outweigh the crime. (There is a comment a little later that looks at the problem of what justice is all about).

We do come with a lot of built-in functionality, the hard-coded firmware of autonomic systems and reflexive behavior. But I don't care for the self-deprecation of calling us moist or meat robots, or automatons, or machines. A robot is a machine we build to help us carry out our will. We do not want to create a robot with a will of its own. That's why Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics, to keep their behavior in check.
 

WAB

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

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

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

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

Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga also has a problem with Libet's interpretation:
Michael Gazzaniga said:
"What difference does it make if brain activity goes on before we are consciously aware of something? Consciousness is its own abstraction on its own time scale and that time scale is current with respect to it. Thus, Libet’s thinking is not correct."
-- Gazzaniga, Michael S.. Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain (p. 141). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

But I like to point out that Libet's subjects were conscious when asked to volunteer to participate in the study (volunteer = choose to do so of their own free will). They were also conscious when the researchers explained to them the apparatus and what they were expected to do with it, usually something simple and mechanical like squeezing their fist or pressing a button when they felt the urge.

Free will does not provide God with a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, then he is also omni-responsible for everything that happens. After all, he could have created Heaven in the first place and put us all in it. On top of that, we have a Hell of eternal torture which cannot be justified. There is nothing we could do in a finite time on Earth that would justify even having our knuckles rapped for all eternity. Eventually, the accumulated punishment would far outweigh the crime. (There is a comment a little later that looks at the problem of what justice is all about).

We do come with a lot of built-in functionality, the hard-coded firmware of autonomic systems and reflexive behavior. But I don't care for the self-deprecation of calling us moist or meat robots, or automatons, or machines. A robot is a machine we build to help us carry out our will. We do not want to create a robot with a will of its own. That's why Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics, to keep their behavior in check.

I agree for the most part, with what you have said so far with respect to free will and the compatibilist positions, Martin.

Out of curiosity, are you familiar with this? no doubt you are, as you mentioned on your blog that you've read Spinoza, whose thought *seems to* coincide more with SS than the now predominant model of the BB theory, insofar as I can wrap my noggin around any of it - even despite Bomb#20's simplification of things, for me leastways, I rekkin, upthread:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steady-state_model
 

Marvin Edwards

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Compatibilism based on ''the Right Stuff'' and the Pereboom rebuttal:

Character-based account:
A decision can be said to be “free” if it is caused by, and not out of character for, a particular agent. This is the view traditionally associated with the likes of David Hume. It is probably too simplistic to be useful. Other compatibilist accounts offer more specific conditions.

Second-order desire account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a first-order desire (e.g. I want some chocolate) that is reflexively endorsed by a second-order desire (e.g. I want to want some chocolate). This is the account associated with Harry Frankfurt (and others).

Reasons-responsive account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a decision-making mechanism that is sufficiently responsive to reasons. In other words, if the mechanism had been presented with a different set of reasons-for-action, it would have produced a different decision (in at least some possible worlds). This is the account associated with Fischer and Ravizza, and comes in several different forms (weak, moderate and strong responsiveness).

Moral reasons-sensitivity account: A decision can be said to be free if it is produced by a decision-making mechanism that is capable of grasping and making use of moral reasons for action. This is the account associated with R. Jay Wallace. It is similar to Fischer and Ravizza’s account, but pays particular attention to the role of moral reasons in decision-making.

As you can see, all of these accounts claim that a certain type of causal sequence has the “right stuff” for free will, irrespective of whether the decisions produced are fully determined by those causal sequences.


To put it more formally, Pereboom adopts the following argument against compatibilism:

(1) If one agent's decision is manipulated by another agent, then that first agent's action is not freely willed.

(2) There is no difference between a manipulation by another agent and causation by a causal factor external to the agent.

(3) On determinism, all of an agent's actions are determined (causally influenced) by at least some factors beyond that agent's control.

(4) Therefore, on determinism, no agent can be said to freely will their actions (or be morally responsible for them). (from 1, 2 and 3)

I'm using a simpler resolution to the problem, the resolution that already exists and is currently practiced by most people who have not been infected with the philosophical paradox.

"Free will" is what we call the empirical event where a person decides for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and other forms of undue influence.

That's the operational definition of free will, the one that is actually used in practice when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions. It distinguishes deliberate choices, for one's own interests, from accidents, and from choices imposed upon us by someone (e.g., a guy pointing a gun at us) or something (e.g., a significant mental illness) else. This distinction guides how we go about correcting bad behavior. For example, if it is a deliberate choice by a sane adult to rob a bank to get some cash to spend, then we need to take steps to change how the offender thinks about these things in the future. If it is due to a significant mental illness or brain injury, then we need to apply medical and/or psychiatric treatment. In any case, we may need to secure the offender to protect the public, either in a correctional facility or a secure mental facility.

Determinism, universal causal necessity/inevitability, makes no difference to this process. Both the criminal's behavior and our own behavior in correcting the offender would be causally necessary from any prior point in eternity, just like all other events. Causal necessity/inevitability is basically a background constant found on both sides of every equation, and can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result.

All four of Pereboom's arguments are based upon the mistaken assumption that determinism implies the absence of free will. It doesn't. Reliable causation is not something that anyone can or needs to be free of. Only certain specific causes compromise our free will. They can be grouped under the general category of "undue" or "extraordinary" influence. But reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive nor undue. It is what we all take for granted all the time.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Compatibilism based on ''the Right Stuff'' and the Pereboom rebuttal:

Character-based account:
A decision can be said to be “free” if it is caused by, and not out of character for, a particular agent. This is the view traditionally associated with the likes of David Hume. It is probably too simplistic to be useful. Other compatibilist accounts offer more specific conditions.

Second-order desire account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a first-order desire (e.g. I want some chocolate) that is reflexively endorsed by a second-order desire (e.g. I want to want some chocolate). This is the account associated with Harry Frankfurt (and others).

Reasons-responsive account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a decision-making mechanism that is sufficiently responsive to reasons. In other words, if the mechanism had been presented with a different set of reasons-for-action, it would have produced a different decision (in at least some possible worlds). This is the account associated with Fischer and Ravizza, and comes in several different forms (weak, moderate and strong responsiveness).

Moral reasons-sensitivity account: A decision can be said to be free if it is produced by a decision-making mechanism that is capable of grasping and making use of moral reasons for action. This is the account associated with R. Jay Wallace. It is similar to Fischer and Ravizza’s account, but pays particular attention to the role of moral reasons in decision-making.

As you can see, all of these accounts claim that a certain type of causal sequence has the “right stuff” for free will, irrespective of whether the decisions produced are fully determined by those causal sequences.


To put it more formally, Pereboom adopts the following argument against compatibilism:

(1) If one agent's decision is manipulated by another agent, then that first agent's action is not freely willed.

(2) There is no difference between a manipulation by another agent and causation by a causal factor external to the agent.

(3) On determinism, all of an agent's actions are determined (causally influenced) by at least some factors beyond that agent's control.

(4) Therefore, on determinism, no agent can be said to freely will their actions (or be morally responsible for them). (from 1, 2 and 3)
Pereboom is arguing against what he calls "basic desert moral responsibility" (SEP - Basic Desert moral responsibility).

Similarly Galen Strawson rejects "ultimate moral responsibility" while accepting everyday moral responsibility (Discussed earlier on this forum)

I think you'll find most compatibilists reject basic desert/ultimate moral responsibility but accept everyday moral responsibility.

If we examine this issue of justice a little further, the phrase "just deserts" should expand to what the offender "justly deserves" for his crime. So, what is that?

Well, what is "justice" about? We create a system of justice to protect everyone's rights, the rights that we've agreed to respect and protect for each other, especially by the laws we have created for ourselves through our elected legislatures.

So, the natural goal of a just penalty would include everyone affected. A just penalty would seek to (a) repair the harm to the victim if possible, (b) correct the offender's future behavior if corrigible, (c) secure the offender to protect others from harm until his behavior is corrected, and (d) do no more harm to the offender and his rights than is reasonably required to accomplish (a), (b), and (c).
 

Marvin Edwards

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I agree for the most part, with what you have said so far with respect to free will and the compatibilist positions, Martin.

Out of curiosity, are you familiar with this? no doubt you are, as you mentioned on your blog that you've read Spinoza, whose thought *seems to* coincide more with SS than the now predominant model of the BB theory, insofar as I can wrap my noggin around any of it - even despite Bomb#20's simplification of things, for me leastways, I rekkin, upthread:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steady-state_model

I'm a fan of the Big Bounce theory. A Big Bang expands a condensed ball of matter into a universe. A Big Crunch collapses the universe again into a condensed ball of matter. Rinse and repeat, eternally.
 

The AntiChris

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So, the natural goal of a just penalty would include everyone affected. A just penalty would seek to (a) repair the harm to the victim if possible, (b) correct the offender's future behavior if corrigible, (c) secure the offender to protect others from harm until his behavior is corrected, and (d) do no more harm to the offender and his rights than is reasonably required to accomplish (a), (b), and (c).
Agreed.
 

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

rat, tat, bumfp?

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

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

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

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

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

Late response to above hypothesis.

I guess if you are going to insist on free will you should wrap it in protective armor against any insinuation that it, as a derivative of physical things, isn't subject to physical constraints. The only problem with that is there is no justifiable rational for insisting mindful be real. To suggest it is responsive to cause and effect when even determined things aren't caused is the height of being disingenuous. Inventions all the way down the rabbit hole.
 

Marvin Edwards

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

rat, tat, bumfp?

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

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

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

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

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

Late response to above hypothesis.

I guess if you are going to insist on free will you should wrap it in protective armor against any insinuation that it, as a derivative of physical things, isn't subject to physical constraints. The only problem with that is there is no justifiable rational for insisting mindful be real. To suggest it is responsive to cause and effect when even determined things aren't caused is the height of being disingenuous. Inventions all the way down the rabbit hole.

There are three distinct types of causal mechanisms: physical, biological, and rational. All three are founded upon a physical infrastructure. However, each operates differently, according to unique deterministic rules. Matter organized differently can behave differently. An automobile operates differently from a microwave oven. Oxygen and Hydrogen remain gases until their temperature is a few thousand degrees below zero, but when organized into molecules of H2O they become a liquid that we can drink at room temperature.

Inanimate matter behaves "passively" in response to physical forces. A bowling ball placed on a slope will always roll downhill, its behavior governed by the force of gravity.

Living organisms behave "purposefully" due to biological drives to survive, thrive, and reproduce. A squirrel placed on that same slope may go up, down, or any other direction where he hopes to find his next acorn. While he is still affected by gravity, he is not governed by it.

Intelligent species can behave "deliberately". They have evolved a neurology capable of imagination, evaluation, and choosing. While still affected by physical forces and biological drives, they are no longer governed by them. For example, we get to choose when, where, and how to eat.

We rescue determinism by assuming that each of these three mechanisms is reliable within its own domain, and that all events are reliably caused by some specific combination of physical, biological, and rational causes.

What I hear you saying is that ... well I'm not sure what I am hearing you say. It sounds like you're dismissing the rational causal mechanism when you said, "there is no justifiable rational for insisting mindful be real". And it also sounds like you're dismissing reliable causation when you said, "even determined things aren't caused".

So, I'm trying to respond by explaining the three causal mechanisms and how determinism is still possible even with several distinct causal mechanisms in play.
 

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Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga also has a problem with Libet's interpretation:
Michael Gazzaniga said:
"What difference does it make if brain activity goes on before we are consciously aware of something? Consciousness is its own abstraction on its own time scale and that time scale is current with respect to it. Thus, Libet’s thinking is not correct."
-- Gazzaniga, Michael S.. Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain (p. 141). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

But I like to point out that Libet's subjects were conscious when asked to volunteer to participate in the study (volunteer = choose to do so of their own free will). They were also conscious when the researchers explained to them the apparatus and what they were expected to do with it, usually something simple and mechanical like squeezing their fist or pressing a button when they felt the urge.

I'm still more in tune with Gazzaniga's point, which is that consciousness is a very complex phenomenon. For one thing, there are different degrees of consciousness. One can be more or less conscious. I could list a number of functions that we tend to think of as components of consciousness, but that would probably take us too far away from the topic. Time sense (episodic memory) is only one aspect of it.

Free will does not provide God with a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, then he is also omni-responsible for everything that happens. After all, he could have created Heaven in the first place and put us all in it. On top of that, we have a Hell of eternal torture which cannot be justified. There is nothing we could do in a finite time on Earth that would justify even having our knuckles rapped for all eternity. Eventually, the accumulated punishment would far outweigh the crime. (There is a comment a little later that looks at the problem of what justice is all about).

I don't consider the religious perspective on free will and omniscience to be coherent, so I don't often bother with it except to point out that it is the historical foundation of the free will debate.

We do come with a lot of built-in functionality, the hard-coded firmware of autonomic systems and reflexive behavior. But I don't care for the self-deprecation of calling us moist or meat robots, or automatons, or machines. A robot is a machine we build to help us carry out our will. We do not want to create a robot with a will of its own. That's why Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics, to keep their behavior in check.

"Moist robots" was just a joke term that Scott Adams came up with, but it makes the correct point that animal bodies are essentially machines that, like robots, come equipped with sensors, actuators, and a central processor that integrates them and builds predictive models of its environment. I've seen robots navigate mazes and arrive at complex decisions under uncertain circumstances. They don't reason in quite the same way as humans do, but they can be quite impressive in their ability to make decisions that overcome unpredictable obstacles. As for whether we want to create a robot with a will of its own, we almost certainly do. If we want them to survive and perform tasks that we build them for, that is inevitable. All of Asimov's robots had free will, but his "laws of robotics" aren't really credible. (BTW, if you have Netflix, watch the Russian miniseries "Better than Us". Slickly done, and Asimov's laws play a big role in the plot line.)
 

Marvin Edwards

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Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga also has a problem with Libet's interpretation:


But I like to point out that Libet's subjects were conscious when asked to volunteer to participate in the study (volunteer = choose to do so of their own free will). They were also conscious when the researchers explained to them the apparatus and what they were expected to do with it, usually something simple and mechanical like squeezing their fist or pressing a button when they felt the urge.

I'm still more in tune with Gazzaniga's point, which is that consciousness is a very complex phenomenon. For one thing, there are different degrees of consciousness. One can be more or less conscious. I could list a number of functions that we tend to think of as components of consciousness, but that would probably take us too far away from the topic. Time sense (episodic memory) is only one aspect of it.

Free will does not provide God with a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, then he is also omni-responsible for everything that happens. After all, he could have created Heaven in the first place and put us all in it. On top of that, we have a Hell of eternal torture which cannot be justified. There is nothing we could do in a finite time on Earth that would justify even having our knuckles rapped for all eternity. Eventually, the accumulated punishment would far outweigh the crime. (There is a comment a little later that looks at the problem of what justice is all about).

I don't consider the religious perspective on free will and omniscience to be coherent, so I don't often bother with it except to point out that it is the historical foundation of the free will debate.

We do come with a lot of built-in functionality, the hard-coded firmware of autonomic systems and reflexive behavior. But I don't care for the self-deprecation of calling us moist or meat robots, or automatons, or machines. A robot is a machine we build to help us carry out our will. We do not want to create a robot with a will of its own. That's why Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics, to keep their behavior in check.

"Moist robots" was just a joke term that Scott Adams came up with, but it makes the correct point that animal bodies are essentially machines that, like robots, come equipped with sensors, actuators, and a central processor that integrates them and builds predictive models of its environment. I've seen robots navigate mazes and arrive at complex decisions under uncertain circumstances. They don't reason in quite the same way as humans do, but they can be quite impressive in their ability to make decisions that overcome unpredictable obstacles. As for whether we want to create a robot with a will of its own, we almost certainly do. If we want them to survive and perform tasks that we build them for, that is inevitable. All of Asimov's robots had free will, but his "laws of robotics" aren't really credible. (BTW, if you have Netflix, watch the Russian miniseries "Better than Us". Slickly done, and Asimov's laws play a big role in the plot line.)

Hypnosis would also be a variation of consciousness. The subject is able to hear and to speak to the hypnotist, and may remember the session or forget it as the hypnotist suggests.

Michael Graziano ("Consciousness and the Social Brain") describes hemi-spatial neglect syndrome, where the patient who has an injury to the consciousness area of the brain is only aware of objects on one side of the room. Walk him to the other end and turn him around and it is the other side that he is unaware of. But he doesn't know that anything is missing, because that knowledge requires the missing consciousness. All of the other parts of visual processing still work, and the patient will reflexively bat away an object tossed at him from the missing side, be he cannot explain why.

Biological organisms, like us, come with a kind of built-in "biological will" to survive, thrive, and reproduce. The "deliberate will" doesn't show up until intelligent species appear, with the neurology sufficiently evolved to imagine alternatives, estimate the likely outcomes of our options, and choose for ourselves what we will do.

If we programmed the robot with the same biological will, then he would become a competing species, and I'm afraid we would likely have to destroy them.
 
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Compatibilism based on ''the Right Stuff'' and the Pereboom rebuttal:

Character-based account:
A decision can be said to be “free” if it is caused by, and not out of character for, a particular agent. This is the view traditionally associated with the likes of David Hume. It is probably too simplistic to be useful. Other compatibilist accounts offer more specific conditions.

Second-order desire account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a first-order desire (e.g. I want some chocolate) that is reflexively endorsed by a second-order desire (e.g. I want to want some chocolate). This is the account associated with Harry Frankfurt (and others).

Reasons-responsive account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a decision-making mechanism that is sufficiently responsive to reasons. In other words, if the mechanism had been presented with a different set of reasons-for-action, it would have produced a different decision (in at least some possible worlds). This is the account associated with Fischer and Ravizza, and comes in several different forms (weak, moderate and strong responsiveness).

Moral reasons-sensitivity account: A decision can be said to be free if it is produced by a decision-making mechanism that is capable of grasping and making use of moral reasons for action. This is the account associated with R. Jay Wallace. It is similar to Fischer and Ravizza’s account, but pays particular attention to the role of moral reasons in decision-making.

As you can see, all of these accounts claim that a certain type of causal sequence has the “right stuff” for free will, irrespective of whether the decisions produced are fully determined by those causal sequences.


To put it more formally, Pereboom adopts the following argument against compatibilism:

(1) If one agent's decision is manipulated by another agent, then that first agent's action is not freely willed.

(2) There is no difference between a manipulation by another agent and causation by a causal factor external to the agent.

(3) On determinism, all of an agent's actions are determined (causally influenced) by at least some factors beyond that agent's control.

(4) Therefore, on determinism, no agent can be said to freely will their actions (or be morally responsible for them). (from 1, 2 and 3)
Pereboom is arguing against what he calls "basic desert moral responsibility" (SEP - Basic Desert moral responsibility).

Similarly Galen Strawson rejects "ultimate moral responsibility" while accepting everyday moral responsibility (Discussed earlier on this forum)

I think you'll find most compatibilists reject basic desert/ultimate moral responsibility but accept everyday moral responsibility.

Compatibilists reject the very thing that falsifies the idea of free will; determinism, instead redefining free will in order to bypass the consequences of determinism for freedom. Compatibilists, with their ''Right Suff'' sophistry try redefine the very idea of freedom, the ability to do otherwise in the same circumstances.

Compatibilists are closet Libertarians.
 
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Compatibilism based on ''the Right Stuff'' and the Pereboom rebuttal:

Character-based account:
A decision can be said to be “free” if it is caused by, and not out of character for, a particular agent. This is the view traditionally associated with the likes of David Hume. It is probably too simplistic to be useful. Other compatibilist accounts offer more specific conditions.

Second-order desire account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a first-order desire (e.g. I want some chocolate) that is reflexively endorsed by a second-order desire (e.g. I want to want some chocolate). This is the account associated with Harry Frankfurt (and others).

Reasons-responsive account: A decision can be said to be free if it is caused by a decision-making mechanism that is sufficiently responsive to reasons. In other words, if the mechanism had been presented with a different set of reasons-for-action, it would have produced a different decision (in at least some possible worlds). This is the account associated with Fischer and Ravizza, and comes in several different forms (weak, moderate and strong responsiveness).

Moral reasons-sensitivity account: A decision can be said to be free if it is produced by a decision-making mechanism that is capable of grasping and making use of moral reasons for action. This is the account associated with R. Jay Wallace. It is similar to Fischer and Ravizza’s account, but pays particular attention to the role of moral reasons in decision-making.

As you can see, all of these accounts claim that a certain type of causal sequence has the “right stuff” for free will, irrespective of whether the decisions produced are fully determined by those causal sequences.


To put it more formally, Pereboom adopts the following argument against compatibilism:

(1) If one agent's decision is manipulated by another agent, then that first agent's action is not freely willed.

(2) There is no difference between a manipulation by another agent and causation by a causal factor external to the agent.

(3) On determinism, all of an agent's actions are determined (causally influenced) by at least some factors beyond that agent's control.

(4) Therefore, on determinism, no agent can be said to freely will their actions (or be morally responsible for them). (from 1, 2 and 3)

I'm using a simpler resolution to the problem, the resolution that already exists and is currently practiced by most people who have not been infected with the philosophical paradox.

"Free will" is what we call the empirical event where a person decides for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and other forms of undue influence.

That's the operational definition of free will, the one that is actually used in practice when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions. It distinguishes deliberate choices, for one's own interests, from accidents, and from choices imposed upon us by someone (e.g., a guy pointing a gun at us) or something (e.g., a significant mental illness) else. This distinction guides how we go about correcting bad behavior. For example, if it is a deliberate choice by a sane adult to rob a bank to get some cash to spend, then we need to take steps to change how the offender thinks about these things in the future. If it is due to a significant mental illness or brain injury, then we need to apply medical and/or psychiatric treatment. In any case, we may need to secure the offender to protect the public, either in a correctional facility or a secure mental facility.

Determinism, universal causal necessity/inevitability, makes no difference to this process. Both the criminal's behavior and our own behavior in correcting the offender would be causally necessary from any prior point in eternity, just like all other events. Causal necessity/inevitability is basically a background constant found on both sides of every equation, and can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result.

All four of Pereboom's arguments are based upon the mistaken assumption that determinism implies the absence of free will. It doesn't. Reliable causation is not something that anyone can or needs to be free of. Only certain specific causes compromise our free will. They can be grouped under the general category of "undue" or "extraordinary" influence. But reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive nor undue. It is what we all take for granted all the time.

There is no valid form of compatibilism. Freedom is simply not compatible with determinism. Determinism entails that all objects and events are fixed as a matter of natural law. Will cannot change a thing. Will, unable to alter a single event in the course of events, has no freedom.

Compatibilists carefully formulate what they consider to be the ''Right Stuff'' while conveniently ignoring or dismissing the most fundamental issue of determinism: you don't actually get a choice.

You have the impression of choice. Without choice, events proceed according to natural law, consequently, you have no freedom, you play your part like a actor in a video.

Actors in a video give an impression of freedom, there they are, they make love, argue, ride horses, shoot guns, discuss plans, carry out raids....but cannot deviate from the script.
 

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Freedom is simply not compatible with determinism.

This is the essence of DBT's rejection of any form of free will.

It's an ideological position which is asserted without argument.


I understand what determinism means and what it entails. It is the compatibilist who rejects the consequences of a determined system in order to define ''the Right Stuff'' (as quoted in my post) as an example of free will.
 

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Freedom is simply not compatible with determinism.

This is the essence of DBT's rejection of any form of free will.

It's an ideological position which is asserted without argument.

It's not a rejection without reason. The reasons why compatibilism fails have been described over and over, arguments and source material quoted and cited. To say 'rejected without argument' is patently false.

I provided an example of an argument on this thread yesterday, quoted just above, which proves your claim to be false. That you fail to acknowledge or consider any of the arguments or reasons that have been given doesn't mean compatibilism is being rejected without argument.

It is your comment that is an example of a rejection made without argument or reason.

Compatibilism is an ideology that contradicts determinism, how the brain works, how decisions are made and actions carried out.
 

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Another example:

Two Reasons for Thinking that Free Will is Incompatible with Determinism

''A common first response to determinism is to think that it means that our choices make no difference to anything that happens because earlier causes have pre-determined or “fixed” our entire future (Nahmias 2011). It is easy to think that determinism implies that we have a destiny or fate that we cannot avoid, no matter what we choose or decide and no matter how hard we try.

Man, when running over, frequently without his own knowledge, frequently in spite of himself, the route which nature has marked out for him, resembles a swimmer who is obliged to follow the current that carries him along; he believes himself a free agent because he sometimes consents, sometimes does not consent, to glide with the stream, which, notwithstanding, always hurries him forward. (Holbach 1770 [2002]: 181; see also Wegner 2003)

It is widely agreed, by incompatibilists as well as compatibilists, that this is a mistake. Empirical discoveries about our brain and behavior might tell us that we don’t have as much conscious control as we think we have (Wegner 2003; Libet 1999). (For critique of arguments claiming that recent scientific research has shown that “conscious will is an illusion”, see Mele 2009, some of the essays in Sinnott-Armstrong & Nadel 2011 and Roskies & Nahmias 2016.) And there are worries, arising from certain versions of physicalism, that our mental states don’t have the causal powers we think they have (Kim 1998). But these threats to free will have nothing to do with determinism. Determinism might imply that our choices and efforts have earlier sufficient causes; it does not imply that we don’t make choices or that our choices and efforts are causally impotent. Determinism is consistent with the fact that our deliberation, choices and efforts are part of the causal process whereby our bodies move and cause further effects in the world. And a cause is the kind of thing that “makes a difference” (Sartorio 2005). If I raise my hand because I chose to do so, then it’s true, ceteris paribus, that if my choice had not occurred, my hand-raising would not have occurred.

Putting aside this worry, we may classify arguments for incompatibilism as falling into one of two main varieties:

Arguments for the claim that determinism would make it impossible for us to cause and control our actions in the right kind of way.
Arguments for the claim that determinism would deprive us of the power or ability to do or choose otherwise.''
 

The AntiChris

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Freedom is simply not compatible with determinism.

This is the essence of DBT's rejection of any form of free will.

It's an ideological position which is asserted without argument.

It's not a rejection without reason. The reasons why compatibilism fails have been described over and over, arguments and source material quoted and cited. To say 'rejected without argument' is patently false.

I provided an example of an argument on this thread yesterday, quoted just above, which proves your claim to be false. That you fail to acknowledge or consider any of the arguments or reasons that have been given doesn't mean compatibilism is being rejected without argument.

It is your comment that is an example of a rejection made without argument or reason.

Compatibilism is an ideology that contradicts determinism, how the brain works, how decisions are made and actions carried out.

I was hoping for an argument (or a link to an argument) in support of your assertion that "Freedom is simply not compatible with determinism". Oh well. :shrug:

(Please note: I'm not asking why you think free will is incompatible with determinism, I'm asking why you think freedom is incompatible with determinism)
 
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It's not a rejection without reason. The reasons why compatibilism fails have been described over and over, arguments and source material quoted and cited. To say 'rejected without argument' is patently false.

I provided an example of an argument on this thread yesterday, quoted just above, which proves your claim to be false. That you fail to acknowledge or consider any of the arguments or reasons that have been given doesn't mean compatibilism is being rejected without argument.

It is your comment that is an example of a rejection made without argument or reason.

Compatibilism is an ideology that contradicts determinism, how the brain works, how decisions are made and actions carried out.

I was hoping for an argument (or a link to an argument) in support of your assertion that "Freedom is simply not compatible with determinism". Oh well. :shrug:

(Please note: I'm not asking why you think free will is incompatible with determinism, I'm asking why you think freedom is incompatible with determinism)

Just what I expected. You either don't read what is provided, or can't understand what is said, be it what I say or what any of the articles say.

It seems that nobody but you understands compatibilism, but you can't explain. Your method of attack is what we see here, innuendo and denial.

Try reading what was provided and explain why you believe it fails, be it mine or an article. Just don't repeat your assertion that no argument against compatibilism has been given. It's getting tiresome.
 

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It's not a rejection without reason. The reasons why compatibilism fails have been described over and over, arguments and source material quoted and cited. To say 'rejected without argument' is patently false.

I provided an example of an argument on this thread yesterday, quoted just above, which proves your claim to be false. That you fail to acknowledge or consider any of the arguments or reasons that have been given doesn't mean compatibilism is being rejected without argument.

It is your comment that is an example of a rejection made without argument or reason.

Compatibilism is an ideology that contradicts determinism, how the brain works, how decisions are made and actions carried out.

I was hoping for an argument (or a link to an argument) in support of your assertion that "Freedom is simply not compatible with determinism". Oh well. :shrug:

(Please note: I'm not asking why you think free will is incompatible with determinism, I'm asking why you think freedom is incompatible with determinism)

Just what I expected. You either don't read what is provided, or can't understand what is said, be it what I say or what any of the articles say.

It seems that nobody but you understands compatibilism, but you can't explain. Your method of attack is what we see here, innuendo and denial.

Try reading what was provided and explain why you believe it fails, be it mine or an article. Just don't repeat your assertion that no argument against compatibilism has been given. It's getting tiresome.

Do you make any distinction in your writing between 'freedom' and 'free will'? Or do you view them as synonymous and therefore interchangeable?
 

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Just what I expected. You either don't read what is provided, or can't understand what is said, be it what I say or what any of the articles say.

It seems that nobody but you understands compatibilism, but you can't explain. Your method of attack is what we see here, innuendo and denial.

Try reading what was provided and explain why you believe it fails, be it mine or an article. Just don't repeat your assertion that no argument against compatibilism has been given. It's getting tiresome.

Do you make any distinction in your writing between 'freedom' and 'free will'? Or do you view them as synonymous and therefore interchangeable?

The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.
 

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Just what I expected. You either don't read what is provided, or can't understand what is said, be it what I say or what any of the articles say.

It seems that nobody but you understands compatibilism, but you can't explain. Your method of attack is what we see here, innuendo and denial.

Try reading what was provided and explain why you believe it fails, be it mine or an article. Just don't repeat your assertion that no argument against compatibilism has been given. It's getting tiresome.

Do you make any distinction in your writing between 'freedom' and 'free will'? Or do you view them as synonymous and therefore interchangeable?

The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

Was that a 'yes' or 'no'? :confused:
 

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The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

Was that a 'yes' or 'no'? :confused:

I said interchangable. Nothing that makes a difference.
 

The AntiChris

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The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

Was that a 'yes' or 'no'? :confused:

I said interchangable.
You didn't.

One of the problems here is the lack of precision in the language you use - it makes meaningful exchanges virtually impossible.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Just what I expected. You either don't read what is provided, or can't understand what is said, be it what I say or what any of the articles say.

It seems that nobody but you understands compatibilism, but you can't explain. Your method of attack is what we see here, innuendo and denial.

Try reading what was provided and explain why you believe it fails, be it mine or an article. Just don't repeat your assertion that no argument against compatibilism has been given. It's getting tiresome.

Do you make any distinction in your writing between 'freedom' and 'free will'? Or do you view them as synonymous and therefore interchangeable?

The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

If you view determinism as a "constraint", then your definition of compatibilism is incorrect. The only constraints that are meaningful to free will are those that prevent the person from choosing for themselves what they will do. Determinism does not prevent this. Determinism guarantees that the person will be "that which made the choice". Determinism means that it was causally necessary and inevitable that the person would be free of coercion and undue influence when they made their choice. (Or, if they did not choose of their own free will, then determinism guarantees that their choice was coerced or unduly influenced).
 

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Just what I expected. You either don't read what is provided, or can't understand what is said, be it what I say or what any of the articles say.

It seems that nobody but you understands compatibilism, but you can't explain. Your method of attack is what we see here, innuendo and denial.

Try reading what was provided and explain why you believe it fails, be it mine or an article. Just don't repeat your assertion that no argument against compatibilism has been given. It's getting tiresome.

Do you make any distinction in your writing between 'freedom' and 'free will'? Or do you view them as synonymous and therefore interchangeable?

The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

The question ultimately comes down to how you define will. Is will a supernatural ability that can defy the laws of physics? If so then clearly it does not exist. This is where we're at in the conversation and all agree on this point. If, on the other hand, will is defined as a living thing exerting itself across time to satisfy it's desires then there is a bit more room for it's validity.

IOW, we are not free to defy physics, but we are free to satisfy our desires. It's easy to keep repeating the point that living things are material, but no one is disputing this point. So the real questions surrounding freedom are:

- does the lack of ability to defy the laws of physics negate a living thing as a meaningful agent? If we don't have free will in the traditional sense, what does this actually mean for us?
- where does the sense of freedom in living things come from? If lacking free will implies a lack of freedom, why do people act in ways that make them more free from physical constraints?

This isn't an argument, it's an attempt to move the conversation forward. Are you able to address these two points?
 

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The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

The question ultimately comes down to how you define will. Is will a supernatural ability that can defy the laws of physics? If so then clearly it does not exist. This is where we're at in the conversation and all agree on this point. If, on the other hand, will is defined as a living thing exerting itself across time to satisfy it's desires then there is a bit more room for it's validity.

IOW, we are not free to defy physics, but we are free to satisfy our desires. It's easy to keep repeating the point that living things are material, but no one is disputing this point. So the real questions surrounding freedom are:

- does the lack of ability to defy the laws of physics negate a living thing as a meaningful agent? If we don't have free will in the traditional sense, what does this actually mean for us?
- where does the sense of freedom in living things come from? If lacking free will implies a lack of freedom, why do people act in ways that make them more free from physical constraints?

This isn't an argument, it's an attempt to move the conversation forward. Are you able to address these two points?

May I interject two thoughts?

1) Perhaps we should use the word "restraint" instead of "constraint". The words do not mean exactly the same thing. Commonly, we are restrained when we are prevented or forced from doing what we want; conversely (but only strictly according to official, or generally fixed definitions), we are constrained when we are allowed to do something we might not necessarily want to do, OR, even when we feel compelled or coerced by societal pressures to perform something or include ourselves in an action of which we do not approve, perhaps like attend a dance on religious grounds, or watch an adult film. I think. With respect to legal issues, it's a question of proscription ( forceful, legal restraint) versus prescription (encouraged or allowed; authoritative recommendation).

This is why most laws are proscriptive - in that they tell us what we might want to do but cannot legally do, whereas society and culture can strongly influence (condition, even to a large degree 'determine') our behavior in certain social settings.

Put simply, a person who does not want to wear a mask, or vote, will feel constrained to do these things, as if it were a real obligation or strong duty, even though the letter of the law allows for that decision; that same person may feel obliged to put on a seat belt when they are the only driver of a vehicle, as a matter of social pressure, the desire to conform and reduce threat of personal harm. BUT, the literal seat belt is a physical restraint because it literally limits movement: freedom of the body; but legally and perhaps with respect to morals, it is a constraint: morally needful but not legally binding, if you'll excuse the pun. I may have some things wrong and perhaps someone will correct me.

2) Will is virtually never posited as a concrete, living, presumably conscious entity or as an object having mass, as far as I know. Just as a 'soul' is not usually posited as an actual existent: meaning a material thing, except by silly people -??- anymore than a real spirit, or an actual, teensy little coachman (coachperson - egads...) and executive decision-maker, an administrative mini-being literally shaped like a human, is posited as real. Rather, a humonculous is posited nowadays only figuratively - for semantic or conceptual convenience, or specifically by way of reference and/or allusion to the old, outmoded, defunct, and truly silly original and literal definition of the term. But I don't think anyone truly believes in a humonculous - not anymore! - except for a few outliers (loonies?).

I know of NO thinker past or present who would use the word "will" to describe an actual, concrete entity. Will is absolutely abstract, in conception and in grammatical usage: except when used as a name to refer to a specific person named "Will," or a "will' as in a legal document, etc. If we use the word "courage" or "determination" in place of "will", notice no-one ever uses "the word "courage" or "determination" to refer to a real entity; and "wills" and/or "determinations" are used colorfully or literally, depending on context: a 'will' as a legal document, or an amalgam: a mutable and dynamic collective of strong, determined attitudes: people's 'wills' - though that is rare anymore. And - finally - absolutely no one would be so utterly insane as to say "look at the powerful courages of those people! Let's examine their brains and see if we can locate and dissect them!" Or at least one can be "reasonably" certain? :shrug:

Egads! - words. Words... :words:
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,453
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

The question ultimately comes down to how you define will. Is will a supernatural ability that can defy the laws of physics? If so then clearly it does not exist. This is where we're at in the conversation and all agree on this point. If, on the other hand, will is defined as a living thing exerting itself across time to satisfy it's desires then there is a bit more room for it's validity.

IOW, we are not free to defy physics, but we are free to satisfy our desires. It's easy to keep repeating the point that living things are material, but no one is disputing this point. So the real questions surrounding freedom are:

- does the lack of ability to defy the laws of physics negate a living thing as a meaningful agent? If we don't have free will in the traditional sense, what does this actually mean for us?
- where does the sense of freedom in living things come from? If lacking free will implies a lack of freedom, why do people act in ways that make them more free from physical constraints?

This isn't an argument, it's an attempt to move the conversation forward. Are you able to address these two points?

May I interject two thoughts?

1) Perhaps we should use the word "restraint" instead of "constraint". The words do not mean exactly the same thing. Commonly, we are restrained when we are prevented or forced from doing what we want; conversely (but only strictly according to official, or generally fixed definitions), we are constrained when we are allowed to do something we might not necessarily want to do, OR, even when we feel compelled or coerced by societal pressures to perform something or include ourselves in an action of which we do not approve, perhaps like attend a dance on religious grounds, or watch an adult film. I think. With respect to legal issues, it's a question of proscription ( forceful, legal restraint) versus prescription (encouraged or allowed; authoritative recommendation).

This is why most laws are proscriptive - in that they tell us what we might want to do but cannot legally do, whereas society and culture can strongly influence (condition, even to a large degree 'determine') our behavior in certain social settings.

Put simply, a person who does not want to wear a mask, or vote, will feel constrained to do these things, as if it were a real obligation or strong duty, even though the letter of the law allows for that decision; that same person may feel obliged to put on a seat belt when they are the only driver of a vehicle, as a matter of social pressure, the desire to conform and reduce threat of personal harm. BUT, the literal seat belt is a physical restraint because it literally limits movement: freedom of the body; but legally and perhaps with respect to morals, it is a constraint: morally needful but not legally binding, if you'll excuse the pun. I may have some things wrong and perhaps someone will correct me.

2) Will is virtually never posited as a concrete, living, presumably conscious entity or as an object having mass, as far as I know. Just as a 'soul' is not usually posited as an actual existent: meaning a material thing, except by silly people -??- anymore than a real spirit, or an actual, teensy little coachman (coachperson - egads...) and executive decision-maker, an administrative mini-being literally shaped like a human, is posited as real. Rather, a humonculous is posited nowadays only figuratively - for semantic or conceptual convenience, or specifically by way of reference and/or allusion to the old, outmoded, defunct, and truly silly original and literal definition of the term. But I don't think anyone truly believes in a humonculous - not anymore! - except for a few outliers (loonies?).

I know of NO thinker past or present who would use the word "will" to describe an actual, concrete entity. Will is absolutely abstract, in conception and in grammatical usage: except when used as a name to refer to a specific person named "Will," or a "will' as in a legal document, etc. If we use the word "courage" or "determination" in place of "will", notice no-one ever uses "the word "courage" or "determination" to refer to a real entity; and "wills" and/or "determinations" are used colorfully or literally, depending on context: a 'will' as a legal document, or an amalgam: a mutable and dynamic collective of strong, determined attitudes: people's 'wills' - though that is rare anymore. And - finally - absolutely no one would be so utterly insane as to say "look at the powerful courages of those people! Let's examine their brains and see if we can locate and dissect them!" Or at least one can be "reasonably" certain? :shrug:

Egads! - words. Words... :words:

In other words, a constraint requires you to do something that you may not want to do and a restraint prevents you from doing something that you may want to do. A man with a gun in his hand may compel me to jump rope (constraint) but a medical sedative that makes me unconscious (restraint) would prevent me from doing so.

If I happen to be jumping rope and wish to continue, then the man with the gun does not constrain me, because I am jumping rope of my own free will. So, a constraint is not a constraint, unless it requires me to do something I choose not to do.

If I have decided to undergo a colonoscopy, then the medical sedative does not restrain me from jumping rope, because I have chosen not to jump rope, and have chosen to have the colonoscopy instead. So, a restraint is not a restraint, unless it prevents me from doing what I have chosen to do.

So, the question is whether causal necessity ever presents itself as either a constraint or a restraint. Well, since what I choose to do is always causally necessary, then causal necessity never presents itself as either a constraint or a restraint. What I will inevitably do is always exactly identical to what I would choose to do.

And this is why causal necessity cannot contradict my free choice, because it is the very source of my choice. It is neither a meaningful constraint, nor a meaningful restraint. It's just me being me, choosing what I choose, and doing what I do. You know, that thing we call a freely chosen "I will", or simply "free will".

The result of any choice is usually in the form of an "I will X", where X is what we've chosen to do, as in "I will go to MacDonald's for lunch" or "I will fix a sandwich for lunch", or the many other activities we choose to do.

As to what a "will" is, a person's "will" is their specific intent for the immediate or distant future. An immediate intent would be something like "I will have a shower now". A distant event would be my "last will and testament" where I lay out my intentions for the dispositions of my property after I die.

The chosen intent motivates and directs our subsequent actions. For example, gathering a towel, turning on the water to let it heat up, washing, rinsing, and drying off.

The choosing causally determines the will. The chosen "I will" causally determines what I will do next. What I do next will causally determine other things that will happen next (my water bill will increase), and the causal chain will continue, unbroken, from the beginning to the end of time.
 

Jarhyn

Wizard
Joined
Mar 29, 2010
Messages
12,600
Gender
Androgyne; they/them
Basic Beliefs
Natural Philosophy, Game Theoretic Ethicist
The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

The question ultimately comes down to how you define will. Is will a supernatural ability that can defy the laws of physics? If so then clearly it does not exist. This is where we're at in the conversation and all agree on this point. If, on the other hand, will is defined as a living thing exerting itself across time to satisfy it's desires then there is a bit more room for it's validity.

IOW, we are not free to defy physics, but we are free to satisfy our desires. It's easy to keep repeating the point that living things are material, but no one is disputing this point. So the real questions surrounding freedom are:

- does the lack of ability to defy the laws of physics negate a living thing as a meaningful agent? If we don't have free will in the traditional sense, what does this actually mean for us?
- where does the sense of freedom in living things come from? If lacking free will implies a lack of freedom, why do people act in ways that make them more free from physical constraints?

This isn't an argument, it's an attempt to move the conversation forward. Are you able to address these two points?

May I interject two thoughts?

1) Perhaps we should use the word "restraint" instead of "constraint". The words do not mean exactly the same thing. Commonly, we are restrained when we are prevented or forced from doing what we want; conversely (but only strictly according to official, or generally fixed definitions), we are constrained when we are allowed to do something we might not necessarily want to do, OR, even when we feel compelled or coerced by societal pressures to perform something or include ourselves in an action of which we do not approve, perhaps like attend a dance on religious grounds, or watch an adult film. I think. With respect to legal issues, it's a question of proscription ( forceful, legal restraint) versus prescription (encouraged or allowed; authoritative recommendation).

This is why most laws are proscriptive - in that they tell us what we might want to do but cannot legally do, whereas society and culture can strongly influence (condition, even to a large degree 'determine') our behavior in certain social settings.

Put simply, a person who does not want to wear a mask, or vote, will feel constrained to do these things, as if it were a real obligation or strong duty, even though the letter of the law allows for that decision; that same person may feel obliged to put on a seat belt when they are the only driver of a vehicle, as a matter of social pressure, the desire to conform and reduce threat of personal harm. BUT, the literal seat belt is a physical restraint because it literally limits movement: freedom of the body; but legally and perhaps with respect to morals, it is a constraint: morally needful but not legally binding, if you'll excuse the pun. I may have some things wrong and perhaps someone will correct me.

2) Will is virtually never posited as a concrete, living, presumably conscious entity or as an object having mass, as far as I know. Just as a 'soul' is not usually posited as an actual existent: meaning a material thing, except by silly people -??- anymore than a real spirit, or an actual, teensy little coachman (coachperson - egads...) and executive decision-maker, an administrative mini-being literally shaped like a human, is posited as real. Rather, a humonculous is posited nowadays only figuratively - for semantic or conceptual convenience, or specifically by way of reference and/or allusion to the old, outmoded, defunct, and truly silly original and literal definition of the term. But I don't think anyone truly believes in a humonculous - not anymore! - except for a few outliers (loonies?).

I know of NO thinker past or present who would use the word "will" to describe an actual, concrete entity. Will is absolutely abstract, in conception and in grammatical usage: except when used as a name to refer to a specific person named "Will," or a "will' as in a legal document, etc. If we use the word "courage" or "determination" in place of "will", notice no-one ever uses "the word "courage" or "determination" to refer to a real entity; and "wills" and/or "determinations" are used colorfully or literally, depending on context: a 'will' as a legal document, or an amalgam: a mutable and dynamic collective of strong, determined attitudes: people's 'wills' - though that is rare anymore. And - finally - absolutely no one would be so utterly insane as to say "look at the powerful courages of those people! Let's examine their brains and see if we can locate and dissect them!" Or at least one can be "reasonably" certain? :shrug:

Egads! - words. Words... :words:

So, because I am low key forum stalking you now, I find myself finding this post.

Compatibilism, as the thread discusses it, has been ignored thus far by me. I first came on the concept myself independently of here some months ago, as my best friend had brought it up in a discussion of free will.

I think that free will and determinism is the wrong conversation to have, as much as it is "the wrong conversation" of whether to make a cake or pie first if the question is where to go for the impending tornado.

More, the discussion I have been having lately on the subject with myself and anyone else who wishes to join in is not whether we "have" agency, so much as "what is the shape of our agency".

Rocks have agency. The shape of their agency is electromagnetic and nuclear forces which hold it cohesively. Your agency is much more complicated, and mediated by layers of organized organic chemistry. Instead of falling down and staying put, you fall in different directions instead.

The cause is an observable graph identity. That identity will cut a behavioral shape through time. Some of that shape will be dictated by outside events but some of it is internal cogitation. The entity will operate, and IS an agency, it IS will and determination and all these other things balanced up against each other.

As it is, one day I will hopefully be dissecting my own brain to find the shape of such things so you might rethink...
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,453
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
May I interject two thoughts?

1) Perhaps we should use the word "restraint" instead of "constraint". The words do not mean exactly the same thing. Commonly, we are restrained when we are prevented or forced from doing what we want; conversely (but only strictly according to official, or generally fixed definitions), we are constrained when we are allowed to do something we might not necessarily want to do, OR, even when we feel compelled or coerced by societal pressures to perform something or include ourselves in an action of which we do not approve, perhaps like attend a dance on religious grounds, or watch an adult film. I think. With respect to legal issues, it's a question of proscription ( forceful, legal restraint) versus prescription (encouraged or allowed; authoritative recommendation).

This is why most laws are proscriptive - in that they tell us what we might want to do but cannot legally do, whereas society and culture can strongly influence (condition, even to a large degree 'determine') our behavior in certain social settings.

Put simply, a person who does not want to wear a mask, or vote, will feel constrained to do these things, as if it were a real obligation or strong duty, even though the letter of the law allows for that decision; that same person may feel obliged to put on a seat belt when they are the only driver of a vehicle, as a matter of social pressure, the desire to conform and reduce threat of personal harm. BUT, the literal seat belt is a physical restraint because it literally limits movement: freedom of the body; but legally and perhaps with respect to morals, it is a constraint: morally needful but not legally binding, if you'll excuse the pun. I may have some things wrong and perhaps someone will correct me.

2) Will is virtually never posited as a concrete, living, presumably conscious entity or as an object having mass, as far as I know. Just as a 'soul' is not usually posited as an actual existent: meaning a material thing, except by silly people -??- anymore than a real spirit, or an actual, teensy little coachman (coachperson - egads...) and executive decision-maker, an administrative mini-being literally shaped like a human, is posited as real. Rather, a humonculous is posited nowadays only figuratively - for semantic or conceptual convenience, or specifically by way of reference and/or allusion to the old, outmoded, defunct, and truly silly original and literal definition of the term. But I don't think anyone truly believes in a humonculous - not anymore! - except for a few outliers (loonies?).

I know of NO thinker past or present who would use the word "will" to describe an actual, concrete entity. Will is absolutely abstract, in conception and in grammatical usage: except when used as a name to refer to a specific person named "Will," or a "will' as in a legal document, etc. If we use the word "courage" or "determination" in place of "will", notice no-one ever uses "the word "courage" or "determination" to refer to a real entity; and "wills" and/or "determinations" are used colorfully or literally, depending on context: a 'will' as a legal document, or an amalgam: a mutable and dynamic collective of strong, determined attitudes: people's 'wills' - though that is rare anymore. And - finally - absolutely no one would be so utterly insane as to say "look at the powerful courages of those people! Let's examine their brains and see if we can locate and dissect them!" Or at least one can be "reasonably" certain? :shrug:

Egads! - words. Words... :words:

So, because I am low key forum stalking you now, I find myself finding this post.

Compatibilism, as the thread discusses it, has been ignored thus far by me. I first came on the concept myself independently of here some months ago, as my best friend had brought it up in a discussion of free will.

I think that free will and determinism is the wrong conversation to have, as much as it is "the wrong conversation" of whether to make a cake or pie first if the question is where to go for the impending tornado.

More, the discussion I have been having lately on the subject with myself and anyone else who wishes to join in is not whether we "have" agency, so much as "what is the shape of our agency".

Rocks have agency. The shape of their agency is electromagnetic and nuclear forces which hold it cohesively. Your agency is much more complicated, and mediated by layers of organized organic chemistry. Instead of falling down and staying put, you fall in different directions instead.

The cause is an observable graph identity. That identity will cut a behavioral shape through time. Some of that shape will be dictated by outside events but some of it is internal cogitation. The entity will operate, and IS an agency, it IS will and determination and all these other things balanced up against each other.

As it is, one day I will hopefully be dissecting my own brain to find the shape of such things so you might rethink...

I don't know if you will find this helpful, but this is how I came upon the problem and achieved the simple insight (from my wordpress blog):

After my father died, I spent time in the public library, browsing the philosophy section. I think I was reading something by Baruch Spinoza that introduced the issue of determinism as a threat to free will. I found this troublesome until I had this thought experiment (whether I read it in one of the books or just came up with it myself, I can’t recall).

The idea that my choices were inevitable bothered me, so I considered how I might escape what seemed like an external control. It struck me that all I needed to do was to wait till I had a decision to make, between A and B, and if I felt myself leaning heavily toward A, I would simply choose B instead. So easy! But then it occurred to me that my desire to thwart inevitability had caused B to become the inevitable choice, so I would have to switch back to A again, but then … it was an infinite loop!

No matter which I chose, inevitability would continue to switch to match my choice! Hmm. So, who was controlling the choice, me or inevitability?

Well, the concern that was driving my thought process was my own. Inevitability was not some entity driving this process for its own reasons. And I imagined that if inevitability were such an entity, it would be sitting there in the library laughing at me, because it made me go through these gyrations without doing anything at all, except for me thinking about it.

My choice may be a deterministic event, but it was an event where I was actually the one doing the choosing. And that is what free will is really about: is it me or is someone or something else making the decision. It was always really me.

And since the solution was so simple, I no longer gave it any thought. Then much later, just a few years ago, I ran into some on-line discussions about it, and I wondered why it was still a problem for everyone else, since I had seen through the paradox more than fifty years ago.
 

WAB

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Messages
4,101
Location
Hyperboria
Basic Beliefs
n/a
May I interject two thoughts?

1) Perhaps we should use the word "restraint" instead of "constraint". The words do not mean exactly the same thing. Commonly, we are restrained when we are prevented or forced from doing what we want; conversely (but only strictly according to official, or generally fixed definitions), we are constrained when we are allowed to do something we might not necessarily want to do, OR, even when we feel compelled or coerced by societal pressures to perform something or include ourselves in an action of which we do not approve, perhaps like attend a dance on religious grounds, or watch an adult film. I think. With respect to legal issues, it's a question of proscription ( forceful, legal restraint) versus prescription (encouraged or allowed; authoritative recommendation).

This is why most laws are proscriptive - in that they tell us what we might want to do but cannot legally do, whereas society and culture can strongly influence (condition, even to a large degree 'determine') our behavior in certain social settings.

Put simply, a person who does not want to wear a mask, or vote, will feel constrained to do these things, as if it were a real obligation or strong duty, even though the letter of the law allows for that decision; that same person may feel obliged to put on a seat belt when they are the only driver of a vehicle, as a matter of social pressure, the desire to conform and reduce threat of personal harm. BUT, the literal seat belt is a physical restraint because it literally limits movement: freedom of the body; but legally and perhaps with respect to morals, it is a constraint: morally needful but not legally binding, if you'll excuse the pun. I may have some things wrong and perhaps someone will correct me.

2) Will is virtually never posited as a concrete, living, presumably conscious entity or as an object having mass, as far as I know. Just as a 'soul' is not usually posited as an actual existent: meaning a material thing, except by silly people -??- anymore than a real spirit, or an actual, teensy little coachman (coachperson - egads...) and executive decision-maker, an administrative mini-being literally shaped like a human, is posited as real. Rather, a humonculous is posited nowadays only figuratively - for semantic or conceptual convenience, or specifically by way of reference and/or allusion to the old, outmoded, defunct, and truly silly original and literal definition of the term. But I don't think anyone truly believes in a humonculous - not anymore! - except for a few outliers (loonies?).

I know of NO thinker past or present who would use the word "will" to describe an actual, concrete entity. Will is absolutely abstract, in conception and in grammatical usage: except when used as a name to refer to a specific person named "Will," or a "will' as in a legal document, etc. If we use the word "courage" or "determination" in place of "will", notice no-one ever uses "the word "courage" or "determination" to refer to a real entity; and "wills" and/or "determinations" are used colorfully or literally, depending on context: a 'will' as a legal document, or an amalgam: a mutable and dynamic collective of strong, determined attitudes: people's 'wills' - though that is rare anymore. And - finally - absolutely no one would be so utterly insane as to say "look at the powerful courages of those people! Let's examine their brains and see if we can locate and dissect them!" Or at least one can be "reasonably" certain? :shrug:

Egads! - words. Words... :words:

So, because I am low key forum stalking you now, I find myself finding this post.

Compatibilism, as the thread discusses it, has been ignored thus far by me. I first came on the concept myself independently of here some months ago, as my best friend had brought it up in a discussion of free will.

I think that free will and determinism is the wrong conversation to have, as much as it is "the wrong conversation" of whether to make a cake or pie first if the question is where to go for the impending tornado.

More, the discussion I have been having lately on the subject with myself and anyone else who wishes to join in is not whether we "have" agency, so much as "what is the shape of our agency".

Rocks have agency. The shape of their agency is electromagnetic and nuclear forces which hold it cohesively. Your agency is much more complicated, and mediated by layers of organized organic chemistry. Instead of falling down and staying put, you fall in different directions instead.

The cause is an observable graph identity. That identity will cut a behavioral shape through time. Some of that shape will be dictated by outside events but some of it is internal cogitation. The entity will operate, and IS an agency, it IS will and determination and all these other things balanced up against each other.

As it is, one day I will hopefully be dissecting my own brain to find the shape of such things so you might rethink...

Thanks, Jarhyn, but at the risk of irritating you or anyone - that you could read my posts of late and actually think that I might have to "rethink" something is...ironic at best?

I mean no offense, but it ought to be obvious that if anything I am overthinking everything, especially this issue of liberty versus necessity: which is actually quite simple.

My mind was resolved with this issue of compatibilism in around 2011, and I was at the point of certainty shortly after. All the rest that you see is humor, or art of some kind, confessional - and rigorous self-examination. My chief interest lies in the subject as it affects political and social change, not in the topic as it affects metaphysics or epistemology, though that is of concern; and I see the gradual erosion of any concept of freedom, individuality, rights, self esteem, consciousness, autonomy, even rudimentary consciousness, as a bad omen for a possible, actually realizable future.

Quite a few members of this forum alone have tried to handwave the disciplines of philosophy away, and wish that the "unwashed masses" would quit tampering with philosophy. We must accept the edicts of our intellectual superiors and not disturb the odor of sanctity and decorum at the "adult's table". Coset-classism and a half-assed grasp of egalitarianism mixed with eight-eight brands of moral vacuity, and stubborn "my side is better than your side" bigotry, will cause things to run amok, at least for a span. I believe it's already happening.

Now, for the sake of my sanity, and mental health, this post ends my involvement with this thread, and with the subject of compatibilism.

And rocks do not have agency, as they lack the organic capacity of locomotion, and cannot and will not act unless acted upon.
 

rousseau

Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
12,631
Location
Canada
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Eastern / Pantheist
1) Perhaps we should use the word "restraint" instead of "constraint". The words do not mean exactly the same thing. Commonly, we are restrained when we are prevented or forced from doing what we want; conversely (but only strictly according to official, or generally fixed definitions), we are constrained when we are allowed to do something we might not necessarily want to do, OR, even when we feel compelled or coerced by societal pressures to perform something or include ourselves in an action of which we do not approve, perhaps like attend a dance on religious grounds, or watch an adult film. I think. With respect to legal issues, it's a question of proscription ( forceful, legal restraint) versus prescription (encouraged or allowed; authoritative recommendation).

To me that would imply that the law is put in place specifically to stop you from doing something, but you could put it another way that the law was put in place to free others from you doing that thing. Murder/Theft etc is illegal because we want a society that is free from those things, and arises naturally in any grouping of people. So moral law is a kind of natural constraint in any social grouping.

But either way you use the term the original question surrounding freedom remains: why would people strive to be free from constraints and/or restraints if they are supposedly already unfree vis-a-vis determinism. What exactly is it that's happening there?
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,453
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
1) Perhaps we should use the word "restraint" instead of "constraint". The words do not mean exactly the same thing. Commonly, we are restrained when we are prevented or forced from doing what we want; conversely (but only strictly according to official, or generally fixed definitions), we are constrained when we are allowed to do something we might not necessarily want to do, OR, even when we feel compelled or coerced by societal pressures to perform something or include ourselves in an action of which we do not approve, perhaps like attend a dance on religious grounds, or watch an adult film. I think. With respect to legal issues, it's a question of proscription ( forceful, legal restraint) versus prescription (encouraged or allowed; authoritative recommendation).

To me that would imply that the law is put in place specifically to stop you from doing something, but you could put it another way that the law was put in place to free others from you doing that thing. Murder/Theft etc is illegal because we want a society that is free from those things, and arises naturally in any grouping of people. So moral law is a kind of natural constraint in any social grouping.

But either way you use the term the original question surrounding freedom remains: why would people strive to be free from constraints and/or restraints if they are supposedly already unfree vis-a-vis determinism. What exactly is it that's happening there?

What's happening is a paradox. A paradox is a logical puzzle created by one or more false, but believable suggestions. The result is like a Chinese finger trap, where you stick your fingers in and the more you pull the tighter it gets, so you have to push your fingers together and slowly remove one and then the other.

The false suggestion is that causal necessity is something that we need to be free from, in order to be "truly" free. But reliable cause and effect is required in order to reliably cause any effect. Without reliable causation we would have no freedom to do anything at all. So, the paradox is created by suggesting that we need to be free from something that we must have in order to be free.

And that's why the debate has been interminable. As long as you believe you must be free from reliable cause and effect, you remain trapped.
 

DBT

Contributor
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The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

The question ultimately comes down to how you define will. Is will a supernatural ability that can defy the laws of physics? If so then clearly it does not exist. This is where we're at in the conversation and all agree on this point. If, on the other hand, will is defined as a living thing exerting itself across time to satisfy it's desires then there is a bit more room for it's validity.

IOW, we are not free to defy physics, but we are free to satisfy our desires. It's easy to keep repeating the point that living things are material, but no one is disputing this point. So the real questions surrounding freedom are:

- does the lack of ability to defy the laws of physics negate a living thing as a meaningful agent? If we don't have free will in the traditional sense, what does this actually mean for us?
- where does the sense of freedom in living things come from? If lacking free will implies a lack of freedom, why do people act in ways that make them more free from physical constraints?

This isn't an argument, it's an attempt to move the conversation forward. Are you able to address these two points?

Generally speaking, "will" refers to our drive to act, to think and respond. Free will is generally thought to be our ability to think, make decisions and act upon them when possible.
 

DBT

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The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

If you view determinism as a "constraint", then your definition of compatibilism is incorrect. The only constraints that are meaningful to free will are those that prevent the person from choosing for themselves what they will do. Determinism does not prevent this. Determinism guarantees that the person will be "that which made the choice". Determinism means that it was causally necessary and inevitable that the person would be free of coercion and undue influence when they made their choice. (Or, if they did not choose of their own free will, then determinism guarantees that their choice was coerced or unduly influenced).

"Constraint" in the sense that you can't do otherwise, that the options being presented to you really only have one outcome: the determined course of events. Events that shaped and formed your being and carry you from cradle to grave. A progression of events that procede without impediment or coercion.
 

Jarhyn

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The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

The question ultimately comes down to how you define will. Is will a supernatural ability that can defy the laws of physics? If so then clearly it does not exist. This is where we're at in the conversation and all agree on this point. If, on the other hand, will is defined as a living thing exerting itself across time to satisfy it's desires then there is a bit more room for it's validity.

IOW, we are not free to defy physics, but we are free to satisfy our desires. It's easy to keep repeating the point that living things are material, but no one is disputing this point. So the real questions surrounding freedom are:

- does the lack of ability to defy the laws of physics negate a living thing as a meaningful agent? If we don't have free will in the traditional sense, what does this actually mean for us?
- where does the sense of freedom in living things come from? If lacking free will implies a lack of freedom, why do people act in ways that make them more free from physical constraints?

This isn't an argument, it's an attempt to move the conversation forward. Are you able to address these two points?

Generally speaking, "will" refers to our drive to act, to think and respond. Free will is generally thought to be our ability to think, make decisions and act upon them when possible.

Well, for some of us. As stated, I consider all forms of agency to have some manner of experience in the world, but for some entities that goes through many more layers of abstraction through the material.

There's still a lot of complexity, I expect, to being a rock. Meat just gets a lot more bang for it's baryons.
 

DBT

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I said interchangable.
You didn't.

One of the problems here is the lack of precision in the language you use - it makes meaningful exchanges virtually impossible.

You say all sorts of things that aren't accurate, that I hadn't provided arguments, quotes, links, citations, etc, etc, whereupon I trawled back and produced the material.....Which made no difference, you were not happy. False accusations, no sense of shame. Or just making remarks without reading or considering anything that's said?


If you are unable or unwilling to follow what is being said, or read what is being provided, don't bother. Express your frustration an angst elsewhere. Nothing I can say will help you.
 

Marvin Edwards

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The term Free Will refers to freedom. Specifically, freedom of the will. There is no conflict between "free"" and/or ""freedom."

Compatibilism asserts, basically, that an example of free will occurs when an agent/subject thinks or acts without constraint or coercion.

If you view determinism as a "constraint", then your definition of compatibilism is incorrect. The only constraints that are meaningful to free will are those that prevent the person from choosing for themselves what they will do. Determinism does not prevent this. Determinism guarantees that the person will be "that which made the choice". Determinism means that it was causally necessary and inevitable that the person would be free of coercion and undue influence when they made their choice. (Or, if they did not choose of their own free will, then determinism guarantees that their choice was coerced or unduly influenced).

"Constraint" in the sense that you can't do otherwise, that the options being presented to you really only have one outcome: the determined course of events. Events that shaped and formed your being and carry you from cradle to grave. A progression of events that procede without impediment or coercion.

I think I may have covered already why "could have done otherwise" is always true, while "would have done otherwise" is always false. So, the correct semantic would be " 'constraint' in the sense that you will not do otherwise" (rather than "cannot").

Given that, it is correct that there will be but one single, inevitable future (after all, we have but one past to put it in). And yes, there will be a single outcome all the way through, from event to event to event ad infinitum.

However, among these inevitable events will be the events where you consider multiple possibilities, evaluate your options (things you "can" do, regardless whether you will do them or not), and choose what you will do next. This series of inevitable events is referred to a "a freely chosen will", or simply "free will". Not because they are free from this causal chain of inevitable events, because there is no event outside of reliable causation, but simply because they are free from coercion and undue influence.
 

DBT

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"Constraint" in the sense that you can't do otherwise, that the options being presented to you really only have one outcome: the determined course of events. Events that shaped and formed your being and carry you from cradle to grave. A progression of events that procede without impediment or coercion.

I think I may have covered already why "could have done otherwise" is always true, while "would have done otherwise" is always false. So, the correct semantic would be " 'constraint' in the sense that you will not do otherwise" (rather than "cannot").

As determinism does not allow alternatives, every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature,'' the actor may feel they could have done otherwise, but that feeling is an illusion. So what possibility allows 'could have?' ''Could have'' implies the possibility of an alternative. ''Would have'' seems irrelevant. ''Should have'' is 20/20 hindsight, too late. No going back. It's done.

If you have already explained, I must have missed it (time constraints, busy with other things).
 

DBT

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''What did you have for breakfast this morning? Was it delicious? Was it one to forget? Whatever it was, you didn't choose to have it. You might think you did. But, in actuality, you didn't. And though you may have had the conscious awareness of choice — porridge or toast? coffee or tea? — and remember making an active decision, the fact is you could not have selected any other option. Any decision you think you may have made was simply an illusion.

And, unfortunately, it doesn't just stop at breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or in fact any decision you ever remember making. Everything you've done couldn't possibly have happened any other way, and everything you will do will be decided for you — without any input from your conscious self.''

“The phrase free will”, therefore, as Harris later clarifies, simply “describes what it feels like to identify with certain mental states as they arise in consciousness” — and our ‘freedom’ constitutes nothing more than this illusory feeling of control.

In other words, we are the mere conscious witnesses to decisions that, deep in our brains, have already been made.''

You can change your life, and yourself, through effort and discipline — but you have whatever capacity for effort and discipline you have in this moment, and not a scintilla more (or less). You are either lucky in this department or you aren't — and you cannot make your own luck.

...choices, efforts, intentions, and reasoning influence our behavior — but they are themselves part of a chain of causes that precede conscious awareness and over which we exert no ultimate control. My choices matter — and there are paths toward making wiser ones — but I cannot choose what I choose.

''This conclusion — that our choices matter but that we cannot choose them — has profound consequences for our ideas of personal and moral responsibility — not to mention blame, justice, success, failure, and the entirety of our social, societal, and legal systems.''
 

Marvin Edwards

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"Constraint" in the sense that you can't do otherwise, that the options being presented to you really only have one outcome: the determined course of events. Events that shaped and formed your being and carry you from cradle to grave. A progression of events that procede without impediment or coercion.

I think I may have covered already why "could have done otherwise" is always true, while "would have done otherwise" is always false. So, the correct semantic would be " 'constraint' in the sense that you will not do otherwise" (rather than "cannot").

As determinism does not allow alternatives, every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature,'' the actor may feel they could have done otherwise, but that feeling is an illusion. So what possibility allows 'could have?' ''Could have'' implies the possibility of an alternative. ''Would have'' seems irrelevant. ''Should have'' is 20/20 hindsight, too late. No going back. It's done.

If you have already explained, I must have missed it (time constraints, busy with other things).

Yes. Could have definitely implies the possibility of alternatives. Remember how even the thoughts going through our heads are each causally necessary events? Well, possibilities are thoughts. They are thoughts about what we could do, or about things that could happen. And whenever a choosing operation appears in the causal chain, there will always be at least two possibilities, two things that we can choose from, two alternatives. All of these thoughts, in a logical sequence, are necessary for a choosing operation to take place. These tokens are part of the machinery of choosing. And they are part of the machinery we use to deal with matters of uncertainty.

You know that thought experiment where we roll back the clock and replay events from the same point in time and always get the same result? Well, if we roll back the clock, to the beginning of the choosing operation, we return to the context of uncertainty: Will I have the apple or will I have the banana? I don't know. Let me think about it. There are apples and bananas in the fruit bowl. So, "I can have an apple" is true and "I can have a banana" is equally true.

After some consideration, I decide "I will have an apple". So I eat the apple. Someone asks, "Could you have eaten something else?", "Yes, I could have eaten a banana". The statement "I had an apple" is true. The statement "I could have had a banana" is equally true.

No matter how many times we roll the clock back, we will always return to the state of uncertainty, where I have two real possibilities, two real alternatives, two real options, two distinct things that I can do. And if "I can have a banana" was ever true (and it was, by logical necessity), then "I could have had a banana" will also be true later. That is how these words work.

And if someone tries to tell me that I could not have had a banana, I will tell them they're crazy. On the other hand, if they simply told me that, under the same circumstances, that I would not choose the banana, then I would agree. After all, I had good reasons for choosing the apple, so why would I choose differently, even though I could.

Whenever you use one of the tokens that evolved specifically to deal with matters of uncertainty, then you throw us back into the context of uncertainty. And it is in that context that we find multiple possibilities, multiple alternatives, and many different things that we can choose to do.
 

Marvin Edwards

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''What did you have for breakfast this morning? Was it delicious? Was it one to forget? Whatever it was, you didn't choose to have it. You might think you did. But, in actuality, you didn't. And though you may have had the conscious awareness of choice — porridge or toast? coffee or tea? — and remember making an active decision, the fact is you could not have selected any other option. Any decision you think you may have made was simply an illusion.

And, unfortunately, it doesn't just stop at breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or in fact any decision you ever remember making. Everything you've done couldn't possibly have happened any other way, and everything you will do will be decided for you — without any input from your conscious self.''

“The phrase free will”, therefore, as Harris later clarifies, simply “describes what it feels like to identify with certain mental states as they arise in consciousness” — and our ‘freedom’ constitutes nothing more than this illusory feeling of control.

In other words, we are the mere conscious witnesses to decisions that, deep in our brains, have already been made.''

You can change your life, and yourself, through effort and discipline — but you have whatever capacity for effort and discipline you have in this moment, and not a scintilla more (or less). You are either lucky in this department or you aren't — and you cannot make your own luck.

...choices, efforts, intentions, and reasoning influence our behavior — but they are themselves part of a chain of causes that precede conscious awareness and over which we exert no ultimate control. My choices matter — and there are paths toward making wiser ones — but I cannot choose what I choose.

''This conclusion — that our choices matter but that we cannot choose them — has profound consequences for our ideas of personal and moral responsibility — not to mention blame, justice, success, failure, and the entirety of our social, societal, and legal systems.''

I think the key here is that Harris is forced to admit that it is in fact our own brain that is making the decision. And the decision is not too "deep" to rise to conscious awareness. For a complex decision, like buying a new car, or deciding where to vacation, a person may even take out a pencil and paper to make a list of pros and cons, or the costs and benefits. And there it is, the process of deciding, right there in the open for all to see.

And it's not just personal. Attend a Parent Teacher Association meeting. They may brainstorm to generate a list of problems, assign weighted priorities, and make a list of which tasks to take on first. Or attend a legislature, where they hear witnesses on both sides of an issue, have discussions and decide by taking a vote.

You can also find a number of books on Amazon, like "Decision Making Essentials", "Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets", "The Art of Strategic Decision Making", and on and on.

And what would we do if our "deep" brain decided to rob a bank? Is it able to carry out such a complex task without conscious review? I think not.

So, the evidence that decision making is a mysterious unconscious process that is beyond our understanding or control, is objectively false.

We know that decisions are made and we know who is making them. We are.

The fact that every event within the choosing process is causally necessary from any prior point in time is certainly a logical truth. But it is not a meaningful or a relevant truth. The fact of universal causal necessity/inevitability is the most trivial fact in the whole universe. It makes itself irrelevant by its own ubiquity. It is useless when making practical decisions, because it can tell us only one thing: Whatever you do decide will be inevitable from any prior point in eternity. But Doris Day already told us that when she sang "Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be".

So, the intelligent brain simply acknowledges it, and then ignores it. But hard determinists keeps bringing it up inappropriately, and it is very annoying.
 

DBT

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I think the key here is that Harris is forced to admit that it is in fact our own brain that is making the decision. And the decision is not too "deep" to rise to conscious awareness. For a complex decision, like buying a new car, or deciding where to vacation, a person may even take out a pencil and paper to make a list of pros and cons, or the costs and benefits. And there it is, the process of deciding, right there in the open for all to see.


Of course it's the brain that makes decisions. Nobody is forced to admit it. It's not only not a problem, but a key point in the argument against free will - that it's the unconscious of the brain that acquires, processes and represents [some] information in conscious form....that there is no choice in that process: the brain does what it does according to evolutionary role: information in, output out.


Electrical stimulation and the illusion of free will:

''When it comes to the human brain, even the simplest of acts can be counter-intuitive and deceptively complicated. For example, try stretching your arm.

Nerves in the limb send messages back to your brain, but the subjective experience you have of stretching isn't due to these signals. The feeling that you willed your arm into motion, and the realisation that you moved it at all, are both the result of an area at the back of your brain called the posterior parietal cortex. This region helped to produce the intention to move, and predicted what the movement would feel like, all before you twitched a single muscle.

Michel Desmurget and a team of French neuroscientists arrived at this conclusion by stimulating the brains of seven people with electrodes, while they underwent brain surgery under local anaesthetic. When Desmurget stimulated the parietal cortex, the patients felt a strong desire to move their arms, hands, feet or lips, although they never actually did. Stronger currents cast a powerful illusion, convincing the patients that they had actually moved, even though recordings of electrical activity in their muscles said otherwise.

But when Desmurget stimulated a different region - the premotor cortex - he found the opposite effect. The patients moved their hands, arms or mouths without realising it. One of them flexed his left wrist, fingers and elbow and rotated his forearm, but was completely unaware of it. When his surgeons asked if he felt anything, he said no. Higher currents evoked stronger movements, but still the patients remained blissfully unaware that their limbs and lips were budging.''
 

The AntiChris

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I said interchangable.
You didn't.

One of the problems here is the lack of precision in the language you use - it makes meaningful exchanges virtually impossible.
You say all sorts of things that aren't accurate, that I hadn't provided arguments, quotes, links, citations, etc, etc, whereupon I trawled back and produced the material.....Which made no difference, you were not happy. False accusations, no sense of shame. Or just making remarks without reading or considering anything that's said?

If you are unable or unwilling to follow what is being said, or read what is being provided, don't bother. Express your frustration an angst elsewhere. Nothing I can say will help you.
You didn't say "interchangable". If you insist that I'm making a "false accusation", the onus is on you to provide evidence (a quote).

Your personal attacks are an unnecessary distraction..
 

Jarhyn

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''What did you have for breakfast this morning? Was it delicious? Was it one to forget? Whatever it was, you didn't choose to have it. You might think you did. But, in actuality, you didn't. And though you may have had the conscious awareness of choice — porridge or toast? coffee or tea? — and remember making an active decision, the fact is you could not have selected any other option. Any decision you think you may have made was simply an illusion.

And, unfortunately, it doesn't just stop at breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or in fact any decision you ever remember making. Everything you've done couldn't possibly have happened any other way, and everything you will do will be decided for you — without any input from your conscious self.''

“The phrase free will”, therefore, as Harris later clarifies, simply “describes what it feels like to identify with certain mental states as they arise in consciousness” — and our ‘freedom’ constitutes nothing more than this illusory feeling of control.

In other words, we are the mere conscious witnesses to decisions that, deep in our brains, have already been made.''

You can change your life, and yourself, through effort and discipline — but you have whatever capacity for effort and discipline you have in this moment, and not a scintilla more (or less). You are either lucky in this department or you aren't — and you cannot make your own luck.

...choices, efforts, intentions, and reasoning influence our behavior — but they are themselves part of a chain of causes that precede conscious awareness and over which we exert no ultimate control. My choices matter — and there are paths toward making wiser ones — but I cannot choose what I choose.

''This conclusion — that our choices matter but that we cannot choose them — has profound consequences for our ideas of personal and moral responsibility — not to mention blame, justice, success, failure, and the entirety of our social, societal, and legal systems.''

I think the key here is that Harris is forced to admit that it is in fact our own brain that is making the decision. And the decision is not too "deep" to rise to conscious awareness. For a complex decision, like buying a new car, or deciding where to vacation, a person may even take out a pencil and paper to make a list of pros and cons, or the costs and benefits. And there it is, the process of deciding, right there in the open for all to see.

And it's not just personal. Attend a Parent Teacher Association meeting. They may brainstorm to generate a list of problems, assign weighted priorities, and make a list of which tasks to take on first. Or attend a legislature, where they hear witnesses on both sides of an issue, have discussions and decide by taking a vote.

You can also find a number of books on Amazon, like "Decision Making Essentials", "Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets", "The Art of Strategic Decision Making", and on and on.

And what would we do if our "deep" brain decided to rob a bank? Is it able to carry out such a complex task without conscious review? I think not.

So, the evidence that decision making is a mysterious unconscious process that is beyond our understanding or control, is objectively false.

We know that decisions are made and we know who is making them. We are.

The fact that every event within the choosing process is causally necessary from any prior point in time is certainly a logical truth. But it is not a meaningful or a relevant truth. The fact of universal causal necessity/inevitability is the most trivial fact in the whole universe. It makes itself irrelevant by its own ubiquity. It is useless when making practical decisions, because it can tell us only one thing: Whatever you do decide will be inevitable from any prior point in eternity. But Doris Day already told us that when she sang "Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be".

So, the intelligent brain simply acknowledges it, and then ignores it. But hard determinists keeps bringing it up inappropriately, and it is very annoying.

It is sno annoying someone wrote a book specifically to lampoon it. That book was titled "Candidae" and the author is dead now hundreds of years.
 
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