• Welcome to the new Internet Infidels Discussion Board, formerly Talk Freethought.

Compatibilism: What's that About?

Emily Lake

Might be a replicant
Joined
Jul 7, 2014
Messages
4,235
Location
It's a desert out there
Gender
Agenderist
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
If you become an artificial intelligence researcher (as I have been), then you learn a lot about nondeterministic behavior in chaotic environments. The philosophical question that I am injecting into this free will discussion is the following: Can a learning robot have "free will"? One's willingness to answer that question affirmatively depends on how far one is willing to extend the concept to cover an entity whose every action is predetermined, including its ability to learn from experience and adapt to new situations. At some point, everything about the behavior of that robot can be predetermined, but it can make choices and learn to change its behavior when faced with similar obstacles in the future. The robot doesn't know anything more about its future than human beings and other biological organisms. However, whether we say that the robot has "free will" depends on whether it is able to learn and adapt to changing circumstances. What makes its will "free" is that it is free to change its future behavior. In effect, it can regret past behavior, but not change it. It can try to be a better robot in the future. In theory, a robot could even have predetermined routines for improving its learning processes--just as humans can learn to be better learners.

In my view, an AI can have agency. And given a sufficiently large number of inputs to an decision matrix, the outcome of a decision made by an AI can become imperfectly predictable and stochastic in nature.

If a robot has the programming to allow it to learn, and to adapt to changing externalities, and to form preferences (or to reprioritize goals perhaps), and the flexibility to form extrapolative hypotheses and test them... then there's no reason to believe that a robot cannot have free will in the sense that I understand it. I think it's entirely plausible that we will develop AIs that have will.

I think it might be a lot less plausible that we develop AIs that have curiosity, imagination, and emotions. I don't think it's impossible, but I think that aspect of sapience is much more complex than volition.

We are largely in agreement, but I would quibble with your last paragraph. Imagination is necessary in us "robots", because that is the workspace we use to predict future outcomes. It is no accident that natural languages often express the future tense in ways that are very different. For example, English has past and present tense inflection on verbs, but it expresses future tense with a separate auxiliary verb--"shall" or "will". Imaginary scenarios are also expressed with modals. For example, "should" is technically a past tense inflection of "shall". Some languages even seem to lack a special tense marker for future events. Curiosity and emotions also play a functional role in decision-making, since they are factors that motivate and determine the emergence of priorities in making choices. Even robots have to be motivated to recharge their energy sources (i.e. "eat"), discard waste (i.e. "dead batteries"), and repair themselves (i.e. get "fresh batteries"). So it is natural for roboticists to build those factors into their creations as they perfect them. Right now, we are at the stage where humans still have to change the robots' diapers, but it will be necessary for them to be self-sufficient if we keep sending them out to explore moons and planets.

I was more trying to say that I think programming imagination and emotions in a robot seems like it would be more complex than an adaptive learning algorithm. I think we either already have or are right on the cusp of adaptive learning algorithms already. The intuition/irrational/imagination element I don't think we're close to at the moment.

Then again, I also think that agency and intelligence are very different things.
 

rousseau

Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
12,522
The 'Quantitative' Argument for a Non-Contradictory Acceptance of Agency

This argument starts with a challenge to the fundamental axiom of determinism - that existence is in fact deterministic. To be deterministic, we must have a system in which for any given input or set of inputs, there is exactly and only one possible result. It is best represented as a mathematical formula that falls into the cluster of "n to 1" formulae.

I submit that existence is NOT deterministic, but is rather stochastic. I posit that for any set of inputs, it is possible for more than one result to occur, with each result having a different likelihood.

The premise for a deterministic existence inherently assumes that as long as we have all of the information, we can perfectly predict the outcome of any path of events. This then, requires that it is possible to acquire all information, which subsequently implies that all information is knowable in the first place. And we know that the last clause is false. Not all things are knowable. Some things are unknowable. At a very base minimum, we have quantum effects where it is impossible to simultaneously know a particle's position and velocity at the same time.

I think that unknowability extends to things much larger than quantum particles though. Let's take a simple example: how many leaves did my tree have on it last week? While we might know that an answer exists from a mathematical and philosophical perspective, we cannot actually know that answer. The number of leaves on my tree is obviously a countable number less than infinity. It's a finite number. But what is that number? Nobody knows. And nobody *can* know. Nobody counted the leaves on my tree last week. And even if someone were to have begun counting the number of leaves on my tree last week, within the time span that it would take for them to count the leaves, some leaves would have fallen or some new leaves would have budded. By the time they finished counting, their count would be inaccurate.

We could, however, make a very good estimate of the number of leaves on my tree last week. We would need to know the average number of leaves in a given volume, and whether there were temperature changes that would have caused more or fewer leaves a week ago, and the rough volume of the leaf-bearing structures on the tree. With that, we can get to an estimate that is probably good enough for most purposes.

But it wouldn't be exact. There would still remain an error bound around that estimate. We might estimate 10,000 leaves... but we would have to acknowledge that it might be anywhere between 7,000 and 13,000 for example.

I must conclude that existence is not deterministic, it is stochastic. The set of inputs to any given operation is always incomplete, and is frequently massively incomplete. It is not possible to know every single thing required in order to guarantee and exact singular outcome as the only possibility.

"Okay" you might say, "But that's just randomness, that still doesn't endorse agency". Well, let's move on to that next.

As I said in my prior post, agency is then the ability to apply a pattern to externalities, make a prediction about the likely outcome, and then react to that prediction in order to influence events. Let's walk through the components of this definition.

The ability to find a pattern is inherently dependent on the ability to take in and store external information. In order to have agency of any level, the object must first have a means of perception, a way of observing and interacting with the world around it. What do we mean by perception? Perception requires that the object be able to process and react to external stimuli. The security light at my front door can do that - it senses movement and turns on when certain conditions are met. It processes the external stimuli of movement and reacts by flipping a switch to on. A rock cannot do any of that, it cannot process external stimuli, and it cannot react to that stimuli. There is no coding in a rock that allows it to sort and respond to conditional stimuli, thus a rock cannot have agency.

Being able to perceive externalities is not, however, sufficient by itself. The object must also be able to store salient elements of those perceptions, it must have a memory of at least some capacity. That storage capacity is integral to the ability to determine a pattern. In order to find a pattern, the object must be able to compare the elements of one event to the elements of another event and find commonalities. If there is no means of storage, then no pattern can be found. My porch light doesn't have any storage. All if can do is react, which it does quite nicely. I could attach it to some recording software, which would allow it to record what set it off. But alas, my security light would still not qualify as an agent: it has no means to compare independent recordings against one another to determine a pattern.

The pattern recognition element is necessary in order to make a prediction. And with some of our more advanced technologies, we're getting quite good with pattern recognition. Marketing certainly has done its fair share of pattern recognition. Every time you get a recommendation based on your past Netflix viewing habits, that is pattern recognition in action. Every time Amazon says "other customers also bought this... " they're employing pattern recognition. Amazon also has the means to perceive and store external information; the software observes the purchases that you make as well as other items that you browsed before purchase, and it stores metadata about your purchasing history. That's how it identifies patterns in the first place.

Does Amazon make predictions about whether or not you'll purchase what they suggest? This is where things get fuzzy, and I don't really know for certain. I'm sure that Amazon calculates probabilities with respect to related purchases, and applies those probabilities to prioritize what to suggest. I'm not sure whether they do that in an aggregate fashion or in an individual fashion with probabilities curated for each individual. I think we have a lot of technology that is right at this edge, identifying patterns and making some level of prediction.

There is some gray area between finding a pattern, employing a pattern predictively, and proactively taking action to influence an outcome. There are some solid arguments that could be made that curated advertising has agency - especially if it's dynamic and based on a learning algorithm.

There's a difference between agency and intelligence, which I won't go into here. I think a good argument could be made that many things have agency to varying degrees: Ad software might have very limited agency, as the number of criteria used to determine a pattern, and the number of actions available to make suggestions to influence behavior are necessarily very limited.

On the other hand, I would say that by my argument, my cat certainly has agency, and a decent bit of it as well. Agency is necessary for training, and the more complex the conditioning the more agency is required. Sometimes that training isn't even intentional. For example, my cat like freeze dried salmon treats. They are her favorite, and given the chance she will (and has) gutted the bag and eaten an entire 6 oz of them. For freeze died food, 6 oz is a lot, I still don't know how her stomach didn't explode. Anyway, we play with her when we give her treats. Sometimes we toss them down the hall and she runs after them and chases them. Sometimes she sits at the end of the hall and plays "goalie" with them. Sometimes we give them to her outside in the courtyard. Sometimes we hold them in our hand and she eats them there with her fuzzy little muzzle tickling our fingers. Sometimes we hold them above her so she has to stand on her hind legs like a meerkat in order to get them.

That's all very cute, but lets bring this back around to agency. My cat has learned that these behaviors are associated with treats. She perceived the smell and taste of treats, and she perceived the times of day and the order of routines involved. She knows that after I get up in the morning, there will be treats. Furthermore, she knows that the treats will be given after I have filled her food and water bowl, and after I have filled the coffee pot, and while the coffee is brewing. She anticipates the treats: when I fill the coffee pot and she hears it start, she stands up, because she has identified the pattern than almost always results in treats. Sometimes she's wrong - sometimes I don't have coffee, I have tea. Sometimes she doesn't get treats if she's been constipated recently. But she predicts when those treats will occur.

And beyond that, she engages in proactive behavior to influence the game for treats each day. Sometimes she will go to the door and quite clearly ask to have her treats outside. Sometimes she will run to the end of the hall and indicate that I should toss the treats to her. Sometimes she sits and the front of the hall and looks at me over her shoulder so I know she wants me to throw them so she can chase. Sometimes she meerkats for them without me prompting her at all. She has the agency to indicate what she wants and uses that agency to influence my behavior toward her desired outcome.

That's a lot about agency in here. But what, you may ask, does it have to do with a stochastic existence?

Well, here it is in a nutshell. Given that existence is stochastic, any predictions are probabilistic in nature. Sometimes the probability of a specific outcome is so close to 1.0 as to be guaranteed. Sometimes it's a true coin flip. Most of the time, the number of possible outcomes are bounded; bounded by physical constraints, bounded by time or resources, or in the case of agency, bounded by what the agent can imagine as outcomes. The agent taking action will also be bounded by their perceptive capacity, memory capacity, facility with pattern recognition, and their extrapolative intelligence.

The set of inputs is necessarily limited. Some of the information that may affect an outcome is unknowable. The processes available to an agent are limited. And within all of that there does exist at least some element of pure randomness. As a result, while the outcome may in many cases be highly predictable, it is NOT deterministically knowable.

Sufficiently complex processes have agency, and given a set of inputs that is incomplete and contains some unknowable unknowns, the result of any given decision cannot be perfectly predicted.

If we look up the definition of 'agent' we get: something that produces or is capable of producing an effect

Linguistically, it sounds like the term is a short-hand to say: this [object/thing/being] should be given real consideration because it could have an effect on our own well-being. But beyond that it's really a generalization and not a binary; there is no clear delineation, or sharp boundary on when something does or does not have agency. Point being (throwing back to my earlier post) that the phrase agency is just a convenient linguistic construct, and doesn't actually tell us anything specific about what we're describing.

IMO, this is important because discussing ipso facto agency doesn't really get us closer to the definition, meaning, or objective reality of a human life. But, on the other hand, you've already described a number of other properties of human beings: pattern recognition, memory, stochastic existence etc. To me it's actually knowing these qualities which is important to understanding human life and experience. It doesn't really matter whether they imply free will or agency, or anything else, because these properties describe what we actually are objectively. Ultimately, they can't prove that we have free will or agency because these two terms are just linguistic constructs with no concrete definition. We're free to call people agents if we want to, but that doesn't really tell us anything meaningful about their lived experience. So again, being stochastic, having pattern recognition etc is what's actually important to understanding our lived experience, rather than obsessing over whether we are/are not free, or are/are not agents.

Further, if we're looking at the concept of freedom I think it's also crucial to include the environment in which we live and survive. To me one of the very tangible constraints on our freedom isn't how we function, but how we can't escape our own culture, biological needs, and moral law. In a very real way we aren't free not because of the implications of physical law, but because culture and biology limits the range of our behaviour in a very real way.
 

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
Bugs is slang for insect interference in older hardware.
I'd rather not go into who said what to coin the terms.
A flaw in a machine from operator error at any level of analysis has never been the sole source of error when the expected or desired outcome is not achieved by the participants or observers.
I maybe alone here Stochastic is not random, that might be due to the difference between formal training and formal education.. blah

I hope that I don't offend, but is English not your primary language?

I have a very difficult time understanding your contributions.

Otherwise, yes, you are correct that stochastic isn't 'random', it's non-deterministic, it's probabilistic.
Enligh is what I'm using. Explain what you will without determinism.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
I walk into a restaurant, sit at a table, and browse the menu. I know that I actually have a choice, because I'm staring at a literal menu of choices. I consider items that catch my fancy, and choose the one that I estimate will best satisfy both my tastes and my dietary objectives. All these events occurred in objective reality. I was not imagining them.

It is all performed before you are aware of what you are looking at, feeling, considering or thinking. The selection is made (the only possible action in that moment in time), milliseconds prior to it being brought to conscious awareness.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
Compatibilism does.

It really doesn't.

After all the painstaking explanations from Marvin (and many others over the years) you still fundamentally misunderstand compatibilism.

Some compatibilists clearly want it both ways, as I have pointed out numerous times and supported by independent accounts, citations, etc. I know what the given definition of compatibilism is, yet Marvin has suggested the possibility of choice, regulative control and doing otherwise.

You must be skimming.
 

Jarhyn

Wizard
Joined
Mar 29, 2010
Messages
12,472
Gender
Androgyne; they/them
Basic Beliefs
Natural Philosophy, Game Theoretic Ethicist
Compatibilism does.

It really doesn't.

After all the painstaking explanations from Marvin (and many others over the years) you still fundamentally misunderstand compatibilism.

Some compatibilists clearly want it both ways, as I have pointed out numerous times and supported by independent accounts, citations, etc. I know what the given definition of compatibilism is, yet Marvin has suggested the possibility of choice, regulative control and doing otherwise.

You must be skimming.

Well, I don't disagree with most of the fundamental ideas that Marvin presents. I've been running fast and hard and loose, hacking my way through philosophy because I don't owe anyone here anything but to say what I say freely: I know I am wrong, but am attempting to surround my wrongness from every direction I can find. Perhaps I will isolate "wrongness" itself. Or perhaps someone else will.

"Free will" as a useful concept, starts at a certain point, but determinism is not anywhere near that point. Determinism and agency have to filter all the way through self modification strategies before "self" and "goal" begin to interact with "other" in a way where ideas like "coercion" and "freedom" take shape.

It's like math. Set theory looks a lot different than "1+1" at it's very base. Ethics and determinism and philosophy of agency is very different at this level too. In many ways it is dangerous to discuss perfect translation and transcription before one understands the fundamental value of social through "abstract approximation" (I don't have a better term?)

Anyway, if anyone wants to discuss Demonology of Faeries just spin up a thread and ping me in PM.

I find that a lot more fun than discussing trans bullshit or even this, though this discussion has helped clarify and generalize certain frameworks even for myself.

To DBT: Marvin has suggested, perhaps, no different than I say above, that somewhere walking high above the set theory of agency, there is an abstraction which demands some discussion of coercion, and freedom from it being something to coerce of the world around us.

This is compatibilism: not that free will and determinism are a dichotomous system but that free will approximates or perhaps even offers a simplification when driving the abstract principles from the base ones.

My participation here was for the sake of driving away such special constructs at the base level of the discussion, to be general.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
No moment in time has special properties over the one before or the one after.

(Actually, the key properties of "a moment in time" is where everything is and what everything is doing, at that moment. In the next moment, the interaction of things in the previous moment will causally determine where they will be and what they will be doing in this new moment. But that's another topic).


That is essentially what I said. The point being, that it is the information conditions in the next moment that enables (determines) an action that was not available to you a moment ago. Which is not a matter of choice, or something that you willed, just a determined web of events unfolding.

Within a determined system, you are simply a part of its unfolding progression of events over time (unless we have block time, which is another topic)

And, at the end of choosing, we will still say "You were able to choose A and you were able to choose B, but you decided to choose A, even though you could have chosen B".


That is the illusion of limited perspective. We talk like that, and from our limited perspective it makes sense because that is how things appear to be. Yet appearances can be deceptive.

That it appears to us that 'you were able to choose A and you were able to choose B, but you decided to choose A, even though you could have chosen' is an illusion for the reasons given above: that you don't have actual options at any point in time , only apparent options because each moment in time is determined. Consequently, when you are [apparently] presented with option A or B, what proceeds - time t and a matter of natural law - is determined by elements beyond your regulative control and what transpires is your only possible response.

There is no regulative control in determinism. Compabilism is based on the ability to act without coercion or compulsion...which is problematic for the given reasons.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
Some compatibilists clearly want it both ways, as I have pointed out numerous times and supported by independent accounts, citations, etc. I know what the given definition of compatibilism is, yet Marvin has suggested the possibility of choice, regulative control and doing otherwise.

You must be skimming.

Well, I don't disagree with most of the fundamental ideas that Marvin presents. I've been running fast and hard and loose, hacking my way through philosophy because I don't owe anyone here anything but to say what I say freely: I know I am wrong, but am attempting to surround my wrongness from every direction I can find. Perhaps I will isolate "wrongness" itself. Or perhaps someone else will.

"Free will" as a useful concept, starts at a certain point, but determinism is not anywhere near that point. Determinism and agency have to filter all the way through self modification strategies before "self" and "goal" begin to interact with "other" in a way where ideas like "coercion" and "freedom" take shape.

It's like math. Set theory looks a lot different than "1+1" at it's very base. Ethics and determinism and philosophy of agency is very different at this level too. In many ways it is dangerous to discuss perfect translation and transcription before one understands the fundamental value of social through "abstract approximation" (I don't have a better term?)

Anyway, if anyone wants to discuss Demonology of Faeries just spin up a thread and ping me in PM.

I find that a lot more fun than discussing trans bullshit or even this, though this discussion has helped clarify and generalize certain frameworks even for myself.

To DBT: Marvin has suggested, perhaps, no different than I say above, that somewhere walking high above the set theory of agency, there is an abstraction which demands some discussion of coercion, and freedom from it being something to coerce of the world around us.

This is compatibilism: not that free will and determinism are a dichotomous system but that free will approximates or perhaps even offers a simplification when driving the abstract principles from the base ones.

My participation here was for the sake of driving away such special constructs at the base level of the discussion, to be general.

The whole universe act without coercion, compulsion or the ability to choose otherwise.....
 

Jarhyn

Wizard
Joined
Mar 29, 2010
Messages
12,472
Gender
Androgyne; they/them
Basic Beliefs
Natural Philosophy, Game Theoretic Ethicist
Some compatibilists clearly want it both ways, as I have pointed out numerous times and supported by independent accounts, citations, etc. I know what the given definition of compatibilism is, yet Marvin has suggested the possibility of choice, regulative control and doing otherwise.

You must be skimming.

Well, I don't disagree with most of the fundamental ideas that Marvin presents. I've been running fast and hard and loose, hacking my way through philosophy because I don't owe anyone here anything but to say what I say freely: I know I am wrong, but am attempting to surround my wrongness from every direction I can find. Perhaps I will isolate "wrongness" itself. Or perhaps someone else will.

"Free will" as a useful concept, starts at a certain point, but determinism is not anywhere near that point. Determinism and agency have to filter all the way through self modification strategies before "self" and "goal" begin to interact with "other" in a way where ideas like "coercion" and "freedom" take shape.

It's like math. Set theory looks a lot different than "1+1" at it's very base. Ethics and determinism and philosophy of agency is very different at this level too. In many ways it is dangerous to discuss perfect translation and transcription before one understands the fundamental value of social through "abstract approximation" (I don't have a better term?)

Anyway, if anyone wants to discuss Demonology of Faeries just spin up a thread and ping me in PM.

I find that a lot more fun than discussing trans bullshit or even this, though this discussion has helped clarify and generalize certain frameworks even for myself.

To DBT: Marvin has suggested, perhaps, no different than I say above, that somewhere walking high above the set theory of agency, there is an abstraction which demands some discussion of coercion, and freedom from it being something to coerce of the world around us.

This is compatibilism: not that free will and determinism are a dichotomous system but that free will approximates or perhaps even offers a simplification when driving the abstract principles from the base ones.

My participation here was for the sake of driving away such special constructs at the base level of the discussion, to be general.

The whole universe act without coercion, compulsion or the ability to choose otherwise.....

Compatibilism says the level of agency that is "universe" is not an appropriate place for discussing free will; that "agency" and "free will" exist entirely in different forms of frame. That one is discussing {{1},{1,2}}•{{1}}~{{1},{1,2},{1,2,3}} and the other is discussing "what is an apple, and why do I want one?"

My purpose here was to discuss the idea, see other views, and see what my views were in the presence of them, and to speak them so that others may be as wrong as I am.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
The whole universe act without coercion, compulsion or the ability to choose otherwise.....

Compatibilism says the level of agency that is "universe" is not an appropriate place for discussing free will; that "agency" and "free will" exist entirely in different forms of frame. That one is discussing {{1},{1,2}}•{{1}}~{{1},{1,2},{1,2,3}} and the other is discussing "what is an apple, and why do I want one?"

My purpose here was to discuss the idea, see other views, and see what my views were in the presence of them, and to speak them so that others may be as wrong as I am.

Compatibilists give their definition of free will, incompatibilists in turn argue ''that a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that persons have free will, the latter being defined as the capacity of conscious agents to choose a future course of action among several available physical alternatives. Thus, incompatibilism implies that there is a dichotomy between determinism and free will''
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
The specific causes of specific effects must be reliable in order to create a consistent pattern. For example, I press the "H" key and an "h" appears in my text. But, suppose the effect of pressing the "H" was indeterministic. Suppose that sometimes when I press the "H" I get an "m". Other times I press "H" and a "7" appears.

Let's turn up the indeterminism dial. Now, when I press any key on the keyboard, I get a random letter each no matter which key I press. All I will get is gibberish. My freedom to type my thoughts would be gone.

So, in order to have freedom, we must have control. In order to have control, the results of our actions must be predictable. And, in order for the results of our actions to be predictable, we must have reliable cause and effect.

Freedom requires a deterministic world, a world of reliable cause and effect. Agency requires determinism, or at least a deterministic world.

Don't make the mistake of equating stochastic processes with uniformly random processes. Statistics has clear cause and effect, but it is not deterministic. Statistics is stochastic.

Realistically, your keyboard does have the possibility of random letters in it already. The underlying hardware and software could end up with a bug, it could already have a bug for all you know. But since 99.99999999999999% of the time, any time you hit the "H" key, you're going to see "h" typed out. And that remaining 0.00---1% of the time you'll probably chalk it up to fat fingering the keyboard ;)

Stochastic processes have very clear causes. They have very clear effects. It simply isn't a *single* effect. There are multiple possible effects prior to the event, but ultimately only a single effect will occur.

Consider a bag full of marbles. Before you reach in, you may have a 90% chance of pulling out a red marble, and a 105 chance of pulling out a blue marble. Those chances are real chances. There are two possible effects. But the cause is clearly you sticking your hand in and picking a marble.

After you have chosen a marble, the prior probabilities are no longer relevant. The fact that you had only a 10% chance to select the blue marble that you hold in your hand doesn't alter the fact that you now have a blue marble with 100% certainty.

This gets into some bayesian stuff, which I have mostly forgotten the mechanics of at this point.

I find it simpler to assume a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect. Chaotic or random behavior are problems with prediction, not causation. I assume that quantum events are also problems of prediction, and that the quarks are behaving deterministically, but by their own rules, which we have yet to decipher.

Once we assume that perfectly reliable cause and effect are universal, causal necessity becomes a triviality that can be dismissed. It is like a constant that appears on both sides of every equation, and it can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result. For example, if causal necessity excuses the thief who stole your wallet, then it also excuses the judge who cuts off his hand.

Universal causal necessity changes nothing. It has no practical implications to any human scenarios. It makes itself irrelevant by its own ubiquity.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
I walk into a restaurant, sit at a table, and browse the menu. I know that I actually have a choice, because I'm staring at a literal menu of choices. I consider items that catch my fancy, and choose the one that I estimate will best satisfy both my tastes and my dietary objectives. All these events occurred in objective reality. I was not imagining them.

It is all performed before you are aware of what you are looking at, feeling, considering or thinking. The selection is made (the only possible action in that moment in time), milliseconds prior to it being brought to conscious awareness.

And yet, since it was a new restaurant, I had to consciously open and read the menu before my unconscious mind could perform its calculation and report the choice back to my conscious awareness. Otherwise, how could the unconscious functions have the information required to make the choice.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
... Within a determined system, you are simply a part of its unfolding progression of events over time (unless we have block time, which is another topic)

Nicely put. But the "determined system" exists only as the whole set of the individual objects and forces in the universe, interacting with each other to cause all of the chains of events. In other words, I am not a passive part of the unfolding, but rather I am one of the agents that is actually doing the unfolding. You are poetically speaking of the forest, and I am suggesting that you notice the trees.

Within a causal chain, intelligent species show up as control links. Unlike the behavior of physical objects, like the Earth and the Sun, which are totally governed by physical forces, intelligent species literally have skin in the game. We choose to do things, for purposes and reasons and interests, that exist solely within us.

That which is actually choosing what will actually happen next is exerting control.

And, at the end of choosing, we will still say "You were able to choose A and you were able to choose B, but you decided to choose A, even though you could have chosen B".

That is the illusion of limited perspective. We talk like that, and from our limited perspective it makes sense because that is how things appear to be. Yet appearances can be deceptive.

Appearances can be deceptive. But sometimes things are precisely as they appear.

That it appears to us that 'you were able to choose A and you were able to choose B, but you decided to choose A, even though you could have chosen' is an illusion for the reasons given above: that you don't have actual options at any point in time , only apparent options because each moment in time is determined. Consequently, when you are [apparently] presented with option A or B, what proceeds - time t and a matter of natural law - is determined by elements beyond your regulative control and what transpires is your only possible response.

It was causally necessary, from any prior point in time, that I would have to choose between A and B before I could continue. The choosing operation requires that "I can choose A" must be true. The choosing operation also requires that "I can choose B" must be true. The choosing operation, being guaranteed to occur due to causal necessity, in turn guarantees the ability to do otherwise. This is how the causal mechanism works.

There is no regulative control in determinism.

And yet we humans exercise all kinds of regulative control within determinism. All of the control we exercise is, of course, causally necessary from any prior point in time. Yet it is validly called regulative control because our choices regulate our actions and our actions causally determine what happens next.

Compabilism is based on the ability to act without coercion or compulsion...which is problematic for the given reasons.

Well, seeing as how reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive nor undue, causal necessity poses no threat to free will at all.
 

The AntiChris

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2002
Messages
735
Location
UK
Basic Beliefs
Positive Atheist
I suspect that DBT understands Marvin's point--that there is such a thing as non-deterministic behavior in a deterministic system

I don't think this is what Marvin has been saying - he's consistently made it clear that there are no non-deterministic events in his account of free will.

I raise this because your comment could cause confusion,

You may have confused "non-deterministic behavior" with "non-deterministic events".

I think the distinction you're attempting to draw is irrelevant. If your conception of free will requires "non-deterministic behaviour" then it's not compatibilism.

The problem here is that relying on "non-deterministic behaviour" to defend compatibilism just just gives weight to DBT's unshakeable belief that compatibilists are sneaking indeterminism through the back door.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
I walk into a restaurant, sit at a table, and browse the menu. I know that I actually have a choice, because I'm staring at a literal menu of choices. I consider items that catch my fancy, and choose the one that I estimate will best satisfy both my tastes and my dietary objectives. All these events occurred in objective reality. I was not imagining them.

It is all performed before you are aware of what you are looking at, feeling, considering or thinking. The selection is made (the only possible action in that moment in time), milliseconds prior to it being brought to conscious awareness.

And yet, since it was a new restaurant, I had to consciously open and read the menu before my unconscious mind could perform its calculation and report the choice back to my conscious awareness. Otherwise, how could the unconscious functions have the information required to make the choice.

That's not how it works. The brain must first acquire information before it is processed and presented in conscious form. Conscious experience must necessarily follow acquisition and processing of information. What you experience has already been decided by prior processing;

Decision making
''Decision-making is such a seamless brain process that we’re usually unaware of it — until our choice results in unexpected consequences. Then we may look back and wonder, “Why did I choose that option?” In recent years, neuroscientists have begun to decode the decision-making process. What they’re learning is shedding light not only on how the healthy brain performs complex mental functions, but also on how disorders, such as stroke or drug abuse, affect the process.''

''Recent findings: Voluntary, willed behaviours preferentially implicate specific regions of the frontal cortex in humans. Recent studies have demonstrated constraints on cognition, which manifest as variation in frontal lobe function and emergent behaviour (specifically intrinsic genetic and cognitive limitations, supervening psychological and neurochemical disturbances), and temporal constraints on subjective awareness and reporting. Although healthy persons generally experience themselves as 'free' and the originators of their actions, electroencephalographic data continue to suggest that 'freedom' is exercised before awareness.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
Appearances can be deceptive. But sometimes things are precisely as they appear.

Not always, and especially not when it comes to brain function.


Feelings 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.''

And yet we humans exercise all kinds of regulative control within determinism. All of the control we exercise is, of course, causally necessary from any prior point in time. Yet it is validly called regulative control because our choices regulate our actions and our actions causally determine what happens next.

For the reasons given above, we have the perception of conscious regulative control. The perception of conscious regulative control, as shown in the given examples is an illusion formed by a disconnect (absence of a feedback loop) between the means of experience and the experience itself, which lacks awareness of the underlying production activity.

Of course, once the drive and desire to act is formed, there is no impediment to action;

''Wanting to do X is fully determined by these prior causes (and perhaps a dash of true chance). Now that the desire to do X is being felt, there are no other constraints that keep the person from doing what he wants, namely X.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
In modern times, the Epicurean notion of atoms, subject to “indeterministic swerves”, is mirrored in the suggestion of quantum indeterminacy. Unfortunately, causal indeterminism, if it exists anywhere, reduces our ability to understand, predict, and control events, because the event has no reliable cause (if the cause is reliable, then the event is deterministic). Ironically, causal indeterminism does not increase our freedom at all, but instead reduces it, by limiting our ability to control events.

Causal determinism asserts that we live in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, where there are no uncaused events, and each event is the reliable result of some specific prior events. Causal indeterminism would be the opposite of determinism, where the effects of a given cause are unreliable, and thus unpredictable.

The concept of “causal indeterminism” is impossible to imagine, because we’ve all grown up in a deterministic universe, where, although we don’t always know what caused an event, we always presume that there was a cause.

To get an idea of a “causally indeterministic universe”, imagine we had a dial we could use to adjust the balance of determinism versus indeterminism. We start by turning it all the way to determinism: I pick an apple from the apple tree and, as expected, I have an apple in my hand. Then, we turn the dial a little bit toward indeterminism: now if I pick an apple, I might find an orange or banana or some other random fruit in my hand. Turn the dial further toward indeterminism, and when I pick an apple I may find a kitten in my hand, or a pair of slippers, or a glass of milk. One more adjustment toward indeterminism and when I pick an apple gravity reverses!

If objects were constantly popping into and out of existence, or if gravity erratically switched between pulling things one moment to pushing them the next, then any attempts to control anything in our lives would be hopeless. We would have even less control than Alice, in Wonderland. In such a universe, we could not reliably cause any effect, which means we would not be free to do anything at all.

Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case. We, ourselves, are a collaborative collection of reliable causal mechanisms that keep our hearts beating, and enables us to think and to act. Without reliable cause and effect, we could never reliably cause any effect, and would have no freedom to do anything at all. The very notion of "freedom" implies a world of reliable causation.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
And yet, since it was a new restaurant, I had to consciously open and read the menu before my unconscious mind could perform its calculation and report the choice back to my conscious awareness. Otherwise, how could the unconscious functions have the information required to make the choice.

That's not how it works. The brain must first acquire information before it is processed and presented in conscious form. Conscious experience must necessarily follow acquisition and processing of information. What you experience has already been decided by prior processing;

Decision making
''Decision-making is such a seamless brain process that we’re usually unaware of it — until our choice results in unexpected consequences. Then we may look back and wonder, “Why did I choose that option?” In recent years, neuroscientists have begun to decode the decision-making process. What they’re learning is shedding light not only on how the healthy brain performs complex mental functions, but also on how disorders, such as stroke or drug abuse, affect the process.''

''Recent findings: Voluntary, willed behaviours preferentially implicate specific regions of the frontal cortex in humans. Recent studies have demonstrated constraints on cognition, which manifest as variation in frontal lobe function and emergent behaviour (specifically intrinsic genetic and cognitive limitations, supervening psychological and neurochemical disturbances), and temporal constraints on subjective awareness and reporting. Although healthy persons generally experience themselves as 'free' and the originators of their actions, electroencephalographic data continue to suggest that 'freedom' is exercised before awareness.

It makes no difference if "'freedom' is exercised before awareness" as noted in your excerpt from the abstract. If the choice is made unconsciously, and then presented to awareness as a dinner already cooked, then the choosing is still being performed by that same brain. And the only explanation we have for the choice is how it is described by the conscious experience of events, the part of the brain that Michael Gazzaniga calls the "interpreter", the part that explains our behavior to ourselves and others.

So, if deciding what we will do, while free of coercion and undue influence, is happening consciously or unconsciously, it makes no difference. Free will is not freedom from one's own brain. That's an impossible freedom. Free will is a question of whether the decision making performed by that brain is free of coercion and undue influence.

As the abstract notes, neuroscience is studying how volition works. Volition is will. Will is chosen. Hopefully, neuroscience will continue to increase our understanding of how the brain performs this function. But explaining how something works does not "explain it away", it simply explains how it works.

The notion of "free will" references both internal (mental health) and external (coercion) influences upon our process of choosing what we will do. The neuroscientist provides information to the psychiatrist as to any physical causes behind a mental illness. The psychiatrist addresses mental illness due to both physical and psychological factors.

In any case, free will remains what it has always been, choosing what we will do when free of coercion and undue influence.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
Appearances can be deceptive. But sometimes things are precisely as they appear.

Not always, and especially not when it comes to brain function.


Feelings 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.''

And yet we humans exercise all kinds of regulative control within determinism. All of the control we exercise is, of course, causally necessary from any prior point in time. Yet it is validly called regulative control because our choices regulate our actions and our actions causally determine what happens next.

For the reasons given above, we have the perception of conscious regulative control. The perception of conscious regulative control, as shown in the given examples is an illusion formed by a disconnect (absence of a feedback loop) between the means of experience and the experience itself, which lacks awareness of the underlying production activity.

Of course, once the drive and desire to act is formed, there is no impediment to action;

''Wanting to do X is fully determined by these prior causes (and perhaps a dash of true chance). Now that the desire to do X is being felt, there are no other constraints that keep the person from doing what he wants, namely X.

I would suggest that Michel Desmurget is simply overstating his case. Explaining how something works does not explain it away, it only explains how it works. The fact that certain areas of the brain function to provide a given experience is not a surprise. The key fact here is that the experience explains the behavior: I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that. There is nothing inaccurate about my description of what happened. Desmurget provided additional facts about what parts of the brain were involved in doing what. But none of these facts contradict the objective observation that "I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that."

The second paragraph describes the experiment where Desmurget's team manipulated a patient's brain to produce the feeling that he had performed some movement that he did not actually do. Whenever a person is effectively manipulated they are not acting of their own free will. Their own free will would involve their posterior parietal cortex being altered only by their own brain as part of its normal process of deciding what it will do.

The experiment did nothing to falsify the objective observation that "I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that." It was my own brain that exercised regulatory control of the movement of my arm.

Now if someone else's brain, say the brain of Desmurget, was experimenting upon me to see what manipulating my posterior parietal cortex would do, and he made my arm move, such that it punched someone in the face, then he would be responsible for that act, and not me.

But if my own brain decided to stretch out my arm and punch someone in the face, then I would be held responsible. Because I did so deliberately, of my own free will.
 

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
Nicely put. But the "determined system" exists only as the whole set of the individual objects and forces in the universe, interacting with each other to cause all of the chains of events. In other words, I am not a passive part of the unfolding, but rather I am one of the agents that is actually doing the unfolding. You are poetically speaking of the forest, and I am suggesting that you notice the trees.

Within a causal chain, intelligent species show up as control links. Unlike the behavior of physical objects, like the Earth and the Sun, which are totally governed by physical forces, intelligent species literally have skin in the game. We choose to do things, for purposes and reasons and interests, that exist solely within us.

That which is actually choosing what will actually happen next is exerting control.



That is the illusion of limited perspective. We talk like that, and from our limited perspective it makes sense because that is how things appear to be. Yet appearances can be deceptive.

Appearances can be deceptive. But sometimes things are precisely as they appear.

That it appears to us that 'you were able to choose A and you were able to choose B, but you decided to choose A, even though you could have chosen' is an illusion for the reasons given above: that you don't have actual options at any point in time , only apparent options because each moment in time is determined. Consequently, when you are [apparently] presented with option A or B, what proceeds - time t and a matter of natural law - is determined by elements beyond your regulative control and what transpires is your only possible response.

It was causally necessary, from any prior point in time, that I would have to choose between A and B before I could continue. The choosing operation requires that "I can choose A" must be true. The choosing operation also requires that "I can choose B" must be true. The choosing operation, being guaranteed to occur due to causal necessity, in turn guarantees the ability to do otherwise. This is how the causal mechanism works.

There is no regulative control in determinism.

And yet we humans exercise all kinds of regulative control within determinism. All of the control we exercise is, of course, causally necessary from any prior point in time. Yet it is validly called regulative control because our choices regulate our actions and our actions causally determine what happens next.

Compabilism is based on the ability to act without coercion or compulsion...which is problematic for the given reasons.

Well, seeing as how reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive nor undue, causal necessity poses no threat to free will at all.
Besides the bullshit narrative you have been pushing..., this bolded comment made me lose faith..
I guess this amount of arrogance is the basis of your thesis.
Geesh, aren't you special because you have declared your special and nobody can take that away from you...geesh.
Maybe you should get into the politics discussion forum, there are plenty of apes presenting as if they are not rabid. uck
On a side note you are very handsome aren't you? blah..
 

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
In modern times, the Epicurean notion of atoms, subject to “indeterministic swerves”, is mirrored in the suggestion of quantum indeterminacy. Unfortunately, causal indeterminism, if it exists anywhere, reduces our ability to understand, predict, and control events, because the event has no reliable cause (if the cause is reliable, then the event is deterministic). Ironically, causal indeterminism does not increase our freedom at all, but instead reduces it, by limiting our ability to control events.

Causal determinism asserts that we live in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, where there are no uncaused events, and each event is the reliable result of some specific prior events. Causal indeterminism would be the opposite of determinism, where the effects of a given cause are unreliable, and thus unpredictable.

The concept of “causal indeterminism” is impossible to imagine, because we’ve all grown up in a deterministic universe, where, although we don’t always know what caused an event, we always presume that there was a cause.

To get an idea of a “causally indeterministic universe”, imagine we had a dial we could use to adjust the balance of determinism versus indeterminism. We start by turning it all the way to determinism: I pick an apple from the apple tree and, as expected, I have an apple in my hand. Then, we turn the dial a little bit toward indeterminism: now if I pick an apple, I might find an orange or banana or some other random fruit in my hand. Turn the dial further toward indeterminism, and when I pick an apple I may find a kitten in my hand, or a pair of slippers, or a glass of milk. One more adjustment toward indeterminism and when I pick an apple gravity reverses!

If objects were constantly popping into and out of existence, or if gravity erratically switched between pulling things one moment to pushing them the next, then any attempts to control anything in our lives would be hopeless. We would have even less control than Alice, in Wonderland. In such a universe, we could not reliably cause any effect, which means we would not be free to do anything at all.

Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case. We, ourselves, are a collaborative collection of reliable causal mechanisms that keep our hearts beating, and enables us to think and to act. Without reliable cause and effect, we could never reliably cause any effect, and would have no freedom to do anything at all. The very notion of "freedom" implies a world of reliable causation.
Another thread.. based of the same crap...
Before this gets way outta hand and you get feelings, ponder this: LIFE IS NOT UNIQUE, it is fragile..so please stop.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
Nicely put. But the "determined system" exists only as the whole set of the individual objects and forces in the universe, interacting with each other to cause all of the chains of events. In other words, I am not a passive part of the unfolding, but rather I am one of the agents that is actually doing the unfolding. You are poetically speaking of the forest, and I am suggesting that you notice the trees.

Within a causal chain, intelligent species show up as control links. Unlike the behavior of physical objects, like the Earth and the Sun, which are totally governed by physical forces, intelligent species literally have skin in the game. We choose to do things, for purposes and reasons and interests, that exist solely within us.

That which is actually choosing what will actually happen next is exerting control.





Appearances can be deceptive. But sometimes things are precisely as they appear.



It was causally necessary, from any prior point in time, that I would have to choose between A and B before I could continue. The choosing operation requires that "I can choose A" must be true. The choosing operation also requires that "I can choose B" must be true. The choosing operation, being guaranteed to occur due to causal necessity, in turn guarantees the ability to do otherwise. This is how the causal mechanism works.

There is no regulative control in determinism.

And yet we humans exercise all kinds of regulative control within determinism. All of the control we exercise is, of course, causally necessary from any prior point in time. Yet it is validly called regulative control because our choices regulate our actions and our actions causally determine what happens next.

Compabilism is based on the ability to act without coercion or compulsion...which is problematic for the given reasons.

Well, seeing as how reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive nor undue, causal necessity poses no threat to free will at all.
Besides the bullshit narrative you have been pushing..., this bolded comment made me lose faith..
I guess this amount of arrogance is the basis of your thesis.
Geesh, aren't you special because you have declared your special and nobody can take that away from you...geesh.
Maybe you should get into the politics discussion forum, there are plenty of apes presenting as if they are not rabid. uck
On a side note you are very handsome aren't you? blah..

What's your problem?
 

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
Nicely put. But the "determined system" exists only as the whole set of the individual objects and forces in the universe, interacting with each other to cause all of the chains of events. In other words, I am not a passive part of the unfolding, but rather I am one of the agents that is actually doing the unfolding. You are poetically speaking of the forest, and I am suggesting that you notice the trees.

Within a causal chain, intelligent species show up as control links. Unlike the behavior of physical objects, like the Earth and the Sun, which are totally governed by physical forces, intelligent species literally have skin in the game. We choose to do things, for purposes and reasons and interests, that exist solely within us.

That which is actually choosing what will actually happen next is exerting control.





Appearances can be deceptive. But sometimes things are precisely as they appear.



It was causally necessary, from any prior point in time, that I would have to choose between A and B before I could continue. The choosing operation requires that "I can choose A" must be true. The choosing operation also requires that "I can choose B" must be true. The choosing operation, being guaranteed to occur due to causal necessity, in turn guarantees the ability to do otherwise. This is how the causal mechanism works.



And yet we humans exercise all kinds of regulative control within determinism. All of the control we exercise is, of course, causally necessary from any prior point in time. Yet it is validly called regulative control because our choices regulate our actions and our actions causally determine what happens next.

Compabilism is based on the ability to act without coercion or compulsion...which is problematic for the given reasons.

Well, seeing as how reliable cause and effect, in itself, is neither coercive nor undue, causal necessity poses no threat to free will at all.
Besides the bullshit narrative you have been pushing..., this bolded comment made me lose faith..
I guess this amount of arrogance is the basis of your thesis.
Geesh, aren't you special because you have declared your special and nobody can take that away from you...geesh.
Maybe you should get into the politics discussion forum, there are plenty of apes presenting as if they are not rabid. uck
On a side note you are very handsome aren't you? blah..

What's your problem?
You should have used quotes to qualify the word "problem."
 

Bomb#20

Contributor
Joined
Sep 28, 2004
Messages
6,864
Location
California
Gender
It's a free country.
Basic Beliefs
Rationalism
In modern times, the Epicurean notion of atoms, subject to “indeterministic swerves”, is mirrored in the suggestion of quantum indeterminacy. ...
The concept of “causal indeterminism” is impossible to imagine, because we’ve all grown up in a deterministic universe, where, although we don’t always know what caused an event, we always presume that there was a cause. ...
If objects were constantly popping into and out of existence, or if gravity erratically switched between pulling things one moment to pushing them the next, then any attempts to control anything in our lives would be hopeless. ...
Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case. ...
Am I missing some subtlety in your presentation, or are you claiming to have demonstrated the existence of "hidden variables" underlying quantum mechanics, by philosophizing from your armchair?

"I, at any rate, am convinced that God does not throw dice." - Einstein
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
In modern times, the Epicurean notion of atoms, subject to “indeterministic swerves”, is mirrored in the suggestion of quantum indeterminacy. ...
The concept of “causal indeterminism” is impossible to imagine, because we’ve all grown up in a deterministic universe, where, although we don’t always know what caused an event, we always presume that there was a cause. ...
If objects were constantly popping into and out of existence, or if gravity erratically switched between pulling things one moment to pushing them the next, then any attempts to control anything in our lives would be hopeless. ...
Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case. ...
Am I missing some subtlety in your presentation, or are you claiming to have demonstrated the existence of "hidden variables" underlying quantum mechanics, by philosophizing from your armchair?

"I, at any rate, am convinced that God does not throw dice." - Einstein

I don't know anything about about quantum mechanics. I'm simply demonstrating the problem with indeterminism. The hard determinists present reliable causation (causal necessity) as a boogeyman that robs us of our freedom and control of our destiny. This sends the theist running to the supernatural and the atheist running to quantum indeterminism. I'm demonstrating why indeterminism is not a source of freedom.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
Marvin Edwards said:
In modern times, the Epicurean notion of atoms, subject to “indeterministic swerves”, is mirrored in the suggestion of quantum indeterminacy. Unfortunately, causal indeterminism, if it exists anywhere, reduces our ability to understand, predict, and control events, because the event has no reliable cause (if the cause is reliable, then the event is deterministic). Ironically, causal indeterminism does not increase our freedom at all, but instead reduces it, by limiting our ability to control events.

Causal determinism asserts that we live in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, where there are no uncaused events, and each event is the reliable result of some specific prior events. Causal indeterminism would be the opposite of determinism, where the effects of a given cause are unreliable, and thus unpredictable.

The concept of “causal indeterminism” is impossible to imagine, because we’ve all grown up in a deterministic universe, where, although we don’t always know what caused an event, we always presume that there was a cause.

To get an idea of a “causally indeterministic universe”, imagine we had a dial we could use to adjust the balance of determinism versus indeterminism. We start by turning it all the way to determinism: I pick an apple from the apple tree and, as expected, I have an apple in my hand. Then, we turn the dial a little bit toward indeterminism: now if I pick an apple, I might find an orange or banana or some other random fruit in my hand. Turn the dial further toward indeterminism, and when I pick an apple I may find a kitten in my hand, or a pair of slippers, or a glass of milk. One more adjustment toward indeterminism and when I pick an apple gravity reverses!

If objects were constantly popping into and out of existence, or if gravity erratically switched between pulling things one moment to pushing them the next, then any attempts to control anything in our lives would be hopeless. We would have even less control than Alice, in Wonderland. In such a universe, we could not reliably cause any effect, which means we would not be free to do anything at all.

Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case. We, ourselves, are a collaborative collection of reliable causal mechanisms that keep our hearts beating, and enables us to think and to act. Without reliable cause and effect, we could never reliably cause any effect, and would have no freedom to do anything at all. The very notion of "freedom" implies a world of reliable causation.
While I agree that compatibilism is true, that goes too far. The indeterministic interpretations of QM do not seem to imply anything of the sort. Granted, QM is not a 100% accurate description of our universe because it lacks some stuff, but still, "indeterminism" does not mean 100% randomness.


Imagine, for example, that we pick a number from 1 to 10, we can - deterministically - choose an indeterministic number, i.e., the choice to pick a random number follows deterministically from our previous thought processes and some other stuff, but not the number we pick. I fail to see how that would take away any freedom from us.
 

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
Marvin Edwards said:
In modern times, the Epicurean notion of atoms, subject to “indeterministic swerves”, is mirrored in the suggestion of quantum indeterminacy. Unfortunately, causal indeterminism, if it exists anywhere, reduces our ability to understand, predict, and control events, because the event has no reliable cause (if the cause is reliable, then the event is deterministic). Ironically, causal indeterminism does not increase our freedom at all, but instead reduces it, by limiting our ability to control events.

Causal determinism asserts that we live in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, where there are no uncaused events, and each event is the reliable result of some specific prior events. Causal indeterminism would be the opposite of determinism, where the effects of a given cause are unreliable, and thus unpredictable.

The concept of “causal indeterminism” is impossible to imagine, because we’ve all grown up in a deterministic universe, where, although we don’t always know what caused an event, we always presume that there was a cause.

To get an idea of a “causally indeterministic universe”, imagine we had a dial we could use to adjust the balance of determinism versus indeterminism. We start by turning it all the way to determinism: I pick an apple from the apple tree and, as expected, I have an apple in my hand. Then, we turn the dial a little bit toward indeterminism: now if I pick an apple, I might find an orange or banana or some other random fruit in my hand. Turn the dial further toward indeterminism, and when I pick an apple I may find a kitten in my hand, or a pair of slippers, or a glass of milk. One more adjustment toward indeterminism and when I pick an apple gravity reverses!

If objects were constantly popping into and out of existence, or if gravity erratically switched between pulling things one moment to pushing them the next, then any attempts to control anything in our lives would be hopeless. We would have even less control than Alice, in Wonderland. In such a universe, we could not reliably cause any effect, which means we would not be free to do anything at all.

Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case. We, ourselves, are a collaborative collection of reliable causal mechanisms that keep our hearts beating, and enables us to think and to act. Without reliable cause and effect, we could never reliably cause any effect, and would have no freedom to do anything at all. The very notion of "freedom" implies a world of reliable causation.
While I agree that compatibilism is true, that goes too far. The indeterministic interpretations of QM do not seem to imply anything of the sort. Granted, QM is not a 100% accurate description of our universe because it lacks some stuff, but still, "indeterminism" does not mean 100% randomness.


Imagine, for example, that we pick a number from 1 to 10, we can - deterministically - choose an indeterministic number, i.e., the choice to pick a random number follows deterministically from our previous thought processes and some other stuff, but not the number we pick. I fail to see how that would take away any freedom from us.

3.14159....->
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
Marvin Edwards said:
In modern times, the Epicurean notion of atoms, subject to “indeterministic swerves”, is mirrored in the suggestion of quantum indeterminacy. Unfortunately, causal indeterminism, if it exists anywhere, reduces our ability to understand, predict, and control events, because the event has no reliable cause (if the cause is reliable, then the event is deterministic). Ironically, causal indeterminism does not increase our freedom at all, but instead reduces it, by limiting our ability to control events.

Causal determinism asserts that we live in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, where there are no uncaused events, and each event is the reliable result of some specific prior events. Causal indeterminism would be the opposite of determinism, where the effects of a given cause are unreliable, and thus unpredictable.

The concept of “causal indeterminism” is impossible to imagine, because we’ve all grown up in a deterministic universe, where, although we don’t always know what caused an event, we always presume that there was a cause.

To get an idea of a “causally indeterministic universe”, imagine we had a dial we could use to adjust the balance of determinism versus indeterminism. We start by turning it all the way to determinism: I pick an apple from the apple tree and, as expected, I have an apple in my hand. Then, we turn the dial a little bit toward indeterminism: now if I pick an apple, I might find an orange or banana or some other random fruit in my hand. Turn the dial further toward indeterminism, and when I pick an apple I may find a kitten in my hand, or a pair of slippers, or a glass of milk. One more adjustment toward indeterminism and when I pick an apple gravity reverses!

If objects were constantly popping into and out of existence, or if gravity erratically switched between pulling things one moment to pushing them the next, then any attempts to control anything in our lives would be hopeless. We would have even less control than Alice, in Wonderland. In such a universe, we could not reliably cause any effect, which means we would not be free to do anything at all.

Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case. We, ourselves, are a collaborative collection of reliable causal mechanisms that keep our hearts beating, and enables us to think and to act. Without reliable cause and effect, we could never reliably cause any effect, and would have no freedom to do anything at all. The very notion of "freedom" implies a world of reliable causation.
While I agree that compatibilism is true, that goes too far. The indeterministic interpretations of QM do not seem to imply anything of the sort. Granted, QM is not a 100% accurate description of our universe because it lacks some stuff, but still, "indeterminism" does not mean 100% randomness.

Imagine, for example, that we pick a number from 1 to 10, we can - deterministically - choose an indeterministic number, i.e., the choice to pick a random number follows deterministically from our previous thought processes and some other stuff, but not the number we pick. I fail to see how that would take away any freedom from us.

There are two meanings of "determine", one suggesting knowledge and the other suggesting causation. For example, "We were unable to determine (know) whether it was the increase in temperature or the increase in pressure that determined (cause) when the chemical reaction happened".

Notions of random or chaotic behavior suggest problems of prediction (knowledge) rather than problems of causation. For example, a coin toss, to see who goes first, appears to produce a random (unpredictable) result. But, if we give it some thought, we know that the behavior of the coin is reliably caused by the location and force of the thumb during the flip, and then the air resistance, and then the bouncing before the coin settles, heads up or tails up. And we can imagine building a machine where all these factors are controlled, such that the machine could always cause the coin to land heads up. So, random or chaotic behavior is still deterministic, in that the result is reliably caused, even if we are unable to predict the results.

So, we use statistical analysis to predict the coin's behavior over a large number of cases. And, couldn't that be the same problem with quantum indeterminism? Isn't it more likely that the behavior of quarks is actually reliably caused but simply unpredictable? We generally get our "physical laws" by observing reliable patterns of behavior. But it is very difficult to observe the behavior of quarks without building huge colliders.

Physical matter organized differently follows different rules of behavior. Inanimate objects behave passively in response to physical forces, but living organisms behave as if they had skin in the game. It may be the case that quarks are reliably following a different set of rules that apply only to quarks.

Imagine, for example, that we pick a number from 1 to 10, we can - deterministically - choose an indeterministic number, i.e., the choice to pick a random number follows deterministically from our previous thought processes and some other stuff, but not the number we pick. I fail to see how that would take away any freedom from us.

I don't see how it is possible to deterministically produce a causally indeterministic number. We can easily produce a number that someone else cannot guess (determine as in "to know"). But I don't think it is possible to deterministically cause a causally indeterministic number. The means by which the number is produced makes it predictable in theory, if not in practice.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
Marvin Edwards said:
Notions of random or chaotic behavior suggest problems of prediction (knowledge) rather than problems of causation. For example, a coin toss, to see who goes first, appears to produce a random (unpredictable) result. But, if we give it some thought, we know that the behavior of the coin is reliably caused by the location and force of the thumb during the flip, and then the air resistance, and then the bouncing before the coin settles, heads up or tails up. And we can imagine building a machine where all these factors are controlled, such that the machine could always cause the coin to land heads up. So, random or chaotic behavior is still deterministic, in that the result is reliably caused, even if we are unable to predict the results.
What degree of reliability are we talking about to get "reliable"?
We know that classical physics provided a really good approximation to reality, to the point it allowed people to go to the Moon. Yet, a claim that classical physics provides a true depiction of reality (no qualifications) would be false.

Is the behavior of the coin deterministic?

That said, I do believe the problems we deal with are generally problems of knowledge, not of causation. Indeed, assigning (close to) 1/2 to the hypothesis that an ordinary coin will land heads is rational, but so is the (almost) 1/2 prediction that it already landed heads, if we know it landed already. So, in this case, our focus seems clearly on knowledge. Nevertheless, this does not tell us that the coin is deterministic, or that the universe is. Maybe it is. Maybe it is not. But if it is not, it seems to me that the sort of indeterminism that there is, is not the sort of indeterminism that threatens or ability to act of our own free will. It might at most reduce it a little bit in some odd circumstances, but generally we can act of our own free will regardless of whether determinism happens to be true. Furthermore, some forms of indeterminism - if real - would not reduce the aformention ability at all.

Marvin Edwards said:
So, we use statistical analysis to predict the coin's behavior over a large number of cases. And, couldn't that be the same problem with quantum indeterminism? Isn't it more likely that the behavior of quarks is actually reliably caused but simply unpredictable? We generally get our "physical laws" by observing reliable patterns of behavior. But it is very difficult to observe the behavior of quarks without building huge colliders.
Well, in any case from the little I know there are some difficulties with that, no matter how big the collider. But that's a side issue. I do not have the belief that the world is not deterministic. I do not have the belief that it is deterministic, either. But my objection is to the claim that indeterminism would have the consequences that you say it would have. Granted, some forms of indeterminism would do that. But others wouldn't.


Marvin Edwards said:
I don't see how it is possible to deterministically produce a causally indeterministic number. We can easily produce a number that someone else cannot guess (determine as in "to know"). But I don't think it is possible to deterministically cause a causally indeterministic number. The means by which the number is produced makes it predictable in theory, if not in practice.
You just need a rule in the universe that is something like (If B obtains, then the output is a number between 1 and 10), and no rule that fixes which number it is. I'm not suggesting that this is how our universe works. Rather, it's an example to show that some forms of indeterminism would not threaten our ability to act of our own accord.
 

fromderinside

Mazzie Daius
Joined
Oct 6, 2008
Messages
15,945
Location
Local group: Solar system: Earth: NA: US: contiguo
Basic Beliefs
optimist
Causal determinism asserts that we live in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, where there are no uncaused events, and each event is the reliable result of some specific prior events. Causal indeterminism would be the opposite of determinism, where the effects of a given cause are unreliable, and thus unpredictable.



Carl Hoefer one of the more influential authors of the Stanford Encyclopedia chapter on Determinism wrote the following Causality and Determinism:Tension, or Outright Conflict?: https://revistas.ucm.es/index.php/RESF/article/download/RESF0404220099A/9609

There has been a strong tendency in the philosophical literature to conflate determinism and causality, or at the very least, to see the former as a particularly strong form of the latter. The tendency persists even today. When the editors of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy asked me to write the entry on determinism, I found that the title was to be “Causal determinism”.

I therefore felt obliged to point out in the opening paragraph that determinism actually has little or nothing to do with causation; for the philosophical tradition has it all wrong. What I hope to show in this paper is that, in fact, in a complex world such as the one we inhabit, determinism and genuine causality are probably incompatible with each other. After we see why this is so, we can appreciate better the different metaphysical options available to philosophers hoping to understand the complex issues concerning laws of nature, causality, and physical theory.


Then there's Determinism_without_causality https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235357679_

Abstract Causality has been often confused with the notion of determinism. It is mandatory to separate the two notions in view of the debate about quantum foundations. Quantum theory provides an example of causal not-deterministic theory. Here we introduce a toy operational theory that is deterministic and non-causal, thus proving that the two notions of causality and determinism are totally independent.

I suggest you read these before you go forward with your windmill constructions.

In other words your premise is pure fiction, has nothing to do with determinism and further removes from possibility of any issue about compatibility.


Oh the chaos we raise when our hands begin to wave.
Read then revise, or better, abandon.

Second point be sure to have the following available to you was you read>

Determinism: The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Also: Determinism and natural law work forward and backward so how do you get backward causation.

Oh the chaos we raise when our hands we begin to wave.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
What degree of reliability are we talking about to get "reliable"?
We know that classical physics provided a really good approximation to reality, to the point it allowed people to go to the Moon. Yet, a claim that classical physics provides a true depiction of reality (no qualifications) would be false.

I believe there are three distinct classes of causal mechanisms that correspond to three levels of organization: physical (inanimate objects respond passively to physical forces), biological (living organisms, biologically driven to survive, thrive, and reproduce), and rational (intelligent species making deliberate choices by reason or calculation). Quantum events are most likely happening at a fourth level of organization, with quarks operating by a fourth set of rules.

To get a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, we would have to presume that each of these causal mechanisms is perfectly reliable within its own domain. Then we could further presume that every event is reliably caused by some specific combination of physical, biological, and rational causation.

Physics does not get us to the Moon. But an intelligent species imagining that possibility, as a way of increasing the likelihood of biological survival, is able to use its knowledge of physics to make sure the rocket and the Moon show up at the same place at the same time.

So, I agree with you that physics is not sufficient to explain how all real world events come about.

Is the behavior of the coin deterministic?

Yes. I am assuming that deterministic means that how it will land is reliably caused by physical events that make the result theoretically 100% predictable, even though we don't usually have the ability to make that prediction in practice.

That said, I do believe the problems we deal with are generally problems of knowledge, not of causation.

Right. But the question is whether it is reasonable to assume a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, where each event is reliably caused by preceding events.

Indeed, assigning (close to) 1/2 to the hypothesis that an ordinary coin will land heads is rational, but so is the (almost) 1/2 prediction that it already landed heads, if we know it landed already. So, in this case, our focus seems clearly on knowledge. Nevertheless, this does not tell us that the coin is deterministic, or that the universe is. Maybe it is. Maybe it is not.

I'm working under the assumption that the real world operates with perfectly reliable cause and effect. There is a second question as to whether this assumption has any meaningful implications for any human scenarios.

So, the post pushes us to the opposite extreme, where cause and effect is perfectly unreliable, just to consider what that might look like.

But if it is not, it seems to me that the sort of indeterminism that there is, is not the sort of indeterminism that threatens or ability to act of our own free will. It might at most reduce it a little bit in some odd circumstances, but generally we can act of our own free will regardless of whether determinism happens to be true. Furthermore, some forms of indeterminism - if real - would not reduce the aformention ability at all.

My position is that freedom requires the ability to reliably cause effects. If I cannot reliably cause any effects, then I have no freedom to do anything at all.

To the degree that the outcome of my actions is unreliable, I would necessarily lose some ability to accomplish what I chose to do. So, my freedom goes up as the reliability of causation goes up, and my freedom goes down as reliability of causation goes down. And this is the reason that causal indeterminism does not improve our freedom.

Well, in any case from the little I know there are some difficulties with that, no matter how big the collider. But that's a side issue. I do not have the belief that the world is not deterministic. I do not have the belief that it is deterministic, either. But my objection is to the claim that indeterminism would have the consequences that you say it would have. Granted, some forms of indeterminism would do that. But others wouldn't.

I believe that as long as determinism is limited to asserting that we live in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, there should be no problem. It is only when determinism is claimed to strip us of freedom and control, of free will and responsibility, that people find the notion of determinism repulsive, and feel a need to invoke indeterminism to counter those false implications.


Marvin Edwards said:
I don't see how it is possible to deterministically produce a causally indeterministic number. We can easily produce a number that someone else cannot guess (determine as in "to know"). But I don't think it is possible to deterministically cause a causally indeterministic number. The means by which the number is produced makes it predictable in theory, if not in practice.

You just need a rule in the universe that is something like (If B obtains, then the output is a number between 1 and 10), and no rule that fixes which number it is. I'm not suggesting that this is how our universe works. Rather, it's an example to show that some forms of indeterminism would not threaten our ability to act of our own accord.

But, if nothing fixes which number it is, then either nothing will be output, or all numbers will.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
Carl Hoefer one of the more influential authors of the Stanford Encyclopedia chapter on Determinism wrote the following Causality and Determinism:Tension, or Outright Conflict?: https://revistas.ucm.es/index.php/RESF/article/download/RESF0404220099A/9609

Then there's Determinism_without_causality https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235357679_

Abstract Causality has been often confused with the notion of determinism. It is mandatory to separate the two notions in view of the debate about quantum foundations. Quantum theory provides an example of causal not-deterministic theory. Here we introduce a toy operational theory that is deterministic and non-causal, thus proving that the two notions of causality and determinism are totally independent.

I suggest you read these before you go forward with your windmill constructions.

In other words your premise is pure fiction, has nothing to do with determinism and further removes from possibility of any issue about compatibility.

Oh the chaos we raise when our hands begin to wave.
Read then revise, or better, abandon.

Second point be sure to have the following available to you was you read>

Determinism: The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Also: Determinism and natural law work forward and backward so how do you get backward causation.

Oh the chaos we raise when our hands we begin to wave.

I've read Hoffer's original article on Causal Determinism in the SEP, and I did a critical analysis of it here:
https://marvinedwards.me/2017/08/19/determinism-whats-wrong-and-how-to-fix-it/

But I have not read articles separating determinism from universal causal necessity. I tried to read Hoffer's other essay on separating the two, but found it too difficult to follow, and gave up on it.

On the other hand, the notion of determinism has accumulated so many false implications that it might be useful to totally drop the word, and start clean again, with the notion of causal necessity. But, since that is the underlying foundation of the notion of determinism for most philosophers (thus Carl's regrets about having to attach "causal" to the title of his SEP article), that it seems to be best to attack the false implications where they already exist.

I'm certainly open to hearing your views (or Carl's for that matter, if I could understand them) about the distinction between determinism and causation.
 

Bomb#20

Contributor
Joined
Sep 28, 2004
Messages
6,864
Location
California
Gender
It's a free country.
Basic Beliefs
Rationalism
Determinism: The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Also: Determinism and natural law work forward and backward so how do you get backward causation.
There's nothing in your definition of determinism that requires it to work backward. Just because given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law, that doesn't imply that given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things went before is fixed as a matter of natural law. Consider the rules of Conway's Life, for example. It's deterministic going forward but not going backwards -- it's trivial to come up with two different patterns at time T that have the same successor pattern at time T+1.
 

Bomb#20

Contributor
Joined
Sep 28, 2004
Messages
6,864
Location
California
Gender
It's a free country.
Basic Beliefs
Rationalism
Am I missing some subtlety in your presentation, or are you claiming to have demonstrated the existence of "hidden variables" underlying quantum mechanics, by philosophizing from your armchair?

I don't know anything about about quantum mechanics. I'm simply demonstrating the problem with indeterminism.
But you haven't demonstrated that there's a problem with it; and not knowing anything about quantum mechanics is a bad idea if you want to philosophize about determinism. It's like Aristotle philosophizing about motion without knowing anything about force, mass and acceleration: he deduced erroneous conclusions about an unmoved mover. You need to learn enough about QM to stop taking 19th-century physics concepts for granted.

The hard determinists present reliable causation (causal necessity) as a boogeyman that robs us of our freedom and control of our destiny. This sends the theist running to the supernatural and the atheist running to quantum indeterminism. I'm demonstrating why indeterminism is not a source of freedom.
It certainly isn't; but it's not indeterminism's fault that Christianity trained western culture to equate determinism with lack of freedom. 1920's physicists didn't adopt nondeterminism because they were running to it in search of freedom. They adopted it because they were a bunch of hard-core classical Newtonian physicists committed to determinism, who had been raised steeped in 19th-century assumptions, but they were dragged kicking and screaming to non-determinism by the outcomes of their experiments.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
And yet, since it was a new restaurant, I had to consciously open and read the menu before my unconscious mind could perform its calculation and report the choice back to my conscious awareness. Otherwise, how could the unconscious functions have the information required to make the choice.

That's not how it works. The brain must first acquire information before it is processed and presented in conscious form. Conscious experience must necessarily follow acquisition and processing of information. What you experience has already been decided by prior processing;

Decision making
''Decision-making is such a seamless brain process that we’re usually unaware of it — until our choice results in unexpected consequences. Then we may look back and wonder, “Why did I choose that option?” In recent years, neuroscientists have begun to decode the decision-making process. What they’re learning is shedding light not only on how the healthy brain performs complex mental functions, but also on how disorders, such as stroke or drug abuse, affect the process.''

''Recent findings: Voluntary, willed behaviours preferentially implicate specific regions of the frontal cortex in humans. Recent studies have demonstrated constraints on cognition, which manifest as variation in frontal lobe function and emergent behaviour (specifically intrinsic genetic and cognitive limitations, supervening psychological and neurochemical disturbances), and temporal constraints on subjective awareness and reporting. Although healthy persons generally experience themselves as 'free' and the originators of their actions, electroencephalographic data continue to suggest that 'freedom' is exercised before awareness.

It makes no difference if "'freedom' is exercised before awareness" as noted in your excerpt from the abstract. If the choice is made unconsciously, and then presented to awareness as a dinner already cooked, then the choosing is still being performed by that same brain. And the only explanation we have for the choice is how it is described by the conscious experience of events, the part of the brain that Michael Gazzaniga calls the "interpreter", the part that explains our behavior to ourselves and others.

So, if deciding what we will do, while free of coercion and undue influence, is happening consciously or unconsciously, it makes no difference. Free will is not freedom from one's own brain. That's an impossible freedom. Free will is a question of whether the decision making performed by that brain is free of coercion and undue influence.

As the abstract notes, neuroscience is studying how volition works. Volition is will. Will is chosen. Hopefully, neuroscience will continue to increase our understanding of how the brain performs this function. But explaining how something works does not "explain it away", it simply explains how it works.

The notion of "free will" references both internal (mental health) and external (coercion) influences upon our process of choosing what we will do. The neuroscientist provides information to the psychiatrist as to any physical causes behind a mental illness. The psychiatrist addresses mental illness due to both physical and psychological factors.

In any case, free will remains what it has always been, choosing what we will do when free of coercion and undue influence.


But within a deterministic system there is no actual ''freedom is exercised before awareness'' either. Some use that figure of speech to convey the meaning that the results are determined before awareness, that it is not consciousness itself that processes information and produces response.

Freedom simply means the attributes and abilities of a brain to perform its function according to architecture, inputs and memory.

The same freedom that a planet orbits a star, water cascades down a gorge, the same freedom that trees grow and birds fly.... abilities that have nothing to do with 'will' or 'free will.'


For compatibilism to select behaviour that is uncoerced, unforced, and call this an example of 'free will' fails for that reason.

The only true freedom within a determined system would be the possibility to have done otherwise within any moment in time. But of course determinism does no allow multiple selections at any moment in time, and this essentially kills the possibility of free will.

Feelings can be deceptive. We simply have ''will.''

Will is not free.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
Not always, and especially not when it comes to brain function.


Feelings 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.''



For the reasons given above, we have the perception of conscious regulative control. The perception of conscious regulative control, as shown in the given examples is an illusion formed by a disconnect (absence of a feedback loop) between the means of experience and the experience itself, which lacks awareness of the underlying production activity.

Of course, once the drive and desire to act is formed, there is no impediment to action;

''Wanting to do X is fully determined by these prior causes (and perhaps a dash of true chance). Now that the desire to do X is being felt, there are no other constraints that keep the person from doing what he wants, namely X.

I would suggest that Michel Desmurget is simply overstating his case. Explaining how something works does not explain it away, it only explains how it works. The fact that certain areas of the brain function to provide a given experience is not a surprise. The key fact here is that the experience explains the behavior: I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that. There is nothing inaccurate about my description of what happened. Desmurget provided additional facts about what parts of the brain were involved in doing what. But none of these facts contradict the objective observation that "I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that."

The second paragraph describes the experiment where Desmurget's team manipulated a patient's brain to produce the feeling that he had performed some movement that he did not actually do. Whenever a person is effectively manipulated they are not acting of their own free will. Their own free will would involve their posterior parietal cortex being altered only by their own brain as part of its normal process of deciding what it will do.

The experiment did nothing to falsify the objective observation that "I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that." It was my own brain that exercised regulatory control of the movement of my arm.

Now if someone else's brain, say the brain of Desmurget, was experimenting upon me to see what manipulating my posterior parietal cortex would do, and he made my arm move, such that it punched someone in the face, then he would be responsible for that act, and not me.

But if my own brain decided to stretch out my arm and punch someone in the face, then I would be held responsible. Because I did so deliberately, of my own free will.


I would suggest that Desmurget is not overstating his case. I would point out that he is describing his experiments on the human brain and their results.

He is not the only one. The evidence coming out of neuroscience supports everything that has been said: basically, that the brain is a modular system which acquires and processes information and generates output based on architecture, condition, inputs and memory, a failure in any of these elements disrupting or destroying consciousness.

Will has no say in the matter.

Mark Hallet is a specialist;


How Can There Be Voluntary Movement Without Free Will?

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

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

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

For any cortical region, its activity will depend on its synaptic inputs. Some motor cortical inputs come via only a few synapses from sensory cortices, and such influences on motor output are clear. Some inputs will come from regions, such as the limbic areas, many synapses away from both primary sensory and motor cortices. At any one time, the activity of the motor cortex, and its commands to the spinal cord, will reflect virtually all the activity in the entire brain.

Is it necessary that there be anything else? This can be a complete description of the process of movement selection, and even if there is something more -- like free will -- it would have to operate through such neuronal mechanisms.

The view that there is no such thing as free will as an inner causal agent has been advocated by a number of philosophers, scientists, and neurologists including Ryle, Adrian, Skinner and Fisher.(Fisher 1993)''
 

Bomb#20

Contributor
Joined
Sep 28, 2004
Messages
6,864
Location
California
Gender
It's a free country.
Basic Beliefs
Rationalism
Notions of random or chaotic behavior suggest problems of prediction (knowledge) rather than problems of causation. For example, a coin toss, to see who goes first, appears to produce a random (unpredictable) result. But, if we give it some thought, we know that the behavior of the coin is reliably caused by the location and force of the thumb during the flip, and then the air resistance, and then the bouncing before the coin settles, heads up or tails up.
We don't know that. Maybe a random radioactive decay will send an ion through the air, or not; and maybe that variation will be exponentially amplified by the chaotic behavior you describe enough to make heads or tails turn on whether the random radioactive decay occurred.

People often assume QM effects are so tiny they only matter to the microscopic world. In freshman physics our teacher posed the problem of a perfectly sharp pencil balanced exactly on its point, and challenged us to predict how long it would stay standing up. In classical physics, forever, since the forces on it are exactly in balance; but in QM nothing is ever exact because of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. So the students offered guesses: we ranged from days to centuries. Then the prof worked the problem on the blackboard. Quantum uncertainty knocks the pencil over in a random direction in about five seconds.

And we can imagine building a machine where all these factors are controlled, such that the machine could always cause the coin to land heads up. So, random or chaotic behavior is still deterministic, in that the result is reliably caused, even if we are unable to predict the results.
But what we can imagine doesn't affect what the world does. Maybe if you actually try to build that machine you'll always fail. Maybe when you've controlled every variable you can, you'll still get a random result.

So, we use statistical analysis to predict the coin's behavior over a large number of cases. And, couldn't that be the same problem with quantum indeterminism?
It could be. That's not a reason to decide it is.

Isn't it more likely that the behavior of quarks is actually reliably caused but simply unpredictable?
That seemed a lot more likely back in the 1920s, when physicists had only spent a couple of years trying to come up with deterministic alternatives, than it does now. Quantum mechanics is 95 years old, and a lot of the smartest people in the world have spent years of their professional lives trying to come up with a deterministic theory that matches experimental results, and so far they've all* failed. Doesn't that shake your confidence that reliably caused quark behavior is more likely?

(* Unless you think the "Many Worlds" hypothesis qualifies as a viable option. (That's the interpretation that says all possible universes are real parallel universes. Where the quark goes is in some philosophical sense "deterministic" and "known in advance" -- it goes everywhere -- but that's useless for making predictions, because one copy of you will see it here and another copy of you will see it there.))

We generally get our "physical laws" by observing reliable patterns of behavior. But it is very difficult to observe the behavior of quarks without building huge colliders.
This isn't an issue of huge colliders and quarks. The fundamental problem shows up in simple desktop experiments you can do with light bulbs and prisms and vacuum tubes and so forth. Quantum systems show an effect called "entanglement" in which events on this side of the lab appear to make a difference to what happens on that side of the lab, faster than the speed of light. Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance". It's mathematically very difficult to reconcile that with Relativity in a theory with reliable causation.

The means by which the number is produced makes it predictable in theory, if not in practice.
Predictable in which theory? The situation would be different if we had an unpredictable theory that works and a predictable theory that works; then philosophizing about how the number is predictable in theory would carry some weight. But as it is, in 2021, all we have is an unpredictable theory that works and a bunch of predictable theories that don't work.
 

The AntiChris

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2002
Messages
735
Location
UK
Basic Beliefs
Positive Atheist
I don't know anything about about quantum mechanics. I'm simply demonstrating the problem with indeterminism.
But you haven't demonstrated that there's a problem with it; and not knowing anything about quantum mechanics is a bad idea if you want to philosophize about determinism.

I think QM is a red herring. I don't think Marvin is making a case for universal determinism - I think he's talking about Adequate Determinism.

The hard determinist case against free will relies on adequate determinism being true. Marvin is making the case that adequate determinism is no threat to free will.
 

fromderinside

Mazzie Daius
Joined
Oct 6, 2008
Messages
15,945
Location
Local group: Solar system: Earth: NA: US: contiguo
Basic Beliefs
optimist
Determinism: The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Also: Determinism and natural law work forward and backward so how do you get backward causation.
There's nothing in your definition of determinism that requires it to work backward. Just because given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law, that doesn't imply that given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things went before is fixed as a matter of natural law. Consider the rules of Conway's Life, for example. It's deterministic going forward but not going backwards -- it's trivial to come up with two different patterns at time T that have the same successor pattern at time T+1.

Have a baloney sandwich.

It's just as trivial to come up with two or more distinguishable at time t that have the same predecessor pattern at time t-1.

It's not requirements in maths it's structure of maths where forward backward calculations are achieved simply by manipulating transactional operators.

Of course if you can show me a "can't do that" rule ... Now if you are talking natural law and you suggest entropy I'll suggest negative entropy. Logical equivalent not scientific equivalent.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
Marvin Edwards said:
I believe there are three distinct classes of causal mechanisms that correspond to three levels of organization: physical (inanimate objects respond passively to physical forces), biological (living organisms, biologically driven to survive, thrive, and reproduce), and rational (intelligent species making deliberate choices by reason or calculation). Quantum events are most likely happening at a fourth level of organization, with quarks operating by a fourth set of rules.

To get a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, we would have to presume that each of these causal mechanisms is perfectly reliable within its own domain. Then we could further presume that every event is reliably caused by some specific combination of physical, biological, and rational causation.

Physics does not get us to the Moon. But an intelligent species imagining that possibility, as a way of increasing the likelihood of biological survival, is able to use its knowledge of physics to make sure the rocket and the Moon show up at the same place at the same time.

So, I agree with you that physics is not sufficient to explain how all real world events come about.
I don't think there are such different levels of causation - in fact, the "lines" between living and non-living, and between species (including humans) seem to be fuzzy.

However, that doesn't seem to affect the issue of determinism vs. nondeterminism, so I'll leave that for another time maybe. :)


Marvin Edwards said:
Yes. I am assuming that deterministic means that how it will land is reliably caused by physical events that make the result theoretically 100% predictable, even though we don't usually have the ability to make that prediction in practice.
I would say that:

1. That does not seem to be what "deterministic" means in philosophy. By that definition, I would say that's probably false, the result is probably not theoretically 100% predictable, at least not for agents within our universe.

2. In any case, going by any traditional definition of "deterministic", I would say that we do not know whether the coin is deterministic.


Marvin Edwards said:
Right. But the question is whether it is reasonable to assume a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, where each event is reliably caused by preceding events.
Reliably, or perfectly reliably?

At any rate, that's one of the questions. Of course, the answer is that it depends on the information available to the agent. But given the information available to me (very limited, but which includes what people much more knowlegeable about physics say about the matter), it seems clear to me that the answer is negative: it would not be reasonable to assume either that or its negation; the reasonable option is to acknowledge we do not know.

Marvin Edwards said:
I'm working under the assumption that the real world operates with perfectly reliable cause and effect. There is a second question as to whether this assumption has any meaningful implications for any human scenarios.

So, the post pushes us to the opposite extreme, where cause and effect is perfectly unreliable, just to consider what that might look like.
But that doesn't tell you whether the assumption has meaningful implications. It tells you that under some forms of indeterminsm, all hell breaks lose. That is true. But it is not true of all forms of indeterminism. Furthermore, determinism without predictability has the same problem. For example:

Marvin Edwards said:
If objects were constantly popping into and out of existence, or if gravity erratically switched between pulling things one moment to pushing them the next, then any attempts to control anything in our lives would be hopeless.
Consider a deterministic many worlds interpretation. Everything that can happen, happens. Objects do pop in an out of existence so to speak, or close to that. Some people - in a parallel universe perhaps - experience the unfortunate and deterministic but extremely improbable and unpredictable consequences. The problem happens anyway, in a deterministic universe. Unless you're using your definition of "deterministic " to rule out, say, the Many Worlds interpretation? (or something like that with respect to a theory more complete than QM).

Marvin Edwards said:
But, if nothing fixes which number it is, then either nothing will be output, or all numbers will.
No, the rule I suggested says it's just one number. What is not fixed is which one. That rule is logically possible, indeterministic, and unproblematic for freedom.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
But you haven't demonstrated that there's a problem with it; and not knowing anything about quantum mechanics is a bad idea if you want to philosophize about determinism. It's like Aristotle philosophizing about motion without knowing anything about force, mass and acceleration: he deduced erroneous conclusions about an unmoved mover. You need to learn enough about QM to stop taking 19th-century physics concepts for granted.

Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga touches on the problems that physicists have with determinism several times in his book, "Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain". For example:

Gazzaniga said:
"More than half a century ago, Niels Bohr, in his Gifford Lectures spanning 1948–1950, and even earlier in a 1937 article, was already pulling in the reins on determinism when he said, “The renunciation of the ideal of causality in atomic physics . . . has been forced upon us . . .”13 and Heisenberg went even further when he said, “I believe that indeterminism, that is, is necessary, and not just consistently possible.”14" (p. 122)

Of course many determinists are anxious to point out that the chain of causes according to determinism is a chain of events not particles, so it never gets down to atoms or subatomic particles. Instead, it traces back to the big bang. In Aristotelian terms, the chain is a series of efficient causes rather than material causes. (p. 124)

"The thing is, you can’t predict Newton’s laws from observing the behavior of atoms, nor the behavior of atoms from Newton’s laws. New properties emerge that the precursors did not possess. This definitely throws a wrench into the reductionist’s works and also throws a wrench into determinism. " (pp.125-126)

-- Gazzaniga, Michael S.. Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Personally, I do not plan to become a physicist or a neuroscientist in order to explain how determinism and free will are compatible.

The arguments in play, regarding the determinism "versus" free will paradox, are matters of logic and semantics. They are not beyond the mastery of a twelve year old.

Marvin said:
The hard determinists present reliable causation (causal necessity) as a boogeyman that robs us of our freedom and control of our destiny. This sends the theist running to the supernatural and the atheist running to quantum indeterminism. I'm demonstrating why indeterminism is not a source of freedom.

It certainly isn't; but it's not indeterminism's fault that Christianity trained western culture to equate determinism with lack of freedom. 1920's physicists didn't adopt nondeterminism because they were running to it in search of freedom. They adopted it because they were a bunch of hard-core classical Newtonian physicists committed to determinism, who had been raised steeped in 19th-century assumptions, but they were dragged kicking and screaming to non-determinism by the outcomes of their experiments.

The notions of voluntary choice and personal responsibility, and of cause and effect, are not created by nor owned by Religion.

Science assumes a world of reliable causation. Without it, no experiment would be repeatable. The human mind seeks the causes of events that affect our lives. Knowing the causes gives us some control over these events. Knowing the Covid-19 is caused by a virus, and that our immune systems can be primed to destroy that virus through vaccination, enables us to prevent the spread and avoid the illness and death that would otherwise be caused by the virus.

So, a world of reliable causation is desirable. Reliable causation should not be turned into a monster by the hard determinists.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
We don't know that. Maybe a random radioactive decay will send an ion through the air, or not; and maybe that variation will be exponentially amplified by the chaotic behavior you describe enough to make heads or tails turn on whether the random radioactive decay occurred.

In that case the ion would be one of the specific reliable causes determining the coin flip. Which leads us to wonder, "What quantum event caused the ion to be released at precisely that moment?" The question itself implies the expectation of a reliable cause, even if we never discover what it is.

The mind raising the question, is evidence that we all believe that every event has its specific causes, that reliably bring it about.

People often assume QM effects are so tiny they only matter to the microscopic world. In freshman physics our teacher posed the problem of a perfectly sharp pencil balanced exactly on its point, and challenged us to predict how long it would stay standing up. In classical physics, forever, since the forces on it are exactly in balance; but in QM nothing is ever exact because of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. So the students offered guesses: we ranged from days to centuries. Then the prof worked the problem on the blackboard. Quantum uncertainty knocks the pencil over in a random direction in about five seconds.

Concepts cannot knock over pencils. "Quantum uncertainty" is a notion, not a causal agent. The pencil being hit by one of those random ions might tip it over. Gravity waves from a distant pair of Quasars could create the vibration that unbalances the pencil. But Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle cannot touch it. It can only describe it.

But what we can imagine doesn't affect what the world does. Maybe if you actually try to build that machine you'll always fail. Maybe when you've controlled every variable you can, you'll still get a random result.

On the other hand, if I'm hammering a nail, I'd prefer to reliably hit the nail, rather than randomly hit my hand. Reliable causation is our friend. (Well, after we become skilled enough to stop hitting our thumb).

So, we use statistical analysis to predict the coin's behavior over a large number of cases. And, couldn't that be the same problem with quantum indeterminism?
It could be. That's not a reason to decide it is.

Well, if we're going to keep smashing protons into stuff, then we should hope that the consequences are contained.

Isn't it more likely that the behavior of quarks is actually reliably caused but simply unpredictable?
That seemed a lot more likely back in the 1920s, when physicists had only spent a couple of years trying to come up with deterministic alternatives, than it does now. Quantum mechanics is 95 years old, and a lot of the smartest people in the world have spent years of their professional lives trying to come up with a deterministic theory that matches experimental results, and so far they've all* failed. Doesn't that shake your confidence that reliably caused quark behavior is more likely?

Not at all. The inability to discover the cause does not mean there is no cause.

(* Unless you think the "Many Worlds" hypothesis qualifies as a viable option. (That's the interpretation that says all possible universes are real parallel universes. Where the quark goes is in some philosophical sense "deterministic" and "known in advance" -- it goes everywhere -- but that's useless for making predictions, because one copy of you will see it here and another copy of you will see it there.))

I think it is hard enough to deal with the one world we have.

We generally get our "physical laws" by observing reliable patterns of behavior. But it is very difficult to observe the behavior of quarks without building huge colliders.

This isn't an issue of huge colliders and quarks. The fundamental problem shows up in simple desktop experiments you can do with light bulbs and prisms and vacuum tubes and so forth. Quantum systems show an effect called "entanglement" in which events on this side of the lab appear to make a difference to what happens on that side of the lab, faster than the speed of light. Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance". It's mathematically very difficult to reconcile that with Relativity in a theory with reliable causation.

Actually, gravity and electromagnetism could also be called "spooky action at a distance". The only reason it is not spooky is because we see it so often that we take it for granted. So, entanglement might eventually become so common as to be ordinary as well.

The means by which the number is produced makes it predictable in theory, if not in practice.

Predictable in which theory? The situation would be different if we had an unpredictable theory that works and a predictable theory that works; then philosophizing about how the number is predictable in theory would carry some weight. But as it is, in 2021, all we have is an unpredictable theory that works and a bunch of predictable theories that don't work.

The theory of predictability is that every effect is reliably caused. It's that ordinary notion of reliable "cause and effect". The problem is to discover the specific causal mechanism and how it works. Then plug in those causes, run the mechanism, and observe the result.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
...
Marvin Edwards said:
But, if nothing fixes which number it is, then either nothing will be output, or all numbers will.
No, the rule I suggested says it's just one number. What is not fixed is which one. That rule is logically possible, indeterministic, and unproblematic for freedom.

You'll have to show me such an algorithm. I'm currently convinced it is impossible to output a specific number through any method that is causally indeterministic. Even the random number function in a computer program operates deterministically.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
But within a deterministic system there is no actual ''freedom is exercised before awareness'' either. Some use that figure of speech to convey the meaning that the results are determined before awareness, that it is not consciousness itself that processes information and produces response.

Yes, I agree that most of the time we view "self" as our current conscious experience, and free will has often been assumed to be a choice that is made with the conscious mind. But if neuroscience informs us that some decisions happen below conscious awareness, then, that's where it happens. Facts are facts.

This does not mean that free will disappears. It simply explains to us that a freely chosen will may first be decided below conscious awareness and only then be bumped up into our awareness. And I suspect that the guy with the gun will enter into that decision even at the unconscious level. We know this for a fact (one of those facts that are facts) because we observe that it alters the behavior that is chosen.

Freedom simply means the attributes and abilities of a brain to perform its function according to architecture, inputs and memory.

Right. Freedom is the general ability to do something. But freedom always implies "freedom from" some meaningful and relevant constraint upon that ability. For example, a brain injury that impairs the ability to reason removes our freedom to make choices. Specific causes can impair or remove an ability to "perform a function".


The same freedom that a planet orbits a star, water cascades down a gorge, the same freedom that trees grow and birds fly.... abilities that have nothing to do with 'will' or 'free will.'

Ah, but all objects do not have the same abilities/freedoms. A planet orbiting a star does not have the ability to choose to do something else. The planet can only respond passively to the force of gravity. A tree is a living organism with the ability to defy gravity by biological drives that grow branches upward to expose its leaves to the sunlight. But a tree also lacks the ability to choose what it will do. An intelligent species, on the other hand, has the ability to choose what it will do. And it is here, in the choosing of the will, that we find the notion of a freely chosen will versus a coerced or unduly influenced choice.

For compatibilism to select behaviour that is uncoerced, unforced, and call this an example of 'free will' fails for that reason.

If free will is nothing more exciting than simply deciding for ourselves what we will do, without coercion and undue influence, it does not fail. The notion makes a significant empirical distinction between a choice of our own versus a choice imposed upon us by someone or something else.

The only true freedom within a determined system would be the possibility to have done otherwise within any moment in time. But of course determinism does no allow multiple selections at any moment in time, and this essentially kills the possibility of free will.

Well, possibilities do not show up in empirical reality. Look around and point one out. There are things that used to be possibilities before they were actualized. But all the things we see are actualities. Possibilities exist solely within the imagination, the same place where choosing happens. Possibilities are mental constructs that we manipulate to imagine alternative futures, so that we can choose which future we want to make real.

Whenever we have a choosing event, there will be at least two real possibilities, two different things that we can do. This "ability to do otherwise" is built into the choosing operation itself. At the end of the choosing event, we will have the single inevitable thing that we "will" do, plus at least one other thing that we "could have" done, but didn't do.

The choosing process is deterministic. And those two possibilities showing up will be just as causally necessary as any other event. So, any philosopher or scientist who repeats the myth that "determinism does not allow multiple possibilities" is clearly mistaken. There is but one "actual" future, but it is chosen from multiple "possible" futures. There is one thing that "will" happen but there are multiple things that "can" happen. The conflation of "can" and "will" creates a fallacy.

Feelings can be deceptive.

Yes. That is why free will cannot be defined as a "feeling". Free will is the empirical event where the will is chosen by us, while free of coercion and undue influence. Either it happened one way or it happened the other. Feelings have nothing to do with it.


We simply have ''will.''

Will you buy this car or will you buy that car? If we "simply have will" then the will would already be there, and there would be no question to answer. But the question is there, and we must either answer it, or go without a car.

Will is not free.

Ironically, free will has nothing to do with the will being free. Free will refers to the freedom we had when choosing our will.
 

Bomb#20

Contributor
Joined
Sep 28, 2004
Messages
6,864
Location
California
Gender
It's a free country.
Basic Beliefs
Rationalism
You'll have to show me such an algorithm. I'm currently convinced it is impossible to output a specific number through any method that is causally indeterministic. Even the random number function in a computer program operates deterministically.
But that's because the computer engineers who design digital computers have gone to a great deal of effort to make sure that happens. Unpredictable, unrepeatable output is a massive practical problem when you have a computer program that doesn't do what you want, and you need to find out why. But back in the days before digital computers, we used analog computers, and the computer giving a slightly different answer every time you ran it on the same problem was a familiar occurrence.

Today we have the best of both worlds. Lots of digital computers provide "true random number generators" that give as-far-as-we-know indeterministic results when you specifically ask for that but otherwise run deterministically.

The simplest way to build such a device is to get rid of the "clock". In conventional computer design, the main tool engineers use to force the computer to run deterministically is a wire called a "clock" that switches between high and low voltage on a regular schedule, typically under the control of the same sort of crystal oscillator you'd find in a digital watch. Everything that happens in the computer is synchronized to that wire's periodic voltage changes -- if some data is ready before the clock wire voltage change arrives, then that data will just have to wait for the clock wire to switch before it has any further effect on the computer's operation. Computer determinism is the cumulative consequence of all those picoseconds of data waiting for clocks. So if you get rid of the clock wires in two subcircuits and design them to run full-speed-ahead-damn-the-torpedoes, and build a third circuit that compares the outputs of the first two, then the output of the third circuit will be unpredictable, unrepeatable, and as far as we know, nondeterministic.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
You'll have to show me such an algorithm. I'm currently convinced it is impossible to output a specific number through any method that is causally indeterministic. Even the random number function in a computer program operates deterministically.
But that's because the computer engineers who design digital computers have gone to a great deal of effort to make sure that happens. Unpredictable, unrepeatable output is a massive practical problem when you have a computer program that doesn't do what you want, and you need to find out why. But back in the days before digital computers, we used analog computers, and the computer giving a slightly different answer every time you ran it on the same problem was a familiar occurrence.

Today we have the best of both worlds. Lots of digital computers provide "true random number generators" that give as-far-as-we-know indeterministic results when you specifically ask for that but otherwise run deterministically.

The simplest way to build such a device is to get rid of the "clock". In conventional computer design, the main tool engineers use to force the computer to run deterministically is a wire called a "clock" that switches between high and low voltage on a regular schedule, typically under the control of the same sort of crystal oscillator you'd find in a digital watch. Everything that happens in the computer is synchronized to that wire's periodic voltage changes -- if some data is ready before the clock wire voltage change arrives, then that data will just have to wait for the clock wire to switch before it has any further effect on the computer's operation. Computer determinism is the cumulative consequence of all those picoseconds of data waiting for clocks. So if you get rid of the clock wires in two subcircuits and design them to run full-speed-ahead-damn-the-torpedoes, and build a third circuit that compares the outputs of the first two, then the output of the third circuit will be unpredictable, unrepeatable, and as far as we know, nondeterministic.

Ages ago, when I read about random number generation in Knuth, he pointed out that adding more bells and whistles to a random number generator usually makes the output less random. I'll have to type this from the book: "One of the common fallacies encountered in connection with random number generation is the idea that we can take a good generator and modify it a little, in order to get an "even-more-random" sequence. This quite often is not true..." and he goes on to give a several examples. (Donald E. Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming, Volume II, Seminumerical Algorithms, Chapter Three, "Random Numbers"). Knuth was a classic back in the old days when I was a young programmer. But my programming was for business applications, so I didn't get to do much that was technically challenged. Although I did have a Visual Basic application that spoke to Word through DDE and communicated with the IBM mainframe through its terminal emulator program.

I don't think Knuth mentioned hardware generation from a source of electric noise. But here's the thing, doesn't the noise have a cause? (Consider, for example, the noise they were picking up in early radio telescopes, which they eventually concluded came from the Big Bang.)

My theory is that every tick in that noise is reliably caused, perhaps by some quantum level chain of events. But we would call it chaotic, because it is beyond our ability to predict these events. It is indetermistic in that it cannot be be predicted, but it may still be causally deterministic.

So, I believe that even the "true" random number generator's output will be causally deterministic, but certainly random enough to be unpredictable, which is sufficient for its usage in cryptography. Basically, you just want a number that no one else can guess.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
Marvin Edwards said:
My theory is that every tick in that noise is reliably caused, perhaps by some quantum level chain of events. But we would call it chaotic, because it is beyond our ability to predict these events. It is indetermistic in that it cannot be be predicted, but it may still be causally deterministic.
But I'm not saying it's indeterministic. I'm saying that:

1. It is not known whether it's deterministic.

2. If it turns out to be nondeterministic, we are not less free because of it - at least not as long as the nondeterminism is limited to the rule I mentioned; different kinds of nondeterminism can be relevant for free will.

Marvin Edwards said:
So, I believe that even the "true" random number generator's output will be causally deterministic, but certainly random enough to be unpredictable, which is sufficient for its usage in cryptography. Basically, you just want a number that no one else can guess.
Suppose for the sake of the argument that your theory happens to be false. Are we not free?
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
Random does not equate to free will. Determined does not equate to free will. The term "free will" simply does not apply....therefore a semantic construct.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
Not always, and especially not when it comes to brain function.


Feelings 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.''



For the reasons given above, we have the perception of conscious regulative control. The perception of conscious regulative control, as shown in the given examples is an illusion formed by a disconnect (absence of a feedback loop) between the means of experience and the experience itself, which lacks awareness of the underlying production activity.

Of course, once the drive and desire to act is formed, there is no impediment to action;

''Wanting to do X is fully determined by these prior causes (and perhaps a dash of true chance). Now that the desire to do X is being felt, there are no other constraints that keep the person from doing what he wants, namely X.

I would suggest that Michel Desmurget is simply overstating his case. Explaining how something works does not explain it away, it only explains how it works. The fact that certain areas of the brain function to provide a given experience is not a surprise. The key fact here is that the experience explains the behavior: I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that. There is nothing inaccurate about my description of what happened. Desmurget provided additional facts about what parts of the brain were involved in doing what. But none of these facts contradict the objective observation that "I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that."

The second paragraph describes the experiment where Desmurget's team manipulated a patient's brain to produce the feeling that he had performed some movement that he did not actually do. Whenever a person is effectively manipulated they are not acting of their own free will. Their own free will would involve their posterior parietal cortex being altered only by their own brain as part of its normal process of deciding what it will do.

The experiment did nothing to falsify the objective observation that "I was told to stretch out my arm. I decided to actually do that. And then I did that." It was my own brain that exercised regulatory control of the movement of my arm.

Now if someone else's brain, say the brain of Desmurget, was experimenting upon me to see what manipulating my posterior parietal cortex would do, and he made my arm move, such that it punched someone in the face, then he would be responsible for that act, and not me.

But if my own brain decided to stretch out my arm and punch someone in the face, then I would be held responsible. Because I did so deliberately, of my own free will.


I would suggest that Desmurget is not overstating his case. I would point out that he is describing his experiments on the human brain and their results.

He is not the only one. The evidence coming out of neuroscience supports everything that has been said: basically, that the brain is a modular system which acquires and processes information and generates output based on architecture, condition, inputs and memory, a failure in any of these elements disrupting or destroying consciousness.

Will has no say in the matter.

Mark Hallet is a specialist;


How Can There Be Voluntary Movement Without Free Will?

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

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

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

For any cortical region, its activity will depend on its synaptic inputs. Some motor cortical inputs come via only a few synapses from sensory cortices, and such influences on motor output are clear. Some inputs will come from regions, such as the limbic areas, many synapses away from both primary sensory and motor cortices. At any one time, the activity of the motor cortex, and its commands to the spinal cord, will reflect virtually all the activity in the entire brain.

Is it necessary that there be anything else? This can be a complete description of the process of movement selection, and even if there is something more -- like free will -- it would have to operate through such neuronal mechanisms.

The view that there is no such thing as free will as an inner causal agent has been advocated by a number of philosophers, scientists, and neurologists including Ryle, Adrian, Skinner and Fisher.(Fisher 1993)''

One of the things missing in Hallet's narrative is the events external to the brain, you know, the ones providing the external inputs. A guy says, "Raise your hand". Then, back inside the brain, we hear what he said, and then we decide "What the heck, I'll raise my hand", and then we act upon that intention by actually raising our hand.

Another thing missing is where the decision making takes place. Mark says, "Movement, in the final analysis, comes only from muscle contraction." That may be sufficient to explain a twitch, but it does not explain me deliberately raising my hand.

Mark finally points out, "There are a large number of important inputs, and one of the most important is from the corticospinal tract which conveys a large part of the cortical control." If it is a deliberate act, then the origin of the signal has to come from neural mechanisms that actually decide if I want to bother to raise my hand or not. "Raise your hand" is not understood by the motor neurons. They cannot act directly upon that until it gets through auditory sensation, word interpretation, and deciding what to do about it.

Fortunately, the brain comes with the neural functionality required to choose what the organism will do, and then to initiate that intention through the motor neurons.

Where's the free will? Well, as long as the brain is functioning well, and no one is pointing a gun at it, then the brain is free to decide for itself what it will do. But if there's a guy with a gun, then these are additional sensory inputs that must be converted into useful information so that the neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex can decide what to tell the motoneurons to do.

Apparently, other neuroscientists have identified where the decision making takes place. That's where the will is formed. Whether it was formed in the absence of coercion and undue influence is how we decide whether the choice was freely made.
 
Top Bottom