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

Compatibilism: What's that About?

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
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.

So when was all this decided?
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
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?

Reliable cause and effect enables prediction, which enables control, which enables our ability to do things. Our ability to do things makes freedom, the ability to do what we want, possible. Unreliable causation would impair or remove prediction and control, reducing our ability to do things, thus reducing our freedom.

If you're worried about the loss of imagination, and variety, and surprise, don't be. Imagination is a deterministic operation in which we deliberately move stuff around, or sort things differently, or unintentionally but reliably make mistakes that enlighten us to new possibilities.

The brain presumes reliable cause and effect. When something good, or bad, happens, we want to know why. If we know the cause then we gain some control over the event. We take it for granted that every event has a cause. So, it's not really my theory, but a common understanding.
 
Last edited:

fromderinside

Mazzie Daius
Joined
Oct 6, 2008
Messages
15,945
Location
Local group: Solar system: Earth: NA: US: contiguo
Basic Beliefs
optimist
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.
In Conway's Life? Example, please.

The only way for the game to be consistent with t = 0 natural law statement is for the game to permit both forward and backward reference for all time. Stacking deck is not an example of determinism statement. Provide a game that works both ways and I'll bet my assertion works.

Conway's life game isn't an example of anything relevant to determinism discussion.
 

DBT

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


Suppose for the sake of the argument that your theory happens to be false. Are we not free?

Reliable cause and effect enables prediction, which enables control, which enables our ability to do things. Our ability to do things makes freedom, the ability to do what we want, possible. Unreliable causation would impair or remove prediction and control, reducing our ability to do things, thus reducing our freedom.

If you're worried about the loss of imagination, and variety, and surprise, don't be. Imagination is a deterministic operation in which we deliberately move stuff around, or sort things differently, or unintentionally but reliably make mistakes that enlighten us to new possibilities.

The brain presumes reliable cause and effect. When something good, or bad, happens, we want to know why. If we know the cause then we gain some control over the event. We take it for granted that every event has a cause. So, it's not really my theory, but a common understanding.

Because each 'cause' is an effect and each 'effect' is a cause, cause and effect is not an accurate description.
 

DBT

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

If the whole picture of cognition is considered, it must include inputs.

Nobody denies the role of input. That is what I have been pointing out, that there is no single factor like 'free will' at work, that brain output/behaviour is based on a number of factors, brain architecture and state (someone may be drunk, a chemical imbalance, lesion etc) inputs interacting with memory and so on....memory function (if severe) disintegrates consciousness, loss of recognition, loss of self awareness.


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.

It's not a matter of ''finally'' - not everything can be said in a limited time frame. The role of each function can be explored in detail if need be;

As an outline of the systems of the brain and their functions:

perceptual processing
• Superior colliculus

Modulation of cognition
(memory, attention)
• Cingulate cortex
• Hippocampus
• Basal forebrain

Representation of emotional response
• Somatosensory-related
cortices

Representation of perceived action
• Left frontal operculum
• Superior temporal gyrus

Motivational evaluation
• Amygdala
• Orbitofrontal cortex

Social reasoning
• Prefrontal cortex


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.

As can any sufficiently complex information processor. Not as a matter of free will, just function enabled by architecture; the ability to acquire information, process it and proceed with an action based on a given set of criteria/algorithms.

No free will needed.

''I don't think "free will" is a very sensible concept, and you don't need neuroscience to reject it -- any mechanistic view of the world is good enough, and indeed you could even argue on purely conceptual grounds that the opposite of determinism is randomness, not free will! Most thoughtful neuroscientists I know have replaced the concept of free will with the concept of rationality -- that we select our actions based on a kind of practical reasoning. And there is no conflict between rationality and the mind as a physical system -- After all, computers are rational physical systems! - Martha Farah, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and a prominent neuroethicist.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
If the whole picture of cognition is considered, it must include inputs.

Nobody denies the role of input. That is what I have been pointing out, that there is no single factor like 'free will' at work, that brain output/behaviour is based on a number of factors, brain architecture and state (someone may be drunk, a chemical imbalance, lesion etc) inputs interacting with memory and so on....memory function (if severe) disintegrates consciousness, loss of recognition, loss of self awareness.


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.

It's not a matter of ''finally'' - not everything can be said in a limited time frame. The role of each function can be explored in detail if need be;

As an outline of the systems of the brain and their functions:

perceptual processing
• Superior colliculus

Modulation of cognition
(memory, attention)
• Cingulate cortex
• Hippocampus
• Basal forebrain

Representation of emotional response
• Somatosensory-related
cortices

Representation of perceived action
• Left frontal operculum
• Superior temporal gyrus

Motivational evaluation
• Amygdala
• Orbitofrontal cortex

Social reasoning
• Prefrontal cortex


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.

As can any sufficiently complex information processor. Not as a matter of free will, just function enabled by architecture; the ability to acquire information, process it and proceed with an action based on a given set of criteria/algorithms.

No free will needed.

''I don't think "free will" is a very sensible concept, and you don't need neuroscience to reject it -- any mechanistic view of the world is good enough, and indeed you could even argue on purely conceptual grounds that the opposite of determinism is randomness, not free will! Most thoughtful neuroscientists I know have replaced the concept of free will with the concept of rationality -- that we select our actions based on a kind of practical reasoning. And there is no conflict between rationality and the mind as a physical system -- After all, computers are rational physical systems! - Martha Farah, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and a prominent neuroethicist.

Okay, so now we have all the primary functions of the brain. We've got the sensory processing that organizes external input into a model of reality. We've got decision-making and planning parts that evaluate that model, imagines what we might do next, and then chooses the specific plan for what we will do. And finally we've got the motor management parts that enable our bodies to carry out our deliberately chosen will.

And, assuming all of these parts are reliable, in good working order, we now have all we need to deal with practical real world issues. We can consider our options and then carry out what we, ourselves, have deliberately decided we will do.

Then Martha Farah asks us us to replace the notion of "free will" with the notion of "rationality", pointing out "that we select our actions based on a kind of practical reasoning", and assuring us that "there is no conflict between rationality and the mind as a physical system".

Well, Ms. Farah, we're not quite done with the notion of "free will" yet. We still have the practical problems that arise when that rational system is subjected to coercion and other forms of undue influence. We must still distinguish the deliberate choice of a rational mind, from a choice being forced upon us by a guy with a gun. And we must take into account any significant mental illness or injury that renders the normally rational mind irrational.

Free will is when someone decides for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and other forms of undue influence. This is the definition we use when assigning moral or legal responsibility for a person's actions. It informs us of the meaningful and relevant cause of the action, so that we know what we need to do to correct actions that break the law. Do we correct the behavior by psychiatric treatment or by rehabilitation? Or, is the behavior corrected by simply removing the guy with the gun who coerced the behavior?

Free will, when properly defined, remains a key concept that makes significant distinctions about events in the real world. And it has no issues with the mind as a physical system.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
Marvin Edwards said:
Reliable cause and effect enables prediction, which enables control, which enables our ability to do things. Our ability to do things makes freedom, the ability to do what we want, possible. Unreliable causation would impair or remove prediction and control, reducing our ability to do things, thus reducing our freedom.
Actually, the situations under consideration are such that we cannot predict the outcome. It happens with some random number generators. Our inability to predict the outcome remains the same regardless of whether it turns out that the randomness is real - i.e., indeterminism - or apparent but invincible - due to some deterministic but unpredictable quantum stuff.

If it turns out that your theory that it's not true randomness is true, or if it turns out it is false, our ability to make predictions remains equal.



Marvin Edwards said:
If you're worried about the loss of imagination, and variety, and surprise, don't be.
I am not. Again, compatibilism is true. And we do not lose any freedom if your theory happens to be correct and the world is deterministic, compared to the indeterministic alternative. My point is that in the opposite scenario, we still do not lose freedom.


Marvin Edwards said:
The brain presumes reliable cause and effect. When something good, or bad, happens, we want to know why. If we know the cause then we gain some control over the event. We take it for granted that every event has a cause. So, it's not really my theory, but a common understanding.
That's a matter for psychology research. And it seems many physicists think otherwise (and are indeterminists or take no stance), given the information available to them (which is a lot more than that available to the public at large). Perhaps, it is the default view for inanimate objects and pretheoretically. For minds, it's harder to tell. Iirc (it's been a while), some experiments give different results depending on how the questions are worded. But I see no evidence that there is some kind of default belief that when we choose a random number, the outcome was determined beforehand. Not that I think would matter.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
Actually, the situations under consideration are such that we cannot predict the outcome. It happens with some random number generators. Our inability to predict the outcome remains the same regardless of whether it turns out that the randomness is real - i.e., indeterminism - or apparent but invincible - due to some deterministic but unpredictable quantum stuff.

If it turns out that your theory that it's not true randomness is true, or if it turns out it is false, our ability to make predictions remains equal.




I am not. Again, compatibilism is true. And we do not lose any freedom if your theory happens to be correct and the world is deterministic, compared to the indeterministic alternative. My point is that in the opposite scenario, we still do not lose freedom.


Marvin Edwards said:
The brain presumes reliable cause and effect. When something good, or bad, happens, we want to know why. If we know the cause then we gain some control over the event. We take it for granted that every event has a cause. So, it's not really my theory, but a common understanding.
That's a matter for psychology research. And it seems many physicists think otherwise (and are indeterminists or take no stance), given the information available to them (which is a lot more than that available to the public at large). Perhaps, it is the default view for inanimate objects and pretheoretically. For minds, it's harder to tell. Iirc (it's been a while), some experiments give different results depending on how the questions are worded. But I see no evidence that there is some kind of default belief that when we choose a random number, the outcome was determined beforehand. Not that I think would matter.

Ironically, I would agree that events are not causally determined beforehand. No event is ever happens until its final causes have played themselves out. And, in an infinite causal chain, what we really care about are just the meaningful and relevant causes. A meaningful cause efficiently explains why something happened. A relevant cause is one we can do something about. The most meaningful and relevant cause of a deliberate action is the act of deliberation that precedes it.

The Big Bang is not a meaningful or relevant cause of any human event. Nor is causal necessity. After all, causation never causes anything and determinism never determines anything. Only the actual objects and forces that make up the universe can cause events to happen. Causation is a concept we use to describe the interactions of these objects and forces as they bring about events. And determinism merely asserts that the behavior of these objects and forces is reliable, and thus theoretically predictable. We happen to be one of those actual objects that go around causing stuff to happen, and doing so for our own purposes, our own reasons, and our own interests. So, causation is about us (and of course all those other objects and forces).
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
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.

Then again, random and determined are also semantic constructs. Every word and concept is.
 

steve_bank

Diabetic retinopathy and poor eyesight. Typos ...
Joined
Nov 10, 2017
Messages
11,170
Location
seattle
Basic Beliefs
secular-skeptic
Deterministic has a mathematical and subjective meaning.


A deterministic mathematical function means you plug numbers into an equation an get an answer.

Speed = Distance x Time is a deterministic function.

Flipping a coin is probabilistic. The probability of heads or tails is 50/50 on each toss, but there is ni dteenistic way to predict which will occur on a toss. Flip a coin 100 times and it will be close to 50/50.

Probabilistic does not Violeta causality.

Quantum indeterminacy plays out in routine measurements. There are no absolutely exact measurements. Therer is alwas a probability that goes with a measurement. DC current in a wire wire is measured as an average of a large quantity of electrons in a wire. At 10 amps the error or uncertainty is low, quantum effects of the electrons can be ignored. As current gets small quantum effects become an issue. At the quantum level there is 'quantum noise'.

Philosophical determinism is whether or not all things are predetermined. Am I destined to write this post?
 

fromderinside

Mazzie Daius
Joined
Oct 6, 2008
Messages
15,945
Location
Local group: Solar system: Earth: NA: US: contiguo
Basic Beliefs
optimist
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.

Then again, random and determined are also semantic constructs. Every word and concept is.

Before I begin uncontrolled laughter Let me get something straight.

You assert logic depends, depends on semantic structure. That maths, science, history - even though all of these have material basis independent of the domains which their semantic definitions encompass - are subservient to how each lexicon is derived represented by a word or few "how one expresses it" sentences.

a ha, a ha ha, a ha ha ha, hahahahahahahahaha........

You may go back to your Platonic heritage now you poor puppy.
 

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
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.

I think you are using a different meaning of "deterministic" than I understand.

https://www4.stat.ncsu.edu/~gross/BIO560%20webpage/slides/Jan102013.pdf
• In deterministic models, the output of the model is fully determined by the parameter values and the initial conditions.
• Stochastic models possess some inherent randomness. The same set of parameter values and initial conditions will lead to an ensemble of different outputs.

The two processes are discrete. If the universe is deterministic, then no uncertainty of outcome can exist. If uncertainty of outcomes can exist, then the universe is not deterministic.

In case there's any confusion, this is all based around evaluation immediately prior to the moment that the action occurs. After the occurs, the probability collapses to 1, because it did actually occur. Like I said earlier, prior to selecting a marble from the bag, you have a 10% chance of picking a blue one in the future. After you stick your hand in and pull out a blue marble, you have a 100% chance of having selected a blue marble.
 

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
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 suspect there is a different pattern for new experiences than for repeated and routine experiences.

Ages ago when I used to do archery, I had the muscle memory down pretty well. I could certainly see that the process of drawing, aiming, breathing, and releasing were essentially calling up a pre-existing program and executing. But when I was first learning to shoot... those were very conscious activities. I had to draw, and evaluate how I was drawing as I did it. Was I drawing to the same reference location each time? Was my hand higher or lower than it should be relative to my cheekbone? Was my elbow high enough? Was I dropping my shoulder? Same with each step. There was a lot of repetition involved in learning to draw a bow properly, so that it became repeatable.

As I understand it, most of what we think of as 'decisions' and 'choices' are actually routine, and don't involve much (if any) executive function. We already made that decision at some point in the past, we don't have to make it again. I have a pair of tan shoes that I wear with my burgundy suit, as long as my shirt doesn't have any black of gray in it. If the shirt has black or gray, I'll wear my black shoes. I only really had to make that decision once, and it probably wasn't even with respect to that burgundy suit. It's based on a pre-existing set of likes and dislikes with respect to style, comfort, and color combinations. I don't wear brown shoes with black clothing or vice versa. I don't wear black or brown shoes with navy, I wear cordovan (preferred) or grey.

But sometimes it takes a little more effort. I have a pair of bright red suede boots that I love. But figuring out when to wear them takes a lot more thought - conscious thought - than most other outfits. They're pretty and I enjoy them, but they're also a bit uncomfortable if I have to do a lot of walking, and because of the particular shade, they clash with a lot of things. So when I have an outfit that I think they'll work with, I have to give actual thought to whether they clash, what my schedule is like that day, and whether I should back a back-up pair of shoes just in case I end up with more meetings than were originally on my calendar.

I also think this process isn't the same for everyone. I'm fairly efficient at decision making, and a good chunk of my professional work requires decision-making - very, very little of it is routine work. My spouse is horrible at decision making. It's difficult for him. Part of it is method. I'm really good at identifying and removing things that aren't material or are irrelevant, and I'm quick to spot the "no" options and then ignore them. He... isn't.

When we pick out jelly, for example, he ends up giving thought and consideration to every flavor up there, as well as brand, and consistency, and I don't honestly know what else. I do know, however, that he doesn't do a first pass the way I do. I will give it all a glance and pretty much exclude the stuff I know I'm not interested in. I don't like strawberry or grape jam, I only like marmalades in small doses, definitely don't want mint unless I'm having lamb, etc. I prefer tart flavors to sweet, so I tend to exclude blueberry and cherry unless it specifies 'tart cherry'. I also prefer to avoid large brands that use corn syrup, and if I can find a local or small-batch option, I'll go with those. So I can limit my universe of options to about a half a dozen jellies & jams in the matter of moments. That's almost all routine execution of pre-exiting preference sets. Then it's a matter of "what do I think sounds best, and do I really care?". There's a point where the difference between plum jam and blackberry preserves just doesn't matter much, so it's whichever jar is prettier, or which one I can reach without assistance, or whatever random influence swings me to one rather than another. It takes me about thirty seconds to pick out a jelly. There've been times he has spent fifteen minutes in the aisle trying to make a selection.
 

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
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.

The bolded has been my largest objection to determinism, and also why I end up pretty waffly on compatibilism. Determinism and agency are at odds with one another unless determinism gets redefined to allow for stochasticism.

I think a stochastic existence can be compatible with agency, but I don't think that a deterministic existence can be. That's why a lot of my arguments end up based not on the endless argument over what 'will' is and whether it's 'free' or what extent of 'freedom' it has... but on whether or not the assumption of determinism makes sense in the first place.
 

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
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.

I think you are using a different meaning of "deterministic" than I understand.

https://www4.stat.ncsu.edu/~gross/BIO560%20webpage/slides/Jan102013.pdf
• In deterministic models, the output of the model is fully determined by the parameter values and the initial conditions.
• Stochastic models possess some inherent randomness. The same set of parameter values and initial conditions will lead to an ensemble of different outputs.

The two processes are discrete. If the universe is deterministic, then no uncertainty of outcome can exist. If uncertainty of outcomes can exist, then the universe is not deterministic.

In case there's any confusion, this is all based around evaluation immediately prior to the moment that the action occurs. After the occurs, the probability collapses to 1, because it did actually occur. Like I said earlier, prior to selecting a marble from the bag, you have a 10% chance of picking a blue one in the future. After you stick your hand in and pull out a blue marble, you have a 100% chance of having selected a blue marble.
Emily, that example is qualified by immediacy.
If I can recall block time was brought up very early on in this thread.
To me, the "push the button research" indicates that prior to the event the probability was already fixed.
 
Last edited:

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
I think you are using a different meaning of "deterministic" than I understand.

https://www4.stat.ncsu.edu/~gross/BIO560%20webpage/slides/Jan102013.pdf


The two processes are discrete. If the universe is deterministic, then no uncertainty of outcome can exist. If uncertainty of outcomes can exist, then the universe is not deterministic.

In case there's any confusion, this is all based around evaluation immediately prior to the moment that the action occurs. After the occurs, the probability collapses to 1, because it did actually occur. Like I said earlier, prior to selecting a marble from the bag, you have a 10% chance of picking a blue one in the future. After you stick your hand in and pull out a blue marble, you have a 100% chance of having selected a blue marble.
Emily, that example is qualified by immediacy.
If I can recall block time was bright up very early on in this thread.
To me, the "push the button research" indicates that prior to the event the probability was already fixed.

I confess to laziness, and not wanting to wade through the chaff to find the wheat for this. Could you expand on what you mean?
 

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
I don't even know the purpose of the experiment and can't recall the names.
But from what I read maybe 2 years ago...
There was an experiment, an exercise...
They took this guy and hooked wires to his brain.
Told him to push buttons, either red or blue.
After a while they figured out they could tell which button he was going to push at least 20 seconds before the push.
To the guy he didn't know which button he was going to push until he pushed it.
 

Jarhyn

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

It kills the possibility of "having done differently". But compatibilism does not place "having done differently" as the meter of "free will".

Rather, it places free will as a function of executive contribution in a different consideration of the model of ethics: free will is not the ability to do differently in this framework, but rather the ability to, of various probabilistic outcomes arising from imperfection of physical mode, having available a means to compare and contrast what would happen, probably, "if A" versus "if !A"

Choosing then is a function of whether (then, of 'if->then") from the relationship is (down/towards goal) or (not down/towards goal). It is a function of simulation and assumption based on model.

There was, given the consideration, a single choice made on the basis of factors. Could the graph have chosen differently? No. No more than f(x)=1+X has any choice of grinding out 2 given x=1.

Really, free will becomes an element of the discussion of executive function, which is to say "in the reference frame of an event, what is the executive agency?"
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
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.

It kills the possibility of "having done differently". But compatibilism does not place "having done differently" as the meter of "free will".

Rather, it places free will as a function of executive contribution in a different consideration of the model of ethics: free will is not the ability to do differently in this framework, but rather the ability to, of various probabilistic outcomes arising from imperfection of physical mode, having available a means to compare and contrast what would happen, probably, "if A" versus "if !A"

Choosing then is a function of whether (then, of 'if->then") from the relationship is (down/towards goal) or (not down/towards goal). It is a function of simulation and assumption based on model.

There was, given the consideration, a single choice made on the basis of factors. Could the graph have chosen differently? No. No more than f(x)=1+X has any choice of grinding out 2 given x=1.

Really, free will becomes an element of the discussion of executive function, which is to say "in the reference frame of an event, what is the executive agency?"

Choosing is a deterministic operation that inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and, based on that evaluation, outputs a single choice. The operation is deterministic because the output is a reliable result of our own purposes and reasons, our own thoughts and feelings, our own beliefs and values, our own genetic dispositions and prior life experiences, and any other things that make us uniquely us. So, the choice is not only reliably caused, but it is reliably caused by us.

The "ability to do otherwise" is built into the choosing operation. For example, suppose we need to decide between A and B. In order for the choosing operation to proceed, "I can choose A" must be true and "I can choose B" must also be true. If either of those are false, then choosing cannot proceed. For example, if "I can choose A" is false then we would simply do B, without any choosing. And, if "I can choose B" is false, then we would simply do A. So, before we can get to the comparative evaluation phase of the operation, both "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" must be true, by logical necessity (they are required by the operation).

Whenever "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" are both true, then I have the "ability to do otherwise".

Suppose the result of the comparison is that I choose A. Then A becomes the thing I will do and B becomes the thing that I could have done, but didn't do. Why is "I could have done B" true? Because "I can choose B" was true earlier, and "could have" is just the past tense of "can".

So, as it turns out, in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, "I could have done otherwise" is ALWAYS true. It is "I would have done otherwise" that is ALWAYS false.

It is an error to confuse "can" and "will". If something will happen, then it certainly will happen. But if something can happen, then it may happen, or, it may never happen. What "can" happen constrains what "will" happen, because if it cannot happen then it will not happen. But what will happen never constrains what can happen. What can happen is only constrained by the imagination.

Possibilities exist solely within the imagination. We cannot drive a car across the possibility of a bridge. We can only drive across an actual bridge. However, in order to build an actual bridge, we must first imagine one or more possible bridges.

The fact that a possibility will not happen does not make it an impossibility. It only makes it a possibility that never happened.
 

none

Banned
Banned
Joined
Apr 1, 2010
Messages
3,331
Location
outside
Basic Beliefs
atheist/ignostic
It kills the possibility of "having done differently". But compatibilism does not place "having done differently" as the meter of "free will".

Rather, it places free will as a function of executive contribution in a different consideration of the model of ethics: free will is not the ability to do differently in this framework, but rather the ability to, of various probabilistic outcomes arising from imperfection of physical mode, having available a means to compare and contrast what would happen, probably, "if A" versus "if !A"

Choosing then is a function of whether (then, of 'if->then") from the relationship is (down/towards goal) or (not down/towards goal). It is a function of simulation and assumption based on model.

There was, given the consideration, a single choice made on the basis of factors. Could the graph have chosen differently? No. No more than f(x)=1+X has any choice of grinding out 2 given x=1.

Really, free will becomes an element of the discussion of executive function, which is to say "in the reference frame of an event, what is the executive agency?"

Choosing is a deterministic operation that inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and, based on that evaluation, outputs a single choice. The operation is deterministic because the output is a reliable result of our own purposes and reasons, our own thoughts and feelings, our own beliefs and values, our own genetic dispositions and prior life experiences, and any other things that make us uniquely us. So, the choice is not only reliably caused, but it is reliably caused by us.

The "ability to do otherwise" is built into the choosing operation. For example, suppose we need to decide between A and B. In order for the choosing operation to proceed, "I can choose A" must be true and "I can choose B" must also be true. If either of those are false, then choosing cannot proceed. For example, if "I can choose A" is false then we would simply do B, without any choosing. And, if "I can choose B" is false, then we would simply do A. So, before we can get to the comparative evaluation phase of the operation, both "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" must be true, by logical necessity (they are required by the operation).

Whenever "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" are both true, then I have the "ability to do otherwise".

Suppose the result of the comparison is that I choose A. Then A becomes the thing I will do and B becomes the thing that I could have done, but didn't do. Why is "I could have done B" true? Because "I can choose B" was true earlier, and "could have" is just the past tense of "can".

So, as it turns out, in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, "I could have done otherwise" is ALWAYS true. It is "I would have done otherwise" that is ALWAYS false.

It is an error to confuse "can" and "will". If something will happen, then it certainly will happen. But if something can happen, then it may happen, or, it may never happen. What "can" happen constrains what "will" happen, because if it cannot happen then it will not happen. But what will happen never constrains what can happen. What can happen is only constrained by the imagination.

Possibilities exist solely within the imagination. We cannot drive a car across the possibility of a bridge. We can only drive across an actual bridge. However, in order to build an actual bridge, we must first imagine one or more possible bridges.

The fact that a possibility will not happen does not make it an impossibility. It only makes it a possibility that never happened.
OK, preform the basic function of your assessment.
Use your imagination..
Put it out there, perform a physics motion test.
Produce a possibility that will not happen.
 

steve_bank

Diabetic retinopathy and poor eyesight. Typos ...
Joined
Nov 10, 2017
Messages
11,170
Location
seattle
Basic Beliefs
secular-skeptic
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.

Then again, random and determined are also semantic constructs. Every word and concept is.

Philosophizing without a knowledge of math and science. Math and scince exist in te brain as thoughts and concepts. That does not men tere is no semnatc difference between terms.

Random has a specific definition in proximity. The occurrence of one event does not affect the occurrence of the next evet, there is no correlation between random variables.

I did this stuff waaaayyy back when going through statistics. Just flip a coin or toss a die 100 times and write down the results.
 

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.

Then again, random and determined are also semantic constructs. Every word and concept is.

The words random and determined refer to conditions in the world: how the world works, how it's objects and events interact.

Compatibilism selects a slice of how the world works deterministically and declares this slice of determined behaviour to be an example of free will.
 

Jarhyn

Wizard
Joined
Mar 29, 2010
Messages
12,472
Gender
Androgyne; they/them
Basic Beliefs
Natural Philosophy, Game Theoretic Ethicist
It kills the possibility of "having done differently". But compatibilism does not place "having done differently" as the meter of "free will".

Rather, it places free will as a function of executive contribution in a different consideration of the model of ethics: free will is not the ability to do differently in this framework, but rather the ability to, of various probabilistic outcomes arising from imperfection of physical mode, having available a means to compare and contrast what would happen, probably, "if A" versus "if !A"

Choosing then is a function of whether (then, of 'if->then") from the relationship is (down/towards goal) or (not down/towards goal). It is a function of simulation and assumption based on model.

There was, given the consideration, a single choice made on the basis of factors. Could the graph have chosen differently? No. No more than f(x)=1+X has any choice of grinding out 2 given x=1.

Really, free will becomes an element of the discussion of executive function, which is to say "in the reference frame of an event, what is the executive agency?"

Choosing is a deterministic operation that inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and, based on that evaluation, outputs a single choice. The operation is deterministic because the output is a reliable result of our own purposes and reasons, our own thoughts and feelings, our own beliefs and values, our own genetic dispositions and prior life experiences, and any other things that make us uniquely us. So, the choice is not only reliably caused, but it is reliably caused by us.

The "ability to do otherwise" is built into the choosing operation. For example, suppose we need to decide between A and B. In order for the choosing operation to proceed, "I can choose A" must be true and "I can choose B" must also be true. If either of those are false, then choosing cannot proceed. For example, if "I can choose A" is false then we would simply do B, without any choosing. And, if "I can choose B" is false, then we would simply do A. So, before we can get to the comparative evaluation phase of the operation, both "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" must be true, by logical necessity (they are required by the operation).

Whenever "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" are both true, then I have the "ability to do otherwise".

Suppose the result of the comparison is that I choose A. Then A becomes the thing I will do and B becomes the thing that I could have done, but didn't do. Why is "I could have done B" true? Because "I can choose B" was true earlier, and "could have" is just the past tense of "can".

So, as it turns out, in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, "I could have done otherwise" is ALWAYS true. It is "I would have done otherwise" that is ALWAYS false.

It is an error to confuse "can" and "will". If something will happen, then it certainly will happen. But if something can happen, then it may happen, or, it may never happen. What "can" happen constrains what "will" happen, because if it cannot happen then it will not happen. But what will happen never constrains what can happen. What can happen is only constrained by the imagination.

Possibilities exist solely within the imagination. We cannot drive a car across the possibility of a bridge. We can only drive across an actual bridge. However, in order to build an actual bridge, we must first imagine one or more possible bridges.

The fact that a possibility will not happen does not make it an impossibility. It only makes it a possibility that never happened.

Except it doesn't actually have to be true that you can choose B to have chosen A.

Choice exists on a different level of abstraction from determinism.

You think about two things, there's a process which likes one or the other, and we call that force of descent against a surface of action "choice". It is when one agency deflects another as it draws down the surface of it's own behavior which modifies it's path, the path along this surface of which can be called "executive flow". Sometimes the forces that act on it deform the graph and so the shape of the surface that it moves "down" along. But this deformation still only provides one best path of least resistance in it's metaphorical fall.

The discussion of free will is on the extent of the graph's potential to self modify against deflections towards consistent "goals", and the "freedom" from inefficiencies associated with the need to do so.

That is how "free will", the freedom of the agent toward the goal from opposition, to achieve it, becomes "compatible".

But that only gets into the very first level of the meta.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
It kills the possibility of "having done differently". But compatibilism does not place "having done differently" as the meter of "free will".

Rather, it places free will as a function of executive contribution in a different consideration of the model of ethics: free will is not the ability to do differently in this framework, but rather the ability to, of various probabilistic outcomes arising from imperfection of physical mode, having available a means to compare and contrast what would happen, probably, "if A" versus "if !A"

Choosing then is a function of whether (then, of 'if->then") from the relationship is (down/towards goal) or (not down/towards goal). It is a function of simulation and assumption based on model.

There was, given the consideration, a single choice made on the basis of factors. Could the graph have chosen differently? No. No more than f(x)=1+X has any choice of grinding out 2 given x=1.

Really, free will becomes an element of the discussion of executive function, which is to say "in the reference frame of an event, what is the executive agency?"

Choosing is a deterministic operation that inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and, based on that evaluation, outputs a single choice. The operation is deterministic because the output is a reliable result of our own purposes and reasons, our own thoughts and feelings, our own beliefs and values, our own genetic dispositions and prior life experiences, and any other things that make us uniquely us. So, the choice is not only reliably caused, but it is reliably caused by us.

The "ability to do otherwise" is built into the choosing operation. For example, suppose we need to decide between A and B. In order for the choosing operation to proceed, "I can choose A" must be true and "I can choose B" must also be true. If either of those are false, then choosing cannot proceed. For example, if "I can choose A" is false then we would simply do B, without any choosing. And, if "I can choose B" is false, then we would simply do A. So, before we can get to the comparative evaluation phase of the operation, both "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" must be true, by logical necessity (they are required by the operation).

Whenever "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" are both true, then I have the "ability to do otherwise".

Suppose the result of the comparison is that I choose A. Then A becomes the thing I will do and B becomes the thing that I could have done, but didn't do. Why is "I could have done B" true? Because "I can choose B" was true earlier, and "could have" is just the past tense of "can".

So, as it turns out, in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, "I could have done otherwise" is ALWAYS true. It is "I would have done otherwise" that is ALWAYS false.

It is an error to confuse "can" and "will". If something will happen, then it certainly will happen. But if something can happen, then it may happen, or, it may never happen. What "can" happen constrains what "will" happen, because if it cannot happen then it will not happen. But what will happen never constrains what can happen. What can happen is only constrained by the imagination.

Possibilities exist solely within the imagination. We cannot drive a car across the possibility of a bridge. We can only drive across an actual bridge. However, in order to build an actual bridge, we must first imagine one or more possible bridges.

The fact that a possibility will not happen does not make it an impossibility. It only makes it a possibility that never happened.

Except it doesn't actually have to be true that you can choose B to have chosen A.

Choice exists on a different level of abstraction from determinism.

You think about two things, there's a process which likes one or the other, and we call that force of descent against a surface of action "choice". It is when one agency deflects another as it draws down the surface of it's own behavior which modifies it's path, the path along this surface of which can be called "executive flow". Sometimes the forces that act on it deform the graph and so the shape of the surface that it moves "down" along. But this deformation still only provides one best path of least resistance in it's metaphorical fall.

The discussion of free will is on the extent of the graph's potential to self modify against deflections towards consistent "goals", and the "freedom" from inefficiencies associated with the need to do so.

That is how "free will", the freedom of the agent toward the goal from opposition, to achieve it, becomes "compatible".

But that only gets into the very first level of the meta.

That's an interesting metaphor. You've got gravity motivating the descent, obstacles causing resistance shaping the path, and the distortion of the graph like the bowling ball on the bed distorting space-time. Perhaps we could make this a little simpler?

Why not go with a standard description of choosing that everyone can understand:
(1) We encounter a problem or issue that requires us to make a decision before we can continue. Perhaps we've just been seated in a restaurant and we've picked up the menu. Unless we make a choice, we will go hungry tonight. The waiter assures us that we can choose any item on the menu. The chef has the ingredients to prepare any meal we order. We see several options that we like. Each of these options is a real possibility. And we can choose any one of them.
(2) We consider (a) the Steak dinner. Is it likely to satisfy our hunger and our tastes? Is it consistent with our dietary goals? Now we apply the same criteria to (b) the Lobster dinner, and finally to (c) the Chef's Salad.
(3) After these considerations, the Chef's salad seems better to us than the others. Our thoughts and feelings confirm that it is one we want the most.
(4) Our will, our specific intent for the immediate future, is now set.
(5) This intention then motivates and directs our subsequent actions: "I will have the Chef's Salad, please", we say to the waiter.
(6) After the meal, the waiter brings us the bill for the Chef's Salad, holding us responsible for ordering the Chef's Salad.

Now, just to avoid confusion, each of these events, (1) through (6), was causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in eternity. We could easily put "It was causally necessary that ... " as a lead-in to every one of those events. In fact, assuming a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, we could always put that phrase in front of every event we describe. But why bother?

Universal causal necessity/inevitability never changes anything, not even free will. It is a background constant, as if it were on both sides of every equation and can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result.

Except it doesn't actually have to be true that you can choose B to have chosen A.

I could not have "chosen" A without there being another real option. So, logically, it has to be true that I can choose B, in order to get to the next step, evaluation. I can choose A must be true. I can choose B must be true. This is the way "can" functions within the choosing operation. It is logically impossible to choose between a single possibility. For example:

Waiter (a hard determinist): "What will you have for dinner tonight, sir?"
Customer (hungry): "I don't know, what are my possibilities tonight?"
Waiter: "Sir, because we live in a deterministic universe, there can only be one possibility".
Customer (disappointed): "Oh. Okay. Then what is that possibility?"
Waiter (angry): "How would I know? I can't read your mind!"

We have evolved certain concepts to deal with uncertainty. When we do not know what will happen, we imagine what can happen, to prepare for what does happen.

The meaning of words is derived from their practical function. What we "can" do, we may do, or we may never do, we don't know yet. And that's the uncertainty that we must resolve with the choosing operation. At the end of choosing we have certainty. We know what we will do. And we also know for certain what we could have done, but didn't do. The "could have done" is just as certain as the "will do".

You suggest that the graph needs to "self-modify". Well, empirically speaking, the brain is in a continuous process of self-modification. And each of these modifications will be causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in time.

Free will is a deterministic event. There is perfectly reliable causation leading up to the point where we are faced with an issue that requires us to make a decision. Within the choosing operation each step is also reliably caused by prior mental events. The choosing operation is where we exercise executive control, because the choice determines our actions. Our actions reliably cause what comes next (our agency). And perfectly reliable causation continues as events caused by our actions reliably follow. As the song says, "May the chain be unbroken", and it is.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
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.

The bolded has been my largest objection to determinism, and also why I end up pretty waffly on compatibilism. Determinism and agency are at odds with one another unless determinism gets redefined to allow for stochasticism.

I think a stochastic existence can be compatible with agency, but I don't think that a deterministic existence can be. That's why a lot of my arguments end up based not on the endless argument over what 'will' is and whether it's 'free' or what extent of 'freedom' it has... but on whether or not the assumption of determinism makes sense in the first place.

As a compatibilist, I would suggest that determinism and agency are compatible. For example, if my choice was causally necessary/inevitable, then it was also causally necessary/inevitable that I would be the single object in the universe that would perform the choosing, and it was also causally necessary/inevitable that my choice would be controlled by my own purposes and reasons, my own beliefs and values, my own genetic dispositions and prior life experiences, in short, everything that makes me "me". And if that-which-is-me is the same as that-which-chooses what happens next, then clearly I have agency.

Stochasticism is also deterministic (I expect you to dismiss this out of hand). "There are many possible futures" is consistent with "there will only be one actual future". Possibilities exist solely within the imagination, and we can have as many possible futures as we can imagine. But, there will be only one actual future, because, after all, we only have one past to put it in. Stochasticism results from our inability to predict what will happen, without using sampling and statistical methods. We cannot predict what will happen, but we can predict and graph the range and probabilities.

Within the domain of human influence (things we can make happen if we choose to), the single inevitable future will be chosen by us from among the many possible futures that we imagine.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
It kills the possibility of "having done differently". But compatibilism does not place "having done differently" as the meter of "free will".

Rather, it places free will as a function of executive contribution in a different consideration of the model of ethics: free will is not the ability to do differently in this framework, but rather the ability to, of various probabilistic outcomes arising from imperfection of physical mode, having available a means to compare and contrast what would happen, probably, "if A" versus "if !A"

Choosing then is a function of whether (then, of 'if->then") from the relationship is (down/towards goal) or (not down/towards goal). It is a function of simulation and assumption based on model.

There was, given the consideration, a single choice made on the basis of factors. Could the graph have chosen differently? No. No more than f(x)=1+X has any choice of grinding out 2 given x=1.

Really, free will becomes an element of the discussion of executive function, which is to say "in the reference frame of an event, what is the executive agency?"

Choosing is a deterministic operation that inputs two or more options, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and, based on that evaluation, outputs a single choice. The operation is deterministic because the output is a reliable result of our own purposes and reasons, our own thoughts and feelings, our own beliefs and values, our own genetic dispositions and prior life experiences, and any other things that make us uniquely us. So, the choice is not only reliably caused, but it is reliably caused by us.

The "ability to do otherwise" is built into the choosing operation. For example, suppose we need to decide between A and B. In order for the choosing operation to proceed, "I can choose A" must be true and "I can choose B" must also be true. If either of those are false, then choosing cannot proceed. For example, if "I can choose A" is false then we would simply do B, without any choosing. And, if "I can choose B" is false, then we would simply do A. So, before we can get to the comparative evaluation phase of the operation, both "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" must be true, by logical necessity (they are required by the operation).

Whenever "I can choose A" and "I can choose B" are both true, then I have the "ability to do otherwise".

Suppose the result of the comparison is that I choose A. Then A becomes the thing I will do and B becomes the thing that I could have done, but didn't do. Why is "I could have done B" true? Because "I can choose B" was true earlier, and "could have" is just the past tense of "can".

So, as it turns out, in a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, whenever a choosing operation shows up in the causal chain, "I could have done otherwise" is ALWAYS true. It is "I would have done otherwise" that is ALWAYS false.

It is an error to confuse "can" and "will". If something will happen, then it certainly will happen. But if something can happen, then it may happen, or, it may never happen. What "can" happen constrains what "will" happen, because if it cannot happen then it will not happen. But what will happen never constrains what can happen. What can happen is only constrained by the imagination.

Possibilities exist solely within the imagination. We cannot drive a car across the possibility of a bridge. We can only drive across an actual bridge. However, in order to build an actual bridge, we must first imagine one or more possible bridges.

The fact that a possibility will not happen does not make it an impossibility. It only makes it a possibility that never happened.
OK, preform the basic function of your assessment.
Use your imagination..
Put it out there, perform a physics motion test.
Produce a possibility that will not happen.

Okay. It is possible that I could answer that question. Let me know when it happens.
 

Jarhyn

Wizard
Joined
Mar 29, 2010
Messages
12,472
Gender
Androgyne; they/them
Basic Beliefs
Natural Philosophy, Game Theoretic Ethicist
Except it doesn't actually have to be true that you can choose B to have chosen A.

Choice exists on a different level of abstraction from determinism.

You think about two things, there's a process which likes one or the other, and we call that force of descent against a surface of action "choice". It is when one agency deflects another as it draws down the surface of it's own behavior which modifies it's path, the path along this surface of which can be called "executive flow". Sometimes the forces that act on it deform the graph and so the shape of the surface that it moves "down" along. But this deformation still only provides one best path of least resistance in it's metaphorical fall.

The discussion of free will is on the extent of the graph's potential to self modify against deflections towards consistent "goals", and the "freedom" from inefficiencies associated with the need to do so.

That is how "free will", the freedom of the agent toward the goal from opposition, to achieve it, becomes "compatible".

But that only gets into the very first level of the meta.

That's an interesting metaphor.
the craziest thing is that it is not entirely metaphor. This is why I keep wanting you lot to look more at the perceptron, because one of the important things to understand in research of neural systems is the concept of the "error surface". It's a mathematical structure in a non-cartesian space.

You've got gravity motivating the descent, obstacles causing resistance shaping the path, and the distortion of the graph like the bowling ball on the bed distorting space-time. Perhaps we could make this a little simpler?

Why not go with a standard description of choosing that everyone can understand:
(1) We encounter a problem or issue that requires us to make a decision before we can continue. Perhaps we've just been seated in a restaurant and we've picked up the menu. Unless we make a choice, we will go hungry tonight. The waiter assures us that we can choose any item on the menu. The chef has the ingredients to prepare any meal we order. We see several options that we like. Each of these options is a real possibility. And we can choose any one of them.
(2) We consider (a) the Steak dinner. Is it likely to satisfy our hunger and our tastes? Is it consistent with our dietary goals? Now we apply the same criteria to (b) the Lobster dinner, and finally to (c) the Chef's Salad.
(3) After these considerations, the Chef's salad seems better to us than the others. Our thoughts and feelings confirm that it is one we want the most.
(4) Our will, our specific intent for the immediate future, is now set.
(5) This intention then motivates and directs our subsequent actions: "I will have the Chef's Salad, please", we say to the waiter.
(6) After the meal, the waiter brings us the bill for the Chef's Salad, holding us responsible for ordering the Chef's Salad.

Now, just to avoid confusion, each of these events, (1) through (6), was causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in eternity. We could easily put "It was causally necessary that ... " as a lead-in to every one of those events. In fact, assuming a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, we could always put that phrase in front of every event we describe. But why bother?

Universal causal necessity/inevitability never changes anything, not even free will. It is a background constant, as if it were on both sides of every equation and can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result.

Except it doesn't actually have to be true that you can choose B to have chosen A.

I could not have "chosen" A without there being another real option. So, logically, it has to be true that I can choose B, in order to get to the next step, evaluation. I can choose A must be true. I can choose B must be true. This is the way "can" functions within the choosing operation. It is logically impossible to choose between a single possibility. For example:

Waiter (a hard determinist): "What will you have for dinner tonight, sir?"
Customer (hungry): "I don't know, what are my possibilities tonight?"
Waiter: "Sir, because we live in a deterministic universe, there can only be one possibility".
Customer (disappointed): "Oh. Okay. Then what is that possibility?"
Waiter (angry): "How would I know? I can't read your mind!"

We have evolved certain concepts to deal with uncertainty. When we do not know what will happen, we imagine what can happen, to prepare for what does happen.

The meaning of words is derived from their practical function. What we "can" do, we may do, or we may never do, we don't know yet. And that's the uncertainty that we must resolve with the choosing operation. At the end of choosing we have certainty. We know what we will do. And we also know for certain what we could have done, but didn't do. The "could have done" is just as certain as the "will do".

You suggest that the graph needs to "self-modify". Well, empirically speaking, the brain is in a continuous process of self-modification. And each of these modifications will be causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in time.

Free will is a deterministic event. There is perfectly reliable causation leading up to the point where we are faced with an issue that requires us to make a decision. Within the choosing operation each step is also reliably caused by prior mental events. The choosing operation is where we exercise executive control, because the choice determines our actions. Our actions reliably cause what comes next (our agency). And perfectly reliable causation continues as events caused by our actions reliably follow. As the song says, "May the chain be unbroken", and it is.

I'm thinking we are saying similar things. I'm just trying to be a bit formal about why free will is so far from determinism in the framework, determinism being discussions of molecules and atom's and quarks, and free will being discussion of the strategies of self-modifying agents.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
the craziest thing is that it is not entirely metaphor. This is why I keep wanting you lot to look more at the perceptron, because one of the important things to understand in research of neural systems is the concept of the "error surface". It's a mathematical structure in a non-cartesian space.

You've got gravity motivating the descent, obstacles causing resistance shaping the path, and the distortion of the graph like the bowling ball on the bed distorting space-time. Perhaps we could make this a little simpler?

Why not go with a standard description of choosing that everyone can understand:
(1) We encounter a problem or issue that requires us to make a decision before we can continue. Perhaps we've just been seated in a restaurant and we've picked up the menu. Unless we make a choice, we will go hungry tonight. The waiter assures us that we can choose any item on the menu. The chef has the ingredients to prepare any meal we order. We see several options that we like. Each of these options is a real possibility. And we can choose any one of them.
(2) We consider (a) the Steak dinner. Is it likely to satisfy our hunger and our tastes? Is it consistent with our dietary goals? Now we apply the same criteria to (b) the Lobster dinner, and finally to (c) the Chef's Salad.
(3) After these considerations, the Chef's salad seems better to us than the others. Our thoughts and feelings confirm that it is one we want the most.
(4) Our will, our specific intent for the immediate future, is now set.
(5) This intention then motivates and directs our subsequent actions: "I will have the Chef's Salad, please", we say to the waiter.
(6) After the meal, the waiter brings us the bill for the Chef's Salad, holding us responsible for ordering the Chef's Salad.

Now, just to avoid confusion, each of these events, (1) through (6), was causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in eternity. We could easily put "It was causally necessary that ... " as a lead-in to every one of those events. In fact, assuming a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, we could always put that phrase in front of every event we describe. But why bother?

Universal causal necessity/inevitability never changes anything, not even free will. It is a background constant, as if it were on both sides of every equation and can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result.

Except it doesn't actually have to be true that you can choose B to have chosen A.

I could not have "chosen" A without there being another real option. So, logically, it has to be true that I can choose B, in order to get to the next step, evaluation. I can choose A must be true. I can choose B must be true. This is the way "can" functions within the choosing operation. It is logically impossible to choose between a single possibility. For example:

Waiter (a hard determinist): "What will you have for dinner tonight, sir?"
Customer (hungry): "I don't know, what are my possibilities tonight?"
Waiter: "Sir, because we live in a deterministic universe, there can only be one possibility".
Customer (disappointed): "Oh. Okay. Then what is that possibility?"
Waiter (angry): "How would I know? I can't read your mind!"

We have evolved certain concepts to deal with uncertainty. When we do not know what will happen, we imagine what can happen, to prepare for what does happen.

The meaning of words is derived from their practical function. What we "can" do, we may do, or we may never do, we don't know yet. And that's the uncertainty that we must resolve with the choosing operation. At the end of choosing we have certainty. We know what we will do. And we also know for certain what we could have done, but didn't do. The "could have done" is just as certain as the "will do".

You suggest that the graph needs to "self-modify". Well, empirically speaking, the brain is in a continuous process of self-modification. And each of these modifications will be causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in time.

Free will is a deterministic event. There is perfectly reliable causation leading up to the point where we are faced with an issue that requires us to make a decision. Within the choosing operation each step is also reliably caused by prior mental events. The choosing operation is where we exercise executive control, because the choice determines our actions. Our actions reliably cause what comes next (our agency). And perfectly reliable causation continues as events caused by our actions reliably follow. As the song says, "May the chain be unbroken", and it is.

I'm thinking we are saying similar things. I'm just trying to be a bit formal about why free will is so far from determinism in the framework, determinism being discussions of molecules and atom's and quarks, and free will being discussion of the strategies of self-modifying agents.

Determinism is not limited to atoms and molecules.

There are at least three distinct causal mechanisms: physical (inanimate objects), biological (living organisms), and rational (intelligent species). All three are causally deterministic, offering theoretically perfect predictability, but often impossible to predict in practice. But, we may assume that each operates with perfect cause and effect within its own realm. And that allows us to assert that every event is reliably caused by some specific combination of these reliable mechanisms, such that determinism holds.

The rational causal mechanism uses the brains model of reality to imagine new possibilities, estimate the likely outcomes of our actions, and choose what we will do. The rational mechanism is distinctly different from physical forces and biological drives. But since it utilizes logic and calculation, we may say that the choices will be reliably caused, even when they are reliably wrong choices, calculated from bad information, and with bad logic. The errors will also be reliably caused and theoretically predictable.

Free will shows up in the rational causal mechanism of the choosing operation. Now, we presume that this rational processing is running upon the physical and biological infrastructure. And injuries to the infrastructure can also impair our ability to choose rationally.

Free will is deterministic because the choosing operation is deterministic. But, then again, everything is deterministic, so it's not really a significant fact. I think I mentioned to DBT that universal causal necessity/inevitability is the grandest of all trivialities. It is a logical fact, but not a meaningful or relevant fact. It was summed up by Doris Day when she sang "Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be". Not very helpful or useful information.

Universal causal necessity/inevitability does not change anything. It has no significant implications to any human scenario.

I've explained how free will retains its operational definition (a choice free of coercion and undue influence) even within a perfectly deterministic universe. Universal causal necessity/inevitability is not something that anyone can, or needs to be "free from". It is nothing more than a derivation from the simple notion of reliable cause and effect, something that we all take for granted every day. We know that our choices are caused. And we know that the most meaningful and relevant causes are within us. And we know that it is actually we, ourselves, that are performing the choosing, to suit our own purposes and interests.
 

DBT

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

The bolded has been my largest objection to determinism, and also why I end up pretty waffly on compatibilism. Determinism and agency are at odds with one another unless determinism gets redefined to allow for stochasticism.

I think a stochastic existence can be compatible with agency, but I don't think that a deterministic existence can be. That's why a lot of my arguments end up based not on the endless argument over what 'will' is and whether it's 'free' or what extent of 'freedom' it has... but on whether or not the assumption of determinism makes sense in the first place.


That's right. But then non determinism doesn't help support a case for free will either. Random or probabilistic events are no more subject to will than those that are determined, random events simply act upon the system, brain or whatever, in random ways....you start to do this, suddenly you find that you don't know what you are doing.
 

DBT

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

It kills the possibility of "having done differently". But compatibilism does not place "having done differently" as the meter of "free will".

I know it doesn't. That is the incompatibilist objection to compatibilism, that without the ability to choose otherwise. Basically, that the term 'free will' is a misnomer. That compatibilists have it wrong.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
If the whole picture of cognition is considered, it must include inputs.

Nobody denies the role of input. That is what I have been pointing out, that there is no single factor like 'free will' at work, that brain output/behaviour is based on a number of factors, brain architecture and state (someone may be drunk, a chemical imbalance, lesion etc) inputs interacting with memory and so on....memory function (if severe) disintegrates consciousness, loss of recognition, loss of self awareness.




It's not a matter of ''finally'' - not everything can be said in a limited time frame. The role of each function can be explored in detail if need be;

As an outline of the systems of the brain and their functions:

perceptual processing
• Superior colliculus

Modulation of cognition
(memory, attention)
• Cingulate cortex
• Hippocampus
• Basal forebrain

Representation of emotional response
• Somatosensory-related
cortices

Representation of perceived action
• Left frontal operculum
• Superior temporal gyrus

Motivational evaluation
• Amygdala
• Orbitofrontal cortex

Social reasoning
• Prefrontal cortex




As can any sufficiently complex information processor. Not as a matter of free will, just function enabled by architecture; the ability to acquire information, process it and proceed with an action based on a given set of criteria/algorithms.

No free will needed.

''I don't think "free will" is a very sensible concept, and you don't need neuroscience to reject it -- any mechanistic view of the world is good enough, and indeed you could even argue on purely conceptual grounds that the opposite of determinism is randomness, not free will! Most thoughtful neuroscientists I know have replaced the concept of free will with the concept of rationality -- that we select our actions based on a kind of practical reasoning. And there is no conflict between rationality and the mind as a physical system -- After all, computers are rational physical systems! - Martha Farah, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and a prominent neuroethicist.

Okay, so now we have all the primary functions of the brain. We've got the sensory processing that organizes external input into a model of reality. We've got decision-making and planning parts that evaluate that model, imagines what we might do next, and then chooses the specific plan for what we will do. And finally we've got the motor management parts that enable our bodies to carry out our deliberately chosen will.

And, assuming all of these parts are reliable, in good working order, we now have all we need to deal with practical real world issues. We can consider our options and then carry out what we, ourselves, have deliberately decided we will do.

Then Martha Farah asks us us to replace the notion of "free will" with the notion of "rationality", pointing out "that we select our actions based on a kind of practical reasoning", and assuring us that "there is no conflict between rationality and the mind as a physical system".

Well, Ms. Farah, we're not quite done with the notion of "free will" yet. We still have the practical problems that arise when that rational system is subjected to coercion and other forms of undue influence. We must still distinguish the deliberate choice of a rational mind, from a choice being forced upon us by a guy with a gun. And we must take into account any significant mental illness or injury that renders the normally rational mind irrational.

Free will is when someone decides for themselves what they will do, while free of coercion and other forms of undue influence. This is the definition we use when assigning moral or legal responsibility for a person's actions. It informs us of the meaningful and relevant cause of the action, so that we know what we need to do to correct actions that break the law. Do we correct the behavior by psychiatric treatment or by rehabilitation? Or, is the behavior corrected by simply removing the guy with the gun who coerced the behavior?

Free will, when properly defined, remains a key concept that makes significant distinctions about events in the real world. And it has no issues with the mind as a physical system.

Taking the characters, actions and events we see in a video as an example, let's say Romeo and Juliet - a compatibilist apparently, upon seeing Romeo and Juliet come together in a passionate embrace and kiss - to all appearances of their own choosing, their actions unimpeded and uncoerced - declares this to be an example of free will....never mind that we can rewind and play the same scenes over and over without variation, the characters doing precisely what the material/information they are composed of determines.

If determinism is true, it allows us no more freedom of will than what we see in the characters of a video or film.....rewind and play, it comes out the same; each moment in time fixed as a matter of natural law. The World unfolding as it must.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
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.

The bolded has been my largest objection to determinism, and also why I end up pretty waffly on compatibilism. Determinism and agency are at odds with one another unless determinism gets redefined to allow for stochasticism.

I think a stochastic existence can be compatible with agency, but I don't think that a deterministic existence can be. That's why a lot of my arguments end up based not on the endless argument over what 'will' is and whether it's 'free' or what extent of 'freedom' it has... but on whether or not the assumption of determinism makes sense in the first place.


That's right. But then non determinism doesn't help support a case for free will either. Random or probabilistic events are no more subject to will than those that are determined, random events simply act upon the system, brain or whatever, in random ways....you start to do this, suddenly you find that you don't know what you are doing.

I'm afraid I have to agree with DBT on this one. If we ask someone "Why did you chose A instead of B?", they will happily list the reasons why A was the better choice. If we follow up with "So, those reasons caused you to choose A?", they will say "Yes, that's right". So, the choice was indeed reliably caused, and reliably caused by the chooser. (The chooser was in turn reliably caused by their parents. Their parents were reliably caused by the evolution of the human species, etc. etc. all the way back to the Big Bang, but that's an interesting but totally pointless fact that an intelligent mind simply acknowledges and then never brings it up again).

The fact that the chooser's own reasoning was the most meaningful and relevant cause of the choice, and that the choice was neither coerced nor unduly influenced, is what most people outside of philosophy would call a "choice of their own free will", which is literally nothing more than a "freely chosen 'I will'".

So, we know that the choice was reliably caused by human reasoning and we know who performed the reasoning. So, if the chosen action unnecessarily harms someone else, we know whose future choices need to be corrected by our intervention. And that is what "holding responsible" is about, identifying the meaningful and relevant cause(s) so that we know what needs to be corrected by intervention.

The key point is that, if our thoughts were truly random, then our choices would be irrational. We would have no ability to perform choosing, or anything else that requires rational thought. Thus our freedom is diminished rather than improved.
 

Bomb#20

Contributor
Joined
Sep 28, 2004
Messages
6,864
Location
California
Gender
It's a free country.
Basic Beliefs
Rationalism
The only way for the game to be consistent with t = 0 natural law statement is for the game to permit both forward and backward reference for all time. Stacking deck is not an example of determinism statement. Provide a game that works both ways and I'll bet my assertion works.

Conway's life game isn't an example of anything relevant to determinism discussion.
Possibly; but we don't actually know that the natural laws of the universe work both ways. We tend to assume they do because the equations of Newtonian mechanics and the "Standard Model" of quantum mechanics are time-symmetric. But there are anomalies in kaon decay experiments that suggest the Standard Model may be in need of some modification; and let's not forget gravity. General Relativity isn't time-symmetric. If you drop one black hole into another, according to Einstein's equations they merge to form a bigger black hole; and this is irreversible. There's no process by which a black hole can spontaneously split in two. So any philosophizing about time symmetry is premature -- as with many other questions about the universe, we really need to suspend judgment until somebody comes up with a working theory of quantum gravity.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
...

Taking the characters, actions and events we see in a video as an example, let's say Romeo and Juliet - a compatibilist apparently, upon seeing Romeo and Juliet come together in a passionate embrace and kiss - to all appearances of their own choosing, their actions unimpeded and uncoerced - declares this to be an example of free will....never mind that we can rewind and play the same scenes over and over without variation, the characters doing precisely what the material/information they are composed of determines.

If determinism is true, it allows us no more freedom of will than what we see in the characters of a video or film.....rewind and play, it comes out the same; each moment in time fixed as a matter of natural law. The World unfolding as it must.

Romeo: "I can climb up to the balcony and give Juliet a kiss. Or, I can stay here on the ground and throw her a kiss. If I climb up then others might hear us and I would have to fight my way out."

Romeo has two real possibilities, two different things that he can choose to do. But he doesn't know yet what he will do.

Romeo: "I will take the risk and climb to the balcony, because her kiss is worth the risk". (Hey, it's on his list of the best things in life, according to Hall and Oates).

Romeo has made his choice He will climb to the balcony. Could he have chosen otherwise? Well, yes. He could have stayed on the ground and thrown her a kiss. But he didn't.

So, at the end of his choosing, he knew for certain what he would do, and he also knew for certain what he could have done instead.

Scene!

Okay, rewind the film and let's give it another look. Sure enough, everything is exactly the same. He starts with two things that he "can" do and ends up with one thing that he "will" do and one thing that he "could have done" but didn't.

No matter how many times we replay the film, what he would do and what he could have done remain the same.

And that's the way all choosing operations work. There is uncertainty at the outset about what we will do. "Will I climb the balcony or will I throw her a kiss?" We do not know which will be true. So, in order to proceed, we use a special token, the word "can", to replace the word "will". This marks each option as a possibility, something that may happen, but then again it may never happen. These concepts of "can" and "possibility" evolved specifically to operate in the context of uncertainty, when we do not know yet what "will" happen or what we "will" do.

As a result, every choosing operation always begins with at least two "I can's". And every choosing operation ends with exactly one "I will" and at least one "I could have, but didn't".

So, as it turns out, whenever a choosing operation appears in a causal chain, "I could have done otherwise" will always be true, but "I would have done otherwise" will always be false.
 

Keith&Co.

Contributor
Joined
Apr 1, 2006
Messages
22,444
Location
Far Western Mass
Gender
Here.
Basic Beliefs
I'm here...
I'm afraid I have to agree with DBT on this one. If we ask someone "Why did you chose A instead of B?", they will happily list the reasons why A was the better choice. If we follow up with "So, those reasons caused you to choose A?", they will say "Yes, that's right". So, the choice was indeed reliably caused, and reliably caused by the chooser.
Maybe.
Thing is, you can hypnotize someone and suggest to them that every time they hear a bell they shout "Excelsior!" Then ring a bell. They will shout "Excelsior!"
You ask them why they shouted that.
THE ACTUAL REASON is because they were programmed to do this at a deep level of their subconscious. But they will happily explain, inventing a logic chain going from bell to yell, happily satisfied that it was a choice they made and decided to do. To the subject, there's no difference between the choice to shout or the choice to go see a hypnotist tonight.

This suggests that maybe our process of 'deciding' something is not real, it happens after the fact. The decision is already made (by us? FOR us? No way of knowing.) and our consciousness exerts itself only to rationalize the decision we are merely a vector for, helpless to alter.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
I'm afraid I have to agree with DBT on this one. If we ask someone "Why did you chose A instead of B?", they will happily list the reasons why A was the better choice. If we follow up with "So, those reasons caused you to choose A?", they will say "Yes, that's right". So, the choice was indeed reliably caused, and reliably caused by the chooser.
Maybe.
Thing is, you can hypnotize someone and suggest to them that every time they hear a bell they shout "Excelsior!" Then ring a bell. They will shout "Excelsior!"
You ask them why they shouted that.
THE ACTUAL REASON is because they were programmed to do this at a deep level of their subconscious. But they will happily explain, inventing a logic chain going from bell to yell, happily satisfied that it was a choice they made and decided to do. To the subject, there's no difference between the choice to shout or the choice to go see a hypnotist tonight.

This suggests that maybe our process of 'deciding' something is not real, it happens after the fact. The decision is already made (by us? FOR us? No way of knowing.) and our consciousness exerts itself only to rationalize the decision we are merely a vector for, helpless to alter.

It's what Michael Gazzaniga calls the "interpreter", and if it doesn't know the real reason, yet feels it must have one, then it confabulates. But there's no reason to assume that the description is inaccurate under normal conditions.

Hypnosis would be an "undue influence", preventing the person from deciding for themselves what they will do. So, the behavior would not be freely chosen by the subject (a freely chosen "I will", or simply "free will"), but instead the behavior is chosen by the hypnotist.

Some insignificant behaviors, like those in the Libet experiments, can apparently be decided unconsciously and then presented to conscious awareness. But most significant decisions are going to involve a longer interplay between conscious and unconscious brain activity. But, if we asked the subject whether he participated in the experiment of his own free will, everyone would know what we were talking about.

If our unconscious brains decided to rob a bank, and left consciousness unaware, then the we would end up in jail without knowing how we got there. It would be like sleep walking. And that would be very rare if ever.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
Deterministic has a mathematical and subjective meaning.


A deterministic mathematical function means you plug numbers into an equation an get an answer.

Speed = Distance x Time is a deterministic function.

Flipping a coin is probabilistic. The probability of heads or tails is 50/50 on each toss, but there is ni dteenistic way to predict which will occur on a toss. Flip a coin 100 times and it will be close to 50/50.

Probabilistic does not Violeta causality.

Quantum indeterminacy plays out in routine measurements. There are no absolutely exact measurements. Therer is alwas a probability that goes with a measurement. DC current in a wire wire is measured as an average of a large quantity of electrons in a wire. At 10 amps the error or uncertainty is low, quantum effects of the electrons can be ignored. As current gets small quantum effects become an issue. At the quantum level there is 'quantum noise'.

Philosophical determinism is whether or not all things are predetermined. Am I destined to write this post?

I have a problem with the notion of "predetermined" in regards to causation. An event is not fully caused until its final prior causes have played themselves out. Usually, the most meaningful and relevant causes are those closest to the event. As we trace backward through the prior causes of those prior causes, our causes become more incidental and more meaningless and less relevant.

So, for all practical human purposes, the most direct causes are usually all we care about. To be meaningful, a cause must efficiently explain why the event happened. To be relevant, a cause must be something we can actually do something about.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
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.

Then again, random and determined are also semantic constructs. Every word and concept is.

Philosophizing without a knowledge of math and science. Math and scince exist in te brain as thoughts and concepts. That does not men tere is no semnatc difference between terms.

Random has a specific definition in proximity. The occurrence of one event does not affect the occurrence of the next evet, there is no correlation between random variables.

I did this stuff waaaayyy back when going through statistics. Just flip a coin or toss a die 100 times and write down the results.

It's hard to control the flip of a coin, but a professional knife thrower controls the number of revolutions sufficiently to assure that the point rather than the hilt hits the target.

The result of the coin toss will be reliably caused by the position of the thumb under the coin and the force applied. Then the inertia of the coin versus the air resistance. Then how it bounces on the surface where it lands. If you control all of these factors, perhaps by building a machine that flips the coin under controlled conditions, then the result of the coin toss cannot only be reliably predicted, but it can be reliably controlled. Oh, and the math and physics would be used to describe and calculate the effects at each stage.

Controlling the behavior of a quark is likely to be much more challenging. But, we may as well assume reliable causation even though we do not yet understand the rules that the quark is following.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
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.

Then again, random and determined are also semantic constructs. Every word and concept is.

The words random and determined refer to conditions in the world: how the world works, how it's objects and events interact.

Compatibilism selects a slice of how the world works deterministically and declares this slice of determined behaviour to be an example of free will.

Free will is an event, just like any other event. And it is deterministic, just like any other event. The "free" in free will has nothing to do with "freedom from causal necessity". It simply means the choosing event was free from coercion and other forms of undue influence.

Causal necessity is not a meaningful or relevant constraint. It is not meaningful because what I will inevitably do is exactly identical to me just being me, choosing what I choose, and doing what I do. And it is not a relevant constraint, because there's nothing we can do about it.

Basically, causal necessity is just a background constant that always appears on both sides of every equation, and it can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result. It literally makes no difference.
 

Jarhyn

Wizard
Joined
Mar 29, 2010
Messages
12,472
Gender
Androgyne; they/them
Basic Beliefs
Natural Philosophy, Game Theoretic Ethicist
I'm afraid I have to agree with DBT on this one. If we ask someone "Why did you chose A instead of B?", they will happily list the reasons why A was the better choice. If we follow up with "So, those reasons caused you to choose A?", they will say "Yes, that's right". So, the choice was indeed reliably caused, and reliably caused by the chooser.
Maybe.
Thing is, you can hypnotize someone and suggest to them that every time they hear a bell they shout "Excelsior!" Then ring a bell. They will shout "Excelsior!"
You ask them why they shouted that.
THE ACTUAL REASON is because they were programmed to do this at a deep level of their subconscious. But they will happily explain, inventing a logic chain going from bell to yell, happily satisfied that it was a choice they made and decided to do. To the subject, there's no difference between the choice to shout or the choice to go see a hypnotist tonight.

This suggests that maybe our process of 'deciding' something is not real, it happens after the fact. The decision is already made (by us? FOR us? No way of knowing.) and our consciousness exerts itself only to rationalize the decision we are merely a vector for, helpless to alter.

It's what Michael Gazzaniga calls the "interpreter", and if it doesn't know the real reason, yet feels it must have one, then it confabulates. But there's no reason to assume that the description is inaccurate under normal conditions.

Hypnosis would be an "undue influence", preventing the person from deciding for themselves what they will do. So, the behavior would not be freely chosen by the subject (a freely chosen "I will", or simply "free will"), but instead the behavior is chosen by the hypnotist.

Some insignificant behaviors, like those in the Libet experiments, can apparently be decided unconsciously and then presented to conscious awareness. But most significant decisions are going to involve a longer interplay between conscious and unconscious brain activity. But, if we asked the subject whether he participated in the experiment of his own free will, everyone would know what we were talking about.

If our unconscious brains decided to rob a bank, and left consciousness unaware, then the we would end up in jail without knowing how we got there. It would be like sleep walking. And that would be very rare if ever.

Well, one thing that helps agents such as ourselves remain stable through time is the perception that the agent has executive power.

Agents which lack executive control, almost universally, self-modify to the point of complete subordination of agency and even the reduction of abstraction: they "lay down and die".

This means that it is beneficial to the agent to create the perception of increased agency when subconscious process needs to take the wheel.

One of my most disconcerting and traumatic experiences as of late was a situation wherein the subconscious process that hijacks agency did so openly, in a situation where it was undeniable that the agent that is "me" was not driving the flesh of "the arm that I normally have control over".

It strikes me as likely that to avoid such things as the traumatic realization and knowledge (which now enables me to fight against and recognize perhaps when I am being subverted by my subconscious), that such hijacks generally be obfuscated.

This hypnosis discussion discusses a hijack which is of the form the subconscious generally obfuscates successfully.

Interestingly, I think this goes to what I'm saying about the instance of executive actions within the context of an event. If we were all aware of how little executive influence we actually have, how rate "riding the light" really is, we might all just give up on influencing anything. And that just wouldn't do.
 

Bomb#20

Contributor
Joined
Sep 28, 2004
Messages
6,864
Location
California
Gender
It's a free country.
Basic Beliefs
Rationalism
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.
Sure; and I think all of us here except DBT are compatibilists. But there are two distinct debates about determinism: there's the one about whether it matters one way or the other to free will, and then there's the one about whether the world really is deterministic. It's not a good idea to let your judgment of one of these debates impact your judgment of the other.

It certainly isn't; but it's not indeterminism's fault that Christianity trained western culture to equate determinism with lack of freedom.

The notions of voluntary choice and personal responsibility, and of cause and effect, are not created by nor owned by Religion.
No, of course not; but the widespread conviction that they're in opposition to each other very much was. Religion taught that the real you, the important part of you, the part of you that has voluntary choice and responsibility, is an immaterial immortal soul; the rest is mere flesh which is not important. Then the scientific revolution came along and started telling people that material cause and effect determine everything that happens, including everything that happens to human flesh and everything that's done by human flesh. So people started thinking in terms of Cartesian Dualism, where not only are you and your body two different things, but your body is made of matter, which science tells us follows Newton's laws of motion; and that implies your crimes are caused by your flesh. So how can we hold your immortal soul responsible for them? In that world view your soul looks like a helpless passive passenger in the coach, with no control over where the horse pulls it. And if "you" are your immortal soul, then that means "you" aren't in control of what your body does. This is what caused the delusion that ordinary common-usage freedom -- the freedom to work or not without regard to whether your master wants you to -- isn't real freedom. That's where the goofy notion comes from that there's some allegedly freer kind of Freedom(TM) that "free will" refers to.

Science assumes a world of reliable causation. Without it, no experiment would be repeatable.
Why do you believe that? If we live in a world where there's only a 99% chance that the laws of physics will make your experiment come out the same way, instead of a 100% chance, how the heck will that stop you repeating it and making scientific discoveries? Experiments already come out wrong a lot more than 1% of the time just from the experimenter screwing something up in the setup. If there's irreducible natural indeterminism adding a little uncertainty to the uncertainty that's already there from human error and from earthquakes and passing trucks and experimental subjects getting sick and having to drop out of the study, all it means is experimenters might have to slightly up their skillsets as statisticians.

So, a world of reliable causation is desirable. Reliable causation should not be turned into a monster by the hard determinists.
True; but we need to be careful not to mistake desirability for evidence.
 

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
Determinism is not limited to atoms and molecules.

There are at least three distinct causal mechanisms: physical (inanimate objects), biological (living organisms), and rational (intelligent species).

Very fundamental question: In what way is "rational" not a subset of "biological", and "biological" not a subset of "physical"?
 

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
The bolded has been my largest objection to determinism, and also why I end up pretty waffly on compatibilism. Determinism and agency are at odds with one another unless determinism gets redefined to allow for stochasticism.

I think a stochastic existence can be compatible with agency, but I don't think that a deterministic existence can be. That's why a lot of my arguments end up based not on the endless argument over what 'will' is and whether it's 'free' or what extent of 'freedom' it has... but on whether or not the assumption of determinism makes sense in the first place.


That's right. But then non determinism doesn't help support a case for free will either. Random or probabilistic events are no more subject to will than those that are determined, random events simply act upon the system, brain or whatever, in random ways....you start to do this, suddenly you find that you don't know what you are doing.

There is a nuance though. In a deterministic system, agency is impossible. In a stochastic system, agency is not impossible. That double negative is on purpose :) In a stochastic system, there's still no definitive proof of agency being real as opposed to illusory... but there's at least a mechanism by which that agency could plausibly manifest.

There's a reason I framed my approach as an "argument for non-determinism" as opposed to an "argument for agency".

When the fundamental concept of existence is "If A then B", there is only one possible outcome, and that outcome has a 100% chance of occurring. It is perfectly predictable and perfectly knowable. When the fundamental concept of existence is If A then 98% B and 2% C, then there is more than one possible outcome, neither of which is guaranteed. It might be very highly predictable to end up as B... but there's still a chance that it could be C.

The element that creates the difference between B and C could be what we refer to as agency, but it's not guaranteed to be so.

Personally, I think agency is real, and the universe is stochastic. I also, however, am quite comfortable with the fact that my belief in agency is not provable, and I'm okay with that. Heck, until we invent time travel ala Clark's The Light of Other Days, it's not even testable. It remains a purely philosophical argument, based on assumptions.
 

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
I'm afraid I have to agree with DBT on this one. If we ask someone "Why did you chose A instead of B?", they will happily list the reasons why A was the better choice. If we follow up with "So, those reasons caused you to choose A?", they will say "Yes, that's right". So, the choice was indeed reliably caused, and reliably caused by the chooser. (The chooser was in turn reliably caused by their parents. Their parents were reliably caused by the evolution of the human species, etc. etc. all the way back to the Big Bang, but that's an interesting but totally pointless fact that an intelligent mind simply acknowledges and then never brings it up again).

The fact that the chooser's own reasoning was the most meaningful and relevant cause of the choice, and that the choice was neither coerced nor unduly influenced, is what most people outside of philosophy would call a "choice of their own free will", which is literally nothing more than a "freely chosen 'I will'".

So, we know that the choice was reliably caused by human reasoning and we know who performed the reasoning. So, if the chosen action unnecessarily harms someone else, we know whose future choices need to be corrected by our intervention. And that is what "holding responsible" is about, identifying the meaningful and relevant cause(s) so that we know what needs to be corrected by intervention.

All of your arguments end up being against will being real though. You use the term will, but with every example and scenario, you demonstrate a lack of actual will, only the illusion thereof.

This is the fundamental question in this debate: If a person's reasons for making an apparent choice would always lead them to the exact same choice, and there is no circumstance in which the same conditions would produce a different outcome... then has that person actually made a choice? Or are they merely executing a program?

Perhaps let me ask it from a different direction. If we develop an algorithm that has a set of inputs, and from those inputs it has a set of condition thresholds that drive different outputs, would you say that algorithm possesses will?

Let's say the algorithm selects between vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The algorithm has a built in preference for chocolate, but it also has a preference for variety. So if the last consumption of chocolate ice cream was more than three days ago, the algorithm will select chocolate. If the last consumption was less than three days ago, it will select vanilla. In any given situation, the algorithm will weigh its preferences against the inputs and the history, and will make a 'decision' about which flavor of ice cream to select.

Is that algorithm making a choice? Is it exerting will? Why or why not?

The key point is that, if our thoughts were truly random, then our choices would be irrational. We would have no ability to perform choosing, or anything else that requires rational thought. Thus our freedom is diminished rather than improved.
I disagree with your conclusion, predominantly because you're assuming that "random" is synonymous with "could be anything at all with no rhyme or reason". I don't think that's necessarily the case.

Consider the algorithm provided above, with a slight modification. Let's say that the criteria is if the last consumption of chocolate was more than three days ago, select vanilla. If the last consumption was two or fewer days ago, select chocolate. And if the last consumption was exactly three days ago, run a randomization routine and if it produces a number greater than 0.5 pick chocolate, otherwise pick vanilla.

The choices are still rational, and are still causes by past experiences and current input. The selection isn't irrational, it's simply not perfectly predictable. It's not like the algorithm is suddenly going to select diesel flavored ice cream instead. For all intents and purposes, that bounded randomization would align with "I just felt like it".
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
The words random and determined refer to conditions in the world: how the world works, how it's objects and events interact.

Compatibilism selects a slice of how the world works deterministically and declares this slice of determined behaviour to be an example of free will.

Free will is an event, just like any other event. And it is deterministic, just like any other event. The "free" in free will has nothing to do with "freedom from causal necessity". It simply means the choosing event was free from coercion and other forms of undue influence.

Causal necessity is not a meaningful or relevant constraint. It is not meaningful because what I will inevitably do is exactly identical to me just being me, choosing what I choose, and doing what I do. And it is not a relevant constraint, because there's nothing we can do about it.

Basically, causal necessity is just a background constant that always appears on both sides of every equation, and it can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result. It literally makes no difference.

Behaviour that happens without coercion is an event, being an event generated by numerous factors, conscious will playing very little part, declaring it to be 'free will' is false labelling. We are able to act out of our own volition. Volition is not willed, volition is not free will.
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
Determinism is not limited to atoms and molecules.

There are at least three distinct causal mechanisms: physical (inanimate objects), biological (living organisms), and rational (intelligent species).

Very fundamental question: In what way is "rational" not a subset of "biological", and "biological" not a subset of "physical"?

It would be correct to say that among all physical things, some are biological. And among all biological things, some are intelligent. But when we're talking about agency and control, the primary control of an intelligent species is the rational causal mechanism. The primary control of a non-intelligent biological organism is the biological drives. The primary control of an inanimate object is physical forces.

A bowling ball placed on a slope will always roll downhill. It's behavior is governed by the force of gravity.
A living organism, while still affected by gravity is not governed by it. Instead it is governed by biological drives to survive, thrive and reproduce.
An intelligent species, while still affected by gravity and biological drives, is not governed by them. Instead it is governed by the choices it makes as to when, where, and how it will satisfy biological drives, and whatever else it chooses to do.

Before living organisms there was no such thing as "purpose" in the universe. When living organisms showed up, purpose emerged in the physical universe. The purpose was to survive, thrive, and reproduce.

Before intelligent species there was no such thing as deliberate behavior (free will) in the physical universe.
 
Last edited:

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
I'm afraid I have to agree with DBT on this one. If we ask someone "Why did you chose A instead of B?", they will happily list the reasons why A was the better choice. If we follow up with "So, those reasons caused you to choose A?", they will say "Yes, that's right". So, the choice was indeed reliably caused, and reliably caused by the chooser. (The chooser was in turn reliably caused by their parents. Their parents were reliably caused by the evolution of the human species, etc. etc. all the way back to the Big Bang, but that's an interesting but totally pointless fact that an intelligent mind simply acknowledges and then never brings it up again).

The fact that the chooser's own reasoning was the most meaningful and relevant cause of the choice, and that the choice was neither coerced nor unduly influenced, is what most people outside of philosophy would call a "choice of their own free will", which is literally nothing more than a "freely chosen 'I will'".

So, we know that the choice was reliably caused by human reasoning and we know who performed the reasoning. So, if the chosen action unnecessarily harms someone else, we know whose future choices need to be corrected by our intervention. And that is what "holding responsible" is about, identifying the meaningful and relevant cause(s) so that we know what needs to be corrected by intervention.

All of your arguments end up being against will being real though. You use the term will, but with every example and scenario, you demonstrate a lack of actual will, only the illusion thereof.

This is the fundamental question in this debate: If a person's reasons for making an apparent choice would always lead them to the exact same choice, and there is no circumstance in which the same conditions would produce a different outcome... then has that person actually made a choice? Or are they merely executing a program?

Perhaps let me ask it from a different direction. If we develop an algorithm that has a set of inputs, and from those inputs it has a set of condition thresholds that drive different outputs, would you say that algorithm possesses will?

Let's say the algorithm selects between vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The algorithm has a built in preference for chocolate, but it also has a preference for variety. So if the last consumption of chocolate ice cream was more than three days ago, the algorithm will select chocolate. If the last consumption was less than three days ago, it will select vanilla. In any given situation, the algorithm will weigh its preferences against the inputs and the history, and will make a 'decision' about which flavor of ice cream to select.

Is that algorithm making a choice? Is it exerting will? Why or why not?

The key point is that, if our thoughts were truly random, then our choices would be irrational. We would have no ability to perform choosing, or anything else that requires rational thought. Thus our freedom is diminished rather than improved.
I disagree with your conclusion, predominantly because you're assuming that "random" is synonymous with "could be anything at all with no rhyme or reason". I don't think that's necessarily the case.

Consider the algorithm provided above, with a slight modification. Let's say that the criteria is if the last consumption of chocolate was more than three days ago, select vanilla. If the last consumption was two or fewer days ago, select chocolate. And if the last consumption was exactly three days ago, run a randomization routine and if it produces a number greater than 0.5 pick chocolate, otherwise pick vanilla.

The choices are still rational, and are still causes by past experiences and current input. The selection isn't irrational, it's simply not perfectly predictable. It's not like the algorithm is suddenly going to select diesel flavored ice cream instead. For all intents and purposes, that bounded randomization would align with "I just felt like it".

Will is a deterministic. It is reliably caused by choosing, and it reliably causes what the person does next.

If a person's reasons for making an apparent choice would always lead them to the exact same choice, and there is no circumstance in which the same conditions would produce a different outcome... then has that person actually made a choice?

Two things. First, when you say "and there is no circumstance in which the same conditions would produce a different outcome" you are suggesting we consider other possible circumstances on the one hand, while asserting "the same conditions" on the other. Other circumstances are not the same conditions. There are certainly other possible circumstances in which the conditions would be different and the outcome would be different.

Second, the answer to "has that person actually made a choice?" is Yes! In the actual world that person actually made a choice. Choosing is a real event in the real world.

Or are they merely executing a program?

Well, choosing is an ordered process consisting of familiar steps. Thinking, like walking, really happens. You can find several books on Amazon teaching individuals and groups to make better decisions. The decisions are no less real by following a formalized process, like defining the problem, brainstorming to generate alternatives, doing a weighted evaluation of each alternative, etc.

If we develop an algorithm that has a set of inputs, and from those inputs it has a set of condition thresholds that drive different outputs, would you say that algorithm possesses will?

That depends. How are you defining will? Does the algorithm have any interest in the outcome? If not, then I would not call it a will.

Let's say the algorithm selects between vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The algorithm has a built in preference for chocolate, but it also has a preference for variety. So if the last consumption of chocolate ice cream was more than three days ago, the algorithm will select chocolate. If the last consumption was less than three days ago, it will select vanilla. In any given situation, the algorithm will weigh its preferences against the inputs and the history, and will make a 'decision' about which flavor of ice cream to select.

Is that algorithm making a choice? Is it exerting will? Why or why not?

Where is the algorithm's intent? Does it algorithm plan to eat the ice cream? Or is this simply a computer program to help the programmer choose which ice cream to order? The computer has no interest in the outcome, but the programmer does.

A computer is a machine we created to help us do something we want to do. It has no will of its own.

...And if the last consumption was exactly three days ago, run a randomization routine and if it produces a number greater than 0.5 pick chocolate, otherwise pick vanilla.

The choices are still rational, and are still causes by past experiences and current input. The selection isn't irrational, it's simply not perfectly predictable. It's not like the algorithm is suddenly going to select diesel flavored ice cream instead. For all intents and purposes, that bounded randomization would align with "I just felt like it".

The choice is deterministic, but unpredictable. Causing and predicting are two different things.
 

DBT

Contributor
Joined
May 2, 2003
Messages
13,682
Location
ɹǝpunuʍop puɐן
I'm afraid I have to agree with DBT on this one. If we ask someone "Why did you chose A instead of B?", they will happily list the reasons why A was the better choice. If we follow up with "So, those reasons caused you to choose A?", they will say "Yes, that's right". So, the choice was indeed reliably caused, and reliably caused by the chooser.
Maybe.
Thing is, you can hypnotize someone and suggest to them that every time they hear a bell they shout "Excelsior!" Then ring a bell. They will shout "Excelsior!"
You ask them why they shouted that.
THE ACTUAL REASON is because they were programmed to do this at a deep level of their subconscious. But they will happily explain, inventing a logic chain going from bell to yell, happily satisfied that it was a choice they made and decided to do. To the subject, there's no difference between the choice to shout or the choice to go see a hypnotist tonight.

This suggests that maybe our process of 'deciding' something is not real, it happens after the fact. The decision is already made (by us? FOR us? No way of knowing.) and our consciousness exerts itself only to rationalize the decision we are merely a vector for, helpless to alter.

It's what Michael Gazzaniga calls the "interpreter", and if it doesn't know the real reason, yet feels it must have one, then it confabulates. But there's no reason to assume that the description is inaccurate under normal conditions.

Hypnosis would be an "undue influence", preventing the person from deciding for themselves what they will do. So, the behavior would not be freely chosen by the subject (a freely chosen "I will", or simply "free will"), but instead the behavior is chosen by the hypnotist.

Some insignificant behaviors, like those in the Libet experiments, can apparently be decided unconsciously and then presented to conscious awareness. But most significant decisions are going to involve a longer interplay between conscious and unconscious brain activity. But, if we asked the subject whether he participated in the experiment of his own free will, everyone would know what we were talking about.

If our unconscious brains decided to rob a bank, and left consciousness unaware, then the we would end up in jail without knowing how we got there. It would be like sleep walking. And that would be very rare if ever.

Narrator function and being aware doesn't alter unconscious information processing being the agency of both.

An interaction of information within the brain, inputs, architecture, chemistry, memory, produced the action, the will and the awareness of thought and action.

With no possible alternative in the instance of information processing/decision actualized (Determinism), there is no freedom of will (incompatibilism).
 

Marvin Edwards

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
1,391
Location
Virginia
Basic Beliefs
Humanist
It's what Michael Gazzaniga calls the "interpreter", and if it doesn't know the real reason, yet feels it must have one, then it confabulates. But there's no reason to assume that the description is inaccurate under normal conditions.

Hypnosis would be an "undue influence", preventing the person from deciding for themselves what they will do. So, the behavior would not be freely chosen by the subject (a freely chosen "I will", or simply "free will"), but instead the behavior is chosen by the hypnotist.

Some insignificant behaviors, like those in the Libet experiments, can apparently be decided unconsciously and then presented to conscious awareness. But most significant decisions are going to involve a longer interplay between conscious and unconscious brain activity. But, if we asked the subject whether he participated in the experiment of his own free will, everyone would know what we were talking about.

If our unconscious brains decided to rob a bank, and left consciousness unaware, then the we would end up in jail without knowing how we got there. It would be like sleep walking. And that would be very rare if ever.

Narrator function and being aware doesn't alter unconscious information processing being the agency of both.

An interaction of information within the brain, inputs, architecture, chemistry, memory, produced the action, the will and the awareness of thought and action.

With no possible alternative in the instance of information processing/decision actualized (Determinism), there is no freedom of will (incompatibilism).

With no possible alternative in the instance of information processing/decision making, it remains true that the decision, regarding what we will do, may be coerced by someone outside pointing a gun at the brain, and, it remains true that the decision may be unduly influenced by the brain's own disorders, like suffering hallucination, or a crippled ability to think through a decision, or by an irresistible impulse. Or the decision process may be free from such coercion and such undue influences.

When the decision process is free of coercion and undue influence, it is literally a freely chosen will, or simply free will.

Explaining how the brain works during a case of coercion does not eliminate the influence of coercion upon the decision process.
Explaining how the brain works under an extraordinary influence, such as a significant mental illness, does not eliminate the influence of that illness.
Explaining how the brain works during a case where it is left free of coercion and undue influence, does not eliminate free will.

Explaining how things work does not "explain them away", it only explains how they work.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom