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Compatibilism: What's that About?

DBT

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The brain is constantly acquiring information and responding to it, as an intelligent information processor the brain is able to respond to changing conditions as the information is acquired. Adjusting to conditions milliseconds after they occur. Re, your example, the brain estimates probability based on past experience, how long a light stays green, travel speed, etc, which determines whether you must stop or there is sufficient time to cross before the light turns amber or red.

What happens on any occasion is determined by an interaction of multiple elements, speed, distance, light cycle times, urgency, mood, etc, which come together as an action performed: on this occasion you stop as the light turns amber.

Just to clarify, in the example the light was already red, so you slowed down, even though it actually did change to green at the last minute. Your determinist passenger asked "Why you slow down?" and you said that the light could have remained red, even though it did not remain red, but instead it change to green as you arrived. But the determinist argues that it was impossible for it to remain red, because it was destined to be green since the Big Bang. So he asks again, "Why did you slow down?"

If I'm reading your response correctly, you are pointing out that the brain is a complex organ that "is constantly acquiring information and responding to it, as an intelligent information processor".

And that, "the brain estimates probability based on past experience". So, you knew that the light could have remained red even though it actually did turn green just as you arrived at the traffic light. Despite the fact that it would not remain red, it still could have remained red.

Given that traffic lights are designed to cycle in order to allow traffic flow, the likely reason why it would stay red is a malfunction. Malfunctions not being common, not a daily or weekly or even monthly occurrence there is no reason to react as if is going to happen even though we know it can happen. A driver reacting as if the light is likely to, or going to stay red because sometimes lights malfunction is responding unreasonably: a brain glitch.

Given experience with the world, we understand the probability of things happening, car crashes, lighting strikes, power outages, a traffic light staying red and so on....
 

bilby

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On the other hand, physics is also a fact of human psychology. And it presumes a reliable cause in everything it describes. It has no facility for describing uncaused events, as they would be irrational.

Thank goodness.

It's evidence that we all have an instinctive predisposition to believe it. An awful lot of physicists do not in fact believe what you say we all believe. "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above." - Katharine Hepburn :)

I'm guessing that must be from the movie where she heads a research bureau that is about to be replaced by a computer.

Concepts cannot knock over pencils. "Quantum uncertainty" is a notion, not a causal agent.

[Note to self: always go the extra mile in precision when talking to Marvin.]

Damn straight.

The pencil has a vanishingly small probability ...

Likewise, probabilities cannot knock over pencils.

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

Well, that was a quick turnabout from "even if no external horizontal forces act on it" to "other than" a list of forces acting upon it.

And, of course, "the pencil's finite momentum guarantees it has nonzero uncertainty" reminds us that uncertainty is a matter of missing knowledge, and not a matter of unreliable causation.

On the other hand, if I'm hammering a nail, I'd prefer to reliably hit the nail, rather than randomly hit my hand. Reliable causation is our friend. (Well, after we become skilled enough to stop hitting our thumb).
Whether Bob is our friend or enemy isn't evidence of whether the person behind us is Bob. (And for what it's worth, in the deterministic theory that preceded quantum mechanics, electrons in atoms had unstable orbits and spiraled into nuclei, killing us all. Sometimes random quantum fluctuation is our friend. And nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests. :) )

Random fluctuations are only our friends when unpredictability is desirable, like when we flip the coin to see who goes first.

Well, if we're going to keep smashing protons into stuff, then we should hope that the consequences are contained.
True; but hope is a poor excuse for belief. (And if proton collider energies were sufficient to destroy the earth then the earth would have already been destroyed by cosmic rays.)


Quantum mechanics is 95 years old, and a lot of the smartest people in the world have spent years of their professional lives trying to come up with a deterministic theory that matches experimental results, and so far they've all* failed. Doesn't that shake your confidence that reliably caused quark behavior is more likely?

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

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

Well, there is always the "God of the gaps".

The analogy with Relativity is instructive. Since the early 1900s, there has been a viable alternative to Einstein's theory of Relativity all along. It's called "Lorentz Ether Theory". It says the Luminiferous Ether that Einstein is generally considered to have refuted really does exist after all and light really is a wave in the Ether; the Ether just has such-and-such peculiar properties; light behaves so strangely because Ether is waving just a little bit differently from the way 19th-century physicists believed it waved; and their experiments attempting to detect it all failed because of those such-and-such properties I mentioned. Modern physicists nearly all reject this theory in favor of Relativity, not because of any observational evidence against it, but simply because of philosophical considerations like Occam's Razor, parsimony, and predictive power. But if somebody finds Relativity emotionally or philosophically problematic because we all believe that every event has an absolute time when it happens, and therefore he rejects Relativity, at least he has a comprehensible answer when somebody says "How can you reject Relativity? Look at all the evidence for it! Your GPS wouldn't work if time didn't slow down!". He just says, "My GPS would still work, same as always. Time slowing down is just an illusion due to our movement in the Lorentz Ether." And then he can run the numbers and show the LET calculations and prove his GPS still works.

The point is, for Relativity we have a Lorentz Ether we've never discovered but which is at least possible; but we haven't got anything like that for quantum mechanics. And it's not for lack of trying.

Oh. So the Lorentz Ether was the "God of the gaps". Cool.



Quantum systems show an effect called "entanglement" in which events on this side of the lab appear to make a difference to what happens on that side of the lab, faster than the speed of light. Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance". It's mathematically very difficult to reconcile that with Relativity in a theory with reliable causation.

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

No, that's not why gravity and electromagnetism aren't spooky. They aren't spooky because they're "fields". In an electric or gravitational field there's a quantitative strength and direction to the field at every point in space and time, and a differential equation that describes how that strength and direction changes and what causes it to change, and all those changes are "local", meaning the only thing that affects the strength or direction is physical events at that location or infinitesimally close to it. I.e., the force of the earth on the moon is propagated from the one to the other -- it's mediated by physical events we can describe and quantify taking place at every point between the two.

So, if we had an explanation like that for quantum entanglement then physicists would no longer find it spooky. Actually, an explanation as to why it happens is unnecessary. It is sufficient that it reliably happens in order for it to qualify as a common law of physics.

There are many things (perhaps all things) where the unanswerable question is "Why does it happen this way, and some other way?" For example, "Why is there something instead of nothing?" The answer to this type of a question truncates at "Because that's just the way things are". However, when it comes to causes of real events, there will be real causes.


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

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

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

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

It is the opposing theory, that some events are uncaused, that has yet to be demonstrated with experimental evidence.

We have been looking for a cause for radioactive decay for over a century. All our best efforts, and all our best theories, say that it's uncaused - it just happens with a probability that depends only on the isotope under consideration, giving each radioactive isotope a specific and unalterable half life.

We can say with certainty what will happen to a large accumulation of a radioisotope, but can say nothing with certainty about the fate of a single nucleus. A given 238U nucleus has a 50:50 chance of decaying sometime in the next ~4,500,000,000 years. It could be today, or it could be eight eons or more from now. And as far as we know, there's no cause; no event that leads to this decay now rather than then. Lots of effort has been expended on trying to influence decay rates of radionuclides, but short of direct interventions such as neutron bombardment to transmute the nucleus to an isotope with a different half-life, none has been successful.

Assuming that there must be a hidden cause is purely a personal preference; It has no basis in any current physics. Indeed, given our abject failure, it's seeming increasingly likely that radioactive decay is (for individual nuclei) uncaused and random. The randomness aggregates to a predictable probability for very large numbers of events, and as macroscopic quantities of anything contain vast numbers of atoms, this indeterminate system translates to a fairly predictable macroscopic world. But not a fully determined one.
 

The AntiChris

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this indeterminate system translates to a fairly predictable macroscopic world.

This doesn't seem right.

I guess it depends on what you mean by 'fairly', but the macroscopic world I inhabit appears extremely predictable given sufficient knowledge.
 

Marvin Edwards

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It sounds like we're saying the same thing. The brain considers the alternatives and decides to hand over the wallet rather than being shot. It does have to do with will precisely as you said, the 'part that will plays being the prompts or urges to act, to reach for your wallet, to say ''Here, I don't want any trouble.'' '

Because you were coerced into handing over your wallet, no one will hold you responsible for losing the money. They will hold the robber responsible for your loss. The specific "will", your brain came up with under coercion, was "I will hand over my wallet".

Responsibility depends on brain condition and the ability to reason rationally, not will. Will is the result of the brains functionality and ability to reason, not its driver.

Whenever the brain's choosing function is invoked, the person's will is the outcome of the function. We choose what we will do.

Responsibility is assigned to the most meaningful and relevant cause of the behavior.

If the behavior was coerced, then the guy with the gun is held responsible, and he is arrested and put in a correctional facility.

If the behavior was due to insanity, then the mental illness is held responsible for the behavior, and the patient is treated medically and psychiatrically.

If the behavior was due to a sane adult's deliberate choice to commit a criminal act for his own personal benefit at the expense of others, then that person is held responsible for his own behavior. He is arrested, imprisoned in a correctional facility, and given the opportunity for rehabilitation through counseling and education designed to correct the way he thinks about such matters in the future, so that he will make better choices of his own free will.

In all three of these cases, responsibility is assigned to the most meaningful and relevant cause of the behavior, and that cause is subject to correction.

That's how responsibility works.


Someone may be intelligent, able to reason, but is constantly making bad decisions.

Well, as long as those decisions do not harm others, he is free to make bad decisions, and hopefully, over time, learn to make better ones. Thomas Edison made many unsuccessful choices before he came up with a working light bulb. Sometimes it is just a matter of trial and error.

A computer is able to make rational decisions/selections based on sets of criteria, therefore able to choose what is considered good and moral.

Not quite. A computer is a tool we create to do our will. It has no will of its own. Whether the computer can output a "good" or "moral" choice will be governed by the criteria that we program into it. The logic is ours, the will is ours. The computer has no skin in the game.

It is the system, not its impulses or its will that selects the only option it has available to it in any given instance in time (determinism).

The system IS us, specifically our own brain. Whatever the system decides, we have decided. There is no dualism. There is no "pitting us against our own brains".

Oh, and of course, whenever choosing occurs, there are always at least two real options available. There is no such thing as "choosing between a single possibility".


We are judged on the basis of our decision making ability (being of sound mind or not), not our will.

We are judged upon our behavior. The most meaningful and relevant cause of that behavior is held responsible. (see Responsibility above).



The perception of decision making.
''Recognizing that consciousness is awareness does change the way we can look at the fundamental problem of free will. Free will is more correctly defined as “the perception that we choose to make movements.” Looking at it in this way produces at least two possibilities. The first is that there is a process of free will, an aspect of consciousness, that does choose to make a specific movement. The second is that the brain’s motor system produces a movement as a product of its different inputs, consciousness is informed of this movement, and it is perceived as being freely chosen

And what do we mean by "it is perceived as being freely chosen"? Do we perceive our choice to be made randomly or as an uncaused event? No, we perceive our choice to be reliably caused by our own reasoning. If the behavior were random then it would be unpredictable, and people would question our sanity. We perceive our choice to be reliably caused by our own purposes and reasons. So, our perception is that our choice is reliably caused (deterministic), and that we are the most meaningful and relevant cause (free will).

Whether the choosing operation is an "an aspect of consciousness" or not is irrelevant. Our only way to explain and explore our deliberate choices is by conscious processes involving awareness, language, inference, and reportable information.

Deliberation involves conscious awareness. But there are also reflex behaviors, decisions programmed into the spinal neurons for quick response. And there are also autonomic behaviors, like breathing heavily after a run. And there are also habitual behaviors, based on choices made long ago that we never give any thought to unless something unexpected happens.


Necessity:
''Necessity is the idea that everything that has ever happened and ever will happen is necessary, and can not be otherwise. Necessity is often opposed to chance and contingency. In a necessary world there is no chance. Everything that happens is necessitated.''

Again, the author of the quote is misusing the word "can", conflating it with "will". And every sentence following the first sentence confirms this! The word "can" is used in the context of uncertainty, and tells us that we are in that context, and not in a context of certainty. If something "can" happen, then it may happen, or, then again it may never happen. So let's look at the following three sentences:

1. "Necessity is often opposed to chance and contingency." So, necessity is about certainty, there are no "if's" in necessity, there are no events that "may or may not happen". There are only events that will certainly happen.

2. "In a necessary world there is no chance." But the word "can" denotes chances. If something "can" happen, then there is a "chance" that it will happen, and an equal chance that it will not happen.

3. "Everything that happens is necessitated." There are no events that "cannot" happen. All of the necessitated events will certainly happen.

When speaking of necessity, we are not speaking of uncertainties. We are not speaking as to what things "can" or "cannot" happen. We are only speaking of what "will" certainly happen. Thus, the words "can" and "cannot" must not appear in our definition of necessity.

Necessity means that everything that will happen is reliably caused by other events that definitely did happen. Necessity has nothing to say about what "can" or "cannot' happen. It must remain silent on that subject. There are no "chances", no "contingencies", and no "possibilities" in the context of certainty.

As soon as any word appears that logically implies a context of uncertainty, we are shifted back into that context, and all our various alternatives and multiple possibilities and things that can or cannot happen are restored within that context.
 

Marvin Edwards

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A proper consideration of the Libet experiment, as it relates to free will, should start, in my opinion, before the experiment begins. "Were the subjects required to participate in the experiments, or did they choose to do so of their own free will?" Everyone knows precisely what free will means in that sentence. And next we should consider that before the experiment began, the researchers had to explain the apparatus to the subject and what the subject was expected to do. We assume that the subjects were paying conscious attention to the instructions. It was only after the conscious decision to participate and the conscious awareness of the instructions, that the experiment could begin. Just sayin'.

Well if they are FSU science majors it is pretty clear official coercion is applied.

https://www.bio.fsu.edu/undergrad/research.php

[FONT=&]Doing research as an undergraduate will enrich your experience at FSU by connecting you to your field and to the faculty and graduate students in the department. Undergraduate research experience will also improve your chances for admission into graduate schools and medical, dental and veterinary schools. Undergraduates can become involved in research in several ways. The [/FONT]UROP program[FONT=&] allows students to begin doing research in their freshman and sophomore years. Or, you can do Directed Independent Study (DIS) doing research with a faculty member and get credits toward your Biological Science major. And finally, there is Honors in the Major, which is similar to DIS work but involves writing and defending a thesis at the end of your project.[/FONT]

Eyup. Some coercion was applied. Nothing is free in this world even when you describe it. I bolded one sentence. But it is clear that free isn't operative in any sentence in that description. Cost/benefit all the way to turtles.

Go ahead. Climb up the decision tree. You'll find one isn't at any level freely making anything.

Scanning that document led me to conclude that they were not the subjects of research, but were participating in the conduction of the research.
 

Marvin Edwards

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The brain is constantly acquiring information and responding to it, as an intelligent information processor the brain is able to respond to changing conditions as the information is acquired. Adjusting to conditions milliseconds after they occur. Re, your example, the brain estimates probability based on past experience, how long a light stays green, travel speed, etc, which determines whether you must stop or there is sufficient time to cross before the light turns amber or red.

What happens on any occasion is determined by an interaction of multiple elements, speed, distance, light cycle times, urgency, mood, etc, which come together as an action performed: on this occasion you stop as the light turns amber.

Just to clarify, in the example the light was already red, so you slowed down, even though it actually did change to green at the last minute. Your determinist passenger asked "Why you slow down?" and you said that the light could have remained red, even though it did not remain red, but instead it change to green as you arrived. But the determinist argues that it was impossible for it to remain red, because it was destined to be green since the Big Bang. So he asks again, "Why did you slow down?"

If I'm reading your response correctly, you are pointing out that the brain is a complex organ that "is constantly acquiring information and responding to it, as an intelligent information processor".

And that, "the brain estimates probability based on past experience". So, you knew that the light could have remained red even though it actually did turn green just as you arrived at the traffic light. Despite the fact that it would not remain red, it still could have remained red.

Given that traffic lights are designed to cycle in order to allow traffic flow, the likely reason why it would stay red is a malfunction. Malfunctions not being common, not a daily or weekly or even monthly occurrence there is no reason to react as if is going to happen even though we know it can happen. A driver reacting as if the light is likely to, or going to stay red because sometimes lights malfunction is responding unreasonably: a brain glitch.

Given experience with the world, we understand the probability of things happening, car crashes, lighting strikes, power outages, a traffic light staying red and so on....

My experience has been that stoplights at different intersection have different timings. It is not a malfunction. Now, one could theoretically gain sufficient experience with the intersections to guess more accurately the timing of its traffic lights. But there are also lights that will will function differently according to the time of day and/or due to the cars approaching from different directions. So, we're not guessing whether there is likely to be a malfunction. A malfunction would be highly unlikely.

In any case, if we are uncertain when a given light will turn from red to green, then we are likely to slow down, due to the possibility that it could remain red, even though it could also change to green as we arrive. When we are uncertain as to what will happen, we consider the things that can happen, to better prepare for what does happen.

When our determinist passenger asks us "Why did you slow down?", we respond "Because the light could have remained red". And when he argues, "But it didn't remain red, which means it was predetermined from the Big Bang that it could not remain red. So, why did you slow down?" We pull the car over and tell him to get out and walk.

It is very annoying when someone confuses what "can" happen with what "will" happen. It leads to a bunch of false conclusions. Determinism may only assert that, given the same circumstances, "you would not have done otherwise". Determinism cannot truthfully assert that "you could not have done otherwise". To do so conflates "can" with "will", and leads to false claims.
 

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Well if they are FSU science majors it is pretty clear official coercion is applied.

https://www.bio.fsu.edu/undergrad/research.php



Eyup. Some coercion was applied. Nothing is free in this world even when you describe it. I bolded one sentence. But it is clear that free isn't operative in any sentence in that description. Cost/benefit all the way to turtles.

Go ahead. Climb up the decision tree. You'll find one isn't at any level freely making anything.

Scanning that document led me to conclude that they were not the subjects of research, but were participating in the conduction of the research.

So, on the subject of coercion, nobody coerced me to be a wizard. I can make a long list of things which absolutely strain credulity to believe they were coerced of me.

In many ways, my existence is itself coercive.

How can anyone claim "cost/benefit" when sometimes the point, the goal sought, is something that has no clear benefit.

Last I knew, the things that Mistress Mara does over at Ground Zero here in the twin cities has NO rational basis for the "benefit" for which the cost is paid. Yet the cost does, indeed, get paid...
 

Bomb#20

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Compatibalism has been demonstrated to be a word game. The reasons why free will is not compatible with determinism and compatibilism is a word game have been given.
I take it by "has been demonstrated" and "have been given", you're referring to some incident where you blerk-will debaters, after borrowing a word from the broader community and redefining it under the baleful influence of a theistic religion and using it to commit equivocation fallacies, and after some in the broader community took back our word and used it correctly, told us you own the word now.
 

Bomb#20

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It's evidence that we all have an instinctive predisposition to believe it. An awful lot of physicists do not in fact believe what you say we all believe. "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above." - Katharine Hepburn :)

I'm guessing that must be from the movie where she heads a research bureau that is about to be replaced by a computer.
Nah, it's from the movie where she heads a tiny commando of unlawful combatants behind German lines to blow up an enemy warship. :notworthy:
 

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Well if they are FSU science majors it is pretty clear official coercion is applied.

https://www.bio.fsu.edu/undergrad/research.php



Eyup. Some coercion was applied. Nothing is free in this world even when you describe it. I bolded one sentence. But it is clear that free isn't operative in any sentence in that description. Cost/benefit all the way to turtles.

Go ahead. Climb up the decision tree. You'll find one isn't at any level freely making anything.

Scanning that document led me to conclude that they were not the subjects of research, but were participating in the conduction of the research.

Really bad scan. Wrong conclusion. I chose FSU because that's where I studied. Rather than using my testimony I chose to use what FSU currently publishes as guidance for it's science majors. Science students are required to participate as subjects. They must follow investigator protocols. I'm not going to get into a discussion about what if they didn't choses science or if they didn't choose FSU. Most students are unaware that they have these requirements when they choose a major. Tough luck for them. Some to chose another category of education. Not relevant.

It's really hard to call a student whose auditory system is being examined a participant in research. She's no more a participant than is the diode used to predict responses to protocols.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Well if they are FSU science majors it is pretty clear official coercion is applied.

https://www.bio.fsu.edu/undergrad/research.php



Eyup. Some coercion was applied. Nothing is free in this world even when you describe it. I bolded one sentence. But it is clear that free isn't operative in any sentence in that description. Cost/benefit all the way to turtles.

Go ahead. Climb up the decision tree. You'll find one isn't at any level freely making anything.

Scanning that document led me to conclude that they were not the subjects of research, but were participating in the conduction of the research.

Really bad scan. Wrong conclusion. I chose FSU because that's where I studied. Rather than using my testimony I chose to use what FSU currently publishes as guidance for it's science majors. Science students are required to participate as subjects. They must follow investigator protocols. I'm not going to get into a discussion about what if they didn't choses science or if they didn't choose FSU. Most students are unaware that they have these requirements when they choose a major. Tough luck for them. Some to chose another category of education. Not relevant.

It's really hard to call a student whose auditory system is being examined a participant in research. She's no more a participant than is the diode used to predict responses to protocols.

Okay. Then they do not participate of their own free will, because they are unduly influenced to participate as subjects. The undue influence in this case is an unequal power situation, where the person with power can require the person without it to do something they would not normally choose to do. Situations of unequal power include this one, teacher/student, and other obvious cases like parent/child, doctor/patient, and commander/soldier. This is one of many types of undue influence that can compel a person to do something they don't want to do.
 

rousseau

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The 'Quantitative' Argument for a Non-Contradictory Acceptance of Agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've been thinking about my last few posts little more, and I think I can distill them down a bit. For the most part I'm suggesting that the obsession over freedom is irrelevant; we are material beings with objective qualities, and it is those knowable, and definable qualities that are relevant to understanding ourselves.

We are composed of atoms whose behaviour can be described (stochastic), but animals aren't atoms. Likely the stochastic quality does emerge in our behaviour, but in practice we are an unfathomably complex system of atoms whose behaviour and existence needs a more complex and refined explanation. An explanation that likely emerges as we move through physics -> chemistry -> biology -> sociology. Physical explanations have to underlie how we function, but they don't, and can't really tell the full story of human existence and experience. And at the same time I think if you were to draw out the principles of chemistry/biology/sociology the lack of freedom within a logical, and material system would still be present.

One anecdote I keep thinking about lately that points out the absurdity and irrelevance of the determinism/unfree argument is the experience I have with my 17 month old son. I can accept that I live in a materialistic world full-stop with no sense of dissonance, and yet I love my kid. I love when I get to pick him up at daycare every day, I love playing with him, I love caring for him. He brings genuine joy, meaning, and purpose to my existence. So in a situation like that - what, if anything, does determinism tell us? Am I supposed to feel like my relationship with my family is meaningless because it's out of my control? Is the joy and love I feel an illusion? Obviously that conclusion is missing something.

So on one hand we have the laws of physics that describe the universe, and on the other hand we have living things that have evolved over billions of years. It may be apt to understand ourselves in the context of physics, but I don't think raw physical laws can really explain or encapsulate human experience or our objective existence. Because in truth, while we are material, we have unique qualities of our own that are being completely overlooked while we obsess over how atoms behave, and how we can't will otherwise.

I'm thankful for this thread as it's getting me thinking about the problem and drawing out my thoughts.

To further this line of thinking, what happens if we look at the properties of animals at the biological, rather than physical level. To hone in on humans we have various biological needs/drives: reproductive, digestive, respiratory, temperature regulation etc. Drives that we can't escape (are unfree from). So maybe we can say that when matter emerges into an organism these states describe the core properties of that organism. Just as you'd characterize an atom by certain physical qualities, you would characterize an organism by it's biological qualities.

How we get around the reality that organisms tend to not feel unfree is that there is no dissonance or conflict between what we desire as an animal, and our biological needs. Fulfilling our biological needs is literally what we've evolved to want. So a human life is a constant process of fulfilling our own needs and desires. This draws a very real analogy with the immutability of raw physical laws, but the process actually feels good to us and is why people usually feel content with their lives. We're just people doing what we do and want.

The laws of physics are typically irrelevant to us because in biological terms they don't matter. Consciousness is confined to consciousness of biological needs, that literally makes up our entire mental reality, and because there is no conflict between our desire and our needs this doesn't cause us any dissonance and everything feels normal. The laws of physics only come into play when we actually understand and become aware of them.

I believe all of this speaks to why religion was so ubiquitous throughout the world before the scientific revolution. In lieu of a material understanding human experience feels immaterial, supernatural, and normalized.
 

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Deriving a life philosophy from a Katherine Hepburn move script, just when I thought I'd seen everything.
 

Marvin Edwards

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Deriving a life philosophy from a Katherine Hepburn move script, just when I thought I'd seen everything.

I couldn't figure out the movie without checking Wikipedia. I believe Bomb is talking about "The African Queen". They are captured but escape and ram the German ship with Bogart's small boat, the African Queen, with a torpedo in its nose. It was a great movie.

Speaking of great movies, does anyone remember "Now Voyager" with Betty Davis? It was a fabulous film of courage and transformation from a frightened girl to a confident woman. The only flaw was that they pledged their love by lighting up a cigarette. Arrgh. Setting that aside, one of the other key themes was getting help at a mental institution. A very grown up drama.
 

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


No. Considering neuroscience, numerous experiments, case studies, lesions, memory loss, etc, it's clear that will is not means by which the brain acquires and processes information and generates response....and determinism by definition does not allow us the option of doing otherwise in any given instance. Everything id fixed as a matter of natural law.

Will plays no part in freedom.

To simply claim that uncoerced behaviour is free will ignores the role of will, the inevitability or necessity of determinism and the nature of cognition.

Which reduces compatibilism to mere word play.

Again:
''Wanting to do X is fully determined by these prior causes (and perhaps a dash of true chance). Now that the desire to do X is being felt, there are no other constraints that keep the person from doing what he wants, namely X. At this point, we should ascribe free will to all animals capable of experiencing desires (e.g., to eat, sleep, or mate). Yet, we don’t; and we tend not to judge non-human animals in moral terms.''

Quote:
If you accept regulative control as a necessary part of free will, it seems impossible either way:
1. Free will requires that given an act A, the agent could have acted otherwise
2. Indeterminate actions happens randomly and without intent or control
3. Therefore indeterminism and free will are incompatible
4. Determinate actions are fixed and unchangeable
5. Therefore determinism is incompatible with free will
 

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Responsibility





Whenever the brain's choosing function is invoked, the person's will is the outcome of the function. We choose what we will do.

Responsibility is assigned to the most meaningful and relevant cause of the behavior.

If the behavior was coerced, then the guy with the gun is held responsible, and he is arrested and put in a correctional facility.

If the behavior was due to insanity, then the mental illness is held responsible for the behavior, and the patient is treated medically and psychiatrically.

If the behavior was due to a sane adult's deliberate choice to commit a criminal act for his own personal benefit at the expense of others, then that person is held responsible for his own behavior. He is arrested, imprisoned in a correctional facility, and given the opportunity for rehabilitation through counseling and education designed to correct the way he thinks about such matters in the future, so that he will make better choices of his own free will.

In all three of these cases, responsibility is assigned to the most meaningful and relevant cause of the behavior, and that cause is subject to correction.

That's how responsibility works.




Well, as long as those decisions do not harm others, he is free to make bad decisions, and hopefully, over time, learn to make better ones. Thomas Edison made many unsuccessful choices before he came up with a working light bulb. Sometimes it is just a matter of trial and error.



Not quite. A computer is a tool we create to do our will. It has no will of its own. Whether the computer can output a "good" or "moral" choice will be governed by the criteria that we program into it. The logic is ours, the will is ours. The computer has no skin in the game.



The system IS us, specifically our own brain. Whatever the system decides, we have decided. There is no dualism. There is no "pitting us against our own brains".

Oh, and of course, whenever choosing occurs, there are always at least two real options available. There is no such thing as "choosing between a single possibility".




We are judged upon our behavior. The most meaningful and relevant cause of that behavior is held responsible. (see Responsibility above).





And what do we mean by "it is perceived as being freely chosen"? Do we perceive our choice to be made randomly or as an uncaused event? No, we perceive our choice to be reliably caused by our own reasoning. If the behavior were random then it would be unpredictable, and people would question our sanity. We perceive our choice to be reliably caused by our own purposes and reasons. So, our perception is that our choice is reliably caused (deterministic), and that we are the most meaningful and relevant cause (free will).

Whether the choosing operation is an "an aspect of consciousness" or not is irrelevant. Our only way to explain and explore our deliberate choices is by conscious processes involving awareness, language, inference, and reportable information.

Deliberation involves conscious awareness. But there are also reflex behaviors, decisions programmed into the spinal neurons for quick response. And there are also autonomic behaviors, like breathing heavily after a run. And there are also habitual behaviors, based on choices made long ago that we never give any thought to unless something unexpected happens.




Again, the author of the quote is misusing the word "can", conflating it with "will". And every sentence following the first sentence confirms this! The word "can" is used in the context of uncertainty, and tells us that we are in that context, and not in a context of certainty. If something "can" happen, then it may happen, or, then again it may never happen. So let's look at the following three sentences:

1. "Necessity is often opposed to chance and contingency." So, necessity is about certainty, there are no "if's" in necessity, there are no events that "may or may not happen". There are only events that will certainly happen.

2. "In a necessary world there is no chance." But the word "can" denotes chances. If something "can" happen, then there is a "chance" that it will happen, and an equal chance that it will not happen.

3. "Everything that happens is necessitated." There are no events that "cannot" happen. All of the necessitated events will certainly happen.

When speaking of necessity, we are not speaking of uncertainties. We are not speaking as to what things "can" or "cannot" happen. We are only speaking of what "will" certainly happen. Thus, the words "can" and "cannot" must not appear in our definition of necessity.

Necessity means that everything that will happen is reliably caused by other events that definitely did happen. Necessity has nothing to say about what "can" or "cannot' happen. It must remain silent on that subject. There are no "chances", no "contingencies", and no "possibilities" in the context of certainty.

As soon as any word appears that logically implies a context of uncertainty, we are shifted back into that context, and all our various alternatives and multiple possibilities and things that can or cannot happen are restored within that context.

Responsibility is a matter of capacity to make rational decisions, not will. The architecture and wiring - neural networks, not will - determines capacity.


On the neurology of morals
Patients with medial prefrontal lesions often display irresponsible behavior, despite being intellectually unimpaired. But similar lesions occurring in early childhood can also prevent the acquisition of factual knowledge about accepted standards of moral behavior.


Neuroscience and the law:
... Our contention is not that neuroscience does (or will) disprove free will; rather, we contend that free will is an antiquated concept that impairs our understanding of human behavior and thereby clouds our thinking about ethics. ...

''We ought to think about decision making in terms of neurological control, not because this is some sort of eternal absolute truth, but because among the options on the table currently, it shows the most promise of coherently unifying the scientific, ethical, judicial, and personal realms of our experience, and because it has the best chance of improving our understanding of ourselves and one another. Research in neuroscience is already well underway, and we can manipulate control across species using conditioning, drugs, and lesions. 4
Just as we have learned to consider our decisions as “free choices,” we can shift our introspection toward our varying levels of control. A man forced to choose between a hamburger and heroin might be acutely aware that his control is being compromised by an addiction. Insisting that he has (or lacks) free will ads nothing to our understanding of his behavior. Nor does it provide any useful suggestions of what we as a society ought do with him legally. An understanding of the problems that opiate addiction creates for one's self-control and how best to treat these difficulties, along with a knowledge of the user's history, would help a judge or jury make informed decisions based on the likely outcomes of various incarceration and rehabilitation programs.''
 

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My experience has been that stoplights at different intersection have different timings. It is not a malfunction. Now, one could theoretically gain sufficient experience with the intersections to guess more accurately the timing of its traffic lights. But there are also lights that will will function differently according to the time of day and/or due to the cars approaching from different directions. So, we're not guessing whether there is likely to be a malfunction. A malfunction would be highly unlikely.

In any case, if we are uncertain when a given light will turn from red to green, then we are likely to slow down, due to the possibility that it could remain red, even though it could also change to green as we arrive. When we are uncertain as to what will happen, we consider the things that can happen, to better prepare for what does happen.

When our determinist passenger asks us "Why did you slow down?", we respond "Because the light could have remained red". And when he argues, "But it didn't remain red, which means it was predetermined from the Big Bang that it could not remain red. So, why did you slow down?" We pull the car over and tell him to get out and walk.

It is very annoying when someone confuses what "can" happen with what "will" happen. It leads to a bunch of false conclusions. Determinism may only assert that, given the same circumstances, "you would not have done otherwise". Determinism cannot truthfully assert that "you could not have done otherwise". To do so conflates "can" with "will", and leads to false claims.
I'm thankful for this thread as it's getting me thinking about the problem and drawing out my thoughts.

To further this line of thinking, what happens if we look at the properties of animals at the biological, rather than physical level. To hone in on humans we have various biological needs/drives: reproductive, digestive, respiratory, temperature regulation etc. Drives that we can't escape (are unfree from). So maybe we can say that when matter emerges into an organism these states describe the core properties of that organism. Just as you'd characterize an atom by certain physical qualities, you would characterize an organism by it's biological qualities.

How we get around the reality that organisms tend to not feel unfree is that there is no dissonance or conflict between what we desire as an animal, and our biological needs. Fulfilling our biological needs is literally what we've evolved to want. So a human life is a constant process of fulfilling our own needs and desires. This draws a very real analogy with the immutability of raw physical laws, but the process actually feels good to us and is why people usually feel content with their lives. We're just people doing what we do and want.

The laws of physics are typically irrelevant to us because in biological terms they don't matter. Consciousness is confined to consciousness of biological needs, that literally makes up our entire mental reality, and because there is no conflict between our desire and our needs this doesn't cause us any dissonance and everything feels normal. The laws of physics only come into play when we actually understand and become aware of them.

I believe all of this speaks to why religion was so ubiquitous throughout the world before the scientific revolution. In lieu of a material understanding human experience feels immaterial, supernatural, and normalized.

We know that traffic lights have different cycle times, that a busy road gets a longer run, etc. We understand that approaching a busy highway when the light ahead has just turned red means a longer wait, and most likely a shorter green light, with perhaps another cycle if you are at the back of the line.

This understanding and ability to estimate and predict is enabled by experience and memory function.

Except as the prompt or urge to act (go now, do it quickly) none of this the role of will. The state and condition of a brain in any given instance in time determines response.

Agent/environment interaction;
''A fundamental paradigm to understand this agent environment interaction is the cybernetic notion of feedback control, which is also known as error-controlled regulation. A goal-directed agent, such as an ant or a human, tries to achieve its goals by eliminating any difference between its present situation (perception) and its desired situation (goal). A goal here should not be understood as a completely specified objective or end-state, but merely as an (explicit or implicit) preference for certain situations over others. For every perceived difference between the present situation and the goal, an action is performed to reduce that deviation, i.e. bring the situation closer to the preferred one. If the result as perceived is not sufficient, a next action is performed to again bring the situation closer to the goal, and so on, until the agent is satisfied.'' (Powers, 1973; Heylighen & Joslyn, 2001)
 

Marvin Edwards

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We know that traffic lights have different cycle times, that a busy road gets a longer run, etc. We understand that approaching a busy highway when the light ahead has just turned red means a longer wait, and most likely a shorter green light, with perhaps another cycle if you are at the back of the line.

This understanding and ability to estimate and predict is enabled by experience and memory function.

Except as the prompt or urge to act (go now, do it quickly) none of this the role of will. The state and condition of a brain in any given instance in time determines response.

Agent/environment interaction;
''A fundamental paradigm to understand this agent environment interaction is the cybernetic notion of feedback control, which is also known as error-controlled regulation. A goal-directed agent, such as an ant or a human, tries to achieve its goals by eliminating any difference between its present situation (perception) and its desired situation (goal). A goal here should not be understood as a completely specified objective or end-state, but merely as an (explicit or implicit) preference for certain situations over others. For every perceived difference between the present situation and the goal, an action is performed to reduce that deviation, i.e. bring the situation closer to the preferred one. If the result as perceived is not sufficient, a next action is performed to again bring the situation closer to the goal, and so on, until the agent is satisfied.'' (Powers, 1973; Heylighen & Joslyn, 2001)

The role of "will" has already been established. It is the intent to do something specific, like slowing down as you approach the red light, because you do not know for certain when it will turn green.

Now, we can expand this explanation, as Powers et al did, by describing the human as a "goal-directed agent", adjusting its behavior from moment to moment to achieve that goal. In this case, our goal is to arrive safely at our destination without getting arrested (or killed) by driving through a red light. We know that there are two real possibilities: (1) the light may still be red when we get to it, and, (2) the light may turn to green. We do not know which of these two possible futures will be the actual future. When we do not know what will happen, we imagine what can happen, to better prepare for what does happen. So, we choose to slow down, because the light could remain red.

The hard determinist, confusing what "can" happen with what "will" happen, insists that, since the light actually turned green, it was never possible that the light could have remained red. He insists, "Since it would not have been otherwise, this must mean it could not have been otherwise. So, Why did you slow down?"

Obviously, the fact that something would not happen does not imply that it could not happen.

The implication that, in a world of causal necessity, we could not have done otherwise, is a false statement.
The true statement is that, in a world of causal necessity, we would not have done otherwise.
 

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We have been looking for a cause for radioactive decay for over a century. All our best efforts, and all our best theories, say that it's uncaused - it just happens with a probability that depends only on the isotope under consideration, giving each radioactive isotope a specific and unalterable half life.

We can say with certainty what will happen to a large accumulation of a radioisotope, but can say nothing with certainty about the fate of a single nucleus. A given 238U nucleus has a 50:50 chance of decaying sometime in the next ~4,500,000,000 years. It could be today, or it could be eight eons or more from now. And as far as we know, there's no cause; no event that leads to this decay now rather than then. Lots of effort has been expended on trying to influence decay rates of radionuclides, but short of direct interventions such as neutron bombardment to transmute the nucleus to an isotope with a different half-life, none has been successful.

Assuming that there must be a hidden cause is purely a personal preference; It has no basis in any current physics. Indeed, given our abject failure, it's seeming increasingly likely that radioactive decay is (for individual nuclei) uncaused and random. The randomness aggregates to a predictable probability for very large numbers of events, and as macroscopic quantities of anything contain vast numbers of atoms, this indeterminate system translates to a fairly predictable macroscopic world. But not a fully determined one.

Okay, so it sounds like we do know something about the causes of radioactive decay. You mentioned that neutron bombardment of the nucleus can speed up the decay by converting it to a different isotope with a different half-life. If I may ask, doesn't radioactive decay do the same? I mean, doesn't decay convert the specimen to a new isotope?

I just visited the Wikipedia article on radioactive decay, and it suggested that the weak force interactions are responsible for beta-decay. So, I'm a little confused as to why we would consider these events uncaused. It sounds more like the issue is the unpredictability as to when these events take place. After all, they are happening in the nucleus, and I don't think anyone is observing and taking notes on these events. So, we cannot assume they are not reliably caused, we can only assume that when and where it will happen is unpredictable.
 

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

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

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

So, I believe that even the "true" random number generator's output will be causally deterministic, but certainly random enough to be unpredictable, which is sufficient for its usage in cryptography. Basically, you just want a number that no one else can guess.
If you read Knuth's Semi Numerical algorithms I am impressed, seriously. I used to have a copy.

Keep in mind the proper term is pseudo random number generator, and it is done with digital logic.

Knuth addressed the debate over what 'random is'. As he put it define the term random and anything that matches the definition is random. Mathematically it is a definition.

As to adding compacity leading to less randomness, in the limit as the N gets large, the distribution probably approaches continuous.

You cn buy random number generators based on electrical noise. Using cosmic radiation is another approach.

A Computers are based on a form of formal logic, Boolean Algebra. In a logically consistent system regardless of the path taken the answer must always be the same. Euclidean Geometry is consistent, no matter how you work a problem the result is always the same. As with algebra.

The fundamtal logical operations in a computer are if-then, while, OR,AND, NOT, and so on. Everything reduces t symbolic logic.
 

Marvin Edwards

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

Everything you've quoted from neuroscience sources so far, seems to corroborate that the brain does make decisions, and that those decisions causally determine what the body will do. You've said as much yourself, "the brain acquires and processes information and generates response". If a man is holding a gun to your head, that is information. The brain processes that information and responds by doing what the guy with the gun orders. If no one is holding a gun to your head, then different information will determine what you will do. Information like your current goals.

....and determinism by definition does not allow us the option of doing otherwise in any given instance. Everything id fixed as a matter of natural law.

Ironically, one of the things that is fixed as a matter of natural law, is that you will encounter situations where you must make a decision before you can continue (perhaps you'll go to a restaurant where you must decide what to order, or you won't eat).
Also fixed as a matter of natural law, is that you will be faced with two or more possibilities, two different things that you can do.
Also fixed as a matter of natural law, is that when you have made your choice, you will have precisely one thing that you will do, and at least one thing that you could have done, but didn't do.

Will plays no part in freedom.

Actually, since freedom is the ability to do what you want, will plays a key role in marshalling the body's resources to carry out the chosen intent. Without that intent to motivate and direct our actions, we could do nothing.

To simply claim that uncoerced behaviour is free will ignores the role of will, the inevitability or necessity of determinism and the nature of cognition.

There are no uncaused events. Every event, from the motion of the planets to the thoughts going through our heads right now, was causally necessary from any prior point in eternity and inevitably would happen.

Either, it was causally necessary from any prior point in eternity that you would be free to decide for yourself what you would do,
Or, it was causally necessary from any prior point in eternity that some guy with a gun would be telling you what to do.

Both events would be equally causally necessary. As far as causal necessity goes, the two events are indistinguishable.

But it is important for us to distinguish a deliberate act from a coerced act. Because we will treat these cases very differently.

Which reduces compatibilism to mere word play.

The free will "versus" determinism debate was concocted by word play. It was created by a number of false, but believable suggestions. I'm simply trying to unravel the mess that this original word play created.

Again:
''Wanting to do X is fully determined by these prior causes (and perhaps a dash of true chance). Now that the desire to do X is being felt, there are no other constraints that keep the person from doing what he wants, namely X. At this point, we should ascribe free will to all animals capable of experiencing desires (e.g., to eat, sleep, or mate). Yet, we don’t; and we tend not to judge non-human animals in moral terms.''

Actually, we do ascribe free will to all intelligent species. If you've ever watched that "Lucky Dog" show, where the trainer takes a dog that has behavior problems, and teaches it to act better, the general assumption is that the dog can learn to choose better behavior.
Quote:
If you accept regulative control as a necessary part of free will, it seems impossible either way:
1. Free will requires that given an act A, the agent could have acted otherwise
2. Indeterminate actions happens randomly and without intent or control
3. Therefore indeterminism and free will are incompatible
4. Determinate actions are fixed and unchangeable
5. Therefore determinism is incompatible with free will

Personally, I'm pretty sure that there are no uncaused events. So, indeterminism never enters the picture for me.

And, of course, I do accept that regulative control is a necessary part of free will. However, there is no way to control anything without reliable cause and effect. There is reliable causation prior to us encountering an issue that must be decided. There is reliable causation within our brains as we consider our options and decide what we will do. And there will be reliable causation following upon our chosen actions. There is never any break in the reliable chain of events.

Free will happens to be a deterministic event. Our choice is both reliably caused (determinism), and, the most meaningful and relevant cause of our choice is us (free will). There is no incompatibility to be found.
 

bilby

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Okay, so it sounds like we do know something about the causes of radioactive decay. You mentioned that neutron bombardment of the nucleus can speed up the decay by converting it to a different isotope with a different half-life. If I may ask, doesn't radioactive decay do the same? I mean, doesn't decay convert the specimen to a new isotope?

I just visited the Wikipedia article on radioactive decay, and it suggested that the weak force interactions are responsible for beta-decay. So, I'm a little confused as to why we would consider these events uncaused. It sounds more like the issue is the unpredictability as to when these events take place. After all, they are happening in the nucleus, and I don't think anyone is observing and taking notes on these events. So, we cannot assume they are not reliably caused, we can only assume that when and where it will happen is unpredictable.
Neutron bombardment doesn't trigger decay (which is mediated by Weak and Strong force interactions), it changes the game completely.

Decay is random. Completely random. You can predict very accurately the behaviour of a large number of radioactive atoms (and typically we only handle atoms by the trillions of trillions). But a single atom is completely unpredictable. Nothing has been found that can so much as budge the probability of a decay; It has no known cause.

And this is in an arena where a great deal is known with great certainty. The Standard Model is amongst the best tested and most robust science in history. We know all of the particles and forces involved, and yet we have not been able to use any of them to stimulate or retard decay.

Radioactive decay is a very strong contender for an uncaused event. It just happens, with a characteristic probability, regardless of the surrounding conditions. It's such a strong contender that it would take solid evidence for a cause to persuade me that it's not completely uncaused. And such evidence would be very difficult to find without overturning some very well established physics.

It would be fascinating, and would likely secure a Nobel, if a cause were found. But the smart money says it's just a thing that happens.
 

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If you read Knuth's Semi Numerical algorithms I am impressed, seriously. I used to have a copy.

Keep in mind the proper term is pseudo random number generator, and it is done with digital logic.

Knuth addressed the debate over what 'random is'. As he put it define the term random and anything that matches the definition is random. Mathematically it is a definition.

As to adding compacity leading to less randomness, in the limit as the N gets large, the distribution probably approaches continuous.

You cn buy random number generators based on electrical noise. Using cosmic radiation is another approach.

A Computers are based on a form of formal logic, Boolean Algebra. In a logically consistent system regardless of the path taken the answer must always be the same. Euclidean Geometry is consistent, no matter how you work a problem the result is always the same. As with algebra.

The fundamtal logical operations in a computer are if-then, while, OR,AND, NOT, and so on. Everything reduces t symbolic logic.

My favorite math course was Plane Geometry. I had this great teacher, Ms. Fulcher. We learned by performing new proofs each day, that built upon earlier lessons. She would give hints, but frequently said, "I don't want to let the cat out of the bag", meaning she wanted us to find the answer. At the beginning of each class, she had us write out the proof. I always tried to be the first to turn mine in.
 

steve_bank

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Mathematically indeterminate means not enough variables to solve the problem.

If you are working a 3d problem and it is not possible to quantify one of the dimensions the problem is indeterminate.

Like on a test where one of the ansers is 'not enough information'.
 

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Responsibility is a matter of capacity to make rational decisions, not will. The architecture and wiring - neural networks, not will - determines capacity.

Mental incapacity is one of the many undue influences that removes a person's responsibility for their action. I think there was a Supreme Court case a few years ago where it was decided that the death penalty cannot be applied to someone who is mentally incompetent.

On the neurology of morals
Patients with medial prefrontal lesions often display irresponsible behavior, despite being intellectually unimpaired. But similar lesions occurring in early childhood can also prevent the acquisition of factual knowledge about accepted standards of moral behavior.

I think that "displaying irresponsible behavior" would be a different category than mental incompetence. The question would be why they are displaying irresponsible behavior. It could be a number of factors, like a lack of impulse control.

Neuroscience and the law:
... Our contention is not that neuroscience does (or will) disprove free will; rather, we contend that free will is an antiquated concept that impairs our understanding of human behavior and thereby clouds our thinking about ethics. ...

''We ought to think about decision making in terms of neurological control, not because this is some sort of eternal absolute truth, but because among the options on the table currently, it shows the most promise of coherently unifying the scientific, ethical, judicial, and personal realms of our experience, and because it has the best chance of improving our understanding of ourselves and one another. Research in neuroscience is already well underway, and we can manipulate control across species using conditioning, drugs, and lesions. 4"

The author is not dealing with free will, but only the myths about free will, a strawman argument. Free will is not freedom from cause and effect. Free will is not freedom from ourselves. Free will is not freedom from our brains and our brain's neurology.

Free will is nothing more than a choice we make that is free of coercion and undue influence. And that's the free will that is used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions.

Neuroscience and the law:
"Just as we have learned to consider our decisions as “free choices,” we can shift our introspection toward our varying levels of control. A man forced to choose between a hamburger and heroin might be acutely aware that his control is being compromised by an addiction. Insisting that he has (or lacks) free will ads nothing to our understanding of his behavior. Nor does it provide any useful suggestions of what we as a society ought do with him legally. An understanding of the problems that opiate addiction creates for one's self-control and how best to treat these difficulties, along with a knowledge of the user's history, would help a judge or jury make informed decisions based on the likely outcomes of various incarceration and rehabilitation programs.''

An addiction would be another undue influence. Addicts are compelled by their physical need to satisfy their craving. Otherwise, they suffer. I know, because I stopped smoking only after many failed attempts. And, during withdrawal on the first three days, I could not concentrate to even read a book.

I do think that I could successfully resist the hamburger, though, because there are no significant withdrawal symptoms.
 

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Neutron bombardment doesn't trigger decay (which is mediated by Weak and Strong force interactions), it changes the game completely.

Decay is random. Completely random. You can predict very accurately the behaviour of a large number of radioactive atoms (and typically we only handle atoms by the trillions of trillions). But a single atom is completely unpredictable. Nothing has been found that can so much as budge the probability of a decay; It has no known cause.

And this is in an arena where a great deal is known with great certainty. The Standard Model is amongst the best tested and most robust science in history. We know all of the particles and forces involved, and yet we have not been able to use any of them to stimulate or retard decay.

Radioactive decay is a very strong contender for an uncaused event. It just happens, with a characteristic probability, regardless of the surrounding conditions. It's such a strong contender that it would take solid evidence for a cause to persuade me that it's not completely uncaused. And such evidence would be very difficult to find without overturning some very well established physics.

It would be fascinating, and would likely secure a Nobel, if a cause were found. But the smart money says it's just a thing that happens.

From the description, it sounds to me that the causal mechanism is the interaction of the particles. The fact that this interaction is not affected by external macro events is not important. There is plenty of activity going on at the particle level, and apparently that activity reliably causes the material to change and also to eject specific particles. I'm still going to bet that quantum events are deterministic.
 

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Philosophy thread turns into "Gee, I didn't fucking know that" thread.
 

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Hmm, DNA is code.. 'ya know..
Nah, DNA is just Chemistry.

People use an analogy to code to remember which base sequences cause which amino acids to be added to a new protein chain, but the 'code' is a human construct.

DNA is no more a 'code' in the sense of a cipher, than sediment layers are an encoding of the age of fossils.

I have an allergy to that analogy.
 

none

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Nah, DNA is just Chemistry.

People use an analogy to code to remember which base sequences cause which amino acids to be added to a new protein chain, but the 'code' is a human construct.

DNA is no more a 'code' in the sense of a cipher, than sediment layers are an encoding of the age of fossils.

I have an allergy to that analogy.
Oh come on. the holes in the pavement are code for puddles. A caused by intelligence code... come on
 

bilby

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From the description, it sounds to me that the causal mechanism is the interaction of the particles. The fact that this interaction is not affected by external macro events is not important. There is plenty of activity going on at the particle level, and apparently that activity reliably causes the material to change and also to eject specific particles. I'm still going to bet that quantum events are deterministic.
Then I am doing a poor job of describing.

Take a single atom of 238U. Unless it is destroyed by some external calamity, such as a neutron collision, it will just sit there until it spontaneously emits an alpha particle. On average, this takes 4,500,000,000 years. But it could happen tomorrow; Or it could still not have happened in 20 billion years time.

And absolutely nothing we have ever attempted has succeeded in altering that average life before decay by one iota. No known particles or forces have any effect, other than in the exceptional case of influences so destructive that the atom is destroyed without having undergone alpha decay at all.
 

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Responsibility is a matter of capacity to make rational decisions, not will. The architecture and wiring - neural networks, not will - determines capacity.

Mental incapacity is one of the many undue influences that removes a person's responsibility for their action. I think there was a Supreme Court case a few years ago where it was decided that the death penalty cannot be applied to someone who is mentally incompetent.

On the neurology of morals
Patients with medial prefrontal lesions often display irresponsible behavior, despite being intellectually unimpaired. But similar lesions occurring in early childhood can also prevent the acquisition of factual knowledge about accepted standards of moral behavior.

I think that "displaying irresponsible behavior" would be a different category than mental incompetence. The question would be why they are displaying irresponsible behavior. It could be a number of factors, like a lack of impulse control.

Neuroscience and the law:
... Our contention is not that neuroscience does (or will) disprove free will; rather, we contend that free will is an antiquated concept that impairs our understanding of human behavior and thereby clouds our thinking about ethics. ...

''We ought to think about decision making in terms of neurological control, not because this is some sort of eternal absolute truth, but because among the options on the table currently, it shows the most promise of coherently unifying the scientific, ethical, judicial, and personal realms of our experience, and because it has the best chance of improving our understanding of ourselves and one another. Research in neuroscience is already well underway, and we can manipulate control across species using conditioning, drugs, and lesions. 4"

The author is not dealing with free will, but only the myths about free will, a strawman argument. Free will is not freedom from cause and effect. Free will is not freedom from ourselves. Free will is not freedom from our brains and our brain's neurology.

Free will is nothing more than a choice we make that is free of coercion and undue influence. And that's the free will that is used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility for their actions.

Neuroscience and the law:
"Just as we have learned to consider our decisions as “free choices,” we can shift our introspection toward our varying levels of control. A man forced to choose between a hamburger and heroin might be acutely aware that his control is being compromised by an addiction. Insisting that he has (or lacks) free will ads nothing to our understanding of his behavior. Nor does it provide any useful suggestions of what we as a society ought do with him legally. An understanding of the problems that opiate addiction creates for one's self-control and how best to treat these difficulties, along with a knowledge of the user's history, would help a judge or jury make informed decisions based on the likely outcomes of various incarceration and rehabilitation programs.''

An addiction would be another undue influence. Addicts are compelled by their physical need to satisfy their craving. Otherwise, they suffer. I know, because I stopped smoking only after many failed attempts. And, during withdrawal on the first three days, I could not concentrate to even read a book.

I do think that I could successfully resist the hamburger, though, because there are no significant withdrawal symptoms.

The author is dealing with free will. The problem is, as I'm sure you know, there are more than a few versions of the term 'free will' - Libertarian, compatibilist, incompatibilist, the common perception of making decisions, to choose from a set of options, etc, etc...
 

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We know that traffic lights have different cycle times, that a busy road gets a longer run, etc. We understand that approaching a busy highway when the light ahead has just turned red means a longer wait, and most likely a shorter green light, with perhaps another cycle if you are at the back of the line.

This understanding and ability to estimate and predict is enabled by experience and memory function.

Except as the prompt or urge to act (go now, do it quickly) none of this the role of will. The state and condition of a brain in any given instance in time determines response.

Agent/environment interaction;
''A fundamental paradigm to understand this agent environment interaction is the cybernetic notion of feedback control, which is also known as error-controlled regulation. A goal-directed agent, such as an ant or a human, tries to achieve its goals by eliminating any difference between its present situation (perception) and its desired situation (goal). A goal here should not be understood as a completely specified objective or end-state, but merely as an (explicit or implicit) preference for certain situations over others. For every perceived difference between the present situation and the goal, an action is performed to reduce that deviation, i.e. bring the situation closer to the preferred one. If the result as perceived is not sufficient, a next action is performed to again bring the situation closer to the goal, and so on, until the agent is satisfied.'' (Powers, 1973; Heylighen & Joslyn, 2001)

The role of "will" has already been established. It is the intent to do something specific, like slowing down as you approach the red light, because you do not know for certain when it will turn green.


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

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

Nothing special in the scheme of things.


Now, we can expand this explanation, as Powers et al did, by describing the human as a "goal-directed agent", adjusting its behavior from moment to moment to achieve that goal. In this case, our goal is to arrive safely at our destination without getting arrested (or killed) by driving through a red light. We know that there are two real possibilities: (1) the light may still be red when we get to it, and, (2) the light may turn to green. We do not know which of these two possible futures will be the actual future. When we do not know what will happen, we imagine what can happen, to better prepare for what does happen. So, we choose to slow down, because the light could remain red.

The hard determinist, confusing what "can" happen with what "will" happen, insists that, since the light actually turned green, it was never possible that the light could have remained red. He insists, "Since it would not have been otherwise, this must mean it could not have been otherwise. So, Why did you slow down?"

Obviously, the fact that something would not happen does not imply that it could not happen.

The implication that, in a world of causal necessity, we could not have done otherwise, is a false statement.
The true statement is that, in a world of causal necessity, we would not have done otherwise.


Anything with a functional brain is a ''goal directed agent'' - fulfilling needs and wants; food, shelter, a mate, play....

The hard determinism is right when he says the light cannot possibly have stayed red if the lights were functioning as designed and cycling normally and events proceed as determined.

Lights can jam on red, green, amber or fail entirely. It happens. But whatever happens is determined. If the light stays red, antecedent events brought that set of lights to that state in that instance in time with no other outcome possible within that instance in time. In another time or place, events can be different, different condition/antecedents.

But each and every event within a determined system in any given instance in time allows no alternative, everything proceeds/unfolds as a matter of natural law and necessity.
 

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Decay is random. Completely random. You can predict very accurately the behaviour of a large number of radioactive atoms (and typically we only handle atoms by the trillions of trillions). But a single atom is completely unpredictable. Nothing has been found that can so much as budge the probability of a decay; It has no known cause.
That turns out not to be the case -- there are a number of radioactive species for which we know ways to change the decay probability using environmental changes. For radioisotopes that decay by "electron capture", you can cause a big change in the half-life by moving electrons closer or further from the nucleus. Completely ionize the atom -- get rid of all its electrons -- and it won't decay at all. But even normal decay modes can be altered just a little -- usually a fraction of a percent. For instance, if you dope a crystal with francium-221, an alpha-emitter, its half-life depends on what kind of crystal the francium is embedded in.


(None of this changes the situation with respect to determinism, though -- as far as we can tell, when the nucleus decays is random. It's just that one of the factors that determine half-life is how much lower the total energy of the decay products is than the energy of the original nucleus, and changing the environment changes the energy of the decay products. An alpha particle in a silicon crystal has more energy than an alpha particle in a tungsten crystal.)
 

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

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

Nothing special in the scheme of things.

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

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

Anything with a functional brain is a ''goal directed agent'' - fulfilling needs and wants; food, shelter, a mate, play....

Yes, but I'm hungry, and, I'm building a house, and, my mate is signaling me that she is ready for sex. What will I do? Will I continue working on the house? Or, will I fix a sandwich? Or, will I mate with my mate? Life is full of choices. And we have to decide for ourselves when we will fulfill each of these needs. Which of these goals will I pursue now? What will I do?

I must first choose what I will do. And then that choice will motivate and direct my subsequent actions.

The hard determinism is right when he says the light cannot possibly have stayed red if the lights were functioning as designed and cycling normally and events proceed as determined.

Lights can jam on red, green, amber or fail entirely. It happens. But whatever happens is determined. If the light stays red, antecedent events brought that set of lights to that state in that instance in time with no other outcome possible within that instance in time. In another time or place, events can be different, different condition/antecedents.

But each and every event within a determined system in any given instance in time allows no alternative, everything proceeds/unfolds as a matter of natural law and necessity.

Whether the light remains red, or, the light turns green, it will be causally necessary/inevitable from any prior point in time.

The problem is, we do not know which result, red or green, is causally necessary. When we don't know what will happen, we consider the two things that can happen: the light could remain red, and, the light could change to green. We decide that our safest choice is to slow down so that we will have time to stop if the light remains red. As causal necessity would have it, the light changes to green as we arrive, so we resume speed.

The hard determinist asks us "Why did you slow down?" We respond, "Because the light could have remained red." The hard determinist objects, "Due to causal necessity, there was only one possibility. So, it was never the case that the light could have remained red. So, why did you slow down?" We respond, "BECAUSE THE LIGHT COULD HAVE REMAINED RED." "No, it could not have remained red", says the hard determinist, "So, why did you slow down?"

To avoid this absurdity, it is essential that we preserve the meaning of "what could have happened" as a distinct notion from the meaning of "what would happen" and "what did happen". Within the context of our uncertainty as to what will happen, we imagine what can happen to prepare ourselves for what does happen. AND, if "can happen" was true in the past, then "could have happened" will also be true later, because "could have" is just the past tense of "can".

To say that "the light could have remained red" always implies that the light did not remain red. So, "the light could have remained red" is consistent with the truth of what actually happened.
 

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From the description, it sounds to me that the causal mechanism is the interaction of the particles. The fact that this interaction is not affected by external macro events is not important. There is plenty of activity going on at the particle level, and apparently that activity reliably causes the material to change and also to eject specific particles. I'm still going to bet that quantum events are deterministic.
Then I am doing a poor job of describing.

Take a single atom of 238U. Unless it is destroyed by some external calamity, such as a neutron collision, it will just sit there until it spontaneously emits an alpha particle. On average, this takes 4,500,000,000 years. But it could happen tomorrow; Or it could still not have happened in 20 billion years time.

And absolutely nothing we have ever attempted has succeeded in altering that average life before decay by one iota. No known particles or forces have any effect, other than in the exceptional case of influences so destructive that the atom is destroyed without having undergone alpha decay at all.

I am suggesting that there is an internal cause of the alpha particle emission, a natural cause within the element. We presume there is a lot of motion going on, both inside the nucleus with the protons and neutrons bumping and shifting, as well as outside, with the electrons circling. Some specific combination of these events is bringing about the emission of the alpha particle. It seems likely that we will never have a tool that would allow us to finely manipulate these events within the atom in order to bring about the event in a controlled experiment. The inability to demonstrate the causal mechanism should not be taken as the absence of such a mechanism within the element.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But thanks for the warm welcome to a new poster. :rolleyes:
 

pood

Veteran Member
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Oct 25, 2021
Messages
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Basic Beliefs
agnostic
Your lack of interest is overwhelming.
If you have something substantive to say about my post, please do so. Otherwise I’ll just pass over your comments in silence.
 

pood

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2021
Messages
1,195
Basic Beliefs
agnostic
Oh trust me I skimmed it.
So you are attacking me because I freely admitted that I only skimmed this thread but was attracted to this discussion by Marvin’s posts? I even offered apologies for that. It does not follow that I refused to read this thread, as you claimed. I simply have not had time to do so yet. This, in your mind, precludes me from responding to Marvin and giving my own thoughts which I believe dovetail with his? Don’t bother answering, it is a rhetorical question. Your unjustified attacks on me do not speak well of this forum so far. I hope this is the exception rather than the rule, but we’ll see.
 
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