Free will [was: Canine combustion [was: God, man and morality]]

Richard Goode's picture
Submitted by Richard Goode on Sun, 2013-01-13 20:01

How great are his signs,
    how mighty his wonders!

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”

Book of Daniel (NIV)

[Cross-posted from Eternal Vigilance.]


( categories: )

Nihilist, Atheists, and the Left

Doug Bandler's picture

Are all pomowankers nihilists?

There are degrees. I think that pretty much all Leftist intellectuals have a nihilistic streak to them if you scratch them deep enough. But the rank and file may be perfectly decent people that have sworn allegiance to an evil thought system. That has happened many times in human history with Germany of the 30s and 40s being the classic example.

Are all nihilists atheists and vice versa? No but if we define nihilism as the denial of objective morality and intellectual standards as such then I would think that the majority of today's nihilists are atheists. Which is why "the New Atheism" is pointless and nothing to get excited about as so many O'ists do (i.e. those O'ists that stress that today's liberals are secular therefore better than religious oriented Conservatives). Today's pro-atheism movement is riding a wave of bad philosophical premises IMO: skepticism, relativism, materialism, egalitarianism all ending up in nihilism.

And it is precisely these atheist, materialist nihilists that provide the ACADEMIC grounding for today's Left. Many in the rank in file may actually be Christian. Although even there today's Christianity is not the same Christianity of five and six centuries ago. Christianity has undergone considerable change. As Larry Auster has argued, the Left has stolen and corrupted Christianity. Not that I am a fan of the original version but most Christians today would not be recognized as such in earlier centuries.

Greg and Doug

Rosie's picture

Greg: I'm not 100% on that, you could ask Dr No Goode.

Your faith in Dr No Goode's 100% authority is touching.

In any event, Doug has answered the question now, I see, and I am sure that his answer will 100% suffice!

Doug: Yes. The Left's version of atheism is grounded in philosophic materialism. This ultimately mandates a soul-less view of humanity and thus nihilism.

I thought so.
So, the non-existence of free will is something that a nihilist Leftist would believe? (Assuming all nihilists are atheists.)

Are all pomowankers nihilists?

Yes

Doug Bandler's picture

Is this (New Atheism) the religion of pomowankers?

Yes. The Left's version of atheism is grounded in philosophic materialism. This ultimately mandates a soul-less view of humanity and thus nihilism. I think Leftism makes Christianity look like a Titan in comparison.

Rosie

gregster's picture

I'm not 100% on that, you could ask Dr No Goode.

Gregster

Rosie's picture

Is this (New Atheism) the religion of pomowankers?

The Mystical Ethics of the New Atheists

gregster's picture

"Far from demonstrating how ethical truths might be discovered by reference to the facts of reality, Harris severs moral inquiry from reality by denying the validity of the senses, embraces self-sacrifice as the essence of morality, “grounds” this principle in “intuition,” and then attempts to intimidate those who challenge the propriety of that code or method. Further, like Hitchens, he maintains that man is both impaired by immoral intuitions that “lurk inside every human mind” and predisposed to religious belief.

And, lest he leave open the possibility that man can choose to act contrary to his intuitions and predispositions, Harris explicitly denies the existence of free will. Without choice, it is worth reiterating, morality has no meaning, and books such as Harris’s are an exercise in futility. Again, if this is the best the New Atheists have to offer in the realm of morality, they should not be surprised when their bestsellers fail to change many minds."

By Alan Germani

Retracted

Rosie's picture

Upon further consideration. Smiling

Rosie

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Richard, everyone will appreciate that Linz would not delete anything he said without believing, nay knowing, that it was just and rightful to do so in every aspect - their nature, their substance and their form.

Not so, and you are not entitled to speak for me in the way you presume to.

I deleted parts of what I said not because any of them were wrong but because they were inappropriately personal. Nothing I reported didn't happen; it just didn't need to be part of this discussion, though Baade brought it on himself by accusing me of arguing from intimidation.

Beyond that, if Baade is offended, all I can say is, to paraphrase Stephen Fry, "He's offended? So fucking what?!" If Baade were one one-hundredth of a human being, instead of a pomo-mouse, he would say, "I don't feel alive till I've had a good pounding by Linz."

Baade is here claiming that human beings don't have volition (so why is he offended by what I say if I can't help saying it?) but we're about to be taken over by robots who do. Crushingly cretinous, and viciously pernicious. I'm offended by his militant moronry. What's anyone going to do about that? I want compensation for being offended. I'm a victim. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

Oh dear. Is that Baade I see ahead of me in the queue?

I am baaaaack!

Tom Burroughes's picture

I said I was done with this thread, having made my points, but like Arnie, I came back:

Raymond Tallis is indeed very good on this sort of issue, Doug. Thanks for the mention of him - I will check him out. I am currently working through some stuff by Searle, who sees the reductionist fallacy for what it is.

One person here - sorry cannot remember on this long thread - mentioned the point about how Rand's supposed determinism must have clashed with her support for free will/volition. Rand was not a narrow determinist, though. What she was, in this case, was someone who had a particular view of causality. Certain entities produce certain effects, given the identities of the forgoing. A human being, given that they have minds that must, choose, learn, form concepts, think in terms of principles, etc to survive and thrive, are, by definition, volitional. Free will in this Randian sense is a fact of nature. So no clash.

Another thing to consider is that free will is not an all-or-nothing issue. We are constrained by nature. Many of our habits and actions happen at the subconscious level. That is not the same as saying that volition is just a mental illusion.

Here is an article that I recommend. http://www.monorealism.com/ref...

How free we are is a matter of choice. Our values can be rational or irrational. We can accept the random conditioning of our environment, or apply our minds. At any stage, we can stop and think: "Are my values and goals really valid?" Even with a neurosis (conditioning gone badly wrong), we can by reason realise that there is a problem and seek professional help. Indeed, as our nature is to think, the choice between freedom and slavery is always there, though the more we choose the latter, the harder it is to change. Thus the answer can be summed up in three words: Reason is freedom.

As a bit of an aside, I note that one of the current advocates of determinism and a denier that we have free will/volition, Sam Harris, has tediously predictable leftist views on economics and politics. Yes, that should not make a difference to my views of the philosophical issue - but it does. I see that Tim Sandefur gave Harris a monumental shellacking a while back. http://sandefur.typepad.com/fr...

Brgds.

Lure and bait for loaves and fishes

Rosie's picture

Although this is not the "brilliant theory" addressing both consciousness of mind and free will I mentioned earlier, this article neatly examines the relationship of free will with Christianity and why free will, as we understand it generally, is necessary to Christianity.

This is your thread, Richard, and I would really like your great brain to address whether (and how) your position can be reconciled with the following link (or with Christianity at all):

http://foundationsforourfaith....

(Yes, as my heading suggests, I do confess that my motive is the hope that this post will be sufficient bait to lure Richard to restore his avatar and return to SOLO to feed the multitude given that Linz has withdrawn and deleted his personal comments about him.
"I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.")

Richard, everyone will appreciate that Linz would not delete anything he said without believing, nay knowing, that it was just and rightful to do so in every aspect - their nature, their substance and their form.

Forgiveness is not a pardon; nor is it a requirement to forget. Forgiveness comes from an open heart and it comes without condition - without need for remorse or apology - or it does not come at all. Please come back. Smiling

Quivering Ambiguist Only with Hard Science Subjects

Doug Bandler's picture

You are an admirable hothead in one post, then a quivering ambiguist (I just invented a new Linzism) the next.

Only when it comes to a few hard science positions, and only then when it comes to "proofs". Take free will. I have read the materialist/determinist positions repeatedly and yes they deny free will but they do claim a science foundation. The opposition, whether Objectivist or libertarian (free will libertarians not the politicos) usually just fall back on philosophic axioms which may be enough but I would like to see some science on the side of free will. But I don't think we know enough yet.

Now I am reading Raymond Tallis' book "Aping Mankind" which is a good read. Tallis is taking on the determinists of all types. He argues that the billiard ball approach to free will is wrong and he is putting forth something interesting which he is calling a "shared collective space". Its real fascinating but yet even he, one of the world's most brilliant polymaths (a neurosurgeon and a philosopher) doesn't really offer a good science grounded account of free will and he admits it.

Goode has sworn allegiance to a host of bad philosophies. The universities captured his soul when they gave him that piece of paper that said phd on it. So he is parroting some pernicious crap. But that being said, I will scream my head off when it comes to the evil of the Left and Islam. But I really can't scream too loudly when trying to offer an integrated defense of free will that takes into account the limitations of Newtonian physics. I think the materialists are wrong and that one day there will be an intellectual who will crush determinism and won't rely on pure philosophy while doing so. But we don't have that dude yet. So I don't go guns-a-blazing in this subject.

I do have some uncertainties with the Randian/Liberal project. But I would still bet money that they will fall by the wayside in time. So forgive me my ambiguist sins. Yes, I think the determinist position that everything is predetermined is stupid but when they throw the billiard balls around the room and say "look, random billiard ball motion gave rise to everything and it just won't allow for human causality, that's what science has to say", I don't have the technical answer for them that I would like. So I sometimes quiver. A little. But it doesn't go very deep.

Edits

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I have deleted certain comments from last night which were inappropriately personal.

The argument from science

Richard Goode's picture

... you have no argument.

I have plenty of arguments. How about the argument from science?

From Wikipedia's article on eternalism

philosopher of science Dean Rickles notes that "the consensus among philosophers seems to be that special and general relativity are incompatible with presentism."

and from Wikipedia's article on special relativity

special relativity is experimentally tested to extremely high degree of accuracy (10−20) and thus accepted by the physics community. Experimental results which appear to contradict it are not reproducible and are thus widely believed to be due to experimental errors.

Special relativity is mathematically self-consistent, and it is an organic part of all modern physical theories, most notably quantum field theory, string theory, and general relativity (in the limiting case of negligible gravitational fields).

Newtonian mechanics mathematically follows from special relativity at small velocities (compared to the speed of light) – thus Newtonian mechanics can be considered as a special relativity of slow moving bodies.

Special relativity is so well experimentally confirmed that it is "an organic part of all modern physical theories." It is compatible with eternalism (the block universe view of space and time) but is incompatible with presentism (the alternative to eternalism).

That we live in a block universe is the immediate and obvious interpretation of Einsteinian special relativity. That being the case, the onus is on you to provide reasons not to believe what seems immediately and obviously to be the case. For example, you could argue that special relativity is compatible with presentism, after all.

Or you could just reiterate the Argument from Intimidation.

Only problem is, Baade ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... you have no argument. Just a bunch of arbitrary and very stupid assertions. Gobby. Original sin (original? Gobby knew in advance). No free will, even though Goblianity has always asserted it. Now, robots with free will that will take us, who don't have free will, over by 2030. Barking maade, and consciously evil, through and through. It's not "argument from intimidation" to point that out: it's just stating the bleedingly obvious. Cash-in value for you if it's *not* pointed out? Rationalisation for all your behaviour. But it's not the truth. You know it, and you know that I know it.

Argument from Intimidation

Richard Goode's picture

There is absolutely no call whatsoever on decent or rational people to treat seriously such self-evidently contemptible rubbish as "Block Time" or claims that humans don't have free will. To the contrary, it would be a travesty for decent, rational human beings to waste time writing "treatises" on such filth.

There is a certain type of argument which, in fact, is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an opponent’s agreement with one’s undiscussed notions. It is a method of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure . . . [It] consists of threatening to impeach an opponent’s character by means of his argument, thus impeaching the argument without debate. Example: “Only the immoral can fail to see that Candidate X’s argument is false.” . . . The falsehood of his argument is asserted arbitrarily and offered as proof of his immorality.

In today’s epistemological jungle, that second method is used more frequently than any other type of irrational argument. It should be classified as a logical fallacy and may be designated as “The Argument from Intimidation.”

They're evil, pure and simple. Baade says that unvolitional we are about to be taken over by volitional robots. Barking fucking maade.

The essential characteristic of the Argument from Intimidation is its appeal to moral self-doubt and its reliance on the fear, guilt or ignorance of the victim. It is used in the form of an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy. The pattern is always: “Only those who are evil (dishonest, heartless, insensitive, ignorant, etc.) can hold such an idea.”

Argument from Intimidation

I heard

Jules Troy's picture

That in his youth Damien applied for the position of "The Grinch That Liquidated Christmas" but he was too blackhearted for the position!

"smirks".

Doug

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Much and all that you're one of my heroes, you're quite wrong, and indeed silly, on this. There is absolutely no call whatsoever on decent or rational people to treat seriously such self-evidently contemptible rubbish as "Block Time" or claims that humans don't have free will. To the contrary, it would be a travesty for decent, rational human beings to waste time writing "treatises" on such filth. It is no condemnation of the ARI or anyone in organised Oism that they don't waste their time in that manner.

I have the sense with you that I'm forever teetering on the brink of an horrendous let-down. You are an admirable hothead in one post, then a quivering ambiguist (I just invented a new Linzism) the next. Note that both Baade and Damien have confessed to being trolls (which is insulting to trolls). They're evil, pure and simple. Baade says that unvolitional we are about to be taken over by volitional robots. Barking fucking maade. I don't understand why you of all people don't just accept that anyone who says he can't help saying what he says can't be instantly dismissed, sight unseen. "Seems" to be self-refuting? "Seems"??!! Doug!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

nice

Damien Grant's picture

"All theory is against the freedom of the will. All experience is for it."

That is a nice quote. Actually sums up perfectly the debate here.

What I Thought

Doug Bandler's picture

What is the argument here, that free will can't exist because everything must be the product of billiard balls bouncing off each other all the way back to the Big Bang?

Yes. Exactly.

That's what I thought. I'm reading Raymond Tallis' 'Aping Mankind'. In it he makes arguments against the genetic determinists and what he calls the "Neuro-Evolutionary Maniacs". He argues against determinism and reductionism of all varieties. Binswanger recommended the book as one of the best treatments of the subject not written by an Objectivist. Tallis is a secular thinker but he is no Leftist. He is hard to pin down. He disagrees that free will must be reducible to electric impulses that are generated in synaptic structures and ultimately traceable back to the Big Bang. When I finish the book I'll weigh in if his argument for free will breaks new ground. He does have a great quote though: "All theory is against the freedom of the will. All experience is for it."

But this is such a complicated subject that I don't think that any layman can really have a 100% certain position on this. Its just too early in our scientific understanding to fully understand human volition. And yet no sooner do I say that then do I recognize that determinism is dangerous from a political perspective. Determinists always end up collectivists.

As for Block Time vs Presentism. From what I have read, I am a Presentist. Block Time makes the whole universe a joke. Its even worse than the concept of God. But again, only hard science types can do this subject justice. I would love to see Objectivism one day produce the kinds of minds that can weigh in on these subjects and actually offer something new and original. As I keep saying, we need treatise writers. But given the state of O'ism today, a movement which can't even see the evil of the Left and Islam, I doubt we will see any breakthrough thinking on anything. I hope I'm wrong.

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

History couldn't be different than it was - if it were it wouldn't be.

The same is true of future history—which is "already written"—we live in a block universe.

Free will, if it happens, happens in the present.

But the present is the future's past. You can't change the past.

Is consciousness purely an effect or can it also be a cause?
Do I really consciously act or am I merely an observer?

I suspect that consciousness is just an effect, i.e., an epiphenomenon.

answer

Damien Grant's picture

Why don't the determinists here think that volition could never be an emergent property of the human brain

For a start, it is not a position ever advanced by advocates of free will. For second, see below.

What is the argument here, that free will can't exist because everything must be the product of billiard balls bouncing off each other all the way back to the Big Bang?

Yes. Exactly.

NoGoode Troll [[was: Free will [was: Canine combustion [was: Go

gregster's picture

NoGoode Troll[[was: Free will [was: Canine combustion [was: God, man and morality]]]

Free will

Richard Goode's picture

Question

Doug Bandler's picture

Why don't the determinists here think that volition could never be an emergent property of the human brain and specifically of the neo-cortex? What is the argument here, that free will can't exist because everything must be the product of billiard balls bouncing off each other all the way back to the Big Bang?

The mechanical determinist position has always bored me. Arguing for a highly constrained human volition due to evolution mediated biology, well that I can see there being truth too. But pure mechanistic determinism seem self-refuting.

Richard G

reed's picture

Do you agree that what distinguishes the two positions is the claim that one could have done otherwise?
History couldn't be different than it was - if it were it wouldn't be.

Free will, if it happens, happens in the present.

If not, what do you think distinguishes the two positions?
I'm not sure how to express it.

Is consciousness purely an effect or can it also be a cause?
Do I really consciously act or am I merely an observer?

These considerations are why I asked if you were dissociative. If you are correct then the dissociative have a more accurate view of reality. Perhaps there is a free will disorder. Smiling

Reed

Damien Grant's picture

Would your atheistic beliefs be challenged if you were to become convinced that consciousness and free will were fundamental aspects of existence?

Possibly but I'd need to understand what you mean by existence. Of man or of the universe. But I would want to see something solid, grounded in science, not a cleverly worded bit of circular logic.

However, my atheistic beliefs would only really be challenged if I had evidence of a god.

The closest bit of reason I have read is the watch on the desert island argument. It is compelling bit of logic that is the one thing that troubles me about the certainty I have in the non-existence of any divine being.

 

Sounds like it might be

Richard Wiig's picture

Sounds like it might be something religious, Rosie, but I'm happy to put it on my reading list and take a look. Message me the details.

Since we're talking about modality...

ding_an_sich's picture

"I will get back to you on this Richard, the link you posted is actually interesting."

As opposed to being possibly interesting?

Silly

ding_an_sich's picture

"Let's backtrack a little.

Metaphysical libertarians believe in free will.

Compatibilists (such as myself) believe in an ersatz or Claytons free will (the free will you have when you don't have free will).

What distinguishes the two positions? I think it is the claim that one could have done otherwise. Metaphysical libertarians believe this claim to be true. Compatibilists believe it to be false.

Do you agree that what distinguishes the two positions is the claim that one could have done otherwise?

If not, what do you think distinguishes the two positions?"

Do certain objectivists on this site believe that they could have done otherwise? If so, then their position is inconsistent with their metaphysics.

Of course!

Jules Troy's picture

I will  get back to you on this Richard, the link you posted is actually interesting.

Jules

Richard Goode's picture

Do you believe that you could have done otherwise?

Lol

Jules Troy's picture

The one you believe in is fucking retarded?

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Let's backtrack a little.

Metaphysical libertarians believe in free will.

Compatibilists (such as myself) believe in an ersatz or Claytons free will (the free will you have when you don't have free will).

What distinguishes the two positions? I think it is the claim that one could have done otherwise. Metaphysical libertarians believe this claim to be true. Compatibilists believe it to be false.

Do you agree that what distinguishes the two positions is the claim that one could have done otherwise?

If not, what do you think distinguishes the two positions?

Do you mean that when you

reed's picture

Do you mean that when you face a decision that it seems to be entirely up to you what you decide? Do you mean anything more than that?

Yes. There's no reason to doubt that we have real free will.

Richard Wiig

Rosie's picture

I am sorry my link to the article by Libet didn't answer any aspect of your question.

I hope you enjoyed reading it all the same though. Smiling

A former SOLO contributor, Adam Gold, (a very, very clever man from New York) brought my attention to a theory about human consciousness which necessarily includes free will, creation, evolution, the problems with AI and the materialist view. It is very original, imaginative, brilliant and, I think, very probably true.

It will take me a while to condense it but would you like to read it if I did?

Deleted

Rosie's picture

Deleted

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Do you [think to yourself "I could have done otherwise"]? No.

Me neither.

I think I do choose.

Me too.

We experience what seems to be free will.

Do you mean that when you face a decision that it seems to be entirely up to you what you decide? Do you mean anything more than that?

Rosie

Richard Wiig's picture

I knew what it meant. But there is no such thing, apparently.

You may as well ask for proof

Richard Wiig's picture

You may as well ask for proof from an Elephant then.

I do not accept that we need free will to obtain proof

Richard

Rosie's picture

The power of free won't is the mastery of our impulses and/or addictions.

Your comment made me feel very sad for you. Sad

There is an important aspect of human responsibility to alter certain situations and prevent certain undesirable events from taking place. This fact can not be ignored from any viewpoint.

What you mean 'we', white

reed's picture

What you mean 'we', white man?!

I mean me and others.

Do you [think to yourself "I could have done otherwise"]?

No. I think I do choose.

Are you dissociative?

ding....

Damien Grant's picture

Really?

What is your point, exactly.

Have you read the thread below?

Question

ding_an_sich's picture

After reading Human Action, I cannot help but ask myself: is Rand's notion of free will praxeological? If so, is it something that can be argued on a praxeological, as opposed to metaphysical, basis? Or is there a collapse between the two?

What is an entity?

ding_an_sich's picture

"“Event causation is a useful model for analyzing some kinds of actions, but it is not a satisfactory philosophical account. What is causality, after all? It is the way in which entities act. There are no events without entities, the underlying objects that do the acting. There is no explosion without the bomb that explodes. There is no breathing without the body that breathes and the air that is breathed. A causal explanation is an explanation of action in terms of the entity's capacities for action, arising from its properties and relations. Free will is simply a human capacity for action, one that we will understand better in time. A choice is not uncaused. It is caused by the person who chooses.”"

To speak of an entity as "underlying" is to posit an entity without any of its properties. "Events" and "entities" are part and parcel of each other. In other words, it's nonsense to talk about an entity apart from what it does.

Damien

ding_an_sich's picture

"Billiard balls hitting one another is enough to make everything we see in the universe, the stars, planets, frogs (including the magic blue ones with the red stripes on their back living in your brain), the pancreas and indeed, even the human brain itself.

Billiard balls hitting one another were enough to drive evolution, cause a super nova, travel at the speed of light, indeed, every conceivable thing in the entire universe can be caused by billiard balls hitting one another, except, for that one thing that you need to differentiate you from the inanimate universe that you inhabit."

What about QM? There isn't anything along the lines of hitting or bouncing, or really anything involving distance as a function of time, since any function in QM involves both x and t (think of the schrodinger equation).

Furthermore, what about the quantum mechanical effects that occur in photosynthesis? Any hitting there? Nope. And that is tied in with evoluitionary processes on the part of plants.

TB

Damien Grant's picture

Strict determinism is certainly false as in a simple model of cause and effect to explain something as complex as the human brain, yes. It is not remotely like billiard balls hitting one another.

Billiard balls hitting one another is enough to make everything we see in the universe, the stars, planets, frogs (including the magic blue ones with the red stripes on their back living in your brain), the pancreas and indeed, even the human brain itself.

Billiard balls hitting one another were enough to drive evolution, cause a super nova, travel at the speed of light, indeed, every conceivable thing in the entire universe can be caused by billiard balls hitting one another, except, for that one thing that you need to differentiate you from the inanimate universe that you inhabit.

Do you think, Tom, that perhaps, that if billiard balls hitting together can produce an ever expanding universe of unimaginable complexity well beyond, perhaps, the genius of our minds, that it can create a human brain capable of thinking?

Ultimately your argument boils down to this:

The absurdity of denying free will is that to deny it and accept determinism means.... to deny the ability to arrive at objective truths of any kind.... 

You want to believe in free will because the alternative is unpalatable to you. This, Tom, is confirmation bias at its most basic and obvious. You are even stating it outright, yet you cannot see that you are doing it. 

Lindsay

Damien Grant's picture

You are working backwards. You are assuming that we can obtain proof and using that as evidence of free will. But if determinism is correct what we think of as proof maybe something else.

I do not accept that we need free will to obtain proof but you are saying that we do. Accepting that as your premise, then your argument only holds if your premise is correct.

However if determinists are right then you will be experiencing something but it is not proof derived from free will. You will be unable to tell the difference.

Free will is not, on that basis, an irreducible primary (and the very nature of that term has a distinct papist ring to it, frankly).

As for lying brains; much of our perception is coded. We dislike certain smells and like others. This is our brain sending us a signal, tricking us into a reaction for evolutionary reasons.

When we dream our brains are lying to us. I see the colour red different to most people, someone’s brain is lying to them. Confirmation bias is our brains selecting amongst the evidence to find the outcome that we want. This is our brain lying to us.

There is a logic fail here, how our brain, which is ‘us’ can lie to us, but you understand my meaning. Our brains do not operate as objective interpreters of the outside world. They scan and filter according to hard-wired coding. My brain was once convinced Jesus Christ was God. It was certain of this. There was no doubt. I prayed. My brain was confused, accepting what it had been told as the truth without thinking. Maybe this was not a lie, in the strict sense, but the senses of my brain were not operating objectively. Reason was not being engaged.

I learnt from that. The way the brain operates is designed for certain biological and evolutionary imperatives that do not always lend themselves to objective reason.

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

We experience what seems to be free will.

What you mean 'we', white man?!

Looking back at my past bad choices, I don't think to myself, "I could have done otherwise," notwithstanding the fact that I wish I had. Do you?

Tom

reed's picture

I find out what people believe by discussing directly with them.

Why not simply state your own opinions using your own reasoning?

BTW: I think Richards perspective is false - but it is intelligible.

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

Today you say

if you accept the following notion of causality, as Objectivists do: (Here I quote William Thomas):

"... A choice is not uncaused. It is caused by the person who chooses."

but only three days ago you said

As Bryan Caplan said elsewhere in his article, one assertion of determinists is that every change must have a cause. But a person observes uncaused changes every day when he contemplates his own choices.

So three days ago choices are uncaused. Three days later choices are caused. Either you have no idea what you're talking about, or you can't make up your mind, or you're maintaining a contradiction. I suspect the latter. You have abdicated your mind and evicted yourself from the realm of reality.

Anyway, I am done here. Brgds.

Don't forget to send us a postcard. Smiling

Damien

reed's picture

Would your atheistic beliefs be challenged if you were to become convinced that consciousness and free will were fundamental aspects of existence?

Best regards

gregster's picture

thanks for those quotes from George Smith. His book is great. I remember how impressed I was when I read it over a decade ago.

Anyway, I am done here. Brgds.

Sterling effort Tom, and more than they deserve. Yes, a great book. I'm sure NoGoode and his sorcerer's apprentice Damien are trying to comprehend their stolen concept fallacies.

Challenging determinism is not the same as challenging atheism

Tom Burroughes's picture

“It must be difficult to maintain your Atheism”

Why, Reed? Atheism is disbelief in the existence of a Supreme Being with omniscient powers. It is not the same whatsoever as belief in the fact of human volition, for which there is empirical proof, and through introspection, as I have repeatedly noted.

“As a rule I don't read stuff that explains what other people believe. I wasted my time reading that.”

So, you only read comments that confirm your own opinions, whatever they are. I am sure this is a great learning technique.

“If consciousness and free will are fundamental aspects of existence then determinism is false”.

Strict determinism is certainly false as in a simple model of cause and effect to explain something as complex as the human brain, yes. It is not remotely like billiard balls hitting one another. That does not apply if you accept the following notion of causality, as Objectivists do: (Here I quote William Thomas):

“Event causation is a useful model for analyzing some kinds of actions, but it is not a satisfactory philosophical account. What is causality, after all? It is the way in which entities act. There are no events without entities, the underlying objects that do the acting. There is no explosion without the bomb that explodes. There is no breathing without the body that breathes and the air that is breathed. A causal explanation is an explanation of action in terms of the entity's capacities for action, arising from its properties and relations. Free will is simply a human capacity for action, one that we will understand better in time. A choice is not uncaused. It is caused by the person who chooses.”

Finally, Richard Goode says he believes in a form of free will even if you don’t have free will. He describes this as the “compatibilist” version.

It sounds like cake-eating and having it. This is nothing more than the “noble lie” ploy: “I believe in X because it is good and nice and right even though I know deep down it is a load of rubbish”. It is not much better than Pascal’s Wager.

Goode mocks Linz's point that free will is an irreducable primary. Why? The absurdity of denying free will is that to deny it and accept determinism means, as has been explained several times here, to deny the ability to arrive at objective truths of any kind, since no person's argument can ever be more convincing than the other, since we were all pre-determined to think and say X. Determinism swallows itself up into absurdity.

Anyway, I am done here. Brgds.

Richard G

reed's picture

Free will truth makers indicators...
Reality is consistent with the existence of free will.
We experience what seems to be free will.

Claytons free will falsehood indicator...
We experience what seems to be free will.

Free will vs. Claytons free will

Richard Goode's picture

Metaphysical libertarians believe in free will.

Compatibilists (such as myself) believe in an ersatz or Claytons free will (the free will you have when you don't have free will).

What distinguishes the two positions? I think it is the claim that one could have done otherwise. Metaphysical libertarians believe this claim to be true. Compatibilists believe it to be false.

The question is, what does it take to make the claim true? What are its truth-makers? What state(s) of affairs must obtain in order for it to be true that one could have done otherwise?

For example, suppose that Linz has bacon and eggs for brunch. Linz says that he could have had toast instead. What makes it true (if it is true) that Linz could have had toast for brunch? Is it simply that there is bread in Linz's pantry and a toaster on his kitchen counter, etc.? (Or is it something much more sinister?) I asked Linz,

are you saying that what makes it true that you could have had toast for brunch is simply that there is bread in your pantry and a toaster on your kitchen counter, etc.?

Unfortunately, he was less than forthcoming.

This same Goblian wants me to spend time engaging him on levels of his own inanity regarding my brunch. It's a measure of his insanity that he would imagine I would find such kindergarten cretinism to be worthwhile when there's so much lying down to be done.

Arise! This question is the key to the whole debate.

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

It must be difficult to maintain your Atheism

Tom maintains contradictions, so maintaining atheism is a piece of cake. (He eats it, too.)

Free is not a primary

Richard Goode's picture


I claim that free will is axiomatic, an irreducible primary.

The concept “free” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: free from whom and from what?

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Surely, purely epistemological possibilities are impossible.

Possibilities are possible. Smiling

Tom

reed's picture

As a rule I don't read stuff that explains what other people believe. I wasted my time reading that.

The whole is the sum of the parts.

It must be difficult to maintain your Atheism

reed's picture

Tom

If consciousness and free will are fundamental aspects of existence then determinism is false.

God's existence is axiomatic

Richard Goode's picture

God is an irreducible primary.

Damien

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You claim that debating free will proves its existence,

I don't. I claim that free will is axiomatic, an irreducible primary. It doesn't require proof. Proof presupposes free will. If we don't have free will, none of us can prove anything, and there is no point in our debating it. I ask you again, do you believe you are simply saying what you can't help saying? If so, why should I take any notice? Because I can't help it?!

but I do not see the logic of that. Our own experiences are not to be trusted. We all know we suffer from confirmation bias. We know, know, that our brain lies to us.

Speak for your own, dear. And you, by your lights, can't know anything, including that your brain is lying to you. To know that, you would have to know the truth. You can't know the truth if you think only what you can't help thinking. You keep avoiding this point or failing to grasp it. So enough of this "confirmation bias" BS already! Man up to the argument, man! Breaking news -- you do have a choice in the matter!

Better Greg

Damien Grant's picture

But because free will is incompatible with god, or with morality, does not mean it exists.

This, however, is the standard argument raised by those who defend free will.

"It must exist, because if it didn't I would be sad"

Reed, whatever. Read this for

Tom Burroughes's picture

Reed, whatever. Read this for a good piece on what I mean about the error of reductionism:

http://www.academia.edu/943127...

Gregster, thanks for those quotes from George Smith. His book is great. I remember how impressed I was when I read it over a decade ago.

G H Smith on free will

gregster's picture

I haven’t been following the arguments put forward by the resident quasi-religious skeptics. The problems with determinism are insurmountable. It undercuts morality by inferring that humans are as animals and unable to think or act by volition.

Why NoGoode is proposing that there isn’t free will is strange to say the least. No free will, no need for goblianity. And therefore that self-evidently stupid ‘son of a god,’ died for no reason.

Here’s some sense from George H Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God [pdf] to perhaps aid your rehabilitations.

“The first problem with omniscience is that it cannot be reconciled with any theory of free will in man. If one believes in an omniscient being, one cannot consistently hold that man has volitional control over his actions. If God knows the future with infallible certainty, the future is predetermined, and man is impotent to change it.

Some theologians (such as Calvin) have enthusiastically embraced predestination, but most theologians, sensing the enormous problems entailed by this doctrine, have attempted to defend some theory of volition. Without volition, morality becomes meaningless: we cannot blame or praise a man for an action over which he has no control. Without volition, the Christian scheme of salvation is a farce; men are predestined for either heaven or hell, and they have no voice in the matter. Why does God create men only to save some arbitrarily, and damn others? Why does the Christian bother to proselytize, since men cannot help what they believe anyway? The problems that arise for theology if it affirms predestination are unsolvable, but they necessarily ensue when omniscience is attributed to God.”

[..]

“There is another irritating problem with the idea of omniscience: it contradicts the attribute of omnipotence. If God knows the future with infallible certainty, he cannot change it—in which case he cannot be omnipotent. If God can change the future, however, he cannot have infallible knowledge of it prior to its actual happening—in which case he cannot be omniscient. (This is similar to the issue of in what sense, if any, God can be said to have free will. Does God know his own future decisions? If so, how can those decisions be free? Perhaps God does not make decisions. If so, how can the idea of volition apply to a being with no decisions—and hence no choices—to make?)”

[..]

“Another common effort to reconcile God and evil is to argue that evil is the consequence of man’s freely chosen actions. God, through his gift of free will, gave man the ability to distinguish and choose between good and evil, right and wrong. As a free agent, man has the potential to reach a higher degree of perfection and goodness than if he were a mere robot programmed to behave in a given manner. Thus it is good that man has free will. But this entails the opportunity for man to select evil instead of good, which has been the case in the instances of torture, murder, and cruelty which some men inflict upon others. The responsibility for these actions, however, rests with man, not with God. Therefore, concludes the Christian, evil does not conflict with the infinite goodness of God.”

[..]

“In addition, we have seen that free will is incompatible with the foreknowledge possessed by an omniscient being, so the appeal to free will fails in this respect as well. In any case, God created man with full knowledge of the widespread suffering that would ensue, and, given his ability to prevent this situation, we must presume that God desired and willed these immoral atrocities to occur.”

[..]

“The principle that knowledge is contextual, and the consequence of ignoring this fact—the Fallacy of the Stolen Concept—are essential for understanding the basic flaw in the majority of skeptical arguments. In order to present his arguments, the skeptic must employ words and concepts; and if these words and concepts are to have meaning, they must be employed within the conceptual framework that makes them possible. Skeptics typically argue as if concepts exist in a vacuum—as if any kind of question or demand is legitimate—and they proceed to mistake the ensuing chaos for profundity.
To say that the skeptic commits the Fallacy of the Stolen Concept is to say that the skeptic “steals” concepts to which he has no epistemological right. The skeptic presents an argument which, if valid, would undercut the logical foundations that the skeptic himself must use in presenting the argument. Most skeptical arguments cannot be maintained without presupposing thetruth of that which they are attempting to invalidate, which forces the skeptic into the mire of self- contradiction. The introductory text Philosophical Problems and Arguments expresses this principle as follows:

... a fundamentally important goal of thought and language is to make sense of things. What makes sense is certified by our epistemic standards; consequently, those standards reflect our conception of reality. The skeptic is implicitly and clandestinely rejecting those very standards and conceptions. By so doing he is also rejecting the very language he speaks. But now the epistemic treachery is exposed; and once seen for what it is, we may readily conclude ... that skepticism is a sham and a delusion.”

More than the sum of the parts

reed's picture

2 + 2 = 5

Reed

Tom Burroughes's picture

I think consciousness is a fundamental aspect of existence, yes.

What I am saying is that

Tom Burroughes's picture

What I am saying is that consciousness, being more than the sum total of brain's component parts, is not simply obeying simple cause/effect relationships. We observe this in all complex entities that occur in nature, of which the brain is probably the ultimate example.

The fact that humans have wills, intentions, can reflect, regulate how they think, think about how they think, etc, is an example of how the simple determinism we might see in the components does not work when looking at the brain as a whole.

Tom

reed's picture

If consciousness, will, etc can't be reduced wouldn't that make them fundamental aspects of existence?

Tom

reed's picture

LOL

Are you saying consciousness, will, etc is something other than entirely deterministic components?

No Reed, that isn't what I am

Tom Burroughes's picture

No Reed, that isn't what I am saying at all. I am seeing that the "whole" (consciousness, will, etc) cannot be reduced to the components.

Tom

reed's picture

The reductionist error is yours isn't it?

You're saying that a non deterministic whole can be reduced to entirely deterministic components.

The reductionist error

Tom Burroughes's picture

There are quite a lot of philosophers I respect on the issue of free will for wrestling with the subject intelligently:

Robert Kane is one of them. This looks like a good roundup of different views:

http://www.amazon.com/Contempo...

Pretty much anything by John Searle is worth reading: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb...

And as I am randomly - or am I "pre-determined"? - putting some ideas out there, I repeat the point I have made before, but I did not see a direct response to it - that when hard determinists try and dismiss the case for free will/volition, they might well be making the error of reductionism, of not explaining, but explaining away. The human mind is not just some simple "input/output" process. There is upward, "bottom up causation" - there is also a "top-down" process at work. And I think the mind can be seen as greater than the sum of its physical parts. (No ghosts, no gods are necessary here.) A human being achieves self-knowledge, a degree of autonomy. In fact, I think arguments against free will are also arguments that cut against any coherent idea of consciousness also.

Is it really so odd to point out that introspection is a form of perception just as valid as sight or hearing? (That seems to be what some determinists are denying, or dismissing, as far as I can see, when they say introspection does not prove that a person genuinely chooses).

Roger Bissell once put it nicely:

http://www.rogerbissell.com/id...

"Man has the ability, by virtue of his capacity for self-awareness (introspection) to integrate his consciousness into the top of his organismic hierarchy, allowing it to be more than just an automatic system of signals of danger and safety, pain and well-being, etc. With the awareness of future consequences and alternatives, with the awareness that he is a being who can weigh the alternatives and choose the one he thinks best, a man's consciousness becomes subject to his control. he is able to use it actively, instead of automatically responding to its data."

"IIt may be asked whether there is not in fact some antecedent condition causing a man to choose to direct his consciousness rather than abandon the controls. This is tantamount to suggesting that perhaps man and all other living organisms do not choose or select their actions at all, perhaps instead they are merely manipulated in ways too subtle to detect by the casual observer. What is being questioned here is essentially whether there really is any form of causation operative in living organisms other than action-reaction, mechanistic causation."

"Physics has long ago rejected the "closed system" view of living organisms, in favor of an "open system" view, where the organism has a natural tendency to build up greater and greater levels of complexity in its structure and function, and to maintain the integrity of structure and function thus achieved. [33] This integrative tendency, directing the actions of the organism, would seem to be the basic physical paradigm for not efficient causation, but final causation, or goal-directedness, which is organism-centered and directed."

"Thus, upon the currently available psychological, biological, and physical evidence, it would seem that man's free will, his capacity to direct his actions as an organism (especially his conscious actions), is a fact. It certainly cannot be dismissed so easily as some are willing and anxious to do."

"Most importantly, in this context, man's freedom of will is thoroughly compatible with the Dual-Aspect theory of mind. It is not the mind, nor the will, which chooses man's actions. These are merely man's capacity to act mentally and to choose those actions. The cause of man's actions, according to the Dual-Aspect theory, is man, as a minded, willing organism."

I agree too.

Richard Wiig's picture

I agree too.

Oh, I see...

Damien Grant's picture

If you say there is a choice, then of course there is?

Why rely on proof when all we needed was for someone to say "Man has free will".

Case closed, clearly.

rebbit.

At Forbes

gregster's picture

"Man has free will. The choices of some do not reflect on the moral status of others, who make their own choices. Each individual is responsible for his own actions, and only his own actions."

The latest from Harry. I agree.

Richard G

reed's picture

Surely, purely epistemological possibilities are impossible.

The Epistemology of Modality

Richard Goode's picture

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Is it possible for me to choose either one?

Epistemically, yes.

Metaphysically, no.

Check your modalities. Smiling

Richard G

reed's picture

That doesn't address my question.

Is it possible for me to choose either one?

If not then there is no choice.

If so then determinism is false.

[edit: I'm sometimes accused of being random Eye ]

Blue Magic Frogs

Damien Grant's picture

I want to believe in magic frogs.

They are really important to me.

Magic frogs are obviously true, otherwise we would not think of them.

I will keep saying magic frogs are real. Anyone who does not agree with this is an arsehole.

I cannot back up my belief in magic frogs, but to think of magic frogs proves that they are real, why else would you be thinking of them?
Right now, you have an idea of a magic frog in your head.

Magic frogs are blue with red stripes on its back and they live in the heads of people. Do you have an image of one now? Yes! Wow, you have an idea of a blue magic frog with red stripes on its back, what are the chances of that! That mental picture is actually the magic frog, not just an idea in your head.

Blue Magic Frogs with red stripes on their back live in your head because they are real.
QED.

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Is it possible for you to choose the wrong number, or to choose the drink you don't prefer?

If yes, then free will amounts to nothing more than human error.

If no, then who needs free will?

Richard G

reed's picture

When I asked if it were possible for me to choose either - I was talking about one instance - your reply related to more than one instance.

Richard G

reed's picture

You say yes but your answer is really no.

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Is it possible for me to choose either one?

Yes, depending (in the case of the numbers) on which number is the bigger, or depending (in the case of the drinks) on your libation preference settings.

But the fact that you are able to choose either one (depending on the circumstances) does not refute determinism.

Richard G

reed's picture

Is it possible for me to choose either one?

If not then there is no choice.

If so then determinism is false.

Commander

Richard Goode's picture

I'm an A is A'ist. Unlike

Richard Wiig's picture

I'm an A is A'ist. Unlike compatibilists, I consider free will to be real.

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Choice is scientifically impossible

Choose the bigger of two numbers, x and y.

$number = max($x, $y);

Freely choose what to drink before dinner, beer or wine.

$drink = max($beer, $wine);

Commander

Richard Goode's picture

So you're an incompatibilist?

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