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: )

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

Asshole No Goode.

Problem?

I couldn't tell you what laws

Richard Wiig's picture

I couldn't tell you what laws give rise to the human body as a whole, let alone the human mind, so I can't answer your question. I do know that A is A, so the mind must have identity, as does with any capacity the mind possesses.

oh...

Damien Grant's picture

Free will arises from the laws of physics.

Which law precisely, Richard?

Free from what, Damien? The

Richard Wiig's picture

Free from what, Damien? The laws of physics? An impossiblility, since it arises from the laws of physics. Free from the perceptual level, certainly. It's what separates us from the lower animals. That our will is free from that, is not a matter of faith. Human nature is no gobby suspended in some unfathomable mystical realm.

Damien

reed's picture

Whether people respond or not is not determined... it's not determined by my making an argument.

It's my contention that choice is possible.
If choice is possible then determinism must be false.

Choice is scientifically impossible - but that is because God and free will are excluded from scientific consideration as a first premise. Once God is brought back into the equation the problem of free will disappears.

We don't have a deterministic existence.

You can agree, disagree, explain why I am wrong or ignore me - it's your choice.

rw

Damien Grant's picture

You do not understand what free will is at a conceptual level.

greg

Damien Grant's picture

Insightful as always.

Asshole

gregster's picture

Asshole No Goode. And Damien your understudy is close behind. I haven't seen such elementary rubbish for some time here.

Commander

Richard Goode's picture

What is it designed to obliterate?

Free will is designed to obliterate human decision-making.

Commander

Richard Goode's picture

So you're an incompatibilist?

No, I'm definitely not a

Richard Wiig's picture

No, I'm definitely not a compatibilist.

Thanks for the link, Rosie.

Richard Wiig's picture

Thanks for the link, Rosie. I've read it, but unfortunately it didn't answer my question. Perhaps no ones answering it because of too much free won't.

Commander

Richard Goode's picture

It is a product of the mind, so it clearly has a cause.

So you're a compatibilist?

Why must free will have no

Richard Wiig's picture

Why must free will have no antecedent cause? It is a product of the mind, so it clearly has a cause.

What is it designed to

Richard Wiig's picture

What is it designed to obliterate?

Free will is an anti-concept

Richard Goode's picture

Free will is an anti-concept.

An anti-concept is an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The use of anti-concepts gives the listeners a sense of approximate understanding. But in the realm of cognition, nothing is as bad as the approximate ...

reed and rw

Damien Grant's picture

If you want a response please make arguments and not simply state your views.

Reed. Rocks exist. Do they have free will?

RW. Read Tom's post. He defines free will exactly that way. He is right. Free will must have no antecedent cause

Made in the image of God

reed's picture

Determinism is false - free will is possible because it is a fundamental aspect of existence. Eye

You have defined Will as

Richard Wiig's picture

You have defined Will as something that acts on its own, without any antecedent causes.

No I haven't. Will is the capacity to evaluate and make decisions. Apparently the frontal lobe is where decision making is made. I have never, and never will, claim that it is otherworldly.

You have defined Will as

Richard Wiig's picture

You have defined Will as something that acts on its own, without any antecedent causes.

No I haven't. Will is the capacity to evaluate and make decisions. Apparently the frontal lobe is where decision making is made. I have never, and never will, claim that it is otherworldly.

Caplan my chaplain

Damien Grant's picture

Caplan obviously stated that humans cause things to happen by their will, but that that will was not caused by something else.

Tom, (and Richard W), this is where your argument departs from science.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Newton's third law. You have defined Will as something that acts on its own, without any antecedent causes. This is not possible within the laws of the universe as we know it, at least not beyond the sub atomic.

Your reasoning rests on this. That there is some driver of human will that is separate from past actions. You cannot explain it, you cannot measure it, you cannot show me how it works, where it is, or define it scientifically.

Will = soul. Both are abstract inventions of the human mind.

Lindsay.

Our introspection .... is dependent on the brain, and dies when the brain dies ... but the choices it makes are not determined by the brain's structure. 

Here you seem to make a leap of faith, in thinking that the human brain can act independent of itself. If Newton is right, how can anything act independent of the atoms and physical laws that act on them?

You claim that debating free will proves its existence, 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. 

Pain, love, hope, all things our brain produces. None of them are real outside the confines of our skull. The experiences of our brain are not reliable. George Gently, on the other hand, is brilliant. I have seasons 1-4. 

Nope

Tom Burroughes's picture

"You say `objectivism merely holds that whatever exists exists, has identity and has causal powers. Objectivism has an entity-causation view of causality' but Caplan says `a choice is not an effect' "Presumably, as an Objectivist, you hold that free choices are caused by entities, viz., volitional agents. Caplan says no, a choice is not an effect. You have arrived at a contradiction."

Free will is the human capacity for action. I think that is consistent with saying that a choice is not an effect of anything else, as Caplan said. Caplan obviously stated that humans cause things to happen by their will, but that that will was not caused by something else. You still haven't decisively proved a contradiction here.

Richard Wiig

Rosie's picture

This article about Benjamin Libet may provide some initial help in answering your question.

Here is his original paper if you are interested.

What is important about his experiment in terms of the original title of this thread, God, Man and Morality, and so in particular to those who adhere to Christianity, is that the Power of Veto or Free Won't is quite within our power.

From pages 54, 55 of Libet's original paper, linked to above, "Do We Have Free Will?"

Ethical Implications of How Free Will Operates

"The role of conscious free will would be, then, not to initiate a voluntary act, but
rather to control whether the act takes place.We may view the unconscious initiatives
for voluntary actions as ‘bubbling up’ in the brain. The conscious-will then selects
which of these initiatives may go forward to an action or which ones to veto and abort,
with no act appearing.
This kind of role for free will is actually in accord with religious and ethical strictures.
These commonly advocate that you ‘control yourself’. Most of the Ten Commandments
are ‘do not’ orders.

"How do our findings relate to the questions of when one may be regarded as guilty
or sinful, in various religious and philosophical systems. If one experiences a conscious
wish or urge to perform a socially unacceptable act, should that be regarded as
a sinful event even if the urge has been vetoed and no act has occurred? Some religious
systems answer ‘yes’. President Jimmy Carter admitted to having had urges to
perform a lustful act. Although he did not act, he apparently still felt sinful for having
experienced a lustful urge.1 But any such urges would be initiated and developed in
the brain unconsciously, according to our findings. The mere appearance of an intention
to act could not be controlled consciously; only its final consummation in a motor
act could be consciously controlled. Therefore, a religious system that castigates an
individual for simply having a mental intention or impulse to do something unacceptable,
even when this is not acted out, would create a physiologically insurmountable
moral and psychological difficulty.

"Indeed, insistence on regarding an unacceptable urge to act as sinful, even when no
act ensues, would make virtually all individuals sinners. In that sense such a view
could provide a physiological basis for ‘original sin’! Of course, the concept of
‘original sin’ can be based on other views of what is regarded as sinful.

"Ethical systems deal with moral codes or conventions that govern how one behaves
toward or interacts with other individuals; they are presumably dealing with actions,
not simply with urges or intentions. Only a motor act by one person can directly
impinge on the welfare of another. Since it is the performance of an act that can be
consciously controlled, it should be legitimate to hold individuals guilty of and
responsible for their acts."

[1] President Carter was drawing on a Christian tradition deriving from the following two verses in the
‘Sermon on the Mount’: ‘[Jesus said], “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt
not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath
committed adultery with her already in his heart”’ (Matthew, 5.27–8).

Bravo!

I have just been quietly chuckling to myself about the excellence of the notion "Free Won't" when a sudden hilarious idea popped in to my head which I thought I would share with you - probably against my better judgement as it will only confirm my utter madness if there is still anyone who doubts it.

In about the 1860s one of my forebears came to this country "for his health". As he was taken by horse and coach in to what was in those days one of the main towns, sunny Motueka, a woman crossed the road in front of his carriage. He leaned out and tapped the coachman on the shoulder with his cane and said, "Who is that extraordinarily beautiful woman?" The coachman replied, "Ohh! That be Ella Leslie - the biggest flirrrrt in Motueka, Sirrrr" "That, my good man," he replied, " is the woman I am going to marry!" And he did!

My sudden thought was to vary this story for myself. My story will be this:
As Rosie was getting a taxi in to Wellington, a man passed in front of her taxi. Rosie quickly asked the taxi driver, "Who is that man with the extraordinary sense of Free Won't?" "Dat, memsahib, is Mr X, de biggest square in Wellington!" "That, my good man," she replied, "is the man I am going to marry!" Laughing out loud

The laws of physics are the

Richard Wiig's picture

The laws of physics are the laws of cause and effect.

The effect in question being the human mind, which has a nature. It must act in accordance with its nature.

The same cause always produces the same effects.

All things being equal.

The same cause could not have produced different effects.

Physics, the cause, produced a consciousness, the effect, that is capable of choosing among alternatives. Each mind is bound to that by its nature, all things being equal.

That's why free will violates the laws of physics.

Say again? All I see here is an unsubstantiated claim on your part - that volition (the ability to choose among alternatives) isn't part of the effect. I'm still left with the unanswered question, how so?

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

Free choices are not caused by entities; they are the actions of such entities.

Word games.

You say that some of your actions, viz., your free choices, are not caused by you. If your actions are not caused by you, then by whom? Well, I think we already know the answer to that.

I am not seeing the contradiction here.

Are you blind? Could be a demon.

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. - Matthew 12:22

Objectivism is a form of demonic possession.

Commander

Richard Goode's picture

Caplan says

free will ... seems to violate the law of causality: "Every effect must have a cause; the same cause always produces the same effects."

The laws of physics are the laws of cause and effect. The same cause always produces the same effects. The same cause could not have produced different effects. That's why free will violates the laws of physics.

You should already understand

Richard Wiig's picture

You should already understand it, Damien. You're the one claiming that volition violates the laws of physics. I asked in what way does it violate them, but there's nothing but silence from both of you. I take it that you do not know.

Richard asks:

So the choices it makes are not determined by the brain's structure?

No. The capacity to choose is determined by the brains structure. That capacity is then confronted with choices that it cannot escape.

What, then, are its choices determined by? Magic?

By human consciousness relative to the knowledge it holds, which is equally as intangible as volition. You cannot prove consciousness by an examination of atoms and brain chemistry. Just like volition it can only be known by introspection.

Free choice is, indeed, not

Tom Burroughes's picture

Free choice is, indeed, not an "effect", as Caplan rightly said, but rather, part of the identity of human beings, as I said in the other comment. Free choices are not caused by entities; they are the actions of such entities. I am not seeing the contradiction here. Maybe the magic is more apparent than real.

You should already understand

Richard Wiig's picture

You should already understand it, Damien. You're the one claiming that volition violates the laws of physics. I asked in what way does it violate them, but there's nothing but silence from both of you. I take it that you do not know.

Richard asks:

So the choices it makes are not determined by the brain's structure?

No. The capacity to choose is determined by the brains structure. That capacity is then confronted with choices that it cannot escape.

What, then, are its choices determined by? Magic?

By human consciousness relative to the knowledge it holds, which is equally as intangible as volition. You cannot prove consciousness by an examination of atoms and brain chemistry. Just like volition it can only be known by introspection.

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

You say

objectivism merely holds that whatever exists exists, has identity and has causal powers. Objectivism has an entity-causation view of causality

but Caplan says

a choice is not an effect

Presumably, as an Objectivist, you hold that free choices are caused by entities, viz., volitional agents. Caplan says no, a choice is not an effect. You have arrived at a contradiction.

The point is entirely

Tom Burroughes's picture

The point is entirely consistent. It states that volition, far from being an effect of antecedent factors, is part of the very identity of an entity such as a human being. And a being with a specific identity can cause things to happen. Ergo, there is no clash between the idea of causality and free will. That is the point I was making.

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

You say that

Objectivism has an entity-causation view of causality; causality is the law of identity as it is applied to actions.

but Caplan

denies that a free choice is an _effect_ of anything else. Since a choice is not an effect, the law of causality is simply irrelevant here.

You can't even spot a contradiction, let alone maintain one.

"Caplan denies that a free

Tom Burroughes's picture

"Caplan denies that a free choice is an effect of anything else. What does it mean for an event not to be an effect of anything else? It means that the event is uncaused. But uncaused events are outside the realm of physics. Uncaused events violate the laws of physics."

You misunderstand the point. For example, when people ask, how does objectivism fit the idea of free will with a sort of strict, physicalist doctrine, the answer - and I heard a good explanation from William Thomas - is that objectivism merely holds that whatever exists exists, has identity and has causal powers. Objectivism has an entity-causation view of causality; causality is the law of identity as it is applied to actions. I am not seeing any magic here.

With people, the causal mode - to borrow from William Thomas - involves free choice over a range of actions and that this is a natural property of human beings. You claim to have spotted a contradiction in Rand's ideas, but you haven't done so.

good one!

Doug Bandler's picture

Homosexuality is complicated and involves parasites? Thanks, I'll stick with anchovism!

Hah! You're a crazy Goblinian determinist but you've got a sense of humor. I grant you absolution for your sins!!

The Objectivist account of free will

Richard Goode's picture

The Objectivist account of free will

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

You quote Caplan approvingly.

Caplan again: "Now there are some immediate objections to the idea of free will. To begin with, it seems to violate the law of causality: "Every effect must have a cause; the same cause always produces the same effects." The reply here is fairly simple: it simply denies that a free choice is an _effect_ of anything else. Since a choice is not an effect, the law of causality is simply irrelevant here."

Caplan denies that a free choice is an effect of anything else. What does it mean for an event not to be an effect of anything else? It means that the event is uncaused. But uncaused events are outside the realm of physics. Uncaused events violate the laws of physics. (For what it's worth, uncaused events also violate Rand's law of causality.)

Caplan believes in magic. Do you?

Linz

Richard Goode's picture

It is not outside nature, as Damien claims Objectivists believe; it is dependent on the brain, and dies when the brain dies (contrary to Baade) but the choices it makes are not determined by the brain's structure.

So the choices it makes are not determined by the brain's structure? What, then, are its choices determined by? Magic?

Homosexuality vs. anchovism

Richard Goode's picture

Homosexuality is involved in this; as I say its complicated and it involves parasites.

Homosexuality is complicated and involves parasites? Thanks, I'll stick with anchovism!

Anchovism - There Is No Cure

Doug Bandler's picture

Naturally I take issue with your claim that there is anything "abnormal" involved. It is anchovism that is abnormal. Just look at all the grief it causes you!

Hah! I knew you would get me on that. But at least I didn't say "sub-optimal"! By abnormal I meant that, again as I understand it, there are testosterone pulses during the development of the fetus. Heterosexual males get a predetermined amount in the womb and then they get another blast at adolescence. Homosexuals do not get that same "pulse" in the womb. That's what I meant by "abnormal".

Actually, what this indicates is that homosexuality is not "sub-optimal". It is "built-in" to the human race and to the entire line of mammals (I think). Its an evolutionary strategy to ensure that a type of homeostasis between males and females is kept. This is really fascinating because, if you think about it, there needs to be a roughly equal number of males and females if a species is to survive. It has been shown that stress levels of the parents affect the sex of the children. There's a fancy name for it, but it has been demonstrated that wealthier families tend to have more sons whereas poorer families tend to have more daughters. The sons inherit the family's status giving them an advantage whereas poorer daughters can always get laid and give birth; it being far easier for a woman to have progeny then a man. (The sexual market is far harder on men then it is on women, which is why female sexuality has been restrained throughout history.)

Homosexuality is involved in this; as I say its complicated and it involves parasites. But this is something that philosophy alone can not answer which is another flaw with Objectivism; that it tries to analyze sex outside of the context of evolutionary biology. I can forgive Rand for this, she came earlier in the 20th century. But Peikoff and everyone post-80s should have thought long and hard before they opined on sex and sexuality. If they had done this many Objectivist homosexuals would have been spared the emotional turmoil of not being "normal" because they were gay (even if they did have individual rights). As I say, some stuff is just "wired". It is what it is.

It is anchovism that is abnormal.

Once again, you hit the nail on the proverbial head. Yes, anchovism is a TERRIBLE affliction. It needs its own telethon (where is Jerry Lewis when you really need him). And I have been so afflicted. May the non-existent Christian god have mercy on my hyper-sexed soul.

Gaily Volitional but Not Volitionally Gay

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Pinpointing what is and is not open to choice is one of the challenges posed by our having the power of choice in the first place. If we didn't have it, all discussion on this matter, and any other, would be pointless, since we'd all just be roting what we're pre-determined to say. Damian doesn't seem to grasp that, philosophically speaking, free will is axiomatic. It is presupposed in our discussing it. Every attempt to debunk it, assumes it. Our introspection offers ostensive confirmation of it. It is not outside nature, as Damien claims Objectivists believe; it is dependent on the brain, and dies when the brain dies (contrary to Baade) but the choices it makes are not determined by the brain's structure. Last night I had the option of watching Lewis or George Gently, both high-quality who-dunnit dramas. I flicked back and forth between them. In the end the latter took a PC turn so I opted for the former. Conscious reasoning and choosing at work. My brain allows me to do this but doesn't predetermine the outcome. Of course, I could also choose to get one of those smart thingies that records one channel while you're watching another; there's nothing inherent in my brain's structure or functioning that dictates whether I shall or shan't.

Doug, on the matter of homosexuality you say: "Lindsay didn't chose to be gay. He was born that way as the result of an abnormal hormonal brain chemistry pre-birth largely orienting around testosterone levels and timing."

I suspect it has more to do with my inbuilt aversion to anchovies and tuna. Eye But I was reading this the other day, which aligns with what you say:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/...

Naturally I take issue with your claim that there is anything "abnormal" involved. It is anchovism that is abnormal. Just look at all the grief it causes you! Evil

my take on free will

Doug Bandler's picture

I wrestle with this constantly. Where I'm at now is this: humans have volitional control over their actions. This is an emergent property of the human brain; although I think that volition exists to lesser degrees (far lesser) in animals. My cat does make decisions based on his limited context. I refuse to believe he is purely deterministic.

But...

The human animal comes with pre-installed emotional software. This is where I disagree with the O'ist theory of emotions. Not all emotions are the product of fully free value choices. Some emotions are hard-wired. They just are. Nowhere is this more evident then in the area of sex and relationships. O'ists get this wrong all the time which is why Peikoff keeps making a fool of himself whenever he talks about gays or transsexuals. Lindsay didn't chose to be gay. He was born that way as the result of an abnormal hormonal brain chemistry pre-birth largely orienting around testosterone levels and timing. Homosexuality has been linked to an evolutionary strategy to give women an advantage in the sexual market (read Matt Ridley's 'The Red Queen' for a good discussion of homosexuality - homosexuality involves "male-killer" genes, so in essence homosexuality is part of nature's way to achieve homeostasis). Its complicated but it involves dealing with parasites. So much of human development deals with parasites and bacteria. There are TRILLIONS of bacteria in a human being. In many ways we are more bacteria than human. Homosexuality is one example of a whole range of emotions being just wired and given.

So, I see it like this: human free will comes attached to the human animal which is an animal of a certain type with certain emotional pathways that are NOT INFINITELY MALLEABLE. Our wiring makes the range of life decisions we make REMARKABLY PREDICTABLE (i.e. "chicks dig jerks" or alpha / dominant males). Again this is nowhere more true than with sex and relationships. I wish I knew this when I was 20. But sadly Objectivism pushes a blank-slate psychological/emotional paradigm which is bullshit. This is one area where Rand was RADICALLY WRONG. I have suffered because of this but I forgive her. She gave me so much else and truth to tell she didn't believe it herself really. Just look at the way her heroes behave. Roark mind fucks Dominique before he rough sexes her. No gender egalitarianism there. Rand believed in male dominance through and through. She even started to go down the Ev-Psych bunnyhole with Branden in the 'Psychology of Romantic Love' when they both based Rand's view of masculinity and femininity on a dominance/submissive framework. They got that from evolutionary theory. Interesting enough, Diana Hsieh recently disagreed with it. Why am I not surprised?

We have free will but it has limitations. We are rational animals. Don't forget the animal part is what I am saying.

Why this issue matters

Tom Burroughes's picture

Damian,

Why does making the case for volition matter?

Let's take the case of crimes such as murder. If the murderer had no real choice in the matter, then we might no longer bother to punish the murderer but instead give him mind-altering drugs so he is incapable of acting in any way at all. Such policies, despite their dehumanising nature, might become quite popular; (the use of such methods is hardly unknown in human history). Such ideas have gained adherents in the past in some societies and might do so again. If we defend free will only as a sort of "useful fiction" to encourage good behaviour, it is always vulnerable whenever someone comes up with an excuse for why Y or X did something bad. It does matter to some extent. (There are plenty of other good reasons for the free society that don't need to be founded on notions of volition, but take out volition, and the case looks a bit weird.)

The trouble of course is that you might say, but “Tom, you are just supporting free will because you are rightly terrified and sickened by the consequences of not believing in it.” The arguments I have given – such as via that Caplan quote about introspection – convinces me that that the experience of introspection is real, and that the experience thus gained of making choices is real, rather than my brain chemistry playing tricks. I think my motives here are honest (of course I do!)

You attack the Macfarlane quote for its saying that because there is a lot about human thought and achievement that cannot be entirely explained via determinism as understood, then free will deserves to be taken seriously to deal with this terra incognita. As free will does not have to be framed in a religious sense, but can be seen as a fact of reality, I see no need to worry that this is just religion worming its way in.

Also, why should the burden of proof lie with determinists, particularly when scientific ideas have changed so much over the centuries and may change again? And given the reductionist fallacy, I contend that those who plead scientific support for a particular brand of determinism are claiming too much.

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. Why should a person discard such observations due to one version of the law of causality?

One of the problems with determinism, in my view, is that even a determinist cannot every really prove the truth of his views because, given the logic, he had no choice over the views he has about it. In this determinist universe, achieving objective truth is impossible between people because they are “pre-determined” to hold the views they hold and no real truth is discoverable. If the contents of my mind were pre-determined by the interactions of physical particles, how could I ever check and verify my views for their accuracy? I am not just being crafty here – determinism seems in danger of swallowing itself up.

I liked this from Caplan:

“Try the following thought experiment. Our brilliant neurophysiologists come up with an equation that they claim will predict all of our behavior. The equation is so good that it even incorporates our reaction to the equation, our reaction to knowing that it incorporates our reaction, and so on indefinitely. Suppose that the equation says that the next thing that you
will do is raise your arm. Do you seriously believe that you couldn’t falsify this prediction by failing to raise your arm? But if you can falsify any prediction about your arm, and if the prediction is derived perfectly from a comprehensive knowledge of your body’s constituent micro-particles, then your mind must be free.”

Another objection to the doctrine of free will is that it renders a persons choices inexplicable. And in a sense, this is correct: a choice is necessarily, by definition, impervious to a causal explanation. If there were a causal explanation, then the agent would have been determined to take his actions, and then they would not have been free. But there is really no paradox here, anyway. Of course it is possible to “explain” a choice, in the sense of describing the actor’s motives, goals, impulses, and so on. But we must remember that these were simply the factors that the agent chose to go along with; we are explaining which factors out of the cosmos of possibilities that the actor drew upon when making his choice.

I can see why this is a frustrating debate if you want to think that it is irrelevant and we’d be so much better served by arguing an discussing other things. But as this thread surely demonstrates, the notion of free will is not just an academic issue.

Richard Goode: on compatibilism, I have already linked to that Hsieh article on why that particular way of defending free will has problems, given how it frames the issue of being able to choose from alternatives. Compatibilism is an improvement on pure determinism, if only because the latter is impossible to live by logically, but it does not fully work, in my view.

You write: "On the face of it, the doctrine of causal determinism contradicts the doctrine of free will. As is well known, to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one's mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality."

Caplan again: "Now there are some immediate objections to the idea of free will. To begin with, it seems to violate the law of causality: "Every effect must have a cause; the same cause always produces the same effects." The reply here is fairly simple: it simply denies that a free choice is an _effect_ of anything else. Since a choice is not an effect, the law of causality is simply irrelevant here."

Check this out also

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...

Newton 3

Damien Grant's picture

Richard,

Can you please explain what part of the brain controls volition, and the chemical reactions and molecular construction of the atoms in that part of the brain, as I need to understand this before I can properly answer your question.

No explanation is coming,

Richard Wiig's picture

No explanation is coming, perhaps because you can't explain it. If volition violates the laws of physics it would be interesting to hear just how it violates them.

Callumny

Richard Goode's picture

Do you deny the existence of mind viruses?

Have you scanned yourself recently?

Callumed

Damien Grant's picture

Perhaps the goode doctor's diagnose is all the better for his demonic possession!

After all, he did spot the belief element in Objectivism with respect to free will and I suspect his ability to spot such a thing was partly due to his own immersion in his version of goblin worship.

If Objectivism relies on free will, and if a belief in free will requires faith, then maybe he is right. The existence or otherwise of free will cannot be proved scientifically. Not yet at least.

I think it is almost certainly does not exist, but I cannot KNOW this. There is much about the universe that I am ignorant of. Likewise, those who advocate free will cannot KNOW it exists. Worse, the prevailing science appears to be against them, allowing the tiniest of wiggle room (about the size of a quantum leap, which is what you need in terms of faith to accept free will).

So, a certainty in the existence of free will requires faith. It cannot be deduced with certainty from reason, logic or science. It cannot even reach the level of a probability. It is, actually, merely a possibility. In my view the probability that a human has free will is only an immeasurability tiny percentage greater possibility of being real than the existence of free will in a cat.

Curiously, I have raised the faith argument against the libertarians in an earlier thread, started by the demonically possessed Richard. He may have merely been Mr Goode then, I am unsure when he was knighted.

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Callum

Rosie's picture

There is no greater evidence that someone is demonically possessed than accusing others of being demonically possessed.

What is your authority for this, for the record?!

Just for my own record I googled "demonic possession" - not being something I have thought too much about except that I have wondered whether drugs might be a vehicle for it since they cause a loss of self-control in a person- and found some articles about demonic possession but none mentioned your "no greater evidence" however!

Warning Signs of Demonic Possession
http://fspp.net/warn%20poss.htm

What does the Bible say about demon possession / demonic possession?"
http://www.gotquestions.org/de...

Can a Christian be demonised?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Ch...

Just for the record

Callum McPetrie's picture

There is no greater evidence that someone is demonically possessed than accusing others of being demonically possessed.

Hahaha

Rosie's picture

This evening I saw a film called The Adjustment Bureau which is definitely worth a watch! Funnily enough, it is about free will vs determinism (or The Plan).

This is a good review of it.

And below is the youtube excerpt from Thompson, the Adjustment Bureau's chief of staff (so to speak), about The Plan and how "The Chairman" (and creator of the Plan) has applied free will and determinism throughout history. I think you will all smile at the last line!

Which law precisely, Richard?

Richard Wiig's picture

Which law precisely, Richard?

Commander

Richard Goode's picture

Which laws of nature are you claiming that the concept of volition violates?

The laws of physics.

Objectivism may not claim

Richard Wiig's picture

Objectivism may not claim that free will must be extra-nature

Then you shouldn't be lumping it in with Catholicism. Catholicism, I take it, claims that Free Will is divinely given.

but the logic of free-will demands that it is.

If the activity of the human brain can be explained completely by physics and chemistry, and other natural laws, (as, apparently can cat brains) then if you could understand all of those chemical and other interactions you could predict with certainty, what the brain would do next.

You're making an assumption that natural laws cannot give rise to volition.

If you can predict, even in theory, what a brain will do, then there is no room for free will. Determinism wins.

Only if it's impossible for the laws of nature to give rise to volitional consciousness. Which laws of nature are you claiming that the concept of volition violates?

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

I take back my rude remark, Richard ... my rudeness was wrong. Apologies.

Apologies accepted. (It's a shame, really. "Weapons-grade berk" was quite original.)

that demonic possession routine of yours (give it a miss for goodness sake).

No can do, I'm afraid.

I am still not happy about that sort of nonsense

The demonically possessed never are.

maybe I was "pre-determined" to lash out when you trotted out that demonic possession routine of yours

Indeed, you were. "Lashing out" when someone suggests that you are demonically possessed is diagnostic of demonic possession. For an extreme example of this, please read my blog post Are your Facebook friends demonically possessed? The Facebook friend in question (whom I shall not name publicly) is a die-hard Objectivist (notorious in New Zealand libertarian circles). For some less extreme (but still disturbing) examples of "lashing out" see here.

My oft-stated view (I've stated it twice already on this thread) is that the human soul itself is no more and no less than a suite of software running on wetware known colloquially as "brains".

Please reconsider my claim that Objectivism is a form of demonic possession in light of this. In particular, pay attention to the last sentence of my blog post.

If you don’t believe in demonic possession … think of Objectivism as an insidious mind virus.

My laptop PC (hardware) came pre-installed with MS Windows (software) but it can run other operating systems and software. In fact, the first thing I did when I got my laptop was to exorcise the evil that is the Windows OS (actually, I partitioned it) and now I run Ubuntu Linux. Similarly, Tom, as your brain developed an installation process took place. The upshot was that your brain came pre-installed with you. Since then, however, malicious code has installed itself and now interferes with your cognitive functioning. The insidious mind virus known as Objectivism has taken up lodging in your neural circuitry. You are possessed by the Rand demon. How did this happen? Quite simply, you read too much Rand.

As for Richard Goode having the temerity to accuse me, or anyone else, of "demonic" possession, given his own oft-stated beliefs in Supreme Beings and all the rest of that, well, all I can say is that this is as near a perfect example of projection as I have come across in years.

It's interesting that you should raise the topic of projection. When it comes to projection, Objectivists are the worst offenders! As an example of this, consider the current topic of this thread, the problem of free will. On the face of it, the doctrine of causal determinism contradicts the doctrine of free will. As is well known, to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one's mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality. Rand even said, while standing on one foot, that you can't eat your cake and have it, too.

Case closed.

Yet that is precisely what you try to do here. The problem of free will is a genuine problem. It's been with us for millennia and won't go away any time soon. Certainly the claim that

She pointed out that volition is a causal agent, and so resolved the free will/determinism controversy.

is abject wishful thinking. I was gob-smacked that you could quote the following, approvingly

"These discoveries about how our brains work can also explain how free will works rather than explaining it away. But first, we need to define free will in a more reasonable and useful way. Many philosophers, including me, understand free will as a set of capacities for imagining future courses of action, deliberating about one’s reasons for choosing them, planning one’s actions in light of this deliberation and controlling actions in the face of competing desires. We act of our own free will to the extent that we have the opportunity to exercise these capacities, without unreasonable external or internal pressure. We are responsible for our actions roughly to the extent that we possess these capacities and we have opportunities to exercise them."

"Our studies suggest that people sometimes misunderstand determinism to mean that we are somehow cut out of this causal chain leading to our actions. People are threatened by a possibility I call “bypassing” — the idea that our actions are caused in ways that bypass our conscious deliberations and decisions. So, if people mistakenly take causal determinism to mean that everything that happens is inevitable no matter what you think or try to do, then they conclude that we have no free will. Or if determinism is presented in a way that suggests all our decisions are just chemical reactions, they take that to mean that our conscious thinking is bypassed in such a way that we lack free will."

"Even if neuroscience and psychology were in a position to establish the truth of determinism — a job better left for physics — this would not establish bypassing. As long as people understand that discoveries about how our brains work do not mean that what we think or try to do makes no difference to what happens, then their belief in free will is preserved. What matters to people is that we have the capacities for conscious deliberation and self-control that I’ve suggested we identify with free will.

and yet fail to recognise that the quoted passages comprise a canonical statement of the position in the free will debate known as compatibilism. (To which I, Dennett and others subscribe.)

The key sentence in the above is

first, we need to define free will in a more reasonable and useful way.

Compatiblists believe in a watered down version of free will that is compatible with determinism. So you're not a compatibilist, you say? Well, you can't have your cake and eat it, too. Sorry about that.

will fred

Damien Grant's picture

And back forward to free will

What does it really matter? I said at the start, that I though the debate over free will was pointless. Given how little we understand about the universe, our debating over free will maybe as sensible as Romans debating what the gods think about when they dream.

We cannot actually know if we have free will. The determinists have, I believe, a clear intellectual advantage over the advocates of free will. The universe would need to be very different from how we understand it for them to be wrong, but does it matter either way?

Objectivists do not believe in a god. The future is indeterminate to us as humans. It may be actually indeterminate, we cannot know for sure, but I do not think that this matters.

For us, the future is unknown. For us, the workings of our brain are unknown. We do not understand the working of the molecules that drive our thought. We cannot choose our bodies as they are this instant. We think we are conscious, we think and we act as if we have free will. It feels as if we have free will.

I act as if I have free will and react to others as if they do. Free-will is a proxy for people doing what they want to do. Everything we do, we do because we want to do it. Even if I have a gun to my head, if I do what I am being told to do, I still want to do that thing, because the alternative is being shot. I have made a choice, even if I do not like the alternatives before me.

Why they want to do so, frick. What do the gods dream about? If a person makes a decision we like, we react to that. If they make a decision we do not, we react in a different way. If they make that decision because they are a free moral agent and have a soul and free will, if they have will or volition that they channelled to make that decision, or if they were pre-determined to do so because of the laws of the universe acting upon their brain, would we react any differently?

If someone murders another person, beyond the legal reasons for mitigation, does it matter why? By this I do not mean, “he did it because he was drunk, or because he was insulted”, but the deeper philosophical reasons we are debating here.

If one person murders another, we do not need to decide if they have free will, were pre-determined or if they have a soul. If you are a determinist, religious, or a believer in Objectivist free will, the result is the same. The act of murder tells us something about the nature of that person, and no matter where you sit on the free will/determinist divide, the act of murder tells us the same thing. That this person, weighting their options, decided to kill. It makes no difference if the decision was free or not. We will act accordingly.

The only area it really matters is in the debate over morality, but again, so what?

“My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these.”

Ayn Rand

How you make that choice, to live, is unknown. Its validity is not disputed.

back to the puppies

Damien Grant's picture

Symmetry

Right. Back to an earlier topic. The burning of puppies.

It seems to me, from a brief traverse of the literature, (thanks Rosie) that there is no definitive objective reasoning on this topic.

RG claims that all sentient beings, including puppies, have a right not to be unnecessarily hurt by a moral agent. The evidence for this is that a moral agent has an obligation not to cause unnecessary pain on a sentient creature. He relies on his own dogma, symmetry.

Although the argument has a circular symmetry in itself, I do not see that this morality can be ground in anything objectively real. It is Richards (and virtually every other thinking humans) belief that causing unnecessary pain on an animal is morally wrong, but it is very hard to show how or why we come to that conclusion.

The closest I can come to is that, as humans and animals are essentially identical in almost all respects, if it would be morally wrong to hurt a human without good cause, it should be morally wrong to hurt an animal for the same reason.

Although humans and animals differ in very profound ways, the similarities that we exhibit are more profound that our differences. Here I am taking as a starting point, say, the differences between humans and rocks and humans and cats. I do not mean to ascribe anything special to animals, merely that we are very similar to them when we consider how different we are from the rest of the stuff we see in the universe.

You could take from this that hunting animals for sport may be morally wrong but hunting them for food is not. This is getting into a subjective area where people disagree. Is killing a deer for sport but not causing it unnecessary pain acceptable, but would be pouring petrol over it and burning it alive be wrong? Most of us I think would think it would be wrong to burn a deer, but why?

Killing a deer for sport but not causing it unnecessary pain may cause the deer’s foul mental anguish. We typically discount the mental pain of animals but again, other than inconvenience and indifference, I do not know why.

I do not wish to debate the morality of hunting etc. I am merely using this as a kind of mental exercise at what I perceive to be at the fringes of morality. I am interested in what appears to be an area of extremely subjective moral thinking where it is hard to be definitive as to what is right and what is wrong. There appears to be no ‘non initiation of force’ axiom that can be applied.

Why do most of us not object to hunting, which is done for human entertainment, and which must cause the some of the animals great pain yet if we saw someone planning to burn an animal alive we would use force to prevent them from doing so?

I like the symmetry argument, I want it to be true, but I think that the real reason is that hunting is socially acceptable and burning animals alive is not, and this is very subjective and unsatisfying.

Free volition

Damien Grant's picture

KEVIN McFARLANE

His key point seems to be we must have free will, because if we do not then punishing criminals cannot be justified. His last sentence sums up his position nicely:

Determinists are unable to give a coherent account of human achievement or creativity by attributing them solely to electro-chemical reactions in the brain…. They can point to no factors external to the human will that would enable them to provide a criterion of demarcation between free action and determined action.

This is terrible logic. Because determinists cannot explain how brain chemistry is responsible for creativity then there must be free will? Makes as much sense as not being able to explain an eclipse and using this as proof that a dragon is eating the sun. (make enough noise and the dragon goes away, proving your theory) Even worse, determinists do not need to show how brain chemistry causes creativity. It is sufficient to understand that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

But even worse, he says because determinists can point to ‘no factors external to the human will…’. What does that even mean? Determinists claim that there is no free action, why should they be required to provide a demarcation between it and determined action?

Enough wool here for a jersey cow.

The real flaw in his reasoning is that he does not explain what human will is. Critically he fails to answer the obvious question; “cannot human will be a manifestation of chemical and physical matter in the human brain?”

McFarlane points to human will as evidence of free will. He does not explain what human will is, where it resides in the brain and why it is not subject to the physical laws of the universe.

Could not the human will be similar to the sex drive, fear, hatred, hunger? Something that exists because the human brain is made up of atoms, and that these are assembled in such a way as to manifest themselves as human traits and that these traits drive actions.

NICHOLAS DYKES

Dykes is even weaker than McFarlane. Half of the paper is rubbishing determinism as being stupid. This is not an argument. However, his view can be summed up in two sentences:

Of course human actions are caused. But they are not caused blindly by antecedent molecular motions, they are caused by human volition.

He attributes free will to human volition. Like McFarlane, he fails to explain what volition is, and equally fails to answer the question, “cannot volition be a manifestation of chemical and physical matter in the human brain?”

Pointing to volition or will does not resolve the problem that the brain is made up of atoms and if you can understand the movement of the atoms, you could predict the actions of the brain. There is no argument that has been presented against this. Pointing to volition is about as useful as pointing to a soul.

As I See It

The free will position appears to come down to two arguments;

One: Free will must exist because if it does not then human actions have no morality.

Two: There is an inherent element in the human brain (volition, will, soul) that has the ability to initiate action (even if this action is, as Rand claimed, merely to think, or to choose to focus) on its own account.

The response to these two are as follows:

One: Because the consequences of the truth are ugly, does not invalidate the truth.

Two: There is nothing about volition, or will, that suggests that this cannot be a function of a working human brain subject to the laws of the universe. Will, and volition, are consistent with a deterministic world view.

 

free woolly

Damien Grant's picture

Objectivism may not claim that free will must be extra-nature but the logic of free-will demands that it is.

At least the form of nature as we understand it, (dark matter and dark energy, quantum theory and Allah knows what else we do not understand being left to one side).

If the activity of the human brain can be explained completely by physics and chemistry, and other natural laws, (as, apparently can cat brains) then if you could understand all of those chemical and other interactions you could predict with certainty, what the brain would do next.

If you can predict, even in theory, what a brain will do, then there is no room for free will. Determinism wins.

For free will to be correct, the brain must have a choice. There must be a way for a brain to be operating freely from the parameters laid down by its grey matter and the natural laws. This something extra must allow the brain to choose against what the laws of nature demand it to.

You keep misrepresenting

Richard Wiig's picture

You keep misrepresenting Objectivism as placing Free Will outside of nature. By all means, criticise Objectivism, but criticise what it actually does say.

facts

Damien Grant's picture

what facts, RW, am I ignoring?

The Claim

Richard Wiig's picture

Yes, Tom, I'm pretty sure you're right about that. I wonder then why, Damien, who says that it's important to stick to the facts, persistently ignores that fact.

Bold claims

Richard Wiig's picture

I think it's a bold claim to claim that the laws of nature cannot give rise to volition.

Thank you JT

Damien Grant's picture

I will endeavour to follow Tom's example, apologise for my peevish rants and abuse, and to increase the civility here.

Fair enough

Jules Troy's picture

In that case I retract the aforementioned dreadful insult(which I was going to anyway).

Yes I was grumpy!

Most likely due in part to having worked 24 14 hour shifts in a row.  On the bright side of that coin I get four days off before hitting it hard again.  No excuse for that insult though, it was uncalled for so I will man up and take my lumps.  Truly sorry for that and I was contemplating the whole fiasco on the drive home.  I will see if I a tually get some time to answer the gun issue question you posed as well.  I do not have a "bone in that fight" like americans do but will see if I can add something of value.

figs

Damien Grant's picture

JT.

I told you to leave your red neck log cabin. I did not call you a red neck hillbilly.

The distinction is subtle I admit but my urging of you to leave the log cabin was a desire for you to open your mind to the possibility that your thinking was being bound.

I did call you a liar for misrepresenting us UK violence data though. To be fair, you had and deserved to be called on it.

I take back my rude remark, Richard

Tom Burroughes's picture

Richard, I was rude to you earlier on this thread - maybe I was "pre-determined" to lash out when you trotted out that demonic possession routine of yours (give it a miss for goodness sake). I am still not happy about that sort of nonsense, but my rudeness was wrong. Apologies.

Introspection is a form of perception

Tom Burroughes's picture

"I would like to see a single argument for rejecting introspective evidence in favor of the other senses, because any argument against the validity of introspection might be applied, ipso facto, to sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. In other words, I maintain that introspective evidence is just as good (and no more subjective) than any other sort of empirical evidence. And it is not the place of science to determine that our perceptions are fundamentally in error, but rather to develop a consistent explanation of all of our observations. Of course, if an experiment comes out one way a thousand times, and a different way once, then the scientist will rationally conclude that there was problem a problem in the experiment. But our observation of our mental freedom is not an occasional fluke, but an empirical fact as repeatedly and continuously confirmed as the existence of the external world itself."

Bryan Caplan.

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/l...

Look it is not my fault your

Jules Troy's picture

Look it is not my fault your dick stopped working 30 years ago that is the only thing that has the sting of a kittens paw here, and no it was you that started it when you called me a backwoods redneck hillybilly.

Bye

 

Ah yes

Damien Grant's picture

Telling me to fuck off!

The kick in your verbal whip, it has all the sting of a kitten's paw.

The abuse started with you, JT. You are merely annoyed that I threw it back at your face.

Leonard was a gentleman. I suffer no such limitations.

That

Jules Troy's picture

That would  be too insulting to the French!(snickers). Also I was not making fun of you.

I actually preferred to debate with Leonid, he at least was consistent and on most things other than Islam he was far superior to the determinist crap you dish out minus the unearned air of superiority you so tightly cling to.(I enjoyed his conversations with Fred Seddon, I don't  miss the Islam talks).  Anyways fuck off, or better yet I will fuck off (at least from responding to you further as you are a waste of bandwidth.)

Damian, you made the point

Tom Burroughes's picture

Damian, you made the point about Objectivists sharing the views of Catholics to suggest the former were irrational, and I pointed out that other secular thinkers have supported free will, so the point you make loses its force when that happens.

You claim advocates of free will must prove their case. The evidence for volition I have pointed to thus far (introspection, the evidence all around us that people choose between different courses of action all the time, form concepts, think of plans and change them) has had no impact whatsoever on your views so I don't intend to pursue it unless you want to come back on the links provided and continue it there.

Update: "Touch a hot plate and try and work out how much free will is involved in pulling your hand away."

That is easy to deal with. My friend Kevin Macfarlane again: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/l...

For example, suppose I accidentally burn my hand with hot
water. Then my immediate reaction is to withdraw it. I am conscious of the pain and I am conscious of my response.
Yet, under these circumstances, I clearly have no control over my behaviour. Thus there certainly can be conscious
behaviour that is not free. But suppose that I know in advance that I am going to be burned. I could then choose to
leave my hand under the hot water (as an exercise in pain resistance) or I could choose not to. But if all behaviour is
supposed to be completely specified by biological and environmental factors it is difficult to see how my response can
be anything other than the conscious and automatic one."

I like what Nick Dykes says here: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/l...

Richard, no, I am not a

Tom Burroughes's picture

Richard, no, I am not a compatibilist, at least as far as I understand the term. Didn't you actually criticise Daniel Dennett as such the other day? (I might be wrong about that.)

As far as I can see, and agree with the author of this - http://www.philosophyinaction.... - compatibilism does not retain the key point that we could have chosen differently than we did. It is a good paper on the issue, I think.

Oh...jt

Damien Grant's picture

And yes I am a prick, but mostly just to you.

Sorry, I did not notice. I will pay more attention going forward.

Israel does not have a peace treaty with Syria.

I never said Islam was a religion of peace. You distort what I say and then attack the distortion (which is why I treat you with distain.) Why not make fun of me for being French? It would make as much sense and it would be easier for you.

 

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

"These discoveries about how our brains work can also explain how free will works rather than explaining it away. But first, we need to define free will in a more reasonable and useful way. Many philosophers, including me, understand free will as a set of capacities for imagining future courses of action, deliberating about one’s reasons for choosing them, planning one’s actions in light of this deliberation and controlling actions in the face of competing desires. We act of our own free will to the extent that we have the opportunity to exercise these capacities, without unreasonable external or internal pressure. We are responsible for our actions roughly to the extent that we possess these capacities and we have opportunities to exercise them."

"Our studies suggest that people sometimes misunderstand determinism to mean that we are somehow cut out of this causal chain leading to our actions. People are threatened by a possibility I call “bypassing” — the idea that our actions are caused in ways that bypass our conscious deliberations and decisions. So, if people mistakenly take causal determinism to mean that everything that happens is inevitable no matter what you think or try to do, then they conclude that we have no free will. Or if determinism is presented in a way that suggests all our decisions are just chemical reactions, they take that to mean that our conscious thinking is bypassed in such a way that we lack free will."

"Even if neuroscience and psychology were in a position to establish the truth of determinism — a job better left for physics — this would not establish bypassing. As long as people understand that discoveries about how our brains work do not mean that what we think or try to do makes no difference to what happens, then their belief in free will is preserved. What matters to people is that we have the capacities for conscious deliberation and self-control that I’ve suggested we identify with free will.

Do you agree?

If you do, then you are a compatibilist like me.

Welcome to the club. Smiling

d

Damien Grant's picture

delete

Tom.

Damien Grant's picture

You would have to be exceptionally ignorant to think that only Objectivists and Catholics believed in free will. I was making the point that the Objectivists share a belief system with Catholics.

I was surprised when you called me on it. I assumed you would not think that I am exceptionally ignorant.

You are right, that the determinist view is internally consistent and hard to refute. But it is also consistent with the universe that we observe. Your belief in free will forces us to ascribe to the known universe something extra that is not demonstratively observed.

This does not mean you are wrong, but it does mean that the proponents of free will must prove their case. It is the same with religion.

The default scientific view must be that there is no god as there is no explicit evidence. The burden is on those advocating religion to demonstrate that their god exists.

I have yet to read the latest links you provided, I will do so in the next day and respond more fully.

Israel burn?

Jules Troy's picture

That was a pretty lame burn, more of a non sequitur.  Speaking of Israel did you see the latest?  Air strikes against a weapons column on the Syrian/Lebanon border.  I guess Israel figures the large cache of chemical weapons were better left in pieces than in the "religion of peace's" hands.

And yes I am a prick, but mostly just to you.

How is it that such a blatant statist can call himself a libertarian never ceases to make me laugh..just sayin.

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Tom Burroughes's picture

Damian, if you were being flippant, how can I tell if anything else you have written here is also meant seriously? In fact, I dislike it when people say "oh, I was only joking"....Just say what you mean and mean what you say so we don't waste time.

On more substantive points, you keep repeating this notion that the choices that are being described here are, in the final analysis, not really "choices" at all. There is a problem for you, though. Your reductionist materialism is a closed system. It explains things by explaining things away, as the guy I linked to explained.

Your worldview is unfalsifiable: no matter how much evidence anyone provides for volition (such as introspection, empirical evidence, the capacity for people to make and form plans and think about how they think, form concepts, focus on things, etc), you can just respond: "it was determined". But a theory that can never, ever be falsified is not scientific (for all his occasional errors, Sir Karl Popper got that right).

"you are a prick"

Damien Grant's picture

Said the naked emperor.

If you are grumpy about the Israel burn I understand. It was some of my best work.

Oh?

Jules Troy's picture

That you are a prick? Pretty obvious....

burn

Damien Grant's picture

No doubt you did, but it does not mean that you were not pre-determined to do so.

Also proves some other things I'd thought, but we will not go there.

When I was younger

Jules Troy's picture

I had a bet with a man for 1000 bucks.  We dropped a cigarette between our arms.  Who ever pulled away or crushed the cigarette first lost.   About 4 minutes later I won.  (Left a pretty big scar).  I chose freely to do that .

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

"These discoveries about how our brains work can also explain how free will works rather than explaining it away. But first, we need to define free will in a more reasonable and useful way. Many philosophers, including me, understand free will as a set of capacities for imagining future courses of action, deliberating about one’s reasons for choosing them, planning one’s actions in light of this deliberation and controlling actions in the face of competing desires. We act of our own free will to the extent that we have the opportunity to exercise these capacities, without unreasonable external or internal pressure. We are responsible for our actions roughly to the extent that we possess these capacities and we have opportunities to exercise them."

"Our studies suggest that people sometimes misunderstand determinism to mean that we are somehow cut out of this causal chain leading to our actions. People are threatened by a possibility I call “bypassing” — the idea that our actions are caused in ways that bypass our conscious deliberations and decisions. So, if people mistakenly take causal determinism to mean that everything that happens is inevitable no matter what you think or try to do, then they conclude that we have no free will. Or if determinism is presented in a way that suggests all our decisions are just chemical reactions, they take that to mean that our conscious thinking is bypassed in such a way that we lack free will."

"Even if neuroscience and psychology were in a position to establish the truth of determinism — a job better left for physics — this would not establish bypassing. As long as people understand that discoveries about how our brains work do not mean that what we think or try to do makes no difference to what happens, then their belief in free will is preserved. What matters to people is that we have the capacities for conscious deliberation and self-control that I’ve suggested we identify with free will.

I agree.

um

Damien Grant's picture

I do not know the answer to that.

However, I see no reason why you could not construct the actual thoughts if you could work out what molecules did what. But to the question, can the ideas be explained by atoms moving about. Yes. Almost certainly impossible from a ppracticable sense, but in theory, yes.

I think that the burden of proof here lies with those advocating free will.

The deterministic approach should be the default.

Touch a hot plate and try and work out how much free will is involved in pulling your hand away.

Then do you believe that the

Callum McPetrie's picture

Then do you believe that the intentional content of thoughts (what the thought is about) can be explained entirely in terms of physical processes? Do you believe that we will someday be able to know that someone is thinking that "existence exists", simply by looking at a brainscan?

bold?

Damien Grant's picture

Actually, Callum, I think to claim otherwise is bold. There is no evidence of anything else.

To answer your question, I think that the answer is yes. The caveat I would add is that you would need to understand what causes movement at the quantum level, which I understand are believed to be random.

If movements at the subatomic level is actually random, (and not merely not-understood, man has a habit of attributing to magic things he does not understand) then as these random movements work up the chain they are likely to affect molecules etc and eventually mean that the future could not be predicted.

Even in this scenario, however, it is not possible for these random movements to free the human mind from the physical laws acting on the atoms of the brain.

"We are made of atoms that

Callum McPetrie's picture

"We are made of atoms that follow the laws of nature. Everything we do can be expanded from that. "

A bold claim, Damien. Do you believe, therefore, that it is at least theoretically possible that the rest of human existence from hereon in could be predicted with 100% accuracy?

A question for free will advocates

Damien Grant's picture

1) Is the universe, as we observe it, including the decisions being made by humans, consistent with all such things in the universe, including human decisions, being controlled only by the laws of nature?

2) Is there something special in human decisions that you think demonstrates that there is something else acting?

Tom

Damien Grant's picture

I was being flippant when I said "Catholics and objectvists". I do understand that the free will belief is widely subscribed to.

Jules

Damien Grant's picture

Israel has about a million law abiding Muslim citizens. Peace treaties with two Muslim nations and they actively work with the Palestinian authority to control and arrest jihadists. I think they already know.

Goblian garbage

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I note that Goblianity's chief shill here is now saying, to some one or other:

Free will is physically impossible.

Stop trying to fake reality.

Note that, by his own darks, he cannot help saying "free will is impossible," so we may discount his dribble to that effect.

Note also, he elsewhere claims that free will is physically possible to robots. A true sign of militant moronry.

Note as well that he's enjoining someone to stop doing something. That injunction assumes that that someone has a choice in the matter.

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.

One doesn't need to read screeds by Hsieh of Hsiekovian fatwa and "homosexuality is unfortunate and sub-optimal" notoriety to know that the Goblian position on free will is garbage. That includes the official Goblian view, in whose defence I thought Rosie might be slightly more energetic, as well as BAG Baade's unorthodox view (for which, of course, he'll go to Hell. I'm so glad I won't be there. Listening to his droning and never being listened to in return would be Hell enough, even without the flames).

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