So that’s paradise? »« Lonely broken-hearted creationists

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  1. KG says

    So it’s not that we don’t have free will; it’s that the concept makes no sense. – Antiochus Epiphanes

    It does makes sense. We just have to look at how the concept is used outside philosophical discussion – primarily, in courts and tribunals, and in our everyday moral judgements of others. We (wholly or partially) excuse people we would otherwise condemn if they were acting under duress, or when insane, or sleepwalking, etc., or if they lack the mental capacity to do otherwise (being infants, or demented, or learning disabled). Even those who believe in free-will as some sort of magical “agent causation” do this – so all we have to do is drop the latter belief, which serves no function. As so often, a good dose of Dennett is the cure for confusion – in this case, Freedom Evolves.

  2. says

    Freewill is basically a brain in a vat question to me. Once I realized there’s no difference between a world that is and isn’t like that it got very very VERY boring; despite the fact that ti was such an important topic before hand.

    So I can understand some people arguing it, but it honestly couldn’t be more pointless to me.

  3. Emrysmyrddin says

    Sigh. I don’t think that Twitter is the right place for trying to point out that people need to examine their beliefs. I barely use it and it flummoxes me through sheer disuse.

  4. Dhorvath, OM says

    Theophontes,
    That you had a program for determining your initial route suggest that some portion could have been predetermined: if mental processes unfold in a determined fashion with no randomness involved, but one you started flipping that would break down.
    I would clarify that I don’t think the universe is a wind up clock, our physical environment pretty nearly required the formation of stars, galaxies and eventually planets, but your going for a ride being destined seems a stretch given how much probability plays a role in our understanding of the world.

  5. andyo says

    Rey Fox,

    Not exactly representative samples.

    Of course, but reasons not to hate the man nonetheless. I’m just surprised at how much hate the guy gets sometimes, he seems ranging from innocuous to goofy-funny to me, as a celebrity.

  6. says

    Not true. The Dutch also deal in metric pounds (500 grams). And “ounces” too.

    (Does little jig, pretending to have caught out teh great Marjanović.)

    In China, a pound 斤 is 500g too, while in Taiwan it is 600g like in Japan.

    According to Wikipedia, many countries use pound in the metric way, so I’m puzzled why David had to emphasise the German use?

    In German the term is Pfund, in French livre, in Dutch pond, in Spanish and Portuguese libra, in Italian libbra, and in Danish and Swedish pund.

    (though the Swedish pound seems to be 425)

  7. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Andyo: I’m not sure I can say I ‘hate’ adam sandler. I mean, if I met the guy somehow I’m sure I’d feel no particular urge to punch him in the throat. We might even converse about something, if there’s anything in the world I could think of to converse about with Adam Sandler.

    I loathe the dumbshit manchild asswipe stupid annoying loud characters he plays in most of his movies. Granted, this could easily be the fault of the writers rather than the man.

  8. says

    Good evening

    Wow the comments on the Siri articles are so predictable. “Just buy another phone”.

    My favourite one is “first world problem”.
    It translates as “I, by the virtue of a penis, hereby declare this to be a non-issue. I’ll hardly ever need any of those services. Siri tells me where to get viagra and find a prostitute, so everything is fine.”

    Sure, problems with an Iphone only affect people who are extremely privileged anyway, but the phenomenon that it seems to exercise a kind of women-only, abstinence-only censorship is part of a bigger problem.

    ——-
    metric pound
    Do other people also have a neat little symbol for it that most younger people can’t read?

  9. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    KG: Sure. I was thinking primarily in the pointy-headed, rather than practical sense, which I would simply prefer to call “intent”, since that is the standard legal usage.

    I was under the impression that Walton was also talking about the pointy-headed concept as well. I admit that I haven’t read much Dennett.

    Or are we conflating these all over the place?

  10. walton says

    Antiochus:

    From my perspective, free will isn’t a coherent concept unless one accepts dualism…which I do not. I am not in control of my thoughts and actions, but I am my thoughts and actions. I’m not driving the meat car. I am the meat car.
    So it’s not that we don’t have free will; it’s that the concept makes no sense.

    I agree with you that, if one rejects mind-body dualism, the concept of free will is incoherent and meaningless. (Indeed, you just more-or-less summarized my own reason for arguing that free will does not and cannot exist.) And of course you can add that dualism is itself a fairly meaningless position – we have no meaningful working definition of a “soul” or “spirit”, and thus no way of telling whether such a thing does or could exist – and I’d agree with you.

    But what I think you’re missing is that dualism is a position which is very powerful and intuitive for many people, and which has been the norm in our culture for centuries. (Consider the prevalence of belief in “life after death”, ghosts, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences and so forth, ideas which are simply impossible and incoherent without an assumption of dualism.)

    And consider also that even people who consciously reject dualism, such as almost everyone here, often find themselves unconsciously falling into dualist assumptions and habits of thought. For instance, as I’ve highlighted, even among atheists and materialists, one often encounters people talking about some people being “evil” or “bad”, some people “deserving” reward and others “deserving” punishment, people “choosing” between good and evil paths, people being more or less “to blame” for their behaviour, and so on. (I can point you to plenty of examples on past incarnations of the Thread.)

    My argument is that all of these concepts rest on an implicit assumption of free will – that is to say, an assumption that the “self” is something separate from the physical brain, and that a person can therefore “choose” to be something other than what hir brain chemistry and psychological conditioning have made hir – and, therefore, rest implicitly on dualism. These views are very ingrained in our culture precisely because dualism has historically been widely-accepted in our culture. And we need to recognize that the idea that some people “choose” to do “good”, while others “choose” to do “evil”, is a legacy of dualism and is not sustainable in a non-dualist worldview.

    In reality, how we think and how we behave is a consequence of how our brains are wired. None of us are bad, none of us are good, and none of us “deserve” credit or blame for being who we are; we’re just drawn that way. And that, for me, is actually a very powerful and paradigm-shifting idea.

  11. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Walton:

    I think like a dualist myself all the time, so, um yeah.

    My argument is that all of these concepts rest on an implicit assumption of free will – that is to say, an assumption that the “self” is something separate from the physical brain, and that a person can therefore “choose” to be something other than what hir brain chemistry and psychological conditioning have made hir – and, therefore, rest implicitly on dualism.

    I don’t think that the concept of “choice” requires a dualist-type concept of free will. Choice can be built into computer algorithms. However, my original point is that it is strange to urge people to make the “choice” not to condemn others because those people are simply behaving as an algorithm. It presupposes that those in the position to judge have the freedom to choose their behavior in a way that those being condemned don’t.*

    But maybe you can’t help it. ;)

    *I can’t even avoid dualist language…your first point is well taken.

  12. says

    Walton,
    I will still disagree that knowing if free will exists or not will affect how I interact with people. It just isn’t that important to me because ultimately, knowing the answer isn’t going to change how I act. I righteous deeds because I want to and because it’s leaves in impact on the world. I know it sounds primal and simplistic, but as I stated before I don’t pretend that it isn’t. To me, I would rather be satisfied with the outcome of my action and living morally than to be stuck in some existentialist discourse.
    Or a simpler version: If there is free will, I’m still going to try to be a good person. If there isn’t free will, I’m still going to try to be a good person. For me, the outcome of the question is the same either way, so I don’t need to bother myself with existentialism.

  13. says

    Ogvorbis, I hope you didn’t feel I was mocking you. I checked my comments (#229 #258 #269) again to recall my intentions. The fun I was having in the second was to take your question as something I could more easily answer, with some consequences I’m aware of. As I said in the end, it’s a good and hard question as you worded it. Having no obvious handles on it, the temptation is to try to make it mean something else.

  14. walton says

    However, my original point is that it is strange to urge people to make the “choice” not to condemn others because those people are simply behaving as an algorithm.

    Sure. But as I said, the fact that we don’t have free will doesn’t mean that our responses can’t be changed by conditioning, just as one can change a computer’s responses by changing the programming or the input. By pointing out frequently in these discussions that we have no free will, therefore, I hope – perhaps in vain – that I can condition other people, or at least those other people who consciously reject dualism, to realize that the language they are using to condemn others rests on intellectually-unsustainable assumptions.

    Or a simpler version: If there is free will, I’m still going to try to be a good person. If there isn’t free will, I’m still going to try to be a good person. For me, the outcome of the question is the same either way, so I don’t need to bother myself with existentialism.

    But do you think that you can classify other people as “good people” or “bad people”? Do you think that some people are more “deserving” than others? Do you think that it matters whether a person is “to blame” for the harm xe causes to others? Indeed, do you think that the concept of “blameworthiness” or “fault” is meaningful or coherent? I’m not asking these questions rhetorically; I’m interested in where you stand on this. I’d say that one can’t engage with a whole host of debates about justice and ethics without having an answer to this question, and I’d also say that the answer depends, in part, on whether or not we have free will (though this is not the only step in the analysis).

  15. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Having no obvious handles on it, the temptation is to try to make it mean something else.

    Which shows why I should try (failing at that, I might add) to stay out of it since I cannot even format a coherent question. And I appreciate the explanation. I did feel I was being mocked but your explanation shows that, once again, I was wrong. Sorry.

  16. says

    But do you think that you can classify other people as “good people” or “bad people”? Do you think that some people are more “deserving” than others? Do you think that it matters whether a person is “to blame” for the harm xe causes to others? Indeed, do you think that the concept of “blameworthiness” or “fault” is meaningful or coherent?

    Gosh Walton. You make it look like I think the world is black and white, or something like that. >.>

    I’d say that one can’t engage with a whole host of debates about justice and ethics without having an answer to this question, and I’d also say that the answer depends, in part, on whether or not we have free will (though this is not the only step in the analysis).

    This is where we differ. I don’t see that question as important at all, yet I realize that concept of justice and ethics are very complex.

  17. Pteryxx says

    “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

    –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  18. Crudely Wrott says

    Some years ago I lost an argument with a one ton pickup truck. It ran over my left foot and lower leg. Days of intense pain ensued, followed by weeks of recuperation. During that time I was lame.

    For the several days I was constrained to a minimum of movement. During the following weeks I got good at hopping with my right leg at home and using crutches abroad. I could not motivate normally. I was lame. As far as that goes, my ability to exercise normal motion was crippled.

    To be clear, it was my lower left extremity that was lame. My conscious self, that which I am pleased to call myself, was, in fact, quite healthy and capable of treating the injury. It, that is, I, was not lame but was most certainly encumbered by lame parts. I couldn’t walk normally. In that respect I was crippled.

    I had no problem at all telling others that I was lame nor was it anything but a rational observation when others noted that I’d gotten crippled up. The distinction between my left leg and my conscious self was a given and use of the terms carried no extraneous baggage. Use of the terms was a simple statement of fact. That is, I had a bum leg. It was injured and could not perform in a normal fashion.

    In all that time not one single person suggested that because of my gamy leg I was less of a person. Had anyone done so I would have laughed and pointed at them, informing as many others as possible in the process. Not because they were insensitive but because they didn’t know how to use their native language and were thereby more limited (lame, crippled) than I.

    Perhaps my skin is a bit thicker than that of some others but for the life of me I cannot understand why these words ignite such prolonged argument. Disregarding other words that are demonstrably intended to offend, (ya’ll know the ones) to pursue the minute permutations of “lame” or “cripple” seems a fools errand if not an unhealthy fixation.

    I’m honestly expecting to be taken to task for my words by some and I find that sorrowful and disappointing. I hope I’m worrying unnecessarily. In my defense I say that infirm conditions that are met knowingly and deliberately by those who are so afflicted actually do more to exemplify human strength and ability than does the prowess of those who’s lack of infirmity exemplifies theirs.

  19. says

    Alethea,

    A photon is actually a quantum particle, and we have receptors for photons. Even where neurochemistry doesn’t get to obvious quantum effects, such as with emissions of larger molecules, it’s still chemistry, not mechanics that’s the model. And chemistry is just applied quantum mechanics. (Seriously, atomic bonding is all about the electron orbitals.)

    Of course. But when I look at a solid-color wall, I’m not noticing those few photons which are arriving with a different energy than their neighbors.

    In my head I have accidentally classified everything which I can adequately model without uncertainty or relativity as “old shit” and thus Newtonian. Obviously the latter is wrong, and I’m quite embarrassed to have classified as such even simple things that I once understood so well.

    What I’m wanting to say is that within the great seas of quanta, such as we receive with sight, the effects of randomness are generally drowned out. Of course I’ve mangled this. It’s been too long.

  20. walton says

    Gosh Walton. You make it look like I think the world is black and white, or something like that. >.>

    Well, I didn’t mean to convey any such impression, and I apologize if I did so. I can’t remember your making any statements on any of those issues with which I disagreed, so I’m not accusing you of being wrong about hem.

    Rather, my point is that it isn’t possible to debate justice and ethics without addressing concepts like “moral desert”, “blame”, “personal responsibility”, and so on. These are all ideas that are very ingrained in many people’s worldviews, and that come up in discussions everywhere, from legislatures to Internet forums to the local pub, about issues like crime and punishment, social and economic justice, equality, and so forth. In political debate, people talk all the time about others “deserving” this or that; they allocate blame according to whether a person is believed to have “chosen” to do harm, and whether xe did so with deliberate foresight or merely out of ineptitude or pure accident; they demand that people take “responsibility” for the consequences of their actions; and so on. The question of free will, whether or not it is ever articulated or made explicit, runs like a silver thread through the entirety of this debate.

    Don’t get me wrong. Deciding whether or not we have free will does not, on its own, answer any of these questions; it doesn’t tell us how much the rich should be taxed, whether people should be imprisoned, who should be held accountable for what and in what ways, or what kind of social or economic order we should have. But if there is no free will, it has implications for the arguments one can and cannot use, and it certainly has implications for the kinds of moral language we can use and the assumptions which underlie it.

  21. says

    In my head I have accidentally classified everything which I can adequately model without uncertainty or relativity as “old shit”

    Or perhaps it’s classified as “not the weird shit.”

    I believe that some people conceptualize photons interfering with themselves, the spontaneity of single-atom decay, and length contraction, as approximately magic. I know I do, even when I could do all the math. I can still feel comfortable in the presence of Lorentz factors, but time dilation is too counterintuitive to handle the way I map a route to the fridge.

    So what I want is some term that encompasses “all those things which I do not implicitly believe are magic.”

  22. John Morales says

    Walton:

    But do you think that you can classify other people as “good people” or “bad people”? Do you think that some people are more “deserving” than others? Do you think that it matters whether a person is “to blame” for the harm xe causes to others? Indeed, do you think that the concept of “blameworthiness” or “fault” is meaningful or coherent?

    For myself, yes, yes, yes and yes.

  23. walton says

    Btw, Gyeong: I’m really sorry if I came across as attacking you. I honestly didn’t mean to.

    (I’m trying to juggle this discussion with the ton of work I have to do today, hence why I’m not communicating as well as I’d like.)

  24. says

    Ogvorbis,

    Which shows why I should try (failing at that, I might add) to stay out of it since I cannot even format a coherent question.

    It’s a coherent enough question that the serious philosopher types tangle with it. It’s one of those that is usually regarded as too hard, thanks, let’s work on something else. Whether the question is meaningful or not is itself a topic of much debate.

    Note that consciousness razor, braver than I, tried to take it on the hard way at 281. I say that if it can elicit that much of an attempt, it’s not a bad question.

  25. walton says

    John,

    For myself, yes, yes, yes and yes.

    Oh. Are you a dualist?

    If not, how would you rebut the arguments I have made on the subject?

  26. says

    So, the advent calendars are hanging, things are ready for tomorrow.
    I’ll give them a war on christmas, I’ll celebrate the hell out of it, all the good parts, no church service!

    ——-

    Sure. But as I said, the fact that we don’t have free will doesn’t mean that our responses can’t be changed by conditioning, just as one can change a computer’s responses by changing the programming or the input.

    If I get you correctly, saying I’m making an argument to convince you of an idea is just another way of adding drops of acid to a solution in hope that one day one last drop will turn the litmus red.
    Seems indistinguishable to me from arguing and trying to find the right words.

    My problem I have is: it’s turtles all the way down.
    Somehow.
    If you take it to the extreme, there never was for me the possibility not to write this.
    There never was the possibility of me not existing.
    Does it mean that chance and probability also don’t exist at all?
    One of the advent calendars just fell off the wall again. I agree that this was bound to happen due to the circumstances. The adhesive powers obviously weren’t strong enough to hold the fucking thing in it’s place. But was this bound to have happened from the big bang onwards?

  27. John Morales says

    But if there is no free will, it has implications for the arguments one can and cannot use, and it certainly has implications for the kinds of moral language we can use and the assumptions which underlie it.

    I refer you to my #218 and KG’s #501.

    My argument is that all of these concepts rest on an implicit assumption of free will – that is to say, an assumption that the “self” is something separate from the physical brain, and that a person can therefore “choose” to be something other than what hir brain chemistry and psychological conditioning have made hir – and, therefore, rest implicitly on dualism.

    What difference whether it’s a mystical homunculus or a physical brain making people do stuff?

    (Whether they can’t choose to do other than what the homunculus makes them do, or they can’t choose to do other than what their brain chemistry and psychological conditioning are essentially the same thing, except in regards to the entity that you are judging)

  28. consciousness razor says

    If there is free will, I’m still going to try to be a good person. If there isn’t free will, I’m still going to try to be a good person.

    Well, sure, because those don’t have much to do with one another. It’s also fine if you don’t particularly care what the answer is. Indeed, that would probably help you be more objective about it.

    However, even if you don’t really care about the free will argument itself, your answer to it almost certainly affects your view of the world in other ways, though you may not realize it. At least it doesn’t seem like you can just avoid the question entirely.

  29. John Morales says

    Walton,

    Oh. Are you a dualist?

    If not, how would you rebut the arguments I have made on the subject?

    No, I’m a monist, and see my previous.

  30. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    ahs and consciousness razor:

    I missed the #281 response.

    I have never argued that there are not influences, both outside and inside, that shape the decisions I make. Does this imply that, since I read up on vehicles and decided that an ’08/’09 Taurus (along with Honda Accord) was one of the vehicles on my short list because of room, appointments, brand loyalty, fuel mileage, size, comfort, and price, and then found one with good miles, that, since my decision was shaped by research, I did not make that decision of my own free will? This would imply (to me, at least) that the more one knows, the less free will one has.

    I am reminded of Larry Niven’s Protectors, a mature humanoid which, because of superintelligence, has no free will when it comes to defending his family.

    This is a version of free will with which I was previously unaware. And it really does not change my stand on how I view my behaviour and decision making.

    Sorry.

  31. Crudely Wrott says

    Thank you very much, Cicely! I was sweating it there for a while but then here you come making it better. ((hug))

    I suppose that I ought to take the notion further by noting that those people who are motivated by lame philosophies and poorly thought out assumptions, not to mention supernatural brainwashing, are, in fact, crippled.

    Not to the extent that they themselves are “cripples” but to the extent that is made clear by the meaning of GIGO. Inside these unfortunates dwells (lurks?) a fully functional human being. They just need the proper nudges.

    I frequently get the notion that I can be the nudger. In some percentage of those moments I do, in fact, nudge. Results so far are encouraging if not spectacular. I never expected any more than that.

  32. says

    Comrade Oppenheimer,

    Nor is anyone saying that rewards and punishments are necessarily ineffective as a means of changing a person’s behaviour. What determinism does mean is that there is no moral dimension to rewards or punishments; it makes no sense to suggest that anyone “deserves” a reward or punishment, any more than a lab rat “deserves” an electric shock for running the wrong way.

    We can still say that humans and other animals deserve to live well, just because they are conscious. Without regard for what anyone has done, we decide to attach a notion of original grace to every one of us. I believe this will be helpful for the purpose of elevation.

    This talk about the “state of the universe” (a phrase Rorschach introduced to the conversation)

    Turns out he got it from McGinn’s “state of the world”, which I introduced. I’m surprised that it turned out to be misleading. But it certainly did.

  33. John Morales says

    Gyeong: Goes back to shirtless workout while listing to clubbing music.

    Great. Now I have imagery in my mind’s eye.

    (I suppose I’d enjoy it, were I gay, instead of just being wistful)

  34. Crudely Wrott says

    While I still have some time I’d like to posit that we do have free will and the evidence is clearly seen simply by watching others and our selves.

    That our decisions are necessarily defined by the rules and limitations of the universe that we live in is sufficient to define the rules of the game.That we are even able to frame the question is sufficient to describe the boundaries of the playing field. All subsequent arguments are merely disputes over details which are indistinguishable from arguing with the referee. Who here argues thusly?

    At the time of the injury I mentioned in my comment #518, I made the decision to not go to a hospital or doctor. I made the decision while fairly weeping with pain but knowing that medics could do only diagnostics and then wait for the swelling (which was pronounced) to go down before doing actual medicine (save palliative doses of undesirable drugs). Having a working understanding of my own physiology I was able to diagnose simple fractures and tissue damage. The treatment of them was within my abilities. I consulted no one. It was not necessary.

    Today my left leg and foot work just like before even though there is a visual difference when compared to my right leg and foot which have suffered lesser and different traumas. And so it goes.

    All of these circumstances including the structure and function of the brain in my skull (and the skull and my leg and foot bones) are described, empowered and limited by the same rules that describe, empower and limit all the other parts of the universe that are not me.

    It can be argued that I made up my own mind, that is, exercised free will. Except that my decisions are circumscribed by the boundary lines that define the universe. Given that no other boundaries are accessible to me, it could be argued that my will was not free. Any such argument is merely a moving of air inasmuch as there are no referees and the out of bounds line does not move.

    So there. I win. =)
    Or do I?

  35. says

    I had a good day at work today. Most of it was manual data entry, (a method I chose because we’re under a deadline for abstract submission), but I had time after the manual part to write a MATLAB utility that takes most of the drudgery out of it. 1 copypasta instead of 16, and no jumping up and down thru parallel file trees.

    When they get more data, (why, yes, we are still collecting data that has to be analyzed for a submission deadline of Noon Friday, why do you ask?), I’ll rip thru it in single digit minutes. When I get time I’ll automate that part too.
    ++++++++++++++++
    On the way home I stopped at my local retailer of frosty libations and noticed 3 guys standing around a fancy, new SUV, peering in the windows. When I came out they were still standing around, peering thru the windows.

    I asked one fellow, “Did you lock your keys in the car?”

    He replied, “No, my dog did.”

    He had left his SUV unlocked with the keys in the ignition. His lovely, excitable dog, bouncing off the upholstery, windows and doors had managed to hit the power master lock. They were apparently trying to convince the dog to let them in.

    Tee hee.

  36. Crudely Wrott says

    It only cost a couple of dollars to have a spare key made and it costs nothing to keep that key in ones wallet.

    Did the owner have a wallet? If not I wonder why not.

    Simple things mean a lot.

    *doggone dogs*

  37. says

    An interlude from free will (replies to Ogvorbis are next on my stack).

    +++++
    I noticed Jonathan Turley on CNN last hour so I quit flipping channels:

    «There is an interesting lawsuit filed against the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., which stands accused of discriminating against a Muslim employee by barring him from serving an Israeli delegation — claiming a “national security exemption” for such religious and cultural discrimination. The man, Mohamed Arafi, was previously cleared in a security check with the FBI and handled other foreign guests, including dignitaries. He is of Arab ancestry. He is a naturalized citizen of Moroccan descent. I will be discussing the case today on CNN.

    The motion was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and claims that the Mandarin defended its actions as simply “following a mandate from the federal government regarding a matter of national security.” The hotel allegedly cited the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) as the cause for its discriminatory treatment.

    In the complaint below, the following scene is described:

    Ms. Escander stated to Boris, “Boris, Israel is here. You go up and get the dry cleaning for Mohamed.” Mr. Arafi was confused and asked for an explanation. Ms. Escander stated to Plaintiff, “You know the Israeli delegation is here. You cannot go on the 8th and 9th floor (to pick up or deliver laundry).” Plaintiff asked for further explanation. Ms. Escander stated, “You know how the Israelis are with Arabs and Muslims. It’s better if you just let Boris go.” Boris is of European and Caucasian descent. Boris was not employed in the dry cleaning department and retrieval and deliver of dry cleaning was not a part of his regular work duties.»

  38. Crudely Wrott says

    OT but welcomed here, I trust, comes this from MSNBC.

    Seems a fellow in Vermont has been making toasters that burn the face of UNOWHO on each slice of bread.

    The video features a Catholic priest who is asked if he would eat such a slice. He says that he would not.

    Why not, I wonder. After all, crackers!

  39. changeable moniker says

    @Sailor: “When I get time I’ll automate that part too.”

    Hooboy, I recognise that. Time-saving automation only works after you’ve done it the hard way once.

    The freewill/punishment subthread still leaves me confused what to do when my youngest draws on the walls.

    She’s chaotic but seems to have attractor poles of (pencil, wall, draw) and (run, ignore warning, graze knees). We’re still trying to work out if (Playdoh, ear, insert) was a one-off loop away from the regular path, or if we need to make a quasi-periodic appointment at the hospital.

  40. Crudely Wrott says

    . . .proximity switch with a ‘smart’ key. Ignition still won’t work with a standard key copy.

    Well. There’s your problem right there!

    The price of security is automatic locks. The price of automatic locks is, say, dogs.

  41. John Morales says

    Gyeong,

    However do you mean?

    Well… don’t let this go to your head, but the picture was akin to Bruce Lee.

    (I don’t picture you as bulky)

    PS yeah, I know your ethicity ain’t Chinese, and I very much suspect you’re not quite that buff — but you did ask! ;)

  42. crowepps says

    @ Walton

    Say one accepts that there is no free will, and therefore doesn’t define people as good or bad but instead as well socialized and poorly socialized (and dangerously mal-socialized). I’ve listened to the testimony of a great many people with comprehensively screwed up lives and almost uniformly (unless they blame it on alcohol or drugs) they explain that in the moment they could think of no other option than the incredibly stupid and damaging choices that turned out so badly for them.

    Of course, in hindsight, with time to consider things, they see all sorts of other things they could have done, but at time they didn’t waste a moment thinking. IMO that’s because most people live their lives on intellectual autopilot, driven by emotional reactions they’re not consciously aware of and the hope of getting someone’s approval, and rarely engage their brains to consider ‘what might happen next?’ Ironically, it seems like the ones most likely to be carefully considering the effect of their actions are the sociopaths, because it helps them victimize people.

    I don’t ‘blame’ people for being who they are and acting the way they do, but I don’t have great expectations. I don’t ‘blame’ the sociopaths either, or consider them ‘evil’ because they likely were damaged by child neglect or abuse. My job just exposes me to how many of them there are, and how much damage they can do. You’re willing to grant that society has a responsibility to contain the violent, but the nonviolent also cause damage: having some con man rip off your life savings can be devastating, and so can being exploited by a quack doctor or a religious huckster.

  43. Crudely Wrott says

    @ changeable moniker:

    Couldn’t you build her a wall of her own? Something free standing that would fit somewhere in her way with good lighting and portable. Maybe five foot wide and four foot high. If you do, include a place to put crayons and chalk and Sharpies. Someday she’ll thank you.

  44. says

    Walton, the best argument against having only judges, not juries, decide cases is jury nullification.

    This to an extent is recognized by higher courts, 3, 11, or 9.

    “”Do nine men interpret?” “Nine men,” I nod.”

  45. says

    John Morales

    PS yeah, I know your ethicity ain’t Chinese, and I very much suspect you’re not quite that buff — but you did ask! ;)

    Hey I’m working on it!

  46. Pteryxx says

    Meta aside:

    You’re willing to grant that society has a responsibility to contain the violent, but the nonviolent also cause damage:

    To clarify: I think I was the one that specified “violent” when I was talking about jail time, way up-TET. Nonviolent predators ought to be prevented from doing damage somehow, but I’m not sure that physical confinement’s the best way to control someone whose weapons are financial or social.

    Might be peripheral to the discussion, but there it is.

  47. says

    changeable moniker says:

    @Sailor: “When I get time I’ll automate that part too.”

    Hooboy, I recognise that. Time-saving automation only works after you’ve done it the hard way once.

    Yeah, right? A lot of times I hand over quick and dirty solutions to underlings who have to do the scut work.

    Golly do I clean that programming up when I have to do the scut work.

    Also, too, I really need to go back and document all my code … yeah, right, that’s gonna happen.

  48. changeable moniker says

    [meta: Crudely Wrott. Yeah, we have that, outside. Inside we have much paper. But indoor walls, tables, and wardrobes are just so much more exciting ;)]

  49. changeable moniker says

    @Sailor, butbutbut, if the code is *clean* it shouldn’t need documentation right? /sarc ;)

  50. Crudely Wrott says

    Every now and then science offers up something new to chew on. That is, something that requires rethinking. Having to think again is like chewing in a thoughtful and attentive fashion.

    Apropos:

    In the small study, published in the Journal of Texture Studies, British researchers tried to determine if a mouthwatering sensation exists in humans at the suggestion of food.

    There was another study on how chewing gum affects cognitive ability that I ran across earlier today but I forgot where I found it.

    Eh, ya got any gum?

  51. Crudely Wrott says

    But indoor walls, tables, and wardrobes are just so much more exciting ;)

    Yes. Yes they are. Remember?

  52. says

    ahs:

    I saw this on my way out the virtual door last night, and have been thinking about it all day. I confess I’m responding without having done more than a high-speed skim of the subsequent posts, and constructed most of my response in my head even before doing that.

    Try a restatement of Schopenhauer: we may do what we choose, but we may not choose what we choose.

    Do you disagree with that?

    It’s not so much a matter of disagreeing with it, as much as I can’t make any sense out of it: Every definition of choose that makes any sense to me involves the possibility of choosing otherwise. To the extent that “we may not choose what we choose” implies that every “choice” is predetermined, the very sense of choose/choice is negated, and the assertion that “we may do what we choose” becomes nonsensical.

    It seems to me that Schopenhauer’s formulation actually reduces to “we may do, but we may not choose.” That may be what you actually think — I think it is, but I’m cautious about assuming I correctly understand what anybody else thinks — but one of the things that’s puzzled me about this conversation has been that some seem to be going to some lengths not to deny the existence of functional choice, even while they do deny the existence of “free will.” Way back during my first ride on this merry-go-round, somebody (Jadehawk? I can’t be sure…) said to me something along the lines of, “Oh, don’t be stupid: Nobody’s saying you don’t have will, only that you don’t have free will.” I have struggled (ultimately unsuccessfully) to understand any nontrivial distinction between will and free will that renders that a cromulent utterance.

    The funny thing is that even the most remorseless determinists in the discussion can’t talk about why notions of choice, agency, and intentionality are false without using language that implicitly assumes that notions of choice, agency, and intentionality are true. That’s how deeply baked into human experience those notions are.

    I take it as axiomatic that the universe is completely materialistic in nature, and that it operates according to some set of physical laws, of which we have a reasonably detailed, but necessarily incomplete (to some necessarily unknown degree) understanding; I do not assert any metaphysical component to reality. OTOH, I experience my life entirely as a realm in which I have thoughts that I can consciously modify, and in which make choices/decisions that affect my own behavior. This experience is the only evidence I have, and the only evidence I can imagine having: As you have pointed out (if I’m understanding you correctly), it’s hard to see how we could know how having free will would feel different than not having it would.

    I get the problem: If the universe is materialistic and bound by physical law, how can it not be deterministic? And if the universe is deterministic, how can there be any space for true agency or effective choice? But while I recognize the paradox, I cannot but experience the world the way I experience it. It mystifies me… but saying that it mystifies me is not to say I’m asserting anything mystical: I have every confidence that whatever the answer is (and whether or not we ever know), it will be rooted in material reality and physical law.

    But, as I and others have said in various ways, if we can’t tell the difference between having free will and not, does it really matter? I cannot imagine any other way to live my life, nor any other basis for human societies to organize themselves, than to assume my choices are actual choices, and have actual effects, and that I am (and my fellow humans are) responsible for my choices, within constraints that we (I think) all recognize to some degree.

    If you’ll forgive me a somewhat “rangy”[1] metaphor….
    In the course of a long and wicked life, I’ve had more than one occasion (including one here, if my memory doesn’t deceive me) to discuss the “reality” of female orgasms in pornography. In mainstream, commercial porn, of course most orgasms are transparently fake, and probably most of the rest are somewhat less transparently fake as well (although, with a large enough number of people bumping the relevant parts together a large enough number of times, somebody’s bound to come now and then, of only by accident). There are, however, some niche providers of porn that promises genuine orgasms, and I’m aware of at least one women-operated, women-directed site that I, personally, believe actually delivers on that promise.

    But, of course, some refuse to believe that even those are unfaked, and at some point during these conversations, it occurred to me that if an orgasm is faked so perfectly that no viewer can tell the difference (a sort of erotic Turing test, eh?), then the truth of the case simply doesn’t matter.[2]

    So perhaps the pervasive, inescapable sense we humans have of agency and choice is the ultimate Perfect Porn Orgasm™: Whether it’s fake reality or real reality, we can’t know… but it gets us off (well, some of us; to each hir own…) just the same either way. ;^)

    ***
    [1] A favorite neologism of my wife’s, which she’s enlisted her friends and family to help spread; it’s contextually defined.

    [2] Of course, this is strictly from the perspective of a porn consumer, whose only connection to the event is images and sounds: I certainly don’t mean to suggest that the reality of orgasm doesn’t matter in the context of an actual interpersonal relationship.

  53. says

    (More distraction, bypassing my stack.)

    birgerjohansson said:

    NB! Required reading for Republicans!

    “Want to defeat a proposed public policy? Just label supporters as ‘extreme’”

    http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-11-defeat-policy-extreme.html

    Nelson, T. E., Gwiasda, G. and Lyons, J. (2011), Vilification and Values. Political Psychology, 32: 813–835. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9221.2011.00844.x

    Social values are an important foundation of political attitudes, yet political controversies often embody conflicts between values, placing the citizen in an awkward position of having to prioritize competing values. One strategy is to consider the groups that are symbolically associated with the competing values. Groups held in high esteem will enhance associated values; groups held in disregard will diminish associated values. Persuasive communicators exploit this process by assailing groups that have been publicly associated with certain issue positions or values as “extreme” or “radical.” Even if the group represents a consensus value like equal opportunity, the extremist label suggests the group’s agenda embodies an excessive and uncompromising imposition of this value. This article reports on four experiments that investigated how the extremist label can undermine support for a group’s position. We further examine how reputation affects judgments of value priorities.

    PDF forthcoming in next comment

  54. says

    Of course, in hindsight, with time to consider things, they see all sorts of other things they could have done, but at time they didn’t waste a moment thinking. IMO that’s because most people live their lives on intellectual autopilot, driven by emotional reactions they’re not consciously aware of and the hope of getting someone’s approval, and rarely engage their brains to consider ‘what might happen next?’ Ironically, it seems like the ones most likely to be carefully considering the effect of their actions are the sociopaths, because it helps them victimize people.

    I don’t ‘blame’ people for being who they are and acting the way they do, but I don’t have great expectations. I don’t ‘blame’ the sociopaths either, or consider them ‘evil’ because they likely were damaged by child neglect or abuse. My job just exposes me to how many of them there are, and how much damage they can do. You’re willing to grant that society has a responsibility to contain the violent, but the nonviolent also cause damage: having some con man rip off your life savings can be devastating, and so can being exploited by a quack doctor or a religious huckster.

    I think that comes back to my question about whether, in an ideal justice system, the con man should be treated as if he were a sociopath. There is a mental or emotional issue that could be treated to make him more well balanced.

  55. says

    And now for something completely different: I’ve just started reading (which really means listening to, as usual in my case) Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson (author of The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map), and already it’s touching on Darwin and the origins of life (yes, I know, and so does Johnson, that those are two subjects). The concepts seem intriguing so far, but I’m on guard against BS popular applications of otherwise legitimate science, and I’m aware of my lack of sufficient knowledge to evaluate the case Johnson is making. Has anyone here read the book? Any thoughts or guiding observations?

    Thanks in advance….

  56. walton says

    @ Walton

    Say one accepts that there is no free will, and therefore doesn’t define people as good or bad but instead as well socialized and poorly socialized (and dangerously mal-socialized). I’ve listened to the testimony of a great many people with comprehensively screwed up lives and almost uniformly (unless they blame it on alcohol or drugs) they explain that in the moment they could think of no other option than the incredibly stupid and damaging choices that turned out so badly for them.

    Of course, in hindsight, with time to consider things, they see all sorts of other things they could have done, but at time they didn’t waste a moment thinking. IMO that’s because most people live their lives on intellectual autopilot, driven by emotional reactions they’re not consciously aware of and the hope of getting someone’s approval, and rarely engage their brains to consider ‘what might happen next?’ Ironically, it seems like the ones most likely to be carefully considering the effect of their actions are the sociopaths, because it helps them victimize people.

    I don’t ‘blame’ people for being who they are and acting the way they do, but I don’t have great expectations. I don’t ‘blame’ the sociopaths either, or consider them ‘evil’ because they likely were damaged by child neglect or abuse.

    Yep, I’m entirely in agreement with you on all of that. (Though I’d add that socialization isn’t the only factor; pure biology also plays a role. Anecdotally, we can all think of people with very similar life experiences who have turned out very different, and whose brains simply work differently. It’s fair to say that one’s brain chemistry has an impact on one’s personality. Of course, the extent of the respective roles of nature and nurture is a scientific question, and a very hotly-debated one; I’m not really qualified to comment on that, and thus remain agnostic.)

    You’re willing to grant that society has a responsibility to contain the violent, but the nonviolent also cause damage: having some con man rip off your life savings can be devastating, and so can being exploited by a quack doctor or a religious huckster.

    Sure. But the practical difference is that it’s often possible to prevent the non-violent from reoffending without putting them in prison; there are often less coercive means which can protect the public from them. (Such as exposing their untruths; shutting down their businesses; ending their false advertising campaigns; and, where relevant, taking away their professional licences or certifications.)

    Prison for such people can only really be justified, if at all, as a deterrent; and I have serious doubts about its efficacy in that regard, although of course it’s hard to gather reliable evidence.

  57. Pteryxx says

    Walton:

    It’s fair to say that one’s brain chemistry has an impact on one’s personality. Of course, the extent of the respective roles of nature and nurture is a scientific question, and a very hotly-debated one; I’m not really qualified to comment on that, and thus remain agnostic.

    Basically, environment and brain chemistry feed back into each other. Learning a new skill, say, alters brain chemistry and structure, which makes the skill easier, and so forth. Something similar happens with social support, stress, or meditation. Anyway, that’s the thumbnail version. Personally I’m not convinced it’s useful to separate the two except in the broadest sense.

  58. Tethys says

    The brain is not the only part of me that has input into my decisions, it’s just the only part with language capabilities.

    Doesn’t matter, has nothing to do with any claim

    If your assertion that Lisbets experiments on brain activity are proof that free-will does not exist I do see it as relevant. Not all of your brain is in your brain, some of it is in the other organs of the body. Studying the brain will only give you part of the overall picture.

    IMO Lisbets experiment only shows that unconscious brain activity precedes conscious brain activity which leads to conscious physical movement. I do not need to think about autonomous body functions such as digestion, circulation, etc. I find that thinking about how to walk down stairs will result in me tripping and falling. I think spiders are cool, yet I will have a strong Eeeee get it off! reaction if I unexpectedly find a spider on my body. These are all survival reflexes so it only makes sense that they are much faster and happen without the need for any conscious decision making.

    Damasios work shows that damaging the part of the brain that processes emotion creates indecisiveness because the individual is no longer able to assign preference/value to any choice.

    Since we aren’t able to determine where consciousness comes from on a physical basis, and it is consciousness that arbitrates decision making, I find the idea that free will doesn’t exist to be presumptuous.

  59. changeable moniker says

    @ahs: Persuasive communicators exploit this process by assailing groups that have been publicly associated with certain issue positions or values as “extreme” or “radical.”

    Well, doesn’t that just make sense of:

    When did the GOP lose touch with reality

    (I think Frum’s wrong in his economics, FWIW. The sociology seems about right.)

  60. says

    Does anyone know how to teach Firefox to remember its window position (and size) ? Every friggin morning it opens up maximised, and I have to manually resize and move it. It’s 2011, bloody hell !

    *grump*

  61. says

    Arrgh!! I hate, hate, HATE this. Not only is it horrific on its face, in the way every instance of child sexual abuse is horrific, but I fear it will inevitably be used by homophobes to attack gay marriage and gay adoption rights.

    Of course, the correct message to take from this is not that gay men are uniquely monstrous, but that gay men are just men, no more or less likely to be monstrous than any of the rest of us. But do I trust my fellow Connecticutians to take the correct message…?

    This, on the other hand, I love. It’s useful to remember that people don’t all suck.

  62. Mr. Fire says

    This, on the other hand, I love.

    Holy crap, Bill D. I specifically dragged my lazy ass onto Pharyngula just to post this speech, and here you are beating me to the punch.

  63. says

    Ing:

    What you’re saying free will comes from the endocrine system? Which are very very clearly not free willed?

    I read Tethys’ comment as meaning that the brain system isn’t strictly limited to that conveniently globular thing inside the skull, but includes the spine and the rest of the nervous system, along with other biological systems that influence it.

    If I’m correct in that reading, the assertion wouldn’t bear directly on the free will/no free will question either way… but it would suggest that fMRI studies of the head might not tell the whole story of the physical bases of cognition.

  64. says

    The effects of randomness aren’t “drowned out”. The peak in the distribution IS the effect of randomness. It’s probabilistic, always. Sometimes it’s 99.99999% of the distribution in the central peak, which is an underestimate for the position of a macroscopic object because I can’t be bothered counting my 9s.

    When looking at the colour of a wall, there’s going to be a big smear that’s hard to find any peak, or perhaps a combination of multiple peaks (like star spectra) – it’s extremely unlikely to be one central peak. And our brains do clever things to combine the responses of the different kinds of photoreceptors and then label the overall effect as “white” or “green” or “turquoise”. (Not clever enough to do it consistently against different backgrounds, though.)

    Brains work with neurons and synapses, and those work with a binary ON or OFF state. And a single molecule being ionised or un-ionised can tip things past the threshold. Like the last grain that tilts the balance, or the butterfly wing making a storm; an apparently insignificant thing can flip a macro state change.

    (Again, not relevant to “free will”; it’s still physics even if the outcome is unpredictable. I just like physics. And statistics.)

  65. spyro says

    Is this the latest edition of TET? Thought I’d pretend to have manners, since I’m bored (and mostly dull) and do a vague ‘introduce myself’ kinda thing…

  66. Tethys says

    Ing

    What you’re saying free will comes from the endocrine system? Which are very very clearly not free willed?

    There are neurons in the digestive system and in the heart.
    The brain is a processing center that connects all the other parts of the system.

    I’m not making any presumptions about where freewill is located within the body. I am saying that studying brain activity only gives you data on one part of the overall system.

    Where does consciousness come from is a question that currently does not have an answer.

  67. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Going from what Tethys said, and I know this is just anecdote and completely subjective, but I can definitely ‘feel’ some of my instincts and urges, if not my actual ‘thoughts’, emanating from my spinal cord rather than my brain. Does that makes sense to anyone?

  68. Tethys says

    @ Bill Dauphin

    You read my comment correctly, and stated it much more clearly than I did.

    Hi Spyro

    Welcome to TET. Pull up a barstool. Have some grog.

  69. Pteryxx says

    (yah TLC, I have at least three motivating critters in here somewhere and some of them communicate by feel.)

    Brains work with neurons and synapses, and those work with a binary ON or OFF state.

    *Technically, any given neuron is in firing state, ready state, or refractory state (unable to fire even when stimulated). /biologypedant

  70. spyro says

    @Tethys; cheers for grog; offers mead in exchange. Would normally be gung-ho for vodka (as is my current poison), but trying to be not-so-subtlely culturally relevant. Plus, tastes awesome.

    In an attempt to disgustingly ingratiate myself, let me add the aside of I only get close to cooking in the form of toast. And various forms of cake. Including cookies.

  71. John Morales says

    Tethys,

    I do not need to think about autonomous body functions such as digestion, circulation, etc.

    Just riffing, here, but I note that some of those functions can actually be consciously affected (most easily via biofeedback, but also via long assiduous practice (such as yogis undertake)).

    (Was just the other day that featured atheist anonymous brought up Wim Hof as a scientifically inexplicable mystery)

  72. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    I’m seriously considering attempting to make mead myself. I have a feeling it would be more difficult than my amateur ‘winemaking’ attempts (do I even get to call what I made ‘wine’, since no grapes were involved at all?)

  73. says

    Ogvorbis,

    Please note that I have never denied environmental or chemical constraints on free will. Having suffered from severe depression I really do know what chemical imbalances can do to the decision making process. And, having spent middle and high school in Appalachia, I am quite aware of cultural and economic constraints on free will.

    I’m going to argue against this for what I believe is a morally relevant reason.

    What you’re describing there are not relative constraints on free will. All of us, Bill Gates, Terry Schiavo, Charles Manson, and all the children living in poverty whose names we do not hear, we all have exactly the same amount of free will: none whatsoever.

    Those are certainly relative constraints on power and the ability to pursue one’s desires and goals. Not to be misunderstood: I’ve been given lots of unearned advantages; despite occasional impairments, I recognize that I’ve been very fortunate in life.

    But free will, as almost everyone understands it, implies that for at least one choice in the past, it was possible to have chosen to choose differently. No one can do this. It is impossible for everyone, including any God which might exist. On the measure of free will, all conscious beings in all possible worlds are completely equal in having none.

    For sure we need to talk about the sorts of issues you’ve brought up. But we should speak about them in ways that separate them from any potentially metaphysical concepts which readers might accidentally conflate. I think most of our uses of the term “free will”, including those you’ve used above, can be accurately replaced with opportunity, power, ability, privilege, and similar terms.

    I see grave danger when the mentally ill or cognitively impaired individual is imagined to be one with less or no free will among a society of others who have free will. Diminished capacity, at least, is not a metaphysical term, and if someone is noticed to be misusing it, everyone else can set the speaker on the right course, no matter what anyone’s opinions on metaphysics.

    +++++

    Does this imply that, since I read up on vehicles and decided that an ’08/’09 Taurus (along with Honda Accord) was one of the vehicles on my short list because of room, appointments, brand loyalty, fuel mileage, size, comfort, and price, and then found one with good miles, that, since my decision was shaped by research, I did not make that decision of my own free will?

    Yes, because you could not have chosen to choose otherwise than reading up on vehicles, assigning your particular importance to room, brand, mileage, price, et cetera.

    This would imply (to me, at least) that the more one knows, the less free will one has.

    It’s zero in any case. Someone else who didn’t do all that research instead tended toward a decision based on other factors, and could not have chosen to choose otherwise than assigning their particular importance to vehicle color, transmission, or type of chassis.

  74. spyro says

    The Laughing Coyote;
    No that’s whine…as in what you do before you fall off the barstool. Trust, I’m a connoisseur :)

  75. chigau (本当) says

    Hi spyro.
    Wanna talk about something other than freewill?
    It’s up to you, of course.

  76. Mr. Fire says

    Tangentially related: Triboluminescence.

    Remember that time in science class when your teacher got you to snap a Polo Mint (“Lifesaver” in the US) in the dark, and you saw a flash of light? Supposedly, those are individual photons.

  77. John Morales says

    Pteryxx,

    Brains work with neurons and synapses, and those work with a binary ON or OFF state.

    *Technically, any given neuron is in firing state, ready state, or refractory state (unable to fire even when stimulated). /biologypedant

    Yeah, but logically, the firing state represents ‘on’, and the other two represent ‘off’.

    (So you’re both right! Yay!)

  78. says

    And now for something completely different: I’ve just started reading (which really means listening to, as usual in my case) Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson (author of The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map), and already it’s touching on Darwin and the origins of life (yes, I know, and so does Johnson, that those are two subjects). The concepts seem intriguing so far, but I’m on guard against BS popular applications of otherwise legitimate science, and I’m aware of my lack of sufficient knowledge to evaluate the case Johnson is making. Has anyone here read the book? Any thoughts or guiding observations?

    I haven’t read the new one. I read the other two, and while I thought The Ghost Map had some fantastic points, it unraveled in the later sections (I think we may have talked about this in the past). The Invention of Air started unraveling from the start. I friggin’ hated that book. Terrible history. Found it infuriating. He’s sloppy at his best – needs a better editor…and a clue.

  79. Crudely Wrott says

    Is this the latest edition of TET? Thought I’d pretend to have manners, since I’m bored (and mostly dull) and do a vague ‘introduce myself’ kinda thing…

    Yes, this is the latest. You’ll notice that it is populated by people who have a habit of taking things seriously except when they don’t. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to discern which witch is which. Good luck, though you probably won’t need it.

    Never mind, it’s nice to meet you. Welcome.

    Oh, and here’s to your boredom. May it be gone.

    Now I have to go and return an unneeded USB cable, buy beer (Ice House; less than seven dollars per six sixteen ounce cans and right tasty), Camel nonfilter cigarettes (the original, often imitated, never duplicated and more expensive than the beer (I know I know, don’t rag me about smoking; I’d probably have some nastier habits without breathing concentrated pollutants) and get some chow and finish striping ugly yellow paint from book matched walnut veneer plywood on the chest of drawers I’m currently trying to rehab.

    Hope you find a comfortable seat. Please help yourself to leftover turkey chowder (or whatever is passing in memory of not Halal birds) grog, tea, sourdough bread and et cetera; keep a sharp lookout on your USB port, seeing as the damn thing is Universal.

  80. says

    This is the part that breaks my head:

    Those are certainly relative constraints on power and the ability to pursue one’s desires and goals….

    But free will, as almost everyone understands it, implies that for at least one choice in the past, it was possible to have chosen to choose differently.

    What could “power” or “pursu[ing] one’s desires and goals” possibly mean in the absence of the possibility of having chosen differently? Surely the appearance of power or pursuit of goals would, in that case, merely be an incidental side effect of one’s inevitable trip through the pachinko machine of existence, eh?

    We spend a lot of time and energy here holding people (including each other) accountable for what they/we choose to say and do… and then, sometimes, we spend a lot of time and energy convincing ourselves that it’s utterly pointless to imagine that’s possible.

    I think I need a martini now.

  81. John Morales says

    TLC,

    do I even get to call what I made ‘wine’, since no grapes were involved at all?)

    Yup, so long as you’re using fruit juice.

    (And, even then, you can probably get away with it: “Dandelion wine” (you gotta add sugar to the petals, but))

  82. says

    theophontes

    Was this a random walk cycle, or was I consciously guiding the process or was it all predetermined? Or a combination of these?

    It wasn’t random, since you had a rule; the amount of input from the conscious, narrative mind is unclear, though my useless opinion is that it’s not all epiphenomena; the degree of predetermination would depend on how much quantum uncertainty affects synaptic cascades, of which I’m unsure but understand the jury is still out.

    (What on earth inspired me to post this?)

    Probably your desire to participate in one of your preferred communities.

  83. spyro says

    Hey chigau (本当), dunno, thank fuck for copy + paste? Just trying to say hi, didn’t mean to interrupt conversation…much…I have had an almost sychophantic love (but obviously reserve the right to disagree with anyone in the harshest possible terms) for pharyngulates since reading the various feminist articles posted here – you guys have inspired me to not just agree with feminine thought, but to actually bother speaking up about it.

    I’m rubbish at science and critical thinking, but I’m trying to learn, I have mental issues which I’ve had no success at tackling, but at the very least the ability of thought and not being afraid of wrongness and humiliation (which ideally leads to learning) as shown here has made me cautiously optimistic. I won’t always post, but I tend to read, and you fuckers have given me a whole new insight into the world of insult :)

    P.s. I’m drunk. Not sure I care if there’s a conversation topic in there or not, I enjoy eavesdropping on conversations, ‘specially when they’re worth hearing.

  84. says

    Yeah, SC, we have discussed Johnson before, and I agree about The Ghost Map, though I found the first sections sufficiently compelling that I count it as a net positive. I don’t know enough from other sources about Priestly’s life to critique the historical accuracy of The Invention of Air, but I did find the narrative frustratingly disjointed. His earlier Mind Wide Open was much better, from a reader’s perspective… though there again, I’m not well equipped to call BS (if necessary) on the information presented.

    I stumbled upon Johnson’s blog some years ago after reading a review of Everything Bad Is Good for You (which, ironically, I still haven’t read) and followed him for a while, but I’ve lost track of that now.

  85. says

    (skipping some of my stack! will return in a moment.)

    What could “power” or “pursu[ing] one’s desires and goals” possibly mean in the absence of the possibility of having chosen differently?

    It means what Schopenhauer said: we may do what we choose, but we may not choose what we choose.

    All the modern compatibilists who understand what they’re saying mean this too, including Dennett; they just don’t like to talk about the past so much, because it weirds folks out.

    Toward the future, they’ll say the same thing I say: you’ll be able to pursue your desires and goals in accordance with your ability and constraints. That’s precisely all you’ll be able to do, but as Dennett puts it, that’s all you really want anyway.

  86. says

    Having suffered from severe depression I really do know what chemical imbalances

    Bleh.

    Oh, today I read David Kessler’s The End of Overeating.* If there were ever to be a book club, this would probably be a good choice…

    *Saw him this week on 60 Minutes, which I’ve come to hate but which still occasionally has something interesting, and thought it might be worthwhile, which it was.

  87. spyro says

    SC, can I get a clue about where mental illness starts coming up in this thread? Or is it an ongoing subject?

  88. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    John Morales:

    Yup, so long as you’re using fruit juice.

    OK, that qualifies the blackberry wine then.

    (And, even then, you can probably get away with it: “Dandelion wine” (you gotta add sugar to the petals, but))

    I’m told figs are actually a type of flower rather than a ‘fruit’ technically, but I added fruit to the must anyways (plums).

    In both batches, I added sugar. No precise measurements or anything, I just added till it ‘smelled right’. Smell is pretty much how I went about the whole thing.

  89. says

    Ing, here’s the comment.

    I don’t remember the discussion, but my view at the time is that that is the definition people are actually using for free will (which isn’t the contra-causal at all) without realizing it.

    I think you’re right. I was thinking last night about how clearly you’d articulated something that was so often going unstated. What you’ve got there is, I think, how people conceptualize their own self-efficacy.

    Since we’re all confused animals, all of us, we have some conflicting ideas about ourselves. I think you’ve found the concept which is usually active—and by itself, it’s not wrong; it could be the basis for a coherent compatibilism—although clearly, when I bring up the inability to have chosen to choose differently, this conflicts with some of their other expectations.

  90. walton says

    We spend a lot of time and energy here holding people (including each other) accountable for what they/we choose to say and do… and then, sometimes, we spend a lot of time and energy convincing ourselves that it’s utterly pointless to imagine that’s possible.

    I think you’re misunderstanding slightly. Which is my fault, because I haven’t made this clear; our language is so imbued with unexamined assumptions that it’s very difficult to express what I actually mean, and I’ve been using words like “accountable” and “choice” in different senses in different contexts.

    If we have no free will, it does not necessarily follow that “holding people accountable” is always pointless. People’s brains can be conditioned to react in certain ways by the use of rewards and punishments – just as a lab rat can be conditioned to run one way through a maze rather than another by the use of rewards and punishments. Given that humans are social animals, and that we generally derive pleasure from being praised and displeasure from being criticized, praising people for doing good and criticizing them for doing harm can be seen as a reward-punishment system, aimed at conditioning people to do good rather than harm. It’s a form of programming. It doesn’t rely on the assumption that we have free will, any more than my hypothetical lab rat or Pavlov’s dogs have free will. It simply relies on the assumption that brains are malleable, and that an animal can learn from its past experiences and change its responses so as to seek out pleasure and avoid pain.

    What does follow is that there is no moral dimension to “holding people accountable”. We praise and condemn not because anyone actually “deserves” to be praised or condemned, in any objective sense, but rather because we want to train their brain to react in a particular way. It’s a purely instrumental exercise.

    It should be stressed, therefore, that rewarding and punishing people is not necessarily an irrational exercise. When I say that we have no “choice” in how we behave, I am not making the obviously-false claim that people’s behaviour is completely preconditioned by their genetic code, and I am not denying that social and environmental influences shape people’s behaviour.

    Rather, I’m talking at a whole other level of metaphysical abstraction. Your “self” and your choices are a product of your brain chemistry and your environmental conditioning. When I say that you are not free to make choices, I mean that your choices are absolutely determined by the parameters of your brain chemistry and the environmental influences to which you have been exposed. And if any of those parameters had been different – if your brain chemistry were different, or if you had been exposed to different environmental influences – you would not be you; you would be a different person. This is a very clumsy way of expressing it, but I hope I’m getting the point across.

  91. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    OK, figs are fruit then. Fruit best made into wine, or perhaps it’s just my particular tree and growing environment.

    It produces well, but I never knew what to do with all the fruit. They aren’t disgusting, but they’re nothing I wanna eat just as they are. Kinda bland, the good tastes that are there are very faint and well beyond ‘subtle’. But as wine, they were pretty good. Next year I’ll try removing the skins so it gets a bit less of that ‘vegetable’ smell, but otherwise, I’m pretty happy with the results and finally knowing what is to be done with all that fruit.

  92. John Morales says

    Walton:

    This is a very clumsy way of expressing it, but I hope I’m getting the point across.

    Yeah.

    People are not to blame, they’re only to ‘blame’, and they’re not accountable, they’re ‘accountable’.

  93. says

    This heart still believes
    That love and mercy still exist
    While all the hatreds rage
    And so many say
    That love is all but pointless
    In madness such as this
    It’s like trying to stop a fire
    With the moisture from a kiss

    I hear them saying, “you’ll never change things
    And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing”
    But it’s not the world that I am changing
    I do this so this world will know that it will not change me

  94. says

    Ing,

    Freewill is basically a brain in a vat question to me. Once I realized there’s no difference between a world that is and isn’t like that it got very very VERY boring; despite the fact that ti was such an important topic before hand.

    So I can understand some people arguing it, but it honestly couldn’t be more pointless to me.

    But a world in which many people realize they are brains in vats may be very different.

    See: The Matrix Reloaded.

    (No, wait. Don’t. I’m sorry for even bringing up that pile of shit film.)

  95. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Gyeong Hwa: Not much to tell. In the heat of the summer, when the figs were ripe, I picked some of them and cut them up and put them in a bucket with brown sugar, which I left in the sun for a day or so. Then I added some more figs and sugar. Then some plums a while later. Then when I had a good fermentation going, I added a bit of water. Still leaving it out in the sun, I stirred it a bit with a clean stick every day for a few weeks. When it smelled and tasted about right, I strained it into some clean wine bottles and left it for a while in my (relatively cool) room, and then finally left it in the fridge for a while.

    The end result was fairly mildly flavored, with a creamy pinkish sort of color. It was very hard to strain though, these figs left LOTS of sediment. Perhaps next time I could keep the must in some pantyhose or cheesecloth or something? I’ll figure it out next summer I guess.

  96. says

    Yeah, SC, we have discussed Johnson before, and I agree about The Ghost Map, though I found the first sections sufficiently compelling that I count it as a net positive.

    I found it a net positive, too (there were great aspects!), but saw the signs of trouble back then (he didn’t elaborate on or structure it around the great aspects!).

    I don’t know enough from other sources about Priestly’s life to critique the historical accuracy of The Invention of Air, but I did find the narrative frustratingly disjointed.

    It was disjointed, but my biggest problem was the history. It was presented as brave disinterested scientists and patrons vs. dumb lower class destroyers. Stupid, ahistorical trash. It seems that if he’d presented it to a wider audience earlier he could’ve corrected it.

  97. spyro says

    @SC, because it’s a subject I’m interested in, and I wanted to know how far back the conversation went. Apparently a long way, I have some reading to do…

  98. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Gyeong Hwa: Most any natural source of sugar can be (and probably has been) fermented somehow. The only magic ingredient is the right strain of yeast.

    Now, if I’m understanding how this works correctly, most fruits already have yeasts on them, especially if right off the tree/bush/vine (visible in the form of that powdery ‘bloom’ on the surface) and it’s just a matter mostly of encouraging the right type of alcohol-producing yeast to flourish, with a bit of luck.

    Most people nowadays buy the good strains of yeast from U-brew type places and eliminate the random chance, but I wanted to do it the old fashioned ‘all natural’ way because I’m primitive like that.

    I actually liked the blackberry wine I made better. It was as red as arterial blood and incredibly good. Next year I’m hoping to make a ridiculous amount.

    I’ve never tried lychee, but I absolutely love dragon fruits. It’s a shame they’re so expensive here, because they taste amazing and look weird as hell. I would love to try wine made with those.

  99. chigau (本当) says

    spyro
    chigau is fine. I change the parenthetic at whim.
    I’m not in this conversation, I’m just learning from it.

  100. Tethys says

    I read the article on triboluminescence and am very happy to have an explanation for a weird phenomenon I have witnessed.

    Fractoluminescence.

    Lakes freeze during the winter in my part of the world. On really cold nights the ice makes odd booming/ringing sounds as it expands. You can feel the sound even when it is beyond the range of human hearing.

    Sometimes these booms are accompanied by flashes of light. I found the noise to be freaky enough, but the light flashes coming from a place with no source of light were extra super freaky.

    A neighbor swears that they were evidence of UFO’s. I”m so glad to have a scientific explanation to shoot down that particular stupid idea.

  101. says

    The Laughing Coyote

    I’ve never tried lychee, but I absolutely love dragon fruits. It’s a shame they’re so expensive here, because they taste amazing and look weird as hell. I would love to try wine made with those.

    We grow the plants ourselves, but our soil alot us a very small yeild of fruit. We get other exotic fruits like lychee, longan,and mangosteen from relatives. If only there was a way we can turn banana and persimmon into wine because we grow plenty of those.

    Back in the old country, my folks fermented palm juice into wine. It made for a very strong drink. Nowadays we just infuse ginseng into vodka, much like how one makes schnäpse.

  102. cicely, unheeded prophetess of the Equine Apocalypse says

    Hi, spyro. Yes, this is TET; welcome in! Feel free to jump into the conversation any time, or introduce new topics for consideration. :)

    A question for the culinarily sophisticated among us—at least, more sophisticated than I am, which I concede is a very low bar: if you were going to roast fresh green beans in the oven, how would you do it?
    -

  103. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Back in the old country, my folks fermented palm juice into wine. It made for a very strong drink.

    Might I ask where the ‘old country’ was for you?

    I find this kind of thing fairly fascinating.

    I suppose Dragonfruit requires a tropical climate to grow and/or ripen properly, and wouldn’t be able to grow in the Pacific Northwest?

  104. says

    Gyeong Hwa (and Ogvorbis, and everybody, really)

    I will still disagree that knowing if free will exists or not will affect how I interact with people. It just isn’t that important to me because ultimately, knowing the answer isn’t going to change how I act.

    This is probably not true. As I said at #393, decreased belief in free will appears to cause people to be more willing to cheat at tasks (Vohs and Schooler, 2008).

    I’ve been sitting on this research because I was afraid that informing people about the known effects of decreased belief in free will would motivate them such that they don’t stop believing. I’m still afraid it probably will.

    However, it occurs to me that people who hang out on TET are highly likely to stop believing in free will eventually, one way or another. When they do, they will be probably better prepared to continue acting morally if they are also informed of how the loss of belief tends to affect people.

  105. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    A question for the culinarily sophisticated among us—at least, more sophisticated than I am, which I concede is a very low bar: if you were going to roast fresh green beans in the oven, how would you do it?

    I’m a carnivore, but if I were to prepare this for others I’d probably roast them uncovered in butter only long enough to make them tender and flavorful.

    Though ideally, I’d have a more vegetarian inclined helper in the kitchen who knows veggies.

  106. says

    Might I ask where the ‘old country’ was for you?

    My old country is right here in the Santa Ana watershed. My parent’s old country is Cambodia.

    I suppose Dragonfruit requires a tropical climate to grow and/or ripen properly, and wouldn’t be able to grow in the Pacific Northwest?

    Not sure. People in Minnesota grows them. The soil on my house is poor in nutrients, but it grows the essential herbs for home-style cooking.

  107. says

    @SC, because it’s a subject I’m interested in, and I wanted to know how far back the conversation went. Apparently a long way, I have some reading to do…

    But your initial question – “SC, can I get a clue about where mental illness starts coming up in this thread?” – seems odd if that was your intent. I’d quoted the post I was responding to, and it’s strange that you didn’t note that.

    My ears are pricked.

  108. Tethys says

    It was very hard to strain though, these figs left LOTS of sediment.

    I siphon from the fermenting container into bottles. It seems much easier than trying to strain through cheesecloth. My raspberry wine tastes more like vodka than wine, even though I did add the proper yeast. *shrug*

  109. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    The soil here in the Fraser Valley, being that this place is supposed to be a natural floodplain, is fairly rich in nutrients.

    But I wonder how much effect the intense agriculture combined with all the canals and dykes have had on that.

  110. says

    P.s. I’m drunk. Not sure I care if there’s a conversation topic in there or not, I enjoy eavesdropping on conversations, ‘specially when they’re worth hearing.

    Ah. Never mind.

    And welcome. :)

  111. spyro says

    SC, sorry for being strange, I noted the quote but it seemed to be part of an ongoing conversation and I honestly wanted to know what the fuck I was jumping into before jumping into it. Still reading the JT thread, not sure if I can or will jump in. Bit close to home.

  112. cicely, unheeded prophetess of the Equine Apocalypse says

    When doing liqueurs, I usually siphon off everything safely above the top of the sediment and dispose of the sediment and small amount of clear-ish liquid left in the jar. Then I let the already-almost-clear fluid gravity-drip through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. I just don’t have the patience to pour everything into the strainer, ’cause that can take years, and cost millions of lives. I’d probably end up with more liqueur that way, but I’m just not that worried about ekeing out every last drop.
    -

  113. Crudely Wrott says

    Ahh. I found something relevant, I think. As always, I could be wrong but . . .
    From Carl Zimmer’s blog a post about teaching and teachability. The notion is “are we a teachable specie?” to which the answer is obvious yet its application seems elusive more often than not. Here is a salient paragraph:

    As scientists looked for animal teachers, they realized just how tricky it can be to know whether you’ve found one or not. It’s not as if you can figure out the intention of a killer whale while it’s hunting for seals with younger whales. One way around this quandary is to just stick to what you can see, with a so-called operational definition of teaching. A knowledgeable individual alters its behavior only around a rookie. Its behavior doesn’t bring itself any benefit, and might even come at a cost (wasting time showing how to peel a termite probe rather than eating termites yourself, for example). The knowledgeable animal encourages some actions and punishes others, with the result that the rookie learns faster than it would have on its own.

    The key operation here begins with “a knowledgeable individual alters its behavior” and ends with “might even come at a cost”.

    Given this evidence in the study of cetaceans which is parallel with evidence of studies of our own selves, it seems that the decisions of more experienced individuals involved in (or choosing to) acting as teachers are predicated on circumstances (such as the ability of a youngster to learn as well as the youngster’s willingness) that are not clearly deterministic. That is, the teacher cannot know beforehand the disposition of the student.

    Given this degree of uncertainty it seems reasonable to assume that the teacher must react to the student in real time without foreknowledge. As far as the teacher is concerned the student has an innate ability to learn any lesson that is demonstrated and that is possible for the student to understand and emulate.

    Experience shows that such is not always the case which necessitates an immediate adjustment on the part of the teacher. Such agility, to me (with my total lack of credentials or sheepskins) suggests that decision making is not dependent on rote learning or habituation. In other words, ad libbing is not the sole province of humans. If we can accept that other species can adapt behaviors that exceed the immediate needs of a single individual and extend to the welfare of other individuals (which perforce extend into the future) then we have no choice but to address the question of free will.

    I don’t attempt to give a definitive answer but I offer such consideration as the Orca Teacher to illuminate (not frame: framing is already accomplished to whatever meek advantage it may offer) the notion of making decisions on the spot with only experience and socially derived behavior patterns to inform.

    This may be all it takes to define free will.

    I apologize for not having the philosophical clout to cloud my assertion in yet greater mists of uncertainty. Such magic I leave to those who have labored long under uncertainties that have the cachet of longevity and endless disputation. Nevertheless, it appears that humans are not the only specie that labors with uncertainty; which uncertainty is yet another clue to the existence of free will: without free will, who would question or even worry about the question?

    I once observed a cockroach, actually a palmetto bug, do a double take. I shit you not. Without some sort of concept of sequential events, that is a sense of time, and without some rudimentary memory coupled with the ability for some sort of internal dialog, the roach could not have double took. (new term for psychologists)

    Let me go on record in favor of free will. It has been demonstrated to my satisfaction. On this blog I observe evidence for and against with the evidence for carrying the greater weight.

  114. says

    Crudely Wrott,

    Some years ago I lost an argument with a one ton pickup truck. It ran over my left foot and lower leg. Days of intense pain ensued, followed by weeks of recuperation. During that time I was lame.

    Yep.

    In all that time not one single person suggested that because of my gamy leg I was less of a person. Had anyone done so I would have laughed and pointed at them, informing as many others as possible in the process. Not because they were insensitive but because they didn’t know how to use their native language and were thereby more limited (lame, crippled) than I.

    You just used those terms, lame and crippled, as insults, rather than using them descriptively. You’ve expanded them beyond their scope, of temporary or permanent disability, to refer to people who simply don’t know your language as well as you. There are words for such people: ignorant, uneducated. And if you want to use words that go well with pointing and laughing, there’s more: silly, stupid, gormless.

    It appears it is your usage in this case that is incorrect.

    Perhaps my skin is a bit thicker than that of some others but for the life of me I cannot understand why these words ignite such prolonged argument.

    Well, there was a fairly detailed comment about it. You could try engaging the arguments therein.

  115. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Today I had my first English tutoring session! My students are an elderly Nepali couple.

    Tricky stuff! They speak basically no English. They’ve been in the USA for almost exactly a year. At first I thought I’d have to focus more on the wife, because the husband has had more schooling and already knows how to read and write Nepali, as well as a little bit of English, but then it turned out he was learning more slowly than she was, because he is very hard of hearing.

    Luckily for me, their daughter-in-law sat in for portions of the lesson and helped by translating some of the more difficult concepts. But we managed to talk about where we were (in the house, in Vermont), where their children were (Illinois, Vermont, Nepal, and deceased) and where my parents are (New York state). It was tiring but fun. I go back on Friday.

    Also Friday I leave to go visit StrangeBoyfriend! YAAAAYY!

  116. says

    Apropos of nothing, but ahs, are you an old commentator? I feel as though I’ve seen you’re style of writing before.

    It seems much as change when I decided to stop posting regularly.

  117. walton says

    Crudely, I think you’re misunderstanding what I mean by “free will”. (Again, this is my fault, because there are many possible interpretations of the words “free will”, and I am using the phrase in only one of those possible senses.) The apparent ability of cetaceans, or humans, to improvise is not evidence for or against the existence of “free will”, as I am using the phrase. Whether free will, in this sense, exists or not is a metaphysical question. The answer – that we have no free will – is derived directly from first principles, and is logically inescapable; empirical observations about how we or other organisms behave are not relevant to the question.

    Rather, the salient point is that your “self” and your choices are the product of the physical activity of your brain. (This must be true, unless you believe in mind-body dualism.) It follows that your choices are the products of physical factors: when you make a choice as to how to respond to an external stimulus, neurochemical activity in your brain determines the outcome of the choice. Of course the brain is an extremely complicated machine, and a whole host of internal factors (your genetics, your brain chemistry, your state of health, any drugs you might be taking) and external factors (your past experiences and your environmental conditioning, and the sensory stimuli acting on your brain right now) can affect how it responds. Hence why human behaviour is not always predictable. But the fact that we don’t have enough information to predict the behaviour of humans or other animals – hence why it sometimes appears to be spontaneous – does not mean that it is not determined by physical factors.

    We cannot have free will, in the sense that I am using the term “free will”, unless the “self” is something separate from the physical brain. Thus, the only way this argument can be attacked is if one were to prove the existence of the soul.

  118. walton says

    Shorter me: there cannot be “evidence” for or against free will, because it isn’t an empirical question.

    If mind-body dualism is false, it follows logically that there is no free will. The only argument that could demonstrate the possibility of the existence of free will, therefore, is one which could demonstrate the existence of a soul.

  119. crowepps says

    …decreased belief in free will appears to cause people to be more willing to cheat at tasks (Vohs and Schooler, 2008).

    I’ve been sitting on this research because I was afraid that informing people about the known effects of decreased belief in free will would motivate them such that they don’t stop believing. I’m still afraid it probably will.

    I’m not sure I understand this.

    Correct me if I am misunderstanding you but it looks like you’re saying that you do not believe in free will, and for some reason it is very important to you to convince everyone else to also stop believing in free will, and so you withheld information that you knew might have an influence on their decision in order to manipulate the outcome, is that right?

    That’s very interesting. It seems as though it is so vital to you to prove your philosophical point that you ignore the evidence that doing so will make those around you less functional, and at the same time you prove that the study is true, because your withholding information could be held to be a form of cheating.

  120. says

    Correct me if I am misunderstanding you but it looks like you’re saying that you do not believe in free will, and for some reason it is very important to you to convince everyone else to also stop believing in free will

    The reason is at #250.

    and so you withheld information that you knew might have an influence on their decision in order to manipulate the outcome, is that right?

    That is correct. I also withhold information about the social influences of same-sex attraction when I am debating with conservatives, preferring instead to speak only about the genetic influences.

    That’s very interesting. It seems as though it is so vital to you to prove your philosophical point that you ignore the evidence that doing so will make those around you less functional, and at the same time you prove that the study is true, because your withholding information could be held to be a form of cheating.

    That is interesting, you’re right!

  121. says

    Still debating about free will, I see.

    Today has been a long day for me. But I keep reminding myself that there’s only two weeks left in this semester, and it makes it a little better. The only problem with that is that it means I have final exams the week after next.

  122. Crudely Wrott says

    Thanks, ahs. You have pointed out the weakness in my comment.

    I am aware that words that to me are mundane are to others like daggers. I find such regrettable and unavoidable. In my life’s experience such terms are relegated to the subset of words that are used either for mere description or for not so mere denigration. While I see no problem with the former the latter usage is not acceptable.

    The hard part is to know where to draw the line in common usage. If I were writing for broad consumption I would avoid the use of lame and cripple simply because I know that there are those who are disadvantaged and are sensitive to those words. In a broader sense those words are not derogatory. They simply define a lack of total health. Such lack is not the fault of those who suffer nor are those words reflections on the character or worth of those people. Still, in such cases I do not use them. My converse in meat space is more circumspect than here simply because the Horde is stronger than your average man or woman on the street.

    Here we are grownups. I observe that in this virtual environment there are many who are not average people who enjoy all the accolades of society at large. I have long trusted that by and large this population has a strength and an understanding of human nature and terminology that exceeds that of the average population.

    If I can more closely tailor my vocabulary to your liking or to that of some class or minority I will willingly do so provided that my lexicon is not made lame or crippled in its expressiveness.

    Words do have meanings. If I offend or hurt someone I am embarrassed and humbled. In real life and here. I mean that. Each of us must know and accept that a word which could sound ugly in one context is not ugly in another. Discerning the context is a shared responsibility between speaker and listener. For that reason it is ill advised to declare any particular word verboten unless such word has been shown to be purposely hurtful in a broad and recurrent sense.

    Therefore, should you break your leg I would call you lame. Not that you are less of a person or unable to act in a way that you and your peers would consider laudable but simply because you wouldn’t be able to walk like you used to be able to. Should you not want me to call you lame you have only to tell me and I will not do so.

    And that’s all I want to say about that except that when my legs don’t work I am, in fact and demonstrably, lame and crippled. But my mind is good because I change the oil religiously every three thousand miles.

  123. says

    Thanks Pteryxx. I’m definitely an amateur with regard to biology.

    John Morales, the wikipedia link does not support you. It actually states explicitly that the fig is not a true fruit. “Although commonly referred to as a fruit, the fig is actually the infructescence or sicon of the tree, known as a false fruit or multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds are borne. It is a hollow-ended stem containing many flowers” Not that it actually matters – as I often point out, culinary and botanical terms are not the same. And you can make wine from anything with enough sugar. Rhubarb wine and parsnip wine also exist, for instance.

    As to the “lame” question – while we have actually disabled people disagreeing on whether it’s a problem or not, then I think we still have room to talk about it. Clearly it is a problem for CripDyke and not Cicely – but “crip” is not a problem for CripDyke? Odd, that sounds much more insulting to me. Or is that deliberate? Is it a regional difference? Is it an in-group thing? More information and discussion can only help at this point.

    And someone was asking about Tigger? She posted on my FB wall just yesterday, and there’s nothing on hers suggesting any problems.

  124. crowepps says

    @ Walton

    I agree with you that there is no evidence that a ‘soul’ exists, separate from the body, or that a ‘mind’ exists separate from a working brain. The place where I hit a disconnect is that you seem to me to be saying that all our choices are illusory, that there is really no such thing as ‘responsibility’ or ‘character’, that although behavior could be classified as socially useful or socially harmful those who exhibit the one or the other are simply examples of more useful or less useful socialization training, because at base it’s all just chemicals perking in a meat robot.

    It’s a little disheartening, after a life of doing hard things that were useful to the social group instead of doing easier things that would have made me personally happy, to learn that forcing myself to ignore my first impulse, grit my teeth and do those hard things wasn’t accumulating merit, or developing character, or a sign of being a good wife and mother. All that totally unnecessary pain and self-denial, for nothing. No wonder believing there is no free will causes people to cheat. They’re getting even for all the years they falsely believed there was some point in being honest.

  125. says

    Gyeong Hwa:

    Apropos of nothing, but ahs, are you an old commentator? I feel as though I’ve seen you’re style of writing before.

    I (kinda’) recognized the symbol, but had to ask the same question you did to be sure; join the club!

    ahs:

    Toward the future, they’ll say the same thing I say: you’ll be able to pursue your desires and goals in accordance with your ability and constraints. That’s precisely all you’ll be able to do, but as Dennett puts it, that’s all you really want anyway.

    “Pursu[ing my] desires and goals in accordance with [my] ability and constraints” really is all I really want, in fact… but at various times you and others have seemed to be saying that my “ability” to do so is mere illusion, and that the success or failure of my desire and goal to click Submit Comment when I finish typing this was foreordained at the moment of the Big Bang.

    Well, mebbe so… but I don’t feel that way, can’t imagine how I might make myself feel that way, and can’t think of any reason I might want to, in any case.

    Meh… I said last night that I agreed with Josh about ignoring the question as a coping strategy: It’s time I started practicing what Josh preached. Plus, I still haven’t gotten around to fixing that martini I mentioned….

  126. says

    Comrade Oppenheimer,

    Shorter me: there cannot be “evidence” for or against free will, because it isn’t an empirical question.

    If mind-body dualism is false, it follows logically that there is no free will. The only argument that could demonstrate the possibility of the existence of free will, therefore, is one which could demonstrate the existence of a soul.

    Are you unaware of the evidence-based arguments against mind-body dualism? Those would in turn be your arguments against free will.

    (But demonstrating the existence of a soul wouldn’t do any good for free will anyway. Thomas W. Clark has an argument that works regardless; as I’ve been saying, it indicates that even God cannot have free will. See #216, or cr’s sufficient excerpt at 281.)

  127. says

    changeable moniker, about your sproglet…as an artist who still draws/paints on the walls (just ask Jadehawk or Kamaka), let her go to town on the walls in her room. Make it clear that other inside walls are off limits, but she can do what she wishes in her space. Once the walls are completely filled and she wants new canvas, introduce her to the duller type of painting.

  128. Crudely Wrott says

    Walton, at 345:

    Rather, the salient point is that your “self” and your choices are the product of the physical activity of your brain. (This must be true, unless you believe in mind-body dualism.) It follows that your choices are the products of physical factors: when you make a choice as to how to respond to an external stimulus, neurochemical activity in your brain determines the outcome of the choice.

    My choices, as yours and anyone else’s are indeed limited and circumscribed by the physical factors that you acknowledge. I acknowledged the same in a comment above. It is within this very particular and certain set of boundaries that all decisions are made, whether well considered or spur of the moment. In this respect free will is a given.

    Now there is a way of thinking that begrudges such limitations. Those who hold with such are obviously not of this universe or, in all charity, are not conversant with the limitations that we suffer here. Inasmuch as certain elements cannot combine with others, human existence and the determinations of individual humans are limited. As far as I am concerned this a feature and not a bug.

    Without a specific rectangle it would be exceedingly problematic to play football, either kind. The fact that there are two kinds of football both played within rectangles is sufficient to indicate free will.

    Dear Walton, I am mostly in awe of your broad intellect and your evolution since you first started commenting here umptyump threads and years ago. However in this arena I think you sell yourself, and your fellow humans, just a little short. Of course, as always, I could be wrong.

    Can it be demonstrated that this comment aimed specifically at you by me is not a product of my free will but instead an inevitable result of all that came before? Granted that the content of this comment is formed by comments preceding it but I still insist that the actual thought and typing and submitting are mine and mine alone. I could have not responded but I have done so because I like you, I am interested in your reply and I don’t have anyone at hand right now to talk to. My call.

    I hope you are doing well and getting enough sleep and nourishment. I couldn’t handle the load that you are handling. Good show, my friend.

  129. says

    SallyStrange:

    Also Friday I leave to go visit StrangeBoyfriend! YAAAAYY!

    Oh, I had misunderstood you: A little while ago, you said something to the effect of “since StrangeBoyfriend left, I’ve…,” which I took to indicate a breakup. On the assumption that YAAAAYY! (did I count the As correctly?) is a happy noise, I grok that I was mistaken… about which I feel relieved.

    Teach me to skim TET, eh? Hope you have a great visit!

  130. says

    as I’ve been saying, it indicates that even God cannot have free will.

    I cringe a bit when I read that. If determinism applies to all natural things that exist in the universe, then “god” in your usage is just another natural phenomenon. Might as well not mention it !

    Who’s Comrade Oppenheimer ?

  131. walton says

    It’s a little disheartening, after a life of doing hard things that were useful to the social group instead of doing easier things that would have made me personally happy, to learn that forcing myself to ignore my first impulse, grit my teeth and do those hard things wasn’t accumulating merit, or developing character, or a sign of being a good wife and mother. All that totally unnecessary pain and self-denial, for nothing.

    I don’t think that that follows, and I think you’re being too hard on yourself in the conclusions you’re drawing from this. After all, human minds are complex, and it’s clearly true that a person’s reasoned judgment can override hir first impulses. (My argument simply necessitates the conclusion that a person’s reasoned judgment, as well as hir first impulses, are products of the physical activity of the brain. Something which I don’t think you’d dispute.)

    Nor does it mean that your self-sacrifice was for nothing. If it made other people’s lives better, then it achieved something. Whether we have free will or not is irrelevant to that conclusion; good consequences are good consequences, regardless of why or how they are achieved. That’s a very utilitarian view of morality, of course, but I think it’s a rational one, as well as an uplifting and positive one.

    Regardless, I’m sorry if I’ve been insensitive, and I certainly have no desire to dishearten or depress anyone. I’ll drop the topic now, since I think we’ve all spilt enough pixels on it today. I sometimes forget that I’m very atypical in my feelings on this subject.

  132. says

    Crudely Wrott,

    So there. I win. =)

    Or do I?

    I can’t tell yet, without asking you another question. Your articulation thus far is consistent with compatibilism, which holds free will to have a particular meaning—a meaning which, in my opinion, is inconsistent with common usage, but is internally consistent.

    The question: do you accept the fact that you never could have chosen to choose differently than you did?

    If you accept this, then you’ve got an internally consistent compatibilism, against which my only argument is semantic.

    If you don’t accept this, then you’re wrong about reality itself.

  133. walton says

    (I’ve also spent far too much time debating this when I should have been getting on with work… with the result that my workday today has now lasted from about 9am to 11.30pm. Note to self: when one takes breaks every couple of hours to argue on the internet about free will, work tends to take longer.)

  134. says

    rorschach,

    I cringe a bit when I read that. If determinism applies to all natural things that exist in the universe, then “god” in your usage is just another natural phenomenon. Might as well not mention it !

    Although Clark is a determinist and I am not, his argument will apply to deterministic and indeterministic worlds, natural and supernatural beings alike. It is an argument about what it means to act according to motivation: the nature of will itself.

    Who’s Comrade Oppenheimer ?

    That’s what I’m calling Walton at the moment.

    (and now back to my stack)

  135. Crudely Wrott says

    addendum to Walton:

    I see that I have not satisfactorily answered your assertion that free will must have some other genesis than physical life, to wit:

    We cannot have free will, in the sense that I am using the term “free will”, unless the “self” is something separate from the physical brain. Thus, the only way this argument can be attacked is if one were to prove the existence of the soul.

    All I can say is that like water at the freezing point or at the boiling point we are constrained by the laws that fall out of the fundamental constants of the universe we find ourselves in. There is not much I can say about that except to refer you to the rules of football, both kinds which are played within rectangles or to the sonnets of Shakespeare or to the calculus or to the love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.

    Just as some of us here cannot find jeans that fit and just as some question exists concerning the actual speed of neutrinos and just as merekats are neither mere or cats, there you go and here we are.

    Our judgments will always be subject to question as will the font of our judgments simply by virtue of our lack of an all inclusive Theory of Everything.

    Lack of certainty is a quality of this universe. Nothing indicates that this is a permanent condition. Quite the opposite if history is any guide and I need not remind you.

    Another Moody Blues song is useful:

    Lovely to see you again my friend
    Walk along with me to the next bend
    Tell us what you’ve seen
    In far away forgotten lands
    Where empires have turned back to sand

    Fare well and happy daze.;^> *that’s a wink; a nod comes with it*

  136. John Morales says

    Alethea,

    John Morales, the wikipedia link does not support you. It actually states explicitly that the fig is not a true fruit. “Although commonly referred to as a fruit, the fig is actually the infructescence or sicon of the tree, known as a false fruit or multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds are borne. It is a hollow-ended stem containing many flowers” Not that it actually matters

    Well, sure, it doesn’t really matter.

    However, had you delved a little deeper and followed the link, you’d have found this: Infructescence is defined as the ensemble of fruits derived from ovaries of an inflorescence, structured according to the inflorescence scheme.

    (Gotta love Pharyngula)

  137. says

    But you said “afruit” not “a collection of fruits and flowers” :)

    (This pedantic trivia seems about as useful as the free will conversation for distraction from work.)

  138. Crudely Wrott says

    ahs asks me:

    The question: do you accept the fact that you never could have chosen to choose differently than you did?

    I answer ahs:
    If the same procession of circumstances were to repeat, I mean same in every respect right down to that time I stubbed my toe and was thereby predisposed to be disrespectful to my grandmother, No.
    If some different procession of circumstances were to repeat, hey! anything goes. That is Yes.

    Neither answer is well informed or reliable. The question itself presumes too much. More than you or I could reliably respond to lacking, as we both are, the full set of data points necessary.

    To put such limitations on the succession of events in any time frame, let alone an imaginary one is to assume that one could actually do things over. While this may be possible in closely monitored laboratory conditions it is quite clear that it is not possible in real life in real time in this universe given the skills that humanity possess. Let alone my skeletal skill set or yours.

    Therefore your question must just stand in stasis until the evolution of Life, the Universe and Everything has caught up. Please be patient. Your answer might take considerable processing time. Would you care to have a seat over here?

  139. walton says

    That’s what I’m calling Walton at the moment.

    I briefly considered asking why, but I decided it would be more fun to figure it out on my own.

    (I initially assumed you were referring to J. Robert, since I wasn’t familiar with any other Oppenheimers. But taking into account the “Comrade”, Generalísimo Google informs me that there was an early-twentieth-century American socialist writer and activist named Moses Oppenheimer, member of the Socialist Party of the USA, and author of various tracts including “Outlawing Socialism” and “Direct Action and Sabotage”. Am I on the right lines?)

  140. Crudely Wrott says

    Also, ahs, you assume a zero sum scenario.

    If you accept this, then you’ve got an internally consistent compatibilism, against which my only argument is semantic.

    If you don’t accept this, then you’re wrong about reality itself.

    I feel that I can reasonably assert that not you nor you and I nor you and I and every clever mind nor you and I and every clever mind and all the accumulated (don’t forget the forgotten) wisdom (if you are pleased to call a smattering of facts “wisdom” or not, pardon me, no offense intended) of all of human experience and expeditiousness can make such a do or die decision about the actual way of things.

    We are still learning.

    It will be a long time before we can make reliable declarations concerning what we are now concerning ourselves with.

    Perhaps we should just make the best of what we can ascertain and leave the rest to the future. Don’t we have enough problems already?

  141. John Morales says

    Alethea,

    (This pedantic trivia seems about as useful as the free will conversation for distraction from work.)

    Trivium — it’s just one.

  142. consciousness razor says

    The place where I hit a disconnect is that you seem to me to be saying that all our choices are illusory, that there is really no such thing as ‘responsibility’ or ‘character’,

    No. Unless you believe you can do things without them having been caused by something, or which were caused by something supernatural or non-physical, then you don’t believe in free will.

    If you think the only meaningful way we could have “choices” is if we have magical superpowers, then congratulations: you believe in free will. Have a drink or something. It will make you feel better, or it may not. Who knows? Anything could happen.

    because at base it’s all just chemicals perking in a meat robot.

    Exactly. You aren’t anything more than chemicals. Do you have any reason to believe otherwise?

    All that totally unnecessary pain and self-denial, for nothing. No wonder believing there is no free will causes people to cheat. They’re getting even for all the years they falsely believed there was some point in being honest.

    For fuck’s sake. Total bullshit. Nothing else to say.

  143. chigau (本当) says

    Trivium.
    I cannot believe I didn’t know that.
    When I think of all the people I missed out on annoying…

  144. says

    Bill Dauphin,

    It’s not so much a matter of disagreeing with it, as much as I can’t make any sense out of it: Every definition of choose that makes any sense to me involves the possibility of choosing otherwise.

    I’m relieved to find someone else who shares my discomfort with the word. Many people seem to go forward saying that because they feel like they’re making a choice, they’re going to just call that feeling a choice. To be honest, I’m still unsure about this use.

    It’s clear enough in one sense: they are approaching their desires and avoiding what they desire less. This is distinctly different from when another person, or happenstance, forces them to approach something. The person who is said to be choosing is the proximate cause of the choice.

    But we also run alternate histories in our heads; what would have happened if I’d chosen something else instead. This is adaptive as a way of preparing for the future, so we’ll keep doing it even if we all dispense with belief in free will. This intuitive taste for alternate histories implies, to me, that it will be a difficult task to learn to understand choice in the more limited sense of approach and avoidance.

    It seems to me that Schopenhauer’s formulation actually reduces to “we may do, but we may not choose.” That may be what you actually think — I think it is, but I’m cautious about assuming I correctly understand what anybody else thinks

    As you can see now, I’m not wholly sure what I think of the C word. If I were more articulate I’d like to make my #344 response to Ing do double work here. What we wish to approach and avoid is not ultimately determined by us. We can be the proximate causes of changes in our desires, but the ultimate causes are all external to us.

    Way back during my first ride on this merry-go-round, somebody (Jadehawk? I can’t be sure…) said to me something along the lines of, “Oh, don’t be stupid: Nobody’s saying you don’t have will, only that you don’t have free will.” I have struggled (ultimately unsuccessfully) to understand any nontrivial distinction between will and free will that renders that a cromulent utterance.

    Dictionary.com offers some definitions of will that still work. I’ll exclude those which obviously don’t, or which I’m unsure of.

    :”the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions” [ॐ: in the sense that you are the proximate cause of your actions; it's not someone else's mind that is the proximate cause of your actions]
    :”wish or desire”
    :”purpose or determination, often hearty or stubborn determination”

    You have these sorts of will, without being the ultimate cause of them.

    I get the problem: If the universe is materialistic and bound by physical law, how can it not be deterministic? And if the universe is deterministic, how can there be any space for true agency or effective choice?

    Just a quibble; quantum uncertainty means it’s indeterministic. But that’s just randomness; you still come to a reasonable conclusion about choice. I don’t know why you said what you said about agency, though. Of course we are agents.

    We spend a lot of time and energy here holding people (including each other) accountable for what they/we choose to say and do… and then, sometimes, we spend a lot of time and energy convincing ourselves that it’s utterly pointless to imagine that’s possible.

    This sounds like an echo of fatalism. My prescription is Clark’s How Determinists Cross the Street. I’m fussy about how Clark doesn’t write more broadly to show that this holds for indeterminists too, but I hope you can see it; quantum randomness is negligible to our pursuit of our interests.

    “Pursu[ing my] desires and goals in accordance with [my] ability and constraints” really is all I really want, in fact… but at various times you and others have seemed to be saying that my “ability” to do so is mere illusion, and that the success or failure of my desire and goal to click Submit Comment when I finish typing this was foreordained at the moment of the Big Bang.

    I’m supposing that my above answers also address this. Let me know if they don’t.

    But, as I and others have said in various ways, if we can’t tell the difference between having free will and not, does it really matter?

    It matters. Our beliefs about it influence our behavior, just as our beliefs about anything else influence our behavior. They probably influence judges and juries to assign longer prison sentences. That’s largely why Walton is talking about it. I asked him back in 2009 whether he understood yet that there was no free will; he didn’t know and didn’t care at the time, and I didn’t press the point because I didn’t think it was all that important. Somewhere in his studies, he noticed its implications, and he has since convinced me of their importance.

    +++++
    (Breaking out of my stack; apologies to those who wait.)

    I initially assumed you were referring to J. Robert,

    That’s the one, Walton. I just said Comrade to get your attention. Sorry about the confusion.

  145. Crudely Wrott says

    And furthermore the idea that will is not free but instead imposed from without entices some because they shy away from the responsibility of realizing that they make an actual difference by virtue of deciding and I’d like to pursue that notion. . . nahh, just changed my mind.

    *takes refuge in a John Prine album -> Illegal Smile and so forth. Not my decision, oh no.*

    Nothing independent about it. Sumpin made me do it. Not me, no siree . . .

    Sleep tight, dear ones. I sure will. Will.

  146. crowepps says

    Walton @ #662

    Regardless, I’m sorry if I’ve been insensitive, and I certainly have no desire to dishearten or depress anyone.

    Oh, I in no way was trying to suggest that you are insensitive and I apologize if I gave that impression. It is perhaps only that how pleasant it is to view your philosophical construct depends on from which end of your lifetime you’re observing.

    It’s winter. The sun came up at 9:43 AM, went down at 3:53 PM, we’re expecting a couple inches of snow and I didn’t go out all day. Believe me, if I’m bummed only a hundredth of it might arise from your views. Frankly, you were pretty much the only person on the determinist side whose point of view I was actually able to grok. I appreciate your continuing to simplify things for me until I got there.

  147. says

    In the vain hope there are those reading who aren’t caught up in the free will debate to the exclusion of all else, Esme was scheduled to be spayed on December 6th, but she’s been reprieved. She’s still a complete skitterbiscuit, but she is just now seriously bonding with me and trusts me. Mister and I are both concerned about the effects of an hour long car ride, the strangeness of the clinic (for her) and then just leaving her for 8 hours. We decided the bond is just too fragile for now, so if she does get knocked up, I guess we’ll just deal [```` <- was courtesy of Esme] with it, although I'm not too worried. Chas treats her more like a kid than a mate.

    With that, I'll say g'night, gotta get Chas his nightly treat of peanut butter and Esme an Oreo or two to steal.

  148. says

    Oppenheimer,

    Of course, the extent of the respective roles of nature and nurture is a scientific question, and a very hotly-debated one; I’m not really qualified to comment on that, and thus remain agnostic.

    There’s a third influence too. Don’t leave out situationism. (The situation can be called environment, but it’s a very brief environment, and surely doesn’t fit into what we think of as nurture.)

    As to which is most important, it’s a hopeless question without first specifying a particular case.

  149. John Morales says

    ahs @680,

    It’s clear enough in one sense: they are approaching their desires and avoiding what they desire less.

    And/or, I think — unless you consider that avoiding what is undesired constitutes desire (which I don’t, except in a trivial sense).

    (Consider the choice between two equally inescapable alternatives)

  150. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    @ spyro

    Arrrrr … welcome on board the good ship Pharyngula.

    @ TLC

    Had roast pigeon for lunch today …. *burp* (Basted in brown sauce and roasted – seems quite simple.)

    @ Cicely

    No discription of Adam Sandler is complete without using the word “cringe”. In the great big “Encyclopedia of Cringeworthy People” there is a whole volume dedicated solely to him.

    @ ahs

    (What on earth inspired me to post this?)

    Probably your desire to participate in one of your preferred communities.

    Actually I blame YOU for dragging me down another rabbit hole… :)

    Though the random cycle did occure, it could also make a good mental experiment for focusing on some of the components of decision making. For “big” decisions, I think there is some amount of compulsion for a (relatively) sane person to calculate the best possible outcome.

    It is only when the outcomes are very close together that you are getting closer to “free will”. (I use the word “fork” rather than “intersection” to indicate the binary nature of the decision at hand (and an “intersection can be broken down into binary decisions anyway).)

    Some of the decisions one would make are due to compulsion. For example, as a lonely cycling Pharangulite faced with the choice of “Little Biggend” vs “Brownianbottom” there is no real choice involved. But you will come to a situation that stands on the knife’s edge. Surely here we are actually making s non-compulsive decision. (Which I chickened out of with a coin.)

    Interestingly, Mohammed has a lot to say about free will. IIRC, Allah/Yahwe at first went the free will route, and then decided against that (compelled?) and had a golden table(t) inscibed with the complete story of everything from which we cannot diverge one iota.

    …………….

    [meta] We need to go on a recruitment (press-gang) drive to find some muslim Pharyngulites. Also we could do with some extra micro-biologists – specialising in yeast. This in connection with Phoenicia (PBUH) obviously.

  151. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    @ Caine

    Teeny little hugs to teh rodents.

  152. John Morales says

    Ing:

    It amazes me people feel more comfortable in a world where their loved ones can apparently just choose to betray them for shits and giggles and don’t have predictable behavior based on their preferences that you can trust.

    That statement loses all its power due to your inclusion of the qualifier ‘apparently’.

    (Leaving it out makes all the difference)

  153. says

    Ing,

    It amazes me people feel more comfortable in a world where their loved ones can apparently just choose to betray them for shits and giggles and don’t have predictable behavior based on their preferences that you can trust.

    That’s not so much what they think, because they never really deal with the implications of what they imagine free will to be.

    They just take proximately internal stimuli to be reliable indicators of personality, and at times use essentialist thinking to treat that like a pseudosoul. Notice how the fundamental attribution error drives us to think of others as nearly immutable; that person acts that way because that’s just the kind of person she is, while I acted this way because I was responding to circumstances.

    It’s probably an evolved heuristic.

  154. says

    tethys,

    If your assertion that Libet’s experiments on brain activity are proof that free-will does not exist I do see it as relevant

    Oh, that. No. See #292: “I agree that the Libet stuff is a distraction. Free will is dead both philosophically and physically. If it was also dead neurologically, that would just be delicious icing. I bring up Libet because some people seem to respond well to it, but in my opinion McGinn has said all that’s necessary.”

    Some people don’t take an interest in the philosophical or physical arguments. I bring up Libet for them to think about. But my argument does not rely on Libet in any way.

    Damasios work shows that damaging the part of the brain that processes emotion creates indecisiveness because the individual is no longer able to assign preference/value to any choice.

    I brought up Damasio only as a suggestion for how consciousness razor might get to an argument that there is no self. Also not my argument.

    Since we aren’t able to determine where consciousness comes from on a physical basis, and it is consciousness that arbitrates decision making, I find the idea that free will doesn’t exist to be presumptuous.

    Then deal with McGinn, and understand that there is no possible way for free will to exist in any possible world; or deal with Clark and understand that even a disembodied God could not have free will.

    If you’re stuck thinking about Libet, I’m sorry. There is nothing in biology that could ever offer you free will.

  155. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    [English Place Names]

    How can one possibly choose between: Nempnett Thrubwell and Wyre Piddle, or between Coffinswell and Clapton-in-G(i)ordano …

    NSFW (you might laugh uncontrollably): Linky: English place names.

  156. says

    Alethea, thanks for your explanation.

    The effects of randomness aren’t “drowned out”. The peak in the distribution IS the effect of randomness. It’s probabilistic, always. Sometimes it’s 99.99999% of the distribution in the central peak, which is an underestimate for the position of a macroscopic object because I can’t be bothered counting my 9s.

    I guess what I should have said is that any single quantum fluctuation is typically irrelevant at our scale.

    But maybe not, wrt to synapses. I’ll try to find an adequate way of skirting the issue in the future.

  157. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Bill –

    If you’re skimming, anyway –

    Also Friday I leave to go visit StrangeBoyfriend! YAAAAYY!

    Oh, I had misunderstood you: A little while ago, you said something to the effect of “since StrangeBoyfriend left, I’ve…,” which I took to indicate a breakup. On the assumption that YAAAAYY! (did I count the As correctly?) is a happy noise, I grok that I was mistaken… about which I feel relieved.

    Teach me to skim TET, eh? Hope you have a great visit!

    Oh, yes – understandable confusion. He left, as in, he moved far, far away, to the Washington D.C. area. It will take about 10 hours to drive there. We’re still friends and boyfriend/girlfriend, however you define that. The future of our relationship is up in the air, since neither of us is sure where we’re even going to be a year from now. This will be the first time I’ve seen him since he moved away. And the longest I’ve gone without seeing him, apart from his trip to Costa Rica, since 2006. Whoa.

    Thanks for the good wishes.

  158. crowepps says

    Ing @ 682.
    I apologize for making a statement that didn’t include the appropriate qualifiers. I will restate it as:

    …decreased belief in free will appears to cause people to be more willing to cheat at tasks (Vohs and Schooler, 2008)
    and perhaps that is because once they are convinced that they only appear to be making choices, it seems slightly irrelevant whether their apparent choice is honest or not.

  159. says

    I, by the virtue of a penis, hereby declare this to be a non-issue.

    Instant Molly, were it up to me. I’m sooo stealing that line. MRA-ism reduced to just a single line. Problem is, MRA’s are going to want to steal that line, too.
    ====

    And someone was asking about Tigger? She posted on my FB wall just yesterday, and there’s nothing on hers suggesting any problems.

    I was. Thank you. It just occurred to me that I hadn’t read anything from her in about a month (which Google confirmed) and since she has a heart condition, I feared something was wrong.
    ====
    Legowelt – Secret Ship (sorry, no moving pictures, just the music)
    Yes, I’ve been listening alot to Legowelt lately. Should I just link to the playlist?

  160. says

    and perhaps that is because once they are convinced that they only appear to be making choices, it seems slightly irrelevant whether their apparent choice is honest or not.

    I suspect what might be happening is that the experimental subjects who have recently been primed to accept a lack of free will do not understand the real implications of this at all, and many of them assume that it must entail fatalism.

    The most common misunderstanding I’d expect the researchers to find, if they interviewed these subjects, is that “nothing I do really matters anyway” — the fatalist error in a nutshell — and thus they drop the self-monitoring that would usually come with believing that their actions make a difference.

    So I expect the observed effect can be reduced or eliminated (possibly even reversed) with a reading like How Determinists Cross the Street.

  161. says

    Crudely Wrott,

    Given this evidence in the study of cetaceans which is parallel with evidence of studies of our own selves, it seems that the decisions of more experienced individuals involved in (or choosing to) acting as teachers are predicated on circumstances (such as the ability of a youngster to learn as well as the youngster’s willingness) that are not clearly deterministic. That is, the teacher cannot know beforehand the disposition of the student.

    This has nothing to do with determinism either way. Such behavior is possible in deterministic or indeterministic worlds. It’s hard for me to tell what’s going on here, but it appears you are either confusing predictability with determinism, or confusing omniscience with determinism. (Something similar to rorschach’s mistake, I suspect.)

    If you can explain how you get from “if determinism is true” to “then orcas couldn’t ad lib” it might be helpful.

    without free will, who would question or even worry about the question?

    People who are determined to worry about the question.

  162. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    The God Heuristic

    With or without “free will”, it takes a fair amount of computational power to come to a decision. Given all the factors that are taken into account (many which have been raised in this thread), I can very much understand why people would want to hand the job over to a simple heuristic.

    Perhaps one can get by (I doubt thrive in most cases) with passing your own complex decision making to a rule book such as the babble, or asking the question: What would jeebus do?

    This would tend to break down if one would be forced to acknowledge a far more complicated worldview (as, for example, presented by Science) or where it is shown that a component of that worldview is just plain wrong. “Just stop trying and open your heart to the lawd…”

    Emotional/impulsive decisions gain prominence through being “god speaking” to one, so that the decision making process tends to become unthinking. As this gains a foothold it becomes harder and harder to catch up again to a process (again, such as Science) where doubt reigns and one constantly has to wrangle with every idea. Catching up becomes more work than rejecting reality.

  163. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    @ Ariaflame

    (sorry, can’t copy and paste at the moment, mouse button not behaving well)

    My friends just refer to me as the “CL-20 Wielding Tardigrade” for short… ;)

  164. says

    Perhaps one can get by (I doubt thrive in most cases) with passing your own complex decision making to a rule book such as the babble, or asking the question: What would jeebus do?

    What’s almost always happening is people use the heuristic of “what would my peers do?”

  165. says

    Good morning

    Placenames
    My favourite one in Ireland was “Newtwopothouse”. The most boring one is found here: Dorf im Warndt, village in the Warndt (an area).
    There are a few funny ones around here, too, best one being the local (as opposed to official) name that is Kalt-Naggisch (cold-naked)

    SQB you’re welcome

    changeable moniker
    I really enjoyed your description of your daughter’s creativity.
    I go with Caine: give her the walls in her room. There’s also blackboard-foil (and I believe even paint) avaible.
    Sometimes, just being allowed to do it might take the fun out of it. If it doesn’t, well, it’s her room.*
    I think often parents worry about things that are really not their problem (OK, paint on livingroom walls is). It’s not my problem that, given the prevalent current tastes, my daughter sometimes goes to kindergarten looking like a scarecrow. My problem is to make sure that the clothes are weather-appropriate. Blue tights combined with purple summer shorts and a red winter sweater, on the other hand, are not.

    CaineFingers are crossed for Chas remaining a gentleman.

    ——-

    …decreased belief in free will appears to cause people to be more willing to cheat at tasks (Vohs and Schooler, 2008)

    I well believe that lack of believe in any form of free will might lead to a negative feedback-loop:
    If I believe that there’s no basic difference between the kid accidentially knocking over her cup and upturning it on purpose, my reaction will change. I will only try to manipulate the robot into a different behaviour.
    Well, something quite important in teaching is that you have to be behind what you’re doing. My emotions are just as much part of the teaching as are my actions. If I don’t display the emotions anymore, or try to fake them, it will have an influence on my kids, and most likely not the one I desire (which, of course I don’t)

    Ing

    It amazes me people feel more comfortable in a world where their loved ones can apparently just choose to betray them for shits and giggles and don’t have predictable behavior based on their preferences that you can trust.

    Who does? Who thinks that free will means you can make any choice, as opposed to making certain choices.
    I don’t think I can choose to kill or not to kill my children**, but I can choose to give them jam or marmelade.

    ——-

    *I know of a couple who had that problem with their adopted daughter, a 6 yo from Brasil (not going into the problems of 3rd world adoptions here, just giving the background). The kid painted on every surface in the house. She was testing them: Do you love me enough to still keep me even if I do this?
    One day, she painted kind of a bordure along the freshly painted bathroom walls. The father took some transparent finish, painted over her drawings to preserve them and declared that it was the most beautiful bathroom wall he’d ever seen. It was the last time so far she painted on anything not designed for it.
    **in the present situation.

  166. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    @ ahs

    What’s almost always happening is people use the heuristic of “what would my peers do?”

    When we start linking the current discussion to what we touched on earlier wrt consensus, it will get even more interesting.

  167. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    Placenames

    South Africa has its fair share too: Hotazel (say out loud, geddit), Henley-on-Klip (“stone” in Afrikaans, actually the Kliprivier), Poffadder (a type of snake),… There are many places named by homesick colonists too, so that many little towns from England have their namesakes there.

  168. Tethys says

    I think all children go through a period of writing or painting on things they know they aren’t supposed to write on.

    Although I did not appreciate it at the time, now that they are all grown and gone I treasure that signature on the fence.

    I think the blackboard paint idea is an excellent idea.

  169. says

    When we start linking the current discussion to what we touched on earlier wrt consensus, it will get even more interesting.

    Hey there, my social ape. I’m afraid I can’t find anything more to say about that that.

    Bill said something which I dearly want to expand upon, but I lack the preparation to do so. Check this:

    «My conviction is that humans form communities in a synthetic way, such that they are at least distinct from, if not greater than, a simple summing of the individuals that make them up. Not only do different individuals have different goals and priorities, but each individual brings an internally competing set of imperatives to the polis.»

    It feels like this contra-Thatcher thing that I’ve been trying to articulate. There is no human without society. None of us, and none of our recent ancestors, could have been born without the imposition of rules which benefitted group cohesion, all consent-of-the-governed bullshit aside.

    But I want it to sound so much more epic, you know?

  170. says

    Giliell,

    If I believe that there’s no basic difference between the kid accidentially knocking over her cup and upturning it on purpose, my reaction will change.

    Okay, but this is based on a misunderstanding. There is a basic difference between having intention to perform an action and not having intention. If it’s a difficult action to avoid—if the cup is especially easy to knock over—and there is no deliberate intention, then you can expect it to keep happening. If the kid can easily avoid doing it by accident, but wanted to test your reaction, then you may reasonably expect it will not happen again.

    It would be an error to mix up these cases.

    I will only try to manipulate the robot into a different behaviour.

    Okay, but what does this mean? How would such a manipulation differ from the manipulations you currently practice?

    Well, something quite important in teaching is that you have to be behind what you’re doing. My emotions are just as much part of the teaching as are my actions. If I don’t display the emotions anymore, or try to fake them, it will have an influence on my kids, and most likely not the one I desire (which, of course I don’t)

    In what way do you expect your emotions would change, and why? For sure, you will still be annoyed and pleased with various actions, and you will still be motivated to change some and reinforce others, when you accept there is no free will.

  171. says

    Crudely Wrott,

    Can it be demonstrated that this comment aimed specifically at you by me is not a product of my free will but instead an inevitable result of all that came before?

    Yes, it already can and has been demonstrated logically that these comment are not a product of our free will, but products of all that came before and some random quantum fluctuations that we did not control. Already, in this very thread, by reference to both McGinn and Clark (either is sufficient).

    Neither answer is well informed or reliable. The question itself presumes too much. More than you or I could reliably respond to lacking, as we both are, the full set of data points necessary.

    Your set of answers demonstrates that the question does not presume too much. You grasp that the options are binary because of the law of excluded middle: either your circumstances unfold the same or they don’t.

    You indicate that “If the same procession of circumstances were to repeat, I mean same in every respect right down to that time I stubbed my toe and was thereby predisposed to be disrespectful to my grandmother” then you could not have chosen to choose differently than you did.

    That is correct.

    You indicate that “If some different procession of circumstances were to repeat, hey! anything goes” but this is not what I asked about. If there had been different circumstances, then there would have different choices in question, and I’m not asking about those; I’m asking about the circumstances and subsequent choices that did occur. The choices you actually made were only those which exist in our history, not alternate histories. If you made alternate choices in alternate histories, I might or might not be asking you there whether you could have chosen to choose differently than make those choices, but that’s not here, that’s only there.

    I trust that I cannot lose someone with your talent for obfuscation, so I presume you’re still with me.

    To put such limitations on the succession of events in any time frame, let alone an imaginary one is to assume that one could actually do things over.

    You just demonstrated this to be false, by answering that “If the same procession of circumstances were to repeat, I mean same in every respect right down to that time I stubbed my toe and was thereby predisposed to be disrespectful to my grandmother” then you could not have chosen to choose differently than you did.

    You needn’t do things over; you only need to reimagine the history which did occur. And, as your answer demonstrates, you were perfectly well capable of doing that.

    I feel that I can reasonably assert that not you nor you and I nor you and I and every clever mind nor you and I and every clever mind and all the accumulated (don’t forget the forgotten) wisdom (if you are pleased to call a smattering of facts “wisdom” or not, pardon me, no offense intended) of all of human experience and expeditiousness can make such a do or die decision about the actual way of things.

    Well, you’re wrong. And it was an unreasonable mistake, given what has already been said in this thread. The entirety of the options are laid out in three little paragraphs above, by McGinn. Please remind yourself again of the law of excluded middle.

    And furthermore the idea that will is not free but instead imposed from without entices some because they shy away from the responsibility of realizing that they make an actual difference by virtue of deciding and I’d like to pursue that notion. . . nahh, just changed my mind.

    Probably so. Probably so. I brought this up rather obliquely back at #393. Yours is an argument from consequences, of course; regardless of how people behave when they realize they have no free will, it is nevertheless true that they have no free will.

    Now, here’s the reason why we got onto this topic in the first place, and here’s some responsibility for you to consider:

    Perhaps we should just make the best of what we can ascertain and leave the rest to the future. Don’t we have enough problems already?

    What we have right now is 1/100 of the United States population tied up in the prison-industrial complex. I’m sure you have some friends whose lives were unnecessarily collapsed by this system, as do I. The belief in free will probably contributes to more and longer prison sentences for crimes which could be addressed more reasonably without lockup.

    No, there is no time to wait. We have to solve this as soon as possible.

  172. says

    Okay, but this is based on a misunderstanding. There is a basic difference between having intention to perform an action and not having intention.

    So, tell me, what is it?
    If, in the near-infinit number of instances that lead up to this point there was never a chance for the value to be 1 instead of 0, or 0 instead of 1, then intention is as none-existent as free will.

    I read this article and I find it makes the same mistake (or fails at explaining it):

    So I expect the observed effect can be reduced or eliminated (possibly even reversed) with a reading like How Determinists Cross the Street.

    If my decision to cross the street with open eyes or not is determined by previous factors, it is fixed.
    But everything that created those previous factors was fixed, too. As said above, never a chance for 1 to be 0 and vice versa. It also means that this discussion will or will not convince me of the nonexistence of free will.
    Not “no matter what you do”, but because what you do is determined anyway. There is no “no matter what you do”, there is only you do.
    So, it is fixed already whether the switch will be flipped, so the furture is fixed, too.

    Okay, but what does this mean? How would such a manipulation differ from the manipulations you currently practice?

    It would differ in terms of respect. Respect for a kid who, although she is very frustrated doesn’t lash out. No respect for a succesfully manipulated robot.

    In what way do you expect your emotions would change, and why? For sure, you will still be annoyed and pleased with various actions, and you will still be motivated to change some and reinforce others, when you accept there is no free will.

    Why should I be annoyed at the increased level of dirty laundry because of a knocked over milk anymore. I’m not annoyed at the wind blowing or the fact that I have to clean ice off the windshield. That just is. That cannot any other way. If the puddle of milk is the same, and the next puddle of milk is determined already, there’s no use for annoyance, and no being pleased for not having to clean it.
    Just one meta-thing: Notice how you use “will” in that paragraph above? You make a prediction of the future given on the variables you know. How can you do that?

  173. Tigger_the_Wing says

    Hi horde!

    I confess that I haven’t even started to read this thread yet, (and have missed far too many previous iterations ever to catch up) but Alethea informed me that I was being missed (thank you! =^_^=) so I thought I’d better tell all.

    I’ve been trying to come to terms with a modified medication regime that has, thankfully, started to get my pain under better control but unfortunately slowed my brain to frozen treacle speed. I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog posts on Pharyngula, let alone the comment threads.

    Over the last couple of days I have started to think a little clearer, and I’ll try to catch up.

    Off to read…

  174. carlie says

    I think this is in the running for dumbest photo caption ever.

    New York Times

    Picture: Guy holding up a seemingly clear microscope slide, looking at it.

    Caption:”W. Richard McCombie, a professor of human genetics at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, examining some cells.”

    *headdesk*

  175. says

    Giliell,

    If, in the near-infinit number of instances that lead up to this point there was never a chance for the value to be 1 instead of 0, or 0 instead of 1, then intention is as none-existent as free will.

    That’s wrong. Intention is what it is. You have a desire to do something, or you don’t. This is true regardless of whether you have free will.

    It is a demonstrable fact that intentions exist. They are “properly basic“, like cogito ergo sum. You merely have to be aware of them to know that they exist.

    If my decision to cross the street with open eyes or not is determined by previous factors, it is fixed.

    But everything that created those previous factors was fixed, too. As said above, never a chance for 1 to be 0 and vice versa. It also means that this discussion will or will not convince me of the nonexistence of free will.

    So far so good.

    There is no “no matter what you do”, there is only you do.

    But people who believe in fatalism—people who believe that the world will unfold the same regardless of their actions—they will act differently than people who understand fatalism is false. So that’s at least why we try to knock down the “no matter what you do” idea.

    It would differ in terms of respect. Respect for a kid who, although she is very frustrated doesn’t lash out. No respect for a succesfully manipulated robot.

    But, why is that? The robot is frustrated and doesn’t lash out. The robot is still the proximate cause of this action; the robot still had to exercise self-control.

    Allow me a slight diversion: the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics may be true. If it is, then you’ve ended up in one of those worlds in which the robot kid did not lash out. The robot kid you end up with was one which exercised more self-control than others did. You’re happy about this. Why not respect the effort? It’s true that the kid could not have chosen to choose otherwise than make the effort, but it’s still true that the kid made the effort. It wasn’t easy.

    Just one meta-thing: Notice how you use “will” in that paragraph above? You make a prediction of the future given on the variables you know. How can you do that?

    How can I predict that you will still be annoyed and pleased with various actions, and you will still be motivated to change some and reinforce others?

    Just because I understand humans pretty well. It’s a fair assumption on my part.

  176. says

    ahs,

    It’s true that the kid could not have chosen to choose otherwise than make the effort, but it’s still true that the kid made the effort. It wasn’t easy.

    Nope, it was dead easy. The kid could not have lashed out. It was determined that the kid would make the effort that would lead to the behaviour. There’s no reason to be pleased at rocks falling downwards.

    But people who believe in fatalism—people who believe that the world will unfold the same regardless of their actions—they will act differently than people who understand fatalism is false. So that’s at least why we try to knock down the “no matter what you do” idea.

    That is obviously bollocks. Things happen differently according to different circumstances.
    But there was never any chance for the circumstances to be any different. The fatalism-people could not have ended up not being fatalism people and since you can’t chose to make ths argument or that argument, to make it here or there, and since they can’t decide to listen to you or not, to read or not, to believe you or not, it is already determined who’ll believe in that idea in 2 years and who won’t.
    Clearly, what we do matters, the way and the time the tree falls across the road matters, but if what we do is as predetermined as the way the tree falls, then it will happen anyway, because there is only one way for it to happen. The fatalist who got run over by a car didn’t get run over because he believed in a stupid idea, but because it could not have happened in any other way (in this universe)

  177. says

    John,

    It’s clear enough in one sense: they are approaching their desires and avoiding what they desire less.

    And/or, I think — unless you consider that avoiding what is undesired constitutes desire (which I don’t, except in a trivial sense).

    I don’t think the two are construed in the brain equivalently, and that sort of thing is what I generally hold to be important.

    In this case, I meant that across the whole set of consensual behaviors in a lifetime, a person is approaching their desires and avoiding what they desire less.

    +++++
    theophontes,

    Some of the decisions one would make are due to compulsion. For example, as a lonely cycling Pharangulite faced with the choice of “Little Biggend” vs “Brownianbottom” there is no real choice involved. But you will come to a situation that stands on the knife’s edge. Surely here we are actually making a non-compulsive decision. (Which I chickened out of with a coin.)

    I think there are smaller compulsions, usually ignored. Get good and drunk and you’ll notice them pulling at you.

    The coin reminds me of a method of checking subtle intuitions. You have a binary decision to make which you’re not sure about. So you assign one to heads and one to tails. Flip the coin and look at the result. Immediately, check your bodily emotional reaction to the result. Are you a little bit glad or excited that it came up how it did? Or are you slightly disappointed?

    Do not follow the heads/tails result itself, but instead do as your reaction indicated. If you were glad of it, then follow the coin. But if you were slightly disappointed, then reverse the coin’s outcome, and do that instead.

  178. says

    @Tigger – hi! Sorry to hear about the drugs. My own health is improving, but frustratingly very slowly.

    @John Morales: trivia. Whether a fig is technically a flower was one. There’s also me insisting that reality is probabilistic, not deterministic, even though the distributions of interest are usually so sharply peaked as to seem determined at a macro scale, and even though it’s completely irrelevant to the free will debate.

    Which I am spectating. I’m largely coming round to the idea that it’s brain in a vat territory. Un-disprovable but also dangerous, if applied as a model for life. But I do have a feeling that somehow self-modifying systems and feedback loops might be sneakily relevant. But it’s not yet articulated and I don’t even umm errr ahh wotsit.

    In other news, my Pharyngula Tshirt arrived today! Yay!

  179. says

    Nope, it was dead easy.

    Wrong, because:

    The kid could not have lashed out. It was determined that the kid would make the effort that would lead to the behaviour. There’s no reason to be pleased at rocks falling downwards.

    Think of the hardest thing you’ve ever done, writing a thesis, giving birth, being there for your tragically senile grandparent instead of avoiding her, whatever.

    It was not easy.

    You could not have chosen to choose otherwise.

    But you still did not experience it as easy.

    So you know that you were wrong when you said “Nope, it was dead easy.” It sounds like you are whining to get extra recognition for all the hard shit you’ve done! That’s understandable, but mistaken. All the hard shit you’ve done was truly hard shit! You don’t need free will to get recognition for it. You have experienced similar hardships as most humans have.

    But people who believe in fatalism—people who believe that the world will unfold the same regardless of their actions—they will act differently than people who understand fatalism is false. So that’s at least why we try to knock down the “no matter what you do” idea.

    That is obviously bollocks. Things happen differently according to different circumstances.

    Hm. Your second sentence contradicts the first. If you agree with me that things happen differently according to different circumstances, then the paragraph you quoted is not obviously bollocks; it is obviously true. You are very confused, but I can’t tell how you got that way.

    But there was never any chance for the circumstances to be any different. The fatalism-people could not have ended up not being fatalism people

    at a moment ago. But we don’t know for sure what’s going to happen in the next moment; we can only make an educated guess. And we do know that other people’s behavior is a reaction to our own. So we do know for a fact that there is the possibility of changing those who have mistakenly fallen for fatalism. They could realize their error fairly easily (since it is a trivial error).

    and since you can’t chose to make ths argument or that argument, to make it here or there, and since they can’t decide to listen to you or not, to read or not, to believe you or not, it is already determined who’ll believe in that idea in 2 years and who won’t.

    Strictly speaking this is probably not true, since indeterminism is probably true, since quantum uncertainty demonstrably exists. It doesn’t allow for free will, but it does mean the future is probably not “determined”.

    Who knows what your cognitive error is, such that you’re getting so upset about timelines. But this ought to disrupt your error. At least you have the opportunity for new errors now.

    Clearly, what we do matters, the way and the time the tree falls across the road matters, but if what we do is as predetermined as the way the tree falls, then it will happen anyway, because there is only one way for it to happen. The fatalist who got run over by a car didn’t get run over because he believed in a stupid idea, but because it could not have happened in any other way (in this universe)

    If the fatalist got run over by a car because he believed in fatalism, then he was still the proximate cause of getting run over by the car.

    I forget. What does this have to do with disrespecting your child, again?

  180. says

    Good morning!

    I have a Toastmasters speech today, and I’m gonna do it on how to stay safe on the Internet. If I said the following things, do you think it’s enough and not too technically superior to get through to people of whom I have no idea their skills?

    Be Secure – Don’t click random links if you don’t know what they are, don’t visit shifty Web sites
    Be Prepared – Have an anti-virus program with current definitions, have an anti-Spyware program, have a program that can clean up your computer
    Be Aware – Know what scams are out there, know what your computer should be doing

    Of course stretched into a 5-7 minute speech, but that’s the gist of it.

  181. says

    If I said the following things, do you think it’s enough and not too technically superior to get through to people of whom I have no idea their skills?

    Can you give out a paper with recommendations so they don’t also have to take notes? I don’t know anything about Toastmasters. I would want to give them links to trusted free options: Secunia, and Avast or AVG.

    I’m tempted to say drop the program that can clean up your computer, because so many of these are just worthless and even destructive.

    “Be Secure”

    I wonder, does anybody here use the Web Of Trust extension for Firefox? I haven’t but it sounds like a good thing for unsure users.

  182. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I’m not always a huge Dowd fan but she nails Gingrich in her op-ed column in the times a couple days ago.

    As one commentator astutely noted, Gingrich is a historian and a futurist who can’t seem to handle the present. He has more exploding cigars in his pocket than the president with whom he had the volatile bromance: Bill Clinton.

    But next to Romney, Gingrich seems authentic. Next to Herman Cain, Gingrich seems faithful. Next to Jon Huntsman, Gingrich seems conservative. Next to Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, Gingrich actually does look like an intellectual. Unlike the governor of Texas, he surely knows the voting age. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, if brains were elastic, Perry wouldn’t have enough to make suspenders for a parakeet.

    In presidential campaigns, it’s all relative.

  183. says

    ahs,

    Hm. Your second sentence contradicts the first.

    Sorry, poor wording on my side: The idea that what we do doesn’t matter is obviously bollocks.

    But we don’t know for sure what’s going to happen in the next moment; we can only make an educated guess.

    Yeah, the fact that you don’t know which way the electrons will travel doesn’t mean that they won’t do that in a certain way.

    They could realize their error fairly easily (since it is a trivial error).

    How? I mean, how could they? They will or they won’t. If they don’t, they literally can’t because there’s no possibility for them to do.

    Strictly speaking this is probably not true, since indeterminism is probably true, since quantum uncertainty demonstrably exists.

    Didn’t you also claim that those are of no consequence at our scale? That’s why I’m hung up on timelines: where’s the room for variation, for a different past, present and future to exist?

    I forget. What does this have to do with disrespecting your child, again?

    Well, my washing machine is just running the 30° cycle. This computer is running a very complicated programm to get this message through the internet. I don’t respect any of them for it. If the kid is a super-complicated machine running a super-complicated programm, why give her any more respect.
    And just for the matter of record: I don’t disrespect my children.

  184. says

    consciousness razor, Ing, Walton Oppenheimer, Josh, Jadehawk (I’ll point her toward this thread later), Antiochus Epiphanes, Cannabinaceae, Richard Austin, Dhorvath, and perhaps I suspect chigau of being an incompatibilist sympathizer:

    It occurs to me that we are atheists in the late 1800s, battling against the little god of free will. We hardly have the luxury of a bunch of New Atheist allies. We have to be the Old Atheists.

    Folks have been told lies, they have been told misinformation, and most of all they have been left on their own to imagine what it would mean to live without this little god. We barely have the literature to show them how they’re mistaken.

    So when they accuse us of ruining the youths’ morals, we have to consider whether the individual speaker really might not know any better. You saw how badly rorschach, crowepps, Crudely Wrott and Giliell got it wrong, for the most part without meaning to.

    If we are to make possible a more aggressive antitheism, we must first predict and preempt the common errors. I don’t suppose that I am any good at this; it’s clear that I’m not very. I only think that we have to learn to be responsive, even when folks say the damnedest, borderline malicious things.

  185. says

    @ahs:

    I was planning on giving out a paper with some links to good sites – like ZoneAlarm, Avast, Naked Security.

    Also looking at my paper the computer cleaner program I ditched because it’s not really security, it’s more performance. I would also add a password storage program, but since I never use one, I wouldn’t know which was good or bad or legit or whatnot.

  186. says

    Yeah, the fact that you don’t know which way the electrons will travel doesn’t mean that they won’t do that in a certain way.

    So you want to be prepared for whatever they might do.

    They could realize their error fairly easily (since it is a trivial error).

    How? I mean, how could they

    By realizing their error. Since it is a trivial error.

    They will or they won’t. If they don’t, they literally can’t because there’s no possibility for them to do.

    But that hasn’t happened yet. We don’t know if it will happen or not. And in a hypothetical world in which we did not try to make them realize their error, they were less likely to realize it.

    Didn’t you also claim that those are of no consequence at our scale?

    I did claim that such consequences could generally be ignored. What I’m worried about here is that someone will take the “grand scheme” to have some tremendous momentum, like rorschach did. If you avoid that error then that’s great; it just felt to me like things were getting teleological. I’m sorry if I misunderstood.

    That’s why I’m hung up on timelines: where’s the room for variation, for a different past, present and future to exist?

    For sure, there’s absolutely no room for a different future that you could have chosen to choose. There is a bit of randomness, but you get no say in it.

    If the kid is a super-complicated machine running a super-complicated programm, why give her any more respect.

    I think you had to ignore some pertinent issues to say this:

    Think of the hardest thing you’ve ever done, writing a thesis, giving birth, being there for your tragically senile grandparent instead of avoiding her, whatever.

    It was not easy.

    You could not have chosen to choose otherwise.

    But you still did not experience it as easy.

    So you know that you were wrong when you said “Nope, it was dead easy.” It sounds like you are whining to get extra recognition for all the hard shit you’ve done! That’s understandable, but mistaken. All the hard shit you’ve done was truly hard shit! You don’t need free will to get recognition for it. You have experienced similar hardships as most humans have.

  187. KG says

    And consider also that even people who consciously reject dualism, such as almost everyone here, often find themselves unconsciously falling into dualist assumptions and habits of thought. For instance, as I’ve highlighted, even among atheists and materialists, one often encounters people talking about some people being “evil” or “bad”, some people “deserving” reward and others “deserving” punishment, people “choosing” between good and evil paths, people being more or less “to blame” for their behaviour, and so on. – Walton

    All of which makes perfectly good sense without an assumption of dualism, or of contra-causal free will. I repeat my injunction to read Dennett’s Freedom Evolves.

  188. says

    Is Gingrich even remotely electable against Obama?

    Less so than Romney, I think. I doubt that Gingrich’s past hurts him significantly, but he is less physically attractive than Romney, and I suspect that counts for much.

  189. says

    ahs,

    Think of the hardest thing you’ve ever done, writing a thesis, giving birth, being there for your tragically senile grandparent instead of avoiding her, whatever.

    It was not easy.

    You could not have chosen to choose otherwise.

    No it was not easy in my experience. Only that it really doesn’t matter if it was bound to happen anyway. It was bound to happen, it was bound to programm some more, which is bound to change other things and so on….
    Takes away the meaning. Also takes away the meaning of kindness. It’s just a programm running.

  190. says

    No it was not easy in my experience

    Okay. At least this contradicts the “it was dead easy” stuff.

    Only that it really doesn’t matter if it was bound to happen anyway.

    It does matter. Pain and pleasure matter in all imaginable worlds. They are what we mean when we say something matters. Difficulty of avoiding pain, or difficulty of achieving pleasure, thus also matter. A world is better if the difficulty is less.

    Also takes away the meaning of kindness

    Not at all. You have appreciated kindness. And, here’s the most important part: you have given kindness without insisting that it must be received or appreciated. You have given kindness simply because you hoped that it would make others’ lives better. You did not insist upon acknowledgement, thus if you were not acknowledged, it is unfortunate but does not detract from your gift; but if you were appreciated, then someone noticed and we can all agree the world is a better place because of it.

    The meaning of kindness is very well preserved by one who fears the worst from the lack of free will but gives kindness anyway. You are, if you’ll permit this—I do not think it’s an exaggeration; I just think more people deserve this recognition—a secular saint.

  191. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Selling small businesses more network than they need.

    It was obvious something IT relates and I was guessing something in sales. I’m an IT manager (actually sole it employee) for a smedium sized company (250 employees 10 locations 5 states) and it all seemed vaguely familiar.

    Not meant as an insult in any way, just an observation.

  192. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    If (when) Herman Cain implodes,

    Pretty sure that ship has sailed. We’re just waiting for the shrapnel to stop falling everywhere.

  193. walton says

    KG,

    And consider also that even people who consciously reject dualism, such as almost everyone here, often find themselves unconsciously falling into dualist assumptions and habits of thought. For instance, as I’ve highlighted, even among atheists and materialists, one often encounters people talking about some people being “evil” or “bad”, some people “deserving” reward and others “deserving” punishment, people “choosing” between good and evil paths, people being more or less “to blame” for their behaviour, and so on. – Walton

    All of which makes perfectly good sense without an assumption of dualism, or of contra-causal free will. I repeat my injunction to read Dennett’s Freedom Evolves.

    Can you explain why, in your own view, it makes perfectly good sense to sustain these moral concepts without dualism or free will? I don’t have time to read Dennett and won’t be able to do so for at least a couple of months, and if I’m wrong about this question, I need to know now, since it’s a question that impacts my day-to-day life and opinions in very significant ways. Presumably, if you are convinced that Dennett is correct, you have reasons for finding his arguments convincing and will be able to explain them.