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I was compelled to post this

I said I didn’t want to say anything about free will, and I still don’t, but Massimo Pigliucci weighed in, and Jerry Coyne responded, and so did Sean Carroll, and of course I created a free will thread for everyone else to talk about it, so I guess there’s a fair bit of momentum behind it all.

I don’t understand why free will was getting all tangled up in indeterminacy vs. determinism, since that seems to be a completely independent issue. I’ll sum up my opinion by agreeing with Jerry Coyne:

Of course, whether the laws of physics are deterministic or probabilistic is, to me, irrelevant to whether there’s free will, which in my take means that we can override the laws of physics with some intangible “will” that allows us to make different decisions given identical configurations of the molecules of the universe. That kind of dualism is palpable nonsense, of course, which is why I think the commonsense notion of free will is wrong.

My mind is a product of the physical properties of my brain; it is not above them or beyond them or somehow independent of them. It doesn’t even make sense to talk about “me”, which is ultimately simply yet another emergent property of the substrate of the brain, modifying the how the brain acts. It is how the brain acts.

I think consciousness is a product of self-referential modeling of how decisions are made in the brain in the absence of any specific information about the mechanisms of decision-making — it’s an illusion generated by a high-level ‘theory of mind’ module that generates highly simplified, highly derived models of how brains work that also happens to be applied to our own brain.

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. says

    Free will is no doubt an illusion, but a necessary one. Society would be impossible without the pretense of free will, and our own individual feeling of agency and the behavioral system which it inhabits wouldn’t function. We need free will in order to feel the satisfaction of accomplishment or the shame of doing bad stuff, and that’s all essential to being human and being part of human society.

    And no, I’m not guilty of the pragmatic fallacy. I’m saying it’s an illusion, but go with it.

  2. mikelaing says

    Why would nature evolve the illusion of free will? Is there some benefit to imagining free will, and more importantly, having a self awareness and empathy that are pre-determined anyways, when just the computational aspects of our brains are all that are required for survival?

    What good are pain and reward in the first place if not to drive decisions?

  3. situsinversus says

    Whatever biologists make out of consciousness and free will my feeling is that it will have very little to do with physics and specially quantum mechanics. Just like nature abhors a vacuum biology abhors uncertainty. You can see this on biological process that could involve quantum phenomenona but don’t, like the electron transport chain and photoreceptors. Both of these processes have quite deterministic outputs.

    Consciousness and decision-making will be a matter of competition and selection, with an aggregator that measures the output of different neuronal constellations that represent each competing thought. This aggregator will turn out with something as mundane as the level of a neurotransmitter or number of active synapses. It will not involve physics or QM in an interesting way.

  4. mikelaing says

    cervantes says:

    Society would be impossible without the pretense of free will, and our own individual feeling of agency and the behavioral system which it inhabits wouldn’t function. We need free will in order to feel the satisfaction of accomplishment or the shame of doing bad stuff, and that’s all essential to being human and being part of human society.

    Do you mean we must have free will because we have society? I do.
    I’m not clear what you are saying, here, because you start out with “pretense of free will” and then say, “we need free will…”

  5. mikelaing says

    #Grumps #6, I brought that up in free will thread and figure that it does not indicate anything to eliminate free will. Our free will and thought may only become part of our awareness as a slightly delayed part of the reasoning and motor activation part of the process and, in any event, how do you explain reaction times of less than six seconds, typically ,5 to 1 second, if the *decision to move is initiated at -6s?

  6. Sastra says

    From what I can tell, the argument here pretty much comes down to semantics: what is the reasonable definition of ‘free will?’ BOTH sides are in agreement on what’s happening and both sides agree there is no “self’ suspended above the laws of physics. The only question is what to call the choices made by an agent — and why.

    Jerry’s side sees the concept of “free will” as a religious one originating from a belief in mind/body dualism. Therefore, throw the word out. It carries too much baggage and leads to too many bad consequences.

    The compatibilist side sees the concept of “free will” as a term which describes our experience of making choices which are not coerced by forces which are ‘against’ us. Therefore it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that we have free will AND there’s no need to describe or explain it by spooky mind-out-of-body causation. If we throw it out people will think we are throwing out things we are not throwing out — and the consequences of that are bad.

    Jerry sees compatibilists as being like theists who try to re-define “God” so that they can keep the concept around even when it no longer makes much sense.

    The compatibilists see Jerry as being like an atheist who grants that morality, meaning, and marriage are all religious concepts which depend on the existence of God, so we atheists can’t accept that we have any of them.

    I pretty much agree with the compatibilists here while recognizing that whichever side we take we’re going to have to do some work refuting stupid supernatural assumptions. That’s the problem you get when terms are fuzzy enough to include aspects and interpretations which are reasonable and aspects and interpretations which are not.

  7. Gorogh says

    Gnah… now and again, I realize why I am not made for blogging. It’s the endless repetition I am not sufficiently perseverant for :/ and I always quite reckoned to be so. Yet, since I am far from being the most concise proponent of contradicting free will, it’s not a big loss. Respect to all those who still “choose” to participate, I’m out for some time (and still have to read some of Kel’s/ahs’s links). One note though re:mikelaing, note that not every apparent trait has to be positively selected for – it might not be a trait after all. As implied in a former comment of mine, free will seems to be just evolutionary noise.

  8. What a Maroon says

    Why relate consciousness and free will? Consciousness is a very real phenomenon–we are aware of ourselves as independent beings, and we’re also aware that we sometimes lose that awareness (e.g., when we’re sleeping). That it’s some kind of epiphenomenon doesn’t make it any less real.

  9. sawells says

    Guys, outside these horrible little internet threads, do you ever actually need to consider “free will”? It has nothing to do with thought, agency, decision-making, moral responsibility or anything else; it is an irrelevant theological concept, invented to get God off the hook when we’re bad, and we should let it go.

  10. says

    We all agree on this part:

    My mind is a product of the physical properties of my brain; it is not above them or beyond them or somehow independent of them. [The conscious self] is ultimately simply yet another emergent property of the substrate of the brain

    The problem comes in when you go on to say things like this:

    I was compelled to post this

    No you weren’t (unless someone is holding a gun to your head).

    It doesn’t even make sense to talk about “me”

    Sure it does. This comment was written by “me,” not by you (and not by my computer).

    I think consciousness is . . . an illusion

    I can’t even make sense of what that would mean.

    We compatibilists are just trying to keep you from saying false things as we all try to pare away the mistaken dualist assumptions that are built into our language and our pre-theoretic intuitions.

  11. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    @mikelaing

    Exactly in the way you observe it now. If there is not this strange supernatural thing called free will in the strong sense, this does not change the fact that humans are interacting agents acting and thinking as they obviously do.

  12. says

    sawells (#13) says:

    “free will”. . . is an irrelevant theological concept

    Um, no. There’s been a substantial philosophical debate over the nature of freedom and moral responsibility for well over two millennia, quite apart from any theological considerations.

    Aristotle was a compatibilist, and he certainly was not concerned with theodicies.

  13. mikelaing says

    What a Maroon says: “That it’s some kind of epiphenomenon doesn’t make it any less real.”

    Epiphenomenon? Our thinking and reactions and decisions physically change our brain states. The connection is two ways. It is a feedback mechanism.

  14. says

    The title was a joke.

    The complete sense of that sentence was “it doesn’t make sense to talk about “me” modifying the how the brain acts. It is how the brain acts.. Of course there are contexts where the self is a useful simplifying concept.

  15. says

    Taken to mean, “we can override the laws of physics with some intangible “will” that allows us to make different decisions given identical configurations of the molecules of the universe,” I wholly agree, it is dualistic nonsense.

    Taken to mean, “computers make decisions (outputs) on inputs,” in combination with the chaotic behavior of nonlinear dynamical systems, and potentially small amounts of ‘true’ randomness (coin flipping), I think what the outdated notion of a spiritual will is now understandable in purely physical terms. (That is, I don’t entirely discount the notion that in some very limited ways, faced with the same decisions twice we may chose differently—namely, any time we use a real coin flip to make a decision.)

    That said, I can see now it is I using the term incorrectly, much the way physicists have historically abused the word god to describe the ineffable beauty of nature. So I apologize and I’ll stop that.

  16. mikelaing says

    Frick, I have to go. Consciousness is analogous to being receptive to sensory stimulus and able to act on it. That does not necessitate awareness, does it?

  17. says

    It doesn’t even make sense to talk about “me”, which is ultimately simply yet another emergent property of the substrate of the brain, modifying the how the brain acts.

    Um, well, no, it makes perfect sense to talk about “me,” as yet another emergent property of the substrate of the brain…

    Glen Davidson

  18. enkidum says

    Our thinking and reactions and decisions physically change our brain states.

    No, our thinking and reactions are brain states, and therefore necessarily change brain states.

  19. says

    The title was a joke.

    Yes. Which is testament to the fact that you’ve got a more sophisticated grasp on these issues than do most hard determinists. The problem is that many people make such claims in all seriousness.

    it doesn’t make sense to talk about “me” modifying the how the brain acts. It is how the brain acts.

    Ah, that is better. I think I take your meaning, but still, one should be careful not to read too much into this. For example, I can modify how my brain acts in the future (by deciding to go into therapy, or take certain drugs, or to meditate daily on how I should be nice to my colleagues, or what have you).

    Yes it’s a mistake to suppose that I’m something apart from my brain, but it’s also a mistake to suppose that I don’t have real choices that have real effects And it seems to me that people like Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris are making precisely this mistake.

  20. says

    I hope everyone here is aware that belief in genetic causation of same-sex attraction is related to support for gay rights.

    Five categories were presented; ranging from almost all to almost none of the causation for homosexuality being genetic. The more that genetics was attributed as a cause of homosexuality, the greater the support for rights of homosexuals (r = .77). The effects largely remained in multivariate analysis (B =.69).

    That’s from Genetic Causation Attribution and Public Support of Gay Rights; C. E. Tygart; 2000; doi 10.1093/ijpor/12.3.259

    No surprise there; that’s what we’d all expect to find.

    What’s interesting is that this study also measured belief in “free will”, separate from beliefs about genetic same-sex attraction. The author found that decreased belief in free will also predicts more support for gay rights, and this effect does not reduce to beliefs about genetics; it is independent.

    In a random national sample of 600 English-speaking adults, aged 18 and over, the greater the degree to which these subjects attributed the causes of homosexuality to genetics, the greater was the support for extending homosexual rights in the areas of legalized domestic partnership and homosexual marriages. The effects of genetic causal attribution for extending homosexual rights seem to benefit from other ideologies: having a deterministic rather than a free will world view, and political liberalism as well as conservative libertarianism. On the other hand, the effects of religiosity were eliminated at the multivariate level of analysis. [...]

    [R]eligiosity did have a modest relationship with support for extending gay rights at the bivariate level. However, when the interrelationships of religiosity and the other variables are analyzed, this initial relationship became so small that the occurrence could have resulted from random sampling variations. In other words, religiosity contributed no additional support for homosexuals. Those whose religious views were more libertarian or less traditional usually had political ideologies, other orientations or views which were more sympathetic to gay issues. The latter rather than religion were the determinants of these subjects’ views concerning homosexuality.

    The effects of free will vs. determinism and political ideology were the opposite. When interrelationship are taken into account, most support for extending gay rights remained. That is to say, both a determinstic orientation and liberal or libertarian views contribute to support for gay rights on their own.

    This suggests that no matter how successful we can be by informing people about the genetic influences on same-sex attraction — and I think we’ve been noticeably successful at this already — we can be even more successful by also informing people about how free will does not exist.

  21. mikelaing says

    @Gorrogh #16

    As implied in a former comment of mine, free will seems to be just evolutionary noise.

    Yes, I meant to take you up on that. It may well be, but we are aware of a decision process, non the less. My point is that we don’t have to be aware of it to have it work.

  22. mikelaing says

    One last, lol

    enkidum says:
    6 December 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Our thinking and reactions and decisions physically change our brain states.

    No, our thinking and reactions are brain states, and therefore necessarily change brain states.

    Yes, that’s what I meant, I think. I do now (minutes later).

    The problem, for me, is conscious awareness. And why I think that it is more than evolutionary noise.

  23. Sastra says

    Glen Davidson #22 wrote:

    Um, well, no, it makes perfect sense to talk about “me,” as yet another emergent property of the substrate of the brain…

    Agree. The consequences of denying that there is any ‘self’ at all (in order to emphasize that our minds are the processes of physical brains imbedded in a network of physical cause-and-effect) is that

    1.) Traditional religious dualists will sneer that the atheist world-view considers humans to be nothing more than mindless robots

    and

    2.) Traditional religious monists will agree that yes indeed there is no difference between us and what is not us and will turn the resultant ‘undifferentiated stew of mind and matter’ into mystical airy-fairy glop.

  24. says

    My interest in this argument is largely driven by the fact that 1/100 of US adults are subjects of the prison industry. I am thus primarily interested in how attitudes about and around “free will” affect people’s attitudes toward punishment.

    I’ll summarize what I’ve found relevant from Belief in Free Will: Measurement and Conceptualization Innovations by Richard F. Rakos, Kimberly R. Steyer, Sarah Skala, and Stephen Slane, 2008.

    They describe their tests:

    Free Will and Determinism Scale: The 22 Likert-type items on this scale use a five-point range from “not true at all” to “almost always true,” resulting in scores that span from 22 (most deterministic) to 110 (most libertarian), with four items reverse scored. Fourteen items assess personal beliefs about other people having free will and form the General Will subscale with a range of 14 to 70. The other eight items assess beliefs about free will related to oneself, forming the Personal Will subscale with a range of 8 to 40. Appendix A identifies the specific items that comprise each subscale. Internal reliabilities were reasonable: .72 (entire scale), .59 (general will subscale), and .65 (personal will subscale).

    This is a longer scale, so I haven’t reproduced it here, but the PDF should be available to anyone who clicks on my link above. Please let me know if it’s not working for you, and I’ll make it available some other way (it’s licensed for non-commercial distribution, so I won’t even be pirating this one).

    I’ve scored the scale myself with a simple Y/N for each item, according to my own incompatibilist position against free will, and the internally coherent compatibilism I’m aware of from reading Dennett and the more articulate compatibilists here at Pharyngula. (I took care to reverse the four reverse-scored items.)

    My position ends up 7/22 toward the free will answers, and the compatibilist position gets 16/22 toward free will. I’ve been generous to the compatibilists, scoring them away from the free will answer when it’s not perfectly clear how they’d answer. If I were giving half-points, they’d get 18/22 instead.

    Attitudes Toward Punishment Scale: This six-item instrument was created for the present study to measure the extent to which punishment is viewed as deterrence, rehabilitation, and retribution. The five-point Likert-type items range from “not true at all” to “almost always true” and are divided into three subscales that each contain two items (See Appendix B). Thus, the scores for Attitudes Toward Punishment-Deterrence, Attitudes Toward Punishment-Rehabilitation, and Attitudes Toward Punishment-Retribution each range from 2 to 10, with higher scores indicating stronger belief.

    Here’s the scale itself:

    Deterrent Attitude subscale.
    : The possibility of serving time in prison should be used to deter people from committing crimes.
    : Punishment should discourage people from committing crimes.

    Retribution Attitude subscale
    : Punishment of criminals should provide comfort to the victims of the crime.
    : Punishment should provide a strong penalty for committing a crime

    Rehabilitation Attitude subscale
    : A criminal’s time in prison should focus on rehabilitation and treatment.
    : Prisoners should receive treatment while in jail.

    Unfortunately, the rehabilitation subscale is not useful to me, because the items are not worded to indicate whether a person would be willing to initiate punishment for the sake of rehabilitation. Perhaps so few people think in those terms that the study’s authors couldn’t even imagine it themselves. So I’m stuck with considering only the deterrent and retribution scales to gauge whether a person’s attitude, expressed as judge or juror, would tend toward more or less punishment.

    +++++
    I was ambivalent about their Free Will And Determinism Scale before I scored it myself. But the difference between my 7/22 and the compatibilist 16/22 is striking, and even with half-points giving the compatibilist 18/22, there is still room to take a much more unreasonable stance than any well-informed compatibilist would.

    From their results:

    Extent of endorsement of free will: Both samples strongly and similarly endorsed the concept of free will. The mean on the Free Will and Determinism Scale was 87.6 for adolescent high school students and 87.2 for adult college students. These means represent approximately 79% of the maximum free will score of 110. The two samples supported notions of General Will and Personal Will in comparably strong manners as well (high school: 55.9, 35.7, respectively; college students 54.8, 32.3, respectively), with all subscale scores also representing approximately 79% of the maximum free will scores.

    Relationship of belief in free will and attitudes toward punishment: For high school students, beliefs in free will and in general will were significantly correlated with a view of punishment as retribution, r = .28 (73), p<.011, r = .36 (83), p<.002, respectively. For college students, belief in free will correlated positively with all three attitudes toward punishment: deterrence, rehabilitation, and retribution, r = 0.35 (83), p<.001; r = .32 (83), p<.003; r = 0.33 (83), p<.002, respectively. Personal will was significantly positively correlated with a rehabilitative attitudes towards punishment (r = .28 (84), p<.009), while general will was associated with views of punishment as rehabilitation, deterrence, and retribution, r = .30 (83), p<0.005; r = .40 (83), p<.001; r = 0.39 (83), p<.001, respectively.

    From their discussion:

    This investigation documented a considerably stronger endorsement of free will than has been obtained in previous research. In rough quantitative terms, participants in the present study produced scores that were consistently in the vicinity of 79% of the maximum free will score. In contrast, earlier studies produced scores that ranged from 61 to 72 percent of the maximum possible free will score. Because all but one of the earlier studies, unlike the present research, exposed participants to discussions and/or definitions of free will and determinism, the data suggest that, contrary to Russell (1955), the endorsement of free will is stronger when persons are not sensitized to the topic through prompts and other discriminative stimuli. In other words, a generalized libertarian belief in free will is the “default” philosophy of most persons; when environmental stimuli direct attention to compelling external determinants, people rationally adopt a compatibilist position, much like Bandura has advocated over the years (Bandura, 1989, 2006).

    [A]n adolescent’s strong sense of free will may also be less complex than an adult’s. For instance, adolescents who strongly endorse free will tend to view punishment in terms of retribution, while adults with a similar sense of free will incorporate a multidimensional perspective on punishment – recognizing it can serve the purposes of retribution, rehabilitation, and deterrence. Where adolescents see only accountability for moral blameworthiness, adults may also perceive opportunities to change or prevent blameworthy behavior.

    +++++
    My scorings of the compatibilist answers at 73% (16/22) or 82% (18/22) are very near the students’ average of 79%, and much higher than my own 32%.

    As higher scores are positively correlated with willingness to use punishment for both deterrence and retribution, I believe this study supports my view that public advocacy of compatibilism, whether well understood or not — and of course it will most often not be well understood — will contribute to more and longer prison sentences.

    Compatibilism is thus bad for America, and bad for secular humanism.

    Even in its internally consistent form, public advocacy of compatibilism will produce destructive outcomes that we cannot afford. We should entirely abandon notions of “free will” and stop “holding people accountable”, and instead move to a strict consequentialism of getting our laborforce out of prison and back into productive work.

  25. DonDueed says

    When I consider the question of free will, I’m reminded of the M*A*S*H episode in which Frank Burns gets Hawkeye arrested and confined to his tent, then taunts him by standing in the door and demonstrating that “I can come in, I can go out. I can come in, I can go out.”

    Maybe all our decisions are preordained in some sense, but subjectively it certainly feels as though we have the power to shape our own destiny to a greater or lesser extent (depending on our circumstances). I can’t claim that this subjective notion is in any way a valid argument for free will, though, since that all depends on the definition of same.

    Now, I just have to decide about this evening: I could stay in, or I could go out…

  26. raymondrussell says

    mikelaing said “The problem, for me, is conscious awareness.”

    If we take as a premise that free will is an illusion then your “awareness” of free will is part of the illusion. Even if we were to become aware of how this particular illusion works then it still does not go away.
    For example the Mcgurk Effect does not diminish with our awareness of it.

  27. consciousness razor says

    Sastra:

    The consequences of denying that there is any ‘self’ at all (in order to emphasize that our minds are the processes of physical brains imbedded in a network of physical cause-and-effect) is that

    1.) Traditional religious dualists will sneer that the atheist world-view considers humans to be nothing more than mindless robots

    and

    2.) Traditional religious monists will agree that yes indeed there is no difference between us and what is not us and will turn the resultant ‘undifferentiated stew of mind and matter’ into mystical airy-fairy glop.

    So nothing will change then. What have got to lose?

    I think we can certainly talk about what we experience as a self, but it’s going to require meat robots. And we can talk about how we’re the same stuff as everything else, just like we already do when quoting Sagan and getting teary-eyed about being made of “star stuff.” I don’t think it matters a whole lot how we frame it. Believers will continue to rail on us for whatever bullshit reasons they want, as long as we keep following the evidence wherever it leads.

  28. says

    People like to think they’re deep:

    Free will is no doubt an illusion, but a necessary one. Society would be impossible without the pretense of free will,

    Ahem. Why?

    and our own individual feeling of agency and the behavioral system which it inhabits wouldn’t function.

    This erroneously conflates belief in free will with belief in an internal locus of control (and weirdly implies that belief in an external locus of control would cause a person to stop performing actions, which is obviously empirically false).

    This is bizarre, I admit, but earlier studies like Waldman 1983 have found only a weak correlation between belief in free will and internal locus of control.

    And the Rakos study I’m dissecting here actually finds a negative correlation between belief in free will and internal locus of control:

    Abbreviated 11-Item Rotter IE Scale (Valecha, 1972): This measure of perception of individual control over positive and negative reinforcers (Robinson & Shaver, 1973) is composed of 11 items modified from Rotter’s Internal-External Locus of Control Scale (Rotter, 1966). Respondents select one of two response options and then indicate if that choice is “much closer” or “slightly closer” to their own opinion. Scores on the measure range from 11 (external locus of control) to 44 (internal locus of control). The scale has demonstrated reasonably good internal consistency (r = .62), and it closely resembles the original Rotter scale in terms of distributional characteristics and reliability (Valecha & Ostrom, 1974).

    Relationship of belief in free will and locus of control: Senior high school students did not associate beliefs in free will, general will, or personal will with locus of control. College students, on the other hand, produced a significant negative correlation between belief in free will and locus of control, r = -.22 (81), p<.048. Similarly, belief in personal will was also negatively correlated with locus of control, r = -0.33 (82), p<.002. These data support our hypothesis that the belief in free will is not identical to an internal locus of control.

    Both the negative correlation obtained for college students between endorsement of free will and locus of control, and the absence of any relationship between these variables for high school students, are consistent with previous research indicating that a strong belief in free will is not synonymous with having an internal locus of control. The former may function like an overall philosophy and the latter as an experientially-derived self- assessment, similar to self-efficacy (cf., Bandura, 2006). Thus, Western adults believe in their own agenic potential even if it is not manifested in everyday life. The emergence of an inverse relationship between these two variables in college students suggests that the impact of external influences on behavior is more readily discerned with increasing life experience.

    Well, that’s a possible explanation.

    At the least, we now have reason to think that we can knock down the belief in free will while maintaining people’s locus of control and sense of self-efficacy.

  29. says

    We need free will in order to feel the satisfaction of accomplishment or the shame of doing bad stuff

    That’s an empirical claim, which you should cite evidence for. My evidence from #33, showing a difference between belief in free will and belief in internal locus of control, suggests that you’re probably wrong about this.

    There’s probably other dimensions to the feeling(s) of agency as well: Weed Monkey says “This brouhaha about free will seems quite strange to me – I feel it’s intuitively right to think of myself as a machine that behaves in a way all my earlier experiences have taught (or even programmed) me to behave. And hopefully I’ll learn more and more stuff all the time, that will modify the way I’ll behave in the future”, and Dhorvath agrees. Are these two incapable of shame? Would society collapse if more people were like them?

    I doubt it.

  30. maratkhramov says

    Um, well, no, it makes perfect sense to talk about “me,” as yet another emergent property of the substrate of the brain…

    You agreed with PZ. Read the sentence more carefully; make sure you take notice of the two commas and what they do for the sentence.

    The amount of people who have commented while failing to read properly so far has been way too large.

  31. John Morales says

    As I noted earlier, I reckon the common-sense notion of free will—outside of theological/philosophical considerations—is that one is making decisions according to one’s nature, i.e. uncoerced.

    (This can be seen in its normal societal usage, e.g. oaths or last wills)

  32. says

    John, I reckon that calling that “free will” leads to more errors of equivocation, which can be avoided with more precise language.

    And some of that more precise language is already in use. At the airport, they don’t ask whether I packed my bags of my own free will. They ask whether anyone else asked me to carry something for them.

  33. enkidum says

    Ahs, sorry, but you’re out to lunch.

    First of all, the effect sizes of ALL the results you quote indicate that ~90% of the variance in beliefs about punishment is NOT predicted by beliefs about free will. Even if the rest of your argument was good (which it isn’t), are you seriously comfortable basing such a call to action on a 10% effect size???

    That doesn’t mean those results are garbage – given a good enough sample size, that’s a perfectly respectable finding in psychology (I’ve just submitted a paper with very similar effect sizes).

    Second of all, your position depends on the causal direction going from beliefs about free will to beliefs about punishment. I’m sure you’re aware of the reason why that’s a shitty assumption, unless you have some independent evidence for that being the case.

  34. says

    Why would nature evolve the illusion of free will?

    It might not be adaptive at all. It might be a side effect of other things.

    This mouse might not do much thinking about moral agency, but this mouse is probably aware of being this mouse and not that other mouse. That may be a basis for what we experience.

    We have a narrative mind which tells us a story about how we got to be who we are. It may just be that such narration tends to create the fantasy that we could ever have chosen differently than we did.

    And the adaptive function of the narrative mind might be no more than competition in sexual selection. A storyteller is intriguing.

    (I do not propose that there is good reason to believe this particular just-so story over another; it is only intended to show that a sensation of free will could be a spandrel. Personally, I’m not sure whether it’s adaptive or not.)

  35. colluvial says

    As soon as someone can tell me exactly what free will is free of, and how it maintains itself that way, I’ll consider that it might exist.

  36. John Morales says

    ahs, when someone asks you “Are you sure you really want to do this?”, to what do they refer?

  37. Dhorvath, OM says

    John,
    I don’t know about uncoerced. I mean, decisions don’t happen solely internally, there is always input and that always impacts things.

  38. says

    First of all, the effect sizes of ALL the results you quote indicate that ~90% of the variance in beliefs about punishment is NOT predicted by beliefs about free will.

    And?

    are you seriously comfortable basing such a call to action on a 10% effect size???

    Yes. We don’t have a bunch of other options left to try instead.

    We have been appealing to people’s empathy and trying to get out the word about prison overcrowding for a long time now. We may have already maximized our ability to do this. It’s not doing enough.

    We need to go further. If you have other radical suggestions, please add them, but you have to start from the realization that the non-radical ideas we’ve tried are currently failing us.

    Second of all, your position depends on the causal direction going from beliefs about free will to beliefs about punishment. I’m sure you’re aware of the reason why that’s a shitty assumption, unless you have some independent evidence for that being the case.

    It’s a good assumption. The history of Western law is grounded in an assumption about contra-causal free will of the soul.

    It’s easy to imagine how compatibilist leanings could be causing a willingness to punish. It’s easy to imagine how a desire to punish could be causing compatibilist leanings. It’s easy to imagine a causal feedback loop. There are probably some obvious candidates for third cause of both.

    What we can say is that there’s some reason to expect that manipulating belief toward incompatibilism without free will would result in less willingness to punish.

    There’s some reason(s) why those less willing to punish lean toward a lack of belief in free will. And the belief-set itself is a reasonable candidate for manipulation. With 1/100 adults in the prison system, there’s a good case for trying everything that might work.

  39. says

    ahs, when someone asks you “Are you sure you really want to do this?”, to what do they refer?

    They are referring to my desires, which can be spoken of without the term “free will” that carries so much unnecessary connotation.

    (Are you carrying any aerosol cans? Any live plants? Did you pack your own metaphysical baggage?)

  40. enkidum says

    It’s easy to imagine how compatibilist leanings could be causing a willingness to punish. It’s easy to imagine how a desire to punish could be causing compatibilist leanings. It’s easy to imagine a causal feedback loop. There are probably some obvious candidates for third cause of both.

    What we can say is that there’s some reason to expect that manipulating belief toward incompatibilism without free will would result in less willingness to punish.

    Only if the first of your imaginary stories is true (compatibilist leanings cause willingness to punish). If desire to punish causes compatibilist leanings, or there’s a third cause, then we should expect that removing compatibilist leanings would have no effect whatsoever on desire to punish. That’s how causation works – if A doesn’t cause B, then removing A doesn’t remove B, all things being equal.

    At any rate, even if compatibilism does cause people to be punishment-happy, the effect size of 10% suggests that removing compatibilism would have virtually no effects on attitudes towards punishment. Which, in turn, probably have an indirect and extremely slow effect on actual incarceration rates. If you’re actually suggesting a practical course of action for changing anything in, oh, the next few centuries, the results you cite suggest you’re wasting your time. This isn’t “radical”, it’s “masturbation”.

  41. ChasCPeterson says

    What shall we say; shall we call it by a name?
    As well to count the angels dancing on a pin.

  42. Cuttlefish says

    Oh, brain people. Rejecting a substance dualism, only to replace it with a functional brain/body dualism. It’s not actually the brain that does it, you know. It’s the body (including the brain), in long-term interaction with the environment. And yes, it matters, because some questions that make sense in that framework seem mysterious in the brain-focused analysis. That is, the questions arise from our everyday experience, which is as a body (yes, brain included) interacting over an extended period of time with a complex (including social) environment; if that’s where the questions arise, that’s the proper level of analysis for the answers as well, and it is no surprise that looking in the brain for answers will give us unsatisfactory answers.

  43. says

    Only if the first of your imaginary stories is true (compatibilist leanings cause willingness to punish). If desire to punish causes compatibilist leanings, or there’s a third cause, then we should expect that removing compatibilist leanings would have no effect whatsoever on desire to punish. That’s how causation works – if A doesn’t cause B, then removing A doesn’t remove B, all things being equal.

    No shit. Holy shit. Why would you bother with this shit again after I just explained it my damn self?

    There is, however, no reason whatsoever to imagine that the other stories might be true; they are not even plausible, and they certainly are not supported by the historical evidence.

    At any rate, even if compatibilism does cause people to be punishment-happy, the effect size of 10% suggests that removing compatibilism would have virtually no effects on attitudes towards punishment.

    That’s actually considerably more than “virtually no effects”.

    Which, in turn, probably have an indirect and extremely slow effect on actual incarceration rates. If you’re actually suggesting a practical course of action for changing anything in, oh, the next few centuries, the results you cite suggest you’re wasting your time.

    No, because that’s of course not the only thing I would suggest. Don’t be so stupid. I’m just saying this is one more thing we ought to be doing.

    You’re just offering a counsel of despair.

  44. johanfruh says

    Isn’t all this just a problem of definition?
    Free will is a pretty vague term.

    Evolution gave us this manner of sorting past experiences, so that we can cross reference as many memories as possible, making organisms capable of “choosing” an action with a hell lot more clairvoyance.

    The mere fact of making a decision sounds to me like “free will”.

    Every word we’re going to invent to describe our mental state, is obviously going to be pretty vague, seeing as how little we know about the mind.

    “Consciousness”, “free will”… I don’t see how these can be illusions. They are simply means of expressing a sensation.
    It’s just like emotions. Love, sadness, anger… they’re not illusions, they’re just words that describe how we feel, without even trying to define what they are, or how they come about (a mix of brain sparks and glandular expulsions?).

  45. says

    We compatibilists are just trying to keep you from saying false things as we all try to pare away the mistaken dualist assumptions that are built into our language and our pre-theoretic intuitions.

    I don’t believe this, because every time lately that I’ve seen someone make the mistake of believing they could have chosen differently than they did, the compatibilists don’t step in to correct this error.

    Until I see the compatibilists getting their own house in order, I think what you really want is not to be attacked for telling people unpleasant truths.

  46. konradzielinski says

    Just like nature abhors a vacuum biology abhors uncertainty

    Nature does not abhore a vacuum. And the photo receptors in your eye are actually rather prone to give false positives. WHich is why humans tend to halucinate when exposed to total darkness.

    There is als on reason to assume that self awarness was acutlly selected for. It may well be an accidental side effect of some other beneficial trait. Though now that its here it seems to have some advantages. But we do have the problem that we are dealing with a sample size of one. So we can’t say how freqently self awarness is produced by natural selection.

  47. says

    You agreed with PZ. Read the sentence more carefully; make sure you take notice of the two commas and what they do for the sentence.

    I did, fuckmind. Why can’t you read properly, you idiot?

    This is what he wrote, dumbfuck:

    It doesn’t even make sense to talk about “me”, which is ultimately simply yet another emergent property of the substrate of the brain, modifying the how the brain acts. It is how the brain acts.

    Of course he says that “me” is that emergent “property”, yet he still denies that it makes sense to talk about “me.”

    The amount of people who have commented while failing to read properly so far has been way too large.

    Having no reading comprehension hasn’t kept you from commenting stupidly, or from whining dumbly about those who are capable of understanding text.

    Glen Davidson

  48. says

    Physicalist @24:

    Yes it’s a mistake to suppose that I’m something apart from my brain, but it’s also a mistake to suppose that I don’t have real choices that have real effects And it seems to me that people like Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris are making precisely this mistake.

    I’ve been reading this thread on Jerry’s website and it always felt like he meant that “real choice” was something of a kind that only a ghost in the machine can make. Any other kind of choice was not “real”. However since Jerry agrees that ghost in the machine doesn’t exist, “real” choice is not possible.

    The choices I make everyday nevertheless seem real to me. The experiment that shows that conscious awareness of choice lags the actual instance of choice in the brain means nothing in this context because “me” is not a ghost in the machine. The brain and conscious/subconscious mind/awareness is “me”. I agree with Sean Carroll’s logic in this regard. It doesn’t make sense to talk about choice/will at the level of brain and neurons but it does make sense to talk about choice/free will at the level of human beings and I might add other sentient creatures too.

  49. enkidum says

    There is, however, no reason whatsoever to imagine that the other stories might be true; they are not even plausible, and they certainly are not supported by the historical evidence.

    So you think it’s completely implausible that some combination of factors contributes to both belief in free will and belief in the effectiveness of punishment? Or that belief in the effectiveness of punishment causes people to believe in free will?

    I submit that you just lack imagination. There’s all sorts of ways that could work. For instance, when you ask people why they want to believe in a free will, one of the most common answers you get is that a free will allows us to hold people accountable for their actions. That is, we want to believe in free wills because we want to be able to punish and reward people appropriately. So… B causes A?

    Hell, I dunno, but I fail to see why it’s any less plausible than your story.

    I’m definitely not offering a counsel of despair, I think there’s plenty that can be done to reduce incarceration rates. I just think (based on the data you’ve given) that what you’re advocating is so indirect as to be virtually useless.

    The US is an anomaly. Other societies have vastly lower rates of incarceration, and there may be a correlation with a lack of belief in free will, but honestly I doubt it. Is Sweden low on the free will scale? Are there fewer compatibilists in New Zealand? Don’t you think other economic and cultural factors are vastly more important here?

  50. says

    So you think it’s completely implausible that some combination of factors contributes to both belief in free will and belief in the effectiveness of punishment? Or that belief in the effectiveness of punishment causes people to believe in free will?

    No, it’s implausible that belief in free will does not to some degree influence the willingness to punish. This is historically attested in the theory of jurisprudence.

    I submit that you just lack imagination.

    I submit that you’re a dunce who lacks reading comprehension. I already said: “It’s easy to imagine how compatibilist leanings could be causing a willingness to punish. It’s easy to imagine how a desire to punish could be causing compatibilist leanings. It’s easy to imagine a causal feedback loop. There are probably some obvious candidates for third cause of both.”

    Is your memory that short?

    For instance, when you ask people why they want to believe in a free will, one of the most common answers you get is that a free will allows us to hold people accountable for their actions. That is, we want to believe in free wills because we want to be able to punish and reward people appropriately. So… B causes A?

    This is a good opportunity to shame compatibilists for being bloodthirsty. And hey, what’s this? I already said: “And for the sake of making everyone who believes in free will look like a jerk, here is Dennett with blood on his hands: ‘We ought to admit, up front, that one of our strongest unspoken motivations for upholding something close to the traditional concept of free will is our desire to see the world’s villains “get what they deserve.’”

    I’m definitely not offering a counsel of despair, I think there’s plenty that can be done to reduce incarceration rates.

    You are offering a counsel of despair. Look at yourself.

    This wasn’t a thread about incarceration rates where I showed up to say “let’s get rid of free will!” Then your complaint about effect size would be worth talking about, though of course it would still have to be considered along with the possibility that we’ve maximized other better-known methods of changing people’s opinions.

    This was a thread about free will, where I said “here’s one of the bad things that free will does.” Even if the effect size is small, it’s worth doing, and now readers are thinking about 1/100 American adults in prison, whereas they wouldn’t have been had I not brought this up.

    +++++
    Notice too that in the Tygart study, the effect of belief in free will is not much smaller than the effect of belief in genetic causation of homosexuality.

    And anyone who’s been advocating gay rights for years has noticed the way that understanding genetic causes changes people’s minds. It’s not a huge effect; having gay friends is probably a bigger deal. But it does help.

    Belief in free will is only somewhat less relevant than that. This should give the reader a visceral indicator of just how large an effect we’re talking about, at least if the reader has a lot of experience arguing for gay rights.

    +++++

    I just think (based on the data you’ve given) that what you’re advocating is so indirect as to be virtually useless.

    That is a counsel of despair.

    Again, this is not the only thing I’m advocating. When the primary topic is incarceration, the most effective argument I’m personally aware of is to focus on racial disparities in arrests and sentencing. That really hits the reader who cares about fairness.

    If this was a thread primarily about imprisonment, trust me, I would be going for the most effective argument I know. I can direct you to past comments of mine if you want to see my usual arguments and sources.

    But this is a thread about free will. Here, I am focusing on the moral dimensions of belief in free will. Don’t get lost thinking about how else I ought to be arguing about prison; that’s not the topic here. Think instead about how else I should be arguing against free will — I’ll take your advice under serious consideration.

  51. joeshmoe says

    Free will is what makes a person a person, a dog a dog, and a cat a cat, independent of religion, and is completely consistent with atheist thought. Most anyone who has ever owned a cat or a dog would say that personalities vary greatly; some are easy to tame, some can’t be broken. These creatures of course have no understanding of free will, but they display it. The fact that religious types, who most often attribute man-made tragedies and disasters to God’s will, and encourage their followers to simply accept this premise rather than try to change the ills of the world, are delusional and contradictory on this stance. Free will is an integration of an individual’s determination, sense of right and wrong, sense of purpose and direction in life, and that can only come from within and individual. The constant admonition by religious types that individuals must “surrender” their souls, their free will, to that of an illusory god, is just another con of entrapment to take free will away from people, and make them quiescent.

  52. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    No, it’s implausible that belief in free will does not to some degree influence the willingness to punish.

    I have a hard time grasping how the lack of free will doesn’t apply to “willingness” to punish.

  53. says

    I have a hard time grasping how the lack of free will doesn’t apply to “willingness” to punish.

    Will exists, it is simply desire and intention.

    Free will cannot exist, as a freely willed action would be an action which is proximately caused by the individual’s will, if the individual’s will is not determined via a causal chain that begins beyond the individual.

  54. says

    Most anyone who has ever owned a cat or a dog would say that personalities vary greatly; some are easy to tame, some can’t be broken. These creatures of course have no understanding of free will, but they display it.

    Then a Furby™ also displays free will, since they display their own personalities too.

    Don’t get me wrong. Mammals, and probably all tetrapods, are good people. They should be treated with respect as individuals. They have just as much free will as humans: zero.

  55. curtnelson says

    I agree with what PZ said: we are what goes on in our brain and there is nothing more. That’s easy to understand (even obvious). If that means we have no free will, fine, I get that – we are our physical/chemical brain, which being a physical object follows the laws of nature, and that’s all there is to it — agree, agree, I’ve always agreed on that. What exactly determinism means, I have no idea.

  56. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Will exists, it is simply desire and intention.

    Free will cannot exist, as a freely willed action would be an action which is proximately caused by the individual’s will, if the individual’s will is not determined via a causal chain that begins beyond the individual.

    Conceding obvious exceptions, how does an act of violence and an act of punishment of said violence not play by the same rules of will?

  57. cristopherallen says

    Confession: I’ve not read everything…

    Question: Is Religion proof-positive of Free Will?

  58. enkidum says

    “Is your memory that short?”

    No. You’re bringing this on yourself. Do you think that incarceration-beliefs might cause free will beliefs or not? In your latest reply (56), you say you do. But in 48, you say

    There is, however, no reason whatsoever to imagine that the other stories might be true; they are not even plausible, and they certainly are not supported by the historical evidence.

    It’s very hard for me to see how “the other stories” could possibly refer to anything other than B causing A or A and B both being caused by a third factor. I’ve read that several times and I can’t see an alternative.

    And as for all the other factors that (I agree) might actually change things about incarceration, when I alluded to them previously you said “We don’t have a bunch of other options left to try instead.”. Clearly that’s false. We do have a bunch of other options. You give several in your latest response.

    So no, I don’t think my memory’s short. I think you wrote some unclear comments. No biggie, it’s not for publication or anything.

    Now, does belief in certain free will lead to particular attitudes about punishment? Probably, I’d say that’s intuitively plausible at least (though you haven’t presented any evidence for the view: at best, you’ve got evidence that’s compatible). But I’d say that precisely the kind of free will that ISN’T causally related to punishment is compatibilism. I think what you’re talking about is contra-causal free will, but the whole point of compatibilism is that it doesn’t require anything contra-causal. So at the very least, you either need to explain what it is that’s wrong about compatibilism, or maybe clarify what it is you mean.

  59. joeshmoe says

    Not sure what a Furby is, although I seem to remember it is an inanimate object. I think it is easier to conceptualize free will if we think of it in terms of beliefs rather than biology. An individual is free to choose and except his/her beliefs, and beliefs determine one’s expression of will in the world. I am free to reject religion or anthing else that I believe is non-substantiated based on a scientific approach, and nobody makes that decision for me except me. I am exercising free will when I make that choice, and I choose who and what I want to believe in. I have full autonomy over that process, though I concede it is likely influenced by outside factors to some degree.

  60. says

    cristopherallen: I have come across an argument which shows that even God could not have free will.

    First, I’ll share something from Colin McGinn which I’ve edited slightly for clarity:

    «The argument is exceedingly familiar, and runs as follows. Either determinism is true or it is not. If it is true, then all our chosen actions are uniquely necessitated by prior [moments], just like every other event. But then it cannot be the case that we could have acted otherwise, since this would require a possibility determinism rules out. Once the initial conditions are set and the laws fixed, causality excludes genuine freedom.

    On the other hand, if indeterminism is true, then, though things could have happened otherwise, it is not the case that we could have chosen otherwise, since a merely random event is no kind of free choice. That some events occur causelessly, or are not subject to law, or only to probabilistic law, is not sufficient for those events to be free choices.

    Thus one horn of the dilemma represents choices as predetermined happenings in a predictable causal sequence, while the other construes them as inexplicable lurches to which the universe is randomly prone. Neither alternative supplies what the notion of free will requires, and no other alternative suggests itself. Therefore freedom is not possible in any kind of possible world. The concept contains the seeds of its own destruction.»

    +++++
    Now, this is the argument that would even apply to a supernatural God. From Thomas W. Clark:

    «[I]magine that we do indeed have some sort of contra-causal free will, and see if it could improve on the deterministic situation we actually find ourselves in. I leave aside here the various sorts of indeterminacy that might be shown, eventually, to play a role in generating behavior, since these do not give us free will, they merely introduce randomness.

    Let us suppose then, that whatever my desires are at a given time, I am not bound to follow those desires. That is, my behavior isn’t completely the result of the competition of various motives and inclinations, but instead is at least partly a function of something independent of such influences. So, for instance, let us suppose I must decide between spending a thousand dollars on charity or on my own amusement. What would the role of this independent factor be in such a decision? Presumably, the story goes, one’s free will makes the decision about which desire should win out, the desire to help others or the desire to amuse oneself. But, on what grounds does this independent arbiter make its choice? Why would it choose one way and not another?

    If indeed the free will is uninfluenced by one’s circumstances, such as desires and motives, then it simply has no reason or capacity to act. Without an inclination pushing in one direction or another there can be no movement. Of course, one can (and usually does) consider the consequences of one’s actions, which has the effect of making one course or another seem more or less desirable. But this sort of rationality isn’t in the least separate from the influence of desire, rather it permits the more effective calculation of how a desire might be fulfilled, and of what might happen were it fulfilled. Nor is the choice to undertake such consideration “free,” in the sense of being uninfluenced, for if it were, the same problem would arise: why would the self choose to be rational – to consider consequences – unless there were some determining motive or desire to be rational?

    The “best” course – the decision taken – is that which wins out in the competition between motives as illuminated by rationality. If the self were truly free to choose between alternatives, uninfluenced by motives in some respect (whether such motives be altruistic or selfish) the choice would never get made. Likewise, if the self were truly free to choose between being rational or not, the operation of rationality would be haphazard and unreliable. As it stands, however, the self is nothing over and above the reliably coordinated system of desires and dispositions out of which decisions are generated. We don’t stand apart from, or direct, the rationally mediated competition of our motives. If we had some capacity to act independently of motives or of the consideration of consequences, that capacity would give us absolutely no power over circumstances. Why? Because that very independence renders such a capacity irrelevant to decision-making. In fact, it would immobilize us, not empower us.»

  61. John Morales says

    [meta]

    enkidum, Psst: #29.

    (Also, ahs has adduced evidence in the “free will thread” mentioned in the OP)

  62. colonelzen says

    Good grief, y’all this is not difficult.

    (Dennett, compatibilist if I need to wear a label).

    First all evidence says the universe is not deterministic … and the complexity of human brains with trillions of synapses making decision based upon when molecules get jostled by brownian motion across a gap is not deterministic. But the brain, intelligence, learning and consciousness are in fact processes by which evolution conspired (non teleologically, of course) to maximize the determinism we have.

    To the extent we can think rationally we are deterministic. There’s still a huge amount of chaos in the decision processes in our brains … but chaos has *nothing* to do with free will. For arguments sake we can say yes, deterministic.

    The magic trick is that our determinism is not one of platonic perfection but algoritmic. Our information processing happens as finite, bound and temporal rather than as abstract and ethereal. Free will is a direct consequence of our incapacity, our inability to know everything about our environment and ourselves.

    (In “Protector” the super intelligent Brennan-monster complains “If I can see the best answer before I finish asking the question, where is my free will?”)

    The algorithmic matters because of the Halting Problem. Even if we were completely deterministic with “perfect” knowledge we *still* could not fully predict our response to future circumstance. Being vastly less than completely deterministic and commonly poor knowledge of what we expect exacerbates this mightily.

    Free will simply means that we are “free” to change our dispositions toward future events and circumstances from what they are now at any time between now and acting out those dispositions. And while it is obvious to see that outside events causing us to change our minds accords with determinism, it isn’t as obvious though just as true that because we cannot “see” a large part of the processing our own brains do, that they can chug out a “fact” or “information” that we hadn’t previously considered and (mechanistically) factored into that disposition, which now doing so will change it.

    As social creatures our models of others where we can only guess and game each others intents and motivations, never having perfect knowledge of their minds, gave us a perfect model for our own. We see the self as other … as outside of our physical self.

    As we developed higher order consciousness this model self became layered (as PZ notes) with self referential pondering which even more deeply invokes the Gödelian roots of Turing’s Halting Problem. And so despite being vastly more intimate with the detailed contents of our own minds, this habit of wondering what we will wonder makes our notions of self nearly as incomplete and unreliable as our considerations of others in our social group.

    The upshot is that we are “practically” deterministic … and yet free will is real, a consequence of our mathematically unavoidable inability to know ourselves completely.

    – TWZ

  63. says

    It’s very hard for me to see how “the other stories” could possibly refer to anything other than B causing A or A and B both being caused by a third factor. I’ve read that several times and I can’t see an alternative.

    enkidum, you’re right, that error is mine. What I should have said is that it is implausible for only one of the other stories to be true. (Personally I suspect a causal feedback loop.)

    And as for all the other factors that (I agree) might actually change things about incarceration, when I alluded to them previously you said “We don’t have a bunch of other options left to try instead.”. Clearly that’s false. We do have a bunch of other options. You give several in your latest response.

    No, I did not. Those are things we are already trying to advocate, and have been for some time, and they aren’t getting us where we need to go as quickly as we need to go, if at all.

    Again, again, again: We may have already maximized the utility of these other arguments. It’s not doing enough.

    If you think the arguments about racial disparities in incarceration are new, then you aren’t paying attention. If you realize they’re not new, then you should acknowledge that they aren’t doing enough.

    But I’d say that precisely the kind of free will that ISN’T causally related to punishment is compatibilism.

    Well then I suspect you didn’t look at Appendix A of Rakos, or my scorings.

    I, as an incompatibilist against free will, score far lower on that scale, while compatibilism easily scores near the average of the experimental subjects.

    Again: “In other words, a generalized libertarian belief in free will is the “default” philosophy of most persons; when environmental stimuli direct attention to compelling external determinants, people rationally adopt a compatibilist position, much like Bandura has advocated over the years”

    but even this a considered compatibilist position will score very high on the scale. Around 70% to 80%, by my count.

    Compatibilism is all about salvaging the current punishment paradigm. You have read Dennett? He devotes considerable time to why we don’t need to change anything about the way we punish.

    I think what you’re talking about is contra-causal free will,

    Nope. That’s wishful thinking. But try scoring Rakos’s scale yourself, like I did. See how your own compatibilist position ranks.

  64. says

    The upshot is that we are “practically” deterministic … and yet free will is real, a consequence of our mathematically unavoidable inability to know ourselves completely.

    And yet there has never been a single instance in history when you could have chosen to choose differently than you did.

    Why call that free will? Why not dispense with the metaphysical terms, and just talk about the degree to which the future can be different from the present due to our actions?

    We don’t need fairy dust. We don’t need any kind of free will in order for our lives to be meaningful. We can still pursue our desires to the best of our ability.

    I like the way consciousness razor put it:

    «Everyone’s just desperate to have this vital commodity they’ve heard about called “free will,” despite having no clear idea what it is. Since that doesn’t exist, [Dennett] redefines it to mean things which do exist, so people will at least have the cheap toy version to play with, hopefully without feeling completely ripped off.»

  65. says

    Honestly, colonelzen, I really like the way you direct the reader away from the erroneous conclusion that the future is going to unfold as they imagine it probably will, as that in itself is rather understandably horrifying and luckily wrong.

    I just don’t see any good reason for calling that free will. It’s quite sufficient to say ‘while it is obvious to see that outside events causing us to change our minds accords with determinism, it isn’t as obvious though just as true that because we cannot “see” a large part of the processing our own brains do, that they can chug out a “fact” or “information” that we hadn’t previously considered and (mechanistically) factored into that disposition, which now doing so will change it.’

    That understanding is enough to ward off the sense of crushing inevitability.

  66. says

    When did I ever say I was a compatibilist?

    You didn’t; you just smell of it. If you aren’t, then I suppose you won’t get any closer to an authentic compatibilist scoring of Rakos’s scale than I did. So all I can say is I’m quite familiar with the compatibilists’ arguments and I scored it as fairly as I am capable of.

  67. joeshmoe says

    Very nice explanation Colonelzen. Even if the future is determined we don’t know it because we can’t see the future, we can only predict it. Thus we make choices and assumptions about the future, and as those choices are often wrong, it means recalculation and trying another approach, all freely done. Or we can always give up, another expression of free will.

  68. says

    joeshmoe:

    I am exercising free will when I make that choice, and I choose who and what I want to believe in. I have full autonomy over that process, though I concede it is likely influenced by outside factors to some degree.

    However you want to word it, it remains true that there has never been a single instance in history when you could have chosen to choose differently than you did.

    If you want to call that free will, hey, I can’t yet afford to hire enough goons to change everybody’s mind.

    I just wonder why you’re so attached to the term. Does it make you feel better?

  69. mikelaing says

    I have never considered punishing others in regards to the importance of free will, or anything else. The only importance or consideration I have ever given thought to, is my own freedom to choose and take responsibility for the choices I make in life.

    WTF is all this bullshit about punishing others for moral transgressions? I have a very hard time thinking this is that relevant when people consider free will.

    Free will cannot exist, as a freely willed action would be an action which is proximately caused by the individual’s will, if the individual’s will is not determined via a causal chain that begins beyond the individual.

    So? Free will isn’t exclusively caused by anything, and I already told you at least two other times that when you can conclusively explain what our minds exactly are, in a mechanistic and experimentally reproducible way, start to finish, then you cannot conclude anything about free will because it entails the inclusion of an unexplained, or at least un-understood, phenomenon, our mind.

    The debate is fucking trivial. Every argument is based on demonstrating an unbroken connection of cause and effect such that there is no doubt that every cause can have only one specific effect, which in turn becomes part of the cause of the next event. And you have to take into consideration states of mind, which you cannot demonstrate empirically purely by mechanistic procedure because state of mind entails emotional memories, habits, mood, level of awareness, ad infinitum.
    You also have to show exactly how our minds work in the processing of memories, why, and how, memories and abstract visualizations appear as pictures to sighted people(in general), but (probably) not to congenitally blind people. You must calculate how dreaming and hallucinations arise and affect our thinking, or I mean, fit into the causal chain, or don’t(they may be extraneous). Etcetera. We don’t know what we don’t know about our minds and laws of nature, so how can you reduce that to a conclusive, final state of affairs?

    That is why I steal the “I refute it thus” idea from the Refutation of Bishop Berkeley, because you stipulate as fact that wee don’t have free will, yet you behave exactly like we do.

    No one has to prove that we have free will, it is a given, through experience and demonstrable common experience. There, you see? I jest chose to misspell that word in a meaningful way. It is amazing that hundreds of millions of variables result in me and you and many others interrelating in such a coherent and synchronized way that just happens to include comprehension of this specific written language on this specific method of communication, self awareness, and perception of personal choice over our own actions. (Argument from credulity)

    You have a fuck of a lot of ground to cover before you can conclusively assert that there is no such thing as free will.

    On a more sarcastic/dry note: You must also automatically reject Darwinism, yes?

    se·lec·tion/s?’lekSH?n/
    Noun:
    The action or fact of carefully choosing someone or something as being the best or most suitable.
    A number of carefully chosen things.

  70. says

    So? Free will isn’t exclusively caused by anything,

    What does this statement mean?

    and I already told you at least two other times that when you can conclusively explain what our minds exactly are

    And as I keep telling you, you simply do not understand the issue.

    Explaining how the mind works would not tell us anything about free will.

    In a deterministic universe, your mind cannot create free will.

    And in an indeterministic universe, your mind cannot create free will.

    By the law of excluded middle, those are the only options.

    Every argument is based on demonstrating an unbroken connection of cause and effect such that there is no doubt that every cause can have only one specific effect, which in turn becomes part of the cause of the next event.

    I don’t see why you think that. I wouldn’t say that any particular cause can have only one specific effect. (I don’t even get why you find this likely to be relevant, though.)

    That is why I steal the “I refute it thus” idea from the Refutation of Bishop Berkeley, because you stipulate as fact that wee don’t have free will, yet you behave exactly like we do.

    No, I don’t. I behave like a person who has no free will. As do you. As does everyone. Everyone acts like someone with no free will, because they have no free will.

    You keep trying to imagine that I’m saying something I’m not. Go back to McGinn again.

    No one has to prove that we have free will, it is a given, through experience and demonstrable common experience. There, you see? I jest chose to misspell that word in a meaningful way.

    But you could not have chosen to choose otherwise.

  71. passerby says

    I’ve never understood this argument, which is my fault for not reading up on it enough.

    But, at least to me, ‘free will’ is the only answer because there’s nothing out there to impose it’s will on us. To say that we have ‘free will’ is to denote that there is an alternative, whatever that may be, and I don’t see any evidence for it.

    It’s an argument over nothing. Then again, i’m not as versed on the argument from a secular view, so the natural/biological side of the house could be a bit more insightful in that regard.

  72. says

    You have a fuck of a lot of ground to cover before you can conclusively assert that there is no such thing as free will.

    Clark has demonstrated it. Why are you incapable of arguing against that little quote, and yet so damn sure that you don’t need to?

    On a more sarcastic/dry note: You must also automatically reject Darwinism, yes? [some joke about selection]

    Why do you imagine that’s relevant? I mean, even as a joke, you need to try to be relevant in order to be funny. Do you misunderstand the topic that badly, or do you just misunderstand humor?

  73. says

    passerby: this will probably be sufficient reading.

    But, at least to me, ‘free will’ is the only answer because there’s nothing out there to impose it’s will on us.

    If you also understand that there has never been a single moment in history when you could have chosen to choose differently than you did, then you have an internally coherent definition of “free will” there.

    I would then argue that it’s destructive to pick a metaphysical term for something that can be expressed without metaphysical language. In your case, what you’re clearly talking about is maximizing your ability to pursue your desires.

  74. John Morales says

    ahs:

    If you also understand that there has never been a single moment in history when you could have chosen to choose differently than you did, then you have an internally coherent definition of “free will” there.

    This is either tautologous or unknown, depending on how one interprets it, coherent as it might be.

    (If you hadn’t chosen as you had, said choice would not be historical; since one cannot recreate the past, one cannot test this hypothesis.

  75. mikelaing says

    #ahs ?

    It seems to me that studies show that when people believe that free will doesn’t exist, they behave less morally, and more aggressively
    Changing belief in free will can cause students to cheat

    Do You Believe in Free Will?
    Does one thing inevitably lead to another?
    New experiments show that disbelief in free will decreases helping behaviours and increases aggression.

  76. rtootie says

    It must be happy hour at Pharyngula. How the hell cant you all beleve in free will? Are you all fucking joking? What are you then a bunch of typing turds?

    Then again dose Mr Tentacles have the free will to drive past a McDonalds without stopping? Iam not so sure I can look in your eyes and say yes. So maybe your right.

    Toot! Toot!

  77. mikelaing says

    ahs ? Did you pack your own metaphysical baggage? says:
    6 December 2011 at 10:23 pm

    You have a fuck of a lot of ground to cover before you can conclusively assert that there is no such thing as free will.

    Clark has demonstrated it. Why are you incapable of arguing against that little quote, and yet so damn sure that you don’t need to?

    I already refuted it.

    On a more sarcastic/dry note: You must also automatically reject Darwinism, yes? [some joke about selection]

    Why do you imagine that’s relevant? I mean, even as a joke, you need to try to be relevant in order to be funny. Do you misunderstand the topic that badly, or do you just misunderstand humor?

    That one is self explanatory, FFS.

    You sound like a christian evangelical: “you don’t understand”, “Do you misunderstand…or do you misunderstand…?”

    Do you, ahs, understand that we don’t know how our mind arises and that our knowledge of how nature functions, and why, is incomplete on almost every level. As such, you cannot say that everything is either deterministic 100%, or else it is merely random. Do you understand this?
    If you want to argue that our actions are determined, that the state of being that determines our actions was itself determined, that determined means pre-determined, and therefore the big bang is the cause of everything, then you have a lot of ground to cover.

    I have already refuted Mc-fucking-Ginn numerous times by asking you to show how determinism works indisputably to produce our mind.

    I don’t care what you link to, I can link to refutations.

    In other words, I think that no one has enough knowledge to be able to explain conclusively why anything happens exactly the way it does, let alone consider synergy, potentiation, interraction, in complex, open systems.
    There is a gigantic hole in determinism, and all speculation is just another Ludic fallacy
    Relation to Platonicity
    The ludic fallacy is a specific case of the more general problem of Platonicity defined by Taleb as:
    the focus on those pure, well-defined, and easily discernible objects like triangles, or more social notions like friendship or love, at the cost of ignoring those objects of seemingly messier and less tractable structures.

    I am a materialist, and it is not my job to argue against determinism and/or lack of free will. Perhaps they are falsifiable, they are right now, it seems to me. Same with you know what. o_-

    So, let me sum up: Determinism is an incomplete theory. Determinism is incapable of proving all truths, eg the relationship of nature to our minds. Our minds are inconsistent with our knowledge of matter and energy as it stands today.

    A cause can only have one effect, and/or vice versa, is a false supposition, because even if behaviour is predictable in theory, it is not possible to have all the parameters and data, or even given that, the resources to compute the effects at some given time in the future.

    I suspect that biologists and neuro-psychiatrists suffer from lack of imagination and creativity when they conclude we have no free will. Free will seems far too overpowering a perception to be written off as merely accidental.

    Furthermore, why do you act as if we all have free will? Merely claiming “no I don’t” does not explain why you proselytize and get emotional. Free will does, though. Your behaviours are exceedingly complex and apparently considered(thought out) to be completely forced.

    I am not saying that we definitely have free will, just that it is far too convoluted to think that we developed these incomprehensibly bizarre delusions if we don’t.

  78. mikelaing says

    Shit, “Perhaps they are falsifiable, they are right now,” should be ‘aren’t right now’

  79. kraut says

    Having lived for 62 years now, the concept of free will is to me utter bullshit.
    All we do is make choices. Those choices are influenced and even controlled by our upbringing, by our education, by our emotional state, the group we live in and the societal framework we operate in.
    That is just a very coarse grained picture of what influences our choices.
    We are compelled to choose between options, those options are presented by the network we exist in.
    Choice is usually necessary because of the movements within that network we exist in, those choices determine our perceived future well being, either economically, emotionally or psychologically.
    Free will is an abstract concept that has no connection to reality.

  80. says

    I’m unsure as to why this discussion exists at all. For all those on the We have Free Will side consider the following:

    We accept indeterminacy in particle reactions; we can only state that a particle will decay not when; the same process occurs with the electrically connections within our brain.

    As such I’m meeting a VIP I’ve been told their name beforehand, but can I remember it now? Whether I can or not has nothing to do with Free Will. I’m not choosing to remember or not remember it’s simply a case of if certain connections fire and provide me with the answer.

    Later I’m leaving and I face an elevator and a set of stairs I choose to take the stairs; but said decision was made by the same firing off of various connections that led me to my decision. If you consider it wasn’t please explain exactly what mechanisms were used.

    So given that I had no Free Will over remembering someone’s name why do you consider that I have Free Will when it comes to choosing the stairs over the elevator?

    As to why do we possess it if it’s just an illusion – as already stated it may simply be an emergent property. Another possibility is that the illusion of choice allows us to better integrate experience within what appears to us as a cause/effect universe.

  81. lucmoreno says

    I give biologists talking about psychology about the same amount of credit I give to physicists talking about biology.

  82. lucmoreno says

    “So given that I had no Free Will over remembering someone’s name why do you consider that I have Free Will when it comes to choosing the stairs over the elevator?”

    Because you don’t have the option to forget the name (just as you don’t have the option to not have a bruise in your arm if you have one) but you have the option to use the stairs of the elevator. lol, are all questions this trivial in the no-free-will camp?

  83. robertoaguirre maturana says

    PZ, I totally agree with you regarding free will. That’s why I would like to know your opinion regarding a hardest philosophical question:

    For science to work, it’s necessary the metaphysical presupposition of the objective existence of an external reality? (I think such untestable presupposition is unnecessary)

  84. says

    @92 lucmoreno: So how exactly did you influence the firing of your connections so as to choose the stairs over the elevator? If you could do it for that why couldn’t you do the same so as to be able to remember the VIPs name?

    Why do you consider it a choice when it’s elevator or stairs, but not a choice when it comes to remembering or not remembering? Please explain how the connections know the difference between what you might deem a conscious and unconscious ‘choice’.

  85. enkidum says

    @93 – Oh, I know this one! *jumps up and down with hand in air*

    Pick me! Pick me!

    Scientists have faith in an external reality, therefore they’re no different from religious types! Therefore Catholicism (or something)!

  86. briancoughlan says

    Here’s my take.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that we have what I call functional free will. It looks like the classic religious concept because the decisions we make are just the tip of a massive iceberg of underlying causes/processing events/digestive states that are currently (and for the forseeable future) not amenable to analysis.

    So if you think carefully about what we know of the universe it’s obvious that our decisions must emerge from a near infinite stack of if statements with maybe the occasional randomizer thrown in; but the stack is so high and our ability to review it so small that none of it matters day to day.

    It’s an interesting topic though.

  87. roquetin says

    I have a question for compatibilists. You seem to equate free will with many degrees of freedom: We have free will, because we can efficiently predict future outcomes and react in a myriad of possible ways to affect them. This is obviously true, but why is that sufficient to for it be called freedom? A nematode has fewer degrees of freedom, but it’s none the less on the same continuum. At which point then does more free become just free? Or does the nematode have free will as well?

  88. mikelaing says

    LOL, I was just reading Sorites paradox, roquetin!

    One my also ask that a pile of sand, a prokaryote, a ten neuron eukaryote, an insect -> human. One end has no mind or self awareness, we most certainly do.
    At what point do you consider an organism to have a mind?

    Therefore, if an creature at one end of a continuum can have no mind, but at the other end it does, then a creature at one end can have no free will, for example, and a creature at the other end can.

    I keep saying over and over and over, that free will and mind are complimentary and codependent, so you must sooner or later address the existence of our mind and it’s workings, and how it obtains.

    I am not a compatabilist, but I have been reading about fuzzy logic, Bayes’ theorem, possibility theory, wave functions, specifically de Broglie–Bohm theory that quantum phenomena are not probabilistic – when seen as part of a system, which ties into Bell and non-locality, chaos theory, blah blah blah.

    I don’t know how all this can be applied to the formation of a mind – a mind that makes independent choices, but I do know that we have a mind and it is very little of a stretch to imagine free will as being necessary for that to occur. In fact, it seems to me that free will might easily be a precursor to mind.

    So can we get off this deterministic crap, and the false chriticism of duality, and fucking look at this from some other perspectives? We are looking at a paradox, not a linear relationship from which classical mechanics may never deviate.

    Why don’t we start here: Does anyone deny that we have a mind?

    Now I fricken have to go for a few hours, I will try to address everyone above that takes issue with, or has questions of, me.

    Watch out, or I’ll make a joke to ahs about irreducible complexity if you don’t watch it! ^_-

  89. robertoaguirre maturana says

    @95 enkidum:

    Scientists have faith in an external reality, therefore they’re no different from religious types!

    Nope, my point is more like: Do scientists need faith in an external reality, in order for science to work?

    As far as I can tell, they don’t. Scientific method works in the same way no matter if our intersubjective perception of an external reality is accurate or not. Why to believe, then?

  90. says

    My take on Free Will is that it is emergent from sufficiently configured computational systems (such as brains). Everything from tinker toys, running water, gears, light/optics, and electricity are known to be capable of computation – but not all configurations are sufficiently capable of learning and decision making.

    Brains store information about the world, analyse it (and studies have shown that much of this processing is very akin to Bayesian analysis), form predictions and measure against those predictions, and eventually build up a sufficient model of the world that our actions become seemingly Free, because of possibility of conditional (if/then) behavior based on information we have stored. But our actions are nothing more than clever arrangements setup to avalanche from tiny signals to macroscopic cascades. This tail-wagging-the-dog effect gives the illusion of free will (you “think” it, your body does it). But that is false, thoughts are just electrochemical triggers for a domino effect. You only “see” and “sense” the domino falling, while you remain utterly ignorant of the underlying symphony of signaling that set it up, monitors it unfolding, and is constantly making adjustments.

    You don’t ‘consciously’ decide anything, you just become conscious of your decisions which are taking place as electrochemical perturbations.

    It is still unknown how a clump of cells appears to have a (mostly) singular consciousness; but those with split brains and multiple personality disorders demonstrate that it isn’t necessarily singular. But so what, we’ve only really JUST started investigating this question.

    The mind/no-mind question is a false dichotomy set up by extremely fuzzy human categorizations.

    What we can measure is when a system is capable of universal computation, how much information a system can store, the rate at which it can process information, what functional elements are formed (can it do light/dark detection? can it do face recognition?), etc. So these are the properties you need to be asking about.

    Almost certainly on the order of millions of independent properties – some collection of which you might arbitrarily label ‘mind’ at some sufficient level of complexity (e.g., if someone is blind they probably lack face recognition so that isn’t necessary).

    Think about it this way, what if you defined ‘mind’ as the ability to play a chess game? I can imagine trillions upon trillions of variations of a chess playing system – some would perform horribly, others expertly. The rules of chess are easily defined so this task is much easier – but the rules of ‘mind’ are entirely arbitrary, implicit, and/or unknown – so the task appears more difficult but this really says nothing about the solvability of the problem once mind is defined.

    It’s similar to speciation – when is an offspring a new species? (for modern complex organisms) The offspring can always bred with it’s closest relatives and there is always a distant enough relative that it cannot bred with. As long as nobody has to be nailed to anything about it we’re ok with this being a fuzzy category.

  91. opethian says

    This is my logical proof that free will can’t exist:

    free will can only exist if it can uphold the restrictions caused by its definition.

    It needs be free = I will generously allow this to mean it must have a certain component that is not determined. It is allowed to be determined for 99.9999999999999999999999999%, but some component must be indetermined.

    It must also be will = it needs to be exclusive to living animals with a certain consciousness. But for my proof it is actually sufficient that it is exclusive to any amount of energy and matter, i.e. that there is some energy or matter that does not possess free will. Seems fair, right?

    Now, having said it needs to have a component that is indetermined, it also needs an underlying cause/mechanism/principle that allows for this indetermincy to exist in our understanding of science and logic.

    The only principle I know of that would allow for indeterminacy in nature is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. This principle states that there are incommutable pairs of factors, for which the more precise one factor is known, the less precise the other factor can be known.

    For example, you can’t perfectly measure both the position and the momentum of a particle, and this is not a result of technical limitations of the technology used to measure them. There is a similar uncertainty relation between energy and time.

    The problem is that this principle does not only apply to the mass and energy of living beings, it applies to all mass and energy, it is inherent in quantum mechanics. Therefore it cannot be the cause of free will. Therefore there is no principle known in science that could allow for free will to exist. Therefore free will cannot exist.

  92. opethian says

    It is also not necessary to still “go with it”, your emotions will keep going with it anyway. There is no need to shut the reality about how free will is simply an illusion out of your conscious mind, since rational thinking is such an overrated causal factor in people’s decision making anyways, even in highly intelligent people. Even if there somehow was a free will aspect to our rational decision making, it would still be drowned out in the sea of emotions, genetics and personal experience.

  93. opethian says

    Also, the fact that free will doesn’t exist makes a very good case for why the idea of gods is simply ridiculous.

  94. colonelzen says

    re ahs @ 76:

    joeshmoe:

    I am exercising free will when I make that choice, and I choose who and what I want to believe in. I have full autonomy over that process, though I concede it is likely influenced by outside factors to some degree.

    However you want to word it, it remains true that there has never been a single instance in history when you could have chosen to choose differently than you did.

    If you want to call that free will, hey, I can’t yet afford to hire enough goons to change everybody’s mind.

    I just wonder why you’re so attached to the term. Does it make you feel better?

    Because people at large are attached to the term, and because the unpredictability of agents, even rational agents, as decision makers is a common, broad and wide enough experience that it cannot help but possess a label.

    And as for the Dennettian description actually being “free will”, it is. You have agents and their interactions with their surroundings. We don’t generally have a problem with “free will” as a shorthand for describing the actions of others being unpredictable by virtue of us not having complete knowledge of their motivations and experiences.

    The Dennett model I elaborated quite simply and clearly demonstrates that the self is also to some extent unpredictable as a decision agent. Our seeing self as other (the illusion of consciousness – though consciousness itself is not an illusion, only its represented venue is self deceptive). The models match, and despite self ignorance not being what what the decision process feels like, it is that (again mathematically inescapable) lack of self knowledge which is functionally equivalent to our lack of knowledge of others as agents.

    From an objective viewpoint, it appears complete. There in fact isn’t anything else that the phrase “free will” could objectively reference. That it subjectively doesn’t “feel” like what we mean by the phrase “free will” is a part of the phenomenal disparity. 99.99% of the time it is of no consequence that the model of self that we see as the “self” making decisions is not the real mechanistic self that actually does. The processing for the model is largely isomorphic with the representation. It is only in contemplation of the mechanism and that the representation of the self model as the decision maker (as opposed to the automaton which generates the self model) breaks down.

    We can only know “self” as what we populate the model of self with. And we quite obviously cannot populate the self model with what we don’t know. And equally obviously we cannot know what we don’t know. We feel “complete” because we don’t know what we don’t know even of ourselves. It is this gap between the epistemological and the phenomenal which accounts for what the mysterians and crypto dualists call “the explanatory gap”.

    – TWZ

  95. consciousness razor says

    We don’t generally have a problem with “free will” as a shorthand for describing the actions of others being unpredictable by virtue of us not having complete knowledge of their motivations and experiences.

    I do, because “free will” isn’t used as shorthand for unpredictability, and it isn’t clear why “we” (whoever that is) would use it that way either.

    If you scanned my brain, or had some other way to predict what I was going to do, do you think that would affect whether or not I have a “will” or whether I am more or less “free” than if you couldn’t predict what I was going to do?

    Do you suppose that’s what most people think it means to be “free” or to have a “will”? They’re just saying they don’t know what causes them to do whatever they do?

    That’s nothing at all like my impression.

  96. opethian says

    If anyone would take on my logical argument I would very much appreciate it, so I can either be assured it is completely sound, or improve on whatever flaws anyone can pick out.

  97. says

    opethian:

    I’ll take a crack at some feedback/criticism/thoughts. Not because I disagree with you but just to tighten things up & give some food for thought.

    I honestly don’t believe that a simple argument can suffice (any more than Kalam can demonstrate God exists).

    (P1) It needs be free = I will generously allow this to mean it must have a certain component that is not determined. [however small]

    The negation of determinism is not necessarily ‘free’ (could be stochastic), so I think you need to go further than this.

    This whole line of reasoning seems to be a chute into a circular argument. It’s not deterministic, but it’s not random either… so it’s determined by Will. Will is not deterministic, but it’s not random… if it’s not random then what is it determined by?

    So we toss in a ‘soul’ and throw our hands up. Can we parsimoniously reject Free Will right there? :)

    Let’s call this (P1)

    (P2) It must also be will = it needs to be exclusive to living animals with a certain consciousness. But for my proof it is actually sufficient that it is exclusive to any amount of energy and matter, i.e. that there is some energy or matter that does not possess free will. Seems fair, right?

    Seems very fuzzy to me and you contradicted yourself. If it doesn’t have to be ‘living’ (which you didn’t define) then don’t say it does.

    And I think that if you just punt to ‘some configuration of mass-energy’ I’m not sure that you are saying much about it.

    This will be (P2), and it’s extremely questionable because it directly undermines your conclusion.

    (P3) Now, having said it needs to have a component that is indetermined, it also needs an underlying cause/mechanism/principle that allows for this indetermincy to exist in our understanding of science and logic.

    Need to justify this assumption better. Why is this necessary?

    I believe in some Hindu metaphysics the Will exists but is unable to act on physical matter. We maybe can call that an ‘uninteresting’ case.

    I think what I mean here is why do you believe this ‘mechanism’ must be knowable to us (being inside the construct).

    (P4) The only principle I know of that would allow for indeterminacy in nature is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. This principle states that there are incommutable pairs of factors, for which the more precise one factor is known, the less precise the other factor can be known.

    These are statements about measurements and what can be known rather than about ontology. It’s not really known what this actually means physically.

    This is a good point to ponder however, COULD Quantum indeterminacy allow for a Will?

    Here is a post on that, I don’t agree with the conclusion but you might consider how to refute some of the arguments: http://jwwartick.com/2011/11/07/qm-free-will/

    I think their conclusion is an unfounded leap (non sequitur).

    Google “quantum indeterminacy and free will” and you will find plenty of opinion there.

    (C) The problem is that this principle does not only apply to the mass and energy of living beings, it applies to all mass and energy, it is inherent in quantum mechanics. Therefore it cannot be the cause of free will. Therefore there is no principle known in science that could allow for free will to exist. Therefore free will cannot exist.

    I don’t think this conclusion flows from even a generous application of the premises. Especially (P2).

    I think you actually just argued for Buddhism and the unity of cosmic consciousness.

    I think science is on the cusp of a clear demonstration of the illusory nature of Consciousness, that won’t kill Free Will entirely but it will be like the Titanic running into an iceberg.

    If it is subconscious processes that make decisions and we only later become conscious of what happened, then what? There is still a tiny window for Will in there but not much of one.

    This is why the compatibilists have had to redefine Free Will to mean “something that can learn, make choices, and act on them”. But those choices are ultimately determined by the physics – so this is more of an emergent appearance than a fundamental property of. Much like a Whirlpool emerges from the physics that gives rise to chemistry and the properties of water.

    If you want to keep working on it I recommend putting it on a blog where you can edit it and we can discuss in comments – this is not a good forum. Ping me on Twitter if you want: @ColdDimSum

  98. mikelaing says

    (Christ, I have been trying to connect for 30 minutes just for submit to work, aarrgghhhh)

    opethian says:
    7 December 2011 at 4:28 pm
    Also, the fact that free will doesn’t exist makes a very good case for why the idea of gods is simply ridiculous.

    Are you ahs doppelganger?
    – - – - – - -

    colonelzen says:
    And equally obviously we cannot know what we don’t know

    As in: Are thoughts, feelings, etc., properties, or objects? Or do you mean what’s in the knowledge gap?
    Or, do you mean such that is experienced subjectively cannot be known by another, like exactly what another person means by self?
    Do you mean, what ‘I’ mean by self?

    You also said:

    And as for the Dennettian description actually being “free will”, it is. You have agents and their interactions with their surroundings. We don’t generally have a problem with “free will” as a shorthand for describing the actions of others being unpredictable by virtue of us not having complete knowledge of their motivations and experiences.

    No, he describes free will as a result of the reasoning process , which I am almost certain, most people do.

    The model of decision making I am proposing has the following feature: when we are faced with an important decision, a consideration-generator whose output is to some degree undetermined produces a series of considerations, some of which may of course be immediately rejected as irrelevant by the agent (consciously or unconsciously). Those considerations that are selected by the agent as having a more than negligible bearing on the decision then figure in a reasoning process, and if the agent is in the main reasonable, those considerations ultimately serve as predictors and explicators of the agent’s final decision.[14]

    While other philosophers have developed two-stage models, including William James, Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, and Henry Margenau, Dennett defends this model for the following reasons:

    First…The intelligent selection, rejection, and weighing of the considerations that do occur to the subject is a matter of intelligence making the difference.
    Second, I think it installs indeterminism in the right place for the libertarian, if there is a right place at all.
    Third…from the point of view of biological engineering, it is just more efficient and in the end more rational that decision making should occur in this way.
    A fourth observation in favor of the model is that it permits moral education to make a difference, without making all of the difference.
    Fifth — and I think this is perhaps the most important thing to be said in favor of this model — it provides some account of our important intuition that we are the authors of our moral decisions.
    Finally, the model I propose points to the multiplicity of decisions that encircle our moral decisions and suggests that in many cases our ultimate decision as to which way to act is less important phenomenologically as a contributor to our sense of free will than the prior decisions affecting our deliberation process itself: the decision, for instance, not to consider any further, to terminate deliberation; or the decision to ignore certain lines of inquiry.
    These prior and subsidiary decisions contribute, I think, to our sense of ourselves as responsible free agents, roughly in the following way: I am faced with an important decision to make, and after a certain amount of deliberation, I say to myself: “That’s enough. I’ve considered this matter enough and now I’m going to act,” in the full knowledge that I could have considered further, in the full knowledge that the eventualities may prove that I decided in error, but with the acceptance of responsibility in any case.[15]

    He has included(above) the start of the process as, “when we are faced with an important decision, a consideration-generator whose output is to some degree undetermined produces a series of considerations,” which has been criticized as being indeterministic and thus unpredictable, but not only does he mean what comes after that as free will, he also says that the initial consideration, ie the output from the ‘generator’, is only partly undetermined, which nevertheless, is still part of the output that is rationally considered. I’m sure he means feelings, memories, perhaps random thoughts, and the like, as the undetermined aspect.

    I would argue that this is also capable of being under the influence, and possibly almost total control(buddhist monk type discipline), of the will.

    He most certainly does not mean unpredictability of action as being called free will, as everyone I’ve ever met. Every single person I have met means ‘considering, then acting(or choosing to)’ as free will.
    It’s meaning is based on subjective knowledge and understanding(cognition) of our own experiences that give rise to the definition of free will we all use, including recognition of the same behaviours, and outright statements, from others that concludes us to understand that this is a universal understanding of what free will is.

    There, are there any questions, clarifications needed? Objections? Any ‘fuck you, you don’t speak for me, you hambones’?

    One ‘r’, lol

  99. consciousness razor says

    mikelaing:

    I’m sure he means feelings, memories, perhaps random thoughts, and the like, as the undetermined aspect.

    I don’t know what makes you so “sure” about any of this. Maybe there are some indeterministic factors playing a role in our behavior, but they could just as well be things which we are aren’t aware of or in control of, which have nothing to do with anything you might like to call a “will.” And in any case, I still see no evidence of free will, or for much of anything, just speculation.

    I would argue that this is also capable of being under the influence, and possibly almost total control(buddhist monk type discipline), of the will.

    That’s just laughable. How do you figure that? If you have evidence, use it for your argument. Otherwise, arguing is pointless.

    Leaving aside the bullshit about Buddhist monks for a moment (though I may have to come back to that)… First, how can anything indeterminate be controlled by anything (whether intentionally or not)? Does the “will” (whatever that is) have some kind of special powers that let it predict those things anyway? And what mechanism is involved by which the “will” has any impact on these unknown, unevidenced, indeterminate aspects of decision-making?

    Also, would you consider the possibility that you do not have free will for a moment? What would that be like? Because I still have no idea what you’re going on about, and I figure having some idea might help now and then. Maybe it’d be easier if you told me what you think the lack of free will would mean, since we seem to be getting nowhere at this point.

    (BTW, is your avatar Douglas Adams? It looks a bit like him.)

  100. mikelaing says

    darkstar says: “This is why the compatibilists have had to redefine Free Will to mean “something that can learn, make choices, and act on them”. But those choices are ultimately determined by the physics – so this is more of an emergent appearance than a fundamental property of. Much like a Whirlpool emerges from the physics that gives rise to chemistry and the properties of water.”

    Yet the exact structure and state of the whirlpool is chaotic.

    Everyone seems to use QM almost exclusively as a source for introducing unpredictability, and the criticism is, rightly or wrongly, that this is only on a sub-microscopic scale. Chaos isn’t. And why can’t our decisions be, partly or wholly, the result of a convergence, at some level, of algorithms like -

    1 ‘Monte Carlo methods (or Monte Carlo experiments) are a class of computational algorithms that rely on repeated random sampling to compute their results’,
    2 ‘Simulated annealing (SA) is a generic probabilistic metaheuristic for the global optimization problem of locating a good approximation to the global optimum of a given function in a large search space’, or,
    3 ‘Sobol sequences (also called LPt sequences or (t, s) sequences in base 2) are an example of quasi-random low-discrepancy sequences’ which are bunary: “These sequences use a base of two to form successively finer uniform partitions of the unit interval, and then reorder the coordinates in each dimension.” they are used in the computation of Good distributions in the s-dimensional unit hypercube

    – that are pseudo-random and potentially part of serial and/or parallel processing? These could be innumerable in number yet result in finite and precise outcomes.

    Now, I put #3 intentionally, as a seque to one alternate type of proposal to Quantum Mechanics and the Standard Model theory of matter and energy, String theory which can lead to the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_principle, which describes reality “The holographic principle is a property of quantum gravity and string theories which states that the description of a volume of space can be thought of as encoded on a boundary to the region—preferably a light-like boundary like a gravitational horizon. First proposed by Gerard ‘t Hooft, it was given a precise string-theory interpretation by Leonard Susskind[1] who combined his ideas with previous ones of Gerard ‘t Hooft and Charles Thorn.[1][2] In fact, as pointed out by Raphael Bousso,[3] Thorn observed in 1978 that string theory admits a lower dimensional description in which gravity emerges from it in what would now be called a holographic way.
    In a larger and more speculative sense, the theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure “painted” on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions we observe are only an effective description at macroscopic scales and at low energies. Cosmological holography has not been made mathematically precise, partly because the cosmological horizon has a finite area and grows with time.[4][5]

    I am just trying to show that determinism, the way people seem to use it here, at least, not only contains unkowns, but that you can’t even speculate, let alone know, about what you don’t know.

    This is not even the least of it! For instance:
    What are qualia exactly? They must be a physical thing, reasons the determinist, mediated by the known laws of nature/physics.
    But, I ask, if behaviour and mind are emergent, and thus at least the ‘perception’ of free will, how?!?

    It’s all very well and nice, and I have asked this already, but either you know what kind of a thing our mind is, or you don’t, and if you don’t, with refernce to qualia, then how do you know how or why it obtains?
    I don’t mean the fucking reasons that it obtains, ie ‘something caused it to,’(no fucking kidding) FFS, but what are its physical properties????

    Can the mind influence, or be causative of, freely chosen behaviour? No matter how much it is reasonable to assume/conclude that we don’t have free will, we don’t know what qualia are, which enable us to be aware of our thoughts and perceived control over them.

    Plus, why do we even bother having awareness and qualia, and the perception of free will? If all our behaviours are responses to physical processes and stimuli, why aren’t we just automatons that have the appearance of consciousness and independent thought, like … ta-daaa – ZOMBIES!

    In conclusion, would someone please put me out of my misery? I beg you, or do I just act like I make all the motions and sounds like In appear to care?

    How do you know that I am aware, that I’m not a philisophical zombie, you fucking freethinkers?*

    *No, I’m not drunk. I just find myself acting in what appears in my qualia to be more spontaneous due to the appearance of a resulting sense of freedom from the appearance of believing that I don’t have free will. Does it appear that way to you, or are you just saying that, meat thing?

  101. mikelaing says

    consciousness razor says:
    Maybe it’d be easier if you told me what you think the lack of free will would mean, since we seem to be getting nowhere at this point.”

    It looks exactly the same! Why?

    I am very strongly leaning towards the ‘no free will’ conviction, but I don’t want that and I am grasping at straws, perhaps. I am also trying to elicit links to real philosophers that have thought of these things.

    BTW, I started composing the last comment(#111) I just submitted, before your comment(#110) at 5:17(mine is 7:06, for relative comparisons) appeared. Sorry.

    consciousness razor says:

    mikelaing:

    I’m sure he means feelings, memories, perhaps random thoughts, and the like, as the undetermined aspect.

    I don’t know what makes you so “sure” about any of this. Maybe there are some indeterministic factors playing a role in our behavior, but they could just as well be things which we are aren’t aware of or in control of,

    Yes, I even knew that was unwarranted to think that that is what he(Dennett) meant by saying:
    “free will” as a shorthand for describing the actions of others being unpredictable by virtue of us not having complete knowledge of their motivations and experiences

    Does the “will” (whatever that is) have some kind of special powers that let it predict those things anyway? And what mechanism is involved by which the “will” has any impact on these unknown, unevidenced, indeterminate aspects of decision-making?

    I DON’T KNOW! :)

    But neither do you know, for sure, that it follows known mechanisms, or our limited conception of them. For instance:

    colonelzen says:
    We feel “complete” because we don’t know what we don’t know even of ourselves. It is this gap between the epistemological and the phenomenal which accounts for what the mysterians and crypto dualists call “the explanatory gap”.

    I am trying to show that there is an explanatory gap for determinists, too. See post#111, but in essence, how do you know that our behaviour is being solely determined, including all of our thoughts and perceptions, if you don’t know the exact mechanism for strict cause – effect exclusivity for our mind, because you cannot describe what our minds, consisting of qualia, are composed of physically, in the first place?

    I also try to smash home what colonelzen says here:

    We feel “complete” because we don’t know what we don’t know even of ourselves. It is this gap between the epistemological and the phenomenal which accounts for what the mysterians and crypto dualists call “the explanatory gap”.

    that there are plenty of possible unkowns for refuting determinist’s claims to be conclusive.
    There are conceptual unknowns(other ways randomness can be introduced into the process), and physical unknowns, which also exponentiates(?) the number of possible conceptual unknowns that we don’t know about. You know? lol

    Look, I am not taking this all seriously, although I am trying very hard to be logical, rational, and rigorous.

    This debate has been done to death, and I am trying to add new considerations to the debate.

    My ultimate point is that determinists do not have any valid claims to being ‘more correct’ than free will proponents, because just as we cannot propose a testable theory of how free will would work physically, neither can you determinists provide a testable theory or explanation for what qualia are, or why we would have the overpowering perception of possessing free will.
    In fact, AFAICT, I, myself, have come up with a better proposal for the existence of the inaccurate perceptions that we have of free will and free evaluation of situations.

    How do you know what our perception of having free will IS? You can’t explain perceptions and awareness, so how can you prove that those perceptions are false?

    Is a thought a thing, or a property of a thing? Or both or neither? What ‘thing’ would they be a property of, as described in terms of its constituent components being matter and energy, ie real.

    Or do you espouse that our minds are not real? If they are real, you don’t know how. If they are real, you don’t know why(I mean why they are there, functionally).

    So tell me again, how is it that they follow determinism? How do you know that they must?

    - Now I see that my comment @111 is awaiting moderation. Wonder, will this one too?

  102. consciousness razor says

    It is this gap between the epistemological and the phenomenal which accounts for what the mysterians and crypto dualists call “the explanatory gap”.

    I am trying to show that there is an explanatory gap for determinists, too.

    I really hope you wouldn’t lump yourself in with mysterians and dualists. Do you know what “the explanatory gap” refers to, or are you just saying this for effect?

    See post#111,

    Your comment’s gone. There’s a limit of six links, though it’s possible you caught a span filter if for some reason you mentioned Vi@gra or N*stradamus.

    but in essence, how do you know that our behaviour is being solely determined, including all of our thoughts and perceptions, if you don’t know the exact mechanism for strict cause – effect exclusivity for our mind, because you cannot describe what our minds, consisting of qualia, are composed of physically, in the first place?

    Do we need a complete theory of quantum gravity to know rocks falling downhill isn’t the work of a vast conspiracy of magical unicorns in league with the devil? No, we don’t.

    The point is simply that the specific causes of specific mental phenomena, whatever they are, are obeying the laws of physics just like everything else. If you claim they aren’t, it isn’t determinists but you who has a fuckton of explaining to do. If you think we need some additional force or entity in the universe, get a single shred of evidence and examine it. If you want me to admit we’re ignorant of a lot of things, I readily admit that. However, an argument from ignorance is fallacious.

    My ultimate point is that determinists do not have any valid claims to being ‘more correct’ than free will proponents, because just as we cannot propose a testable theory of how free will would work physically, neither can you determinists provide a testable theory or explanation for what qualia are, or why we would have the overpowering perception of possessing free will.

    Wrong in so many ways.

    There are no qualia, in the strongest sense. They are in just as bad a state as free will. No evidence for them. Our subjective phenomenal experiences are nothing over and above the neurological functions of the brain. If you could point to something — anything — which indicates that we have qualia or free will, that would at least be a start. Then there would be something for naturalists to try to explain. By the looks of it, dualists and whatever you consider yourself aren’t interested in explaining anything, so it’d probably be naturalists if it were going to happen. But we’re not even close to that stage. “Qualia” and “free will” aren’t even well-defined, much less actual evidence that demands explanation. So stop pretending that they are.

    How do you know what our perception of having free will IS? You can’t explain perceptions and awareness, so how can you prove that those perceptions are false?

    We can explain perceptions and awareness very well. Read a book about cognitive science sometime. Unless you’re a solipsist, it’s fairly obvious how to know perceptions may be false: other people have different perceptions or explanations of a phenomenon and have convincing evidence which isn’t consistent with the perception. If you want a mathematical proof, study some math.

    Is a thought a thing, or a property of a thing? Or both or neither? What ‘thing’ would they be a property of, as described in terms of its constituent components being matter and energy, ie real.

    Thought is a product of brain function, so you could say it’s an event. Is this going anywhere, or are you just reciting a list of things you find mysterious?

    Or do you espouse that our minds are not real? If they are real, you don’t know how. If they are real, you don’t know why(I mean why they are there, functionally).

    Why don’t you study this yourself so you can find out, if you’re interested in it? In short, much of the explanation involves evolution. Having the ability to respond to different stimuli in different ways, as well as store information about them for later use, is very useful for survival and reproduction. But that’s plain old biology, probably not magical enough for you.

  103. colonelzen says

    At least two of you who did not like my exposition of Dennettian free will are making a classic mistake (which Dennett was at pains to demonstrate!)

    Determinism does NOT mean predictable. If a system has any kind of self referential contingencies the magnitude of computation required to predict its future states grows factorially. This is what The Halting Problem proves.

    It is completely counterintuitive but none the less true. A deterministic universe is NOT a predestined universe. And on a smaller scale deterministic brains (if there were such, which there aren’t, at least not in humans) are not predestined brains.

    BTW, I am not Dan Dennett! Just a sometimes cantankerous fan (he screwed up big time with qualia, as Mike noted, and some of his understanding of computational theory and terminology is a bit strained).

    The problem with being a materialist/rationalist and claiming you “don’t believe in free will” is that there is an awful lot of behavior by agents that objectively, observer independently, is unpredictable. Now a believer in determinism will readily and happily claim (correctly) “imperfect knowledge” (not having the theory or resources to make a prediction can be classed as imperfect knowedge too!) The scope and effects of that “imperfect knowledge” is going to be a very close match to what the not-so-philosophically inclined just call “free will”.

    So at this point you have one long string of noise and one two short words string of noise describing essentially the same materially observable phenomena. What is it you don’t believe in again?

    A thought is a structure and process in gooey meat that evokes references to other thoughts which after many layers of catenation ultimately reference abstractions, however reordered and recombined, of past sensory experience (which are what primitive qualia really are).

    It’s subtle but I no longer see an “explanatory gap” for consciousness. Consciousness is (in my armchair elaborations on Dennet’s CE among others) simply the process of iteratively laying down memories … which reference and if referenced by future conscious process can evoke past references of self (and contingent decision processes that were then under consideration). It’s a layer on top of the optimization trick of predicting the immediate future by comparing the present to the immediate past. By remembering self state and the contingent decision process the results of actions from them can be factored in to the contingencies – we can remember what we thought that did and did not work – to make better decisions in the future.

    – TWZ

  104. jacklecou says

    The problem with being a materialist/rationalist and claiming you “don’t believe in free will” is that there is an awful lot of behavior by agents that objectively, observer independently, is unpredictable.

    I don’t get why this matters.

    After all, “unpredictable” is not remotely the same as “free will”. It does not even seem to be related. Coin flips, land slides, n-body orbital mechanics, and the exact positions of electrons are all in some sense or degree “unpredictable”.

    But it would be absurd to say that any of those systems possess “free will”*.

    I have not read Dennett, so I don’t know if you’re borrowing his terminology or not, or how accurately, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of work is being done in the above sentence by the term “agent”. It smells strongly of assuming the consequent.

    Exactly what criteria are you using to distinguish merely complex or random physical systems from “agents” who have “free will”?

    —-
    *: And by the same token, a computer simulation of a human sufficiently advanced as to render an individuals behavior “predictable” would presumably not rob the individual in question of any “free will” he or she might otherwise have possessed.

  105. mikelaing says

    Do you know what “the explanatory gap” refers to

    Yes. It is self explanatory. It is gap in a contingent process for which there is not a known explanation. I mean, WTF do you think I mean when I say it? Now that I look it up, it is a very well studied problem, exactly as I described it.To wit:
    The explanatory gap is the claim that consciousness and human experiences such as qualia cannot be fully explained just by identifying the corresponding physical (neural) processes. Bridging this gap is known as “the hard problem”.[1]
    Wikipedia says
    The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we have qualitative phenomenal experiences.[1] David Chalmers[2] contrasts this with the “easy problems” of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, etc. Easy problems are easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena. Chalmers claims that the problem of experience is distinct from this set, and he argues that the problem of experience will “persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained”.[3]

    Do we need a complete theory of quantum gravity to know rocks falling downhill isn’t the work of a vast conspiracy of magical unicorns in league with the devil? No, we don’t.

    My point exactly. Yes we do. If you define magical unicorns in a way that is consistent with theoretical gravitons etc-fucking-cetera.

    In another sense, yur analogy fails because we know the exact state of the rock every step of the way. It is contingent. You cannot say that we know the exact state of every transitional step between the physical brain state, and the resulting ‘mind’ state. How does it move from the initial state(begining of free fall v physical brain state) to the final state(colliding with the ground v qualia).
    Are you sure you’ve read any philosophy and not just learned it from Sesame Street?

    By the looks of it, dualists and whatever you consider yourself aren’t interested in explaining anything, so it’d probably be naturalists if it were going to happen. But we’re not even close to that stage. “Qualia” and “free will” aren’t even well-defined, much less actual evidence that demands explanation. So stop pretending that they are.

    Bwaaaaaa ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaa! I’ve been asking for nothing but explanations. Ive been proposing nothing but problems for discovering the explanations. I mean fuck, you are the onee that is content with no explanation of how the fucking physical brain state translates into the fucking experience of qualia.
    Jesus H Christ, ‘qualia’ and ‘free will’ have rigorous explanations. Are you fucking sure you know what is going on in this discussion?
    philosophy.uwaterloo{dot}.ca/MindDict/qualia.html – qualia – The ‘what it’s like’ character of mental states. The way it feels to have mental states such as pain, seeing red, smelling a rose, etc
    Plural for quale. “Quale” is a technical term introduced by C.I. Lewis (1929). A quale is an introspectible and seemingly monadic property of a sense-datum. For example, the qualia of a visual sense-datum of a rose would include the experienced red-ness, and the qualia of an olfactory sense-datum of a rose would include the sweet-ness of the scent.

    I mean, you can’t be fucking serious?

    http://www.biotele{dot}com/qualia.htm – Qualia are on everyone’s mind, quite literally. Qualia (singular quale) are an integral part of our lives. We cannot escape them, unless we are dead or in a coma and there are some that believe that we can’t escape them even after death.

    If you look up the meaning of Qualia, you usually get long worded explanations.

    But in one sense, Qualia are very simple to understand. Look at the pictures below.Both pictures convey the same information. The picture on the left uses numbers in place of colors, 1 for blue and 2 for brown. The picture on the left represents more accurately the process that is happening inside our brain and the colored picture is what we experience in our mind.

    The point is simply that the specific causes of specific mental phenomena, whatever they are, are obeying the laws of physics just like everything else.

    I couldn’t agree more. I never claimed anything different, ever.

    If you claim they aren’t, it isn’t determinists but you who has a fuckton of explaining to do. If you think we need some additional force or entity in the universe, get a single shred of evidence and examine it.

    No, you are the one encumbered with describing WHAT qualia are, not just that they are predicated by a state(physical brain) that can be shown to conform to the known parameters of physics.

    We can explain perceptions and awareness very well. Read a book about cognitive science sometime.

    No, we can explain the fucking experience of perception and awareness, not the qualia the ARE perception and awareness.
    We can explain the property of pattern recognition to explain seeing a picture of Jesus in a random generation of visual noise; we can explain that we group the dots and shades of color by associating them with adjacent dots or spaces, as the case may be, by color and hue and density, but we cannot get anyone to form the same picture that we are sensing and constructing inside our subjective awareness, sigh, and have them ‘see’ it, now can we? The whole is not explained by the sum of the parts!

    Another example to illustrate that I know very well what I am talking about, and hopefully clear up any mis, or non, understandings of what the difference is between mind, and physical, objectively observable systems eg our brain:
    You can hear a certain noise a specific thing creates, say a car, or screech, or musical tone, or song, or voice such that you can recognize it again if you experience it. You can also put an electrode or chemical into the right part(s) of the brain and stimulate ‘hearing’ that exact noise, from memory, stimulation of the relevant parts of the brain that process our sensory inputs, etc.
    Our subjective experience(hearing the noise) is the same in both cases, we know exactly why our brains produced the exact noise, that we experience the same noise, but only one of them is a response to a real noise, the other being purely generated in our brain.
    The sound we ‘hear’ is the same, even though the cause is different. Two different cognitive processes, one qualia. How can two different cognitive processes result in one (two identical) experiences, the sound? There obviously is no physically independent source of one of the sounds, so what are we ‘hearing’?
    How did that sound arise in our awareness?

    Are you getting the difference between a physical cause and an ‘imaginary’ one yet? What are the transitional states between the initial stimulation, and the resulting sound we perceive?

    Fuck, I don’t have time to go through all this, and I can’t link to enough stuff to show clearly what I am trying to say.

    I am not a dualist, I just hold that our minds are manifestations of physicality, they almost certainly are a physicality, just one that its physicality is unknown.

    If that is unknown, how can you discount the possibility of free will operating in the same unknown process?

    The gap in knowledge means that something real is going on but it might as well be magic, for all we know. You are certainly getting the sense I am trying to convey, consciousness razor, but you are drawing the wrong conclusions. I am not saying that something unexplainable is going on(dualist?), just that something unexplained and un-understood is going on.

    You rightly point out that my argument is the fallacy of appeal to ignorance, whereby just because something is happening, anything could be happening, and therefore you can’t prove otherwise. You do the same thing. You argue that just because we know how most things work in nature, we know that everything works the same way, and therefore we can’t prove otherwise.
    Both cases take direct understanding of what is really going on to prove conclusively that we are right, or wrong.
    Mine seems to be an ontological position, and saying something is an illusion is an ontological position, so that leaves us with uncertainty on both sides, and that is my only point. The only point I have been trying to say.
    That’s it, that’s all.
    Denning’s explanation of what free will is defined as, and my, and many other, references to qualia should me more than sufficient, even painfully obvious, as to show what is meant by free will and qualia, and that qualia are real.

    If my posy #111 doesn’t show up very soon, I will cut and paste it into a new comment, without the active links. It might clear things up, also. (I’m assuming that anything I say at least has the possibility to be clear) ;]

  106. mikelaing says

    Exactly what criteria are you using to distinguish merely complex or random physical systems from “agents” who have “free will”?

    I know that this isn’t addressed to me(I don’t think!), but I wanted to respond/relate to it.
    I believe showing randomness displays that determinism isn’t always true, therefore, it is possible that it might never be true when we actualize our free will.

    It’s a shite argument, it doesn’t say how randomness translates to free will, that because randomness is an exception to determinism, all conceivable exceptions are necessarily possible.
    Randomness isn’t even an exception, is it? A situation with a constrained set of possible degrees/values of randomness still then determines what happens next, I imagine. lol

  107. mikelaing says

    consciousness razor says:

    (BTW, is your avatar Douglas Adams? It looks a bit like him.)

    Anything that happens, happens. Anthying that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen. Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again. It doesn’t necessarily do it in chronological order, though.
    Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001), Mostly Harmless

    See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that.
    Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001)

    How can I tell that the past isn’t a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate physical sensation and my state of mind?
    Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001)

    Anyways, that is a picture of myself, As far as thinking we have have free will:
    I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer
    Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001)

    But you people now have me admitting that it just doesn’t seem possible, FFS!

  108. says

    Determinism does NOT mean predictable. If a system has any kind of self referential contingencies the magnitude of computation required to predict its future states grows factorially. This is what The Halting Problem proves.

    It is completely counterintuitive but none the less true. A deterministic universe is NOT a predestined universe.

    I’m fine with Dennet’s compatibilist Free Will, but it IS a semantic shift away from a true Free Will.

    However, you have a non sequitur here, your conclusion that the universe is therefore not predestined simply does not follow.

    Any given point in the Mandelbrot Set is completely determined, but it is not predictable – a potentially incalculable number of computations might be required for any given point that is very near the boundary. But the point either IS or IS NOT in the set, it IS predestined by the mathematics no matter how convoluted or intractable they may be. The time-evolution of a dynamic system is fundamentally no different, if the state at time T(n) could NOT have been otherwise then it IS predestined – it doesn’t matter how much that state depends on previous states – EVEN when they are computationally complex (contains if/then branching).

    The computational irreducibility conjecture (not to mention our Quantumly prohibited lack of complete state knowledge) means that we cannot cheat and get to the end faster than the universe itself, but that does NOT mean that the end isn’t predestined based on either initial conditions OR the product of a purely stochastic process with no Will present. Neither of which allow for an independent Free Will outside of the “will” of Nature itself to go where it is wont.

    The ONLY sense in which we could have an actual Free Will is if there is an external “something” that can change the course of Nature itself. But all that would do is shift the question up a level. What is the Nature of THAT and how is it Free or a Will? I cannot imagine such a thing existing in reality.

    We APPEAR to have Free Will to ourselves because it appears that way (mainly because we are profoundly ignorant of the underlying processes), not because it actually IS that way.

    I would rather just be honest and say, no, there is no Free Will; but we’re forced to act as if there is so just get on with it.

    We DO make choices and we DO learn and things DO matter to us. So we act accordingly. But I think we are in far less control than most are comfortable imagining.

  109. opethian says

    Thanks for the feedback darkstar! Sorry for taking so long to respond but I got sidetracked on the other pharyngula thread.

    I honestly don’t believe that a simple argument can suffice (any more than Kalam can demonstrate God exists).

    (P1) It needs be free = I will generously allow this to mean it must have a certain component that is not determined. [however small]

    The negation of determinism is not necessarily ‘free’ (could be stochastic), so I think you need to go further than this.

    This whole line of reasoning seems to be a chute into a circular argument. It’s not deterministic, but it’s not random either… so it’s determined by Will. Will is not deterministic, but it’s not random… if it’s not random then what is it determined by?

    So we toss in a ‘soul’ and throw our hands up. Can we parsimoniously reject Free Will right there? :)

    Well yeah, I would agree, that is the reasoning that got me here, but I just wanted to try to put it in a less abstract, even more obvious way.

    Let’s call this (P1)

    (P2) It must also be will = it needs to be exclusive to living animals with a certain consciousness. But for my proof it is actually sufficient that it is exclusive to any amount of energy and matter, i.e. that there is some energy or matter that does not possess free will. Seems fair, right?

    Seems very fuzzy to me and you contradicted yourself. If it doesn’t have to be ‘living’ (which you didn’t define) then don’t say it does.

    Well, for the sake of the argument, it doesn’t have to be living, but for the sake of defining free will as I perceive it, it would not only have to be living but have a higher consciousness as well. I was just trying to make that nuance, but you might be right that it convolutes the argument a bit.

    And I think that if you just punt to ‘some configuration of mass-energy’ I’m not sure that you are saying much about it.

    But my point was not defining it as close to how I see free will as possible, the point was making the definition as broad as possible (including the idea of free will I have, but including even more, making the argument stronger) and still showing it can’t be supported by any known scientific principle.

    This will be (P2), and it’s extremely questionable because it directly undermines your conclusion.

    I don’t see how it does, in fact I would think it bolsters the argument for ways in which someone could redefine free will to something the argument no longer supports. Now the same argument can be used for a whole range of concepts.

    (P3) Now, having said it needs to have a component that is indetermined, it also needs an underlying cause/mechanism/principle that allows for this indetermincy to exist in our understanding of science and logic.

    Need to justify this assumption better. Why is this necessary?

    I believe in some Hindu metaphysics the Will exists but is unable to act on physical matter. We maybe can call that an ‘uninteresting’ case.

    I think what I mean here is why do you believe this ‘mechanism’ must be knowable to us (being inside the construct).

    This mechanism must not be knowable to us, there just must be a principle that allows for there to be some things we cannot know, which is exactly what the Heisenberg uncertainty is. That’s the beauty of it, it states that if we know certain things, we cannot know certain other things. We know the things we cannot know, which are the only things which would allow for the free will I defined.

    (P4) The only principle I know of that would allow for indeterminacy in nature is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. This principle states that there are incommutable pairs of factors, for which the more precise one factor is known, the less precise the other factor can be known.

    These are statements about measurements and what can be known rather than about ontology. It’s not really known what this actually means physically.

    Yes, because measurements are our only way to know certain things, but the principle itself is not a result of technical limitations or human error in the observations! It is a fundamental property of quantum systems, which is the beauty of it.

    This is a good point to ponder however, COULD Quantum indeterminacy allow for a Will?

    Here is a post on that, I don’t agree with the conclusion but you might consider how to refute some of the arguments: http://jwwartick.com/2011/11/07/qm-free-will/

    I think their conclusion is an unfounded leap (non sequitur).

    Google “quantum indeterminacy and free will” and you will find plenty of opinion there.

    Alright, if I find the time I’ll check that out.

    (C) The problem is that this principle does not only apply to the mass and energy of living beings, it applies to all mass and energy, it is inherent in quantum mechanics. Therefore it cannot be the cause of free will. Therefore there is no principle known in science that could allow for free will to exist. Therefore free will cannot exist.

    I don’t think this conclusion flows from even a generous application of the premises. Especially (P2).

    Yeah, the final conclusion doesn’t follow from the one before that, unless I add “in our understanding of science”. But that’s far enough for me for now, and most rational people I presume.

    I think you actually just argued for Buddhism and the unity of cosmic consciousness.

    Haha, well I would have few problems with that.

    I think science is on the cusp of a clear demonstration of the illusory nature of Consciousness, that won’t kill Free Will entirely but it will be like the Titanic running into an iceberg.

    If it is subconscious processes that make decisions and we only later become conscious of what happened, then what? There is still a tiny window for Will in there but not much of one.

    This is why the compatibilists have had to redefine Free Will to mean “something that can learn, make choices, and act on them”. But those choices are ultimately determined by the physics – so this is more of an emergent appearance than a fundamental property of. Much like a Whirlpool emerges from the physics that gives rise to chemistry and the properties of water.

    I agree completely.

    If you want to keep working on it I recommend putting it on a blog where you can edit it and we can discuss in comments – this is not a good forum. Ping me on Twitter if you want: @ColdDimSum

    Alright, although I’m not sure it will be something I will bve able to do soon, but in 2 weeks I will start to have more time so I’ll probably let you know around then.

  110. says

    opethian:

    Just to clarify why I think (P2) undermines the conclusion let me paraphrase – keeping in mind that a premise is a statement that we either agree is true, or we can establish is true (or at least conditionally accept as true).

    (P2) If some sufficient mass-energy configuration has Will (and/or some other bit doesn’t)
    (C) free will cannot exist

    I don’t accept (P2) that a Will exists, so I reject (P2) – but even if I didn’t, (P2) appears to contradict the conclusion (or needs clarification) if I did accept it.

  111. opethian says

    But if the only reason for P2 not to be a valid assumption is the nonexistence of Will, this is not a problem for an argument that is meant to argue against Free Will. If Will cannot exist, neither can Free Will.

    I still don’t understand how P2 could contradict the conclusion though.