Free Will Redux: A Question

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This topic contains 225 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Unseen 1 month ago.

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  • #35090

    OK you can freely choose to see where we were at 6 years ago by clicking this link that I was determined to find 🙂

    #35091

    Unseen
    Participant

    If you can’t explain it to ordinary folks plainly, then in their mind the problem will remain.

    Unseen that is total bullshit. Please explain the theory of relativity in “two sentences”.

    Where did the two-sentence requirement come from? Me? I only remember saying it has to be understandable in ordinary language. And yet, two sentences:

    Space and time are not two different things with space being the same everywhere and time flowing at a constant rate the same everywhere, but rather they are interrelated to a degree we can call “space time.”

    Massive objects have an effect on space and time that is related to their mass, such that the more massive the object the more the distortion it creates, and this distortion can, for example, account for what we call gravity and can mean that someone traveling faster than another person will age more slowly.

    Now, as I have said, ideas like this are different from free will because most people are just willing to accept that there are proofs or evidence for physical laws. And why are they satisfied with an explanation like the above, because they don’t have a dog in that fight. True or false, they don’t feel there’s anything to really care about.

    Free will is different. It’s more like the problem of the existence of God. This is why the most convincing arguments for God, to the average person, are the simpler ones, like the cosmological or teleological arguments. People really care about whether their belief in God is justified. Likewise, if they can’t see a way around strong determinism, they feel very uneasy about it. Technical, two or three page (or book length), jargon-filled explanations can’t function as proofs.

    The problem is, unless there is some way to explain that free will exists along with an explanation of how it exists, it won’t prove anything.

    #35093

    Unseen
    Participant

    To me, it comes down to whether decisions are the result of sufficient conditions or if your choices are truly (not in some abstruse sense) free. To be free in any relevant sense, the sufficiency issue must be dealt with.

    If you decide conditions are sufficient, have you made a choice? Of course your “will” is dependent on a physical brain. When we find a non physical brain (aka god) maybe then you will have your free will. Sometimes a paramecium jumps towards the light, sometimes away. That is probably about the extent of our free will. Way more than a stone, way less than a god.

    Deciding if a condition is sufficient is just another decision. It will be made once conditions are sufficient for a decision to arise.

    “Way more than a stone, way less than a god”? More like way less than satisfying.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Unseen.
    #35095

    Davis
    Moderator

    Unseen you specifically said in the past any idea should be easily summarised in a couple sentences. When challenging you to do so (say summarise relativity or evolution into a few sentences so a layperson can reasonably understand it you were conveniently silent).

    In any case…an average person cannot properly understand the intricacies of the theory of relativity. Most of us here couldn’t. We understand a vague outline of it and those who know a little more have learnt quite a bit about it (even if it isn’t highly technical). That doesn’t mean the larger more complex theory doesn’t provide rational and even useful answers to complex questions. I barely understand game theory and I can hardly wrap my mind around calculus…and my engineering friends who found something so obvious and simple couldn’t even teach the basics to me. Does that mean I’m more stupid than a layperson or that the whole endeavour is of little use? Your requirement that anything worth taking seriously should be explainable to a layperson is deranged. It’s just a lazy excuse not to pick up a fucking book and read it. I’m not saying this in a mean spirited way…I am saying this out of sheer flabberghastery and calling you out for being intellectually lazy and using you whole “summarise to the lay person” as a pitiful evasive tactic.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.
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    #35099

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Thanks for that link Reg. I read it. If it is a fair representation of Dennet’s book then Dennet has accomplished nothing. That conception of the computer with greater capability in playing chess having greater options and therefore a greater degree of free will is fiction. If its path is determined in the same way that the less sophisticated chess program is determined then those options are illusory.

    #35100

    jakelafort
    Participant

    In fact Dennet’s position is simply aesthetic (again i am making the assumption that Simon gave a good summary of Dennet’s thinking on free will) and one can assert with as much justification that as complexity increases and options increase that the degree of free will is less than that of Robert’s paramecium. All of the contemplation and assessment of relevant factors that are attendant to a more advanced cognition and yet that simple life form is true to its nature.

    The paramecium has come into the light, Carol Ann. Meanwhile weak and wary on a midnight dreary i am lucubrating the next days past performances and as an expert handicapper i consider and assess various factors. My analysis is more nuanced and sophisticated than the average handicappers or the most gifted paramecium. All of that effort and i was always going to wager on the 7 in the 7th race at Delaware Park on August 19, 2018. The paramecium is not chained to the path of serpentine cognition and uncertainty. It goes to or away from the light without contemplation, hesitation, misgivings, or anything of the sort. Break the chain and we would not have to feign the depth of our brain.

    #35101

    Davis
    Moderator

    Jake…you see…this is basically why I was very reluctant to elaborate on Dennet’s theory because while Simon did about as good of a job as you possibly can with summarising a complex theory…it didn’t begin to do it justice. The chess program is an analogy and not a direct explanation of his theories. I don’t want to get bogged down into explaining more and more concepts of his theory when someone can simply read the book (and put the effort into it). It’s also been some years since I read it so I cannot cite it again and I may read it again over the xmas holidays, as Reg said, it’s worth a second read. Dennet’s theory isn’t simply a “we virtually have free will” or “we might as well have free will” it is a compatibilist theory (how free will is possible in a deterministic world). The computer analogy simply gives an example on how one agent has a greater degree of freedom in decision making than the other and it is also related to his theory on how a greater degree of freedom in decision making evolved in humans (say comparing a rather primative sapian with modern humans). The analogy is not the “nail in the coffin”. I don’t want to make the argument that “no you are wrong because I simply read a few books and you’ll have to read it to understand what I’m saying”. What I’m saying is: ruling out free will because of determinism is a rash quick judgement call and there are several theories (Dennet’s being one of them) which are more than worth exploring. But you’ll have to do your homework. I’m not going to explain concept after concept here on a theory which is already tentative where Dennet admits to the limits of the theory considering the limits on our knowledge. It’s worth reading not just for the free will portion but an extremely well explained theory on consciousness and a modern take on moral decision making. Again, even if you still disagree with the free will portion it is worth reading.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.
    #35103

    Ivy
    Participant

    I guess I don’t understand the complexity of the argument 😂. It’s not rocket science.

    #35104

    Davis
    Moderator

    Neuroscience is far more difficult a field than rocket science Ivy. You need to have a near medical understanding of the physiology of the brain and then a theory of consciousness and an understanding of human psychology and be up to date on the most recent research. Rocket scientists have sufficient information and millions of man hours of research and practical application to get a human on the moon. We don’t even have sufficient information to form a confident theory of consciousness and the best ones are laboriously technical. A basic principles of neuroscience (an introduction) text book is 1000 pages. People have created and nurtured AI algorithms that have become so complex they don’t even understand themselves how they work. Our minds are far more complex than that. At a stage like this…it is preposterous to make confident claims about our freedom to make decisions…one way or another. Basically we are waiting for someone the likes of Einstein or Darwin to come along and do for the mind what they did for their own fields. In the mean time I take a work by someone like Dennet a lot more seriously than say, Sam Harris’s flippant ridiculous little book on free will where he casually dismisses any possibility of free will, because the universe is like…a clock…and yet then goes on to discuss personal responsibility as though responsibility means anything if we have absolutely no choice and then talks about the meaning of a spiritual life as though there is any meaning in the universe if the is no such thing as choice.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.
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    #35108

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Davis, thanks for the explanation/clarification. It is certainly not fair of me to judge Dennet without reading him.
    To this point i am on Sam’s side. The issue of free will is as much a scientific as philosophical question. I for one am not confident we have a handle on determinism or even a tiny percentage of the workings of the universe. It is just amazing how we constantly make discoveries about our own biology. And the brain is so little understood. Also the bacteria we evolved with have a far greater influence on our biology than we realized. Bacteria is seldom mentioned in free will debates but they exert great influence on our choices.

    Sam says and i agree we have to live our lives as though we have free will. And really what choice do we have? I give credit to Sam for dispatching God and God morality without departing the scene as though his work is done. He addresses the search for meaning and how to live our lives.

    #35109

    Davis
    Moderator

    Hey Jake, don’t get me wrong…I also think it’s great that Sam is trying to add meaning and value to a secular life without religion. It is fantastic. But I simply laughed while reading his book “Free Will” where he casually dismisses free will because “determinism” but then at the end talks about moral responsibility without even bothering to explain how moral responsibility means anything if we literally have no choice behind what we do. For me, I can somewhat respect someone who takes the position that “free will is an illusion” as long as at the same time they hold that “moral responsibility” is an illusion. To punish someone for an act they had no choice to commit…is absurd. Those who are convinced about free will as an illusion seem universally incapable of dropping the subject there. Such a book should be about 10 pages long. But they never are and they simply have to go on introducing meaning involving human choice in a world where choice is not possible. And they don’t seem to recognise how glaringly ridiculous it is to do that.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.
    #35111

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Davis, i cant argue your point.

    Free will is the foundation of western jurisprudence. If the consensus ever changes so that free will is seen as illusory and strict determinism as reality then everything is turned on its head. How does law incorporate this most fundamental change in human perspective? Strict liability for heretofore criminal acts?

    But free will is also the basis of our relationships, isn’t it? Don’t we all impute agency to our human relations? Does it change anything at a fundamental level to “know” that we are determined? It really FEELS like we are free most of the time. I suppose for people with various psychological disorders this is less so. If someone in our purview is nasty or intends us ill then we can’t really escape the feelings that ensue. And the opposite is true. The ones we are romantically attracted to, the personalities we feel a kinship towards..etc..it all feels free.

    #35112

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Free will will probably end up being a probability function, like everything else. I could see there being a median brain reaction to a circumstantial set by population and even within an individual and a whole set of alternative reactions that tail off in probability. There is that wicked fast feedback system into our memory to search for references and that will also affect the choice.  Would certainly provide the experience that we have control when we don’t make the obvious choice.

    #35113

    Unseen
    Participant

    Unseen you specifically said in the past any idea should be easily summarised in a couple sentences. When challenging you to do so (say summarise relativity or evolution into a few sentences so a layperson can reasonably understand it you were conveniently silent).

    a) If you want to hunt that down and you actually think that I meant to say no more than two rather than just briefly in simple terms, then I guess I miserably failed. b) I gave an explanation sufficient for an intelligent person of say age 14 on up to grasp relativity.

    In any case…an average person cannot properly understand the intricacies of the theory of relativity. Most of us here couldn’t. And neither you nor I could probably fill up a blackboard extrapolating it all out. I gave in two sentences what is probably enough for an intelligent teen or adult to go, “Okay.”

    I say a solution to the free will problem, to be a solution relevant to the average person, would need to be summarized as I did the theory of relativity.

    Your requirement that anything worth taking seriously should be explainable to a layperson is deranged.

    Well, I guess I’ll want some sort of proof of that. Lay persons want to know if there’s a way out and “Go get a degree in philosophy and here’s a reading list” won’t help the average person.

    It’s just a lazy excuse not to pick up a fucking book and read it. I’m not saying this in a mean spirited way…I am saying this out of sheer flabberghastery and calling you out for being intellectually lazy and using you whole “summarise to the lay person” as a pitiful evasive tactic.

    I’m lazy? That’s a good one. Our interactions tend to consist of you attacking me and usually not even specifically criticizing my points! And “I’m not saying this in a mean spirited way” reminds me of when people say “With all due respect…” You could at a bare minimum allow that I might actually believe in the notion that there’s no solution if it can’t be explained in plain language.

    So, this vulgar outburst is no more than the last ditch ad hominem I’ve come to expect.

    #35114

    Unseen
    Participant

    I guess I don’t understand the complexity of the argument 😂. It’s not rocket science.

    I doubt if science has much to contribute to a solution to the problem of free will. Rather, it provides most of the evidence against it, like the fact that your actions (the ones you are conscious of and believe to be free) were decided anywhere from a few seconds to a fraction of a second before you yourself knew what you were “voluntarily” going to do.

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