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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  • #35115

    Unseen
    Participant

    Deleted over formatting issue. See next post instead.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Unseen.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Unseen.
    #35117

    Unseen
    Participant

    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?

    We just go on acting as we have. To say we could do otherwise kind of implies the problem has been solved. It hasn’t.

    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.

    There’s a solution to the problem of free will: It just doesn’t matter. I think we recognize that there’s no blame attached to the insane. They HAVE to act the way they do. They didn’t wake up one morning and say, I’m going to act crazy from now on. But when we wake up every morning, we don’t make a decision either. It’s just that most of our behavior falls into a fairly normal range.

    Pat skips breakfast.
    Pat has a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.
    Pat has leftover pizza for breakfast.
    Pat makes a batch of spaghetti for breakfast.
    Pat roasts a chicken for breakfast.
    Pat has a scorpion for breakfast.
    Pat eats his neighbor’s kidneys for breakfast.

    How do we fit the above behaviors into the free to compelled range? At what point do we feel Pat is acting out of compulsion? How do we know where free choices end and compulsions begin? Mightn’t every action we take be compelled by goings on in our brain? Many a philosopher thinks the mind IS the brain since most philosophers nowadays are philosophical materialists (matter is all there is).

    #35119

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Unseen, gotta disagree with your take in relation to what would happen if the consensus changes with respect to free will. You said…We just go on acting as we have. To say we could do otherwise kind of implies the problem has been solved. It hasn’t.

    First, it seems highly improbable based on religiosity and marriage to cherished beliefs that the majority in any nation will deny free will. So there is that. However in the event the perspective changes radically there is reason to believe the approach to law will be altered. Any prospective change in jurisprudence is in no way probative of the issue of free will. Same with any other radical departure from prior norms…

    #35120

    Unseen
    Participant

    Unseen, gotta disagree with your take in relation to what would happen if the consensus changes with respect to free will. You said…We just go on acting as we have. To say we could do otherwise kind of implies the problem has been solved. It hasn’t.

    Okay, let’s see.

    First, it seems highly improbable based on religiosity and marriage to cherished beliefs that the majority in any nation will deny free will. So there is that. However in the event the perspective changes radically there is reason to believe the approach to law will be altered. Any prospective change in jurisprudence is in no way probative of the issue of free will. Same with any other radical departure from prior norms…

    I think it’s safe to predict they won’t. And they needn’t. There is no solution. We don’t have one. Most people will never even think about it. They will be puzzled once the problem is explained to them. At that point, we have nothing to offer them. That is the message. Abstruce philosophical theories will be of no use to them.

    There are sufficient causes behind those of us who behave normally just like we accept that crazy people act crazy due to sufficient causes for their behavior. (BTW, since “sufficient cause” is a bit jargony, in case anyone doesn’t know what a sufficient cause is, in philosophy it’s a condition or set of conditions which when present have an inevitable result.)

    Sane or crazy, it makes no difference. We do what we do because sufficient conditions arose to produce it.

     

     

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Unseen.
    #35122

    Davis
    Moderator

    Oh I have no doubt you believe there is no solution to a problem on an issue in which we lack even basic information on and one you refuse to inform yourself on opposing arguments. That’s why, while on most topics I totally respect your point of view (even when I may seriously disagree with it) on this one I can only shake my head and laugh out loud. I’m sure you’ll rehash this topic again in a couple years and I can only hope you may have read a single thing by then that challenges your view. Prove me wrong.

    #35123

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I would guess that the solution* lies in finding the right conceptual framework for reality, that incorporates both physical determinism and the human experience of free will within constraints.  Perhaps, the human experience of free will lies in a different conceptual domain than physical determinism, so it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

    * how to reconcile the two

    #35124

    Davis
    Moderator

    Unseen is right (though only with the added caveat of MAY) in that there may never be a solution and perhaps correct in that the solution is free will simply IS an illusion…they are both possibilities. Simon is correct in that the solution may come by finding the right conceptual framework. As Raymond Tallis (a noted neuroscience and philosopher) said on the topic of consciousness and free will we need someone (or a group of people) to do for this topic what other geniuses have done for physics or evolution. Until then I think it’s fair for some to even say “I simply don’t see how free will is possible considering determinism”. But it is another to say free will is impossible…considering our ignorance and especially considering there are theories worth taking seriously (Hofstadter’s recursive-strange-loop theory being another).

    #35125

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    It’s not necessarily true that the perception of free will is an illusion – rather, it’s a perception.  “Illusion” implies that it’s a false belief.

    There are other things we perceive that are caused evolutionarily by reality – such as the belief in objective morality –  the belief – or perception – that one’s morals are objectively true, especially if they correspond to one’s mainstream society.  There are real-world evolutionary explanations for why we think our group’s moral code is the one objective true one.

    But free will is not an illusion.  We have conscious freedom of choice within constraints.  If this is “impossible”, then there is a fault in the current reasoning.

    #35126

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Davis, that is a fair statement.

    Simon, those last few sentences do not make sense to me.

    #35127

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Psychological perceptions may not match up with actual reality in the normal way, since psychology is shaped by evolutionary history.

    “Objective morality” is a perception that does not correspond to what people who believe in it think it does.  Does this have anything to do with free will?

    Presumably, free will consists of 1) conscious deliberate choosing from options, or making conscious strategies and plans; 2) subconscious motivations and influence, and we’ll never know what they all are.  So, free will as conscious choosing of actions is certainly not an illusion.  In other aspects of our free will, we are influenced by unseen forces.  There’s also emotional thinking and reasoning – doing what gives us pleasure or relief or acting out of anger.

    #35128

    Unseen
    Participant

    Oh I have no doubt you believe there is no solution to a problem on an issue in which we lack even basic information on and one you refuse to inform yourself on opposing arguments. That’s why, while on most topics I totally respect your point of view (even when I may seriously disagree with it) on this one I can only shake my head and laugh out loud. I’m sure you’ll rehash this topic again in a couple years and I can only hope you may have read a single thing by then that challenges your view. Prove me wrong.

    In your quest to attack my knowledge while hiding any knowledge you have beyond “I know because I read a book,” you’re wrong if you think I’m unfamiliar with opposing arguments. Your evidence I’m ignorant is that I haven’t arrived at the same position as yours—whatever that is, BTW, because you’re great at criticizing me  as an ignorant unread dumbbell on the subject, while not actually engaging me in active debate.

    Why is that?

    I’m not buying that the issue of free will is like quantum particle physics, a subject only a few can understand or make much headway in. It can’t be. It’s something that any human being who hears the problem laid out naturally understands and thus they need a solution that’s equally understandable, in plain language, and hopefully salvages the notion of responsibility that allows for praise and blame.

    What I’d like to see out of you, Davis, is to put the insults and slights and poisoning the well aside and let’s have a debate, starting with how you (or Dennett, if you view yourself as an acolyte of The Great Man) would deal with the sufficiency problem, the notion that everything, including human choices, inevitably follow from sufficient conditions which are given, not chosen as well as the closely related issue that our decisions happen in our brain before we are aware of them, and are thus not voluntary.

    Up for a challenge, no insults allowed?

     

    #35129

    Unseen
    Participant

    Unseen, gotta disagree with your take in relation to what would happen if the consensus changes with respect to free will. You said…We just go on acting as we have. To say we could do otherwise kind of implies the problem has been solved. It hasn’t. First, it seems highly improbable based on religiosity and marriage to cherished beliefs that the majority in any nation will deny free will. So there is that. However in the event the perspective changes radically there is reason to believe the approach to law will be altered. Any prospective change in jurisprudence is in no way probative of the issue of free will. Same with any other radical departure from prior norms…

    Funny you should mention jurisprudence, Jake. Here, toward the end of this short clip, Prof. Dennett admits that even with his compatibilist version of free will, we have to give up that notion of responsibility that the entire edifice of Western jurisprudence is based on. The irony is, most of us, philosophers and laymen alike, want to rescue free will because we fear losing the ability to praise and blame with justification. In other words, in defending a form of free will, he seems to have let the horse out of the barn, meaning his “solution” is all for naught.

    And no, I’m not proffering this viddy as some kind of mini-course in Dennett’s philosophy, but for those wondering who this guy is and how he thinks with another deep thinker as a foil, it’s good enough for that.

    #35130

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Thanks for that vid, Unseen. I was tempted to get his book. Not any longer. He comes across to me as a sophist. He said…free will is a biological phenomenon, not a physical one. Our parts don’t have free will. We do. Stop right there Mr. Dennet. Which aspect of biology produces this phenomenon? What is your proof? Why should we make it compatible with determinism when you have simply posited free will without evidence? He follows that with…our parts don’t have free will but we do. Do paramecium have free will as well, or musk ox or bonobos? He is an atheist so i assume he is not crediting special creation for making us exempt from physics so how does he know we have it and other animals do not. How would we differentiate those that do from those that lack free will? Why would anybody credit biology without substance? Dennet has a bare naked conclusion just as arbitrary as any religious nonsense.

    Later he is playing with words but not making sense. The progression from determined to unavoidable to what is avoided in our behavior is a nonsequitur. Moving away from a rock that is heading in our direction is consistent with determinism. Contrast that with a person who does not want to avoid being hit by the rock and stays still. The former is not a clear case of free will while the latter is determined or inevitable. Semantics without substance is what i see in Dennet.

    #35131

    Unseen
    Participant

    “Objective morality” is a perception that does not correspond to what people who believe in it think it does. Does this have anything to do with free will?

    Well, what do YOU mean by “objective morality”? Morality based on principles built into reality itself? Principles handed down by God? Principles deterministically derived using pure logic and universally accepted premises?

    Presumably, free will consists of 1) conscious deliberate choosing from options, or making conscious strategies and plans; 2) subconscious motivations and influence, and we’ll never know what they all are. So, free will as conscious choosing of actions is certainly not an illusion.

    By what logic? We may not know in detail how we arrive at decisions, strategies, plans, etc., but whatever the result, it’s nonsense not to suppose that they still happened due to suffient preconditions.

    Also, you need an additional term to “conscious” and “subconscious,” namely “preconscious.” This is because we know that conscious decisions are made before we are aware of them. Anywhere from several seconds to a fraction of a second earlier. “Subconscious” doesn’t work due to all of the psychological and psychiatric mumbo jumbo that’s been written using the term, not all of it really very scientifically rigorous.

    In other aspects of our free will, we are influenced by unseen forces. There’s also emotional thinking and reasoning – doing what gives us pleasure or relief or acting out of anger.

    All of those are the result of the electrochemistry of the nervous system and brain. Much of what we do isn’t even handled by the brain. It’s taken care of automatically by the autonomic nervous system. When you duck a flying object, it’s not even really a decision, it’s a pure response, no thinking needed.

    #35132

    Unseen
    Participant

    Thanks for that vid, Unseen. I was tempted to get his book. Not any longer. He comes across to me as a sophist. He said…free will is a biological phenomenon, not a physical one. Our parts don’t have free will. We do. Stop right there Mr. Dennet. Which aspect of biology produces this phenomenon? What is your proof? Why should we make it compatible with determinism when you have simply posited free will without evidence? He follows that with…our parts don’t have free will but we do. Do paramecium have free will as well, or musk ox or bonobos? He is an atheist so i assume he is not crediting special creation for making us exempt from physics so how does he know we have it and other animals do not. How would we differentiate those that do from those that lack free will? Why would anybody credit biology without substance? Dennet has a bare naked conclusion just as arbitrary as any religious nonsense. Later he is playing with words but not making sense. The progression from determined to unavoidable to what is avoided in our behavior is a nonsequitur. Moving away from a rock that is heading in our direction is consistent with determinism. Contrast that with a person who does not want to avoid being hit by the rock and stays still. The former is not a clear case of free will while the latter is determined or inevitable. Semantics without substance is what i see in Dennet.

    I’m waiting for Davis to tell you that you haven’t read his book.

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