Why are we responsible for the consequences of our actions?

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This topic contains 45 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Simon Paynton 1 month ago.

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  • #28623

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Cause and effect seems to hold true as far as my experience in the physical world is concerned. Every moment in the present appears to depend on the past. I can’t tell if I really control my thoughts. It seems like I can. It also seems like I am not hurling through space as well.

    But is it all predetermined? That is a slightly different question than simple cause and effect. Maybe a cause could have a probability of many effects. Or an infinite number of effects. Is there an element of randomness in the possible effects. Looking backwards it would appear like simple cause and effect.

    #28624

    Unseen
    Participant

    If it’s in your nature (your brain tells you) to want to prevent a suicide, for example, you as a cause can have the effect of preventing one.

    LOL. Unseen is the universe clock work or not?

    Yes, it is. Your point? We are all products of the effects we receive and our responses are automatic. The only other explanation seems to require a dualism involving something like a soul that isn’t subject to cause and effect.

    #28625

    Unseen
    Participant

    Cause and effect seems to hold true as far as my experience in the physical world is concerned. Every moment in the present appears to depend on the past. I can’t tell if I really control my thoughts. It seems like I can. It also seems like I am not hurling through space as well. But is it all predetermined? That is a slightly different question than simple cause and effect. Maybe a cause could have a probability of many effects. Or an infinite number of effects. Is there an element of randomness in the possible effects. Looking backwards it would appear like simple cause and effect.

    Predeterminism is an imaginary bugaboo. The universe on the gross level we live in operates ineluctably according to physical laws that operate down to the neuron level and down to the molecular level, but below that level things happen randomly and random intrusions from that level ensure that predeterminsm is nonsense. What such intrusions do is set cause and effect off in new directions.

    #28627

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Historically, free will is defined as either

    1. A gift from God, potentially making everyone completely accountable for their choices and actions; this definition invokes dualism, the assumption that mind/spirit can exist separately from one’s physical brain
    2. A meaningless concept in light of a deterministic (albeit unpredictable at quantum levels) universe

    Atheists, invoking the principle of rejecting God in any scientifically meaningful explanation, tend to subscribe to “2” above, the meaningless definition of free will, but some of us emphasize that “humans still have choices”.

    So now the words “choice”, and “responsibility” become surrogate issues, which–due to inevitable ambiguities of imperfect languages, confusingly/accidentally/inevitably re-invokes the concept of free will. It’s an endless loop. You know, like everyone has an opinion now, and some of those opinions declare absolutely that free will exists or doesn’t.

    My problem with those noisy, absolutist voices is that they ignore suggestions that we could redefine free will on a human scale of decision-making abilities. I contend that the absolutists could learn from each other, using a definition of free will that allows for a scale of ability of humans to make choices, and that still allows the extremists to maintain their absolutist positions if they so insist.

    I.e., most of us can stop declaring that it’s an all or nothing thing, and realize:

    • Brains exist because they are decision making, i.e. “command and control” organs that substantially increase survivability of each organism, and its species
    • We humans use this organ to make choices, even if only in the most mechanistic sense of (say) how hardwired computers make decisions
    • Such choices are made on the basis of 1) computational ability; 2) sensory input capabilities; 3) input via senses, both from internal (visceral) and external sources; 4) varying numbers and levels of memories of experiences, including emotional their attributes
    • Social context also matters greatly, as we are social creatures who make decisions/choices based on our social and cultural environment
    • This may see inpermissable or merely incidental to absolutists, but look, we humans can evolve our own languages and previously intractable/traditional definitions of some words and concepts, e.g. free will

    Notice the very obvious, scalar nature of our abilities, experiences, and even of our behaviors. Closer to the point, we can see that there is even a scalar nature to the decisions we make.

    One can rant as much as they want about how determinism makes “choices” irrelevant, but in the context of how physical brains work, and how it feels when brains work, we are still making choices.

    Perhaps most significantly, in terms of how we define responsibilities, we cannot always define them perfectly for every possible human ability and circumstance, but instead must rely on ethical agreements, codifiable laws, and also much often rely on common sense interpretations and exceptions to our own codified “rules”.

    In effect, in real life experience, this is what human decision-making is all about, taking into consideration personal abilities vs written laws vs situational circumstances, even vs varying abilities to enforce ethics and law, and vs varying levels of empathy.

    Fuck the meaningless, absolutist definitions. Perhaps free will is the dynamic, variating ability to make decisions? Or just skip the whole free will discussion and focus on what really matters.

    #28628

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Fuck the meaningless, absolutist definitions

    I think that is good advice, but not nearly as much fun as a first class bullshit sessions that occur in a cafés and bars. I remember this kid in college, he liked to see me at lunchtime because I would discus this stuff with him when the other kids would try to get away ASAP.

    #28629

    jakelafort
    Participant

    The problem i have Beanie with your position is that there is an answer. There absolutely is. However it is a scientific question. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately we lack the science to advance the philosophy.

    I hold as axiomatic the following: A mechanistic, clockwork strictly determined universe precludes free will (and of course moral responsibility). Instead of free our will is enslaved and everywhere in unbreakable chains.

    In the absence of knowledge we invent compatibilism and take various stances but the reality is we don’t know. I think it is fair to say we don’t have free will in that we know enough about our biology to realize that our will may be conditional but it is not free. Beyond that we are just shooting sparks.

    Since life evolved in a way in which every function and action was carried on at an unconscious level and many of our functions are biologically related to our origins i wonder whether it will be possible for AI to ultimately have free will. None of the biological traps are present. But determinism is at issue. Is it possible that the genesis of super intelligence in AI will be met with free will?

    #28630

    Davis
    Participant

    Pope you are just asking us to twist and torture the terms we use so that you can square a circle. You’ve just given a bunch of “perhaps we can”. I agree that’s a good idea in the question of free will in general. We are so ignorant and lacking so much information it’s all a perhaps. But if you demarcate the universe as absolute determinist (especially to justify your opposition to the existence of free will) then responsibility is meaningless. I am dealing with them on their own terms. Perhaps if we are dealing with a semi-deterministic universe or one that’s more nuanced and we don’t understand…I’m all with you. But if you claim free will doesn’t exist cause we live in an inalterable clock like universe…then the moment they invoke meaningful responsibility…they have completely undermined their position. Fuck the likes of Sam Harris on Free will

    #28635

    Unseen
    Participant

    I know of only two ways things happen: ineluctably or randomly. It seems to me that free will requires a third way in which things happen since there’s no room for willful behavior in a deterministic world OR in one governed by randomness. What is it? What is it called?

    In the world I live in, thing generally happen (barring some intrusion from the random subatomic level) because something else happened. I don’t see another way.

    We are responsible because (a) we are the cause of something or (b) we are being held responsible. You can describe it all as choices being made, but can we really choose our choices without them being caused by something else going on before those choices are made?

    #28638

    _Robert_
    Participant

    I know of only two ways things happen: ineluctably or randomly. It seems to me that free will requires a third way in which things happen since there’s no room for willful behavior in a deterministic world OR in one governed by randomness. What is it? What is it called? In the world I live in, thing generally happen (barring some intrusion from the random subatomic level) because something else happened. I don’t see another way. We are responsible because (a) we are the cause of something or (b) we are being held responsible. You can describe it all as choices being made, but can we really choose our choices without them being caused by something else going on before those choices are made?

    @unseen: Is there scientific proof that the quantum mechanical behavior of particles translates to the macro level in some known ways? I have heard of quantum computers but not really clear on all of that.

    #28639

    Unseen
    Participant

    I know of only two ways things happen: ineluctably or randomly. It seems to me that free will requires a third way in which things happen since there’s no room for willful behavior in a deterministic world OR in one governed by randomness. What is it? What is it called? In the world I live in, thing generally happen (barring some intrusion from the random subatomic level) because something else happened. I don’t see another way. We are responsible because (a) we are the cause of something or (b) we are being held responsible. You can describe it all as choices being made, but can we really choose our choices without them being caused by something else going on before those choices are made?

    @unseen: Is there scientific proof that the quantum mechanical behavior of particles translates to the macro level in some known ways? I have heard of quantum computers but not really clear on all of that.

    Cosmic rays are high-energy protons and atomic nuclei which move through space at nearly the speed of light. They have causal effects on us all the time, including causing mutations. Nuclear radiation causes all kinds of stuff. This is not a highly controversial concept. An atomic explosion is a massive arrival of subatomic particles on the gross level having massive effects.

    #28641

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Cosmic rays are high-energy protons….

    So if I lived in a rad hard shelter there would be no quantum effects on my life? I never found quantum mechanics interesting enough to study much and though the implications to macrophysics went beyond radiation.

    #28643

    Unseen
    Participant

    Cosmic rays are high-energy protons….

    So if I lived in a rad hard shelter there would be no quantum effects on my life? I never found quantum mechanics interesting enough to study much and though the implications to macrophysics went beyond radiation.

    How would that effect the conversation? Even if YOU were sheltered, as long as they are having effects SOMEWHERE on anything (not just people) they are changing the course of history and negating predeterminism.

    #28647

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Ahh, OK I see. Working on equipment for aircraft we had to calculate the probable bit upset rate due to cosmic particles on our semiconductor memory devices (based on altitude and exposure time.) Then we would design in mitigation.

    #28653

    Unseen
    Participant

    BTW, just as subatomic events can cross the barrier and have effects on the gross (molucules and bigger) level, the reverse is also true, as when you detonate an atomic weapon, which is one of the more large-scale examples. But what about when you turn on a light bulb and send a bunch of photons out into the world? LOL

    #28654

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Apologists sometimes invoke the observer effect (often confusing it with the uncertainty principle).  The idea is that god can effect anything just by godly observation. The assertion is that “spooky quantum mechanics” is the gateway the lord to transition from the spiritual to the natural world. Thus my original question.

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