Do we have free will?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Nobeliefs, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    That's like saying that all that matters is that the operation was performed properly, and that this is all that matters - even though the patient died.

    There is not such thing as an "argument itself."
    Everything that is said and heard is said and heard within some context, some framework of ideas, intentions and actions, and derives its meaning from there.

    Well, this is some patronizing there!
    "People must not be told the truth, because they can't handle the truth. At most, the truth should be given to them in very small bits."

    The issue is that philosophical arguments don't have full convincing power on humans.
    We often wish they would, we wish that simply by working out an argument, we will believe the conclusion - but it doesn't work like that.

    At least intuitively, we know that neither our empirical, nor our philosophical efforts can give us the certainty we so seek.
    It takes some maturity to be aware of this and live with it.

    The idea that truth is usually something uncomfortable - that is just so Abrahamic! Such an act of bad faith.
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I see it simply as the difference between theory and practice. What is theoretical may not be practical, but that doesn't make the theory wrong. And morality is a practical issue, not theoretical.
    It's nothing like that - and I fail to see where that idea even springs from what I wrote. And it is far from patronising, but apologies if you saw it that way.
    Then you are into matters beyond the mere argument and into issues of practicality. And what is practical does not make an argument any more or less correct, although certainly more or less palatable, unless the issue in question is one of practicality - where not being able to work in practice defines it as incorrect. But that is not the case here.
    I can't say it's really ever worried me, to be honest.
    I didn't say that at all. I said that if the logic is sound and the assumptions not refuted then the issue is not with the argument but with the reluctance on the part of the reader - and that is for them to address. I never once suggested that the truth is usually uncomfortable.
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  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Well, we've once more come full circle.
    I don't really have anything to say anymore, and I'm not up for another round of "theory vs. practice."
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I see no contradiction between our perception of free will and the fact that it operates within what is - a few levels down - a physical world.

    A substrate does not, by the way, constitute the "underlying nature" of a pattern.

    Neither are chains of cause and effect, convenient mental models though they may be, to be mistaken for a more fundamental reality than any other of the patterns that operate at a given level of explication.

    A hard won consistency, requiring a great deal of sophistication to comprehend - because light, say, looks nothing like what we have come to comprehend as its substrate and pattern, and tracing the consistency all the way up the levels of pattern and substrate from the lowest to the mental perception level is quite an accomplishment (and still incomplete). The fact that free will operates at a level or two higher yet explains why the consistency is as yet unclear - but we take for granted, as a matter of faith, that it is there.

    Again, to describe perception at higher levels as illusion - is if light were an illusion unless we could see the photons - is strange. Why?
  8. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Then please explain how we perceive our consciousness to be the initial cause of our action, which is the logical implication of any free will that is defined as "the ability to do otherwise" as Syne proposed.
    But it has always been consistent with our understanding, even when our understanding was rather limited in comparison. When new evidence comes along that threatens the consistency, we either change our understanding to maintain the consistency, or we operate out of a dualistic approach, to be able to explain both sides of the inconsistency. As our understanding of light has developed it has taken some work to maintain that consistency.
    Or, instead of faith, we follow logic and reason and conclude that it is illusory, and by doing so maintain the consistency.
    As and when evidence arises that helps change our understanding, it may no longer be rational to conclude that free will is illusory, and that consistency can be maintained without the need for such.
    Once we understood that light was photons we needed to change our understanding, test it, confirm it, etc.. As a result we maintained the consistency. Possibly when the concept of light being photons was first touted there was clamours of it being inconsistent with our current understanding, but our understanding changed.
    At the moment I see an inconsistency, as detailed. The consistency can be maintained either through changing our understanding and considering the perception illusory, or through some as yet unidentified means of consciousness being the first cause of an action (i.e. the need for uncaused non-random events) Which would again change our/my understanding. Rationally I go with the former. If and when new evidence arises I will reevaluate accordingly.
  9. Helina84 Registered Member

    Can you explain me how this is related to free will ? :/
  10. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Easy, because the perception may be accurate. This is the most parsimonious explanation. The onus is yours to show why a universal human experience may be otherwise than perceived. If consciousness is the cause of our actions then the perception requires no further explanation. Only if the perception is somehow inaccurate does it require an explanation.
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    As we often notice, our perception indeed seems to be inaccurate. Just think of optical illusions, for starters, and then all the things that later seem to be different than how they seemed before. So it is indeed prudent to be skeptical about the adequacy of our ability to perceive "things as they really are."
    (Hence the "naive" in naive realism.)

    Of course, if we posit as default that our perception is or may be inaccurate, we're trapped in a cycle of uncertainty about "how things really are." Which is how it is not possible to show that our perception is inaccurate (nor that it is accurate).
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    We do not perceive the mechanism, including the substrate, of any of this - any more than we see photons. The insulation of higher levels of pattern from lower is not only a matter of practical importance but logical necessity.

    Cause and effect models, useful as such illusions can be when appropriately employed, only work at appropriate levels. If you attempt a cause and effect description of a couple of marbles rolling around in a bathtub, choosing the level of explanation will be critical - you will get different explanations from the level of bathtub shape and bent space gravity, than from the level of quantum level equations governing the subatomic entities involved (although they will both be probabilities with quickly increasing error bars, both in practice and in theory: chaos, Heisenberg, QED, etc, forbid actual cause and effect determination).

    The bathtub constrains, influences, causes at its level - but does not cause at the quantum level. And vice versa.

    So the first step would be to choose the level of explanation desired. They are all valid, competently employed - which means, at their level. Your dreams influence and constrain your heart rate, but they do not cause each individual heartbeat. Your heartbeat does influence and constrain your dreams, but does not cause any particular one.

    So our ascription of "cause" to consciousness is not going to be an incompetent one, right? We are going to keep consciousness at its very high level of pattern - about the highest one available, without getting into coral reef ecology or the like - and involve it in cause and effect chains there. We know, for example, that we are vulnerable to a great many of what Wiki calls "cognitive fallacies" and odd mental quirks that to all appearances (including scientific data) depend on consciousness: we tend to forget things we know we have written down, or can find on the internet, for example; placebo effects are quite real - but they depend on the patient knowing, consciously, about the treatment; witchcraft works, if the victim knows about it.

    Only very poor reason overlooks the logical consequences of crossing logical levels, or the fact that cause and effect are mental models, human illusions right along with all the others at their level. The consistency you would have to maintain is the one that admits the reality of colors, time, thermodynamic properties, the meanings of spoken words and other sounds, and in general the central reality of emergent properties in higher levels of pattern.

    Neurons do not cause dreams, responsibilities do - and vice versa, as the poet said (Delmore Schwartz). There are various kinds of causes and effects at that level, in other words, and illusions are only one of them.
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I agree with practical, but not logical necessity. Logic should apply across all levels, and be consistently applied.
    If one only wants to consider certain levels, that is fine. As I have agreed many times, free will exists as perceived if we are only concerned with and considering the levels of consciousness and all that operate out of consciousness.
    If one's definition starts from the assumption that consciousness is the initial cause, as perceived, then free will exists and all is Rosen with the world. But such definitions can never get under the hood to see what is going on.

    Im not for one moment suggesting the ability to measure or predict, or even describe, but that does not negate that cause and effect remains... That one moment is caused by all the influences upon it in the previous moment. It can be used to model simplistic concepts, but I am not talking about definitive chains, but merely that every action is caused.

    I have no issue in principle if that is your intention - to limit your enquiry to certain levels. But that should not stop inquiry into the grander view... the view that encompasses all levels.
    I don't overlook them because the level I am looking at is a single one... The all encompassing one. The one that starts from the most basic level of scientific consistency.
    And yes, the consistency certainly does admit the reality of such, but only as a "practical reality" (for want of a better phrase) - which encompasses those things that operate from the level of consciousness. I.e. if you start from the basis of consciousness then these things are real. If you start at levels below consciousness then I would term those things to be real from a practical level, but not necessarily any more than that - at least not as perceived.
    But I have never argued against the existence of free will at such a level.
    Sure, it depends at what level you start at or are interested in. I am just not content with half the story, especially where I perceive inconsistency between one half and the other.
  14. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    First post, not counting the intro in the members bit (is that even a necessity).

    I thought parsimony is about accepting the simplest assumptions - both implicit and explicit ones.
    The simplest assumption is "God did it".
    But it is far from parsimonious.
    The assumption that perception may be accurate implies (from what the guy argues - although I don't follow it fully) that cause and effect is violated.
    This would make your assumption less parsimonious (easier to assume inaccurate perception than violation of science).
    That's how I understand parsimony.

    And just to be accurate, he said: "initial cause of our actions".
    You seem to have changed it to just being a cause?
    Sorry if that is being picky.
  15. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Our perception is shown to be inaccurate quite often.
    You even provide examples of how we can show perception to be inaccurate.
    Inaccurate against an assumed reality at least.
    Who is to say what is real, though?
    We work on assumption of reality.
    This leaves door open to perception being inaccurate.
    But we are not trapped by it.
  16. wellwisher Banned Banned

    What gives us the potential for free will is subjectivity. When something is subjective it is based on personal feeling or opinion which may or may not reflect objective reality. For example, some people support the home team, win or lose, not because of objective standards, but because of a subjective attachment. Natural might be based on natural selection, but subjectivity allows alternate selection.

    If we were all 100% objective, all humans would see the same thing; homogeneous. Once you add subjectivity cause and effect may or may not apply allowing a wider range of perceptions. Subjectivity also allows us to see ourself as existing apart from homogeneity since it gives us a unique POV that may not coordinate with the herd; feel alone or unique.

    Willpower is also connected to subjectivity. We first subjectively weight an object or action so it is different from an objective cause and effect. This creates an affinity which departs from natural cause and effect. For example, I may not instinctively want to jump off the bridge. To willfully do this, I would need to associate that danger with a subjective pleasure, now I can jump. We enjoy watching risk takers because they subjectively see risk differently and pay no heed to the natural cause and effect danger.

    There is also the herd effect. Even if the herd is subjective or out of touch with cause and effect, departure from the herd can create a separation anxiety, since one is forced to be subjectively unique. Instinctively this leads to conformity. To cope with separation of being unique you need to subjectively alter the cause and affect valence of the separation anxiety.

    Sometimes the herd is subjective and to be objective you may have to walk alone. If everyone is buying the new pet rock, not running with the herd can lead to negative feedback. This group reaction is natural, while the pet rock is subjective. To remain objective you may need to switch the herd reaction with a positive image or understanding.

    We have both long and short term memory. Long term memory does not tweak easy, while short term does. Picture making a copy of long term memory and placing it in short term memory. The original remains in long term. I can now tweak the short term memory, making use of subjective induction; brain storm. If it adds up well, I overwrite the long term.
  17. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Sorry for not understanding.
    How can there be different types of cause and effect?
    Cause and effect is just a principle:
    Everything is caused;
    All effects have a cause.
    Science is built on this.
  18. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    The simplest explanation is that which does not invoke anything superfluous, like an illusory sense of free will without any further explanation. This is just a regress that only superficially seems to answer anything. It simply denies genuine free will by assuming it illusory, but than offers no explanation of why this should be. So assuming the perception accurate is the most parsimonious explanation here.

    And "god did it" is a non sequitur and apparent appeal to ridicule. Free will is not necessarily a religious concept.

    You are also making an erroneous distinction. The relevant distinction is not between "initial cause" and "cause"; it is between "determined cause" and "indeterminate cause". Causality is unaffected either way, so this nonsense about "violating causality" is a red herring, at best. It relies on a definition of free will specifically designed to be easily defeated (i.e. intellectually dishonest).
  19. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    A theory requiring violation of cause and effect is never going to parsimonious compared to one that doesn't.
    The guy's argument seems to suggest that yours does.
    His doesn't.
    You say that his is offers no further explanation but you don't explain how cause and effect can be violated.
    Yours is not parsimonious compared to his.

    My example of "God did it" was no appeal to ridicule.
    It was simply example of simplest explanation with no further explanation.
    Most parsimonious unless you take implicit assumptions into account.
    Your view of parsimony doesn't seem to.

    And I am not making mistake of distinction.
    You seem to be.
    His argument was that free will requires consciousness to be the initial cause.
    His words.
    You changed that to just being a cause.
    Now you try to say that it is not about that but between determined and undetermined cause.
    Is this the way you normally debate?
    By changing someone else's words?
    How is it a red herring if these are his words?
    It seems you do not follow his argument that free will must require consciousness to be the initial cause?
    Not saying I do.
    But best to seek clarification rather than just to change his words?

    I have read his definition.
    It is actually the one you provided: "ability to do otherwise".
    Now I'm confused as you say it can be easily defeated?
  20. river

    What makes you like him ?
  21. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Apparently you did not read the post this seems to be a response to, aside from sounding a bit like a sockpuppet. Maybe you did not understand when I said that free will does not require a violation of causation. Such a violation is not implied by the definition "ability to do otherwise". If neither position violates causation then it is clear that the one that raises fewer further unanswered questions is the more parsimonious. I have never argued that cause and effect need ever be violated, so this is a complete straw man. Clear enough for you?

    "God did it" is by no means a parsimonious explanation. It requires that you introduce things that do not necessarily have any explanatory power.

    I am not the one changing someone's words here, so this accusation is itself a straw man. The red herring is that free will must violate causation when no one has even argued that it should. Only demanding that free will violates causation is easily defeated, but free will does not necessarily do so, hence this is a vacuous, straw man argument.
  22. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    You countered his claim but missed out the word "initial".
    The evidence is clear.
    If you disagree with the claim he made then should you not counter it instead of just changing the claim?
    And what is a sockpuppet?
    Why do you think I sound like one?

    You think free will does not violate causation.
    Should you not then show the error in his argument that him led to that conclusion?
    Or is it the done thing round here to just change his claim?
    I wish I could change questions in my exams to ones I could answer.

    You claim free will is the "ability to do otherwise".
    He claims that this definition implies that cause and effect is violated.
    You claim that you never claimed it implies it.
    But you have not addressed his claim except to say that you never claimed it, which is no counter at all.
    I am just trying to understand both arguments.

    You claim that no one has argued that free will must violate causation but Sarkus has.
    You even replied to him (and ignored the word "initial").
    And now you claim differently.
    Is this the standard tactic here?
  23. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Baldee, one of the major problems in a topic like this is that people want you to disprove something. The trouble is that no one can prove a negative. For example, can you prove that unicorns do not exist? It's exactly the same when asked to disprove free will violates causation. It's just that simple - and the argument will therefore never end.

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