Do we have free will?

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

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No, it doesn't. That misuses the word "cause". The "activity" you are abstracting is either a higher level phenomenon, or not a "cause" at that higher level.

    What you seek is not cause and effect, but consistency, between levels. And you seek it in both directions - the behavior and properties you assign to the lower levels must agree with those you have previously observed at the higher, as well as the other way around.

    Substrate does not cause pattern, is the observation. It is essentially tautological, gaining meaning only when physical observations of substrates and higher level patterns are made, and people set out to reason about them. Water molecules do not cause ocean waves, for example (not even the oceans in the first place). If you investigate the cause(s) of ocean waves, you will investigate things like speed and temperature and density and depth and duration and so forth, in the water and the air and any landforms and so forth - higher level patterns, capable of being causes of higher level patterns such as waves. You probably will not make a single measurement of any individual water, air, or ground molecules, their interactions etc. No reason to - you are looking for causes at the wave level.

    Not "irrelevant" - substrates inform, constrain, demarcate boundaries and limits by their extent and properties, etc. Theories of the higher level patterns must be consistent with those of the substrate - and, critically, vice versa. The physical junctions of a chip are not irrelevant to the information it carries - they just do not cause the patterns of information carried on that chip. They do not cause, at that level.

    There is no single level at which all things operate. Did you mean "each thing"?
    So there is no bigger picture involved - we are discussing free will and its cause/effect interactions as the highest level of pattern we can handle. Sounds reasonable, for the moment.

    Can we stipulate that the substrate would be the constituent patterns of neural firing in the brain, whose substrate would be the individual neuronal firings?
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  3. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    More arm-waving. What exactly constitutes a "violation of cause and effect or randomness"? Can you define this supposed "violation" without reference to free will or consciousness? Any other possible examples? If not then it can only be a special pleading. You also seem to ignore the fact that emergent phenomena introduces novel behaviors that cannot be accounted for by constituent cause and effect nor simply randomness. So does all emergent phenomena violate causation?

    Any emergent phenomena necessarily has "initial causes" unique to that phenomena, since the emergent is defined as being unaccounted for by the constituent causes. IOW, the specific "initial cause" is irrelevant, but only because you are trying to erroneously apply causes that cannot be shown to be so. So yet again, what evidence? So far you are only blowing smoke.

    You have still yet to show that consciousness is not causative.

    Then detail your logic. List each premise and show how your conclusion follows logically from your explicit premises. So far your underlying assumptions are faulty, as you seem to intentionally avoid the definition of emergence (or like Sarkus, completely misrepresent it).

    The burden of evidence is not mine. The scientific method requires substantial evidence to dismiss universal observations. This is simply pragmatic skepticism. Until you can manage to detail your "logic" there is simply nothing that warrants any refute.

    Yes, emergence does allow for novel causes, as the emergent phenomena is itself novel to anything expected of the constituents. If you cannot detail specific causes then you have no argument. So where is your evidence?
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  5. Capracus Registered Senior Member

    When and how has such a condition ever been documented?
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Violation of cause and effect would, for example, be a non-random uncaused event.
    Another example would be a snooker ball changing course to a specific place (i.e. non-random) once hit without any influence of any kind causing it to do so (i.e. uncaused).
    Novel does not equate to uncaused. Emergent phenomena ARE caused. They merely display properties that are not inherent in the underlying constituents, and the specific causes are either not known or not understood.
    Unaccounted does not mean uncaused. It means that it is unknown or not understood and perhaps not possible to know, with the complexity of the constituents and interactions thereof creating properties that do not necessarily exist at the level of the constituent. But it is flawed to think that the emergence is uncaused.
    Strawman - noone has argued that it is not causative, only that it is not the initial cause of actions.
    I do not misrepresent it at all. You have the flawed notion that the identification of a property as emergent somehow means that it was not caused. Emergent properties are caused.
    If you don't think so then post any link that supports such a notion.
    Do we know the causes? Not necessarily. Can they be accounted for? Not necessarily.
    Does that mean they are not caused? No.
    I have detailed my logic - the assumptions and how they lead to the conclusions. You have claimed the assumptions flawed yet done nothing but merely say so. The universal observation is that we perceive ourselves to have free will. To read any more into the observation than that is to introduce an unwarranted a priori assumption.
    Furthermore the scientific evidence is that effects follow causes, and that there are no uncaused non-random effects.
    Novel does not mean uncaused.
    And there is no need to detail specific causes: as Baldeee has explained, it is sufficient to show that it is not-X, not that it must be Y. You are merely arguing the strawman of specifics rather than arguing the principle.
  8. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Quantum indeterminacy. Look it up.

    So what makes free will necessarily "non-random and uncaused"?

    This is an unsupportable statement, and thus not scientific. Positive statements are not justifiable for the unknown and are functionally equivalent to "god did it". If emergent phenomena are not inherent in the underlying constituents then you are not scientifically justified in saying that these underlying constituents are the cause of the behavior of the emergent phenomena. Indeterminism is what allows emergent phenomena to be causally independent of and unaccounted for by constituent causes.

    Novel does not mean "uncaused", it means "of a new kind; different from anything seen or known before", so your argument is an erroneous straw man.

    Again, no one has claimed "unaccounted" nor anything else means "uncaused". This seems to be your own invention, and the unfounded straw man you cling to in lieu of evidence. No one has argued that free will is "uncaused", only that there is some freedom between a cause and its effect necessitated by indeterminism.

    Evasion, as even within this post you claim that "it is sufficient to show that it is not-X" while continuing to completely fail to do so. You and Baldee have consistently said that "initial causes" are irrelevant, while claiming you know what they are not, without any evidence whatsoever. Nothing but vacuous bullshit.

    When are you going to acknowledge that this "uncaused" argument is only a straw man? Quit beating that dead horse already. Emergent phenomena are nondeterministically caused, meaning that you cannot link a constituent cause to an emergent behavior nor call it "uncaused".

    When are you going to address the actual arguments made here? You know, the ones actual written rather than the ones you merely imagine. Although I suppose if you think consciousness is an illusion then you probably have some trouble distinguishing fact from fantasy.

    Then list your explicit premises and explain how your conclusion follows. This is the basis of logical inference, even in philosophy. You seem to only be evading, as you know your premises cannot bear scrutiny or support your conclusion. Apparently you do not even know what an a priori assumption is. It would be a priori to say that "I perceive free will to be genuine", but it is necessarily a posteriori to say that "free will is universally perceived to be genuine", as the later requires consulting experience with the world.

    Again, no one is debating the fact that effects follow causes, only that indeterminism allows those effects to be undetermined by those causes. I do not know how many ways I can say it. If one cause can have more than one possible effect, or one effect can have more than one possible cause, then there is no direct causal chain between the two. Indeterminate causes may be unnecessary and/or insufficient while still being contributory.

    Your argument seems to consist solely of the reduction fallacy.

    Again, you are only attacking the straw man of "uncaused", and have yet to show that "it is not-X". But no doubt you will be happy to argue solely by verbosity in lieu of evidence you make the bare assertion is not necessary.
  9. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    For the umpteenth time, if free will is caused then it behaves according to the underlying laws of the universe with no means of doing otherwise. Yes, the outputs maybe indeterministic but this is mere randomness of output rather than any "ability to do otherwise".
    The only logical alternatives are either that free will requires uncaused non-random activity, or free will is not genuine.
    Then I suggest you read up on emergence, or provide any link where it is stated that the emergent property is causally independent rather than merely being unexpected, or unaccounted for. No one other than you claims that emergent properties are not caused by something.
    Then stop logically equating the two in your arguments. Even above you claim that the novelty equates to causal independence, and you try to introduce into that independence an ability that is more than just randomness of outcome. To do so, which is what you don't understand, requires something that is non-random and uncaused.
    As I've said before, you don't even know the implications of your own arguments.
    So you claim there is causal independence but that it is still caused, and that somehow within this there remains an ability to do anything other than what transpires? You are continuing to argue for a free will that is inherent in rolling dice, but you clearly can't see this.
    You are also arguing for a free will of the gaps.
    The evidence is in every example you care to mention where effect is preceded by a cause, and the utter lack of any uncaused event that is non-random.
    You are the one arguing for an uncaused non-random event, not that you even understand that that is what you are doing, and you now want to dismiss all the evidence upon which science is founded. Go figure.
    It is not a dead horse, although given your lack of comprehension it certainly feels like it.
  10. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Again, ad infinitum, indeterminism does not equal ability. How many times do I have to say this before you finally realize that it is not an argument I am making? And no one has claimed free will "uncaused" but you. Any strongly emergent phenomena necessarily operates under laws novel to and unaccounted for by those of the underlying systems. So free will could obviously be caused while not being caused by the laws that govern the underlying components.

    Rules, or laws, have no causal efficacy; they do not in fact “generate” anything. They serve merely to describe regularities and consistent relationships in nature. These patterns may be very illuminating and important, but the underlying causal agencies must be separately specified (though often they are not). -

    Laws are not causes. They are a posteriori generalizations. And you have not detailed any actual causes, only questionable causes.

    The principle of Irreducibility, in philosophy, has the sense that a complete account of an entity will not be possible at lower levels of explanation and which has novel properties beyond prediction and explanation. Another way to state this is that Occam's razor requires the elimination of only those entities that are unnecessary, not as many entities as could conceivably be eliminated. -

    Quite simply, if the emergent behavior cannot be accounted for by the underlying components then parsimony alone makes those components superfluous to an explanation of the behavior. That is unless you can manage to detail actual causes.

    Saying the random is a consequence of some cause is incoherent. That which is inherently random is so completely of its own accord. It does not take a specific input to illicit such a random result. As such, causal chains terminate at the inherently indeterminate.

    Causal independence does not equate to uncaused, nor does it imply your favorite ad nauseam straw man that it equates to ability. And you still have yet to establish free will necessarily being uncaused.

    "Other than what transpires"? Are you now asserting genuine free will must be able to change the past? Ridiculous. A dice roll is only a simple example of indeterminism, which is only the random termination of a causal chain. "Free will that is inherent in rolling dice" is just another of your same, tired straw man arguments.

    I am arguing the scientific method, which your arguments have yet to come near addressing.

    Again, ad nauseam, only you are arguing any "uncaused event". This discussion might make more headway if you could refrain from arguing yourself and actually address what is said.

    And wow, what a spectacular smokescreen of arm-waving, vacuous evasion. "All the [supposed] evidence" you have yet to detail.

    It must be intellectual dishonesty, as I have told you repeatedly that I have not claimed anything "uncaused", and you have evaded every time I have asked you to show how free will is necessarily so.

    Again with the random equals ability straw man. This is getting old, and sad.

    I said "list". You do know how to present premises and a conclusion, right?


    Fill in the blanks.

    Yes, it does. Causes cannot propagate through a truly random event, as the random does not depend on what came before it. I cannot manage to get you over the hurdle of your own straw men to allow this discussion to progress beyond the very simple fact that the indeterminate allows for more that one possible outcome. This is the definition of freedom, which is a separate issue from the willing, no matter how much you insist upon conflating the two.
  11. Gravage Registered Senior Member

    I truly don't know if we have free will or not.
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    How else am I meant to take your utter lack of explanation as to how indeterminism can lead to an "ability to do otherwise"? Do you actually have any explanation or are you just going to leave the gaping gap that you seem to be relying on?
    If you claim that all dogs are animals, and that Trevor is a dog, then you are saying that Trevor is an animal, even if you don't actually say it or even understand that that is what you are saying.
    Who on earth has mentioned that the laws are causes? I said that they operate according to those laws. And they do, even if those laws only apply at a certain level of complexity.
    The only way that the emergent phenomena could not be caused by the interaction of the underlying components is if there are components one is unaware of, but that means that they are caused by the underlying components but just that we are not aware of all the components.
    The fact that the phenomena exhibits properties unaccounted for is irrelevant beyond that, as it is the cause that is in question, nothing else.
    Laughable - parsimony means that the specific causes of the behaviour remain unknown until such time as specific causes can be detailed. That is all. Otherwise you may as well dismiss the brain from any explanation of consciousness or human activity, you can dismiss birds from the pattern that flocks of birds fly in etc.
    Parsimony would require that we do not make up crap to try and explain that which we do not know.
    Right, so you want to throw out quantum mechanics? It is in no way the observation that collapses the wavefunction into its random result. The random result is in no way caused by the observation.
    And the result of a dice roll is in no way caused by the rolling of those dice.
    Indeed, which is why I did not assert that. But thanks for the strawman. My point is that there is no ability to influence... no "ability" that your definition requires and which you have yet to provide any means of achieving through indeterminacy other than unsubstantiated claims of such.
    Again it is just a pointer that any argument you have so far raised merely leads to dice having your version of free-will because you have singularly failed to bridge any gap between indeterminism and your seemingly mythical "ability".
    You may think you are, but you ignore rather fundamental scientific evidence (no effects have yet to be shown to be both uncaused and non-random).
    Dogs, animals, Trevor. Simples.
    Perhaps it is merely that your glasses are misted. If you are going to claim that science has identified events that are both uncaused and non-random then, according to your own standards, it is you who must provide the evidence, given that you will be going against a fundamental of science.
    I have not evaded as I have posted it numerous times. I am not going to be at your beck and call every time you want me to explain it again while you cling on to indeterminism as a catch all dismissal with no other support.
    Others (at least one on this thread alone) have followed it, so it has clearly been posted. And I just see this as yet more deflection from you, so no, I am not playing ball.
    The what is irrelevant, but that there is an effect is the important thing. You seem to want to claim that a dice result is uncaused and remove the dice from being anything to do with the cause.
    Or do you accept that the dice result is caused by the rolling, even if the result is indeterminate?
    Way to raise another strawman. Thanks.
    The issue of indeterminism is not about the "free" but all about the "ability" - or lack thereof.
    No wonder you struggle if you think the discussion so far has been about the "free".
  13. Capracus Registered Senior Member

    You can claim that an emergent image of Jesus results from a random deposit of pigeon excrement, but without the complete causal chain involved with the production and experience of that emergent phenomenon, it wouldn’t exist. All events have origins, no matter how complex or indefinable. Randomness is a perceived condition based on incomplete knowledge. Our inability to perceive casual relationships does not negate their existence, nor does it necessitate a need to invoke alternate possible outcomes. Indeterminate is a characteristic of the observer, not the observed. Reality determines reality regardless of how incompletely we determine it.
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The underlying laws - the ones governing the substrates at their levels in turn - are not much constraint. Behaviors of almost infinite variety are possible in ocean waves, for example. The laws governing them are at the proper level to justify the use of the term cause at the level in which the pattern "ocean wave" exists - not the level of atoms, the laws of molecular collision, the laws governing the substrate.
    According to QED theory, and backed by numerous experiments, it is "the observation" in the technical sense (the interaction with something) that collapses the wave function. Before the observation, the wave function is not collapsed. But that does not mean the observation caused the state observed - the wave function has two or more states it could collapse into, and the observation does not determine which one it actually does.
    According to the current quantum theory, that is not so: the randomness is not based on incomplete knowledge, but is an intrinsic physical aspect of the situation.

    That does not really matter, of course, at the free will level - quantum events are substrate, usually several levels down, and seldom cause events at the free will level any more than atoms, molecules, cellular structures, neurons, or even the lowest level of firing pattern do. For cause and effect at the free well level, we look at appropriate patterns: dreams, memories, ideas, incoming information recognized, etc etc.
  15. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    "not much constraint" is still enough. And the issue is then where there is no constraint is there the "ability" to do anything to select the outcome. If not then you're left in the same place.
    Exactly. Observation causes the collapse but cannot determine the state it collapses into. Thus you have an indeterministic outcome that is still caused.
    Sorry, were you supposedly arguing against my position?
    Perhaps I didn't make it clear that I was being facetious in those comments to which this was a response to. If not, me bad.
  16. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    You look to limit the discussion.
    Unless you think one level is not in some way caused by the level below then you are just confining the discussion.
    There may be novelty in a level not seen at lower.
    But that does not negate causation.
    Even if the specifics are not known and indeterminate, or are vastly complex so that the influence of individual atoms and molecules etc are lost in the roundings.
    This does not mean that they are not causes.
    Only that they are not the sole cause, and are part of the overall cause.
  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That is what I think, and what I have asserted several times in explicit declarative sentences. I regard assertions to the contrary as being both logical fallacies and observational confusions resulting from a failure to consider carefully the logical level at which "cause/effect" ascriptions make sense and are actually made.

    Substrate does not cause pattern. In any given substrate of the sizes and kinds considered here, an essentially infinite variety of patterns is possible over time. No observation of the substrate only, or information about it only, can predict which of them will actually appear, when they will appear, or why they will appear, in theory or in fact. Such prediction, the first requirement of an assignation of cause/effect, is theoretically impossible physically and usually invalid logically - at a bare minimum one needs the directions of change in the observed states, and for that one must abstract from the substrate and establish pattern at a higher logical level.

    There is no such thing as "the overall cause", unless one has abstracted to a higher logical level of pattern and named a pattern found there.
    It is not enough to select even - let alone "cause" - a specific pattern from the near-infinite multitude possible within the substrate imposed constraints.
    In a free will choice selection is observed, according to (caused by, at this level) ideas and dreams and deductions and conscious perception and other patterns at the level of the selection decision.
    No cause of the specific state result is visible, and the current theory disallows one - specifically asserts there is none.

    Meanwhile, observation as a cause would be a higher level phenomenon causing a lower level one - not lower causing higher.
  18. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Do you agree that the universe began c.14 billion years ago, and that there was no life?
    Do you agree that life has since emerged?
    What caused that life if not the "lower levels"? How did life - a higher level pattern - suddenly spring into being if it was not caused by the lower levels?
    Or is life uncaused?

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    There is such a thing as a cause, even if it can not be specified. To say otherwise is to say that such a thing is uncaused, which is utterly unscientific - other than if it is wholly random, which I'm fairly sure you're also not proposing.
    Who says one must be selected and not it merely being random from within the probability function? Why the need to select anything? And how does that in any way negate causation?
    Sure, IF one only considers free will to be the pattern we observe, as I have agreed from the beginning.
    But you limit it to this and claim it uncaused at any other level below this, which is unscientific. You seem to want to require things to have specific and identifiable causes or else you consider them uncaused.
    So do you consider life to be uncaused? Do you consider dreams and conscious perception to also be uncaused?

    There does not need to be a cause of the specific state - this is why it is considered random. The cause is in the collapse, not the specific outcome. Indetermined outcome, caused by observation.
    Noone is arguing that there is a cause of that particular specific outcome in such an example, as this would discount any claim of indeterminism, only that the cause results in a random single outcome out of the possible outcomes - with the outcomes following a probability function.
    How is observation a higher level phenomenon? It is merely the interaction with a sufficiently complex mechanism whereby a single state is required rather than superposition.
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Darwinian evolution would be my first hypothesis, pending research.

    How do you think patterns in substrates emerge? They certainly aren't caused by the substrates, after all. You can't even describe them, let alone predict them, without abstracting from the substrate to the higher pattern level at least - and maybe farther.
    My objection was to the term "the overall cause". There is no such thing as "the overall cause" of rain, for example, and no subsidiary causal contribution at any level lower than the rain itself. The entire field of evolutionary theory is a rigorous and scientific treatment of emergent patterns with lower level cause specifically disallowed. There is no such thing as the lower level cause, or the overall cause, of gorillas, say.
    Seriously? C'mon. Try this:
    There is no such thing as a "sufficiently complex mechanism" at the quantum level, nor is there any nameable pattern that could be described as "interaction" with it. Those are names for patterns at higher levels.

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