Does Physics disprove the existence of free will?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by M.I.D, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    In the example, whose choice was it to vote Democrat, if not Fred's?

    Explain to me why Fred's choice was not, therefore, "free" from Dr Brain's influence.

    Now, extend the example. Replace Dr Brain by the deterministic laws of physics. Does that straight substitution now mean that somebody/something other than Fred decided to vote Democrat, so that Fred's choice is not "free"?

    It seems to me that you can't say on the one hand that Fred's choice was "free" of Dr Brain and on the other hand say that it was not free due to the laws of physics. If you think you can, you need to explain what the relevant point of distinction is.

    But Fred did select among different possibilities: whether he would vote Democrat or Republican. We agreed that he made the choice, do we not? If not him, then who or what?

    Right, because moral responsibility is predicated on the ability to do otherwise. It would be wrong to hold people responsible for actions taken under duress.

    Doesn't that suggest to you that maybe your definition of what free will means is screwy?

    No. This is the heart of the question.

    If a person's actions are "free", then they are morally accountable for them. Do you agree? If they are not free, but rather are controlled or determined by external factors, then they cannot be held morally responsible for them.

    You seem to want to define the word "free" in "free will" to mean something other than a person being morally accountable for his actions. Specifically, you want to define "free" to require that a person's actions be undetermined, and the only way that can be is if they are supernatural (or governed by some hypothetical non-deterministic process nobody knows about).

    Recall once again that we're talking about the freedom that people have, not the universe as a whole. We aren't asking if the universe is morally responsible, or the atoms or the laws of physics. We're asking if people have free will. If you think we don't have free will, then why would you hold anybody responsible for his actions?

    Incompatibilities hold the view that the compatibilist position can't establish the existence of any genuine free will. At best, the incompatibilists would say, we observe an "illusion" of free will. As far as I can tell, this is exactly your position.
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  3. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    You believe traffic lights are a waste of money? If we can just decide not to obey the timed light, why have any lights at all?
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  5. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    OMG! You are serious....
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  7. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    It was Fred's.
    No one is disputing that the process of choice was carried out and that the process resides within Fred.
    Fred is the unit that houses the main workings of the process.
    So yes, Fred made the choice.
    Just as it would be my thermostat that turned the temperature up in my house.
    It is "free" only if one's notion of "free" is via comparison to counterfactual examples.
    If this is how one wishes to assess free then okay.
    But I do not consider it "free" because, in this discussion, I do not judge what is free simply by such comparisons.
    It is because there are two notions of "free".
    One is to say that neither Dr Brain nor Fred nor anything else acts any other way than is predetermined.
    The other is to say that because Fred made a decision without any input from Dr Brain that therefore Fred made a choice "free" of Dr Brain's influence.
    The latter does not preclude the former, as it is judged solely on appearance and reference to counterfactuals - i.e. the counterfactual notion that Dr Brain could have influenced Fred.
    He did make the choice, yes.
    The same way as my thermostat makes the choice to turn my heating on or not.
    Yes, there's a lot more complexity involved, and I am being flippant, but the principle is there.
    No, not on the ability to do otherwise, as Frankfurt showed in his example.
    Fred was morally responsible for his action even though he had no ability to do otherwise.
    That was the point of the example.
    Moral responsibility is almost assumed a priori to be predicated on having the ability to do otherwise, but when you start to question this assumption you might start to see, as Frankfurt does, that moral responsibility can be exist despite the absence of any ability to do otherwise.
    No, I don't agree.
    The Frankfurt example you step shows the absence of any ability to do otherwise (so no free will), yet you would hold Fred morally responsible for his action.
    The fact that Dr Brain didn't use his device doesn't alter the fact that there was no ability to do otherwise.
    No I don't.
    There is no "want" per se about any definition.
    And I am quite happy for someone to be considered morally responsible for their actions, on the basis of a "free will" that I don't consider to be free.
    I consider the will to be a process that is as predetermined at every step as any other aspect of the deterministic universe.
    I do not consider it free, although i am still happy to use the term "free will" instead of just "will" but without any presumption of it actually being free.
    Yet, even though I do not consider it free, i am entirely happy for moral responsibility to be based upon the process of such free will.
    So that simply doesn't match your claim that I want to define free will to mean other than a person being morally responsible.
    I don't want to, I simply took what I saw as a fairly reasonable view of what it meant to be free and ran with it.
    And yes, the only way, it seems after concluding the argument, that such a notion of free can exist is if it were supernatural, or so governed by other non-deterministic processes.
    I think we have "free will" - the process that is referred to it, or to as "will" - but that it is not free, that the "free" is a misnomer.
    But I still think the process exists.
    And I think the process is upon which we base our moral responsibility, not whether it is genuinely free or not.
    Sure, the compatabilist and incompatabilist position on free will is as you describe.
    I am an incompatabilist when it comes to free will.
    I do not believe that there are any genuine alternatives to our actions, rather only counterfactual alternatives.
    However, the question of moral responsibility is an add-on to that.
    If one asserts that moral responsibility requires a will that is free then someone who views the will not to be free would assert that there is no moral responsibility.
    However, note the first word in that sentence.
    There are some who might assert that the process of the will, free or otherwise, is what we base our moral responsibility upon, or that there might be some other means entirely on which moral responsibility is actually based.
    Such people can still be incompatabilist or compatabilist with regard the question of whether the will is free or not, to the question of whether there are genuine alternatives, but irrespective of that they might still conclude moral responsibility to exist.
    I find myself in this latter group: incompatabilist with regard free will but still think moral responsibility is not threatened because it does not rely on the notion of there being genuine alternatives.

    EDIT: look up "semicompatabilism".
    On wiki they even name Frankfurt as a leading semicompatabilist.

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  8. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    Fred voted Democrat because the universe ordained that he do so, just as the Moon is ordained by the universe to follow a particular orbital path. There are countless elemental factors that could be cited to describe the details of this ordination, but since only a limited quantity of them are knowable, we simplify the description by labeling it Fred's choice or will. We could justifiably apply the same standard for the behavior of the Moon.
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    What this discussion shows, if nothing else, is that the question of free will hinges very much on what you mean when you say "free". If you prefer to frame the question in terms of an "ability to do otherwise" that makes no real difference. In that case, the question hinges very much on what you require in order for an actor to have an "ability".

    It seems to me that your dispute with iceaura hinges largely on this debate about having "an ability to do otherwise". On the one hand, at the time that an actor makes a decision, there are at least two alternatives in play, or else it would be meaningless to talk about a decision at all. One doesn't decide when one has no alternative. Moreover, we observe that, in the ordinary course of events, the events that follow a decision by a human actor are difficult to explain if we throw away the notion that the actor's decision causally influenced subsequent events. If you do try to throw that idea out, then you have the problem of explaining the mysterious correlation that is regularly observed between choices/decision and subsequent outcomes.

    You insist that the alternatives at the point of decision or choice are never "real" alternatives, due to physical processes determining a particular outcome. However, to call the alternatives "illusory" is to make a mockery of the language and the observation that choices empirically cause outcomes consistent with those choices. If there really was, as you claim, never any "ability to do otherwise", then we would expect that choices would be irrelevant to determining outcomes. It wouldn't matter if I chose to stop at the red light or to go through it; either outcome might happen and my choice/decision would play no necessary part in that.

    Do you really think that thermostats make choices? Or do you really think that human beings don't make choices? You seem to want to have it both ways. I think you need to decide between them.

    Making a choice necessarily rules out alternatives. If I choose to stop at the traffic light, it then becomes impossible for me to drive through it. But it is only after the choice is made that the alternative can be shown to be "counterfactual". At the point of decision, both alternatives are "live".

    The existence of "counterfactual" events can't be the deciding factor as to whether the exercise of willpower is "free", since such events are part and parcel of any exercise of the will.

    Notice that in this example, the subject of interest is Fred's will to vote Democrat or Republican. Fred's vote is predetermined, but only because Dr Brain could, counterfactually as it were, step in to enforce the "correct" decision. As it is, though, there's no need for Dr Brain to step in, because Fred chooses the "correct" decision by himself, of his own free will.

    Replacing Dr Brain by the deterministic laws of physics makes no fundamental difference. In that case, Fred's choice to vote Democrat is predetermined (this time by an impersonal force rather than the person of Dr Brain), but Fred still chooses where to put his vote, of his own free will. There's no need for the laws of physics to intrude, counterfactually, on the decision process, because Fred makes the "correct" decision, just as he does in the example with Dr Brain.

    Similarly, there is only the appearance that the laws of physics could have influenced Fred, had he "tried" to make the "wrong" choice, counterfactually.

    You could treat Fred like a mindless automaton. But if you do that, where does Fred's will go? Does he even have one, or just the external "appearance" of one?

    Alternatively, you could treat the thermostat as a conscious being that makes a choice, albeit one constrained by determinism.

    Either way, it looks problematic to equate Fred with a thermostat. If it turns out that your assumption that they are equivalent is faulty, then your conclusion that Fred's free will is the same as the thermostat's becomes equally suspect. (Not to mention examples involving Teslas and bricks.)

    Once again, the confusion is over the possible meanings of "ability to do otherwise". Frankfurt used that term as a synonym for a lack of determinism, as you are doing. An alternative is to use the term to describe the factual observation that, prior to a decision being made, there are at least two alternative outcomes on the table; which one will eventuate depends in a complex way on information both from the decision maker and from his environment.

    Specifically, Frankfurt's example shows that moral responsibility can exist despite determinism. And if moral responsibility relies on the free exercise of the will, then it follows that free will can exist despite determinism.

    To put it another way, Frankfurt says that "ability to do otherwise" in the sense of non-determinism has no relevance to the question of whether "free will" exists. If, instead, we use the term "ability to do otherwise" to refer to an actor's capacity to choose (deterministically) between alternatives, then all problematic aspects of that turn of phrase vanish. Moreover, the phrase then accurately describes human experience.

    See what you tried to do there?

    Absence of any ability to do otherwise implies no free will.​

    Only Frankfurt's conclusion is the exact opposite of this: that free will is compatible with the absence of any ability to do otherwise, in the sense of non-determinism.

    The example shows that the lack of ability to do otherwise, in this sense, is irrelevant to the question of free will.[/quote]
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Put it this way then: you choose to use an abstruse definition of "free will", such that free will can only exist through supernatural means (or as-yet unidentified non-deterministic natural process).

    Granted, you might only "want" to use such a definition in order to carry on an argument that makes little reference to the observed reality of free will and how it functions.

    Oh? Interesting.

    Tell me why you're quite happy for somebody to be held morally responsible based on a lie told by prosecutors.

    That's never been a central issue in our current debate. Recall that we're trying to sort out the question in the context of the will as a predetermined process, for now.

    Why would you do that? Why would you tell lies, knowingly?

    As we keep pointing out, your "fairly reasonable view of what it meant to be free" defines the possibility of free will out of existence in the first instance, except if you allow the supernatural etc.

    I disagree that this is a "fairly reasonable view", if for no other reason that it is totally at odds with our daily experience of exercising our wills. A more reasonable approach, in my opinion, would be to start with a notion of free will that is in accordance with experience, then to investigate it to see if the notion is flawed for some reason.

    In other words, you believe that human beings are all mistaken, virtually all of the time, in believing that they make genuine and meaningful and causal choices between alternatives, despite all empirical evidence.

    Right, because for an alternative to be "genuine", you think it would have to be supernatural, by definition.

    Our criminal law, for one thing, is predicated on the concept of "free will". Criminal responsibility (and moral responsibility, more generally) is taken to flow as a result of one's choices being freely made, rather than being forced or coerced.


    Can you suggest another foundation for moral responsibility, other than the idea of choices made knowingly?

    If I have no "genuine" choice in anything I do, on what defensible basis could I possibly be held morally (or criminally) responsible for anything I do? If I were to rob a bank, then under your formulation I would never have "genuinely" had the option of not robbing it, no matter how much I might desire not to rob it. In a court, couldn't I legitimately argue that determinism made me commit the crime, therefore it was not my "free" choice, therefore I cannot be held ultimately responsible?

    If voting Democrat is deemed to be illegal, then under your formulation you ought to prosecute Dr Brain for Fred's decision to vote Democrat, not Fred. After all, Fred had no "genuine" choice in the matter.

    Which makes him a compatibilist who doesn't take a position on whether determinism is an actual fact or whether free will actually exists. In other words, all he says is that free is not inconsistent with determinism.

    This is not your position. You are an incompatibilist, or at least that's the position you have taken in this thread.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    The following scheme might be useful for distinguishing the various possible positions in this discussion:

    This is from here:

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    "Broad compatibilists" think both free will and moral responsibility are compatible with determinism.
    "Narrow compatibilists" think free will is not compatible, but moral responsibility is compatible with determinism.

    "Semicompatibilists" are narrow compatibilists who are agnostic about free will and determinism. They think moral responsibility is compatible with determinism or indeterminism, if either is true.

    "Hard incompatibilists" think both free will and moral responsibility are not compatible with determinism.
    "Illusionists" are incompatibilists who say free will is an illusion.

    "Soft incompatibilists" think both free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with strict determinism, but both are compatible with an adequate determinism.

    I should add that "strict determinism" is the clockwork universe, essentially, and "adequate determinism" is the universe in which macroscopic objects act deterministically due to statistical average behaviour or similar (e.g. the quantum universe appears to be "adequately" deterministic).


    Under this scheme, contrary to what I wrote above, Baldeee would appear to be a narrow compatibilist at this time, based on his statement of beliefs. Having said that, his arguments are those of the hard incompatibilist.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    The way I've been following his arguments, they seem only to relate to the matter of whether the will can be considered "free", which is where I would categorise incompatabilists, not necessarily hard incompatibilists. You would surely need to question him on the issue of moral responsibility before condemning him to being a hard incompatabilist, even by the arguments he has put forth.
    I get that those who see that moral responsibility requires a free will would see anyone who argues that the will is not free as also denying moral responsibility. But that would seem to be them asserting their view of the relationship between MR and freewill upon the other, would it not, rather than considering the actual views of the person?
    However, since the discussion has mainly been around freewill, it is also entirely understandable, if wrong, if one has taken his views beyond the scope of the issue at hand.
    But I would agree that Baldeee is likely a "narrow compatabilist" per the above, although isn't it just simpler to say that he's incompatabilist with regard free will and compatabilist with regard moral reponsibility?
    Baldeee likes this.
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The mechanism is quite different - "just as" misleads, especially in the context of this thread.
    The universe ordained Fred - as he is, as we observe him to be - in order to ordain his vote. That included ordaining - as a attribute of the entity "Fred" - the ability to make decisions based on information and other very complex inputs, and carry them out.
    - - - -
    No reasons "are given" for your wasting of time with these introduced irrelevancies.
    See how you jump back and forth in time, confusing the timeline?
    I'm not looking at me from inside. I'm inviting everyone to observe an observable entity - measurable and describable by anyone.
    And the observation is made before - not after, not at - the decision. This has been explicit for many pages now. What it "could have done" is irrelevant. The deterministic physical universe was stipulated at the beginning, remember?
    Not the same way. The mechanisms are quite different, in fundamental ways directly relevant to the degrees of freedom present.
    None of my reasoning here is based on it. That's your error, not mine.
    I don't, of course.
    It's perfectly consistent, as I have repeatedly claimed (over your objections). It's all based on assuming that in a deterministic universe there can be no freedom without supernatural powers.
    Drop that assumption, if you can. Then the discussion can proceed.
    A supernatural one, as repeatedly noted.
    This approaches comedy.
    The same "appearance" as all of physical reality. It's called observation, in physics.
    We have the "appearance" of time passing, for example, key to the notion of degrees of freedom - another of your "illusions", apparently.
    Irrelevant. We aren't dealing with "alternative perceived notions" (?) of what the future may hold.
    None of my posts have anything to do with alternative realities - future, past, or present. Nothing counterfactual appears in any post of mine.
    What for?
    Bricks, Teslas, thermostats, this, - but not the simple examples of actual and common decisions enacted via will, already presented.
  14. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I'll sweeten the pot.
    I'll give you ten dollars every time you run a red light at a busy intersection. Show me a video of you running a red light, I'll send you a check.
    Ask yourself, will you decide to run red lights? You have the ability, do you have the will?
  15. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    And so you come full circle to the point that Sarkus raised back in post #110.
    To which iceaura refused point blank to provide input.
    Appeal to consequence.
    Language is inherently based on observation and appearance, and as such favours the compatabilist.
    To conclude the incompatibilist position would almost certainly require tweaks of how words are understood, i.e. with no assumption of any actual ability etc.
    But that is neither here nor there to the position itself.
    No mockery at all.
    No more so than calling a magic trick an illusion once we understand how it is done.
    Only with free will / consciousness etc we don't (yet?) have that knowledge.
    No we wouldn't.
    Those counterfactual options are part of the feedback processes within the overall process of choice.
    Those options are predetermined as much as the choice is, but they are a necessary part of the overall process.
    You do choose - in as much as you are predetermined to create certain counterfactual alternatives, and you are predetermined to use those - via feedback loops etc - as part of the overall process.
    All deterministic, all predetermined, all absent any actual ability to do otherwise.
    We go through a somewhat more complex process that we call "choice", but in principle the two operate in the same way: predetermined inputs converted in a deterministic manner to arrive at a predetermined outcome.

    Referring to thermostats is somewhat facetious but it makes the point quite clearly - i.e. dispenses with the handwaving toward complexity.
    Sure, we don't know which is counterfactual or not.
    But the universe is deterministic and as such everything is predetermined, and everything - past, present, and future - can be considered fact.
    That one isn't aware of the counterfactual alternative(s) is irrelevant.
    So you're saying that anything that I consider to disprove the will being "free" can't be the deciding factor as to whether it is "free" or not, because it is part and parcel of any exercise of the will?
    That's rather begging the question on your part, is it not.
    In a deterministic universe it is predetermined period.
    The reason Dr Brain didn't step in was because it was predetermined that Fred would vote the way he did.
    It as predetermined that Dr Brain wouldn't step in.
    Dr Brain came up with a counterfactual notion that he would step in if required.
    He certainly went through the process of will, but just because he "chose" does not mean that it was not predetermined (it was) and does not mean that it is free.
    The entire scenario would be predetermined to play out the way it does.
    Of his own will, yes, the process that you refer to as free will and thereby seem to beg the question of its freedom.
    The question is whether that will is indeed free.
    But in this scenario, the decision by Fred, which was initially predetermined by the laws of physics, is now predetermined not by Dr Brain but by the laws of physics.
    Still predetermined.
    Still not "free".
    The reason your Dr-Brain-replacement-laws-of-physics have no need to intrude is because they are already there doing their dastardly deeds, predetermining everything, predetermining Fred's decision, predetermining Dr Brain's activities.
    But the laws of physics are already there, JamesR.
    So it only appears to you that these replacement laws are an appearance because underneath it all are the laws of physics already doing their thing.
    He has a will, just like we all do.
    It's what we call the process that we're all discussing.
    The question is whether it is actually free or not.
    You could, and in my facetious manner I might.
    It becomes a matter of how we label certain processes / activities.
    Sure, and when it turns out that the assumption is faulty (in respect of the purpose of their analogy) I'll happily withdraw them.
    But it's hardly problematic to a position to accept that if we're wrong we're wrong.
    Which one will eventuate is already predetermined.
    And if moral responsibility does not rely on the free exercise of the will, then Frankfurt's examples are mute on the matter of free will.
    His arguments are not actually either for or against free will, but rather only for moral responsibility: he merely seems to divorce the question of moral responsibility from the question of whether the will is free or not.
  16. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Part 2...

    Which is what has already been accepted - in as much as different notions reach different conclusions.
    However, it doesn't get to the question of whether the will is actually free or not.
    It just ignores it as far as moral responsibility goes.
    No, he says that moral responsibility is compatible.
    One can only link it to moral responsibility if one assumes that moral responsibility requires free will.
    [/QUOTE]No, specifically that it is irrelevant to moral responsibility.
    As such it is mute on the subject of whether or not free will is actually free.
    That appears to be the conclusion from it, yes.
    And to clarify: I do not dispute that the process exists, only that it is free.
    I don't want to use it for that.
    That is simply a result.
    Can you elaborate the example, or am I to guess at the context and detail?
    Sure, but it is important to recognise that the predetermination is throughout the process, not just at specific points along the way.
    Excuse me?
    What lies have I told?
    I have always maintained that the process exists.
    Whether one calls it "free will" or just "will" I am happy to use either as long as there is no presumption of actually being free.
    That is the conclusion from such a definition, yes.
    Do you want me to appeal to consequence now?
    Either way you want to go, if something is predetermined, every step of the way, if every decision you make was set in stone at the dawn of time... I don't see it as being free, unless you judge what it means to be "free" by the notion that we can select between imagined counterfactual alternatives, none of which are actually possible.
    Don't put words in my mouth, please, JamesR.
    Cut the words "and meaningful and causal" and I think I'd agree if you also move the term "genuine" to in front of "alternatives".
    Of course our choices are causal - all part of the predetermined chain.
    Meaningful is irrelevant here, but your appeal to emotion through such a term is noted... and duly discarded.
    No, by conclusion.
    Your wording suggests the definition was chosen to reach a certain conclusion.
    It wasn't.
    I'm not appealing to consensus, or pragmatism.
    One can divorce the notion of free-will from moral responsibility.
    Why would I do that?
    Even those who don't accept that the will is free accept that we make choices, and do so knowingly.
    Because you are the processing unit / agent, you are the one going through the process of taking inputs and providing an output.
    When a fuse blows, we find the fuse at fault and correct it / replace it.
    Should we not, then, find the defective processing unit and correct it?
    In the same manner we compare the outputs to what we, as a society, consider a reasonable functioning unit would output, and correct accordingly.
    The degree of responsibility of the defective unit would be mitigated if it can be established that someone else's unwanted outputs had an undue determining influence upon your own.
    And the judge would quite happily say that determinism drives him to lock you up.
    That your choice was not free would be irrelevant.
    You would effectively be a defective unit, processing in a manner not conducive to society.
    You, the unit, would be held responsible for that (mitigated as per above), and punished / sent for correction accordingly.
    Fred and Dr Brain are predetermined to do what they do, okay.
    If Fred's processing unit, without any inputs from Dr Brain, concluded by voting Democrat, even though he had no genuine choice, his processing unit broke the law and should be held accountable.
    If it could be shown that Fred's processing unit would have voted Republican other than for the inputs to his system provided by Dr Brain then he would not, and Dr Brain would be responsible.
    Even though it is all predetermined, and no "genuine" choice throughout, no such free will at all.
    In the latter case, Dr Brain might want to claim that had it not been for inputs X, Y, Z etc that he would have not done the same.
    But at some point society says that a regular functioning unit would have had those inputs and still arrived at the output of not breaking the law.

    As you can see, it ultimately just becomes a matter of changing the wording to what is already happening, without alluding to whether or not the will is genuinely free or not.
    Since i don't think it is, and the world runs quite okay, it's not the processes that need changing but just the wording and understanding of what we're already doing.
    Yes, I have seen that now.
    But since he provides arguments for the existence of moral responsibility, yet is not drawn on whether free will actually exists, it should be clear to you that his examples are designed to show how moral responsibility is compatible, and not per se free will.
    I am, it seems, a narrow compatibilist (from your chart below).
    We learn something new every day, it seems.
    I am certainly an incompatibilist with regard free will, on that you are correct.

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  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That's not the case. My input was a refusal to accept the assumption of anything supernatural, on a science forum. Sarkus's then posted basic agreement with that, in 114.
    The handwave word "genuinely" doesn't help you any more than the handwave word "actually". No matter how many terms you find to hide the accurate word "supernatural" from yourself, it's still the assumption you are stuck on.
    That is a common inconsistency among naive bottom up determinists, yes.
    In physical fact, if you made a decision you had a degree of freedom. Necessarily.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  18. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    Fred’s behavior in any instance is a product of the interaction of his material characteristics and those of the greater whole he is a subordinate of, none of which Fred has any control over, he merely acts in accordance with the existing collective universal order. The same should hold for any other entity, regardless of how we define its motivation.
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Sure. That doesn't change the nature of Fred, as an entity - among his "material characteristics", for example, is the ability to dream. And these dreams affect his decisions and physical behaviors of all kinds.

    I've noticed that words such "merely", "just" and so forth, tend to mislead people - Fred acts in accordance with the existing "collective universal order", but he acts as Fred. Fred possesses abilities, modes of action, etc, no brick can dream of. That includes all the associated degrees of freedom involved in Fred's nature.
  20. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    OK, so you’ve noted a conditional characteristic imposed on Fred by the collective universe. How dose this distinguish Fred’s impositions from those of other universal entities such as bricks and moons? Why would you consider Fred’s nature any less universally ordered than the less biologic constructions?
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I've noted logical levels of complexity in response built into Fred by the interactions between him and the collective universe. Among them is the ability to make a decision based on future information.
    I'm having a harder time seeing the equivalence of - say - information and Newtonian force, than distinguishing them. I'm not sure the word "imposition" even applies, to the color of a traffic light.
    No idea. Suppose it isn't any less "universally ordered", whatever that means - that would not change it. You would still have Fred's nature, right there for observation.
  22. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    What you label as Fred’s ability is also Fred’s determined response to universal stimuli. Regardless of the relative complexity in Fred’s noted behavior, it still amounts to behavior done universally through Fred rather than independently by Fred.
    Every aspect of reality corresponds to some manifestation of material behavior. Behavior of the whole (take your pick) imposes, determines, orders, behavior in the sub domains. The generation, propagation and experience of a particular color are expressions of these universal conditions.
    Yes, you still have Fred’s nature in view for observation, but Fred’s nature, and that of the brick and the Moon, still remain products of universal causality.
  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Outside stimuli - stimuli that are not part of "Fred". Yep.
    So Fred is not independent unless he is not part of the universe?
    That can be true in a useless sense, if you redefine "independent" to mean "independent of the universe". That is a form of the supernatural assumption, of course.
    Then nothing at all is "independent" in the ordinary sense, the word is useless, and Fred does not exist as an entity that acts (Fred is an "illusion"). There is only one entity, and it is the entire universe.
    That strikes me as empty. The main consequence here is that we would have to invent a whole bunch of new terms for what we talk about in this science forum.
    There is no supernatural freedom of action. Agreed.
    And some of these "expressions" have the logical status of information, others of Newtonian force, others of quantum state, etc.
    1) You have probably emptied the term "causality" of meaning. When everything is a cause, nothing is.

    2) That does not make them the same products, with the same attributes and characteristics. Fred's nature is much different - qualitatively different, as becomes immediately obvious if one attempts mathematical description, predictive physical analysis, or computer simulation - from a brick's.

    Fred has much more - orders of magnitude more, multidimensionally more, radically different in both kind and scale - in the way of degrees of freedom of action, than any brick. He can respond to information, for starters, and his responses are orders of magnitude more varied and complex. That is an engineering, physical, fact - one cannot describe or predict "Fred's" behavior, the behavior of that entity, without accounting for that physical circumstance, those observed abilities.

    That is the case as long as "Fred" exists - take away such attributes, and there is no Fred in the first place.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019

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