Freewill [Philosophy]

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SnakesNDMartyrs
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Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:40 pm UTC

This has been touched on in several threads but never had its own little place to call home *. I figure this thread can be referred to when the concept of freewill arises in other threads to prevent them getting derailed.

The discussion is probably as old as philosophy itself and whilst the issue may seem to be a trivial or even sophomoric problem on the surface, it's resolution depends on the natures of the universe and human mind - two of the least understood entities.

So, to state the problem in brief:

The universe is deterministic in nature.
The concept of freewill is not deterministic in nature.
Therefore, either the universe is not deterministic or freewill doesn't exist as an indeterministic process.

Personally, I can't fathom the universe being indeterministic and so I settle on the belief that the concept of freewill is simply an illusion painted over a complex deterministic process.

So what are your thoughts, can you reconcile the apparent contradiction? Do you believe the conclusion is a false dichotomy? What are the implications if freewill doesn't exist and does any of this even matter?


* This is an absolutely astonishing failure to use the search function. There are easily a half dozen free-will centric topics here in SB, and one particular seven page long thread is explicitly entitled Free Will. I'm going to leave this open for now since the clone is fairly old, but that decision may be reconsidered later.
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morriswalters
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:26 am UTC

Is there a way to know? Kind of like is there a God. Untestable and unknowable.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:07 am UTC

Is there a way to know? Kind of like is there a God. Untestable and unknowable.


Untestable is irrelevant, this is Philosophy not Science. Logic is king where empirical experiments fail.

As for unknowable? Why is the nature of freewill unknowable? We make decisions every day - are you saying that we can never know if we make those decisions freely or if they are simply outcomes of a complex deterministic system?

The ramifications of the question are widespread - AI, just to mention one.
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby guenther » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:22 am UTC

I agree with morriswalters. If we define free will to be unverifiable, then debating whether it exists or not doesn't give us much information. It's basically an exercise in figuring out which answer sounds most pleasing.

I say pick a definition that practically makes sense. We clearly have something that looks like free will, so let's call it that. Then it's just a matter of ironing out the details to figure out if/which animals have it and how sophisticated a machine would need to be to have it.

So when thinking about building an AI, when are we satisfied with saying it has free will? What qualities are important? Here's what I came up with:
- Must have self-awareness
- Must be able to express desires
- Must have a sufficiently complicated thinking process so that the decision-making algorithm is at least somewhat hidden

To me this last one is key. If we see a robot that seems to have free will, but then the programmer comes forward and explains what algorithm the robot used to make every decision, I don't think anyone would be comfortable saying it had free will. But if the programmer didn't know how it made choices, the case for free will would be more compelling. Think of Johny 5 in Short Circuit.

And conversely, I suspect that if we ever gain complete understanding of humans such that we could predict with 100% certainty how any one individual would react, it would be hard to think of them being free of that process.

This makes "free will" dependent on the observer, which seems odd. But I think that's OK, because it's really just an abstraction we use to designate that the subject should be treated like it has an agency.
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby Mike_Bson » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:39 am UTC

Personally, I believe free will does not exist, because particles and energy are, for the most part, predictable. This is okay, though, because if there was free will, we'd still make the same decisions, we'd just be ''free'' to do so. . . .

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby BlackSails » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:49 am UTC

There is a theorem saying that if we have free will (ie, we make decisions which could not be predicted given all physical information) then so do fundamental particles like electrons.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby Mike_Bson » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:55 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:There is a theorem saying that if we have free will (ie, we make decisions which could not be predicted given all physical information) then so do fundamental particles like electrons.

Meaning that they are simply not predictable, or meaning that they consciously make decisions? The latter does not sound believable to me.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:32 am UTC

It would seem to me that you would have to take into account the biological basis of cognition. How much of any decision is biology and how much something else?

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby BlackSails » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:38 am UTC

Mike_Bson wrote:
BlackSails wrote:There is a theorem saying that if we have free will (ie, we make decisions which could not be predicted given all physical information) then so do fundamental particles like electrons.

Meaning that they are simply not predictable, or meaning that they consciously make decisions? The latter does not sound believable to me.


Meaning that whatever we have access to that lets us make non deterministic decisions, they do to. Its called the free will theorem, I believe it was proven by kochen.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby Mike_Bson » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:44 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:
Mike_Bson wrote:
BlackSails wrote:There is a theorem saying that if we have free will (ie, we make decisions which could not be predicted given all physical information) then so do fundamental particles like electrons.

Meaning that they are simply not predictable, or meaning that they consciously make decisions? The latter does not sound believable to me.


Meaning that whatever we have access to that lets us make non deterministic decisions, they do to. Its called the free will theorem, I believe it was proven by kochen.

It was proven? Interesting.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby BlackSails » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:19 am UTC

Mike_Bson wrote:
BlackSails wrote:
Mike_Bson wrote:
BlackSails wrote:There is a theorem saying that if we have free will (ie, we make decisions which could not be predicted given all physical information) then so do fundamental particles like electrons.

Meaning that they are simply not predictable, or meaning that they consciously make decisions? The latter does not sound believable to me.


Meaning that whatever we have access to that lets us make non deterministic decisions, they do to. Its called the free will theorem, I believe it was proven by kochen.

It was proven? Interesting.


Theorems usually are.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:36 am UTC

guenther wrote:This makes "free will" dependent on the observer, which seems odd. But I think that's OK, because it's really just an abstraction we use to designate that the subject should be treated like it has an agency.


I think it makes the impression of freewill dependent on the observer, at the end of the day something is either acting out a deterministic algorithm or it is simply a free agent making decisions regardless if it is an ant or God observing.

Mike_Bson wrote:Personally, I believe free will does not exist, because particles and energy are, for the most part, predictable. This is okay, though, because if there was free will, we'd still make the same decisions, we'd just be ''free'' to do so. . . .


What makes you so sure? Without freewill our decisions are merely a product of past, current and perceived future situations. A cause and effect chain modified by an expected future cause and effect chain based on your current 'decision'. I think it is the imperfect nature of the perceived outcome of your decision that gives rise to the illusion of freewill.

With freewill our decision wouldn't be determined by past events, of course we could always draw from the past to make our decisions but I don't see any reason why we would 'make' the same decision when in one case we aren't even technically making a decision.
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby guenther » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:02 am UTC

People who talk about the "illusion" of free will, what is real free will? What would it look like? How would we be different if we had it? To me it's like saying we have the illusion of gravity because it's really that space-time is curved. Well then why don't we just call the curved space-time gravity? Why do we need a "real" gravity if it doesn't measurably exist and has no mechanism to exist?

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:I think it makes the impression of freewill dependent on the observer, at the end of the day something is either acting out a deterministic algorithm or it is simply a free agent making decisions regardless if it is an ant or God observing.

If the system is so complicated that we can't tell if it's deterministic or not, why do we care? And what is a free agent? How do we know that whatever it is isn't operating by it's own deterministic algorithm?
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 7:42 am UTC

People who talk about the "illusion" of free will, what is real free will?

No, it is an answer to the question about those who say they have free will. What is free will? What are you free of? The world, the chemicals that composes you, your body, society, others? Yet you are exactly free of none of those things, there is nothing free, there is always an exchange.

In reality, your mind is intricately connected to the world, so all "free will" is simply a play of power. One that we give to others or demand for ourselves (and not just from fellow human beings, but from God as well). To speak of freedom, "free-will" is unnecessary, as it is how powerful you are, how strong you are, etc.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby Mike_Bson » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:42 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:
Mike_Bson wrote:
BlackSails wrote:
Mike_Bson wrote:
BlackSails wrote:There is a theorem saying that if we have free will (ie, we make decisions which could not be predicted given all physical information) then so do fundamental particles like electrons.

Meaning that they are simply not predictable, or meaning that they consciously make decisions? The latter does not sound believable to me.


Meaning that whatever we have access to that lets us make non deterministic decisions, they do to. Its called the free will theorem, I believe it was proven by kochen.

It was proven? Interesting.


Theorems usually are.

Did he prove that IF there is free will, then fundamental particles have it, or was it proven that fundamental particles actually have it?

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby SlyReaper » Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:56 am UTC

It's the if-statement that will have been proven.

The question of whether or not we have free will is largely moot because we cannot know one way or the other. The interesting question is what the implication would be if it were possible to prove one way or the other. For example, if people learned that the universe is entirely deterministic and they have no free will at all, many could interpret it as absolving them of all responsibility for anything they do.
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:12 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:It's the if-statement that will have been proven.

The question of whether or not we have free will is largely moot because we cannot know one way or the other. The interesting question is what the implication would be if it were possible to prove one way or the other. For example, if people learned that the universe is entirely deterministic and they have no free will at all, many could interpret it as absolving them of all responsibility for anything they do.


It would absolve them of blame if their live were predetermined. Life would be no more than a 3d movie played at 30 fps. Any moral or ethical position would be meaningless. From the standpoint of philosophy better to assume that we have free will than to assume we don't. We can't know the next step in any case so to all intents and purposes it will appear random.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby BlackSails » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:19 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:It's the if-statement that will have been proven.

The question of whether or not we have free will is largely moot because we cannot know one way or the other. The interesting question is what the implication would be if it were possible to prove one way or the other. For example, if people learned that the universe is entirely deterministic and they have no free will at all, many could interpret it as absolving them of all responsibility for anything they do.


It would absolve them of blame if their live were predetermined. Life would be no more than a 3d movie played at 30 fps. Any moral or ethical position would be meaningless. From the standpoint of philosophy better to assume that we have free will than to assume we don't. We can't know the next step in any case so to all intents and purposes it will appear random.


Sure, your crime may have be predetermined, but so is the arrest, trial and imprisonment of you.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby guenther » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:25 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:
People who talk about the "illusion" of free will, what is real free will?

No, it is an answer to the question about those who say they have free will. What is free will? What are you free of? The world, the chemicals that composes you, your body, society, others? Yet you are exactly free of none of those things, there is nothing free, there is always an exchange.

I defined free will above. We have something that looks like it, so let's just call it that and iron out the details to define when AI has free will. We're free of a clear algorithm that defines our behavior.

How is your position any different than going around telling people that gravity is an illusion because space-time is really curved? It would be like holding onto some intrinsic notion of what gravity should be, forgetting that "gravity" is just a label that we can wield in a more practical manner. This debate is really about what sounds most pleasing, but it gets dressed up as if we're really debating truth.

morriswalters wrote:It would absolve them of blame if their live were predetermined. Life would be no more than a 3d movie played at 30 fps. Any moral or ethical position would be meaningless. From the standpoint of philosophy better to assume that we have free will than to assume we don't. We can't know the next step in any case so to all intents and purposes it will appear random.

This is like saying that if there is no God, any moral or ethical position would be meaningless. Well, many believe that, but many others don't. You might find morality and ethics meaningless without this intrinsic notion of free will, but that doesn't make it true.
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby PeterCai » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:26 pm UTC

guenther wrote:People who talk about the "illusion" of free will, what is real free will? What would it look like? How would we be different if we had it? To me it's like saying we have the illusion of gravity because it's really that space-time is curved. Well then why don't we just call the curved space-time gravity? Why do we need a "real" gravity if it doesn't measurably exist and has no mechanism to exist?


that's like saying we should redefine the meaning of flat when we found out that earth is round. free will has a very specific definition in philosophy. there's no reason to redefine the word so that it fits reality.

guenther wrote:This is like saying that if there is no God, any moral or ethical position would be meaningless. Well, many believe that, but many others don't. You might find morality and ethics meaningless without this intrinsic notion of free will, but that doesn't make it true.


the legal system we have today was largely built on the notion of free will. if we are predetermined, then we are never in control of our body and mind, then we need to either abolish the notion of criminal intent, or the notion of crime all together.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:36 pm UTC

guenther wrote:How is your position any different than going around telling people that gravity is an illusion because space-time is really curved? It would be like holding onto some intrinsic notion of what gravity should be, forgetting that "gravity" is just a label that we can wield in a more practical manner. This debate is really about what sounds most pleasing, but it gets dressed up as if we're really debating truth.

Uh, dude, I just pointed out what free-will is right here.

me wrote:In reality, your mind is intricately connected to the world, so all "free will" is simply a play of power. One that we give to others or demand for ourselves (and not just from fellow human beings, but from God as well). To speak of freedom, "free-will" is unnecessary, as it is how powerful you are, how strong you are, etc.


So we establish that the old notion is incorrect and figure out what is really happening. Your re-definition doesn't contradict mine at all.

And what does gravity have to do with anything, the only thing I know about gravity is that it is supposed to be instantaneous?

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=c ... n+illusion

Peter Cai wrote:he legal system we have today was largely built on the notion of free will. if we are predetermined, then we are never in control of our body and mind, then we need to either abolish the notion of criminal intent, or the notion of crime all together.

Not sure why criminal intent/crimes can't occur in a world with no free-will.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:27 pm UTC

I used the movie analogy on purpose. Somebody watching the movie knows that your about to get whacked by the mad killer, you on the other hand are oblivious. A deterministic world is no different from a world with free will to the inhabitants. They have no way of knowing the difference, and thus must act like they have free will even if they don't. As long as you can't see the future the determinism is indistinguishable from free will. You would always seem to have a choice.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby PeterCai » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:34 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:Not sure why criminal intent/crimes can't occur in a world with no free-will.


in a world with no free will, one is not in control of their thoughts and actions, therefore, they are not responsible for their thoughts, therefore, no mens rea.

morriswalters wrote:I used the movie analogy on purpose. Somebody watching the movie knows that your about to get whacked by the mad killer, you on the other hand are oblivious. A deterministic world is no different from a world with free will to the inhabitants. They have no way of knowing the difference, and thus must act like they have free will even if they don't. As long as you can't see the future the determinism is indistinguishable from free will. You would always seem to have a choice.


suppose a supernatural power tells someone that there is no free will then.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:37 pm UTC

in a world with no free will, one is not in control of their thoughts and actions, therefore, they are not responsible for their thoughts, therefore, no mens rea.

But the intent of a crime is shown by the formulation of chemicals in one's brain, thus you are still showing intent of crime.

With the concept of free will gone, so goes the concept of unfree will.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby elasto » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:39 pm UTC

From the other thread where it was only marginally on topic:
infernovia wrote:
This is true whether God is actively intervening to maintain the universe or passively created the initial conditions + laws and let it evolve on its own. If you are obliquely referring to 'How can a good God allow bad things to happen like earthquakes?' type arguments, it doesn't particularly change arguments over God's morality either way (assuming omniscience).


That has nothing to do with anything, it is just understood that the Rape of Nanking, along with the bombing of Hiroshima, Dresden was an act of god. As I said, there is nothing ungodly.

Not really sure what you are getting at. Let's go back a step maybe.

I'd argue you can't have individual moral responsibility without both individual free will and your actions having predictable consequences.

To simplify the example, suppose that sometimes when you took a knife and cut off someone's head they died, and sometimes God just decided to magically reattach the head and the person was unharmed. In such a universe, on cutting off someone's head the murderer could easily say 'their death isn't my responsibility, God decided not to magically reattach their head this time, so it's his fault'.

Without wishing to derail this thread into the 'is God good if he allows natural disasters to happen' debate, I'd simply like to argue that by having an almost completely deterministic universe, God (if he exists) makes it as obvious as it can be that we share moral culpability for our actions - good or bad. It's the fact that he doesn't magically reattach heads that makes an act of cutting one off so morally heinous.

Yes, it's 'bad' that God doesn't magically reattach the head when he could, being omnipotent and all, but clearly God (if he exists) values the collective 'moral worth' of free will (if it exists) and devolved moral responsibility above the individual 'moral worth' of intervening. Maybe God can explain that part later on in the conversation :p

As for the time and space thing, I have no clue what you are talking about so I wont touch it.

It's not that important. It's just an answer to why there is something rather than nothing, why there is time rather than no time? Where does time actually come from? Of course, it's an answer that leads to simply another question: Why is there a God rather than no God? Maybe God can cover that one too!

]You just switched the issue from the universe to a God, although not really, because the triggers would be pre-triggered through the outside world. This doesn't actually change anything with the issue about free will. Why is it so important that you need to be beyond the physical world?
Because if this universe is all there is and it is deterministic, there can't be free will.

Sure, if your starting assumption is that there is no free will, then there is no need to take anything beyond the physical world. But in that case why engage in discussions on the topic? It's only worth discussing if you want to think about some of the mechanism through which free will could come about. A source outside the otherwise deterministic universe might be one method.
Last edited by elasto on Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:45 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby PeterCai » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:44 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:But the intent of a crime is shown by the formulation of chemicals in one's brain, thus you are still showing intent of crime.


but such intention is not my responsibility, since i have no choice. in other words, i was coerced by destiney.

infernovia wrote:With the concept of free will gone, so goes the concept of unfree will.


so, in this world, there will be no coercion?

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby guenther » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:49 pm UTC

PeterCai wrote:that's like saying we should redefine the meaning of flat when we found out that earth is round. free will has a very specific definition in philosophy. there's no reason to redefine the word so that it fits reality.

I guess that's why I'm not too fond of philosophy. :) I don't find much value in those definitions.

PeterCai wrote:the legal system we have today was largely built on the notion of free will. if we are predetermined, then we are never in control of our body and mind, then we need to either abolish the notion of criminal intent, or the notion of crime all together.

Why is basing laws off of the philosophical notion of free will better than basing it off of God's will? Why do we need to do either? When people started objecting to the existence of God, we didn't descend into lawlessness.

I contend there's no discovery here. It's like arguing if Pluto is really a planet or if indigo is really in the rainbow. It's just a matter of labeling. Either we define us as having free will or we don't. And if we define free will such that we don't have it, nothing magical happens that absolves us of anything.
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby elasto » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:55 pm UTC

I think if it were somehow proved free will didn't exist, some of the language surrounding crime would surely change, but the legal procedures wouldn't. In fact, it would probably be much easier to work out how to rehabilitate people rather than simply punish. We might actually grow much more humane as a civilisation.

Whether or not someone took moral responsibility for their crimes, it wouldn't affect the fact that society acting as if people have free will and moral responsibility for their crimes results in less crime. And that is still a good thing in and of itself, because even if free will is actually an illusion, pain isn't. Not in any way anyone here would dare to question, anyway :p

So methods of reducing crime, ie reducing pain, still matter.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby PeterCai » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:56 pm UTC

guenther wrote:Why is basing laws off of the philosophical notion of free will better than basing it off of God's will? Why do we need to do either? When people started objecting to the existence of God, we didn't descend into lawlessness.


that's not what i meant. all i am saying is that if free will does not exist, the modern legal system will need some redefinition.

edit: i agree with elasto

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:59 pm UTC

Peter Cai wrote:but such intention is not my responsibility, since i have no choice. in other words, i was coerced by destiney.

Depends immediately upon how you define yourself. You are the formulation of the chemicals within you, so they cannot coerce you into anything, they are you.

All that matters is the difference between strong will and the weak one, that is what determines freedom and what does not. You cannot absolve responsibility to anything... for who are you giving responsibility to then?

If society doesn't want to deal with your crimes, then it overpowers your will and takes away any such formulations whether by psychological dominance or through outcasting you.

guenther wrote:Either we define us as having free will or we don't. And if we define free will such that we don't have it, nothing magical happens that absolves us of anything.

What does matter is what the definition of free will is. What free will is used as traditionally is completely different from the one you are using, and why you are doing so is important.

Here, from the old topic:

gmalivuk wrote:
Vaniver wrote:And so if we discard your second definition of free will as worthless/illogical, do we not get a logically sound free will that exists?


No, we get something else that you want to call "free will" but which really just seems to be "going through the mechanical processes of producing output given some input". This is very different from the way that term is used in almost every other theological and philosophical discussion about it. Once that fact is taken care of, I think it's readily apparent that there isn't actually a whole lot of disagreement in this thread about what is actually going on with the universe when people make decisions.

In religion, for instance, free will is explicitly put at odds with determinism. If the universe is deterministic, and our decisions could be known before we make them (at least probabilistically, by some sufficiently knowledgeable deity), then the whole theological account of moral responsibility goes out the window. Because if God is omniscient (knows what we're going to do) and benevolent (is a nice guy) and omnipotent (can do anything), He could thereby have constructed the world in such a way as to avoid the great evils we see around us. Therefore, the presence of those evils is in some sense God's fault, and not ours.

Unless you posit free will as something (that exists and is) by its nature not part of a deterministic universe.

And the philosophical debate about free will, coming as it does from the theological one, generally uses it the same way. Look at the actual arguments people make about their various positions. Free will is generally seen as originating in some way from an agent (read: soul) which can do things in our universe without being caused to do them by anything in our universe. Clearly modern neuroscience forces this agent to be something much more removed from the gross actions we do as a result of our decisions, since there are obvious (largely deterministic) electrochemical things going on in the brain long before the decision manifests itself to the outside world. But those who posit free will still generally stick to the usual definition. Not the one you've come up with which is really something else altogether.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 26, 2010 7:23 pm UTC

Rather than trying to define free will, define determinism. If you define determinism as a state where everything happens because it is meant to happen, or is predetermined, then morals and ethics are meaningless. Criminals and Saints are who they are because they were meant to be, they can't change it. The Bible on the other hand posits a world where you have choice. Sin requires it. Adam had a choice in Eden. But unless your a God and can see the Universe from the outside the question is moot. You have no way to know. This argument just took place in the fora, just insert theist and atheist for deterministic and free will.

infernovia
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 7:35 pm UTC

Rather than trying to define free will,

I have not tried to define free-will, it is the theologians and the philosophers who have already gave their definition for me, and have failed.


Criminals and Saints are who they are because they were meant to be, they can't change it.

Just as you cannot change your instinct to retaliate against the criminals for their power over you. Against their violence, you respond in kind through the power of the law and society. And if all else fails, through God's retribution.

The events were destined to occur. As for moral and ethics of the divine order, I have never said that such things exist either. But it is not as if humans can predict every situation, the limitations of their world forbids such things from happening (everything travels in a finite speed).

Besides, I thought this topic was about free will, not about morality, sins, and ethics.
Last edited by infernovia on Thu Aug 26, 2010 7:42 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

elasto
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby elasto » Thu Aug 26, 2010 7:36 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Rather than trying to define free will, define determinism. If you define determinism as a state where everything happens because it is meant to happen, or is predetermined, then morals and ethics are meaningless. Criminals and Saints are who they are because they were meant to be, they can't change it. The Bible on the other hand posits a world where you have choice. Sin requires it. Adam had a choice in Eden. But unless your a God and can see the Universe from the outside the question is moot. You have no way to know. This argument just took place in the fora, just insert theist and atheist for deterministic and free will.
We may not be able to tell if the universe is deterministic, but we may well be able to tell if free will exists - simply by understanding and, later, simulating the brain.

infernovia
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 7:49 pm UTC

On that remark:

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/02/cognitive-compu/

Absolutely ridiculous the model that is required for such things.

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 26, 2010 8:01 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:
Rather than trying to define free will,

I have not tried to define free-will, it is the theologians and the philosophers who have already gave their definition for me, and have failed.


Criminals and Saints are who they are because they were meant to be, they can't change it.

Just as you cannot change your instinct to retaliate against the criminals for their power over you. Against their violence, you respond in kind through the power of the law and society. And if all else fails, through God's retribution.

The events were destined to occur. As for moral and ethics of the divine order, I have never said that such things exist either. But it is not as if humans can predict every situation, the limitations of their world forbids such things from happening (everything travels in a finite speed).

Besides, I thought this topic was about free will, not about morality, sins, and ethics.


Well...., I'm not sure how to address free will without addressing determinism. And since it is untestable then I speak to the meaning . Our culture assumes free will. Morals and ethics are and outcome of that. If the future is surely random then it's important, and if not it's pointless, why be bothered. However if you want to debate the uncertainty principle then I would be glad to. A physics team somewhere thinks they have beat it. If you are talking about biology then I already asked that question earlier and nobody seemed to be interested.

On the issue of simulating a brain, good luck with that. To simulate anything reliably you have to understand it completely and we may never understand our biology as well as we would need to.

elasto
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby elasto » Thu Aug 26, 2010 8:03 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:On that remark:

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/02/cognitive-compu/

Absolutely ridiculous the model that is required for such things.
Yup. Simulation is probably 50 years off at least.

Understanding - or at least understanding enough to be able to answer questions like 'can free will exist?' - may be only a few decades off, though.

infernovia
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 8:38 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Our culture assumes free will. Morals and ethics are and outcome of that.

Which are all fictitious. But these beliefs have very real outcome of power and influence the individual in certain directions, and many will choose to believe in such things to make things easier. This doesn't make it any more true however.

If the future is surely random then it's [morality/ethics] important, and if not it's pointless, why be bothered

I fail to see why. You can't control something that is random, would defeat the purpose. I think you have the two roles reversed.

morriswalters wrote: From the standpoint of philosophy better to assume that we have free will than to assume we don't.

From the standpoint of law/life maybe. But not from philosophy, philosophy is not about deluding yourself, it is only here that we cannot afford to deceive ourselves. There are some truths that are poisonous, this is true, but the job of the philosopher is to withstand such things, not to delude himself away from such truths.

morriswalters wrote:However if you want to debate the uncertainty principle then I would be glad to. A physics team somewhere thinks they have beat it. If you are talking about biology then I already asked that question earlier and nobody seemed to be interested:
morriswalters wrote:It would seem to me that you would have to take into account the biological basis of cognition. How much of any decision is biology and how much something else?

Ok, first question is what is something else and what is biology.

I have not studied quantum mechanics unfortunately (though not what I was referencing to before), but here from the old thread:

Anpheus wrote:I think it's possible to prove that a "perfect predictor" can not exist for something sufficiently complex to need molecule-accurate information with either of the following: the speed of light the no cloning principle, and an argument about state machines. The speed of light means you cannot get the information until after the entity you're observing has already moved. The no cloning principle says a perfect quantum copy is impossible without destroying the original. And the state argument refers to the fact that in order for any possible, in this dimension and universe machine to examine a person's possible futures, that machine would first require knowledge of the state of vast quantities of information, and second the light cone of possibly-necessary information would, even if superluminal information transfer were possible, necessitate that it eventually include its own state. Why? Because when you expand a light cone and try to determine "things that can possibly influence the subject of this observation," if that information is being sent in two directions, at all, that means it's essentially a shortcut through space. First, such a machine would need to store vast quantities of information at greater densities than we believe possible, and second, such a machine would eventually need to store it's own future state. That's a bit of a problem, because like I said, this machine is supposed to evolve a system faster than real time in order to predict or cause a prediction to come true (the latter being much more difficult than the former, in terms of time constraints. It's the equivalent of a brute force attack on your will.) If the machine's state information at some point has to include itself, then it will be evolving its own future state... So you should see a contradiction there.


Edit: Oh and I missed this before:

elsato wrote:Without wishing to derail this thread into the 'is God good if he allows natural disasters to happen' debate, I'd simply like to argue that by having an almost completely deterministic universe, God (if he exists) makes it as obvious as it can be that we share moral culpability for our actions - good or bad. It's the fact that he doesn't magically reattach heads that makes an act of cutting one off so morally heinous.

Yes, it's 'bad' that God doesn't magically reattach the head when he could, being omnipotent and all, but clearly God (if he exists) values the collective 'moral worth' of free will (if it exists) and devolved moral responsibility above the individual 'moral worth' of intervening.

I never said god is good or bad, I just pointed out that the act of murdering someone is as godly as the act of not murdering him. Thus you cannot use God as a reference point between good and evil, as everything is perfect as it is.

In the same way that I don't see how transcending the world we know and deferring to God now grants you "free will."

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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby guenther » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:32 pm UTC

Sorry I missed this before.

infernovia wrote:Uh, dude, I just pointed out what free-will is right here.

me wrote:In reality, your mind is intricately connected to the world, so all "free will" is simply a play of power. One that we give to others or demand for ourselves (and not just from fellow human beings, but from God as well). To speak of freedom, "free-will" is unnecessary, as it is how powerful you are, how strong you are, etc.

So we establish that the old notion is incorrect and figure out what is really happening. Your re-definition doesn't contradict mine at all.

And what does gravity have to do with anything, the only thing I know about gravity is that it is supposed to be instantaneous?

The point is that we don't hold gravity as some sort of intrinsic truth. It describes something physical, and gravity is whatever makes that happen. I'd like free will to refer to something like that. We perceive ourselves as having free will, so what do we require of machines to be considered possessing free will as well.

I'm not sure I understand you definition of free will. You describe it as a "play of power", but I don't know what that means. If it's in line with what I'm talking about, then we most certainly do have free will. But I'm guessing we're talking about different things.

infernovia wrote:What does matter is what the definition of free will is. What free will is used as traditionally is completely different from the one you are using, and why you are doing so is important.

If you and others want to discuss the philosophical notion of free will, so be it. I don't want to get in the way. However, I will abstain because I find it about as useful as discussing if God exists.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

infernovia
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:53 pm UTC

I'm not sure I understand you definition of free will. You describe it as a "play of power", but I don't know what that means. If it's in line with what I'm talking about, then we most certainly do have free will. But I'm guessing we're talking about different things.

What I said is this, free will is simply a demand of certain freedom of power that we give to others and to ourselves (such as the freedom to be punished for one's actions). That is what it is, a power game.

If you and others want to discuss the philosophical notion of free will, so be it. I don't want to get in the way. However, I will abstain because I find it about as useful as discussing if God exists.

What else is there to say about free will?

SnakesNDMartyrs
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Re: Freewill [Philosophy]

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:51 pm UTC

With regards to punishment, reward and morality - these all have value even in a fully deterministic system.

Part of the 'decision' when committing a crime is to simulate the consequences of that crime which, in our current society includes some form of punishment as a deterrent. It is important to hold the criminal responsible for his actions so that it will act as a 'deterrent cause' in the next potential criminal's 'decision'. The same is true of reward - we reward actions we consider to be 'good' so that others will seek out those rewards by emulating the actions; in this sense society is being trained like a dog through punishment and reward.

Our minds are constantly simulating the future and these simulations are fed back in to our deterministic decision algorithm. The ideas of right and wrong that morality deals with and attempts to reconcile in to a code of conduct is an attempt to shape society in a manner that one considers desirable. Take the moral code of Christianity - burn those who don't follow it, reward those with heaven who do follow it; a brutal smashing of society in to a particular shape that was considered desirable by its perpetrators. Of course not all moral codes are enforced so brutally, some are completely voluntary - followed only by those who also find the perceived outcomes desirable.

The crux of my point is that even in a deterministic system, our minds ability to simulate future situations and consequences and act on these keeps punishment, reward and morality relevant.
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