Welcome to the Philosophy Forums! If you are not a member, please join the forums now. It's completely free! If you are a member, please log in.

Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline

Mcdoodle

  • Posts: 229
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: April 12th, 2012, 3:48 am

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#166  PostMay 23rd, 2012, 11:47 am

Muddler wrote:A free will is a will free of constraints. The will is never free of constraints.


Yes, the will is never free of constraints. But is the exercise of will entirely decided by the constraints upon it? That's a different question. For myself: no, it isn't. I can't see how you could demonstrate that the will is entirely constrained.

Did you know?

  • Once you join the forums and log in you will get to enjoy an ad-reduced experience. It's easy and completely free!

Offline

Muddler

  • Posts: 135
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: June 18th, 2010, 10:12 am

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#167  PostMay 23rd, 2012, 12:31 pm

McDoodle, constraints are causes, and nothing happens without a cause. A constraint can enact a choice or behavior, or it can inhibit a choice or behavior allowing another constraint to enact a different one. A dilemma is a conflict between two sets of contraints. There is no freedom of will. The will is guided entirely by its constraints which are subject to continual modification by experience and circumstance.
Offline

Mcdoodle

  • Posts: 229
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: April 12th, 2012, 3:48 am

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#168  PostMay 23rd, 2012, 12:48 pm

Muddler wrote:McDoodle, constraints are causes, and nothing happens without a cause. A constraint can enact a choice or behavior, or it can inhibit a choice or behavior allowing another constraint to enact a different one. A dilemma is a conflict between two sets of contraints. There is no freedom of will. The will is guided entirely by its constraints which are subject to continual modification by experience and circumstance.


I understand that you are saying that 'nothing happens without a cause', but that's an assumption of causal determinism, which is one hypothesis among others, not just something that's true for everyone everywhere. How do you demonstrate to a sceptic like me that the will is guided entirely by its constraints? Isn't this just a question of faith on your part? Or what is your source?
Offline

Muddler

  • Posts: 135
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: June 18th, 2010, 10:12 am

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#169  PostMay 23rd, 2012, 1:24 pm

Mcdoodle, I've read about a dozen books about free will. Authors Dennett, Searle, and Honderich come to mind, but two of the best books, in my opinion, are "The Illusion of Conscious Will" by Daniel Wegner, and "Free Will" by Sam Harris. Wegner and others say that all our actions and choices are created in the subconscious, and we're not even aware of them until they are projected into consciousness a few milliseconds later. This has been confirmed experimentally many times.
Offline

H2ouse

  • Posts: 49
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: April 16th, 2012, 3:22 pm

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#170  PostMay 23rd, 2012, 7:06 pm

To my knowledge, the experiments Muddler refers to are suggestive perhaps, but certainly not clear enough to be proof. The types of actions in the original experiments by Libet are finger movements, and subjects were directed NOT to think about them -- Libet himself, I have read, doubted their relevance to the free-will argument.

Many more ingenious experiments are needed before this issue is experimentally verified. Until that time, if it ever occurs, it seems to me just as reasonable to accept the free-will argument as it is to go against our subjective experience and argue that free-will cannot exist.
Last edited by H2ouse on May 23rd, 2012, 8:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The architectures of human languages probably contain more understanding of the universe than all the ideas of science and philosophy combined.
Offline
User avatar

Rockturnal

  • Posts: 27
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: May 23rd, 2012, 6:49 pm

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#171  PostMay 23rd, 2012, 7:26 pm

Perhaps the mind and the universe are two complimenting bodies that co-exist.

Perhaps there is both free will and determinism that are dependent of the provided circumstances.
Offline

H2ouse

  • Posts: 49
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: April 16th, 2012, 3:22 pm

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#172  PostMay 23rd, 2012, 9:59 pm

Some further thoughts about the arguments that are being posted:

1. Re Occam’s razor: I’ve never been happy with this principle, for two reasons. First, the progress of scientific knowledge has been to make things more complex, rather than simpler. Look at Ptolemy’s universe as compared to Newton’s as compared to Einstein’s, and then imagine incorporating Quantum reality into today’s models of macro-reality. Occam’s razor may be set to ensure the simplest explanation of current knowledge at any one time, but I don’t see that it helps to predict what future explanations should be.

2. Even using Occam’s razor, I’m not convinced that the causality argument is simpler that the free-will position. Accepting a predetermined causality (only) that runs from the big bang to now (and beyond) leads to an incredibly complex picture of influences and counter-influences, and also seems to offer no explanation of the subjectively-apparent phenomena of consciousness and free-will. Accepting free-will as a causal agent or entity simplifies explanations of many events in the material world, plus it takes account of (though it doesn’t explain) our subjective experiences. Of course, it all depends on your definition of ‘simple’.

3. Re the idea that free-will is unacceptable because it would be the only uncaused event/agent/entity (besides God) known of in the universe:

a. If free-will is visualized as an agent/entity (or characteristic of an agent/entity) rather than an event, this argument becomes weaker, because there are very few types of phenomena that one would classify this way – the only other one that comes immediately to mind is consciousness - and I’m not sure who could describe the causes of consciousness.

b. As a subjectively-apparent concept, free-will (and consciousness too) cannot be considered a unitary phenomenon. Except to the solipsist, there are many instances, even if we claim that the only organism in which they could exist is the human being.

c. Consciousness and free-will, if they exist to some degree in other animals as well as humans, are not an inconsiderable part of the biosphere of this planet (and perhaps there are biopheres on other planets also?) This would account for a lot of uncaused entities (or events), somewhat weakening the argument that they cannot be held to exist because they are so rare.
The architectures of human languages probably contain more understanding of the universe than all the ideas of science and philosophy combined.
Offline
User avatar

Rockturnal

  • Posts: 27
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: May 23rd, 2012, 6:49 pm

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#173  PostMay 23rd, 2012, 11:16 pm

H2ouse wrote:Some further thoughts about the arguments that are being posted:

1. Re Occam’s razor: I’ve never been happy with this principle, for two reasons. First, the progress of scientific knowledge has been to make things more complex, rather than simpler. Look at Ptolemy’s universe as compared to Newton’s as compared to Einstein’s, and then imagine incorporating Quantum reality into today’s models of macro-reality. Occam’s razor may be set to ensure the simplest explanation of current knowledge at any one time, but I don’t see that it helps to predict what future explanations should be. The problem is not about whether or not a practice should be complex or simple; but rather if the practice meets the requirements for your inquiries.
2. Even using Occam’s razor, I’m not convinced that the causality argument is simpler that the free-will position. Accepting a predetermined causality (only) that runs from the big bang to now (and beyond) leads to an incredibly complex picture of influences and counter-influences, and also seems to offer no explanation of the subjectively-apparent phenomena of consciousness and free-will. Accepting free-will as a causal agent or entity simplifies explanations of many events in the material world, plus it takes account of (though it doesn’t explain) our subjective experiences. Of course, it all depends on your definition of ‘simple’. Determinism and free will are both considerably wavered schools of thought. Whether or not one is more simple or complex than the other is moot.

The solution may not be in neither one of them.

A solution could be in one or the other.

A solution could be in both of them.

3. Re the idea that free-will is unacceptable because it would be the only uncaused event/agent/entity (besides God) known of in the universe: Perhaps the body and mind do not directly work with the rest of the universe.

Perhaps the universe and mind are two seperate models that co-exist.

That will then explain why free-will will be the only uncausal event; if it derives from a source that may not even be a part of the universe.

Perhaps the stage and the person performing on the stage work together; but do not directly interact with each other.

a. If free-will is visualized as an agent/entity (or characteristic of an agent/entity) rather than an event, this argument becomes weaker, because there are very few types of phenomena that one would classify this way – the only other one that comes immediately to mind is consciousness - and I’m not sure who could describe the causes of consciousness. Perhaps every argument is weak by the end of the day.
b. As a subjectively-apparent concept, free-will (and consciousness too) cannot be considered a unitary phenomenon. Except to the solipsist, there are many instances, even if we claim that the only organism in which they could exist is the human being. Less of a unitary processor and more of an abstract influence.
c. Consciousness and free-will, if they exist to some degree in other animals as well as humans, are not an inconsiderable part of the biosphere of this planet (and perhaps there are biopheres on other planets also?) This would account for a lot of uncaused entities (or events), somewhat weakening the argument that they cannot be held to exist because they are so rare.

Perhaps it is dangerous to branch off from a suggested idea without incoporating the base.

Focus on the conscious and free will of human beings; then expand onto animals.
Online

Belinda

Contributor

  • Posts: 9864
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
  • Location: UK

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#174  PostMay 24th, 2012, 2:51 am

Rockturnal wrote:

Consciousness and free-will,********************************************* they cannot be held to exist because they are so rare.


This is not my argument against Free Will. my argument is not that Free Will events are rare it is that Free Will events are not material events. Material events are events that are caused by other events either going back in time, or contemporary.This covers every event in nature. Free Will events, and God, if they are to exist, exist outside of nature. Both God and Free Will events are self caused. Nothing in nature is self caused, except possibly some subatomic events. We can for the time being dismiss those because our choices are conducted within the more macro world that we inhabit.
Socialist
Offline
User avatar

Rockturnal

  • Posts: 27
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: May 23rd, 2012, 6:49 pm

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#175  PostMay 24th, 2012, 2:54 am

Belinda wrote:Rockturnal wrote:

Consciousness and free-will,********************************************* they cannot be held to exist because they are so rare.


This is not my argument against Free Will. my argument is not that Free Will events are rare it is that Free Will events are not material events. Material events are events that are caused by other events either going back in time, or contemporary.This covers every event in nature. Free Will events, and God, if they are to exist, exist outside of nature. Both God and Free Will events are self caused. Nothing in nature is self caused, except possibly some subatomic events. We can for the time being dismiss those because our choices are conducted within the more macro world that we inhabit.


Perhaps you are mistaken. That quote; I never wrote that.

You are looking for H2ouse; they wrote that.
Offline

Mcdoodle

  • Posts: 229
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: April 12th, 2012, 3:48 am

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#176  PostMay 24th, 2012, 3:45 am

Belinda wrote:(someone) wrote:

Consciousness and free-will,********************************************* they cannot be held to exist because they are so rare.


This is not my argument against Free Will. my argument is not that Free Will events are rare it is that Free Will events are not material events. Material events are events that are caused by other events either going back in time, or contemporary.This covers every event in nature. Free Will events, and God, if they are to exist, exist outside of nature. Both God and Free Will events are self caused. Nothing in nature is self caused, except possibly some subatomic events. We can for the time being dismiss those because our choices are conducted within the more macro world that we inhabit.


Personally I don't accept this definition of material events, that they are necessarily caused by other events, as Belinda and I have discussed before, it's a faith, not empirically arrived at.

Further, I believe an act of will is a material event: it happens in a brain and nervous system, it's not performed by some other mental stuff, in that sense I'm a monist. The act of will and the nerouns firing are probably the same event seen from different angles.

Muddler wrote:Mcdoodle, I've read about a dozen books about free will. Authors Dennett, Searle, and Honderich come to mind, but two of the best books, in my opinion, are "The Illusion of Conscious Will" by Daniel Wegner, and "Free Will" by Sam Harris. Wegner and others say that all our actions and choices are created in the subconscious, and we're not even aware of them until they are projected into consciousness a few milliseconds later. This has been confirmed experimentally many times.


The evidence from Libet and after convincingly demonstrates that in certain small tasks there's brain activity directed towards action before we 'consciously' believe we've made a decision. This certainly shows that sometimes we're deluded about what we've consciously decided. It does not mean that 'all our actions and choices are created in the subconscious' at all. Consciousness studies is a very lively field: I feel that Nahmias (.gsu.edu/~phlean/papers/When_Consciousn ... tters.pdf) has a strong critique of Wegner, who is a lovely writer but not entirely coherent in argument.

Some of the other people Muddler quotes, like Dennett, are compatibilists: there is a version of 'free will' they are happy with. Indeed Searle, for instance, has shifted his position towards an indeterminist view in his later life (informationphilosopher.com/solutions/ph ... rs/searle/) He writes: 'The special problem of free will is that we cannot get on with our lives without presupposing free will. Whenever we are in a decision-making situation, or indeed, in any situation that calls for voluntary action, we have to presuppose our own freedom.'

Lastly, back at Occam's Razor: I find the use of this unconvincing about causality and human action. For instance, I'm writing a song at the moment. To me, a purportedly causal explanation of the key it's in - the melody - the theme - the exact words - the harmonies - the relevance to what I think and feel - such a 'causal explanation' would take a lifetime of computation and deliberation, just on my writing this one song. Whereas a paragraph of simple observations would explain a 'freewill' version, the constraints on me, the chance elements I seized on and the individual decisions I made. Surely Occam would opt for the one paragraph?

I haven't seen proponents of the causal explanation of human action attempt a causal explanation of anything but the simple and most mechanical of tasks. In every moment of creativity I am exploring my will - accident - reason - emotions - and what emerges is a hotch-potch. But as I read the in principle argument: advocates of causality would have to demonstrate that 100% of my actions were causally determined. I don't see how they ever can.
Online

Belinda

Contributor

  • Posts: 9864
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
  • Location: UK

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#177  PostMay 25th, 2012, 2:52 am

McDoodle wrote:
Personally I don't accept this definition of material events, that they are necessarily caused by other events, as Belinda and I have discussed before, it's a faith, not empirically arrived at.

Further, I believe an act of will is a material event: it happens in a brain and nervous system, it's not performed by some other mental stuff, in that sense I'm a monist. The act of will and the nerouns firing are probably the same event seen from different angles.


Determinism is subject to the problem of causation as explained by Hume(Constant conjunction), therefore it's true that I choose to believe in determinism as an act of faith , chosen because it makes more sense to me and is ethically stronger than Free Will.

If to be a monist is, as I believe,to believe that there exists one substance there is a choice of three sort of monism: 1.everything is physical substance, or body : 2.everything is mental substance : 3.mental events and physical events i.e. brain events and thoughts are different aspects of the same substance(to quote MacDoodle 'probably the same event seen from different angles') .

McDoodle wrote:

Lastly, back at Occam's Razor: I find the use of this unconvincing about causality and human action. For instance, I'm writing a song at the moment. To me, a purportedly causal explanation of the key it's in - the melody - the theme - the exact words - the harmonies - the relevance to what I think and feel - such a 'causal explanation' would take a lifetime of computation and deliberation, just on my writing this one song. Whereas a paragraph of simple observations would explain a 'freewill' version, the constraints on me, the chance elements I seized on and the individual decisions I made. Surely Occam would opt for the one paragraph?


I don't think that a 'freewill' version of composing the song would be briefer, because a freewill version would involve not only the free will of the composer McDoodle but also the same causes of choice of harmonies, words etc.as for the possibly infinite set of causal explanations. The free willl is an extra cause.

*************************

Rockturnal wrote:
Perhaps you are mistaken. That quote; I never wrote that.

You are looking for H2ouse; they wrote that.


Okay, Rockturnal.I am a little puzzled by who said what in your post #173
Socialist
Offline

Mcdoodle

  • Posts: 229
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: April 12th, 2012, 3:48 am

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#178  PostMay 25th, 2012, 8:20 am

Belinda wrote:McDoodle wrote:

Lastly, back at Occam's Razor: I find the use of this unconvincing about causality and human action. For instance, I'm writing a song at the moment. To me, a purportedly causal explanation of the key it's in - the melody - the theme - the exact words - the harmonies - the relevance to what I think and feel - such a 'causal explanation' would take a lifetime of computation and deliberation, just on my writing this one song. Whereas a paragraph of simple observations would explain a 'freewill' version, the constraints on me, the chance elements I seized on and the individual decisions I made. Surely Occam would opt for the one paragraph?


I don't think that a 'freewill' version of composing the song would be briefer, because a freewill version would involve not only the free will of the composer McDoodle but also the same causes of choice of harmonies, words etc.as for the possibly infinite set of causal explanations. The free willl is an extra cause.


Well, we're both idly speculating here. But I don't really see that your model is likely to be right. Most versions of free will would replace some of the ostensible external causes with simple acts of 'will', surely? Indeed, in extremis I can imagine a one- sentence Sartreian version, 'This is the song I wrote, listen to it, I had no choice but the cursed freedom to write it.'

At more length, I've been thinking: there are millions of words expended on possible exercises of free will or in particular on ways in which it can't be exercised. What I don't feel I've seen is any explanation of how a wholly causally determined human being would operate - how relatively simple choices that the agent believed themselves to be making freely would be explained - how empirically such an explanation could be examined - in what way such a hypothesis is useful in discussing day-to-day human dilemmas or moral problems.

But it's certainly set me thinking :)
Offline

RJG

  • Posts: 222
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: March 28th, 2012, 8:52 pm

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#179  PostMay 25th, 2012, 8:20 am

McDoodle wrote:In every moment of creativity I am exploring my will - accident - reason - emotions - and what emerges is a hotch-potch. But as I read the in principle argument: advocates of causality would have to demonstrate that 100% of my actions were causally determined. I don't see how they ever can.

I see this from the opposite view. All I see around me is causality. Causality appears to be our default reality. I am searching for anything that might justify free-will, other than the 'feeling' that it exists. Advocates of free-will need only to demonstrate a single free-will event.
Offline

Mcdoodle

  • Posts: 229
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: April 12th, 2012, 3:48 am

Re: Free-Will and Causality - Can there be both?

Post Number:#180  PostMay 25th, 2012, 8:43 am

RJG wrote:
McDoodle wrote:In every moment of creativity I am exploring my will - accident - reason - emotions - and what emerges is a hotch-potch. But as I read the in principle argument: advocates of causality would have to demonstrate that 100% of my actions were causally determined. I don't see how they ever can.

I see this from the opposite view. All I see around me is causality. Causality appears to be our default reality. I am searching for anything that might justify free-will, other than the 'feeling' that it exists. Advocates of free-will need only to demonstrate a single free-will event.


I read your post and I consider different options: ignore it because our ideas may never meet; go away and think about it; or provide a quick instant response.

I settle on the third option.

This is my example of a free-will event.
PreviousNext

Return to Epistemology and Metaphysics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Belinda and 1 guest

Philosophy Book of the Month Updates

The January book of the month is The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Discuss it here or buy it here.

The February book of the month is Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene. Pick it up, read it and discuss it with us as a group!