The many faces of the free will problem

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Hedward
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Hedward » April 8th, 2018, 6:23 pm

Mgrinder wrote:
January 20th, 2016, 12:24 pm
Togo1 wrote:I don't much rate Sam.

Sam Harris is a public speaker who writes like he speaks, and this means his reasoning tends to strike me as very readable, but weak and incomplete. So I've not read that particular book. From videos of him, however, I would assume his argument against free will is largely as the argument portrayed by RJG and others. That Free Will requires certain traits, and those traits are either counterfactual or contradictory. While it sounds good, it's very hard to build a case for the non-existence of something based purely on a straw man, and he appears to make little effort to confirm that his proposed traits are actually needed.
I agree that RJG and Harris seem similar, to be honest, I don't think I understand their argument(s). I've tried, but the actual claim seems elusive..
This post is in response to the dialogue between Mgrinder and Togo1 about Sam Harris's book on Free Will. Harris assumes that his actions are determined by unknowable "ultimate causes," so he does not know why he does what he does. To me, this is a cop-out. If you believe that your actions are determined, I think you ought to at least be curious about what the proximate causes of your actions are. But that is because I am a social scientist whose primary interest is explaining human behavior.

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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Belindi » April 9th, 2018, 4:17 am

Hedward, I agree that it's helpful and therapeutic to have insight into one's motivations. Psychology like other sciences works within paradigms which are also helpful and science having the predictive power that it seems to have I venture to say some of which are also probably true.

However I cannot know for certain each tiny wee variable and how my environment-conscious brain-mind evaluates them all during layer after layer of evaluations. Insight is easier when for instance one is obsessively in love, or when one is excited and terrified by immediate danger, or when one is very very hungry or thirsty. However ruminating over past choices or attempting to identify one's personality without benefit of any sorting model isn't easy and is usually impossible. Don't you agree that to understand one's own or somebody else's choices is to discover a satisfactory narrative?

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Mgrinder
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Mgrinder » April 9th, 2018, 6:19 pm

Hedward wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 6:23 pm


This post is in response to the dialogue between Mgrinder and Togo1 about Sam Harris's book on Free Will. Harris assumes that his actions are determined by unknowable "ultimate causes," so he does not know why he does what he does. To me, this is a cop-out. If you believe that your actions are determined, I think you ought to at least be curious about what the proximate causes of your actions are. But that is because I am a social scientist whose primary interest is explaining human behavior.
Thank you Hedward. Perhaps the following is a good account of what I am trying to say, or perhaps it isn't:

Suppose I decide to water my garden tomorrow rather than today. I see that maybe my garden needs watering, but I also want to conserve water, and my garden seems in no danger of dying, so I opt for tomorrow. Analyzing these thoughts and decision, we can claim that I had thoughts about watering or not, and decided not to.

So thoughts occurred and a decision occurred. Was it free?

One can claim that if we had a good enough measuring device for my brain, and the ability to use physical laws to calculate what my brain will do, one could have predicted my decision. No argument here. What my brain will do is probably determinable in theory if not in practice. There is a chance that quantum effects might make it unpredictable, but probably not, one can probably approach the problem classically, and in principle predict it, even if it is very hard to do this.

Even if someone could predict what my decision was going to be beforehand, the person that predicts my decision does not make my decision, I do. The fact that my decisions might be perfectly predictable says nothing about what made the decision. It says nothing about the cause of the decision being to water the garden tomorrow.

What made the decision? Was it me? I don't see what is wrong with saying that.

You might know what I am going to do before I do, but I don't. I still have to make a decision, my thoughts still have to go through the (perhaps predictable) process of making a decision. At some point, something looks at the information, and then something senses what is the supposed best thing to do. Am I not that something? I see nothing wrong with saying that I am the thing which decides. I am the thing that translates thoughts into action. I am my will, in a sense.

One might say that my decisions are all neural events, subject to the laws of physics. No argument here. Still though, even though what I do is subject to physical laws, there is no contradiction in saying that I decided. There is nothing said about what makes these laws tick. The laws of physics make no claim about what causes momentum and energy to be conserved, only that they will be conserved. SO as long as my decision is in keeping with physics laws (and it will be) I can still be the predictable cause of what I do (whatever I am). Perhaps all instances of energy and momentum conservation involve some sort of qualia and decision, and this works in a predictable way, and my decision is just one instance of that. We have absolutely no idea. If we have absolutely no idea, then there is no contradiction between me being subject to physical laws and me making a decision. (being the cause of a decision)

I think Sam Harris would say that my history of looking at gardens and watering determined my decision to not water. Again no argument. One can accept this and still point out that something looked at the situation, and something evaluated and decided not to water. Why isn't this something me? Again, I didn't know what I was going to do until I did it. Somebody who knows alot about me might have predicted, but I didn't know until I decided.

I think the problem is in the wording of all of this, and the perspective. Yes I am subject to physical laws, yes I am determined by my history, yes I will always do what I think I value, I never do anything that I don't value. This is all unfortunate wording, because this makes it sound like I am determined by something other than myself. Not true. Something looks at perceived facts and something decides based on this information. This something is me, no matter how predictable it is if you look at it through a different lens.

Perspective wise, lens wise, when you look at me like a black box with information in ->decision out, one makes the mistake of thinking this is the complete cause of what I do. You look at the extrinsic causes, like history or neurons, to what decision I make and note that all this seems to determine what I do. Indeed what I do is determinable (probably) from these perspectives (no argument). But it is not the complete account of what happens, because in that black box is me, and I am the thing which evaluates, the thing which looks at the information and predictably decides. The complete story includes that fact that I am there, evaluating. There is no contradiction between our having free will and what we will do being determinable .

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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Belindi » April 10th, 2018, 6:55 am

Hedward wrote:
This post is in response to the dialogue between Mgrinder and Togo1 about Sam Harris's book on Free Will. Harris assumes that his actions are determined by unknowable "ultimate causes," so he does not know why he does what he does. To me, this is a cop-out. If you believe that your actions are determined, I think you ought to at least be curious about what the proximate causes of your actions are. But that is because I am a social scientist whose primary interest is explaining human behavior.
Yes, you ought to be curious about why you do what you do. And this applies to religious believers in Free Will, who may understandably claim that they are led by Providence or The Good Shepherd or both.

My doubt is about "proximate causes". Apart from Free Will and the power of God there are no naturally proximate causes; there are narratives . If by proximate causes you refer to events close to the subject in time or space then okay, however those 'proximate' events feature if they feature at all within the current social narrative . God-believers can claim that among all temporo-spatial causes God is the most proximate cause of them all.

I'm an atheist so I don't believe that God features as a naturally occurring proximate cause. As an atheist I believe that if there are such events as are the most proximate we can never know for sure what those are. And the best that we can do is provide ourselves with a cohesive narrative.

We live in societies and consequently need a publicly acceptable narrative to explain ourselves to ourselves.The narrative that centres on God no longer satisfies many people. And this is the basic reason why we discuss free will as a problem: that our age-old narrative is in disarray is a real problem. To a real God-believer no problem exists.

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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Namelesss » April 10th, 2018, 7:27 pm

Hedward wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 5:19 pm
This post is in response to the dialogue between Mgrinder and Togo1 about Sam Harris's book on Free Will. Harris assumes that his actions are determined by unknowable "ultimate causes," so he does not know why he does what he does. To me, this is a cop-out. If you believe that your actions are determined, I think you ought to at least be curious about what the proximate causes of your actions are. But that is because I am a social scientist whose primary interest is explaining human behavior.
The 'determinism' of which I am aware, is that every moment of Universal existence exists Here! Now! Synchronously, Holistically.
In such a context, 'causality' is a mirage, an error.
"'Cause' and 'effect' is a clumsy way of saying two mutually arising opposite Perspectives of the Same One Event!

One's apparent 'behavior' is no more and no less than the manifestation of who and what one is, at that moment.
There is no 'cause' for what simply 'is'.

Thought/ego wants to determine such things as 'why' and 'wherefore' simply to get more of the warm fuzzy stuff, and avoid the unpleasant.
Emotional self-serving!

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