The many faces of the free will problem

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Relinquish
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Relinquish » April 10th, 2017, 7:37 pm

Togo1 wrote:
Relinquish wrote:The following is my basic argument for the illusion of free will.

The only possible reason someone would choose to do something that they would actually rather not do (as per their own conditioned preferences) is that they do not want the anticipated undesirable consequences of them NOT doing it to come true.

Any activity that we BOTH have no desire to do AND feel that not doing it will have no undesirable consequences is an activity that is fundamentally ruled out from possibility.

We didn't CHOOSE our own desires.

To test this assertion, try now to GENUINELY cease desiring something that you strongly desire. Conversely, try to GENUINELY desire something that you have absolutely no desire for.

Can you do it? GENUINELY?

Naturally, we are all following what we perceive to be the path of least resistance to get as close to happiness as possible and as far from unhappiness as possible. Of course, we all have different preferences. Our preferences are what they are because of the surrounding environment into which we were born, completely outside of any control. Had we been born into a different surrounding environment, our preferences would have different.

This is rhetorical slight of hand. You've set up a narrative that sounds like it logically excludes choices, but it doesn't really.

Consider it restated formally

P1 All actions are either following desires or avoiding negative consequences
P2 We do not choose our desires
P3 We do not choose the existance of negative consequences

Therefore
C1 We do not choose our actions.


Once you lay it out, P1 looks a bit weird doesn't it? What you're doing here, is taking the idea that we decide to do things, and describing in instead in the passive voice - as a decision that is followed. Because any decision that we make, any thing we decide to do, you're defining as following a (pre-existing?) desire. But the only evidence for this desire, is that we made a decision to do something. So what you're really saying, absent your a priori decision to cast all decisions as desires, is this:

P1 All actions are either voluntary decisions or avoiding negative consequences
P2 We do not choose our voluntray decisions
...

Which is a contradiction - voluntary decisions are chosen by definition.

Now I'm trying to avoid technical terminology here, but the principle being violated here is that if you can't, in formal logic, substitute one term with another, then two terms aren't equivalent. Since substituting desires for voluntary decisions results in a contradiction, the two can't be equivalent to each other, which in turn means decisions and following desires are not equivalent. This in turns means that by choosing the particular form in which you state the problem (as desires rather than decisions), you're assuming the conclusion you wish to prove - otherwise known as the fallacy of petitio principii, or begging the question.

Put more simply it's no more true to say that all actions follow an unchosen desire than it is to say that all actions follow an unchosen condition - because as long as we make choices, those choices have an impact on subsequent decisions. The formulation only makes sense if you first assume we don't make any choices, which is exactly the condition you're trying to prove. If you have to assume the truth of a statement to make an argument for it, that argument isn't worth much.

Does that make sense?
Yeah, I see what you're trying to get at, but I don't agree that "the only evidence for that desire, is that we made a decision to do something".

Either way, if everyone naturally wants to be happy, and no one naturally wants to be unhappy, why (and indeed, HOW) would anyone do something they BOTH have no desire to do AND feel that not doing it will have no undesirable consequences?

Fcacciola
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Fcacciola » April 10th, 2017, 8:29 pm

Relinquish wrote:Either way, if everyone naturally wants to be happy, and no one naturally wants to be unhappy, why (and indeed, HOW) would anyone do something they BOTH have no desire to do AND feel that not doing it will have no undesirable consequences?
Why does that matter? Why would free-will demand any particular rationality at all? Sure, that behavior is rather in-conducive, but why can't we have free-will and be dumbest than dumb at the same time?

You are trying to show that stupid decisions wouldn't exist, but since they are found all the time, it ought to mean that no actual decisions are being made. But it might very well just indicate that, effectively, we people really aren't that much rational as we might think we are, or should be.

Relinquish
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Relinquish » April 10th, 2017, 9:08 pm

Fcacciola wrote:
Relinquish wrote:Either way, if everyone naturally wants to be happy, and no one naturally wants to be unhappy, why (and indeed, HOW) would anyone do something they BOTH have no desire to do AND feel that not doing it will have no undesirable consequences?
Why does that matter? Why would free-will demand any particular rationality at all? Sure, that behavior is rather in-conducive, but why can't we have free-will and be dumbest than dumb at the same time?

You are trying to show that stupid decisions wouldn't exist, but since they are found all the time, it ought to mean that no actual decisions are being made. But it might very well just indicate that, effectively, we people really aren't that much rational as we might think we are, or should be.
I'd suggest that when it comes to undesirable activities in the context of the question of free will, we can group people into two categories.

A person in group A will look at an undesirable activity and say, "I really don't want to do this, but I'd prefer to do it than face the consequences of not doing it".

A person in group B will look at an undesirable activity and say, "I really don't want to do this, and I'd prefer to face the consequences of not doing it than to do it".

Both courses of action will be determined by preferences that neither person had any hand in deciding upon. These preferences being what they are, neither person could possibly choose otherwise.

-- Updated April 10th, 2017, 10:50 pm to add the following --

Also Fcacciola, you mentioned "stupid decisions". Can you give an example of a stupid decision?

Togo1
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Togo1 » April 11th, 2017, 11:36 am

Relinquish wrote: Both courses of action will be determined by preferences that neither person had any hand in deciding upon.
Why do you believe this to be the case?

Relinquish
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Relinquish » April 11th, 2017, 7:25 pm

Togo1 wrote:
Relinquish wrote: Both courses of action will be determined by preferences that neither person had any hand in deciding upon.
Why do you believe this to be the case?
I guess because it seems to me that any other state of affairs would be not be as logical as this one.

Which part do you disagree with? That we didn't decide upon what preferences to have, or that our actions are determined by our preferences?

My basic position is that all correctly functioning human beings fundamentally and choicelessly prefer happiness to unhappiness. Do you disagree with that?

Togo1
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Togo1 » April 12th, 2017, 8:42 am

Relinquish wrote:
Togo1 wrote:This is rhetorical slight of hand. You've set up a narrative that sounds like it logically excludes choices, but it doesn't really.

Consider it restated formally

P1 All actions are either following desires or avoiding negative consequences
P2 We do not choose our desires
P3 We do not choose the existance of negative consequences

Therefore
C1 We do not choose our actions.


Once you lay it out, P1 looks a bit weird doesn't it? What you're doing here, is taking the idea that we decide to do things, and describing in instead in the passive voice - as a decision that is followed. Because any decision that we make, any thing we decide to do, you're defining as following a (pre-existing?) desire. But the only evidence for this desire, is that we made a decision to do something. So what you're really saying, absent your a priori decision to cast all decisions as desires, is this:

P1 All actions are either voluntary decisions or avoiding negative consequences
P2 We do not choose our voluntray decisions
...

Which is a contradiction - voluntary decisions are chosen by definition.

Now I'm trying to avoid technical terminology here, but the principle being violated here is that if you can't, in formal logic, substitute one term with another, then two terms aren't equivalent. Since substituting desires for voluntary decisions results in a contradiction, the two can't be equivalent to each other, which in turn means decisions and following desires are not equivalent. This in turns means that by choosing the particular form in which you state the problem (as desires rather than decisions), you're assuming the conclusion you wish to prove - otherwise known as the fallacy of petitio principii, or begging the question.

Put more simply it's no more true to say that all actions follow an unchosen desire than it is to say that all actions follow an unchosen condition - because as long as we make choices, those choices have an impact on subsequent decisions. The formulation only makes sense if you first assume we don't make any choices, which is exactly the condition you're trying to prove. If you have to assume the truth of a statement to make an argument for it, that argument isn't worth much.

Does that make sense?
Yeah, I see what you're trying to get at, but I don't agree that "the only evidence for that desire, is that we made a decision to do something".
Doesn't matter, remove that one line and the arguement still stands. You're still trying to argue that decisions are not made because it's possible to frame the problem in a way that appears to exclude them. Do you understand why that doesn't work?

Relinquish
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Relinquish » April 12th, 2017, 8:47 am

Togo1 wrote:You're still trying to argue that decisions are not made because it's possible to frame the problem in a way that appears to exclude them. Do you understand why that doesn't work?
Not really. It appears to me to be the most logical way of framing the problem.

Are you going answer my most recent questions?

Togo1
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Togo1 » April 12th, 2017, 9:06 am

Relinquish wrote:
Togo1 wrote:You're still trying to argue that decisions are not made because it's possible to frame the problem in a way that appears to exclude them. Do you understand why that doesn't work?
Not really. It appears to me to be the most logical way of framing the problem.
That's nice, but doesn't help us. If we can frame the problem so as to apparently include free will and frame the problem so as to apparently exclude free will, what we've demonstrated is that framing the problem doesn't tell us anything about free will.
Relinquish wrote:Are you going answer my most recent questions?
They're just a restatement of your previous position, aren't they? Which we're already discussing.

-- Updated April 12th, 2017, 9:18 am to add the following --
Relinquish wrote:
Togo1 wrote: (Nested quote removed.)


Why do you believe this to be the case?
I guess because it seems to me that any other state of affairs would be not be as logical as this one.
By 'logical' do you mean anything beyond 'it seems right to me'? Is this just an intuitive preference?
Relinquish wrote:Which part do you disagree with? That we didn't decide upon what preferences to have, or that our actions are determined by our preferences?
Both.

Looking at the first part, the key point is intentionality, since that's what you're claiming is unecessary. When I decide to do something, you're claiming that's necessarily preceeded by a preference to do it. But that's inaccuarate, because until I work out what I intend to do, or what I want to do, I don't have a preference. So the act of preferring a course of action is contained within a decision. How then can you say that a preference isn't decided upon?

Looking at the second part, I don't agree that our actions are determined, whether by our preferences or by anything else. The relationship may be a causal one, is not a determined one. This is an important distinction because it's a determined, rather than a causal, relationship, that logically conflicts with free will. Absent of a strictly determined relationship, there's no conflict between free will and mere cause.
Relinquish wrote:My basic position is that all correctly functioning human beings fundamentally and choicelessly prefer happiness to unhappiness. Do you disagree with that?
Yes. Seriously, have you met people? They make choices that make them less happy all the time. :)

The usual demonstration of this is the big pink box thought experiment. Have you heard that one?

Relinquish
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Relinquish » April 12th, 2017, 9:21 am

Togo1 wrote:
Relinquish wrote: (Nested quote removed.)


Not really. It appears to me to be the most logical way of framing the problem.
That's nice, but doesn't help us. If we can frame the problem so as to apparently include free will and frame the problem so as to apparently exclude free will, what we've demonstrated is that framing the problem doesn't tell us anything about free will.
Relinquish wrote:Are you going answer my most recent questions?
They're just a restatement of your previous position, aren't they? Which we're already discussing.
Fair enough. I see now what you're saying about framing. Good point.

As for my questions, I take it that you disagree with the notion that everybody naturally wants to be happy and nobody naturally wants to be unhappy?

-- Updated April 12th, 2017, 9:23 am to add the following --

Sorry, didn't see the edit.

-- Updated April 13th, 2017, 7:25 pm to add the following --

Togo1, as for intentionality, we all have a constant fundamental intention in our lives that never need to be worked out. That is, the intention to get as close to happiness as possible, and as far from unhappiness as possible. No decision ever had to be made about this. We could say it is an inherent inclination or tendency. Sure, people make choices that land them closer to unhappiness all the time, but landing there would definitely not have been their intention. Given all the information available to them in that moment, the choice would have, as it were, "seemed like a good idea at the time".

As for the causality versus determinism issue, if our wills are being CAUSED to be what they are by many factors that we have no control over, in what way are we freely in control of our wills? How could we have caused our wills to be different to what they are? How is this NOT a deterministic situation?

Gertie
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Gertie » April 14th, 2017, 7:02 am

Togo,

Apologies for the delay, and thanks for the summary
a) It assumes physical determinism, an a priori belief that has numerous issues in and of itself.
I'd rather avoid the concept of determinism which for some brings additional baggage, and stick with the straightforward claim the argument makes -
that physical causal interactions can apparently in principle explain all behaviour, therefore free will involving mental causative mental decisions is redundant/has no effect.
b) It assumes that physical and mental activities do not overlap. This further assumes that physical activities have no mental component, and vice versa. Given that the conclusion is the idea that physical behaviour, a subset of the physical, has no mental component, this is begging the question.
I don't see how. It's based on empiricism and science. The argument says it looks like our behaviour can be fully explained in line with known physical science, without the need to invoke mental causation (mental decision-making and willing).
c) It falls foul of the mind-body problem. It requires a careful coordination of (false) mental experience with actual physical behaviour. There's no obvious way to accomplish this, unless mind and body are causally connected in some way.
Do you mean it doesn't explain why our mental experience correlates with our behaviour? I agree there. For me that suggests a deeper explanation of the relationship between mind and body is required, that our current scientific models are incomplete and we're missing knowledge required to understand the issue of free will.
d) It's neurologically inaccurate. While we can see behaviour at various levels of sophistication, beyond a certain point, they invariably include mental experience. There are clear and distinct neurological differences between conscious and unconscious processing. There is no reason to think that mental experience is optional, and to propose otherwise does not relieve us of the need to account for the available evidence.
I need to break this down -
While we can see behaviour at various levels of sophistication, beyond a certain point, they invariably include mental experience....There is no reason to think that mental experience is optional, and to propose otherwise does not relieve us of the need to account for the available evidence.
It doesn't deny the existence of mental experience, only its causative role (ie free will)
There are clear and distinct neurological differences between conscious and unconscious processin


Irrelevant. If the physical processes interacting causally result in the behaviour, whatever types of physical processes they are and however complex, free will is redundant. Free will is only possible if mental states play a causative role in those physical processes. If the physical processes fully account for the behaviour - where is the free will?
e) It's scientifically problematical. Given that this thesis contradicts our present scientific understanding on several levels, from the difficulty of actually modelling behaviour on this basis, to the logical issues of putting a priori beliefs ahead of emperical evidence, it would seem more reasonable to stick with the science, unless there is a reason not to.
This argument is based in known science, I don;t understand this objection. It's difficult to model behaviour on this basis because of the unimaginable complexity of the physical processes involved. I've made the point that unless our physical systems are capable of executing our behaviour (whether mentally caused or not), something very strange is going on which we have no evidence for.
f) It's logically problematical. If we have a system where our impressions of how the world works are not just inaccurate, and the world secretly works in a difference way, then we can not assume that our perception of the world is accurate enough to draw meaningful conclusions about it. It's illogical to insist we have knowledge about one aspect of our experience of the world, while dismissing another.
Yep. I only see this argument as a problem to be accounted for by people positively asserting the existence of free will, not a slam dunk argument that free will can't exist.

As I've said, imo we can't know if anything worth calling free will can exist, and what it might involve, until we understand the relationship between mind and body, physical stuff and mental experience.
In regards to your position, I'd suggest that the very idea of 'mental causation' as opposed to physical causation, is a category error. It presupposes the conclusion by ruling out the idea that causation in general, and decision making in particular, can have both mental and physical aspects to the same task. As such, 'mental causation', by which you apppear to mean 'causation with no physical component', is not a requirement of free will at all. Free will needs a mental aspect, but there's no requirement for it to lack a physical aspect.
My own position is as I've just said, and said before, we don't know if free will can exist without understanding the relationship between the mental and physical. Which is where ideas like monism, dualism, panpsychism, etc come in. If there's ever any consensus on this fundamental question, maybe we'll have an answer to the question of free will.

Meanwhile we can examine what evidence we have and draw inferences, do philosophy. But it seems to me there are conflicting inferences and we can't form a conclusion on free will from what's available, which brings me back to the need to have an understanding of the relationship between the mental and physical.

Belindi
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Belindi » April 14th, 2017, 7:28 am

Fcacciola wrote:
Why would free-will demand any particular rationality at all? Sure, that behavior is rather in-conducive, but why can't we have free-will and be dumbest than dumb at the same time?
We can be dumbest of the dumb and have Free Will as follows. Indeed Free Will demands no rationality at all. This is because Free Will involves random choices. Random choices are not only unreasoned they are uncaused even by emotional states. It follows that creatures that make random choices are the stupidest of creatures, incapable of learning.

Briefly:

Free Will choices are uncaused choices.

Causes for choices include reasoned choices and emotionally reactive unreasoned choices.


(conclusion)Free Will choices are stupid, dumb, or learning-incapable.

The only rationale for Free Will is that within a person somehow dwells an unseen little man who is clever and knows a lot. However this begs the question "Are the little man's choices caused or uncaused?"

Gertie
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Gertie » April 14th, 2017, 7:30 am

Fc

Your discussion of the science is way out of my depth, so I'm going to tiptoe away from that...

The argument I find myself defending here is a pretty standard one in the free will debate, and is at least anchored in our current models of how the world works, so worthy of being addressed imo by those who assert free will exists. My own opinion is that physical causation accounting for our behaviour leaves a lot of unanswered questions, and this points to the need for a deeper explanation. A deeper explanation which encompasses conscious experience and its relationship with the stuff we can observe and measure and model. And until we have that, we can't answer the question of whether we have free will.

Belindi
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Belindi » April 14th, 2017, 7:51 am

Gertie, what can there be other than physical or mental causation? By "deeper" do you refer to a supernatural causation, or do you refer to the Standard Model of quantum mechanics?
BTW, determinism doesn't imply prediction. We might know an awful lot of causes but still we cannot predict 100% accurately.

Gertie
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Gertie » April 14th, 2017, 12:10 pm

Belindi

Free Will choices are uncaused choices.

Causes for choices include reasoned choices and emotionally reactive unreasoned choices.


(conclusion)Free Will choices are stupid, dumb, or learning-incapable.
That made me laugh! But it has a logic to it! :lol:
Gertie, what can there be other than physical or mental causation? By "deeper" do you refer to a supernatural causation, or do you refer to the Standard Model of quantum mechanics?
I'm a confirmed Don't Knowist when it comes to free will, based on the fact that mental experiential states don't have a place in our scientific models of how the world works, and it's hard to even see how they could - the 'explanatory gap'. Currently we have ideas, 'What Ifs', like monism, substance dualism, emergence, panpsychism, which try to get a handle on the problem, and one might be right. Or the relationship between stuff 'out there' which we can make shared/objective observations of, quantify, predict,etc and our internal, private subjective experience might be something completely different, perhaps even something we're not cognitively equipped to understand. Perhaps something more fundamental which manifests in these ways to our limited perception.

So while the framing of mental and physical seems intuitively right to us, we could be missing a bigger picture. We don't know. Possibly something supernatural, altho I'd say once we understand what is thought of as supernatural, it becomes natural, the way things are, the nature of the universe.

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Felix
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Re: The many faces of the free will problem

Post by Felix » April 15th, 2017, 12:59 pm

As I said earlier, it is a logical contradiction to say that all mental phenomena has a physical cause, and claim that Science is your authority for that determination. If all mental phenomena is physically caused, than independent, original thought and therefore the practice of science is not possible; it's "discoveries" are unreliable for they are not discoveries at all, but merely programmed information spit out by biocomputers.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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