Fate of Free Will?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Marvin_Edwards
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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 30th, 2020, 8:17 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
July 30th, 2020, 6:11 pm
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 30th, 2020, 3:19 pm


Okay. So, if I recall correctly I was discussing the two options that I had for breakfast this morning, pancakes or eggs. The history of eggs as an option was my prior experience having eggs for a meal. The history of pancakes as an option had a similar history. These two histories are contained in the history of my life, some time after I was born, when I had my first eggs and when I had my first pancakes. The history of my life is contained within the history of all life on Earth. The history of all life on Earth is contained within the history of the universe. The history of the universe is contained within the serial history of all the universes that resulted from all the Big Bangs throughout eternity. The history of eternity has no start and has no end.
That you have prior experience of having eggs and pancakes as a meal isn't at all sufficient to support that it's a causal necessity that you have those two options (and only those two options).

Why not?

Well, because we can just as well say that it's a simply a contingent possibility that you can have those two options based on prior experience.

Contingent possibilities are not the same thing as causal necessities.

So that you had the prior experiences isn't a valid argument for causal necessity. (Validity guarantees that the premises can't be true while the conclusion is false.)
I am asserting that both possibilities came to mind due to a number of reasonable causes. One of those causes was my prior experience with eggs and with pancakes. One of those causes was it being time for breakfast. Any number of other causes may be also involved. I do not know all of the causes involved.

I presume that all of the causes will fall into three classes of causal mechanisms: physical, biological, and rational. A biological cause would be my hunger for something to eat for breakfast. A rational cause would be the choosing operation that I am performing.

I don't offer any proof. But I do believe that common sense suggests that there will be reliable causes. And if there are not reliable causes, then we're all screwed, because the only control we have over any events in our lives is totally dependent upon reliable causation.

Do you see the world operating without reliable cause and effect? Is every event a miracle? If so, then how do you command such miracles when you want to do something, like fixing breakfast?

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Terrapin Station » July 31st, 2020, 10:16 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 30th, 2020, 8:17 pm
I am asserting that both possibilities came to mind due to a number of reasonable causes. One of those causes was my prior experience with eggs and with pancakes. One of those causes was it being time for breakfast. Any number of other causes may be also involved. I do not know all of the causes involved.
What you had said, which is what I'm challenging in the context of the rest of your comments is this: "Each event is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity."

So I'm challenging you to say how the option at hand is causally necessary from prior points.

I'm assuming you have a good justification for saying that the specific option of pancakes or eggs is causally necessary and that it's not just an instance of something like, "Gee, I don't know--I just assume that 'each event is causally necessary from any prior point' goes for everything, as something like a rule of thumb."
I presume that all of the causes will fall into three classes of causal mechanisms: physical, biological, and rational.
How would we assert necessary rational causes, exactly? What would that amount to?
I don't offer any proof.
I'm just asking for the justification for why you believe that the option of pancakes or eggs is causally necessary (and not just something like a contingent possibility) from prior states. Again, I'm assuming that you'd have a good justification for this, or you wouldn't assert it.
But I do believe that common sense suggests that there will be reliable causes. And if there are not reliable causes, then we're all screwed, because the only control we have over any events in our lives is totally dependent upon reliable causation.
It sure seems like a lot of things are chance-oriented and that we don't have control over everything, doesn't it?
Do you see the world operating without reliable cause and effect?
First, if you believe there aren't free ontological events, then you'd have no grounds for claiming the possibility of making choices or decisions. You'd have to say that those choices or decisions are really illusions--causally determined illusions, of course.

But sure, I believe that there are free ontological events. Certainly many things, if not most, exhibit regularities, but that's not the same thing as determinism or causal necessity for everything.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 31st, 2020, 12:18 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 10:16 am
What you had said, which is what I'm challenging in the context of the rest of your comments is this: "Each event is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity." So I'm challenging you to say how the option at hand is causally necessary from prior points.
The way philosophy got to determinism was by (1) observing the reliable behavior of objects, such as falling objects and their consistent acceleration over time as they dropped to the surface and (2) observing the history of events and how one event inevitably leads to the next. This resulted in the notion that every event is reliably caused by prior events. And that led to the notion that, given those prior events, the current event was causally necessary and inevitably must happened.

You can take any current event and, at least in theory, trace at least a limited history of prior events that made it necessary. For example, I'm writing this comment at this moment because I paused Die Hard 2 to check the laundry, moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer, and then since the TV was already paused, figured I would check for any new messages before finishing the movie. And, here I am, one event leading reliably to the next until we get to my fingers pressing the keys to respond to your remarks. Now there are a ton of other causes involved, such as my long history with the topic of determinism and free will. I can't itemize that list for you, but I know that those events also led to my current typing.

If we assume a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, then it logically follows that every event that ever happens is the reliable result of a network of prior causes. Thus, every event is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity and inevitably must happen. That's the reasoning behind the assertion.
Marvin wrote: I presume that all of the causes will fall into three classes of causal mechanisms: physical, biological, and rational.
Terrapin Station wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 10:16 am
How would we assert necessary rational causes, exactly? What would that amount to?
An example of rational causation is choosing. We encounter a problem or issue. We imagine alternative solutions. We comparatively evaluate what is likely to happen with each course of action. We select the best action. The action is an "I will x", where x is the action we chose. That "I will" sets our intent, which motivates and directs our subsequent actions, thus exercising our control over what happens next.
Terrapin Station wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 10:16 am
It sure seems like a lot of things are chance-oriented and that we don't have control over everything, doesn't it?
That's right. However, what appears to be random chance is also reliably caused. A coin flip, for example, is a matter of the location of the thumb on the coin, the force applied, the effects of air resistance, the angle of the bounce, etc. In theory, knowing all of those details (or controlling them under experimental conditions) we could always predict whether it will land heads up or tails.
Terrapin Station wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 10:16 am
First, if you believe there aren't free ontological events, then you'd have no grounds for claiming the possibility of making choices or decisions. You'd have to say that those choices or decisions are really illusions--causally determined illusions, of course.
I disagree. Choosing is a deterministic process, therefore, a choice we make of our own free will is a deterministic event. That's actually the solution to the riddle. There is no contradiction between the choice being reliably caused and its being reliably caused by us.
Terrapin Station wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 10:16 am
But sure, I believe that there are free ontological events. Certainly many things, if not most, exhibit regularities, but that's not the same thing as determinism or causal necessity for everything.
Just as the definition of free will must be modified to match its operational meaning (a choice "free of coercion and undue influence" rather than a choice "free of causation"), the definition of determinism must be trimmed of all the erroneous implications that have been attached to it. Determinism asserts that every event is the reliable product of prior events. Given the same past events all current events are causally necessary and inevitably must happen. What does this imply in practical terms? Absolutely nothing. All of the imaginary implications are false.

For example:
Terrapin Station wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 10:16 am
First, if you believe there aren't free ontological events, then you'd have no grounds for claiming the possibility of making choices or decisions. You'd have to say that those choices or decisions are really illusions--causally determined illusions, of course.


We objectively observe people making choices all the time, so determinism may not suggest that this is an illusion. What it can assert is that each event within the decision making process was causally necessary and inevitably would happen. In fact, determinism would assert that the choosing process itself was inevitable, rather than impossible. Do you see?

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » July 31st, 2020, 4:53 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 12:18 pm


The way philosophy got to determinism was by (1) observing the reliable behavior of objects, such as falling objects and their consistent acceleration over time as they dropped to the surface and (2) observing the history of events and how one event inevitably leads to the next. This resulted in the notion that every event is reliably caused by prior events. And that led to the notion that, given those prior events, the current event was causally necessary and inevitably must happened.

You can take any current event and, at least in theory, trace at least a limited history of prior events that made it necessary. For example, I'm writing this comment at this moment because I paused Die Hard 2 to check the laundry, moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer, and then since the TV was already paused, figured I would check for any new messages before finishing the movie. And, here I am, one event leading reliably to the next until we get to my fingers pressing the keys to respond to your remarks. Now there are a ton of other causes involved, such as my long history with the topic of determinism and free will. I can't itemize that list for you, but I know that those events also led to my current typing.

If we assume a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, then it logically follows that every event that ever happens is the reliable result of a network of prior causes. Thus, every event is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity and inevitably must happen. That's the reasoning behind the assertion.

I think you're misusing the word "cause". Just as in the case of "fate" vs. "free will", this muisunderstanding of language results in confusion. If everything is caused by everything else, the word "cause" becomes meaningless. The butterfly flapping its wings in Japan "causes" the thundetrstorm just as much as the cold front does.

In general, we use the word "cause" to mean:

1) A “cause” is the free and intentional act of a conscious and responsible agent. (i.e. if you shoot some one, you cause his death).

2) A “cause” is the handle we manipulate to create an effect. (i.e. if x+existing conditions = y, and x can be manipulated, we say x causes y) By this definition, if a car skids going around a curve, the "cause" may be the speed of the car (to the driver), the lack of banking on the turn (to the road engineer), or the lack of traction in the tires (to the tire maker). This definition can also be used by experimental scientists.

3) In theoretical science, a cause is something which is necessary in both existence and operation to the thing it is causing, For the rationalist, x causes y if x is an "insight" into y, so you could say the first two sides of a triangle "cause" the dimensions of the third side. For the empiricist, a cause is an observed conjunction -- all x are followed by y.

When we view causation in these ways, it becomes meaningful. When we hit the light switch, the light goes on. This is both a handle we can manipulate and an intentional act. The way you suggest we use the word allows it to mean everything and therefore nothing.

One more point: viewing the world this way leads to prejudices which are antithetical to objective observation. For example, if we see something that appears to defy the laws of gravity, we might believe in the laws and not our own eyes. Is this really a scientific approach?

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 31st, 2020, 6:04 pm

Ecurb wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 4:53 pm
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 12:18 pm


The way philosophy got to determinism was by (1) observing the reliable behavior of objects, such as falling objects and their consistent acceleration over time as they dropped to the surface and (2) observing the history of events and how one event inevitably leads to the next. This resulted in the notion that every event is reliably caused by prior events. And that led to the notion that, given those prior events, the current event was causally necessary and inevitably must happened.

You can take any current event and, at least in theory, trace at least a limited history of prior events that made it necessary. For example, I'm writing this comment at this moment because I paused Die Hard 2 to check the laundry, moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer, and then since the TV was already paused, figured I would check for any new messages before finishing the movie. And, here I am, one event leading reliably to the next until we get to my fingers pressing the keys to respond to your remarks. Now there are a ton of other causes involved, such as my long history with the topic of determinism and free will. I can't itemize that list for you, but I know that those events also led to my current typing.

If we assume a world of perfectly reliable cause and effect, then it logically follows that every event that ever happens is the reliable result of a network of prior causes. Thus, every event is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity and inevitably must happen. That's the reasoning behind the assertion.

I think you're misusing the word "cause". Just as in the case of "fate" vs. "free will", this muisunderstanding of language results in confusion. If everything is caused by everything else, the word "cause" becomes meaningless. The butterfly flapping its wings in Japan "causes" the thundetrstorm just as much as the cold front does.

In general, we use the word "cause" to mean:

1) A “cause” is the free and intentional act of a conscious and responsible agent. (i.e. if you shoot some one, you cause his death).

2) A “cause” is the handle we manipulate to create an effect. (i.e. if x+existing conditions = y, and x can be manipulated, we say x causes y) By this definition, if a car skids going around a curve, the "cause" may be the speed of the car (to the driver), the lack of banking on the turn (to the road engineer), or the lack of traction in the tires (to the tire maker). This definition can also be used by experimental scientists.

3) In theoretical science, a cause is something which is necessary in both existence and operation to the thing it is causing, For the rationalist, x causes y if x is an "insight" into y, so you could say the first two sides of a triangle "cause" the dimensions of the third side. For the empiricist, a cause is an observed conjunction -- all x are followed by y.

When we view causation in these ways, it becomes meaningful. When we hit the light switch, the light goes on. This is both a handle we can manipulate and an intentional act. The way you suggest we use the word allows it to mean everything and therefore nothing.

One more point: viewing the world this way leads to prejudices which are antithetical to objective observation. For example, if we see something that appears to defy the laws of gravity, we might believe in the laws and not our own eyes. Is this really a scientific approach?
Sure. One can use cause in all of those ways. The way I use it is in cause and effect pairs. A cause is one event and an effect is the necessitated second event. As you follow a "causal chain" the second event becomes the cause of the third event, and then the third event becomes the cause of the fourth event, etc. Each event is both an effect of its prior event and a cause of the next event. In most cases there will be multiple causes involved in bringing about a given effect, so it is less like a chain and more like a tree or network of causation.

Causes may or may not be meaningful or relevant. A cause is meaningful if it efficiently explains why an event happened. A cause is relevant if we can do something about it. The Big Bang is neither a meaningful nor a relevant cause of any human event.

In the same fashion, causal necessity is neither a meaningful nor a relevant cause of any human event. Since it is always true of every event it tells us nothing new and nothing useful.

In the case of (1) the person shooting someone and causing their death, we need to distinguish between the cases where the person is a sane adult who made a deliberate choice of his own free will, or, whether the person was unduly influenced by a mental illness that created hallucinations or delusions, or lacked the ability to reason morally, or was compelled by irresistible impulse. If the person's thinking was at fault then we need to change how the person thinks about such things in the future. This typically involves prison and rehabilitation if the person is willing to change. But if the cause was not a sane decision, but rather caused by a mental illness, then psychiatric treatment is required.

Both events are causally necessary from any prior point in eternity, but that fact is useless.

In the 2nd case where we have an auto accident or an airplane crash, we want to know all of the contributing causes: driver/pilot error, machine failure, weather, etc. Ideally, we would want to correct all of the contributing factors to get the lowest risk of another accident.

I don't see cause and effect in the 3rd case involving the triangle. There are no events in that case. No happenings. Rather it seems a matter of a priori definitions being applied.

In the 4th case, the empiricist observing that x is always followed by y, the hypothesis is that x causes y. That hypothesis is subject to further research and experimentation to confirm that x is always followed by y and to explain the mechanism by which x brings about y.

A prejudice is an unfounded belief. Science usually goes a long way to provide a foundation for its beliefs, but they too are only human, and all humans must act with incomplete information sometimes.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » July 31st, 2020, 6:15 pm

Prejudice affects science more than (perhaps) we think it does. For example, prior to Einstein the Incorrect (but seemingly obvious) notion that time is a constant caused confusion. Unless God is a cosmic clockmaker, there are no "laws of nature" except those invented by humans. Objects don't fall in accordance with the "laws of gravity"; the laws of gravity were developed in accordance with how objects fall.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 31st, 2020, 8:32 pm

Ecurb wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 6:15 pm
Prejudice affects science more than (perhaps) we think it does. For example, prior to Einstein the Incorrect (but seemingly obvious) notion that time is a constant caused confusion. Unless God is a cosmic clockmaker, there are no "laws of nature" except those invented by humans. Objects don't fall in accordance with the "laws of gravity"; the laws of gravity were developed in accordance with how objects fall.
Exactly. The "laws" of nature are merely a metaphor. The only things "governed" by these laws is the physicist or astronomer as they work out their calculations.

Oh, by the way, time is constant. It's the motion of the objects that speeds up or slows down as they approach a gravity source or travel at different speeds. The physical clock speeds up or slows down, in relation to another clock traveling under different conditions.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by chewybrian » August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 12:18 pm
We objectively observe people making choices all the time, so determinism may not suggest that this is an illusion. What it can assert is that each event within the decision making process was causally necessary and inevitably would happen. In fact, determinism would assert that the choosing process itself was inevitable, rather than impossible. Do you see?
No. I see that you do not acknowledge the implications of your alleged belief. Free will and determinism are irreconcilable by definition. If my 'choice' is only the unavoidable result of prior events, then I am not alive. There is an earth-shattering difference between alive and dead, and you can not assume the same rules apply to both. Roll a dead badger and a live one down a steep hill. The dead one will react according to predictable forces, but the live one may turn around and bite you! We don't even understand the nature of our own consciousness, so it is sophomoric to presume that we are subject to the same rules as inert matter, when we can see and feel that we are not.

Further, you are not addressing the implications of this deterministic view when applied to living things. If my choice is fully determined by past events, then I will be unable to take any other choice but the determined one at any given moment. Thus, there is no reason I should not try to kill myself right now or at any moment. If the past dictated that this is what I was about to do, then I could not have avoided it anyway. But, if it did not, then I must somehow be prevented by the universe from completing the act. But, you know that the universe does not know or care about your intentions. And, you know that you could kill yourself right now if you decided to do so.

I am motivated to act in the world precisely because I know, as far and as well as I know anything, that I can choose (meaning that I could have chosen differently). If I really felt that I was a muppet of the past, then why would I get out of bed or try to do anything? Why wouldn't I kill myself just to show that I had no other option? In fact, I believe I would want to kill myself if I thought I could never affect outcomes in the world by my own choice. Choosing is the very essence of being human, of being alive. You are implicitly telling me that I am being intellectually dishonest if I believe in myself, in my own perceptions, feelings and subjective understanding of the world. But, I say just the opposite. This subjective understanding is all that I have, and any theory which I might decide to accept must be filtered through it. Perhaps you can fairly make such a charge against something like religion (though I would not). If someone wishes to defend their religion, they can not summon God to prove their point. But, I can summon my free will at any moment. In fact, I can not deny it. Any attempt to repress it is also an act of will. You are truly condemned to be free, and no theory can wash this away, and you are acting in bad faith if you try to deny accountability for your own choices.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » August 1st, 2020, 10:04 am

chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am
No. I see that you do not acknowledge the implications of your alleged belief.
My position is that determinism has absolutely no practical implications at all to human beings. It is nothing more that good old reliable cause and effect. And everybody already believes in reliable cause and effect. So, determinism doesn't change anything (in fact, it necessitates that things are precisely as they are).
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am
Free will and determinism are irreconcilable by definition.
Then you're using the wrong definitions. If you define free will as "the absence of determinism" or define determinism as "the absence of free will", then they would be incompatible. But those are not the correct definitions of either term.

Free will is a choice we make that is free of coercion and undue influence.
Determinism asserts that all events are reliably caused by prior events.
These two notions are not incompatible.
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am
If my 'choice' is only the unavoidable result of prior events, then I am not alive.


Really? What if your choice is the unavoidable result of your own purposes and your own reasons and your own interests and your own thoughts and feelings? Are they not prior events of your choice? Are they not also you?
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am
...it is sophomoric to presume that we are subject to the same rules as inert matter, when we can see and feel that we are not.
Correct. There are three distinct classes of causal mechanisms: physical (behaves passively in response to physical forces), biological (behaves purposefully, driven by a need to survive, thrive, and reproduce), and rational (behaves deliberately by calculation and reasoning, imagining alternative means of accomplishing those biological ends, evaluates their options, and chooses what they will do of their own free will).
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am
If my choice is fully determined by past events, then I will be unable to take any other choice but the determined one at any given moment.
Again, those past events include you as the most meaningful and relevant cause of what you do.
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am
But, you know that the universe does not know or care about your intentions.


That is correct. So, again, it's really up to you what you do next.
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am
I am motivated to act in the world precisely because I know, as far and as well as I know anything, that I can choose (meaning that I could have chosen differently).


That is correct. Whenever a choosing operation is involved two things must be true by logical necessity: (1) there must be at least two real possibilities to choose from (even if its just "do" or "don't") and (2) it must be possible to choose either one.

Within the domain of human influence (stuff we can do something about), the single inevitable future will be chosen from multiple possible futures. There will always be multiple "I can's" from which the single "I will" is chosen. Thus, whenever there is a choosing operation, "I would have done otherwise" is always false, but "I could have done otherwise" is always true.
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am

You are implicitly telling me that I am being intellectually dishonest if I believe in myself, in my own perceptions, feelings and subjective understanding of the world.
Nope. I'm pretty sure you've never heard any of that crap from me.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » August 1st, 2020, 10:06 am

chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am


I am motivated to act in the world precisely because I know, as far and as well as I know anything, that I can choose (meaning that I could have chosen differently). If I really felt that I was a muppet of the past, then why would I get out of bed or try to do anything? Why wouldn't I kill myself just to show that I had no other option? In fact, I believe I would want to kill myself if I thought I could never affect outcomes in the world by my own choice. Choosing is the very essence of being human, of being alive. You are implicitly telling me that I am being intellectually dishonest if I believe in myself, in my own perceptions, feelings and subjective understanding of the world. But, I say just the opposite. This subjective understanding is all that I have, and any theory which I might decide to accept must be filtered through it. Perhaps you can fairly make such a charge against something like religion (though I would not). If someone wishes to defend their religion, they can not summon God to prove their point. But, I can summon my free will at any moment. In fact, I can not deny it. Any attempt to repress it is also an act of will. You are truly condemned to be free, and no theory can wash this away, and you are acting in bad faith if you try to deny accountability for your own choices.
Nobody is denying accountability. Suppose, however, that you are wrong and your every thought is governed by the involuntary electrical impulses in your neurons, and has been fated from eternity. How does this make any difference TO YOU? Since you don't know what choice you will make before you make it, it is a distinction without a difference. The blackjack player must decide whether to hit or hold. He doesn't know what the top card on the deck is, although the deck has already been shuffled and the top card has already been determined. You are like the card player. You must muddle through the best you can, and it makes no difference to you whether the omnipotent God or the prescient neuroscientist knows ahead of time what choice you will make.

Choosing is essential to conscious, volitional actors regardless of whether their choices are predetermined. Your insistence that belief in determinism is somehow a denial of this basic truth is mere egoism, as if you are saying, "Nobody can know more about me than I." But in the case of the card player, anyone who can see the other side of the cards knows more than he does. That doesn't invalidate the manner in which he makes his choice.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by chewybrian » Yesterday, 6:34 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 10:04 am
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am
No. I see that you do not acknowledge the implications of your alleged belief.
My position is that determinism has absolutely no practical implications at all to human beings. It is nothing more that good old reliable cause and effect. And everybody already believes in reliable cause and effect. So, determinism doesn't change anything (in fact, it necessitates that things are precisely as they are).
No, it is a lot more. You are transferring the rules that apply to inert matter to people with nothing more than theory to say they fit. In the process, you are crushing all accountability, pride, shame, remorse, any chance for self-improvement, and any real sense of being alive in the way people have always understood it and still do, for the most part. You are glossing over all the evidence that says the rules for people are not the same because the evidence does not fit your preferred understanding. It is useful to understand that inert matter reacts to causes according to reliable rules. It is also crystal clear that people do not. Predicting people is like predicting weather. You can get some broad idea about what should be about to happen based on conditions, but you could be horribly, or wonderfully, wrong. Perhaps it is, as in the case of the weather, due to the fact that so many causes are occurring that we lose track of some. Or, perhaps it is consistent with my own subjective understanding, which is that I can alter the future of my own accord, as circumstances allow, to some small extent.

I am not being intellectually dishonest to say that I prefer my own subjective experience to a theory. But, you are being intellectually dishonest to say the door is closed on *real* free will because you wish your unproven understanding of reality to be truth. I will be open enough to admit that determinism seems to be a live possibility, though I doubt it is right. If you are not honest enough to see that real true free will (I could have chosen differently under identical circumstances, my choices are not 100% caused by prior events, I can start a new chain of causes and effects...) is a live possibility, then you are no more intellectually honest than any devout (fill in the blank).
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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chewybrian
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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by chewybrian » Yesterday, 6:47 am

Ecurb wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 10:06 am
chewybrian wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 6:28 am


I am motivated to act in the world precisely because I know, as far and as well as I know anything, that I can choose (meaning that I could have chosen differently). If I really felt that I was a muppet of the past, then why would I get out of bed or try to do anything? Why wouldn't I kill myself just to show that I had no other option? In fact, I believe I would want to kill myself if I thought I could never affect outcomes in the world by my own choice. Choosing is the very essence of being human, of being alive. You are implicitly telling me that I am being intellectually dishonest if I believe in myself, in my own perceptions, feelings and subjective understanding of the world. But, I say just the opposite. This subjective understanding is all that I have, and any theory which I might decide to accept must be filtered through it. Perhaps you can fairly make such a charge against something like religion (though I would not). If someone wishes to defend their religion, they can not summon God to prove their point. But, I can summon my free will at any moment. In fact, I can not deny it. Any attempt to repress it is also an act of will. You are truly condemned to be free, and no theory can wash this away, and you are acting in bad faith if you try to deny accountability for your own choices.
Nobody is denying accountability. Suppose, however, that you are wrong and your every thought is governed by the involuntary electrical impulses in your neurons, and has been fated from eternity. How does this make any difference TO YOU? Since you don't know what choice you will make before you make it, it is a distinction without a difference. The blackjack player must decide whether to hit or hold. He doesn't know what the top card on the deck is, although the deck has already been shuffled and the top card has already been determined. You are like the card player. You must muddle through the best you can, and it makes no difference to you whether the omnipotent God or the prescient neuroscientist knows ahead of time what choice you will make.

Choosing is essential to conscious, volitional actors regardless of whether their choices are predetermined. Your insistence that belief in determinism is somehow a denial of this basic truth is mere egoism, as if you are saying, "Nobody can know more about me than I." But in the case of the card player, anyone who can see the other side of the cards knows more than he does. That doesn't invalidate the manner in which he makes his choice.
You are making the case as well as anyone has that I have seen, but I still don't buy it. How can I be accountable for a 'choice' if I was destined to do one thing and one thing only? It is as if you would tie me up in a chair, put a gun in my hand, point it at someone and push my finger down on the trigger. In this case, would you call me a murderer? How is a murderer in your determined universe any different?

My acceptance of my existence as it appears to me does not amount to a case of ego. I could easily make the same charge to someone who insists that their understanding is more important and useful than the facts of their own existence that are right in front of them. Is is not the summit of ego to tell me that I am somehow morally or intellectually obligated to accept your understanding of my life experience at the expense of my actual subjective experience in the world? I would readily admit that perhaps some psychiatrist or scientist may, under certain conditions, have a better understanding of my own motives than I do. I do not, in fact, claim to have a complete understanding of the world and myself, as the determinist does. But, I stand with Descartes and declare that I can not deny my own subjective existence, as I would have to exist to do the denying. This subjective existence quite obviously includes the fact that I am a free agent. At every waking moment I can see that I am free, truly free, to choose. If I can't understand or explain how this is possible under the rules that govern inert matter, this does not bother me, as I am also quite certain that I am not inert!
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Marvin_Edwards
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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » Yesterday, 9:24 am

chewybrian wrote:
Yesterday, 6:34 am
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 10:04 am

My position is that determinism has absolutely no practical implications at all to human beings. It is nothing more that good old reliable cause and effect. And everybody already believes in reliable cause and effect. So, determinism doesn't change anything (in fact, it necessitates that things are precisely as they are).
No, it is a lot more. You are transferring the rules that apply to inert matter to people with nothing more than theory to say they fit.


Nope, that wouldn't work. You get new rules when you organize matter into a living organism. You get purposeful behavior. You won't find purposeful behavior in any other object than a living organism. And you get more new rules when you evolve intelligence. Now you get deliberate behavior, based on thoughtful reasoning, calculation, feelings, morality, all the other things that we get to name when we are able to use words. Oh, and, of course, we get free will here as well.

But our choices are not indeterministic. They are not random or chaotic. If they were then we'd all be in mental institutions.

Reasoning, for example, is a deterministic mechanism based upon rational thought. That's determinism and free will in the same event.
chewybrian wrote:
Yesterday, 6:34 am
... Predicting people is like predicting weather. You can get some broad idea about what should be about to happen based on conditions, but you could be horribly, or wonderfully, wrong. Perhaps it is, as in the case of the weather, due to the fact that so many causes are occurring that we lose track of some. Or, perhaps it is consistent with my own subjective understanding, which is that I can alter the future of my own accord, as circumstances allow, to some small extent.


Or, you could alter the future to a large extent. I don't know. I only know its up to you. In fact, it was causally necessary and inevitable from any prior point in eternity that it would be up to you, and no other object in the entire universe.
chewybrian wrote:
Yesterday, 6:34 am
If you are not honest enough to see that real true free will (I could have chosen differently under identical circumstances, my choices are not 100% caused by prior events, I can start a new chain of causes and effects...) is a live possibility, then you are no more intellectually honest than any devout (fill in the blank).
It is always true that you could have chosen differently. It is always false that you would have chosen differently. (If you think you would have chosen differently given the same you and the same circumstances, why would you?)

What we can do is a very different notion that what we will do. What we can do may happen or may never happen. There are always multiple "I can's" in a choosing operation. But there is only one "I will". There is no way to get to the single "I will" without first going through the multiple "I can's". Each "I can" is an alternate possible future. So, we can't get to the single inevitable future without first going through multiple possible futures.

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