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.
Ecurb
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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » July 27th, 2020, 5:46 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:49 am


So between T1 and T2, you can't actually make a choice. Before you made a choice, God knew you'd choose vanilla, and God can't be wrong. This means that you can't choose chocolate at T2. Vanilla was your only option. That's no choice.

There are various ways that people have suggested out of this conundrum, but they all have problems, aside from the solution that there's no God (with omniscience, etc.) after all.
This is where I think you're wrong. It depends on what we mean by "choice". I'd suggest that you have a choice --it's just that god (or some neuroscientist) knows what your choice will be. My example of choices made in the past speaks to that. When you say, "I freely chose to eat a vanilla cone yesterday" you can no longer freely choose to eat a chocolate cone. Nonetheless, that doesn't invalidate the notion that you made a choice yesterday.

Martin Luther said, "Here I stand and I can do no other." He was obliged by his moral code to stand as he did -- but that doesn't mean he didn't have a choice. Think of the law: "premeditation" confers greater guilt. The murderer's conscious "choice" is relevant to his guilt, but whether he was destined to commit the crime is not. That's because the murderer chose to kill with malice aforehand whether God (or our Neuroscientist) knew he was going to murder or not.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 27th, 2020, 6:59 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:57 am
It's important to remember that if it's not actually ontologically possible at T1 to choose either A or B, so that you could say either at T2, then there is no choice. If there's only one possibility (at T1) re A or B for what you'll say at T2, then there's no free will.
When choosing, two things are true by logical necessity (required by the operation): (1) there must be at least two real possibilities to choose from (A and B) and (2) it must be possible to choose either one ("I can choose A" is true and "I can choose B" is also true).

It cannot be the case that there is only one possibility. What is going on here is that what we "can" do is getting conflated with what we "will" do. And these are two distinct notions. What we "can" do may never happen, but what we "will" do will happen.

Determinism is about what we "will" do. Thus, in a perfectly deterministic universe it will always be true that "I would not have done otherwise". However, whenever choosing is involved, it will always be true that "I could have done otherwise".

The "could" is the past tense of the "can". And there will always be at least two "I can's" in every choosing operation.

This is why the statement "I chose A, but I could have chosen B" is always true. All that determinism can validly assert is that "I would not have chosen B".

If we conduct the thought experiment where we roll back the clock to the beginning of the choosing operation, it will always be the case that there are two "I can's" at the beginning, but only one "I will" at the end. Thus, "I could have chosen B" is always true and "I would have chosen B" is always false.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 27th, 2020, 7:14 pm

Papus79 wrote:
July 26th, 2020, 11:09 am

2) People who don't use the term 'free will' to mean 'with exactly who I was yesterday I could have gotten a carton of eggs instead of a loaf of bread' (which is ill-defined for all kinds of reasons, that 'could' for example ignores all the structure that lead to that decision), what they actually mean is that 'this decision was uncoerced' and it says something about their relationship to themselves and their inner workings whereas if they really wanted to buy a carton of eggs but someone with a gun to their head and forced them to buy a loaf of bread instead of that this would mean that the decision says little more about their inner workings than 'I want to live'.
Well, "I could have gotten a carton of eggs instead of a loaf of bread" is true. Determinism must remain silent about possibilities and what "could have" happened. What determinism may assert is only that if we rolled back the clock it will always be the case that we would have gotten the loaf of bread.

The notion that determinism implies that there is only one possible future is a logical error that creates the "single possibility paradox". And it goes like this:

Waiter (a hard determinist): "What will you have for dinner tonight, sir?"
Customer (hungry): "I don't know. What are my possibilities?"
Waiter: "Because we live in a deterministic universe, there is only one possibility, sir."
Customer (disappointed): "Oh. Okay, then what is that possibility?"
Waiter: "How should I know? I can't read your mind."

The notion that there can only be one possible future literally breaks the choosing operation. And, since choosing has evolved to give us a competitive edge in the survival of our species, we really don't want to break it.

The correct analysis is that possible futures exist within our imagination, and we can have as many possibilities as we can image. Determinism may not contradict this fact. The business of determinism is what "will" happen. All it can say is that every possibility that occurred to us was also causally necessary and inevitable from any prior point in eternity.

Within the domain of human influence, the single inevitable future will be chosen by us from multiple possible futures. The choosing operation is part of the causal chain, in fact it is a control link that causally determines what will happen next.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Papus79 » July 27th, 2020, 9:42 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 7:14 pm
The notion that there can only be one possible future literally breaks the choosing operation. And, since choosing has evolved to give us a competitive edge in the survival of our species, we really don't want to break it.

The correct analysis is that possible futures exist within our imagination, and we can have as many possibilities as we can image. Determinism may not contradict this fact. The business of determinism is what "will" happen. All it can say is that every possibility that occurred to us was also causally necessary and inevitable from any prior point in eternity.
If I mine the underlying suggestion out of this - you're suggesting that our minds and our preferences route us through an Everette-style universe or something that already has all options pre-built, otherwise we're collapsing wave functions with our preferences?

The trouble I have here - even if I were to let that be a given for a moment, where do your preferences come from? Did you yourself choose them? It's one thing to say one is living a life well-integrated with their preferences but another to say they own their preferences.

Another piece about hard determinism and choices - in the way of saying a person could have chosen either the loaf of bread or the carton of eggs, I'd have to put the fork back farther and say - if you want to go back to something subtle that happened a few weeks, even a year before, that changed velocities of their behavior, again assuming something like a multiverse with many versions of us, then that's possible but it's still exactly what that line of possibility was set to be doing since the Big Bang.

One of the problems here seems to be models of cosmology, ie. collapse or no collapse seems to yield very different results, that is if we go with Everett then we've obviated choice and in a strange way the model of us 'branching' has problems. Is it possible that there are ways in which particles or objects that only show up in some universes and not others can cleave choices for us and branch our possibilities from outside influence? Possibly but it's highly speculative and I have no idea how such a concept could be falsified any better than claims of other universes in the macro bumping into the outside of our own cosmos without some very good independent data points that would give us near certainty that it's what we're seeing.

As for choices - yes, they seem incredibly compelling, whether or not they help us survive though (or whether those who survived really had any choice not to choose!) doesn't seem to yield libertarian free will of the 'I could have done otherwise at that moment' sort. The overwhelming majority of our ancestors died without having procreated - seems like there's been a lot of 'losers' in that context and we could be enjoying a bit of winners bias. I'm more of the persuasion that some people can hardly learn, there are others who couldn't stop learning if they tried, and we're such complex entities in terms of how many components are counter-levered together to keep dynamic equilibrium within us that it's very unlikely for any one thing happening to us to have truly unbuffered consequences unless it's an emergency of sorts that forces us to think in a highly exorted manner. Without that we get into Daniel Kahneman's slow-mode and rather recursive thinking where we can be at least a bit perfectionistic about managing our states.

With all that - I don't think complexity will ever be a good argument against hard determinism either, and interesting enough reductive materialism, idealism, panpsychism, panentheism, even theism, some of those add complexity but it seems like hard determinism is the closest thing to to having a conscious experience that we can be sure of because getting beyond the boundaries of the extremely large and small isn't necessary whereas it seems to be with almost anything else we try to explore. The one chink in the armor of that idea is that there could be that it's something that it's like to be cutting orthogonal to time but that also seems like it would an immense set of positive feedback loops and I don't know how many different such 'angles' we could keep self awareness along.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 27th, 2020, 11:32 pm

Papus79 wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:42 pm
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 7:14 pm
The notion that there can only be one possible future literally breaks the choosing operation. And, since choosing has evolved to give us a competitive edge in the survival of our species, we really don't want to break it.

The correct analysis is that possible futures exist within our imagination, and we can have as many possibilities as we can image. Determinism may not contradict this fact. The business of determinism is what "will" happen. All it can say is that every possibility that occurred to us was also causally necessary and inevitable from any prior point in eternity.
If I mine the underlying suggestion out of this - you're suggesting that our minds and our preferences route us through an Everette-style universe or something that already has all options pre-built, otherwise we're collapsing wave functions with our preferences?
I'm not touching that one with a ten foot scepter. I can probably handle the rest though.
Papus79 wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:42 pm
The trouble I have here - even if I were to let that be a given for a moment, where do your preferences come from? Did you yourself choose them? It's one thing to say one is living a life well-integrated with their preferences but another to say they own their preferences.
To decide something for myself it is not necessary for me to create me, it is only necessary for me to be me. The notion that a cause that has prior causes is not the real cause would destroy the causal chain, because there is no prior cause of me that could pass that test. Therefore we must discard that test.
Papus79 wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:42 pm
Another piece about hard determinism and choices - in the way of saying a person could have chosen either the loaf of bread or the carton of eggs, I'd have to put the fork back farther and say - if you want to go back to something subtle that happened a few weeks, even a year before, that changed velocities of their behavior, again assuming something like a multiverse with many versions of us, then that's possible but it's still exactly what that line of possibility was set to be doing since the Big Bang.
Neither the Big Bang nor Causal Necessity has any interest in whether I buy the loaf of bread or the carton of eggs. The location of the interest in that problem is in only one object within the entire universe, and that object is me. (Oh, and there is only one reality and a single inevitable future. All possible futures appear in the imagination as events at specific locations within the causal chain of events. Thus, multiple possible futures are just as inevitable as the single actual future.)
Papus79 wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:42 pm
One of the problems here seems to be models of cosmology, ie. collapse or no collapse seems to yield very different results, that is if we go with Everett then we've obviated choice and in a strange way the model of us 'branching' has problems. Is it possible that there are ways in which particles or objects that only show up in some universes and not others can cleave choices for us and branch our possibilities from outside influence? Possibly but it's highly speculative and I have no idea how such a concept could be falsified any better than claims of other universes in the macro bumping into the outside of our own cosmos without some very good independent data points that would give us near certainty that it's what we're seeing.
Well, choice is never obviated, because it is objectively observed to happen as an empirical event. So, Everett is most likely mistaken. There is a lot of figurative speaking and thinking that tends to confuse things. For example, some hard determinists claim that there are no "real" choices because the result is "as if" we had not made a choice. Figurative speaking is quite common, but it has one drawback: Every figurative statement is literally false. So, we have to retreat from infinite webs of theory and return to empirical reality if we are to get the correct handle on things.
Papus79 wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:42 pm
As for choices - yes, they seem incredibly compelling, whether or not they help us survive though (or whether those who survived really had any choice not to choose!) doesn't seem to yield libertarian free will of the 'I could have done otherwise at that moment' sort. The overwhelming majority of our ancestors died without having procreated - seems like there's been a lot of 'losers' in that context and we could be enjoying a bit of winners bias. I'm more of the persuasion that some people can hardly learn, there are others who couldn't stop learning if they tried, and we're such complex entities in terms of how many components are counter-levered together to keep dynamic equilibrium within us that it's very unlikely for any one thing happening to us to have truly unbuffered consequences unless it's an emergency of sorts that forces us to think in a highly exorted manner. Without that we get into Daniel Kahneman's slow-mode and rather recursive thinking where we can be at least a bit perfectionistic about managing our states.
I'm sorry, but what did you just say?
Papus79 wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:42 pm
With all that - I don't think complexity will ever be a good argument against hard determinism either, and interesting enough reductive materialism, idealism, panpsychism, panentheism, even theism, some of those add complexity but it seems like hard determinism is the closest thing to to having a conscious experience that we can be sure of because getting beyond the boundaries of the extremely large and small isn't necessary whereas it seems to be with almost anything else we try to explore. The one chink in the armor of that idea is that there could be that it's something that it's like to be cutting orthogonal to time but that also seems like it would an immense set of positive feedback loops and I don't know how many different such 'angles' we could keep self awareness along.
Well, there's nothing wrong with determinism when it is correctly defined. The trouble is that there are so many false implications being drawn from the simple fact of reliable cause and effect that interpretations of determinism are more often wrong that right.

The biggest blunder is the notion that determinism is some kind of entity or force that goes about in the world making things happen and forcing us to do things that we otherwise would not do. This "boogeyman" determinism sends the theists running to the supernatural for escape and in the same fashion the atheists try to escape through quantum indeterminism.

But causation doesn't cause anything and determinism doesn't determine anything. Both concepts are descriptive and neither is causative. Causation is used to describe how the actual objects and forces that make up the physical universe interact to bring about events. Determinism asserts that the behavior of these objects and forces is perfectly reliable, such that one could, at least in theory, predict every event in advance.

But we, on the other hand, happen to be actual objects that do go about in the world causing events, for our own purposes and our own reasons. Because our behavior conforms to specific purposes and reasons, our behavior is deterministic, and theoretically predictable. And when we act upon our choices, we are forces of nature.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Papus79 » July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 11:32 pm
I'm not touching that one with a ten foot scepter. I can probably handle the rest though.
Meh. It was just a hope for precision, sincere if a bit naive.
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 11:32 pm
To decide something for myself it is not necessary for me to create me, it is only necessary for me to be me. The notion that a cause that has prior causes is not the real cause would destroy the causal chain, because there is no prior cause of me that could pass that test. Therefore we must discard that test.
What is 'the causal chain' in this context that would be destroyed and if so by what?
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 11:32 pm
Neither the Big Bang nor Causal Necessity has any interest in whether I buy the loaf of bread or the carton of eggs. The location of the interest in that problem is in only one object within the entire universe, and that object is me. (Oh, and there is only one reality and a single inevitable future. All possible futures appear in the imagination as events at specific locations within the causal chain of events. Thus, multiple possible futures are just as inevitable as the single actual future.)
I couldn't quite thread this.

In some sense you're saying you're a self-sufficient cause (something about assumptions to the contrary necessarily anthropomorphizing the universe), the rest is probably running into figures of speech ie. when you say 'all possible futures' running in people's minds you seem to be saying really something like epistemic probability rather than the real thing (ie. what 'looks' like it could happen from limited information), you do say there's only one outcome but I don't get where multiple possible futures would be just as inevitable - ie. by what mechanism?
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 11:32 pm
Well, choice is never obviated, because it is objectively observed to happen as an empirical event. So, Everett is most likely mistaken. There is a lot of figurative speaking and thinking that tends to confuse things. For example, some hard determinists claim that there are no "real" choices because the result is "as if" we had not made a choice. Figurative speaking is quite common, but it has one drawback: Every figurative statement is literally false. So, we have to retreat from infinite webs of theory and return to empirical reality if we are to get the correct handle on things.
I'm really hoping one of these days someone can shock and surprise me by something they're able to say about choice that, well... it likely wouldn't make me a compatibalist but it would at least help clear up some of my suspicions that yes - speaking strictly in deterministic terms and calling choice something that literally doesn't happen seems a bit like calling consciousness the whistle on a train, and I think going that far is overstating something even if we really do live in a deterministic universe where choice is better described as something like willful changes in velocity even if 'will' is just an agency rather than a sign of us originating something.

Otherwise - I don't know how much our intimacy with choice has an impact on whether or not it's what we think it is. We're our custodians / guardians throughout the course of our lives, especially as adults, and the incentive is generally to not waste ones time, or at least if doing so do it in high-yield ways, and when under stress not to screw up and damage one's future. There are some self-consistent reasons why we want to stay alive or not end up in worse places, typically I think avoidance of pain, disappointment, regret, etc., so in a way this constructively pushes us (along with sex drive) to get our 'genes into the next generation', so our choices seem extremely live, salient, and immediate quite often because their outcomes are of deep importance to us. At the same time I don't know that this makes our choices 'choices' in the sense that we're used to thinking.
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 11:32 pm
I'm sorry, but what did you just say?
We have a lot of Darwinian evolution as a thrusting block and I think how far we've blasted off from it messes with our intuitions. Nick Bostrom was on Lex Friedman's podcast for example a few months back talking about Elon Musk's buy-in with the idea that we likely live in a virtual reality, and Nick made the comment that it was most likely because - being Elon Musk - what are the odds? It's a bit like that, just not quite as glamorous as that specific example.

I actually think, given literal survival firmwear, people who are highly instinctive and not particularly bright would likely out-survive most of us who'd still be trying to think about or observe our environments while a group of wolves or mountain lions circle just out of sight. I bring that up because I think most would agree, even in the felt sense, instinct seems much farther moved from choice than deliberation does and it's generally quite effective for a given relevant range if it's tuned by enough ancestral success.

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 11:32 pm
The biggest blunder is the notion that determinism is some kind of entity or force that goes about in the world making things happen and forcing us to do things that we otherwise would not do. This "boogeyman" determinism sends the theists running to the supernatural for escape and in the same fashion the atheists try to escape through quantum indeterminism.
I just think 'time is a dimension' covers it. We tend not to make many spooky or anthropomorphic claims about gravity and we take it pretty seriously even without having gotten to the bottom of it yet.
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 11:32 pm
But causation doesn't cause anything and determinism doesn't determine anything. Both concepts are descriptive and neither is causative. Causation is used to describe how the actual objects and forces that make up the physical universe interact to bring about events. Determinism asserts that the behavior of these objects and forces is perfectly reliable, such that one could, at least in theory, predict every event in advance.

But we, on the other hand, happen to be actual objects that do go about in the world causing events, for our own purposes and our own reasons. Because our behavior conforms to specific purposes and reasons, our behavior is deterministic, and theoretically predictable. And when we act upon our choices, we are forces of nature.
I guess I'd have to ask how familiar you are with the subconscious aspects of humanity or what happens if you go to an ayahuasca clinic, go to a week long meditation retreat, or eat a few hits of acid on the weekend. You get to see that there was a lot more content down there than you generally had contact with and a lot of it is not directly related to our personalities in ways we're used to thinking of.

My avatar probably gives a fair nod to the fact that I have been off exploring a fair amount of that (including western mystery traditions) and for as much as people will often say that Jung and Freud 'arent' science' there's a lot they weren't wrong about. I think this is part of why I have difficulty, and share that with Sam Harris for many of the same reasons, in taking literally the idea that I author myself in any substantial way. Admittedly, and perhaps a bit ironic to that last turn of phrase I do think 'self-authorship' in the developmental sense is possible but most people don't get there without significant and constant life frustration, it's not the path of least resistance by a long shot, so there again - causes from before our first memory propelling us forward, causes from without pushing back in at us, and we're left doing the dance of the marionette with indeed a deep sense of accountability, mostly out of dread of consequences, in some cases arrogance over internalized achievements and externalized failures, but still really being puppets on strings for other dynamics.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Terrapin Station » July 28th, 2020, 9:02 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 5:28 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:54 am


Predictions can be wrong. The problem with the God scenario is that God can not be wrong. It's not possible for anyone to make a choice other than what God knows they will make.

With your example, the husband's wife could turn out to be surprised as the man decides to order something she didn't predict. It's possible for the man to make a different choice.
I take it you've never been married.
I'm on my fourth. ;-)

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Terrapin Station » July 28th, 2020, 9:08 am

Ecurb wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 5:46 pm
This is where I think you're wrong. It depends on what we mean by "choice". I'd suggest that you have a choice --it's just that god (or some neuroscientist) knows what your choice will be. My example of choices made in the past speaks to that. When you say, "I freely chose to eat a vanilla cone yesterday" you can no longer freely choose to eat a chocolate cone. Nonetheless, that doesn't invalidate the notion that you made a choice yesterday.
Sure, you'd just need to explain how that would work.

So let's say that in the year 1492 (of course, this would be the case long before that date, but we can pick any arbitrary past date), God knows that on July 27, 2020, you'll "choose" vanilla ice cream at 4:00 p.m., your local time.

God couldn't be wrong about this in 1492, otherwise God is not omniscient.

So, how does it work, exactly, that at 3:59 p.m. your local time, July 27, 2020, you could choose vanilla or chocolate? In what sense was chocolate actually an option for you at 3:59/how was it possible for you to choose chocolate at 3:59? (Obviously once you've chosen, at 4:00 p.m., the other option is no longer a possibility, but how could it be a possibility at 3:59, prior to the choice, if God knew you would choose vanilla and God can not be wrong?)

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Terrapin Station » July 28th, 2020, 9:13 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 6:59 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:57 am
It's important to remember that if it's not actually ontologically possible at T1 to choose either A or B, so that you could say either at T2, then there is no choice. If there's only one possibility (at T1) re A or B for what you'll say at T2, then there's no free will.
When choosing, two things are true by logical necessity (required by the operation): (1) there must be at least two real possibilities to choose from (A and B) and (2) it must be possible to choose either one ("I can choose A" is true and "I can choose B" is also true).

It cannot be the case that there is only one possibility. What is going on here is that what we "can" do is getting conflated with what we "will" do. And these are two distinct notions. What we "can" do may never happen, but what we "will" do will happen.

Determinism is about what we "will" do. Thus, in a perfectly deterministic universe it will always be true that "I would not have done otherwise". However, whenever choosing is involved, it will always be true that "I could have done otherwise".

The "could" is the past tense of the "can". And there will always be at least two "I can's" in every choosing operation.

This is why the statement "I chose A, but I could have chosen B" is always true. All that determinism can validly assert is that "I would not have chosen B".

If we conduct the thought experiment where we roll back the clock to the beginning of the choosing operation, it will always be the case that there are two "I can's" at the beginning, but only one "I will" at the end. Thus, "I could have chosen B" is always true and "I would have chosen B" is always false.
Same question for you basically: in the case of either God knowing what will be, where God can not be wrong, or in the case where physical factors determine what will be, where that is predictable from some arbitrary earlier point, in what sense is it ever the case that someone could choose something other than what they wind up choosing?

If God knows, or physics determines, that you'll pick vanilla at 4:00 p.m. on July 27, 2020, in what sense was it ever a possibility that you could have picked chocolate instead?

If God can't be wrong, then how does it make any sense to say that you could have picked chocolate? It should be impossible for you to pick chocolate in that case.

And if physics determines that some particular consequent state necessarily follows particular antecedent states, then it what sense would it be possible for an alternate consequent state to obtain?

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 28th, 2020, 10:12 am

Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
What is 'the causal chain' in this context that would be destroyed and if so by what?
You probably know that determinism suggests a chain of instances of reliable cause and effect reaching both into the past and forward into the future. Each event is part of that chain, such that each event is causally necessary and inevitably must happen.

There is an argument made by hard determinists that I am not the "real" cause of my choices and actions, but rather the prior causes of who and what I am are the "real" causes. The problem with this argument is that none of my prior causes can pass this test, because my prior causes also have prior causes, and therefore would not be "real" causes either. Since no cause can ever pass this test, there would be no "real" causes, and thus no "real" causal chain. Thus the test is an absurdity.

The cogent question of causation is "what is the most meaningful and relevant cause". To be meaningful, a cause must efficiently explain why an event happened. To be relevant, the cause must be something we can do something about. Neither the Big Bang nor Causal Necessity qualifies as a meaningful or relevant cause of what I choose to do. The most meaningful and relevant cause of a deliberate act is the act of deliberation that precedes it.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
In some sense you're saying you're a self-sufficient cause
No. I'm just the most meaningful and relevant cause of my deliberate actions.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
(something about assumptions to the contrary necessarily anthropomorphizing the universe),
Right. The universe has no interest in what I choose to have for breakfast.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
the rest is probably running into figures of speech ie. when you say 'all possible futures' running in people's minds you seem to be saying really something like epistemic probability rather than the real thing (ie. what 'looks' like it could happen from limited information), you do say there's only one outcome but I don't get where multiple possible futures would be just as inevitable - ie. by what mechanism?
The possibilities we imagine show up as events in our brains. For example, "I could fix pancakes for breakfast" and "I could fix eggs for breakfast" appear in my mind as two possible futures. Then they are evaluated as in "I had eggs yesterday and the day before, so I think I'll have pancakes for a change". The two possible futures are just as necessary and inevitable as the choice itself.

The mechanism is the choosing operation, where two or more options are input, some criteria of comparative evaluation is applied, and, based on the evaluation, a single choice is output. Each choosing operation will have two or more "I can's" (I can fix pancakes and I can fix eggs) and a single "I will". And this is why the statement "I had pancakes for breakfast, but I could have had eggs instead if I wanted" is true in both parts. The "could have" is simply the past tense of the earlier "I can".
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
I'm really hoping one of these days someone can shock and surprise me by something they're able to say about choice that, well... it likely wouldn't make me a compatibalist but it would at least help clear up some of my suspicions that yes - speaking strictly in deterministic terms and calling choice something that literally doesn't happen seems a bit like calling consciousness the whistle on a train, and I think going that far is overstating something even if we really do live in a deterministic universe where choice is better described as something like willful changes in velocity even if 'will' is just an agency rather than a sign of us originating something.
Choice literally does happen. It is a series of events that are causally necessary and inevitably must happen. It's not just a subjective feeling. We watch people going into a restaurant, browsing the menu, and then placing an order. In each case multiple options (a literal menu of possibilities) are input, some evaluation is applied, and a single choice is output.

The notion that choice doesn't happen is a product of figurative language. The hard determinist thinks that, since the choice was inevitable, that it is as if choosing didn't happen. But in empirical reality it actually did happen.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
Otherwise - I don't know how much our intimacy with choice has an impact on whether or not it's what we think it is.


Choosing is an operation in which multiple possibilities are input, some criteria of comparative evaluation is applied, and a single choice is output. That's what it is and that's what we objectively observe to happen.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
We're our custodians / guardians throughout the course of our lives, especially as adults, and the incentive is generally to not waste ones time, or at least if doing so do it in high-yield ways, and when under stress not to screw up and damage one's future. There are some self-consistent reasons why we want to stay alive or not end up in worse places, typically I think avoidance of pain, disappointment, regret, etc., so in a way this constructively pushes us (along with sex drive) to get our 'genes into the next generation', so our choices seem extremely live, salient, and immediate quite often because their outcomes are of deep importance to us.


Right. As biological organisms we are driven to survive, thrive, and reproduce. As intelligent species we can imagine different ways to achieve those ends and choose the means that we think are best.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
At the same time I don't know that this makes our choices 'choices' in the sense that we're used to thinking.


Well, empirically, it appears that choosing is an operation that inputs multiple possibilities, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and outputs a single choice. The choice is expressed as an "I will" (as in "I will fix pancakes" or "I will scramble some eggs"). That "I will" sets our intent and that intent motivates and directs our subsequent actions (actually fixing the pancakes and eating them).

Free will is literally a freely chosen "I will". It is a choice we make for ourselves that is free of coercion and other forms of undue influence (mental illness, hypnosis, deception, authoritative command, etc.). This is the operational definition used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility. (For example, when you place an order in a restaurant, the waiter will later bring you the bill. He will not present the bill to the Big Bang nor will he present the bill to Causal Necessity.)
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
We have a lot of Darwinian evolution as a thrusting block and I think how far we've blasted off from it messes with our intuitions. Nick Bostrom was on Lex Friedman's podcast for example a few months back talking about Elon Musk's buy-in with the idea that we likely live in a virtual reality, and Nick made the comment that it was most likely because - being Elon Musk - what are the odds? It's a bit like that, just not quite as glamorous as that specific example.


When someone says we live in a virtual reality it reminds me of the brain-in-a-vat puzzle and the idea of solipsism. All three have the same solution. If that is the only reality you can see, then as far as you're concerned, that may as well be taken to be reality. Someone once said, "if everything is an illusion, then nothing is".
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
I actually think, given literal survival firmwear, people who are highly instinctive and not particularly bright would likely out-survive most of us who'd still be trying to think about or observe our environments while a group of wolves or mountain lions circle just out of sight. I bring that up because I think most would agree, even in the felt sense, instinct seems much farther moved from choice than deliberation does and it's generally quite effective for a given relevant range if it's tuned by enough ancestral success.


Yeah. A lot of stuff has been hardwired by evolution. But intelligent species can imagine alternative futures and choose between them. This adaptability also has survival advantages.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
I guess I'd have to ask how familiar you are with the subconscious aspects of humanity or what happens if you go to an ayahuasca clinic, go to a week long meditation retreat, or eat a few hits of acid on the weekend. You get to see that there was a lot more content down there than you generally had contact with and a lot of it is not directly related to our personalities in ways we're used to thinking of.


I smoked a little grass in college. I think it was spiked with something at one party. But, as far as I know, I've never tried LSD nor wanted to.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:56 am
My avatar probably gives a fair nod to the fact that I have been off exploring a fair amount of that (including western mystery traditions) and for as much as people will often say that Jung and Freud 'arent' science' there's a lot they weren't wrong about. I think this is part of why I have difficulty, and share that with Sam Harris for many of the same reasons, in taking literally the idea that I author myself in any substantial way. Admittedly, and perhaps a bit ironic to that last turn of phrase I do think 'self-authorship' in the developmental sense is possible but most people don't get there without significant and constant life frustration, it's not the path of least resistance by a long shot, so there again - causes from before our first memory propelling us forward, causes from without pushing back in at us, and we're left doing the dance of the marionette with indeed a deep sense of accountability, mostly out of dread of consequences, in some cases arrogance over internalized achievements and externalized failures, but still really being puppets on strings for other dynamics.
From the moment we are born we are negotiating with our environment for control. Consider the parents awakened by demands for that 2AM feeding. What we become is not exclusively within our control, nor is it exclusively controlled by the environment. That's my thoughts.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Papus79 » July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 10:12 am
You probably know that determinism suggests a chain of instances of reliable cause and effect reaching both into the past and forward into the future. Each event is part of that chain, such that each event is causally necessary and inevitably must happen.

There is an argument made by hard determinists that I am not the "real" cause of my choices and actions, but rather the prior causes of who and what I am are the "real" causes. The problem with this argument is that none of my prior causes can pass this test, because my prior causes also have prior causes, and therefore would not be "real" causes either. Since no cause can ever pass this test, there would be no "real" causes, and thus no "real" causal chain. Thus the test is an absurdity.

The cogent question of causation is "what is the most meaningful and relevant cause". To be meaningful, a cause must efficiently explain why an event happened. To be relevant, the cause must be something we can do something about. Neither the Big Bang nor Causal Necessity qualifies as a meaningful or relevant cause of what I choose to do. The most meaningful and relevant cause of a deliberate act is the act of deliberation that precedes it.

So I think this does lead somewhere productive where I can clarify some of my thoughts and what I think you're expressing as well.

There's a meaningful, salient, divergence between what's ultimately or independently 'real' vs. what's relevant to us. For example the idea that at some level everything is all quarks at some level of resolution is true but we don't want to think about it in day to day use of our senses and if we had to we'd be functionally hobbled.

I'd agree that, even as someone on the autistic spectrum, for someone to say that causes 'aren't real' because they had antecedent causes is like saying an apple or a loaf of bread isn't real because it's emergent from smaller constituents. That's an area where I think people who'd speak of it that way are abusing the concept of 'real' a bit. The way I'd look at determinism, and this is just what I think is my most intuitive metaphor so bear with me, it's a bit like in the now we experience we're like the end of live fire hoses. The velocity on the water coming out isn't that high meaning there's a wide range of complexity and reactivity that can come out but ultimately there's force pushing from behind us and flowing out and through us as a result. Maybe a better definition, our minds are a bit like spreaders on a gardening hose which augments the dispersal of water. Yes, there's give an take, we're not just ejecting material, we're also taking material in, iteratively changing it, sending it back out, so in that particular sense the time, human development, and subconscious as a fire hose or gardening hose and spreader is a somewhat limited-use metaphor but I think it captures something important about the kinds of forces we're balancing in our conscious and seemingly willful activity.

Individually, me as a person, I can't use determinism on a regular basis and I know that I can't - so I understand the intuition that it could be put in the category of 'low yield information even if true' but I realize it informs some of my understandings of nature, people, causality, what I'm sane to expect or not expect out of things (or what I could drive myself crazy with if I thought differently), ie. it inspires a fair amount of both stoicism and compassion. Even with a high locus of control, or at least accountability, I rarely if ever get particularly proud about achievements because I get that what aptitudes I have, even if developed by hard work, are something that still needed the right kind of genes and biology to have ever been a potential and if I might have been born to different parents, or even just a different sperm and egg, things could have been much different.
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 10:12 am
The possibilities we imagine show up as events in our brains. For example, "I could fix pancakes for breakfast" and "I could fix eggs for breakfast" appear in my mind as two possible futures. Then they are evaluated as in "I had eggs yesterday and the day before, so I think I'll have pancakes for a change". The two possible futures are just as necessary and inevitable as the choice itself.

The mechanism is the choosing operation, where two or more options are input, some criteria of comparative evaluation is applied, and, based on the evaluation, a single choice is output. Each choosing operation will have two or more "I can's" (I can fix pancakes and I can fix eggs) and a single "I will". And this is why the statement "I had pancakes for breakfast, but I could have had eggs instead if I wanted" is true in both parts. The "could have" is simply the past tense of the earlier "I can".
And I'd make no argument against the actual complexity of the situation, just regarding the ultimate orientation of it - whether that information, even if true, can be practically useful on a day to day level other than perhaps better criminal justice, more humane societal games that take what are right now 'hidden externalities' into account, etc.
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 10:12 am
Choice literally does happen. It is a series of events that are causally necessary and inevitably must happen. It's not just a subjective feeling. We watch people going into a restaurant, browsing the menu, and then placing an order. In each case multiple options (a literal menu of possibilities) are input, some evaluation is applied, and a single choice is output.
I think my mentioning before that 'time is a dimenion' covers this though. A bit like yes, you made a choice, and it's forever frozen in a piece of 4-dimensional amber - without there being much of any persuasive way to argue (at least for my limited knowledge at this point) that the future isn't already just as frozen in that amber as the past or present moment.

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 10:12 am
Choosing is an operation in which multiple possibilities are input, some criteria of comparative evaluation is applied, and a single choice is output. That's what it is and that's what we objectively observe to happen.
I think until we can find the 'warm' variables in this hard determinism will sound very cold, sterile, 'autistic', etc. because we tend to have an extremely inorganic picture of it when we imagine it. At the worst I ended up in a strange debate with someone somewhere else who suggested that if determinism were true then if someone walked into you at work and spilled hot coffee on you that you'd be fated to have it happen everytime thereafter, I argued back that if you're a reasonably alert person you'd probably have almost no choice but to give em a wide birth and a dirty look the next time they walked past you with coffee. There's a lot that people intuit here that I think creates problems that have more to do with our intuitions, values, etc. than what hard determinism actually would be - which is much more messy, just as creative (the music, art, and poetry don't vanish), it's all there but again either on a Minkoswki block or a bit like one of Heron of Alexandria's mechanical plays.

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 10:12 am
Well, empirically, it appears that choosing is an operation that inputs multiple possibilities, applies some criteria of comparative evaluation, and outputs a single choice. The choice is expressed as an "I will" (as in "I will fix pancakes" or "I will scramble some eggs"). That "I will" sets our intent and that intent motivates and directs our subsequent actions (actually fixing the pancakes and eating them).

Free will is literally a freely chosen "I will". It is a choice we make for ourselves that is free of coercion and other forms of undue influence (mental illness, hypnosis, deception, authoritative command, etc.). This is the operational definition used when assessing a person's moral or legal responsibility. (For example, when you place an order in a restaurant, the waiter will later bring you the bill. He will not present the bill to the Big Bang nor will he present the bill to Causal Necessity.)
So I'd fully agree that coerced and non-coerced action are of a very different quality and coerced action tells a lot less about person than non-coerced. Sam Harris brought up the example of Charles Whitman, who climbed a clock tower, shot a bunch of people, would have been thought of as a moral monster, other than that he had a tumor pushing on his amygdala and even before that point had written a note requesting an autopsy on his death because he sensed something was wrong. Harris then goes on to say that it's likely 'tumors all the way down' from the standpoint that these causal mechanisms may not always be quite as coercive but they're compelling in their own ways and that's any blend of external effects, those effects warm and familiar enough for us to identify as 'us', etc.
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 10:12 am
When someone says we live in a virtual reality it reminds me of the brain-in-a-vat puzzle and the idea of solipsism. All three have the same solution. If that is the only reality you can see, then as far as you're concerned, that may as well be taken to be reality. Someone once said, "if everything is an illusion, then nothing is".
As I mentioned at the head of this, I think people have a lot of boneheaded ways of misusing the terms 'real' or 'not real'.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » July 28th, 2020, 12:07 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 9:08 am

Sure, you'd just need to explain how that would work.

So let's say that in the year 1492 (of course, this would be the case long before that date, but we can pick any arbitrary past date), God knows that on July 27, 2020, you'll "choose" vanilla ice cream at 4:00 p.m., your local time.

God couldn't be wrong about this in 1492, otherwise God is not omniscient.

So, how does it work, exactly, that at 3:59 p.m. your local time, July 27, 2020, you could choose vanilla or chocolate? In what sense was chocolate actually an option for you at 3:59/how was it possible for you to choose chocolate at 3:59? (Obviously once you've chosen, at 4:00 p.m., the other option is no longer a possibility, but how could it be a possibility at 3:59, prior to the choice, if God knew you would choose vanilla and God can not be wrong?)
The past doesn't exist. Nor does the future. Both are (in a sense) illusory. Similarly, the present doesn't exist, because anything we perceive to be in the present is actually in the past (everyone knows that looking at the stars involves looking into the past, but so does looking at your computer screen, it just isn't as obvious because THAT past is so recent).

Similarly, your "choice" might be an illusion, but it's a rational, coherent and reasonable illusion. The fact that God knows what choice you are going to make is no different from the fact that you know what "choices" you made in the past (which are "destined" in the same sense that God's foreknowledge destines your future choices.) Is it really reasonable to think that given a belief in an omniscient God, there can be no "premeditated" murder? After all, God knew you were going to murder someone, so you had no real choice. But that misunderstands the notion of "choice" and the notion of personal responsibility. The murderer may have been destined to commit his crime, but he is not absolved of blame, nor is his choice to commit the murder a non-choice. He slew of is own free will; the fact (if it is a fact) that God knew he was going to kill is irrelevant to the murderer's free will and moral culpability.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » July 28th, 2020, 12:15 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 6:59 pm


When choosing, two things are true by logical necessity (required by the operation): (1) there must be at least two real possibilities to choose from (A and B) and (2) it must be possible to choose either one ("I can choose A" is true and "I can choose B" is also true).



It is always the case that at some point, you can no longer choose the possibility that you did not choose. This does not invalidate the notion that you made a choice, even though there are no longer two possibilities. Therefore, the notion that there must be two real possibilities for the word "choice" to be a valid usage is clearly incorrect.

It's a matter of perspective. From the actor's perspective, the possibilities must exist in order to justify the word "choice". They need not exist from God's perspective. He can see the other side of the cards.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Terrapin Station » July 28th, 2020, 12:19 pm

Ecurb wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 12:07 pm
The past doesn't exist. Nor does the future. Both are (in a sense) illusory. Similarly, the present doesn't exist, because anything we perceive to be in the present is actually in the past (everyone knows that looking at the stars involves looking into the past, but so does looking at your computer screen, it just isn't as obvious because THAT past is so recent).
So, "The present doesn't exist" is obviously a solution with problems as it's nonsense. We can get into the details of why it's nonsense, but that would be a big tangent that we probably don't have to bother with, because:
Similarly, your "choice" might be an illusion, but it's a rational, coherent and reasonable illusion.
If you think that choices are illusions, then you don't buy the notion of free will after all, and there's no dilemma here for you.
But that misunderstands the notion of "choice" and the notion of personal responsibility.
I have no idea what hat you'd think the right understanding of "choice" is.
. . . nor is his choice to commit the murder a non-choice.
It is if choice is an illusion.
He slew of is own free will;
Not if choice is an illusion. There is no free will in that case.

I'd agree that the murderer is still responsible for the murder, but not because they chose to commit a murder if choice is an illusion.

Of course, I don't at all believe that choice is an illusion. I'm not a determinist, and I think the notion of gods is nonsense.

At any rate, you don't appear to really be thinking this stuff through. You seem to be reeling off a set of slogans or something, and they don't really go together.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » July 28th, 2020, 12:59 pm

The bit a out the future, present and past was a mere aside and only vaguely relevant to the discussion of choice, fate, and free will.

i'm using the standard definition of "choose":
1a: to select freely and after consideration


b: DECIDE

intransitive verb

1: to make a selection
Martin Luther, the murderer, and the ice cream fanatic all select freely after consideration. They are not COMPELLED by God's foreknowledge; He simply knows what choice they are going to freely make, just as everyone knows after they make it. I mentioned "perspective" because it's important: the actor doesn't know what God knows, so he can "freely choose" even though God (or the neuroscientist) knows what choice he will make. I mentioned time because I think that believing that knowledge of the future (by a third party) creates some sort of compulsion in a sense that knowledge of the past does not is a mistake.

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