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 28th, 2020, 3:25 pm

Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am
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.
Indeed. I would class the notion of universal causal necessity/inevitability among the least meaningful and most irrelevant facts of life. Since it is always true of every event, it makes no meaningful distinctions. It is like a constant that appears on both sides of every equation and can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result. If we use it to excuse the thief who steals your wallet, then it also excuses the judge who cuts off his hand.

Free will, on the other hand, makes a meaningful and relevant distinction between a choice I make for myself versus a choice imposed upon me by someone or something else. This is useful information. It helps us to identify the cause that we need to correct when something goes wrong. For example, consider the bank teller who hands over the banks money to the robber who is pointing a gun at her. Both are taking the banks money. But to correct the bank teller's behavior, all we need do is remove the threat that caused her to give the money away. To correct the robber's behavior will require changing how he thinks about such actions in the future, and that may require punishment to induce him to engage in rehabilitation.

The fact that both the bank teller's actions and the bank robber's actions were equally inevitable due to causal necessity doesn't give us any useful guidance at all. Causal necessity makes itself trivial and useless by its own ubiquity.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am
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.
But if we want to redirect that water we need to deal with the most meaningful and relevant cause of its current direction. Determinism would direct us to the Big Bang, which we can do nothing about. In fact, determinism would direct us equally to the state of things at every prior point in time, which gives us an infinite number of prior points to evaluate. Not too helpful.

So, we look for the closer causes, the more direct causes, the causes we might do something about.

The key purpose of the notion of causation is for us to control future events or at least predict them so that we can be better prepared to avoid or deal with them.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am
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' ...
Exactly.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am
... 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.
Yes. But we get the relevant information from the sciences of biology, psychology, and sociology. They inform us about genetic dispositions, how people think about things, and the influence of our social environment in the formation of our personality and character. This is useful knowledge that helps us understand ourselves and others. But the fact of causal necessity tells us nothing useful, because it is always true of every event and makes no useful distinctions.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am
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.
The philosophy of Justice needs to be addressed directly. What are we trying to accomplish when we create a system of justice?

The point of a system of justice is to protect everyone's rights. So, a just penalty would have these elements: (a) repair the harm to the victim if possible, (b) correct the offender's future behavior if corrigible, (c) protect the public by securing the offender until his behavior is corrected, and (d) doing no more harm to the offender and his rights than is reasonably required to accomplish (a), (b), and (c).

The notion of causal necessity/inevitability will not get us to a better system of justice. If it excuses the thief then it excuses the judge who cuts off his hand. If we tell the offender that his prior behavior was outside of his control due to causal necessity, then it logically follows that his future behavior will also be outside of his control, making rehabilitation impossible.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am
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.
The past is a history of prior presents and the future is a matter of speculation about the next presents. We live in the now. We remember what we've done. We imagine what might happen next if we do this or that. We decide what we will do next.

Within the domain of human influence (things we make happen), the single inevitable future is the product of our imagining multiple possible futures and choosing which one we will actualize.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am
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.

I am ignorant of Minkoswki and Heron, so I won't try to comment on that.
Papus79 wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:38 am
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.
It would have been nice if Whitman had been diagnosed and treated before going on his shooting spree. One problem with the current prison system is that it houses many people with mental problems who should be treated medically.

But Harris is misguided in suggesting that it is "tumors all the way down". A sane person can rationally choose to rob a convenience store because he needs some cash. There is no tumor to remove that would fix his future behavior. Instead, he must be convinced that it is in his own best interest to get his cash through legal means. So Harris is misguided as to how we should fix the prison system. Again, if it is tumors all the way down, then there is no correcting such a cause without removing the head. So, let's hope that Harris is mistaken.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 28th, 2020, 3:37 pm

Ecurb wrote:
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.
At the beginning of the choosing operation there are multiple possible futures and at the end there is the single inevitable future. The fact of the single inevitability does not contradict the fact of the multiple possibilities.

The notion of a "possibility" is that it is something that may or may not happen. The fact that it does not happen does not change the fact that it "could have" happened.

What we "will" do is not the same as what we "can" do. What we "can" do may never happen. What we "will" do will happen.

God's perspective does not change anything unless he intervenes. It's like the Frankfurt case where there is a device implanted in the voter's head that will only activate if he attempts to vote Republican. If he was going to vote Democrat all along, then the device is never activated. If the device is activated he has no free will. If the device is not activated he has free will.

This was explored in the following research study: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 7714001462

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 28th, 2020, 4:03 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 9:13 am
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 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?
Physics can only predict the behavior of inanimate objects, which behave passively in response to physical forces like gravity. If you place a bowling ball on a slope it will always roll downhill. To predict the behavior of living organisms you'll need the life sciences, like biology. Biological organisms behave purposefully to survive, thrive, and reproduce. Place a squirrel on that same slope and he will go up, down, or in any other direction where he thinks he might find his next acorn. His behavior is not governed by gravity, but by his biological drives to survive, thrive, and reproduce. Intelligent species introduce deliberate behavior, where the governing factor is imagining alternate ways of satisfying its needs and calculating which method is likely to have the best consequences. This is where free will shows up. You'll need the social sciences, like psychology and sociology, to predict the behavior of intelligent species.

Determinism is about what will happen. Determinism must remain silent as to what can happen. Possibilities are events embedded in the causal chain and they appear to the mind precisely when they are due.

You ask "in what sense is it ever the case that someone could choose something other than what they wind up choosing?" It is in the literal sense and the empirical sense. The "I can's" appear as a series of events within the causal chain. They are just as causally necessary and inevitable as the final "I will".

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Terrapin Station » July 29th, 2020, 8:32 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 4:03 pm
You ask "in what sense is it ever the case that someone could choose something other than what they wind up choosing?"
If one is positing either an omniscient God or physical determinism, yes. You're apparently not positing either. On your view, apparently, biological things are even outside of the realm of physics. So you're definitely not a determinist. The initial post of this thread is about determinism in the context of God's omniscience.

In any event, this:
The "I can's" appear as a series of events within the causal chain. They are just as causally necessary and inevitable as the final "I will".
Is a lot of gobbledygook.

You're positing that you have

(1) (Consequent state) A

which deterministically, causally leads to

(2) Immediately consequent states B or C, where B and C can be incompatible, and where they do not yet obtain as actualities,

which leads to

(3) Either immediately consequent state B or C, but not both, actually obtaining

without at all explaining how that's supposed to work, exactly, or just what sort of ontological thing (2) is supposed to be picking out.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Papus79 » July 29th, 2020, 9:41 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 3:25 pm
Indeed. I would class the notion of universal causal necessity/inevitability among the least meaningful and most irrelevant facts of life. Since it is always true of every event, it makes no meaningful distinctions. It is like a constant that appears on both sides of every equation and can be subtracted from both sides without affecting the result. If we use it to excuse the thief who steals your wallet, then it also excuses the judge who cuts off his hand.

Free will, on the other hand, makes a meaningful and relevant distinction between a choice I make for myself versus a choice imposed upon me by someone or something else. This is useful information. It helps us to identify the cause that we need to correct when something goes wrong. For example, consider the bank teller who hands over the banks money to the robber who is pointing a gun at her. Both are taking the banks money. But to correct the bank teller's behavior, all we need do is remove the threat that caused her to give the money away. To correct the robber's behavior will require changing how he thinks about such actions in the future, and that may require punishment to induce him to engage in rehabilitation.

The fact that both the bank teller's actions and the bank robber's actions were equally inevitable due to causal necessity doesn't give us any useful guidance at all. Causal necessity makes itself trivial and useless by its own ubiquity.
I do find it fascinating how different people can get to the same place via even opposite means.

While I do think a person's preferred frame of reference (like their OCEAN profile), and obviously their life events, will be foundational in what they find most relevant to their well-being and day to day functioning the thing I want to be careful of - I really think everyone has the right to know at least 'something' about the foundational level of reality in so far as they're comfortable going. My own personal concern in threads like these is that there are quite often many participants, possibly most, who don't 'see' determinism or the 4D block model (ie. Minkowski block universe) and because of that I feel the need to at least get that out there so it's not a thought, idea, or concept they haven't encountered - at the least, ie. I want that information to be available to them - as a credible claim of boiler plate reality - even if they obviously reject it for personal reasons.

I think one of the things that gets wrapped around everyone's axles is Darwinian game theory and the question of 'what will people start doing to each other if x fact becomes prolifically accepted' to which I think the answer is 'Treat each other like crap - they way they've always sought to'. Part of the problem with game theory is that the goal is to elevate one's own genes and destroy others. The rather sad thing about our culture is it's one thing to see kids on the playground doing that to each other, guys or girls slugging it out with their mating competition, or workplace rivalries over jealousy, none of that's ever going away as far as i can tell but it's sadder when those who are given fiduciary responsibility start using their posts to damage the people they're supposed to help - and maybe that's more of a side tangent but I'm exploring the shape of that container here.

If we think of the negative ways in which game theory would glom on to determinism - it's giving up on people immediately and doing exactly what one wants to do to them on outward appearance, acting like lack of preparedness or opportunity is the same as literal or genetic incapacity, etc. and in a historical sense you also have 'blood guilt' where if you're so-and-so's son and he pissed me off you're now an enemy too. With free will taken seriously you have the people who'll feel justified stomping on a homeless person, destroying a person over failure to socially conform or - gasp - touching taboos or having touched a 'narcotic' (science be damned!), and in a more historical sense, and in the historical sense you have the image one preacher gave of people who made it to heaven doing what exactly in heaven? Sitting around laughing and jeering at the people who 'chose' to go to hell. If I notice the difference in flavor - game theory that comes from determinism tends left, game theory that comes from free will tends right.

All of that said I think part of the way game theory seems to be dominating 'people', or how we end up in the kind of situation William Butler Yeats commented on about the best being devoid of passion and the worst filled to the brim with it - I think solipsism is the ingredient that makes thoughtful or well-intended people feel trapped. Not their own solipsism as often as seeing such a thick blanket of it on culture that they can't navigate, can't speak the truth, technically in that case one tends to get pilloried for speaking truth. This goes to the idea perhaps that the snake oil salesman and grifter can only work his or her magic in places where we have lots of ambiguity. This is part of why I'm more about exploring and reifying ambiguous areas rather than keeping them open. It's not that people should 'listen' with their entire lives and rope themselves in to misery, if anything though I just want to see more ways in which people are compelled - by knowledge at least - to confront their own shadows in this sense. We can keep weaponizing our shadows, effacing reality, and making it a world where just about 'anything can happen', which seems to be what our emotions and competitive viscera aim for, but it's also the way quite often to death camps, gulags, authoritarian governments, neofeudalism, shell states, and now we have some other wonderful possibilities on our plate - new dark age, full reset, even extinction.

We're in a place with a lot of existential risks, lots of possibility for massive backsliding on human progress, and this is where we probably need to have a lot less rohypnol going around the party (especially thinking of the modern weaponized versions of 'critical theory' but there are other things too like social Darwinism that fit this criteria).

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 3:25 pm
It would have been nice if Whitman had been diagnosed and treated before going on his shooting spree. One problem with the current prison system is that it houses many people with mental problems who should be treated medically.

But Harris is misguided in suggesting that it is "tumors all the way down". A sane person can rationally choose to rob a convenience store because he needs some cash. There is no tumor to remove that would fix his future behavior. Instead, he must be convinced that it is in his own best interest to get his cash through legal means. So Harris is misguided as to how we should fix the prison system. Again, if it is tumors all the way down, then there is no correcting such a cause without removing the head. So, let's hope that Harris is mistaken.
So that's taking Sam's metaphor literally and that's not where he was going. He was probing the concept of 'moral luck', and that discussion about Whitman is one he had on Joe Rogan. For example lots of people text and drive, not everyone commits a vehicular homocide doing so, some people might even commit a vehicular homocide their first time!

There's no need to go in with a scalpel and remove anyone's brain. The idea is that we're being compelled by causes that aren't us, we feel deeply responsible based on where outcomes may lead us or what outcomes we can anticipate, feeling that obligation to our well being or the well-being of those we love is not the same as saying that there's an 'evil' us we could have been or a 'good' John Panzram that would have resulted if he'd just made a few different choices.

Back full circle though to my first point at the header though - Sam's argument is that determinism should fill us with compassion, realize that technically nothing is anyone's fault, and be then incentivized to see that there's nothing about 'us' that explains our good fortune that couldn't be taken away by blind chance, and similarly we should be extremely practical and limited in scope in terms of incarceration, punishment, etc. - ie. seeking to do the minimum. Obviously I think the one place Sam has been a little tone-deaf in the past (as have I) is Darwinian game theory, he's coming around and maybe he'll have John Gray on his podcasts one of these days because John could probably help him go through the rammifications of that with a fine-toothed comb.

Otherwise though - I think he's right that having a framework of solid facts to argue a case from, at least when you're dealing with people who'd either care about or be persuaded by facts (the way professionals or publicly-trusted decision makers 'should' be) that it's best to assemble the most solid case you can and why, like not teaching kids about quarks even if they don't need them, they should probably know something about the effect that time has on us and our decisions has in terms of how we understand and navigate other people or what assumptions we can make of their behavior and it's origins.
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 Papus79 » July 29th, 2020, 9:50 am

I noticed I tend to double words in sentences when I'm running late or pressed for time so the 'thoughs' got a bit heavy at the end of that.
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 29th, 2020, 11:03 am

Papus79 wrote:
July 27th, 2020, 9:42 pm

The overwhelming majority of our ancestors died without having procreated....

This statement is doubtless mere carelessness, but I can assure Papus that none of our ancestors (no, not a single one) died without having procreated. This by definition.

In addition, the problem with evolutionary explanations for complicated and culturally constituted human behaviors is twofold:

1) Such explanations (as is often the case with reductionist explanations) tend to be simplistic, lacking in nuance, and unable to speak to differences in human behavior.

2) Such explanations tend to make the logical error of assuming the antecedent. Evolutionary theory states that if a (genetic) trait improves descendant-leaving success, it will tend to become more common. We cannot assume from this that if a trait has become common, it has tended to improve descendant-leaving success.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 29th, 2020, 11:07 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 8:32 am
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 4:03 pm
You ask "in what sense is it ever the case that someone could choose something other than what they wind up choosing?"
If one is positing either an omniscient God or physical determinism, yes. You're apparently not positing either. On your view, apparently, biological things are even outside of the realm of physics. So you're definitely not a determinist. The initial post of this thread is about determinism in the context of God's omniscience.

In any event, this:
The "I can's" appear as a series of events within the causal chain. They are just as causally necessary and inevitable as the final "I will".
Is a lot of gobbledygook.

You're positing that you have

(1) (Consequent state) A

which deterministically, causally leads to

(2) Immediately consequent states B or C, where B and C can be incompatible, and where they do not yet obtain as actualities,

which leads to

(3) Either immediately consequent state B or C, but not both, actually obtaining

without at all explaining how that's supposed to work, exactly, or just what sort of ontological thing (2) is supposed to be picking out.
Nope. No gobledygook. I'm giving you an empirical description of the events that take place whenever a choosing operation occurs. Each event is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. The events typically follow in this order:
1. You will run into a problem or issue that requires you to make a decision before you can proceed (e.g., "What will I have for breakfast, pancakes or eggs?"
2. You will confirm that you have two real possibilities (e.g., "Do I have pancake mix, yes! So I can fix pancakes if I want to. Do I have any eggs in the fridge? Yes. So I can fix eggs if I want to.")
3. You will apply some criteria for evaluating your options (e.g., "I had eggs yesterday, and the day before.")
4. Based on that evaluation you will choose what you will do ("I will have pancakes for breakfast").
5. Your "I will" sets your intent, which motivates and directs your subsequent actions (fixing the pancakes and eating them).

Each of these events is causally necessary from any prior point in eternity. Your choice to fix pancakes in steps 4 and 5 was inevitable. Your two real possibilities in step 2 were also inevitable. Note that a possibility is real even if it never is actualized. Real possibilities exist within the imagination specifically during a choosing operation. A possibility is a possible future that may or may not ever happen. There were two of them in this example. One possible future was me fixing eggs for the third day in a row. Another possible future was me fixing pancakes.

Because these or similar events happen during a choosing operation, it is always the case there are are two real possibilities and that we can choose either one. "I can choose A" is true. "I can choose B" is also true. But neither of them asserts what we will do. That comes at the end when we say what we "will" do.

What we "can" do is not the same as what we "will" do. A "can do" may happen, or it may never happen. But a "will do" will happen. What we "will do" is constrained by what we "can do". We cannot actualize an impossibility ("Darn, there's no pancake mix in the cabinet!"). So, what we "will do" is limited to what we "can do".

But what we "will do" never constrains what we "can do". What we "can do" is only limited by our imagination and our skills and our equipment.

So, whenever a choosing operation occurs, it is always true that we "would" always make the single inevitable choice, however it is also always true that we "could have done otherwise". The "could have's" reference both of the "I can's" in step 2. It's as simple as that.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Papus79 » July 29th, 2020, 11:29 am

Ecurb wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 11:03 am
This statement is doubtless mere carelessness, but I can assure Papus that none of our ancestors (no, not a single one) died without having procreated. This by definition.
Yes, I probably could have used the the phrase 'humans and protohumans who didn't procreate'. Part of why I tend to write in long-form of the sort that most people TL:DR is that brevity often ends up the kinds of information loss that what's said, on paper, becomes literally wrong and it's done to cater to attention spans, and this is a case where I over-compressed.
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 Papus79 » July 29th, 2020, 11:34 am

Ecurb wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 11:03 am
2) Such explanations tend to make the logical error of assuming the antecedent. Evolutionary theory states that if a (genetic) trait improves descendant-leaving success, it will tend to become more common. We cannot assume from this that if a trait has become common, it has tended to improve descendant-leaving success.
What tends to win status battles, whether by merit or by violence or threat of violence, tends to be what wins. Our whole status game is wrapped around procreation, procreation rights, and extended issues such as status, reputation, place in a social hierarchy, etc..

The problem is, at least for those who have a humanist or secular humanist bearing, that process described above - as noted above - has its focus on power whether that power is used for good or for ill. There's probably a rabbit hole that could be unpacked about why societies in peak times become places where its far harder to succeed socially, why defection becomes a more powerful strategy than cooperation, etc., and I get that part of why these topics get tabooed is they're quite dark and it's not a way most people want to look at themselves or others.
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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Marvin_Edwards
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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 29th, 2020, 2:35 pm

Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:41 am

While I do think a person's preferred frame of reference (like their OCEAN profile), and obviously their life events, will be foundational in what they find most relevant to their well-being and day to day functioning the thing I want to be careful of - I really think everyone has the right to know at least 'something' about the foundational level of reality in so far as they're comfortable going. My own personal concern in threads like these is that there are quite often many participants, possibly most, who don't 'see' determinism or the 4D block model (ie. Minkowski block universe) and because of that I feel the need to at least get that out there so it's not a thought, idea, or concept they haven't encountered - at the least, ie. I want that information to be available to them - as a credible claim of boiler plate reality - even if they obviously reject it for personal reasons.
I thought the 4D block model of time came from Einstein. But, in any case, it does not accurately depict reality, so I cannot find any use for it. The future does not simultaneously exist with the past. There is simply not enough room for both in the same universe. The location of everything changes over time, so, if you attempt to overlay the future on the past or present, it would be both logically and physically impossible. Things would be constantly bumping into themselves.
Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:41 am
I think one of the things that gets wrapped around everyone's axles is Darwinian game theory and the question of 'what will people start doing to each other if x fact becomes prolifically accepted' to which I think the answer is 'Treat each other like crap - they way they've always sought to'. Part of the problem with game theory is that the goal is to elevate one's own genes and destroy others. The rather sad thing about our culture is it's one thing to see kids on the playground doing that to each other, guys or girls slugging it out with their mating competition, or workplace rivalries over jealousy, none of that's ever going away as far as i can tell but it's sadder when those who are given fiduciary responsibility start using their posts to damage the people they're supposed to help - and maybe that's more of a side tangent but I'm exploring the shape of that container here.
Back in the olden days, when I was in college, there was a book called "One-Upmanship" by Stephen Potter. It was about all the ways one person could get one-up on his co-workers or neighbors. That's what gamesmanship suggests to me. It's a political enterprise.

Principles of justice, fairness, politeness, the state as a "commonwealth", and other principles would counter those games or convert them into constructive and mutually helpful competitions. It's all about the incentives and what we incentivise people to do and not do. I suppose it is Ethics and Morality and Empathy that must be praised and rewarded.
Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:41 am
If we think of the negative ways in which game theory would glom on to determinism - it's giving up on people immediately and doing exactly what one wants to do to them on outward appearance, acting like lack of preparedness or opportunity is the same as literal or genetic incapacity, etc. and in a historical sense you also have 'blood guilt' where if you're so-and-so's son and he pissed me off you're now an enemy too. With free will taken seriously you have the people who'll feel justified stomping on a homeless person, destroying a person over failure to socially conform or - gasp - touching taboos or having touched a 'narcotic' (science be damned!), and in a more historical sense, and in the historical sense you have the image one preacher gave of people who made it to heaven doing what exactly in heaven? Sitting around laughing and jeering at the people who 'chose' to go to hell. If I notice the difference in flavor - game theory that comes from determinism tends left, game theory that comes from free will tends right.
Determinism should have absolutely no practical implications to any real life scenario's. Causal necessity is nothing more than a chain of individual instances of reliable cause and effect. Everybody understands reliable cause and effect, and they take it for granted as they observe it and put it to use in their daily lives.

Anyone suggesting that determinism makes any difference in any way in our lives is mistaken. They are abusing the notion of determinism by drawing a series of false implications.
Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:41 am
We're in a place with a lot of existential risks, lots of possibility for massive backsliding on human progress, and this is where we probably need to have a lot less rohypnol going around the party (especially thinking of the modern weaponized versions of 'critical theory' but there are other things too like social Darwinism that fit this criteria).
If you don't like reality as it is now, change it into something better.
Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:41 am
The idea is that we're being compelled by causes that aren't us, we feel deeply responsible based on where outcomes may lead us or what outcomes we can anticipate, feeling that obligation to our well being or the well-being of those we love is not the same as saying that there's an 'evil' us we could have been or a 'good' John Panzram that would have resulted if he'd just made a few different choices.
Determinism cannot mean that we are being compelled by causes that aren't us. There are three classes of causal mechanisms: physical (passive response to physical forces), biological (purposeful response to events), and rational (deliberate or calculated behavior). If determinism is to be true, then it must be complete. It is not complete unless it includes all three types of causal mechanism. Any version of determinism that fails to include the purposeful or deliberate behavior of intelligent species would be false. Note that we happen to be physical objects, biological organisms, and an intelligent species. And when we act, we are forces of nature. And when we choose, we help to determine what happens next in the causal chain.
Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:41 am
Back full circle though to my first point at the header though - Sam's argument is that determinism should fill us with compassion, realize that technically nothing is anyone's fault, and be then incentivized to see that there's nothing about 'us' that explains our good fortune that couldn't be taken away by blind chance, and similarly we should be extremely practical and limited in scope in terms of incarceration, punishment, etc. - ie. seeking to do the minimum. Obviously I think the one place Sam has been a little tone-deaf in the past (as have I) is Darwinian game theory, he's coming around and maybe he'll have John Gray on his podcasts one of these days because John could probably help him go through the rammifications of that with a fine-toothed comb.
The notion that determinism can fill us with compassion is a religious belief, not a fact of life. What determinism delivers is the world as it currently is, with all the games and social Darwinism that you eschew.

The notion that people's behavior is influenced by prior personal and social causes is a product of the social sciences, not determinism. Any efforts to remedy communities that breed criminal behavior will be based upon the facts that come from these sciences. Determinism offers but one single fact, that whatever happens was causally necessary from any prior point in time. It provides no guidance as to what one should do to make things better. All the useful information comes from knowing the specific causes of specific effects.
Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:41 am
Otherwise though - I think he's right that having a framework of solid facts to argue a case from, at least when you're dealing with people who'd either care about or be persuaded by facts (the way professionals or publicly-trusted decision makers 'should' be) that it's best to assemble the most solid case you can and why, like not teaching kids about quarks even if they don't need them, they should probably know something about the effect that time has on us and our decisions has in terms of how we understand and navigate other people or what assumptions we can make of their behavior and it's origins.
Again, the solid facts come from science, not from philosophical paradoxes. Harris is simply using the paradox to grab people's attention. Determinism does not mean what he claims it means.

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Papus79 » July 29th, 2020, 3:11 pm

On that note....

We're throwing the physics of time out the window, haggling over whether non-spatial dimensions can be a real thing, and adding to that by creating artificial categories to then send claims back at the premise that don't even follow from the artificial categories and to which the premise is agnostic to.

If you do have any interest in the physics of time there are a lot of different places you can read up on the topic.

I'm mostly here to match quality of ideas, whether that's high quality disagreement or agreement, where I learn something new from the discussion. When it turns to mostly blanket denial of premises that's kinda the end of the trail for anything useful.
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.

Ecurb
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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » July 29th, 2020, 3:37 pm

Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 11:34 am

What tends to win status battles, whether by merit or by violence or threat of violence, tends to be what wins. Our whole status game is wrapped around procreation, procreation rights, and extended issues such as status, reputation, place in a social hierarchy, etc..
.
I don't buy it. Many societies (Including the Christian West) have had entire classes of people (priests, nuns, monks) who have reasonably high status, yet have opted out (supposedly, at least) of the procreation game. Has the Pope always been a low-status individual? How about Bishops?

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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Papus79 » July 29th, 2020, 4:14 pm

Ecurb wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 3:37 pm
I don't buy it. Many societies (Including the Christian West) have had entire classes of people (priests, nuns, monks) who have reasonably high status, yet have opted out (supposedly, at least) of the procreation game. Has the Pope always been a low-status individual? How about Bishops?
There are also all sorts of motivational speakers, tech CEO's, even heads of state, famous and highly dynamic people who've opted not to have kids. Most of their fame, unless you're a Kardashian or something of that ilk, comes from either what they've been able to do that other people couldn't, or do exceptionally well, and in other cases people can get up hierarchies through nepotism albeit the results there are lackluster and everyone knows it.

There's clearly some fluid trade-offs between procreation, status and success. There are plenty of people who no one knows, plenty of people wouldn't look twice at, who have plenty of kids and they aren't driving society in any particular way aside from providing more mouths to feed.

I'm talking about the arms races that key up when a bunch of people want the same thing, such as power, a particular position at a company, a particular marital or sex partner, you have a competition. Our world is filled with arms races for things deemed prestigious. That was plenty cutthroat in the Catholic church for centuries, I'm sure in plenty of places it still is today. You can go to Buddhist temples and find 'trustafarians' and people who will try to stair a hole in you because they're way-way-way more enlightened than you are and you need to know it.

IMHO one of the things that hobbles the human species is we're really sh--y with power games and it's something that, at least when I was growing up, I 'thought' it was a character flaw to be that way and I'm finding out that we're getting to a place where it's more like 'if you're not that way you'll be lucky to live'. The growing gap between wages and productivity in the western world since 1973 and the credit market that filled in that gap rather nicely is probably a large part of that. Having our institutions get accustomed to lying to us and continuing to lie to us, having (at least in the US) a faux two-party kleptocracy is probably not helping either. There's variance in how fowl and disgusting we get, when times are good we're tolerable to be around, when times are bad it seems like you can hardly go anywhere without cross-competition, scalping, etc. going on.

The overall thrust though - status matters and people treat people like crap, no matter what they know, what they're right or wrong about, what their character is like, quite often if they lack status. It's an arms race and, like many arms races, it's a deal many people don't get to refuse without going homeless as a result.
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.

Ecurb
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Re: Fate of Free Will?

Post by Ecurb » July 29th, 2020, 4:37 pm

Papus79 wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 4:14 pm


The overall thrust though - status matters and people treat people like crap, no matter what they know, what they're right or wrong about, what their character is like, quite often if they lack status. It's an arms race and, like many arms races, it's a deal many people don't get to refuse without going homeless as a result.
There's a grain of truth here, but only a grain. Humans do compete, but they also cooperate. We're actually formed not by the competition, but by the cooperation. All mammals are dependent on their mothers, who supply them with milk. Humans wouldn't even resemble humans without their cooperatively created culture: without language, and religion, and law, and other institutions that are cooperative by their very nature. One can emphasize either the cooperation or the competition; both play a role in human society. But I think you're emphasizing the wrong one.

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