Intelligent Design Mind

Have Materialists Lost Their Minds?

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In answer to the question, I suggest that they have. Materialist philosophy inevitably leads to transparent absurdities and self-contradiction, whether moral relativism (a truth claim about morality that no truth claims about morality are valid), or that random errors can produce sophisticated information-processing technology (for which there is no evidence and much disconfirming evidence).

The no-free-will thing is yet further evidence of the lobotomizing influence of materialist philosophy. Just the other day I was in the supermarket, and decided to treat myself to some ice cream. I like the Haagen-Dazs coffee and dark chocolate varieties. I thought to myself, “Self, which flavor would you like to purchase?” I chose the dark chocolate.

A thoroughgoing materialist would argue that my choice was no choice at all, that my decision was determined by my brain chemistry and other such transparent idiocy.

I make free-will decisions all day long every day, just as everyone reading this post does.

The denial of this obvious fact, along with other absurdities and self-contradictions as mentioned above, leads me to conclude that materialists have indeed lost their minds.

116 Replies to “Have Materialists Lost Their Minds?

  1. 1
    champignon says:

    Gil,

    I’ll pose the same question here that I posed to you in another thread. You wrote:

    This entire no-free-will thing is simply stupid. I exercise free will every minute and every hour of every day, and any rational person can recognize this. The denial of free will is utter sophistry.

    I replied:

    Care to tell us why “any rational person” can see that you “exercise free will every minute and every hour of the day”? Given the fallibility of intuition, your certainty seems unwarranted.

  2. 2
    nullasalus says:

    Care to tell us why “any rational person” can see that you “exercise free will every minute and every hour of the day”? Given the fallibility of intuition, your certainty seems unwarranted.

    I suppose Gil may say that there’s data, and there’s theory. I have the experience of looking at a computer screen right now. There’s no “fallibility of intuition” here – I have that experience. Now, someone can argue, ‘it’s not a computer screen it’s something else’ – but the experience at the time is what it is, period.

    I can’t speak for Gil, of course. But that seems to be where he’s coming from: you’re asking for an argument, a theory, a test to show he’s right. He’s claiming that an argument, a theory, and a test is not necessary. It’s akin to Gil arguing with a wannabe solipsist. The solipsist can explain away or doubt whatever argument or theory or test is presented to him against his view. So do you argue with the solipsist? Or do you shrug your shoulders, call BS where you see it, and move on?

    I’m not saying I endorse Gil’s approach here, if I even have it right. But hey, I’m trying to aid communication. (Of course, that’s assuming that reason, not blind mechanical forces, can affect someone’s views. If they can’t, oh well, stopped clocks can be right twice a day. Maybe we’ll get lucky.)

  3. 3
    GilDodgen says:

    Dear Champignon,

    Champignon is French for mushroom. Have you been imbibing in the magic psilocybin mushroom?

  4. 4
    Neil Rickert says:

    With the kind of world that we live in, it ought to be apparent that you can neither prove nor disprove free will.

    Jerry Coyne’s mistake was to think that free will can be (or has been) disproved. Gil Dodgen’s mistake is to believe that he can prove free will.

  5. 5
    champignon says:

    I have the experience of looking at a computer screen right now. There’s no “fallibility of intuition” here – I have that experience. Now, someone can argue, ‘it’s not a computer screen it’s something else’ – but the experience at the time is what it is, period.

    Sure, and if Gil had said “My will feels free to me” I’d see no reason to ask for corroboration. But he’s not merely claiming that his will feels free. He claims that it is free, and that “any rational person” can see this. Those claims require justification.

    I’m not saying I endorse Gil’s approach here, if I even have it right. But hey, I’m trying to aid communication.

    Yes, and I appreciate that. I wish Gil would do the same.

  6. 6
    GilDodgen says:

    Neil,

    Did you have any free will concerning the decision to post your comment?

    Of course you did!

  7. 7
    JDH says:

    I have to whole-heartedly agree with Gil on this one and it frustrates me to no end. There is indeed “fallibility to intuition” but just because something may be flawed in general does not mean it is flawed in a specific decision. If I am going to disbelieve my intuition, I need a good reason to distrust it.

    Here is the problem.

    1. The conclusion “No free will” is not obvious. Indeed every intuition is that we do have free will. Many, many people confirm this.

    2. OK. So you can do an experiment to try and prove the position of “no free will”. Here is an even bigger problem. To set up such an experiment. To create a situation where a hypothesis is chosen, an experiment is set up, a significant number of tests are run, and a suitable conclusion is drawn from those results requires many more free will choices than making a wrong evaluation of the results.

    In other words – suppose Dr. Iam Materialist – designs an experiment, does the experiment, writes the paper, and submits it for peer review – with some supposed evidence that free will is only an illusion. Given all of the free choices he had to make in order to accomplish said task it is many, many, times more probable that his conclusions are erroneous – and that his logic is riddled with confirmation bias – than that he has shown at all that “no free will” is the most probable conclusion.

    Again in other words – “no free will’ is not the conclusion that we would naturally conclude – and any experiment designed to convince us of “no free will” ends up only providing net evidence for free will.

    The only people who believe “no free will” believe it because it does not comport with a faith choice they have made. But I guess there is no end to how strongly people will choose deception over the obvious.

  8. 8
    nullasalus says:

    But he’s not merely claiming that his will feels free. He claims that it is free, and that “any rational person” can see this. Those claims require justification.

    Well, it’s not a ‘feels’ but an ‘is’ as near as I can tell. It’s taken as self-evident – data, not theory. And the self-evident doesn’t require justification beyond itself. I’m having the experience of looking at a computer monitor – let someone tell me I have to justify that and I’ll probably take them as seriously as Gil’s taking free will deniers. If someone tells me that according to science I cannot possibly be having the experience of looking at a computer monitor, I’ll tell him off besides.

  9. 9
    champignon says:

    JDH,

    You and Gil both seem to believe that the denial of free will is inherently a materialist position. It’s not. You can be a dualist and deny free will, or you can be a materialist and affirm it.

  10. 10
    champignon says:

    To create a situation where a hypothesis is chosen, an experiment is set up, a significant number of tests are run, and a suitable conclusion is drawn from those results requires many more free will choices than making a wrong evaluation of the results.

    To say that it requires “many free will choices” is to assume the existence of free will. In other words, you’re assuming your conclusion.

  11. 11
    goodusername says:

    Gil,

    I don’t think anyone denies that it feels like we have free will.

    That’s hardly what the age old controversy has been about.

    Also, I’m pretty sure it’s a pretty small minority of materialists that don’t believe in free will. (Actually, now that I think about it, almost everyone that I’ve seen that’s denied the existence of free will have been theists.)

  12. 12
    champignon says:

    Feeling that you’re looking at a computer screen does not guarantee that you’re actually looking at a computer screen, as you stated earlier:

    Now, someone can argue, ‘it’s not a computer screen it’s something else’ – but the experience at the time is what it is, period.

    That you’re having the feeling is self-evident; that the feeling is true is not self-evident.

    Likewise, feeling that you have free will does not guarantee that you actually have free will.

    Having free will means more than “feeling like you have free will.”

  13. 13
    tjguy says:

    Champ,

    Why are you a Darwinist?

    Is it because you have evaluated the evidence and decided that the evidence best supports Darwinism?

    OR

    is it because you have no choice in the matter? Since you have no free will, your brain has led you to that conclusion and there is nothing you can do about it?

  14. 14
    tjguy says:

    I agree Neil, that you cannot prove it in the sense that you want to do. And, in light of that, it makes most sense to assume it since we all have that experience and feel like we have free will. This world would not make sense if we did not have free will. Even your view that free will can’t be proven is simply the result of the chemical reactions in your brain – if we have no free will. So, in reality, if we can make no truly “free” decisions, then we cannot trust the accuracy of anything we believe because we only arrived at that conclusion because of the chemical reactions in our brains.

    But, obviously, you do not believe this, because you are arguing as if your thoughts and deductions have meaning and are accurate. That would be a “no-no” in a world with no free will. My thoughts, whether right or wrong, accurate or inaccurate in an ultimate sense, would have a much value as your thoughts, because both of them are simply the result of the chemical reactions in our brain.

    No one is willing to agree to that. This world would be even more chaotic than it is if we really believed this. This may not be scientific proof that Gil is right, but it comes awful close to philosophical proof. Science is not the only begetter of truth in this world. In fact, it isn’t always even a begetter of truth. It is wrong many times too, especially when it comes to trying to figure out the past. Personal bias, wrong interpretation, lack of information, etc can often lead to wrong conclusions.

    Besides, if there is no free will, science is worthless. It is all conditioned by our brains.

  15. 15
    JDH says:

    Champignon

    Everything depends upon the definition you give it. I am just not interested in a definition of free will which is compatible with materialism. The reason I am not is because such position really does not exist. Any materialist universe implies “no free will” unless you tweak the meaning of materialism to include something that is not included in materialism.

    Why don’t all of you “no free will” people really admit that the thing you are afraid of is the fact that there is a God. You keep coming up with more and more nonsensical arguments which only make sense to people who deny His existence.

    There is abundant evidence for free will. There is NO GOOD evidence against it. The problem is that admission of free will will invariably lead to the conclusion of ID which leads to God. The only way to maintain the “no God” position is to stick with materialism.

    God has said he will judge you for this.

    So as stated in a different thread – the definition I like for free will removes it from person hood. An entity which has free will is an entity which is able to effect the physical world by taking an action which is neither random nor dictated by the current initial conditions. I do actions like this every day. It is not because I “feel” that they are not random and are not dictated by the initial conditions. It is because the probability of any one of my actions like typing all the letters in this response, is not something which can be dictated by the physical state of my brain. It can only be something which is undertaken by making many intelligent choices which are all dependent upon each other. To believe in “not free will” is to believe in the absurd.

  16. 16
    JDH says:

    To say that it requires “many free will choices” is to assume the existence of free will. In other words, you’re assuming your conclusion.

    No, to see the string of corresponding events which must occur in order to construct a reasonable argument demonstrates that the choices must be free. It is not because I assume them to be free, it is that the logical placement of them all in time one after another in correct order, requires the action of an intelligent agent.

    The idea that all of the consecutive steps necessary to construct the argument were somehow dependent on the initial conditions of each molecule is absurd. There just is not the amount of information content available there. When people are allowed to write coherent arguments about abstract possibilities and hypotheticals which really don’t exist,the idea of believing that all of these surmises and if-then’s and therefore’s are determined by the initial position, velocities, spin, charge and charm of finite set of elementary particles is completely ridiculous.

  17. 17
    Blue_Savannah says:

    If free will doesn’t exist, tear down the prisons and let darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ rule the land.

  18. 18
    markf says:

    a truth claim about morality that no truth claims about morality are valid

    Moral relativism is not the claim that no truth claims about morality are valid. It is the claim that moral truth claims are relative. These are quite different. For one “relative” does not equate to “invalid”. But also it is the difference between a statement within morality and a statement about morality. I would have thought that a distinguished software expert like you would have been well aware of the difference between a statement in a language and meta-statement about a language. I hope you are not losing your mind.

  19. 19
    nullasalus says:

    That you’re having the feeling is self-evident; that the feeling is true is not self-evident.

    Likewise, feeling that you have free will does not guarantee that you actually have free will.

    Only if having free-will is not self-evident, and that’s what’s under discussion. I remember one dopey philosopher claiming that introspection showed him that all that needs to be explained about the mind are functions. A good reply was, maybe that’s true for that philosopher’s mind – it’s apparently not the case for much anyone else’s.

    Like I said, I’m not necessarily endorsing the claim. That doesn’t mean I think much traction can be had against it. Back to the solipsist – if someone tells me I have no conscious experience, and I say I do, and they say ‘prove it’, that’s their problem. My inability or unwillingness to give them a demonstration or argument to their satisfaction won’t mean much to me. Or to anyone else in the same position.

  20. 20
    champignon says:

    tjguy,

    First of all, I actually believe we have free will (of a qualified compatibilist sort).

    It appears from your comment that you think it is impossible for a deterministic physical system to evaluate evidence and make decisions. Correct?

    If so, why?

  21. 21
    tjguy says:

    “It appears from your comment that you think it is impossible for a deterministic physical system to evaluate evidence and make decisions. Correct?”

    Yes, I think so, because if it everything is determined, it is not a decision at all. Even your “evaluations” are simply the output of your brain which you have no control over. You only do what has been determined.

    Although I’m a bit new to this compatibilist/incompatibilist stuff.

    It seems though that you feel it is possible to make real evaluations and meaningful even if we have no free will. Can you explain a bit further please?

    Thanks.

  22. 22
    champignon says:

    tjguy,

    Maybe an analogy will help.

    Imagine that you see a friend laboriously adding up a big column of numbers using pencil and paper. You ask her why she doesn’t just use a computer, and she replies that it’s because computers can’t do arithmetic.

    Puzzled, you ask her what she means. “Well, a computer is deterministic. It does exactly what the program tells it to, no more and no less. The computer itself has no control over its actions. The “additions” it performs are merely causal chains of physical events, and the results are determined. It’s not really doing arithmetic.”

    If you can see why she is wrong, and why the computer is actually doing arithmetic, then you’re on your way to understanding how it’s possible for a deterministic, purely physical brain to evaluate evidence and make decisions.

  23. 23
    markf says:

    JDH

    When people are allowed to write coherent arguments about abstract possibilities and hypotheticals which really don’t exist,the idea of believing that all of these surmises and if-then’s and therefore’s are determined by the initial position, velocities, spin, charge and charm of finite set of elementary particles is completely ridiculous.

    I don’t understand this argument.  I think it is something like:

    “The number of things a person can do is infinite but a brain has only a finite number of states.  Therefore, something in addition to the brain must determine all things someone can do.”

    Consider a simple device that displays a digit from 0-9 every second. The choice of digit is based on random number generator (you can make a quantum random generator if you are concerned about pseudorandom numbers).  Such a machine can produce as many different outcomes as you wish given enough time.  Yet, if you implement it in hardware it has only one state.

    Have I misunderstood the argument?

  24. 24
    nullasalus says:

    If you can see why she is wrong, and why the computer is actually doing arithmetic, then you’re on your way to understanding how it’s possible for a deterministic, purely physical brain to evaluate evidence and make decisions.

    Computers don’t ‘do arithmetic’ anymore than abacuses do. If I see red at a stop light, the light doesn’t know that red means stop.

  25. 25
    champignon says:

    Really? You think computers can’t add numbers? Wow.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    C:

    ALU’s in processors, strictly, are not ADDING, they are simply gating current flows and producing voltage levels.

    It is the intelligently imposed hardware organisation and software design that cause the unconscious physical processes — properly spatially and sequentially arranged — to yield a useful result per relevant algorithms.

    It is therefore WE who add, using properly organised hardware and software tools.

    Do you remember when the first pentiums came out and had problems with floating point processing? The computers did not know, we did. Similarly, there are as of last I checked, some subtle problems with Excel spreadsheets on certain statistically relevant calculations, so that there is a niche for specialised spreadsheets that make those calcs correctly — check out Gnumeric. GIGO, in short, i.e. the computer is not going to correct itself, unless we program that in too; if the hardware or software are not quite right, it will happily and quite blindly produce exactly the patterns of voltages and currents we tell it to, not those we desire it to; even, if the results are quite misleading.

    Null is quite right.

    And, that is one reason we should never trust a simulation to be an accurate representation of reality, beyond where we calibrated and validated it. Sims are NOT experiments.

    KF

  27. 27

    No, they haven’t, but that doesn’t make them right (or wrong). It all depends what you mean by “free will”.

  28. 28

    The no-free-will thing is yet further evidence of the lobotomizing influence of materialist philosophy. Just the other day I was in the supermarket, and decided to treat myself to some ice cream. I like the Haagen-Dazs coffee and dark chocolate varieties. I thought to myself, “Self, which flavor would you like to purchase?” I chose the dark chocolate.

    A thoroughgoing materialist would argue that my choice was no choice at all, that my decision was determined by my brain chemistry and other such transparent idiocy.

    No, of course it isn’t “determined by your brain chemistry”. It’s “determined” by the decision-making system that we call your brain, which takes into account all kinds of things that none of those chemicals know anything about, including whether you fancy chocolate or coffee today.

    That doesn’t mean that the system isn’t instantiated in physics and chemistry.

  29. 29
    tjguy says:

    Champ said: “If you can see why she is wrong, and why the computer is actually doing arithmetic, then you’re on your way to understanding how it’s possible for a deterministic, purely physical brain to evaluate evidence and make decisions.”

    I understand your analogy, but I don’t think it works. In order to assume that you are like this computer and can accurately interpret evidence, make deductions, and make good choices; you have to assume that your personal program, the one by which you make decisions, is the right program, that it is accurate and will give you trustworthy results. What evidence is there for this? How could you ever evaluate it? You can only evaluate things based on the particular program that runs your brain.

    Why doesn’t everyone come up with the same results then? It would seem that we have different programs in our brains.

    What makes your computer program more trustworthy than my computer program that results in a different interpretation of the evidence? Again, how could you ever evaluate such a thing since your brain only works according to your program and mine, according to my program?

    Besides, the computer program didn’t just write itself. It was written by an intelligent person.

    Are you open to this explanation for your own brain and system of thought?

    I’m not seeing it yet.

  30. 30
    tjguy says:

    “For one “relative” does not equate to “invalid”. ”

    Hmm. But then how would one make such an evaluation given that there is no ultimate standard by which to judge it? There is no answer sheet that gives the answer.

    How are you defining “truth” here? What does it mean to say that something is true in your mind? Perhaps that is where the problem lies. In my mind a truth claim is similar to a statement as to what is true in an objective absolute sort of way. But I guess you are not viewing truth in that way.

    I think he means an “absolute truth claim” when he says that no truth claims about morality are valid. Or that no truth claims about morality are valid in the sense that they are absolute. It is true. You cannot prove that any truth claim about morality is invalid. The most you can do is show that it is not held or appreciated by the majority of people. But there is no absolute standard of good by which to evaluate anything.

    I don’t quite see your argument here.

  31. 31
    markf says:

    tjguy

    If by “valid” he means the truth is decided by some absolute objective criterion than “relative” does imply “invalid”. However, invalid does not normally mean that. If you tell me that a book is amusing then that is a relative and subjective statement about the book – but we wouldn’t normally describe it as an invalid statement.

    However, the more substantial objection is that meta-statements about the nature of morality are not themselves moral statements and Gil has clearly muddled the two. Agreed?

  32. 32
    Neil Rickert says:

    Did you have any free will concerning the decision to post your comment?

    I am not one who denies free will. My point was just that we can neither prove it nor disprove it. So maybe we should just get on with life.

    At least part of the disagreement over free will is over what “free will” means. Personally, I tend to go with Wittgenstein’s “meaning is use,” and most people use it in conjuction with decisions they make, such as decisions to post a comment to a blog.

  33. 33
    Granville Sewell says:

    I agree, Gil. When reductionist ideas are carried to their logical conclusions, they reduce to absurdities like “no free will,” or “the four forces of Nature can create computers and the Internet.” At least, they are absurdities to the “common man”, but of course for the materialist this just creates an opportunity to show how superior his mind is to the common man’s mind.

  34. 34
    johnnyb says:

    champignon –

    Let’s presume that you don’t exercise free will, and that our intuitions are wrong. In that case, argument is meaningless, since none of us has the freedom to change our minds. We will simply do what physics requires us to do. Any decision, thought, etc. we make is meaningless, because it had to be that way. There is no justice, only accident.

  35. 35
    mike1962 says:

    champignon: Sure, and if Gil had said “My will feels free to me” I’d see no reason to ask for corroboration. But he’s not merely claiming that his will feels free. He claims that it is free, and that “any rational person” can see this. Those claims require justification.

    So where do you draw the line? The same intuition that Gil is feeling is like the intuition you feel when a scientific theory makes a prediction and it comes true. Why do you assume that is valid and Gil’s intuition is not?

    Some things *must* be self-evident, or else all reasoning (including yours) is B.S, and just happens to be right by a fluke.

    Why is yours better than Gil’s?

  36. 36
    mike1962 says:

    Bottom line here folks: if some reasoning is valid, then some things must be self-evidently true. That is, they must be apprehended to be true without reasoning. If nothing is self-evidently true, then no true reasoning exists.

    To Gil, his free will is self-evidently true. If that is a fact (and who’s to say he’s wrong?), then no amount of reasoning can overthrow it since it’s not dependent on reasoning.

    To Champignon, Gil’s self-evident apprehension is an illusion. What would Champignon use (I assume) to demonstrate that? Human reasoning. Does Champignon think *any* thing is self-evidently true?

    At very least, Gil has a chance of being right. Materialists like Champignon do not. And furthermore, to Gil himself, he *knows* he’s right, and the arguments of Champignon can never overthrow it.

    It’s that simple, really

  37. 37
    mike1962 says:

    No, they haven’t, but that doesn’t make them right (or wrong). It all depends what you mean by “free will”.

    From a rational analysis, free-will is the ability to start a unique chain of effects within space-time from the “outside.” From the subjective view of a free-will thing (like my own consciousness), it’s beyond further description, just like any conscious “qualia.”

    You gotta be one, to know one.

  38. 38
    Bruce David says:

    JDH: (#4.2.1)

    God has said he will judge you for this.

    That is incorrect. What is accurate is that certain scriptures, including the Bible, claim that God will judge you for denying Him. Your statement is based on the faith that one of those scriptures (the Bible, I expect) is in fact the word of God.

    In the only book I know of in which God speaks directly to us, Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch, God states explicitly and repeatedly that He will never judge us, ever.

  39. 39
    JDH says:

    Yes, you have misunderstood it completely. The sequences generated by an intelligent agent are NEITHER random NOR explicitly set by the initial conditions. This is much different than a random or pseudo-random number generator. An intelligent agent is able to generate arbitrary sequences based on other abstract symbols. For example, someone can leave me written instructions which I can not look at until I start the sequence demanding any set of mutually possible conditions and I can do that. ( Example make the 459th character “A”, write the 560th character in lower case, make the 780th through 790th characters all characters whose position in the alphabet are prime numbers, etc. The set of instructions able to be encoded are infinite in the arbitrariness and are not known until the start of the sequence and can be encoded by another person with free will, at any time before I start generating a sequence. They don’t have to be physically hard coded into the initial state like would have to be done with your machine.

    There just comes a time when you have to admit defeat mark. Your position does not stand up to common sense.

  40. 40

    I am just not interested in a definition of free will which is compatible with materialism. The reason I am not is because such position really does not exist. Any materialist universe implies “no free will” unless you tweak the meaning of materialism to include something that is not included in materialism.

    In that case you have assumed your consequent.

    I am a materialist and I hold that we have free will, by which I mean we can make informed choices of action.

    You rule my position out, a priori. Why?

  41. 41
    markf says:

    Yes, you have misunderstood it completely.
    JDH

    This might of course reflect on how well you explained it 🙂  

    The sequences generated by an intelligent agent are NEITHER random NOR explicitly set by the initial conditions. This is much different than a random or pseudo-random number generator.

    That is assuming your position is correct.

    An intelligent agent is able to generate arbitrary sequences based on other abstract symbols. For example, someone can leave me written instructions which I can not look at until I start the sequence demanding any set of mutually possible conditions and I can do that. ( Example make the 459th character “A”, write the 560th character in lower case, make the 780th through 790th characters all characters whose position in the alphabet are prime numbers, etc. The set of instructions able to be encoded are infinite in the arbitrariness and are not known until the start of the sequence and can be encoded by another person with free will, at any time before I start generating a sequence. They don’t have to be physically hard coded into the initial state like would have to be done with your machine.

    A very ordinary laptop computer can do everything you describe.

    There just comes a time when you have to admit defeat mark. Your position does not stand up to common sense.

    Maybe – but first I have to understand the argument that is meant to be defeating me.

  42. 42
    JDH says:

    I rule out your position because I can not reconcile what I think are mutually opposing concepts.

    BUT, I respond in this way because I really think you do try and explain yourself very well. If I am wrong and it is possible for a real definition of materialism to be compatible with a real definition of “free will”, I would love to hear it. If it is true, it should be able to be explained in one post. Please post it here. I will read it. If I agree with it, I will apologize and change my mind.

  43. 43
    Orlando Braga says:

    If my ideas — and though, my thoughts — are merely products [therefore, effects] of the chemistry of my brain, then it not possible to discuss the no-free-will thing [also called the “Identity Theory”, by the materialists], because the allegations coming from the no-free-will thing defenders are products of pure chemistry too.

    And in case some guy defends the opposite theory, then he’s right too, bearing in mind that his chemistry just got to a different conclusion.

    Karl Popper named this slippery slope as “The Physical Determinism Nightmare”.

  44. 44
    champignon says:

    tjguy writes:

    I understand your analogy, but I don’t think it works. In order to assume that you are like this computer and can accurately interpret evidence, make deductions, and make good choices; you have to assume that your personal program, the one by which you make decisions, is the right program, that it is accurate and will give you trustworthy results.

    Neither the materialist nor the dualist can assume that human thought is perfectly reliable. We know that it isn’t. We have to double-check our thoughts, test our hypotheses against reality, second-guess ourselves, think about things from a different angle, solicit others’ opinions, etc., and this is true whether or not thought is a purely physical process.

    Why doesn’t everyone come up with the same results then? It would seem that we have different programs in our brains.

    Sure, in the sense that no two brains are identical, and even a given brain changes state from moment to moment.

    What makes your computer program more trustworthy than my computer program that results in a different interpretation of the evidence?

    Our brains learn, so the ‘program’ can improve over time. We also have all of the methods I mentioned above for double-checking ourselves.

    Besides, the computer program didn’t just write itself. It was written by an intelligent person.

    Yes, but let’s postpone a discussion of that until we’re finished with the question of whether it’s possible for a physical system to evaluate evidence and make decisions.

    Are you open to this explanation for your own brain and system of thought?

    Yes. The evidence is very strong that thought is a purely physical process.

  45. 45
    champignon says:

    mike1962 writes:

    So where do you draw the line? The same intuition that Gil is feeling is like the intuition you feel when a scientific theory makes a prediction and it comes true. Why do you assume that is valid and Gil’s intuition is not?

    You’re using the word ‘intuition’ in a strange way. Confirmation of a scientific prediction seems like the opposite of intuition to me. And if you’re arguing that everyone’s intuition is equally valid, what about the guy who thinks the FBI is monitoring his brain waves?

    Some things *must* be self-evident…

    Sure, but Gil’s intuition about free will is not one of them.

  46. 46
    champignon says:

    Hi johnnyb,

    We’re actually discussing this in another subthread (starting with comment 2 and currently extending through 2.1.1.1.9. Feel free to join in.

  47. 47
    JDH says:

    mark writes “A very ordinary laptop computer can do everything you describe.” No it could not. It could only do that if it was acted upon by someone who has free will. Sit a personal computer down that has not been programmed by an intelligent agent, and it can not do that. Are you that defeated, that in order to try and defeat an argument about free will, you bring up an object which could only be created and programmed by an intelligent agent who had free will. This is about as absurd as it can get.

  48. 48
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    I won’t argue whether free will is self-evident or not. We either have free will or we will spend the rest of our lives pretending to, or will conclude that we don’t, which ironically may be a freely made choice.

    But if free will isn’t self-evident, then absolutely nothing is. If my decision to type this post or wear my blue shirt today and my grey shirt tomorrow or vice versa only appears to be a decision, then what reality can I take for granted? Maybe I only think I’m sitting at this computer but I’m really in a pod supplying power for the computers of the future. Maybe I belong to a species of aliens that sleeps for 80 years and has really vivid dreams.

    We have to inhabit the reality that we perceive. Fortunately we all seem to perceive something close to the same reality, although maybe I’m imagining that too.

    But in my personal reality, when one entity perceives reality too different from the other entities, they tend to think that it’s eccentric, weird, or even dangerously insane. If it does things they don’t like they don’t care if it doesn’t think it had a choice.

    So if everyone else thinks your free will is real and you decide are compelled to act as if it is not, proceed at your own risk.

  49. 49
    champignon says:

    If my ideas — and though, my thoughts — are merely products [therefore, effects] of the chemistry of my brain, then it not possible to discuss the no-free-will thing [also called the “Identity Theory”, by the materialists], because the allegations coming from the no-free-will thing defenders are products of pure chemistry too.

    The fact that they are “products of pure chemistry” doesn’t mean they must be wrong. And by the way, identity theory is not synonymous with the denial of free will.

    And in case some guy defends the opposite theory, then he’s right too, bearing in mind that his chemistry just got to a different conclusion.

    If two computers produce different results, it doesn’t mean they’re both right. Why should it be any different for brains?

  50. 50
    champignon says:

    A human, given a symbolic representation of two integers, can produce a symbolic representation of their sum.

    A computer, given a symbolic representation of two integers, can produce a symbolic representation of their sum.

    If the human and the computer are both functioning correctly, then if their inputs are the same, their outputs will be the same.

    To argue that one is doing addition, but the other is not, is absurd.

  51. 51
    mike1962 says:

    champignon: You’re using the word ‘intuition’ in a strange way. Confirmation of a scientific prediction seems like the opposite of intuition to me.

    The part of you that feels “confident” about this inference or that deduction is every bit as intuitive as someone who intuits that their consciousness is “primary.” “Seems to work” (pragmatism) is an intuition. And in the end, that’s all any of us have within our own subjective space. Including you.

    “And if you’re arguing that everyone’s intuition is equally valid, what about the guy who thinks the FBI is monitoring his brain waves?”

    Whoa Tex, before we can get anywhere near that question, we have to scale a pretty high epistemological wall. The question assumes a lot of facts not in objective evidence, such as the presence of a reality outside of your own subjective space. And it assumes that you have some kind of “realiable” means of dealing with that reality. How far to you want to press this?

    Me: Some things *must* be self-evident…

    You: Sure, but Gil’s intuition about free will is not one of them.

    Says you.

    A lot of us folks who see that “consciousness is primary and has Real Freedom” know what we know and are puzzled by your type, who don’t see what we see. You think we’re seeing something that isn’t there. (A problemmatic view, even if we assume materialism.) We think you’re blind to the obvious. Never the twain shall meet. You may as well tell us that the qualia of “blue” doesn’t exist. I’m OK with that. Just know that you always and forever shall lack the power to persuade one from our side.

  52. 52
    Bruce David says:

    Re. another comment from the OP:

    Materialist philosophy inevitably leads to transparent absurdities and self-contradiction, whether moral relativism (a truth claim about morality that no truth claims about morality are valid)…

    This charge is a confusion of levels. Moral relativism is the position that there are no absolutely or objectively true moral statements. That is not a moral statement; it is a statement about moral statements, and therefore not self referential. Ie, neither absurd nor self contradictory.

  53. 53
    champignon says:

    The part of you that feels “confident” about this inference or that deduction is every bit as intuitive as someone who intuits that their consciousness is “primary.”

    No, because intuition is defined in a way that excludes conscious inference or deduction. For example, look at the first two definitions that pop up when you Google ‘intuition’:

    1. The ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.

    2. A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.

    Whoa Tex, before we can get anywhere near that question, we have to scale a pretty high epistemological wall. The question assumes a lot of facts not in objective evidence, such as the presence of a reality outside of your own subjective space.

    It’s a pretty low wall. All you have to do is accept it provisionally while keeping an eye out for possible disconfirmation. And if you don’t accept it, then argument becomes pretty pointless.

    A lot of us folks who see that “consciousness is primary and has Real Freedom” know what we know and are puzzled by your type, who don’t see what we see…We think you’re blind to the obvious.

    It’s baffling that you and Gil are so unwilling to even consider the possibility that your intuition is incorrect in this case. In Gil’s case it is particularly appalling, because he likes to think of himself as a scientist, despite the fact that his attitude is so far from the scientific ideals of curiosity and open-mindedness.

    Just know that you always and forever shall lack the power to persuade one from our side.

    In other words, you’re proudly flaunting the closed-mindedness of your side. Good for you.

  54. 54
    markf says:

    JDH

    A laptop needs to be created and programmed by a human being, but not to follow that specific set of instructions, just to be general purpose instruction follower. You can enter an arbitray set of instructions into a laptop and it will obey them – it is called a program. Just as a person has to be born, grow up and be educated before they can follow a strong of arbitary characters – only we don’t generally call it a program. We are not discussing how things are created. We are discussing whether, once created, they have free will. And I still looking for that crucial behaviour that you will decides the issue so obviously.

  55. 55
    Orlando Braga says:

    @ champignon :

    I do not think you got the point.

    1.Identity Theory + Free Will = Contradiction.

    That’s why and how the Identity Theory denies the free will. Got it?

    2.If the criteria that defines “right” and separates it from “wrong” are mere and solely results of the brain chemistry, the truth is only a matter of consensus restricted to a zeitgeist — which means that “it is true that truth does not exist” [contradiction].

    3.Kant underlined the fact that we must always add a phrase to all our thoughts: “I Think” — independently of what we are thinking. In the “I Think” of the human subject, all the contents of the human conscience are connected; the “I Think” is the logical condition of any thought; it constitutes itself as the last logical reference point and the unity point of all knowledge. Putting it Kant’s terminology: «The I Think is the condition of the possibility of thinking. »

    You never, ever, get the “I Think thing” from any computer.

  56. 56
    markf says:

    Orlando

    If Champignon has failed to get the point I am not surprised. It is really rather hard to understand what you are trying to say.

    1.Identity Theory + Free Will = Contradiction.

    That’s why and how the Identity Theory denies the free will

    This seems to be a rather obscure way of saying “I’m right and you’re wrong”

    2.If the criteria that defines “right” and separates it from “wrong” are mere and solely results of the brain chemistry, the truth is only a matter of consensus restricted to a zeitgeist — which means that “it is true that truth does not exist” [contradiction]

    The criteria are not the results of brain chemistry.  Brain chemistry produces the statements and propositions.  Those statements and propositions are right and/or wrong to the extent that they match up with reality.  This is true whether the statements were made by a computer, a chemical process, a human or a deity.

    Kant is notoriously difficult to understand, open to many interpretations and in the opinion of many philosophers (e.g. Roger Scruton) ambiguous. However, I think you are talking about the problem of consciousness.  Computers are not conscious.  We are.  But there is nothing that says consciousness is either necessary or sufficient for free will.

  57. 57
    mike1962 says:

    champignon: No, because intuition is defined in a way that excludes conscious inference or deduction.

    You’re missing the point. Re-read what I wrote in response to what you wrote. It’s not the inference or deduction that is the intuition. It’s the psychological *confidence* that you have in that inference or deduction. That is, the confidence in your own powers of reason. That confidence itself is not an inference or a deduction. It is an intuition.

    It’s a pretty low wall. All you have to do is accept it provisionally while keeping an eye out for possible disconfirmation.

    But you’ve gotten ahead of yourself. Your unstated assumption here is that the process of disconfirmation is reliable.

    It’s baffling that you and Gil are so unwilling to even consider the possibility that your intuition is incorrect in this case. In Gil’s case it is particularly appalling, because he likes to think of himself as a scientist, despite the fact that his attitude is so far from the scientific ideals of curiosity and open-mindedness.

    The whole question of immediate apprehension of the primary quality and freedom of consciousness has nothing to do with science. It merely has to do with those who see it, and those who don’t. Beyond that, there’s nothing else to discuss.

    In other words, you’re proudly flaunting the closed-mindedness of your side.

    You may as well try to tell me that I don’t consciously experience color. Would I be close minded if I told you to go pound sand at that assertion?

  58. 58
    champignon says:

    Mike,

    If you doubt the possibility of disconfirmation, doubt the existence of an objective reality, or believe that every assertion is equally valid or equally questionable because it is accompanied by the intuition “this is true”, then why argue about anything?

    On the other hand, Gil clearly believes in an objective reality that includes other people and in which disconfirmation is possible. He asserts the existence of free will and claims that no rational person can doubt it. In short, he is making claims about reality. It is entirely appropriate for us to ask whether his claims are true.

    If Gil experiences the feeling that his will is free and says to us “It feels like my will is free”, we have no reason to argue — but not because it is an intuition and therefore unchallengeable. It’s because there is a sound argument showing that such a challenge would be self-defeating.

    If Gil has the feeling that his will is free, then he has the feeling that his will is free. Having an experience is confirmation that you are having that experience. To assert otherwise would be absurd.

    On the other hand, the statements “I feel as if I have free will” and “I don’t have free will” are not contradictory. The challenge is not self-defeating, and since we know that intuition is fallible, the burden falls on Gil to show that his intuition is correct in this case.

    The existence of free will is not self-evident.

  59. 59
    JDH says:

    markf-

    I’m afraid I can’t help you. You are hopelessly stuck denying the obvious. In purely human emotion, it makes me extremely frustrated.

    BTW – I program these things for a living. I’m on the About Box of a very popular program.

    Can’t you tell the difference between the act of responding to what must be free will inputs ( in some cases millions of lines of code full of abstract symbols which is highly improbable that it simply arose from some initial condition) and simply rote responding to those inputs as a computer does.

    The idea that you could think that even the number of abstract symbols put in this reply came naturally into being without there being an “I will” behind it acting at the hub of the decisions as each character is placed is simply mind boggling. It is not set by any initial conditions. There simply is not the probability resources to do that without it being driven by a will. Why do you refuse to see that?

    The only thing I can think of is you deny free will because you do not like its implications.

    So, tell me mark, why are you so afraid of there being a God, that you would hang on to something so absurd as to think all the subtleties of human communication and encoding can come about by purely natural means? I am really curious. You must be awfully afraid of the concept of God to allow yourself to carry about such a deception.

  60. 60
    champignon says:

    JDH,

    So, tell me mark, why are you so afraid of there being a God, that you would hang on to something so absurd as to think all the subtleties of human communication and encoding can come about by purely natural means?

    Whether we are “meat computers” or not has nothing to do with whether God exists. They’re independent questions.

    But since you think they’re connected, let me ask you a question: Are you so afraid that there might not be a God that you’re unwilling to acknowledge that markf’s beliefs are not as transparently absurd as you would like to think?

  61. 61
    GilDodgen says:

    Liz,

    I have a book recommendation for you if haven’t read it:

    Chaos: Making a New Science

    The math is really, really, simple — easily understandable by anyone with a decent seventh-grade math education. Forget human decision-making — even given idealized presumptions, many relatively simple mechanical systems quickly become unfathomably unpredictable.

    This is a problem I deal with all the time in my work designing finite-element-analysis computer simulations of dynamic, nonlinear, transient systems. (A car crash is a typical example.)

    It is this kind of work that Darwinists are completely ignorant of. They basically make up stories with much bluster, presumption, and assurance that they have it all figured out — when anyone with any experience in rigorous engineering disciplines can quickly figure out that they are blowing smoke — and then expect to be admired as defenders of “science.”

  62. 62
    champignon says:

    Gil,

    Are you aware that chaotic systems are deterministic?

  63. 63
    Mike Keas says:

    Dodgen and his ID friends here still affirm that “materialists” are intelligent agents with minds that work fairly well, but he (and some of his commenting friends) also argue (correctly, I think) that “materialism” undermines confidence in science and rationality itself. The TrueU links page http://www.trueu.org/dvd-curri.....inks#books includes a link to this well-argued treatise in support of Dodgen’s arguments by Angus Menuge:

    Menuge, Angus. Agents under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science. http://www.amazon.com/Agents-U.....038;sr=1-1 Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. Argues that science itself requires a metaphysical foundation that includes intelligent agency (mind and “intentionality” that cannot be reduced to material processes, or you remove the epistemological basis for the practice of science).

    The commentators seeking to undermine Gil Dodgen’s main points never succeed. First they argue like skeptics in regard to free will (doubting more than is reasonable to doubt), then they try to defend (assuming materialism) that humans can be fairly confident of many of our reasoning capabilities in science and beyond. Although it is difficult to make progress with a an extreme skeptic (doubts come cheap, but many of them are not reasonable doubts), it is easier to demonstrate that materialism undermines science itself, as Menuge does better than anyone in the book cited above. Warning: Menuge is not easy reading. Beginners should start with TrueU, then read J.P. Moreland’s book Kingdom Triangle http://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-.....038;sr=8-3. After that, you will be able to handle much of Menuge’s Agents Under Fire.

    I just blogged on this above here (with convenient links provided): http://www.focusonlinecommunit.....heir-minds

  64. 64
    todd says:

    It seems to me the materialist belief there is no free will amounts to molecular astrology – if who we are and what we choose at any given moment reduces to a certain arraignment of brain matter, that is no different than who we are being determined by the arrangement of ALL matter when conceived.

    I am continually amused at the condescension and arrogance displayed by those who are molecular astrologists and don’t even know it. (especially when Behe is malquoted from the Dover trial)

  65. 65
    tjguy says:

    If by “valid” he means the truth is decided by some absolute objective criterion than “relative” does imply “invalid”. However, invalid does not normally mean that. If you tell me that a book is amusing then that is a relative and subjective statement about the book – but we wouldn’t normally describe it as an invalid statement.

    However, the more substantial objection is that meta-statements about the nature of morality are not themselves moral statements and Gil has clearly muddled the two. Agreed?

  66. 66
    tjguy says:

    Oops. Sorry about that post. I must have hit the post button by mistake.

    markf said:
    “If by “valid” he means the truth is decided by some absolute objective criterion then “relative” does imply “invalid”.”

    tj: Agreed. But come on, don’t you think that is what he means? I mean he is describing moral relativism, right? Moral relativists make a truth claim about morality when they say “Moral absolutes do not exist. There is no such thing as “true” or “right” morality as opposed to “untrue” or “wrong” morality. It’s all relative.” That is a truth claim about morality, is it not? And yet they tell us in their very own words that no such truth claim is valid!

    I get your point about Gil making a meta-statement about morality. His point is still valid though. Perhaps the inconsistency in their view is not with their moral relativism, but with their view of truth. They deny that truth exists. Yet they want us to take their meta-statement about morality as a true and valid statement. This is the inconsistency.

  67. 67
    tjguy says:

    Actually, claiming that a human is simply an impersonal machine programmed to have personality is what sounds absurd to me. But this is what the materialist worldview asserts. The other thing it shows us though is the need for a programmer. We all know that programs never write themselves.

    This view has deeply troubling consequences and corollaries concerning what we can and can’t say about the value of life.

    By logical deduction, if this view of humanity is “true” (Oops. I forgot there is no such thing as real truth. But for the sake of argument, we’ll just assume it is true.) If it is true, then by logical deduction, humans would have no inherent value.

    What if someone in authority actually decides to treat people in that way? There would be nothing right or wrong about it. Morality is all relative anyway. In fact, it would be consistent with their worldview, would it not? Fortunately, most people do not do this, but it has happened in the past and could happen again.

    If this is what we teach our kids, over time, we, and society in general, are going to suffer the consequences.

  68. 68
    tjguy says:

    Bruce, interesting post! I’ve never read Conversations with God, but I’m wondering how you “know” that God is speaking directly to us in that book.

    What evidence is your faith grounded in?

    The “God will never judge us, ever.” message is quite popular. But if He never judged us, then who cares about sin? How can God be righteous and just if He never judges sin and evil?

    In the Bible, we see a righteous and just God who judges sin in a final and terrifying way when Jesus became the object of God’s wrath against sin. It is only because our sin has been judged, paid for, that God is able to forgive us and allow us into heaven. To not require payment for sin would be akin to a judge letting a murderer, liar, adulterer, and thief go scott free. This action would indicate that these sins are of no real consequence and don’t really matter to God. I think we all know they do.

    The idea that God’s love will win out over his righteousness, holiness, and justice doesn’t make sense. It is a message that is pleasing to our ears on the surface, but when we see that it means that no evil is ever judged, we realize that it is not such a good idea after all.

    Why would God explicitly state that He will never judge us when He explicitly states that He will judge us in His Word? That statement is enough to know without even reading the book that it is not from God. Yes, I accept the Bible as God’s Word. The God of the Bible who is a perfect mix of love, mercy, justice, grace, holiness, and righteousness is much better than a made up god who simply overlooks all evil and sin. Who would want to live under a King who ruled His kingdom like that? Not me, for sure. Sure, His judgments are harsh, but don’t forget. He gave us His only Son who took that judgment on our behalf so that we could be forgiven and escape judgment. Faith in Jesus and His death on the cross is the ONLY way anyone will be able to escape judgment.

  69. 69
    champignon says:

    The other thing it shows us though is the need for a programmer. We all know that programs never write themselves.

    Evolution is the ‘programmer’. Bad thinkers tend not to be as good at surviving and reproducing as good thinkers. Good thinking is thus favored by natural selection.

    If it[the materialist view] is true, then by logical deduction, humans would have no inherent value.

    Why? Do you think immaterial minds have “inherent value”, but material minds do not? How do you justify that?

  70. 70
    markf says:

    And yet they tell us in their very own words that no such truth claim is valid!

    No they don’t. That is the whole point of what we have been debating.

  71. 71

    Not necessarily.

    Deterministic systems can be chaotic, but so can non-deterministic systems.

  72. 72
    tjguy says:

    “The fact that they are “products of pure chemistry” doesn’t mean they must be wrong. ”

    True, but Champ, here is your problem. It doesn’t mean they should be right either. This idea that everything is determined takes away all meaning from our thoughts, words, actions, and life in general. Ultimately we cannot trust anything to be accurate or really know if anything is really true. Checking the results of the computer program in OUR head with the results of the computer program in another person’s brain, like you suggested, is of little help. Both could be wrong. In fact, there is no guarantee that any brain in the whole universe works accurately and produces trustworthy and true results. And there is no way of knowing either way.

    This idea of determinism takes away personal responsibility for our thoughts and actions. It takes away motivation for change as everything is determined. It takes away meaning in life since everything is determined and it relegates us to impersonal machines who have been programmed to live a certain way. It just doesn’t make sense of the world we know and experience.

    I agree with Mike1962 who said:

    “Bottom line here folks: if some reasoning is valid, then some things must be self-evidently true. That is, they must be apprehended to be true without reasoning. If nothing is self-evidently true, then no true reasoning exists.”

    If we have no starting point, we cannot have reason. If there is no absolute truth in the universe, if there is no God, reasoning is not possible. Or perhaps I should say there is no reason to believe that the laws of logic would be valid. There would be no grounds for making such a conclusion because the laws of logic need a true and reliable starting point.

    Who would ever think that the reasoning of an evolved monkey holds any weight or value? Who would trust the conclusions or thoughts of an evolved ape?

    In reality, materialistic atheism destroys the possibility of knowledge and reasoning as shown above. But for the Christian there is an absolute standard for reasoning – God Himself. We are to pattern our thinking after God’s thinking. The laws of logic are a reflection of His thoughts,. They are His standard for thinking. The law of non-contradiction is not simply one person’s opinion of how we ought to think, rather it stems from God’s self-consistent nature. The Bible says that God cannot deny Himself (II Timothy 2:13), and so, the way God upholds the universe will necessarily be non-contradictory or logical. The laws of logic are a reasonable deduction from the character of God, but for a materialist who believes that everything, including our thoughts and decisions, is determined, there is no justification or rationality for assuming our conclusions or thoughts to have any semblance of truth or accuracy. This is a problem for the materialist worldview.

    So in the end, it makes much more sense to understand humans as having been made in the image of God. It explains our personhood, our mind, our soul, our reasoning ability, our yearning for meaning in life, our capacity for worship, the existence of absolute truth, our conscience, altruistic love, etc etc etc so much better than humanism does.

    It is obvious that there has to be a real “I” behind my reasoning and choices. Denying this is absurd. I do not say this in a put down kind of way, but there is real truth to this biblical statement: ““For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

    Think about it. We humans are willing to believe that anything and everything except God. We have no problem believing that everything came from nothing. That life came from non-life in spite of all the evidence that this is impossible. That computer programs wrote themselves, that genetic codes were written and information encoded by accident, that information arises by chance in spite of not ever having seen this happen, that unobservable dark matter exists, that unverifiable multiverses exist, that countless random timely miracles of chance happened which enable the evolution of irreducibly complex systems and thousands of nano-machines that outshine human inventions by orders of magnitude and cannot yet even be understood, etc etc. We’re happy to believe in these things, but we claim that believing in an intelligent Designer, let alone the Creator God of the Bible, is irrational!

  73. 73

    I appreciate your trust in my integrity – thank you!

    I’ll have a go.

    “Free will” cannot of course simply mean “free” of some causal prior. Our current understanding of the universe suggests that it is fundamentally non-deterministic, and while we can compute the half-life of a radioactive material highly accurately, we can never do anything more than guess when the next click of the geiger counter will occur. Radioactive decay events seem to be “free”. However, we can agree, I assume, that they are not “willed”.

    So what do we mean be “willed” action?

    it seems to me that “free” in the sense that a uranium nucleus os “free” to decay at any time is actually the opposite of what we mean by “willed”. Willed action (or a willed event) is an event that does have causes, in that if an action is willed we generally (I would argue) mean that it is the result of informed choice, i.e. that there have been many factors that contribute to the final decision. In contrast, a uranium nucleus does not make an “informed” choice at all – there is nothing that affects the uranium atoms’s “decision” to decay now rather than in 1000 years time. It is an “acausal” event.

    So by “free”, in relation to “willed action” we mean the opposite of “acausal”. However, for “will” to be “free” we do mean that it is not coerced, either by some external agent (“No, you can’t have chocolate ice-cream, what’s left has already been sold in advance to some other customer”) or some internal agent we consider foreign to the self (“I would have chosen chocolate, but I’m addicted to coffee even though I know it’s bad for me”).

    In other words, the only coherent sense in which we are free (“have free will”) to make and execure an informed choice of action is the sense in which the agent we refer to as “I” is free to make an informed choice. Without informed choice three can be morality.

    And we have good “materialistic” accounts of informed choice-making and action.

    Therefore, a materialistic model can account for free will.

    How did I do?

  74. 74
    markf says:

    if who we are and what we choose at any given moment reduces to a certain arraignment of brain matter, that is no different than who we are being determined by the arrangement of ALL matter when conceived.

    Why? Surely the difference between some matter (the brain) and all matter is rather fundamental.

  75. 75
    champignon says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Assuming you’re referrring to quantum chaos, it’s not clear to me that such systems are actually non-deterministic at the macro level. As Michael Berry writes:

    So the claim sometimes made, that chaos amplifies quantum indeterminacy, is misleading. The situation is more subtle: chaos magnifies any uncertainty, but in the quantum case h has a smoothing effect, which would suppress chaos if this suppression were not itself suppressed by externally-induced decoherence, that restores classicality (including chaos if the classical orbits are unstable).

    Either way, Gil cannot assume that a chaotic system is non-deterministic.

  76. 76
    champignon says:

    tjguy,

    See my discussion with Bruce David beginning here.

  77. 77
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    I am tired to discuss free wiil, having done that in detail many times, and often with you.

    But just because it has come out again, let’s try.

    Computers are not conscious. We are. But there is nothing that says consciousness is either necessary or sufficient for free will.

    Well, while I do believe that it is, I can still accept that the point that consciousness is sufficient for free will is what we are discussing, and therefore obviously controversial. But how can you say that consciousness is not necessary for free will?

    I suppose I have asked other times, but could you please gice a clear and non ambiguous definition of what free will is for you? (and, I suppose, for compatibilists in general?).

    Is a computer endowed with free will? Is a light switch? Is a car engine?

    If non conscious things can have free will, what is the meaning of that, and how can we distinguish what things do have it or not?

    And, whatever your definition, could you please explain the meaning of the two words, “free” and “will”, in your context? And explain how they relate to the conscious intuition of conscious human beings of being able to choose between different options, to change their personal destiny, and to be responsible for their use of free will? These are all conscious representations, and I suppose that they are the natural basis for the historical definition of free will, and for all the concepts related to it.

  78. 78
    champignon says:

    Hi Mark,

    I think Todd is just trying to claim that

    1. Materialists are determinists.

    2. If determinism is true, everything we do is determined by the state of the universe at the time of our conception.

    3. This means that materialists are “molecular astrologers”.

    Of course, he’s wrong about #1, because most materialists accept quantum indeterminacy, and he’s wrong about #3, because the state of the universe evolves according to the laws of physics, not astrology.

  79. 79
    gpuccio says:

    champignon:

    I essentially agree with you. While in principle it is possible that some essential indeterminism at quantum level (however controversial) could be amplified in a chaotic system, I don’t believe that we have any real model of how that copuld be of any importance in physics as we know it.

    The only reasonable role of quantum indeterminacy in a discussion about free will is its possible role in a cosnciusness-matter interface (for those who, like me, believe it exists).

  80. 80

    I don’t think quantum indeterminacy is relevant to the issue of free will. I just meant that chaotic systems can be either stochastic or deterministic.

    As for the scaling issue, yes, I think quantum effects do scale up to the macro level. If a particle is emitted from some radioactive material, it may or may not hit, say, the DNA molecule in some organism somewhere, and result in, damage that results in turn in malignant tissue, or if it hits a gamete, perhaps a novel DNA sequence that may even prove one day beneficial to an inheritor.

    And for that matter, at neural level, there are at least some people who think that quantum effects scale up to the level of the ion, potentially tipping the balance of timing of the firing of neurons, and, in fact, that some animals may have evolved to exploit this, by allowing their behaviour to be randomly determined, and therefore un-second-guessable.

    But, as I said, I don’t think the issue has anything to do with whether we are free to make informed choices or not, although it may have something to do with whether we are free to make uninformed choices, and thus outwit a predator!

    http://www.annualreviews.org/e.....t23=Choose

  81. 81
    Charles says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Therefore, a materialistic model can account for free will.

    And substituting your semantics yields…

    “Therefore, a materialistic model can account for [informed, uncoerced choices] that are [not simply free of some causal prior].”

    Precisely the position expected of a materialist.

    As to your earlier dissembling:

    I am a materialist and I hold that we have free will, by which I mean we can make informed choices of action. You rule my position out, a priori. Why?

    Because your position in your own words, a priori, is “not simply free”

    Computers are “not simply free of some causal prior” and make “informed choices of action”. Computers by your “materialist compatibilist” semantics have free will.

    That is why your position is ruled out a priori, because it isn’t really “free”, no matter how hard you stamp your foot.

    Words have meaning. Stop dissembling you agree with “free” and then redefine “free” to mean “not simply free”.

  82. 82
    gpuccio says:

    Elizabeth:

    Quantum indeterminacy can allow consciousness to make free interventions at neural level without violating any deterministic law of physics. That’s why it is important in some models of consciusness brain interaction.

    The same can be true for models of how a designer implements biological information.

  83. 83

    Quantum indeterminacy can allow consciousness to make free interventions at neural level without violating any deterministic law of physics. That’s why it is important in some models of consciusness brain interaction.

    How? I would agree that quantum indeterminacy probably means that some decisions are made that would not otherwise be made, but in what sense is this not simply noise in the system?

    A willed decision is an informed decision, surely? What is “informed” about quantum indeterminate events?

  84. 84
    markf says:

    Gpuccio

     

    That’s a lot of requests!  I am about to go out but I will give it my best shot.

    But how can you say that consciousness is not necessary for free will?

    Of course you can always define free will so consciousness is part of it and the vast majority of things that have free will are, as a matter of fact, conscious.  But I don’t see it is as necessary. To me the essential element of free will is acting according to motives, needs and desires.  Things have motives, needs and desires in degrees.  A single-celled animal can hardly be said to have them.  A worm more so. A complex mammal like a lion definitely. And the degree of free will tracks this.

    I suppose I have asked other times, but could you please gice a clear and non ambiguous definition of what free will is for you? (and, I suppose, for compatibilists in general?).

    See above

    Is a computer endowed with free will? Is a light switch? Is a car engine?

    None of these – they don’t have motives.

    If non conscious things can have free will, what is the meaning of that, and how can we distinguish what things do have it or not?

    See above

    And, whatever your definition, could you please explain the meaning of the two words, “free” and “will”, in your context?

    Free = able to act without constraint

    Will = act according to motives

    And explain how they relate to the conscious intuition of conscious human beings of being able to choose between different options, to change their personal destiny, and to be responsible for their use of free will?

    We are far more sophisticated than other animals in how we can act according to motives.  Of course, as discussed above, you may wish to limit your definition of free will to this kind of decision making.  I believe Elizabeth would do so. This more limited definition is also compatible with determinism.  The process of choosing is determined by the options we are aware of and the various motives that impinge on us (plus possibly a random element). But that is not a constraint. That is doing what we want.

    Here is a single question for you.

    Suppose that a master neurosurgeon were to reveal they had been monitoring your brain for the last 10 minutes.  They were able to explain in terms of chemistry and electricity how your motives and perceptions were stored in the brain, how that caused you to debate options internally, and how that lead to your decision.  Would you now say you had lost the free will you thought you had?

  85. 85

    Sims are NOT experiments.

    They can be. I certainly use sims experimenatally.

  86. 86

    I am not “dissembling”. If you want to engage my post, please do not accuse me of dishonesty.

    If you rephrase your post without that implication, I will respond to it. Otherwise, not.

  87. 87
    Charles says:

    Elizabeth Liddle

    “Dissemble” means to cloak, mask, hide, pretend.

    You pretend that “we have free will” when the meaning you hid, cloaked or masked was your true meaning of “not simply free”.

    That is you dissembling. Get over it.

  88. 88
    Charles says:

    Elizabeth Liddle

    please do not accuse me of dishonesty.

    I’ll go you one better. I do not accuse you of dishonesty by which I mean you honestly spelled every word correctly.

    Fair enough?

  89. 89

    I hid nothing, pretended nothing, cloaked nothing, masked nothing.

    I told you exactly what I meant.

    I am not dishonest and I posted in good faith.

  90. 90
    Charles says:

    Elizabeth Liddle

    I told you exactly what I meant.

    On what planet does “not simply free” mean “free”?

    The same planet where “I hold a PhD” means I hold “not quite a PhD”?

  91. 91
    champignon says:

    Elizabeth,

    I don’t think quantum indeterminacy is relevant to the issue of free will.

    I don’t either, but Gil seems to think that 1) non-determinism is essential to free will, and 2) chaotic systems are necessarily non-deterministic because they are unpredictable in practice. I was pointing out that #2 is a problematic assumption (so is #1, but I figured that the problem with #2 would be easier to explain).

    As for the scaling issue, yes, I think quantum effects do scale up to the macro level… And for that matter, at neural level, there are at least some people who think that quantum effects scale up to the level of the ion, potentially tipping the balance of timing of the firing of neurons…

    The question isn’t whether quantum effects scale up to the macro level — what better illustration of that than a Geiger counter? The question is whether they scale up in chaotic systems, which is what the Michael Berry quote addresses.

    But, as I said, I don’t think the issue has anything to do with whether we are free to make informed choices or not, although it may have something to do with whether we are free to make uninformed choices, and thus outwit a predator!

    I agree. As I wrote on another thread:

    This also highlights an odd fact about libertarian free will vs. compatibilism. A libertarian thinks he is most free when his actions are least constrained by his nature, while for a compatibilist it is exactly the opposite: freedom consists in doing exactly what is in one’s nature to do.

  92. 92

    Would you cite the sentence in which I used the phrase “not simply free”?

    In full, please.

  93. 93
    todd says:

    Mark,

    Sure, but the determining positioning are quite similar, no?

  94. 94

    Nicely put (your last point).

    I agree, of course.

  95. 95
  96. 96
    todd says:

    Does astrology have laws for the motion of cosmic matter? I think astrologists accept the state of the universe evolves according to physical laws, they just think where everything is at a given time has influence on personality. This is remarkably similar to those who believe the molecular arrangement of brain matter determines thoughts and preferences and causes the ‘illusion’ of free will.

  97. 97

    And did you read the following sentences as well?

  98. 98
    champignon says:

    todd,

    The similarity is extremely superficial. Both perspectives hold that human personality and behavior ultimately depend on something outside of the person, but apart from that, I don’t see many similarities, much less ‘remarkable’ ones.

  99. 99
    todd says:

    Don’t both depend on arrangement of matter?

  100. 100
    champignon says:

    Yes, but so do baking soda, bowling scores, meteor showers and flatulence.

  101. 101
    Charles says:

    And did you write the earlier sentance?

    I am a materialist and I hold that we have free will, by which I mean we can make informed choices of action.

    Wherein you failed to qualify that by “free will” you actually meant (as later disclosed) “not simply free of some causal prior.”

    Which will do you believe we have? The will that is “free” [“simply”, i.e. without qualification as used by JDH and presumed in your rebutal to JDH] or the will that is “not simply free” [of some causal prior]?

    How is anyone expected to coherently parse such self-contradictory equivocal usages?

    The English language has a wealth of words to choose from that mean something less than “simply free” will: Constrained will, limited will, circumscribed will, determined will, predetermined will… Pick a term whose definition actually fits the usage you intend to argue, and make your case, with consistent terminology. Stop hijacking words to bootstrap your argument past obstacles.

  102. 102

    I stated precisely what I meant by free will.

    And as you seem unable to grant me the basic courtesy of assuming that I am posting in good faith, I will not respond to you further.

  103. 103
    Charles says:

    Elizabeth Liddle

    I stated precisely what I meant by free will.

    Yes, and your meaning (as qualified and elaborated in your own words) is “not simply free of some prior causal”

    If, for example, you tell people you “hold a PhD”, that is expected to mean you actually have been awarded that degree by some acredited institution. It does not mean that you’re an undergrad accummulating credits with the goal of earning a PhD. We don’t get to change ‘holding a PhD’ into some neologism that suits undergrads.

    Likewise we don’t get to redefine “free”. “free” means without constraint; it does not mean the “opposite of acausal” [i.e. the opposite of ‘having no cause’ which would be ‘having cause’ or ‘being caused’].

    Your exact words were:

    “Free will” cannot of course simply mean “free” of some causal prior.

    So by “free”, in relation to “willed action” we mean the opposite of “acausal”.

    Your meaning of “free” is “having cause”!!!

    And as you seem unable to grant me the basic courtesy of assuming that I am posting in good faith

    This is not a matter of basic courtesy. No amount of politeness or civililty on either of our parts excuses such egregious abuse of language.

  104. 104
    GilDodgen says:

    Dear Mike,

    As usual, a UD commenter like you makes my point much more insightfully and eloquently than I.

    I just figure stuff out by reason, mathematics, and examining the evidence. When it became apparent to me that this Darwinism stuff was junk “science” — unrelated to reason, mathematics, or an objective examination and evaluation of the evidence — and even more clearly a desperate attempt to promote an irrational materialist worldview, I said, “To hell with that. I’ll abandon my lifelong commitment to the poisonous and destructive nonsense of materialism and follow the evidence where it leads.”

  105. 105

    Well, I would agree that we are not using language to successfully communicate here. I’m not persuaded that the “abuse” is on my side.

    If “free” means “without constraint” then “free will” is an oxymoron. A willed action is a constrained action – constrained by the factors that the will-ing agent weighs up in coming to that decision.

    That is why I spent time exploring what “free” could mean, coherently, when used to modify “will”.

    And I suggest that it is used in a relative sense, as well as in an absolute sense (more commonly, I would argue). No human being is totally “without constraint”. I am not free (as I said in the other thread) to play Chopin on the piano, even if I willed it, because I do not have the skill. On the other hand, I am free to choose between playing Bach or Marais on my viol, because I have the skills to do either. I am less free to choose Forqueray, however, because I am heavily constrained by its technical demands.

    So the point I was (clearly unsuccessfully in your case) attempting to make is that when we talk about “free will” we cannot be talking about “free” in the sense that a totally unconstrained entity like a uranium nucleus is “free” to decay at any time between now and a million years hence, with no apparent constraints on that time at all.

    In other words, “free” as a qualifier of “will” cannot sensibly mean what is often meant by “random”. A willed decision is an informed decision, wouldn’t you agree? So I am arguing that “free will” is the capacity to make, and execute an informed decision, not the capacity to make and execute a totally uninformed decision, which would not, coherently, then be an act of “will”.

    Far from being an “abuse” of language, I submit that to regard the “free” in “free will” as meaning “without constraint” ist to make a nonsense of the expression.

    Which is why I think that “Am I free?” is a better question than “Do I have free will?”

    And I would argue that human beings are free, freer than any other living creature, because they are free from what I tend to call the “constraints of immediacy”. We can choose our actions not simply because they suit “me, now” but because they may benefit others, myself in the future, others in the future, others as yet unborn, etc.

    That is a coherent, IMO, sense in which we are truly free to choose our actions. I have yet to read an alternative sense that actually makes sense.

  106. 106
    markf says:

    Gpuccio

    Having asked me a lot of questions are going to read the answer? 🙂

  107. 107
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    First of all, I apologize for the delay in answering: work and other duties have prevented me from reading UD in the last 24 hours.

    And thank you for your answer. It is clear and simple, and that’s why it gives rise, at least for me, to serious difficulties.

    So, I will express those difficulties, and then answer your final question and make some final comments.

    You say:

    To me the essential element of free will is acting according to motives, needs and desires. Things have motives, needs and desires in degrees.

    and:

    Free = able to act without constraint. Will = act according to motives.

    Well, I will discuss the problems with “free” and then with “will”.

    Free. YOu define “free” as “able to act without constraint”. Well, I see here a basci problem, which is not so much related to the aspect of consciousness, but to the main point of free will itself.

    My point is: no action is done without constraint. Constraints are always there, both outer and inner. You seem, as a compatibilist, to make a distinction between outer constraints and inner constraints, because you seem to consider inner constraints not constraints at all. OK, I will not dicuss that for the moment (more on that later). But, anyway, no action can be done without outer constraints. Outer constraints always limit the actions we can do, in greater or lesser degree. But in that sense, there would never be a “free” action.

    At the same time, if an action is done, it certainly means that existing constraints, whatever they are, could not prevent it. So, in that sense, any action is free, because any action was performed, and therefore any existing constraint could not prevent it.

    So, I believe that your definition leads to serious logical contradictions.

    Will. You define will as “act according to motives”. OK. But how do you define “motives”?

    You say: “Things have motives, needs and desires in degrees”. I can agree, but how do you define those things out of consciousness? What is a motive, is no conscious being is there?

    I do believe that “motive”, “need”, “function” and “purpose” cannot be defined out of subjective representations, because they are all words that describe subjective representations, and nothing else. In particular, they describe the feeling aspect of conscious representations. In the same way, concepts like “meaning”, “truth” and similar describe the cognitive aspect of conscious representations.

    You seem to disagree with that. But then, I have to ask you an explicit, and clear, definition of “motive” that does not rely in any way on subjective representations of consciousness.

    You finally say:

    The process of choosing is determined by the options we are aware of and the various motives that impinge on us (plus possibly a random element). But that is not a constraint. That is doing what we want.

    So, it really seems that we always act freely, and equally freely, I suppose in the limits given by outer constraints. Because, according to what you say, inner contraints are not constraints at all.

    I would make two comments to that:

    a) From the point of view of classical, libertarian free will, that is in no way different from a deterministic position. It adds nothing to classical determinism, except for the suggestion of the words: “we are doing what we want”. That are anyway a cause of many logical contradictions.

    b) From any point of view, it is a completely useless definition. If all actions are free, and equivalent, there is no difference between good and bad actions. Or at least, if there is a difference, it does not depend on compatibilist free will. You will probably say that an action coming from a good desire is good, and an action coming from a bad desire is bad. OK, but we do not rerally choose. We do what our desire, or at least our prevailing desire, tells us to do. So, no moral responsibility can be attributed to actions because they are “free”. We can certainly give a moral connotation to desires, and therefore to corresponding actions, but that has nothing to do with our supposed “free will”. We are bound to act according to our desires, and if our desires were formed because of previous actions (let’s consider, for instance, some destructive habit), then again those previous actions were due to existing desires, and so on.

    As compatibilists seem to belive in moral responsibility, I would like you to explain in what sense.

    Finally, your question:

    Suppose that a master neurosurgeon were to reveal they had been monitoring your brain for the last 10 minutes. They were able to explain in terms of chemistry and electricity how your motives and perceptions were stored in the brain, how that caused you to debate options internally, and how that lead to your decision. Would you now say you had lost the free will you thought you had?

    If what you describe were really possible, in absolute deterministic-random terms, I would simply say that free will does not exist, and that I was wrong. I would become a determinist, but never a compatibilist.

    But obviously, I don’t believe that what you describe is possible. I believe that an objective description could be possible of neural states, but that description will never be able to explain all the transitions from state to state in a deterministic way. And not even according to some random description.

    What I believe is that, if we can really describe those states, the same scenario of biological ID will be found: the continuous emergence of new dFSCI, of new meaning, that cannot be explained neither deterministically not probabilistically.

    I believe that the consciousness-brain interface, probably acting at quantum level, allows conscious representations to modify the form of neural states, in non deterministic ways, or at least in “prescriptive deterministic ways”, as Abel would say, while not explicitly contradicting deterministic laws.

    I believe that our free will act essentially in how our consiousness reacts to its representations. I believe that such reaction cannot be explained by preexisting neural states, that it is morally meaningful (intuitively oriented towards good or evil, according to our free choice), and that our conscious reaction can “model” neural states, introducing dFSCI and contents that were not there before.

  108. 108
    Charles says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    If “free” means “without constraint” then “free will” is an oxymoron. A willed action is a constrained action – constrained by the factors that the will-ing agent weighs up in coming to that decision.

    This is where you go astray: “A willed action is a constrained action“. You have, perhaps unwittingly, conflated a mental intention, a “decision”, with a physical action, an implementation of that decision. “free will” is an adjective modifying a noun, you have conflated it with an adverb modifying a verb. The pivotal issue being “will” is both a noun meaning volition, intent or purpose, as well as a verb meaning to decree, ordain, or determine. In all cases “free” means free without constraint – that is the accepted meaning of “free”. The seeming oxymoron arises from your conflating the two cases.

    In the latter case, treating “will” as a verb, indeed our human action is rarely free and usually constrained in whole or in part, about which I doubt we have any disagreement. But I know of no one (except tempermental children and the insane) who argues or expects their “decrees, ordinations or determinations”, their “will” as a verb, to be without constraint.

    But it is the former case, treating “will” as a noun modified by the adjective “free” which is under discussion. How do we know of a certainty which case is under discussion? Because no one expects or argues they freely decree, ordain, or determine: no one sees themself as God with God’s omnipotence; even presidents and dictators recognize the limits of their power. Similarly, it is the former case, treating “will” as a noun where almost everyone (save argumentative atheists, materialists, and a few philosophers) expects their mental volition, intents and decisions to be free without constraint. As the argument herein pivots not on humans having omnipotence to bring about their decrees, but rather on their freedom to believe or choose, the argument plainly is about the case of “free” being an adjective which modifies “will” the noun.

    It is into this context of “will” the noun, meaning volition, intent, purpose or decision, that you have interjected the consequence of actions. The consequence of acting upon our mental volition, intent, purpose, decision is not the same as the mental volition, intent, purpose or decision itself.

    I can of my own free mental volition decide to jump off a cliff intending to fly, but the consequences of acting on that mental volition will kill me. I can likewise in an uninformed fashion, as would a child, tie a red cape around my neck and jump out of a tree also intending to fly like Superman but again the consequences of acting on that mental volition will injure, if not kill, me. As I mature, I learn and make more informed choices, I learn that what I intend may not always come to pass, what I want I may not always get. But my mental volition, intents, purposes, decisions remain free without constraint. I can freely want what I know I’ll never achieve. I can freely choose what I know will never come to pass: I can vote for losers, I can write bad checks, I can donate to useless charities; all with varying consequences but all having been freely chosen without regard for those consequences.

    This free mental volition supercedes the material universe as well. Regardless of the position of planetary bodies or impinging quantum effects, my mental volition is free without constraint. I can mimic the output of a quantum random number generator and mentally choose to be as unpredictable as quantum effects or I can ignore the generator and be as predictable as the sunrise. But the sunrise can not be unpredictable, whereas I can freely so choose. Neither can the random number generator be predictable, whereas I can freely so choose. My mental volition is free whereas the universe is not.

    Yes, there may be consequences to those mental choices, but the argument is that the “will” (noun meaning mental volition, intentions, purposes, choices) however informed or uninformed, is free without constraint, not that we can freely evade the consequences of our actions.

    That is why I spent time exploring what “free” could mean, coherently, when used to modify “will”.

    Yes, but you a) incorrectly conflated the verb form of “will” with the noun form of “will” in the context of non-material “free will” and b) ignored the fact that even the material universe (be it radioactive decay which inexorably will happen, or the availability of chocolate ice cream) is severely constrained, whereas our mental volition is free without constraint, free to think thoughts in defiance of material randomness or determinedness, free to think thoughts in defiance of factual truth (I can wrongly believe the earth is flat), and free to think thoughts that transcend material reality (I can believe in God, ghosts, even dimensions that artificially exist only in abstract math).

    Which is why I think that “Am I free?” is a better question than “Do I have free will?”

    Well, It’s certainly a *different* question, but not the question JDH or I found interesting. I am free to think anything as I will (the noun), I am not free to do anything as I will (the verb). These are different questions. Had you lead off with: “A better question is “Am I free?”” I suspect neither JDH nor I would have paid much attention.

    Lastly, courtesy extends to posting here and allowing posters to frame their arguments as they freely choose. Courtesy does not extend to substitution of common meanings with opposite meanings merely to cloak an argument in the guise of “free will” when ‘constrained consequence’ is the conclusion being advocated. That is a “bait & switch” approach. While you may not have intended that approach, consider that you represent yourself here as highly informed and experienced on these subjects. So when it is observed that JDH uses “free will” in the non-materialist viewpoint and you purport to have an explanation that reconciles the non-materialist viewpoint with a materialist viewpoint (the bait), but your first postulate is to substitute the commonly understood meaning of “free” with its opposite (the switch), one can only conclude that didn’t happen by accident, especially from a person of your experience.

    Arguing that “free” doesn’t really mean “free” is an old tactic (dare I say ancient) often seen in atheist, materialist and hyperCalvinist talking points, likewise conflating freedom with unpredictibility (they are neither the same nor linked). That you, an informed experienced professor, would fall into such a tactic accidentally seems unlikely. I’m sure you knew what JDH meant and that it wasn’t what you were going to conclude.

    Reconsider your opening gambit: I am a materialist and I hold that we have free will, by which I mean we can make informed choices of action. You rule my position out, a priori. Why?

    Consider that computers “make informed choices of action” but neither you nor JDH would consider computers to have “free will” as JDH, I, and almost everyone means. And then you argued that “free” actually means it opposite (being caused) and expect “courtesy” when doing so. I try to be patient, charitable and civil, but trying to communicate when novel, opposite meanings are being used is not a matter for courtesy but for correction.

  109. 109
    todd says:

    Right, but no one is saying the arrangement of those have anything to do with human thought or personality

  110. 110
    champignon says:

    My point is that if so many things depend on arrangements of matter, is it really so remarkable that both astrology and materialism also do?

    Anyway, astrology lacks empirical support and a plausible mechanism, and is rejected by most scientists and philsophers. For materialism, the opposite is true.

  111. 111

    Elizabeth Liddle:
    If “free” means “without constraint” then “free will” is an oxymoron. A willed action is a constrained action – constrained by the factors that the will-ing agent weighs up in coming to that decision.
    This is where you go astray: “A willed action is a constrained action“. You have, perhaps unwittingly, conflated a mental intention, a “decision”, with a physical action, an implementation of that decision. “free will” is an adjective modifying a noun, you have conflated it with an adverb modifying a verb. The pivotal issue being “will” is both a noun meaning volition, intent or purpose, as well as a verb meaning to decree, ordain, or determine. In all cases “free” means free without constraint – that is the accepted meaning of “free”. The seeming oxymoron arises from your conflating the two cases.

    No, I have not conflated the two. I described a willed action. A willed action must be preceded by a decision/mental intention to act, or it is not a willed action. And an intention to act must be followed by an action, or it is useless, and certainly not free. I can intend all I want to lose weight this year, but unless I act on it, you would say, rightly, that I “lacked will”. So both intention and action are intimately bound together in the concept of “will”. However, my point was a slightly different one – that an informed decision is a constrained decision. A totally unconstrained decision would be a totally uninformed one – one that was independent of any input factors. And therefore a decision that was “free” in that sense would not be “willed” in any coherent meaning of that term.

    In the latter case, treating “will” as a verb, indeed our human action is rarely free and usually constrained in whole or in part, about which I doubt we have any disagreement. But I know of no one (except tempermental children and the insane) who argues or expects their “decrees, ordinations or determinations”, their “will” as a verb, to be without constraint.

    Exactly (except I would take issue with your characterisation of “the insane”).

    But it is the former case, treating “will” as a noun modified by the adjective “free” which is under discussion. How do we know of a certainty which case is under discussion? Because no one expects or argues they freely decree, ordain, or determine: no one sees themself as God with God’s omnipotence; even presidents and dictators recognize the limits of their power. Similarly, it is the former case, treating “will” as a noun where almost everyone (save argumentative atheists, materialists, and a few philosophers) expects their mental volition, intents and decisions to be free without constraint. As the argument herein pivots not on humans having omnipotence to bring about their decrees, but rather on their freedom to believe or choose, the argument plainly is about the case of “free” being an adjective which modifies “will” the noun.

    Well, as I said, “will” treated not simply as a noun, but as a concept that is independent of action, seems meaningless to me. To will something, but be unable to act upon it is what kind of will? The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.

    It is into this context of “will” the noun, meaning volition, intent, purpose or decision, that you have interjected the consequence of actions. The consequence of acting upon our mental volition, intent, purpose, decision is not the same as the mental volition, intent, purpose or decision itself.

    No, it isn’t. That does not alter my point.

    I can of my own free mental volition decide to jump off a cliff intending to fly, but the consequences of acting on that mental volition will kill me. I can likewise in an uninformed fashion, as would a child, tie a red cape around my neck and jump out of a tree also intending to fly like Superman but again the consequences of acting on that mental volition will injure, if not kill, me. As I mature, I learn and make more informed choices, I learn that what I intend may not always come to pass, what I want I may not always get. But my mental volition, intents, purposes, decisions remain free without constraint. I can freely want what I know I’ll never achieve. I can freely choose what I know will never come to pass: I can vote for losers, I can write bad checks, I can donate to useless charities; all with varying consequences but all having been freely chosen without regard for those consequences.

    Voting for losers, writing bad checks, donating to useless charities are all intended actions. Whether they bring about the consequences you intend is another issue – whether those actions were adequately informed. But informed they presumably were, unless you were acting on the tosses of coins, in which case I’d scarcely describe them as willed, even though they might be free.

    This free mental volition supercedes the material universe as well. Regardless of the position of planetary bodies or impinging quantum effects, my mental volition is free without constraint. I can mimic the output of a quantum random number generator and mentally choose to be as unpredictable as quantum effects or I can ignore the generator and be as predictable as the sunrise. But the sunrise can not be unpredictable, whereas I can freely so choose. Neither can the random number generator be predictable, whereas I can freely so choose. My mental volition is free whereas the universe is not.

    Yes, I agree. One of the things we are free to do is to choose not to choose. For instance I can decide to toss a coin to determine which ice-cream I will have. That decision to “not decide” is a free decision. I think I actually made this point earlier!

    Yes, there may be consequences to those mental choices, but the argument is that the “will” (noun meaning mental volition, intentions, purposes, choices) however informed or uninformed, is free without constraint, not that we can freely evade the consequences of our actions.

    Well, I didn’t say that free means “freely evade the consequences of our actions”. I said that a willed decision is constrained by the information that we consider when arriving at a decision (including the decision not to decide). However, if every decision in our lives was decided by the click of a Geiger counter, while we would be perfectly unpredictable, we certainly would be exercising will.

    That is why I spent time exploring what “free” could mean, coherently, when used to modify “will”.
    Yes, but you a) incorrectly conflated the verb form of “will” with the noun form of “will” in the context of non-material “free will” and b) ignored the fact that even the material universe (be it radioactive decay which inexorably will happen, or the availability of chocolate ice cream) is severely constrained, whereas our mental volition is free without constraint, free to think thoughts in defiance of material randomness or determinedness, free to think thoughts in defiance of factual truth (I can wrongly believe the earth is flat), and free to think thoughts that transcend material reality (I can believe in God, ghosts, even dimensions that artificially exist only in abstract math).

    No, I didn’t so conflate those things, as I have explained above. And I agree with most of what you have said above. That is why I agree that we have free will. But I do not agree that any of that is “unconstrained” precisely because of the reasons you give – our thoughts are not randomly generated, they follow, one from another, logically, in accord with evidence, or even in defiance of it. What you think next is not independent of what you think now. If it were, i.e. if it were totally unconstrained, you would be unable to think coherently. That’s my point – that being capable of intentional action is a consequence of the constraints on what we intend, not on its “freedom” from causality. That is why I think it is more useful to think of “free will” as “freedom from immediacy” – we have real choices, we are not tightly constrained by what we want or need now, but can consider all kinds of future benefits, not only to ourselves, but to others.
    Which is why I think that “Am I free?” is a better question than “Do I have free will?”
    Well, It’s certainly a *different* question, but not the question JDH or I found interesting. I am free to think anything as I will (the noun), I am not free to do anything as I will (the verb). These are different questions. Had you lead off with: “A better question is “Am I free?”” I suspect neither JDH nor I would have paid much attention.

    I don’t think it is a different question, I think it’s a better way of posing the only coherent interpretation of the question: “do I have free will?”

    Lastly, courtesy extends to posting here and allowing posters to frame their arguments as they freely choose. Courtesy does not extend to substitution of common meanings with opposite meanings merely to cloak an argument in the guise of “free will” when ‘constrained consequence’ is the conclusion being advocated. That is a “bait & switch” approach. While you may not have intended that approach, consider that you represent yourself here as highly informed and experienced on these subjects.

    I cloaked nothing. Quite the reverse – I find it frustrating when a meaning I intended to be crystal clear is missed. So I utterly reject your accusation. As for what I “represent [my]self here as” – that’s for you to judge. I do not argue from any kind of authority, which would be utterly foolish. It doesn’t work on the internet.

    So when it is observed that JDH uses “free will” in the non-materialist viewpoint and you purport to have an explanation that reconciles the non-materialist viewpoint with a materialist viewpoint (the bait), but your first postulate is to substitute the commonly understood meaning of “free” with its opposite (the switch), one can only conclude that didn’t happen by accident, especially from a person of your experience.

    But I did not do any such thing. I started off by openly discussing what I thought could be the only coherent application of the multivalent adjective “free” to the concept of “will”.

    Arguing that “free” doesn’t really mean “free” is an old tactic (dare I say ancient) often seen in atheist, materialist and hyperCalvinist talking points, likewise conflating freedom with unpredictibility (they are neither the same nor linked). That you, an informed experienced professor, would fall into such a tactic accidentally seems unlikely. I’m sure you knew what JDH meant and that it wasn’t what you were going to conclude.

    I am not a professor, and have never claimed to be. And the word “free” does not have a single meaning in English usage. I gave what I thought was an appropriate definition for the concept. I hid/cloaked/dissembled nothing.

    Reconsider your opening gambit: I am a materialist and I hold that we have free will, by which I mean we can make informed choices of action. You rule my position out, a priori. Why?
    Consider that computers “make informed choices of action” but neither you nor JDH would consider computers to have “free will” as JDH, I, and almost everyone means. And then you argued that “free” actually means it opposite (being caused) and expect “courtesy” when doing so. I try to be patient, charitable and civil, but trying to communicate when novel, opposite meanings are being used is not a matter for courtesy but for correction.

    It is not “correction” to dispute the definition of a word. In the context of any discussion of “free will” it is crucial to establish what we actually mean by the phrase, which, on the face of it (as I said in the other thread – it’s a shame we have to keep jumping between threads) is not a coherent one. “Will” is not itself an agent, it is the name we give to the exercise of agency. The agent is you, or me, and so the proper target for the adjective “free” is the self, not the “will”, so the question becomes “am I free?” And I suggest that is what most people mean when they ask “do I have free will”? If they do not mean that, I must ask: what do they mean?
    Or, in this case, “what do you mean?”

  112. 112
    Charles says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    No, I have not conflated the two. I described a willed action.

    Yes, you did describe a willed action, but the non-materialist view posed by JDH, the non-materialist view which you claimed to reconcile with materialism, is a mental volition, intent, purpose, desire or belief.

    There is no “action” in a mental volition, intent, purpose, desire or belief, rather in a mental volition there is only thought without action. “action” only enters if and when mental volition requires movement, such as typing a keypad, getting up from a chair, clicking ‘bid’ on E-bay, making good on that new-year’s resolution to lose weight, etc. I can believe the earth is flat without moving a muscle to verify or falsify that belief. I can resolve to lose weight and put off dieting indefinitely. I can believe I have freedom of thought without constraint, without having to put that mental volition to any material test.

    Yes, you described a “willed [the verb] action” whereas JDH and I describe mental “will” [the noun] which is merely volition, intent etc. without action. That you obdurately persist in explaining a volitional will viewpoint using your “willed action” viewpoint merely underscores your continued conflating of the two different usages of the term “will”. You can freely deny it all you like, but the dictionary proves there are noun and verb usages and you plainly are using the verb usage to refute a noun usage. That is you conflating the two otherwise different usages.

    A willed action must be preceded by a decision/mental intention to act, or it is not a willed action.

    A useless and impotent tautology.

    And an intention to act must be followed by an action, or it is useless, and certainly not free.

    Thinking does not require acting. Arguably, we’d be better off with a lot more thinking and less acting, but I digress.

    You may call it useless, but you can’t, with any intellectual honesty, insist that merely believing something mandates action. I can believe in a flat earth without acting on that belief. I can decide you’re wrong, not post another word, and instead move on to other thoughts or tasks. Those are two examples of free will [the noun, meaning mental volition] that do not require “willed [the verb] action”.

    I can intend all I want to lose weight this year, but unless I act on it, you would say, rightly, that I “lacked will”.

    Actually I would say you “lacked will [the verb] power” which is the common phrase, but as you so deliciously put it in your own words, your “intention” [your mental “will”, the noun] can exist all year long without you acting [“willing”, the verb] on it, now can’t it 🙂

    So both intention and action are intimately bound together in the concept of “will”.

    Only when you conflate the two. Except, of course, when you resolve to lose weight, but don’t act on that resolution.

    However, my point was a slightly different one – that an informed decision is a constrained decision. A totally unconstrained decision would be a totally uninformed one – one that was independent of any input factors.

    Plainly wrong. I can make an informed decision to either mimic a random number generator (at quantum scales), ignore it altogether, or contradict it digit by digit and I can instead describe patterns or other imagined sequences… my decision is both totally informed and totally unconsrained, and I can act on that decision or not.

    And therefore a decision that was “free” in that sense would not be “willed” in any coherent meaning of that term.

    And yet I can freely decide [“will” the noun] and even act [“will” the verb] to mimic, ignore, or contradict a random number generator. You can argue about the utility of that experiment, but you can not deny it coherently refutes your claim.

    Well, as I said, “will” treated not simply as a noun, but as a concept that is independent of action, seems meaningless to me. To will something, but be unable to act upon it is what kind of will?

    Hardly surprising. When you insist (in contradiction to standard dictionary and English usage) that every instance of “will” connotes an action, then of course independence from what you deem prerequisite seems meaningless. That is the obvious and inexorable consequence of conflating the noun usage with the verb usage. Consider the old adage “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail” => when your only expectation is “action”, every “will” becomes a decree. It is a quite limiting mindset indeed when every thought mandates action, very exhausting I would expect.

    But I did not do any such thing. I started off by openly discussing what I thought could be the only coherent application of the multivalent adjective “free” to the concept of “will”.

    And yet here you persist in openingly denying the question was posed in terms of “free will [the noun]” and you insist in answering in terms of constrained will [the verb] and that “free” can mean constrained or limited. It never has. You can bang on about multivalent adjective “free” in your defense but what you can not do is substantiate your position with any standard dictionary usage wherein “free” means constrained or limited.

    As long as you fabricate and insist upon your novel meanings (an old and tiresome refuge of yours) there is no basis for communication with those of us who employ standard English.

    The agent is you, or me, and so the proper target for the adjective “free” is the self, not the “will”, so the question becomes “am I free?”

    Only in that imaginary world where you get to fabricate what JDH’s question was. You have amply demonstrated for all to see how appropriate was his a priori dismissal of your viewpoint. Why should anyone here give you the courtesy of engaging your comments when you deny them the courtesy of addressing their questions as they framed them and can’t even bring yourself to use standard dictionary meanings?

  113. 113
    markf says:

    Gpuccio

    A rather cut down response.

    On free.  You are right that all actions are constrained in some degree and not constrained in some respects.  “free” as a relative term – more or less free – rather than absolute.  Will is the more important part of the phrase free will. I don’t understand the distinction between internal and external constraints.

     

    I hope this throws some light on your point about the difficulty of all actions being free.

    On Will.

    You want a definition of “motive” but this leads us into contrary theories of mind which is too much for comments on a blog.  Sorry to disappoint – but simply not enough time for that.

     

    OK, but we do not rerally choose. We do what our desire, or at least our prevailing desire, tells us to do.

    But that is the whole compatibilist point.  Our desires don’t tell us what to do.  They are not some external force.  They are us!  Doing what you desire is choosing.

    Moral responsibility arises when bad desires outweigh good desires.i.e. the bad in you outweighs the good.  There is no need to overcomplicate things!

    If what you describe were really possible, in absolute deterministic-random terms, I would simply say that free will does not exist, and that I was wrong. I would become a determinist, but never a compatibilist.

    Then how do you know you have free will?  What reason have you believing that your actions are not caused?

  114. 114
    Bruce David says:

    tjguy,

    I’ve never read Conversations with God, but I’m wondering how you “know” that God is speaking directly to us in that book.

    How does one “know” that any claimed source of revelation is valid? What authority is there other than oneself? People believe what they believe either because they decide that someone they have met or have seen or have read knows the truth and so they believe him or her, or because their reason leads them to believe something, or because their intuition or inner knowing tells them that something is true, or because they simply continue to believe what they were taught as children without ever questioning it. In any case, it is always the person him or herself that must decide whom or what to believe. There is no other option.

    In my case, I believe that it really is God speaking through Walsch in the Conversations with God series because what God says in those books makes more sense to me than anything else I have read or heard of from any other spiritual or religious source. And because it makes my heart sing.

    How can God be righteous and just if He never judges sin and evil?

    God is not righteous and just. God is loving. Unconditionally. A better question is, “How can God love us unconditionally and then turn around and judge, condemn, and punish us?” He can’t. Unconditional love precludes judgement, condemnation, and punishment. When one loves unconditionally, one does not condemn, and one does not punish. (This does not preclude consequences, by the way. But consequences that come from a place of unconditional love are never punishment, and never derive from judgement and condemnation.)

    Why would God explicitly state that He will never judge us when He explicitly states that He will judge us in His Word? That statement is enough to know without even reading the book that it is not from God. Yes, I accept the Bible as God’s Word.

    I do not.

    …a made up god who simply overlooks all evil and sin. Who would want to live under a King who ruled His kingdom like that? Not me, for sure.

    First of all, I don’t believe that the King/kingdom metaphor is apt. I think an infinitely wise and loving parent is a far better analogy, although that isn’t perfect either. For myself, I would far better live at the mercy of a God who loves me unconditionally, one with whom I can have a true friendship, than a God that I must live in fear of.

    I’ll go further. I am convinced that the belief in sin and the that God punishes sinners is, along with the belief that we are separate from each other and from God, the single most pernicious belief that bedevils humankind. It is this belief that allows us to justify judging, condemning, and punishing others who do not share our particular beliefs or who act in ways that we feel are ungodly or sinful. It justifies wars, and any action that is felt to be necessary to force people into proper belief. Furthermore, it prevents us from loving each other. The act of judgment is the single greatest impediment to love that there is.

    It is one of my most deeply held convictions that if we the humans are to pull ourselves out of the cycle of violence and misery in which we are stuck and create a world of peace, love, and harmony, then we must give up the twin notions of separation and sin, and begin to truly love each other.

  115. 115
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    Thank you for your answers. They confirm my views on your views, and I will leave it at that.

    To answer your last question, my reasons to believe in free will are many, and of different kind. Some of them are scientific at least in part, some are philosophical, some come from my personal inner experience, some from religious references.

    The main argument that can be easily shared is: we have a direct intuition of being free in our conscious representation of reality. IMO, that intuition corresponds perfectly to the philosophical concept of libertarian free will, and to nothing else. Not certainly to the concepts of compatibilism.

    Strict determinism, the only logical alternative to libertarian free will, is deeply inconsistent with all our personal experiences, with all our representation of reality, with each single act and judgement in our lives. That is so obvious that only gew who believe in determinism have the courage to really visualize, understand and accept its extrene consequences. That’s exactly the reson, IMHO, why compatibilism was “invented”: to give determinists some “consolation”, although illogical and inconsistent.

    This is my main rational argument. But again, my absolute belief in free will is based mainly on my inner personal experiences.

    You say:

    I don’t understand the distinction between internal and external constraints.

    and then:

    Our desires don’t tell us what to do. They are not some external force. They are us! Doing what you desire is choosing.

    Thatìs the point. You don’t understand. A desire is an inner constraint, because it is inside us. What an outer constraint is should be obvious.

    The point is: we are not our desires. Choice is usually in acting against some desire that is in us, because other parts of us feel that such a desire is bad. A child knows that well. After all, I am sure that even compatibilists know that well.

    Desires are always conflicting. Many things are inside us, and they are often conflicting. We have a lot of different “parts”, desires, functions, experiences inside us. We have conflicting memories, conflicting identities. Conflicting values.

    Each day is a war inside us. Are we just the sum of the contending parts? You seem to believe that. I don’t.

    Our self is more than that. Our self is the final reference of all confliucting part. It is our self that represents those parts, identifies with them from time to time, and in the end, time after time, chooses in favor of something or some other thing. Inside us. For good or bad.

    That is the eseence of libertarian free will, and the essence of human existence.

  116. 116
    Bruce David says:

    tjguy,

    I answered your 12.1 beneath it (12.1.1) if you’re interested.

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