Intelligent Design

Mark Frank poses an interesting thought experiment on free will

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In a comment on kairosfocus’ latest excellent post, Does ID ASSUME “contra-causal free will” and “intelligence” (and so injects questionable “assumptions”)?, Mark Frank proposes a thought experiment in support of his view that determinism is fully compatible with free will. It goes as follows:

Start with a dog. Dogs make choices in the sense that they may accept or reject a treat, may obey or disobey an order, may chase a rabbit or not. Suppose we advance our understanding of dogs’ brains and thought processes so that a genius vet can predict with 100% accuracy how a dog will choose in any given situation given its past history and current circumstances. Surely this is conceivable? If we manage this do we now say that dogs are making real choices? If it they are real choices then this is compatibilism in action. So I guess, in these circumstances, you would say that we have shown they do not really have free will.

Now extend it to infants – say two year olds. They make choices – eat or don’t eat, cry or don’t cry, hug or don’t hug. So let’s imagine we repeat the process with them. A genius paediatrician in this case (maybe you one day!). Are the infants also lacking free will? Either compatabilism is true or they haven’t got free will.

OK. Now apply it to an adult human. If it is conceivable for a dog and an infant then surely it is conceivable for an adult. A genius psychologist observes an adult and is able to predict all their decisions and explain why – exactly how each decision is determined by their genetics, personal history and current environment (it doesn’t have to be a materialist explanation). Has that adult got free will? Either compatabilism is true or they haven’t got free will.

And finally apply to yourself. Suppose it turns out a genius psychologist has been monitoring you all your life and has been able to correctly predict all your decisions and also how the decision making process worked in detail – how your different motivations were balanced and interacted with your perceptions and memories resulting in each decision (including any dithering and worrying about whether you got it right). Would that mean you thought you had free will but actually didn’t? Either compatabilism is true or you haven’t got free will.

As my computer is currently kaput, this will be a very short post. I’d like to suggest that what Mark Frank has left out of the equation is language, the capacity for which is what differentiates us from other animals. (Human infants possess this capacity but do not yet exercise it, partly because their brains, when they are newborn, are still too immature for language production, and also because they have yet to build up a linguistic databank that would enable them to express what they want to get across.)

Language is central to human rationality because rationality is not just a matter of selecting the appropriate means to realize a desired end: it is also a critical activity, in which agents are expected to be able to justify their choices and respond to questions like “Why did you do that?” People don’t just act rationally; they give reasons for their actions. In order to do that, you need a language in which you can generate an indefinitely large number of sentences, as the range of possible situations in which you might find yourself is potentially infinite – particularly when we factor in the little complicating circumstances that may arise.

What is distinctive about human language, as opposed to animal “language,” is precisely this ability to generate an infinite number of sentences. This uniquely human ability was the subject of a recent article in the Washington Post titled, Chirps, whistles, clicks: Do any animals have a true ‘language’?, which was discussed in a recent post by News (emphases are mine – VJT):

A new study on animal calls has found that the patterns of barks, whistles, and clicks from seven different species appear to be more complex than previously thought. The researchers used mathematical tests to see how well the sequences of sounds fit to models ranging in complexity…

“We’re still a very, very long way from understanding this transition from animal communication to human language, and it’s a huge mystery at the moment,” said study author and zoologist Arik Kershenbaum, who did the work at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis…

“What makes human language special is that there’s no finite limit as to what comes next,” he said….

But what separates language from communication? Why can’t we assume that whales, with their elaborate songs, are simply speaking “whale-ese”?

To be considered a true language, there are a few elements that are usually considered to be essential, says Kershenbaum. For one, it must be learned rather than instinctive — both whales and birds have this piece covered. For instance, killer whale calves learn a repertoire of calls from their mothers, and the sounds gradually evolve from erratic screams to adult-like pulsed calls and whistles.

What holds whales and other animals back from language is that there is a limit to what they can express. There are only so many calls that each may convey different emotions, but only we have an unlimited ability to express abstract ideas.

The problem for scientists is that no one knows how language evolved. Oddly enough, there don’t seem to be any transitional proto-languages between whale and bird songs — said to be the most sophisticated animal calls — and our own speech.

There are two conflicting theories of how language evolved in humans. The first is that human language evolved slowly and gradually, just as most traits evolved in the animal world. So perhaps it started with gestures, and then words and sentences. Or language may have started out more like bird song — with complex but meaningless sounds — and the last stage was attaching meaning to these sounds.

Reading the last paragraph in the passage quoted above brings to mind Nobel Laureate John Eccles’ derisive remarks about “promissory materialism.” The fact is that scientists haven’t got a clue how language evolved – and for a very good reason. The gap between the law-governed deterministic processes we observe in Nature and the infinite flexibility of human language is an unbridgeable one.

That is why no psychologist could ever, even in principle, predict everything that a rational adult human being will think, say and do. Language, which is fundamentally unpredictable, is part of the warp-and-woof of human life. Hence the antecedent in Mark Frank’s thought experiment – “What if a psychologist could predict every decision that you make?” – is impossible, by definition.

Back in 1957, behaviorist B. F. Skinner wrote a best-selling book with the amusing title, Verbal Behavior. I hope readers can see now why language is much more than mere behavior.

Thoughts?

249 Replies to “Mark Frank poses an interesting thought experiment on free will

  1. 1
    Jaceli123 says:

    I am skeptical about free will because of many reasons.

    1. How can we choose what we chose choose or thoughts? It seems to create a infinite regress.

    2. What do we need to be free from, the laws of physics or working chemistry but these seem to be fit we cant break them but we are them?

    3.How can choices arise without previous causes? Just ask yourelf how can we account us being free when choices have to have prior causes.
    ,
    4.How are we free from brain injury like tumors or collisions? These seem to make us do things we can’t control or do.

  2. 2
    gpuccio says:

    Jaceli123:

    In brief:

    1. It would be an infinite regress if we did not exist as a transcendental subject, the conscious “I” which unites all our representations, which cannot and needs not be explained in terms of cause and effect like the phenomena it witnesses.

    2. What we need is to change, to live a life that has a meaning and a purpose. If we don’t exercise well our free will, that will not happen.And we “are2 not the laws of physics or chemistry: we (as a perceiving “I”) just interact with them.

    3. The laws of consciousness are different from the laws of non conscious phenomena. The existence of conscious perceivers can maybe explained in terms of “causes”, but not in the same was as phenomenic realities. That’s why I call the “I” transcendental.

    4. We are not. We are heavily “influenced” by those events, exactly as we can be heavily “influenced” by a car which accidentally hits us, or by winning a lottery, and so on. In no way does free will mean that we are absolutely free, non influenced by anything, or that we can do all that we like. Least of all it means that we can control everything, at most that we can control at least a little how we react to things. Free will just means that, in each specific situation, we can still choose between different alternatives, with different values for our personal destiny.

  3. 3
    Tim says:

    I am not sure that we should “start with a dog”. Why not start with a computer program? Then, we might discuss what types of freedoms to obey commands it has. Wouldn’t most agree that a fully “known” code would make outputs that were without “free will”? I think so. No ghost in that machine.

    But it is not our knowledge of the code that abrogates the free will of the code.

    But dogs? I am not sure there is a ghost there either. Mark Frank writes,

    “Dogs make choices in the sense that they may accept or reject a treat”.

    However, how well we know the dog’s brain may have less to do with free will than what the dog’s brain defines as a “treat”. Rather than bestow free will on the dog in any sense, we might just as easily say that the dog’s programming weighed in and, whether it be fatigue from chasing so many rabbits, or a sore belly from eating too many rabbits. The offered “treat” is not so much “ignored” or “rejected” as it is not defined as “treat” until the paws-belly-calculus is right again.

    Again, it would not be our knowledge of the dog’s brain that would decide free will. In other words, it may be true that dogs do not “accept” or “reject” or “obey” or “disobey”

    At this point one might then say, well, doesn’t this suggest that humans lack free will too? Along with language (which in its most mature form, I read as both a cause and marker of free will), is there a ghost in the machine? The examples (not proofs, just examples) are legion, but I will mention only three that are particular to the human race:

    1. Special Revelation.
    2. The teleological suspension of the ethical.
    3. Any good joke that starts with “_____ walks into a bar. . . ”

    I direct your attention to “A Few Good Men”. If Colonel Jessup’s orders were always followed, and he ordered that Santiago not be touched, then why was Santiago in danger? Furthermore, why do we all (I hope all) feel that the blind following of orders is somehow de-humanizing?

    Downey: What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!
    Dawson: Yeah we did. We were supposed to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willy.

    . . . and that the preceding lines form the capstone to the redemptive aspects of the story.

    Ok, this was not meant to be an airtight syllogism for the case for free will, just some thoughts on where the wind blows.

  4. 4

    Discussions of human free will seem to always include an implicit and unprovable assumption that everything people do is a result of some cause or causes, rather than being a choice by an agent who has the freedom to make it or not. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that operating under that assumption inevitably leads to a conclusion that humans do not have free will.

    The alternative to that assumption is that human beings are created in the image of God, who delegated to us a small portion of his ability to function as the uncaused cause behind all of his creation.

  5. 5
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Jaceli123,

    Very good questions. In brief:

    1. We can choose to do something, but we don’t choose to choose something. That doesn’t mean, however, that the choice was determined. If the choice was made for a reason and if our rational deliberations are not governed by physical laws, then it still makes sense to describe them as free.

    2. We can’t break the laws of physics and chemistry, but neither are we governed by them. They constrain but do not control our behavior (like the rules of chess, which limit the moves each player can make without determining which move he or she will make next).

    3. Choices have prior causes, but they are non-determining causes. If someone hits me, there are a variety of ways in which I might respond: hit back, ask my assailant why he struck me, call the police, run away, or laugh it off. My choice, whatever it is, will be because of (caused by) what happened to me, but the decision as to how to respond is in no way determined by the situation.

    4. In brain-damaged individuals, the ability to think rationally in certain situations may be impaired, as other, more primitive behavior patterns (e.g. reflexes, conditioning, etc.) take over, and over-ride the use of reason. To some extent, we’re all liable to this: everyone does silly things when they get drunk. Happily, most of us are free, most of the time.

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    Free will?

    The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
    All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.
    The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
    [Proverbs 16:1,2,9 (ESV)]

    Reformation Study Bible by Ligonier Ministries

    16:1 The sages occasionally remind us that human responsibility to reason and act does not contradict God’s sovereignty (vv. 2, 9).

    answer . . . from the Lord. The phrase means either that God enables us to give that apt answer and carry through plans, or that God’s answer (His word of decision) is the real power that shapes events (19:21; cf. Phil. 2:12, 13).

    16:2 spirit. People are able to rationalize almost any kind of behavior as they strive to justify themselves (12:15; 30:12). God’s knowledge is a warning against such self-deception (Heb. 4:12; cf. 1 Cor. 4:3–5).

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    The following experiment with dogs throws a monkey wrench into Mr. Frank’s proposed experiment to prove that neither dogs nor humans have a mind capable of free will.

    Jaytee: A dog who knew when his owner was coming home – video
    https://vimeo.com/81150973
    Book:
    Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home: – Sheldrake – book
    http://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Tha.....0307885968

    At the 17:38 minute mark of the following video, several experiments that show that some animals have a transcendent component to their being that is able to sense what the owner’s intentions are are gone over.

    The Mind Is Not The Brain – Scientific Evidence – Rupert Sheldrake – (Referenced Notes) – video
    http://vimeo.com/33479544

    What is interesting in the preceding video is that, at the 25:00 minute mark of the video, Sheldrake speaks of a well known skeptic that he invited to replicate his experiment for dogs. The results of the skeptic revealed the same pattern of ‘extended mind’ that Sheldrake had consistently witnessed for dogs, but the well known skeptic dogmatically refused to accept the possibility that mind had anything to do with the ‘exteneded mind’ results that he himself had witnessed.

    As to the relationship of free will and information:

    Algorithmic Information Theory, Free Will and the Turing Test – Douglas S. Robertson
    Excerpt: For example, the famous “Turing test” for artificial intelligence could be defeated by simply asking for a new axiom in mathematics. Human mathematicians are able to create axioms, but a computer program cannot do this without violating information conservation. Creating new axioms and free will are shown to be different aspects of the same phenomena: the creation of new information.
    http://cires.colorado.edu/~dou...../info8.pdf

    Also of interest to information, free will, and animals

    Genesis 2:19
    Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

    As to experimental evidence for free will,,,

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    What Does Quantum Physics Have to Do with Free Will? – By Antoine Suarez – July 22, 2013
    Excerpt: What is more, recent experiments are bringing to light that the experimenter’s free will and consciousness should be considered axioms (founding principles) of standard quantum physics theory. So for instance, in experiments involving “entanglement” (the phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”), to conclude that quantum correlations of two particles are nonlocal (i.e. cannot be explained by signals traveling at velocity less than or equal to the speed of light), it is crucial to assume that the experimenter can make free choices, and is not constrained in what orientation he/she sets the measuring devices.
    To understand these implications it is crucial to be aware that quantum physics is not only a description of the material and visible world around us, but also speaks about non-material influences coming from outside the space-time.,,,
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/what-does-quantum-physics-have-do-free-will

    How Free Will Works (In Quantum Mechanics) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMp30Q8OGOE

    In other words, if my conscious choices really are just merely the result of whatever state the material particles in my brain happen to be in in the past (deterministic) how in blue blazes are my choices instantaneously effecting the state of material particles into the past?,,, These experiments from quantum mechanics are simply impossible on a reductive materialism (determinism) view of reality!

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Of note: since our free will choices figure so prominently in how reality is actually found to be constructed in our understanding of quantum mechanics, I think a Christian perspective on just how important our choices are in this temporal life, in regards to our eternal destiny, is very fitting:

    Is God Good? (Free will and the problem of evil) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd_1UAjeIA

    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

    An atheist may think we have no evidence of hell (or heaven) , but actually we now have two very different ‘eternities’ revealed by physics, just as is presupposed in Theism:

    Special Relativity, General Relativity, Heaven and Hell:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-489771

    Verse and Music:

    Deuteronomy 30:19
    This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live,,

    Fix My Eyes – For King And Country
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd2we03Sy4I

    Supplemental note:

    Blind From Birth – Near Death Experience – Vicki Noratuk radio interview
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azIh8gsXVRg

  9. 9
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ

    I have to respond when my name is in the OP.  (In my response below I use determined to include random to save writing  determined or random each time)

    I fully accept that human language is quite different from any animal language and this gives a different quality to many of our decisions including the ability to articulate our reasons for our choices. I don’t mind if you want to call this quality free will. However if language a necessary condition for free will then:

    * Anyone who hasn’t got the power to use language has not got free will for example feral children who grow up unable to acquire language – do you really accept that?

    * Learning language is something that happens gradually. This implies that free will is not a binary thing but something you have more of as you get more skilled with language.

    * It doesn’t follow that our choices are not determined. As I understand it you feel this follows from the  fact we can generate infinitely many sentences and for some reason you conclude this makes it impossible for the psychologist to predict what we will do.  This simply doesn’t follow. A dog can in theory make infinitely many different responses to an offer of a walk. That doesn’t mean it is not possible to predict which one it will take.

  10. 10
    gpuccio says:

    Dionisio:

    Very interesting quotes. I would say that “the plans of the heart” are our true freedom. The final manifestation of those plans is not in our control.

  11. 11
    gpuccio says:

    Tim:

    Mark speaks of compatibilist free will, which is certainly different from libertarian free will.

    For one who believes in libertarian free will, a computer, however complex, has no free will (its workings are completely determined by necessary laws or by random variables) and no consciousness.

    You say:

    “Along with language (which in its most mature form, I read as both a cause and marker of free will), ”

    Well, I would say that language (like any other form of dFSCI) is certainly a marker of free will. I don’t believe, however, that it is a cause of free will. I do believe that it is the other way round:

    Free will is a necessary (maybe not sufficient) cause of language and of all other forms of CSI/dFSCI.

    The reasoning is simple: machines, however complex, cannot generate original language and in general original CSI/dFSCI. A reasonable analysis can show us that the main reason for that is that they work only by necessary laws and random variables.

    Conscious intelligent purposeful free can generate tons of original language, software, and other forms of CSI/dFSCI. A reasonable analysis can show us that the main reason for that is that they are conscious and that they can use specific powers of consciousness which are nowhere found in algorithmic machines: intelligent cognition, feeling and purpose, and free choice. The power deriving from those conscious faculties is the true cause of language and in general CSI/dFSCI.

  12. 12
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Mark Frank,

    Thank you for your comments. In response to your points:

    1. I’m not sure whether feral children totally lack language, but I’d be happy enough to say that until they’ve acquired one, they’re not free.

    2. The fact that we learn a language gradually doesn’t mean that free will is not a binary thing, but simply that the scope of our free choices broadens as we mature and become more proficient in the use of language.

    3. The dog in your example may be able to make an indefinitely large number of responses, but they are responses within a confined space of possibilities with a limited number of dimensions. With language, we are free to enlarge the number of dimensions as we wish, making it a truly open space.

    However, upon reflection, I think language is only one half of the explanation as to why our choices are unpredictable: we also have a theory of mind, and the fact that we can think of people as other selves, with beliefs and desires of their own, who are also capable of language, coupled with the fact that we can then factor their responses to what we may do into our choices, adds a further element of unpredictability to our human behavior.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT: I hope you solve the problem soon. I suggest a cheap backup machine for any heavy PC user. Maybe a netbook or the like. KF

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    GP & Tim: I suggest that responsible freedom is a requisite of reasoning on propositions, however perceived. Cause-effect computation is not rational, insight based contemplation. KF

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT: Thanks for a kind thought. Language, to me pivots on ability to perceive and assert A is X or A is not X, and to choose to follow implications thereof. KF

  16. 16
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ

    I guess this is the key point to respond to:

    3. The dog in your example may be able to make an indefinitely large number of responses, but they are responses within a confined space of possibilities with a limited number of dimensions. With language, we are free to enlarge the number of dimensions as we wish, making it a truly open space

    Obviously you are using “dimension” metaphorically here and I am afraid I don’t get the metaphor. The dog’s possible responses are limited – we don’t know what those limitations are but I guess we can be pretty certain of many responses they don’t include. Our possible responses, including linguistic responses, are a lot broader but also limited – and again we don’t know what those limitations are. Possibly you are equating the infinite variety of sentences that are syntactically possible with the variety of sentences that real people can in practice actually utter?

  17. 17

    VJ:

    The fact is that scientists haven’t got a clue how language evolved – and for a very good reason. The gap between the law-governed deterministic processes we observe in Nature and the infinite flexibility of human language is an unbridgeable one.

    It strikes me that in the above, and your post generally, you have assumed your conclusion.

    It does not follow from the fact that human behavior, particularly language behavior, is impossible to predict with sentence-by-sentence granularity that it is not determined. Even within a Newtonian framework, n-body problems in physics exemplify physical interactions that are for all practical purposes unpredictable, yet wholly determined. That the output of a system of 100 billion neurons and 1 quadrillion synapses (characterizing the brain of a three year old at the heart of the third year language explosion) – a system that acquires its competence in the context of a complex social environment and unique personal history – cannot be predicted, should not be a surprise.

    Further, I think you are imagining an impossible bridging between incommensurate factors – between the language flexibility displayed by individual persons on one hand and the evolutionary and developmental origins of that flexibility on the other. There are strong arguments to be made that both theory of mind and the human capacity for language, and the behavioral flexibility that derives from same, have evolutionary origins, your assumed conclusion to the contrary notwithstanding. If so, then a deterministic/stochastic processes will have given rise to a grammatical language generator capable of generating infinite sentences, and hence, per your argument, to everything about human freedom that matters (to paraphrase Dennett).

    Indeed, your equation of human freedom with the human capacity for representation, particularly by means of language, is quite similar to the thesis that Dennett advanced in “Freedom Evolves.”

    Lastly, it is simply false to state that “scientists haven’t got a clue how language evolved.” There are many, many clues. What we lack is a dispositive, complete account of those events. Again, not surprising given that those events transpired a thousand centuries or more in the past and left little physical evidence.

  18. 18
    bornagain77 says:

    My question is why, since Mark Frank is open to experiment in this area, does Mark Frank refuse to accept the results from quantum mechanics that show free will (and conscious observation) to be ‘axiomatic’ to quantum mechanics?

    Can quantum theory be improved? – July 23, 2012
    Excerpt: in the new paper, the physicists have experimentally demonstrated that there cannot exist any alternative theory that increases the predictive probability of quantum theory by more than 0.165, with the only assumption being that measurement (*conscious observation) parameters can be chosen independently (free choice/free will assumption) of the other parameters of the theory.,,,
    ,, the experimental results provide the tightest constraints yet on alternatives to quantum theory. The findings imply that quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, even when the predictions are completely random.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-quantum-theory.html

    Needless to say, finding ‘free will conscious observation’ to be ‘built into’ our best description of foundational reality, quantum mechanics, as a starting assumption is VERY antithetical to the entire materialistic philosophy!

    For Mark Frank to overturn this positive evidence for free will he would basically have to overturn the entirety of quantum mechanics!,,, Consider me skeptical that he will ever be successful! 🙂

    Also of interest:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE1haKXoHMo

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiments, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your god around?”

    supplemental notes:

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    “Thus one decides the photon shall have come by one route or by both routes after it has already done its travel”
    John A. Wheeler
    Alain Aspect speaks on John Wheeler’s Delayed Choice Experiment – video
    http://vimeo.com/38508798

    Genesis, Quantum Physics and Reality
    Excerpt: Simply put, an experiment on Earth can be made in such a way that it determines if one photon comes along either on the right or the left side or if it comes (as a wave) along both sides of the gravitational lens (of the galaxy) at the same time. However, how could the photons have known billions of years ago that someday there would be an earth with inhabitants on it, making just this experiment? ,,, This is big trouble for the multi-universe theory and for the “hidden-variables” approach.
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2.....r.html.ori

    “If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.”
    Asher Peres, Delayed choice for entanglement swapping. J. Mod. Opt. 47, 139-143 (2000).

    You can see a more complete explanation of the startling results of the experiment at the 9:11 minute mark of the following video

    Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment Explained – 2014 video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6HLjpj4Nt4

    also of note:

    The Measurement Problem in quantum mechanics – (Inspiring Philosophy) – 2014 video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB7d5V71vUE

    So why do Mark Frank, and other atheists, refuse to accept this evidence? If they were truly ‘scientific’ they would at least honestly admit that their deterministic worldview has been severely compromised. But alas, such unreasonableness to admit to the obvious is what is constantly encountered when debating atheists!

  19. 19
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio @ 10
    I see your point. 🙂

  20. 20
    bornagain77 says:

    RB states:

    Lastly, it is simply false to state that “scientists haven’t got a clue how language evolved.” There are many, many clues. What we lack is a dispositive, complete account of those events. Again, not surprising given that those events transpired a thousand centuries or more in the past and left little physical evidence.

    Despite RB’s blind faith in the unobserved remote past, the problem is far more difficult than he is willing to let on: Nobody has a clue as to how something as complex as a brain can ‘naturally’ originate, much less does anyone have a clue how a material brain can create information

    Human brain has more switches than all computers on Earth – November 2010
    Excerpt: They found that the brain’s complexity is beyond anything they’d imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief, says Stephen Smith, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology and senior author of the paper describing the study: …One synapse, by itself, is more like a microprocessor–with both memory-storage and information-processing elements–than a mere on/off switch. In fact, one synapse may contain on the order of 1,000 molecular-scale switches. A single human brain has more switches than all the computers and routers and Internet connections on Earth.
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-2708.....2-247.html

    Before They’ve Even Seen Stephen Meyer’s New Book, Darwinists Waste No Time in Criticizing Darwin’s Doubt – William A. Dembski – April 4, 2013
    Excerpt: In the newer approach to conservation of information, the focus is not on drawing design inferences but on understanding search in general and how information facilitates successful search. The focus is therefore not so much on individual probabilities as on probability distributions and how they change as searches incorporate information. My universal probability bound of 1 in 10^150 (a perennial sticking point for Shallit and Felsenstein) therefore becomes irrelevant in the new form of conservation of information whereas in the earlier it was essential because there a certain probability threshold had to be attained before conservation of information could be said to apply. The new form is more powerful and conceptually elegant. Rather than lead to a design inference, it shows that accounting for the information required for successful search leads to a regress that only intensifies as one backtracks. It therefore suggests an ultimate source of information, which it can reasonably be argued is a designer. I explain all this in a nontechnical way in an article I posted at ENV a few months back titled “Conservation of Information Made Simple” (go here). ,,,
    ,,, Here are the two seminal papers on conservation of information that I’ve written with Robert Marks:
    “The Search for a Search: Measuring the Information Cost of Higher-Level Search,” Journal of Advanced Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Informatics 14(5) (2010): 475-486
    “Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success,” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics A, Systems & Humans, 5(5) (September 2009): 1051-1061
    For other papers that Marks, his students, and I have done to extend the results in these papers, visit the publications page at http://www.evoinfo.org
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....70821.html

    Darwin’s mistake: explaining the discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds. – 2008
    Excerpt: Over the last quarter century, the dominant tendency in comparative cognitive psychology has been to emphasize the similarities between human and nonhuman minds and to downplay the differences as “one of degree and not of kind” (Darwin 1871).,,, To wit, there is a significant discontinuity in the degree to which human and nonhuman animals are able to approximate the higher-order, systematic, relational capabilities of a physical symbol system (PSS) (Newell 1980). We show that this symbolic-relational discontinuity pervades nearly every domain of cognition and runs much deeper than even the spectacular scaffolding provided by language or culture alone can explain,,,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18479531

  21. 21
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Interesting discussion but it will always remain in the philosophical realm simply because there is no unambiguous experiment that could clearly show that we do or do not truly have free will. The number of variables that would have to be controlled, or at least accounted for, is far too large.

    But, given the huge number of variables that affect even the simplest of decisions, the perception of free will may be an illusion.

    I don’t know if we truly have free will, and neither does anybody else. But the same can be said for my cat.

  22. 22
    Mung says:

    So, lest everyone get off on the wrong foot, Mark does not deny free will. So this isn’t about whether free will exists or not.

    His position is that free will is not incompatible with determinism.

    But is determinism true? Who cares whether free will is compatible with determinism if determinism is false.

    Free will is compatible with determinism.
    Determinism is false.
    Therefore free will is false.
    QED

  23. 23
    gpuccio says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    I agree with you that the final decision about free will is not purely scientific. It is mainly philosophical, and it is mainly a personal choice of worldview.

    But it is true that, if one chooses to believe in free will, a general scientific understanding of many problems becomes easier. Including important issues like consciousness, its relationship with matter, functional complexity and design.

  24. 24
    Mung says:

    To be free is to possess potentiality.
    There is no potentiality in God (God is pure act).
    Therefore God is not free.

  25. 25
    Mung says:

    gpuccio:

    For one who believes in libertarian free will, a computer, however complex, has no free will (its workings are completely determined by necessary laws or by random variables) and no consciousness.

    But isn’t that just begging the question?

    Wouldn’t Mark argue that a computer, though completely determined, could still have free will?

  26. 26
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Gpucio:“But it is true that, if one chooses to believe in free will, a general scientific understanding of many problems becomes easier. Including important issues like consciousness, its relationship with matter, functional complexity and design.”

    I respectively disagree. I think that having a firm belief in free will (either for or against) adds a bias/preconception to these studies which could result in the wrong conclusions being drawn.

  27. 27
    Mark Frank says:

    Mung #22

    So, lest everyone get off on the wrong foot, Mark does not deny free will. So this isn’t about whether free will exists or not.
    His position is that free will is not incompatible with determinism.

    My position is that free will (to the extent it means anything) is compatible with determinism plus truly random events.

    Free will is compatible with determinism.
    Determinism is false.
    Therefore free will is false.
    QED

    Strange logic indeed. The “earth is round” is compatible with “the sun goes round the earth”. The “sun goes round the earth” is false. Therefore, “the earth is round” is false.

  28. 28
    Mark Frank says:

    Mung #22

    So, lest everyone get off on the wrong foot, Mark does not deny free will. So this isn’t about whether free will exists or not.
    His position is that free will is not incompatible with determinism.

    My position is that free will (to the extent it means anything) is compatible with determinism plus truly random events.

    Free will is compatible with determinism.
    Determinism is false.
    Therefore free will is false.
    QED

    Strange logic indeed. The “earth is round” is compatible with “the sun goes round the earth”. The “sun goes round the earth” is false. Therefore, “the earth is round” is false.

  29. 29
    gpuccio says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    I know you disagree. 🙂

  30. 30
    gpuccio says:

    Mung:

    I don’t know if Mark wuld argue that a computer has compatibilist free will. That’s his problem. I am not interested in compatibilist free will.

    I certainly argue that a computer has no libertarian free will.

    Moreover, I don’t think that free will is a concept that we can apply to God. It is more a concept for humans. IMO, God’s will cannot be understood according to our human standards.

  31. 31
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Gpucio, I honestly want to understand your reasoning. If we presuppose that free will is a fact, will that not also limit how we look at consciousness? Given that our decision making process is so strongly linked to consciousness (whatever that is) I fail to see how proceeding with the starting point that free will is a fact would not seriously bias any conclusions we make about consciousness.

    If free will is beyond our ability to understand from a physical perspective (ie, supernaturally cause) then consciousness must also be. But this would be a conclusion based on an unproven assumption.

  32. 32
    Mung says:

    VJT,

    Don’t forget the distinction between power and exercise/use.

    The personist … view … confuses the exercise of rational thought with the power of rational thought. A creature can have the power to do X without having the use or exercise of the power, say because it is not at the right developmental stage.

    – David S. Oderberg. Real Essentialism, p. 250

  33. 33
    Mung says:

    Mark,

    Thanks for the clarification.

  34. 34
  35. 35
    Jaceli123 says:

    Thanks just wanted some professional insight thanks.

  36. 36
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    My position is that free will (to the extent it means anything) is compatible with determinism plus truly random events.

    By “truly random events” do you mean non-deterministic?

    Are you saying that your position is that free will (to the extent it means anything) is compatible with determinism plus non-determinism?

  37. 37
    Mark Frank says:

    Mung #36

    Are you saying that your position is that free will (to the extent it means anything) is compatible with determinism plus non-determinism?

    Good question. Non-determinism is not a precise term. I don’t see any options other than determined and random i.e. the outcome is (within limits) at core unpredictable. But those who believe in libertarian free see a third alternative. So for me non-determinism is identical to random but for Gpuccio I guess it means either random or this mysterious other thing.

  38. 38
    JDH says:

    Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a serious discussion, but sometimes the positions people take force them to say the most outlandish things. Mark, i get a real charge out of your statement.

    Suppose we advance our understanding of dogs’ brains and thought processes so that a genius vet can predict with 100% accuracy how a dog will choose in any given situation given its past history and current circumstances. Surely this is conceivable?

    It’s particularly ironic in a discussion about free will in which part of VJT’s argument is how language allows us infinite number of possibilities the Mark Frank uses the word “conceivable”.

    “Conceivable” can have two different meanings in the context of the question.

    1. Is it possible for us to think about it? Yes it is possible for us to think about (i.e.; theoretically consider)this circumstance. One of the reasons that language increases the set of possibilities is that we can “conceive” not only of things that are possible, but also things that are impossible. ( Even if one could prove that language only allows us to consider a finite number of possible scenarios, that would neglect all the impossible scenarios ). Mark Frank proves that is true by suggesting to us an impossible scenario. So Mark thanks for establishing that language ( your writing) enables us to consider impossible scenarios.

    2. “Conceivable” in this context can also mean “realistically possible”. This is where I can prove Mark Frank wrong.

    A simple financial analogy: Why don’t I return the cleaner I got from the company that was sold with a “money back” guarantee? The reason is that in order to get the $5 charge back, it would cost me $20 in shipping. In other words, the situation of the cheapest method of getting any money back, costs me more than the cleaner. So it is IMPOSSIBLE to recoup the cost of the cleaner. Not just difficult, IMPOSSIBLE, given where the seller is located, and where I, the buyer, is located.

    So why is it impossible for a genius vet to be able to “…predict with 100% accuracy how a dog will choose.” Because the genius vet is a time bound creature. There is a large but finite set of data that must be gathered and analyzed to learn the “current circumstances” of the dog. The problem is, that by the time all that data is gathered and analyzed, the dog’s state has changed. No matter how fast your genius vet is a gathering and analyzing the current state of the dog, the vet’s data is already stale by the time he tries to use it. It is conceivable, that a genius vet could analyze and gather all the data and some time after the fact come up with a prediction of what the dog has already chosen, but that defeats the premise of the argument, which assumed the choice was yet future.

    Mark Frank, your beginning supposition is “conceivable” by humans who can consider things which can not possible happen.

    It is not “conceivable” as in possible to actually happen given the time boundedness of our thinking.

    Therefore your initial assumption is flawed. When the initial assumption is flawed, the rest of the argument is really pointless.

    Please forgive me for getting a slight chuckle out of how your the unintended double meaning in you initial post kind of defeats your argument. I don’t expect you to get it. If you did you see how foolish your argument actually was, and withdraw it.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    drc466 says:

    I’m not certain that we are not reading too much into Mark’s thought experiment. In shorter form it resolves to:
    1) Assume human behavior is deterministic
    2) Either free will is compatible with determinism, or you don’t have free will.

    That’s it. Most of us don’t accept #1, so there’s not a lot left to talk about.

  41. 41
    Jaceli123 says:

    Hey guys one thing to add to the discussion, this paper was written by John-Dylan Haynes who did the 7 second prediction in a MRI. This paper unlike the others shows how they can predict not only simple choices but complex ones.
    ———————————————–
    Abstract:

    Imagine you are standing at a street with heavy traffic watching someone on the other side of the road. Do you think your brain is implicitly registering your willingness to buy any of the cars passing by outside your focus of attention? To address this question, we measured brain responses to consumer products (cars) in two experimental groups using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants in the first group (high attention) were instructed to closely attend to the products and to rate their attractiveness. Participants in the second group (low attention) were distracted from products and their attention was directed elsewhere. After scanning, participants were asked to state their willingness to buy each product. During the acquisition of neural data, participants were not aware that consumer choices regarding these cars would subsequently be required. Multivariate decoding was then applied to assess the choice-related predictive information encoded in the brain during product exposure in both conditions. Distributed activation patterns in the insula and the medial prefrontal cortex were found to reliably encode subsequent choices in both the high and the low attention group. Importantly, consumer choices could be predicted equally well in the low attention as in the high attention group. This suggests that neural evaluation of products and associated choice-related processing does not necessarily depend on attentional processing of available items. Overall, the present findings emphasize the potential of implicit, automatic processes in guiding even important and complex decisions.

    Source: http://m.jneurosci.org/content/30/23/8024.long

  42. 42
    Mark Frank says:

    JDH

    You are welcome to chuckle as long as you like. I intended conceivable in the first sense (i.e. logically possible). That is all that is necessary for my argument.

    You are a brave man to predict what is practically impossible. Two hundred years ago Google Earth would have been considered conceivable but practically quite absurdly impossible.

  43. 43
    gpuccio says:

    Acartia_bogart #31:

    My approach is very simple:

    a) Consciousness and its processes, including cognition, feeling, purpose and free will, are part of our basic observations of reality. Indeed, they are the fundamental part, on which all that we call “reality” (including cognition and ordered representation of the “objective world) are built.

    b) Therefore, empirical reality is made of two kinds of observed things: subjective processes and the reconstruction of an objective worlds.

    c) Any assumption of a higher “reality” of the so called “objective world” versus the subjective processes is unwarranted and unsupported both by reason and by facts. IOWs, the widespread idea that consciousness and its processes can and should be explained in terms of arrangements of physical objects is in itself a philosophy, not a scientific idea. It is also, IMO, a very bad philosophy, with no internal consistency. There is also no empirical support to it, IOWs strong AI theory (the idea that consciousness should be an emergent property of the complexity of the software) is a complete empirical failure.

    d) Given those premises, there is only one way to build a reliable map of reality which can work and try to explain scientifically what we observe: it is to accept consciousness and its processes as they are observed in ourselves (and inferred in other people) as part of our map, trying to understand and describe the observed dynamics in conscious processes and to understand and describe how they interact with the so called objective world of physical objects.

    e) That includes studying the consciousness-matter interface for what it empirically is (an interface), and not with the unwarranted assumption that consciousness arises from matter.

    f) That includes defining design for what it is (a process where conscious representations of form are purposefully outputted to matter), and not trying to elude that simple problem only because it is forbidden to make reference to consciousness as an observed fact.

    g) That includes observing how consciousness and design are objectively related to outputs (like CSI/dFSCI) which are never observed in any other context.

    h) That includes trying to build a complete scientific map of empirical (observed) reality. Which is, IMO, the only unbiased approach to science.

  44. 44
    JDH says:

    Mark,

    Do you not understand that what you propose is NOT logically possible?

    Please excuse my tone but I am quite irritated with the smugness of your last post. I will do my best to remain civil. After all, my real hope is that you will abandon your current contradictory beliefs and get on with the search for God. I hope you find Him before it is too late. Once again you provide me with the exact counter argument needed.

    As a physicist by training I understand there are two different kind of problems that are talked about as “not possible”.

    1. We do not have the technology to do something that would be possible if we had better, and faster technology.
    2. The problem is really impossible because it violates a basic principle of physics.

    Examples are:
    1. Getting a manned rocket to travel to the moon and back. Before the 1960’s this was deemed impossible because it was a “we don’t have the technology yet problem.”
    2. Measuring something with greater precision that the quantum limit. “This is a violation of physics problem.”

    Google earth was certainly considered impossible 200 years ago because no one could get to a position above the earth, no one could take the photographs, and no one had the ability to compress and send those photographs to your computer.

    But there is one thing you need to recognize about Google earth. It is not about how areas of the planet are going to look in the future. It is about how some things looked in the past. Technology and investment of money can always keep cutting down on the difference ( delta t ) between the time that the picture is shot, and the time it gets to my screen, but Google earth’s data will ALWAYS be about the past – not about the present or the future. In the delta t that it takes for the shot to get from the satellite to my computer, no one cares that the actual state of the earth has changed. Google earth is not about predicting the future, it is about how things looked a while ago.

    So why do I say your genius vet story is NOT logically possible. Because you MUST care about the inherently unmeasurable changes that occur in the delta t between the time you gather your data and the time of the dog’s decision. No matter how good your data is, no matter how fast your computers are, the data can only be gathered and analyzed with transit times on the same order as how the dog’s bodily processes happen. In other words,you have to examine all the information in the dog’s state which is constantly changing and you have to do this with equipment that can NOT run faster than the time that the dog’s bodily processes change. There is ALWAYS the possibility of a significant change of state occurring between the time you start gathering data and the time the dog makes the decision.

    Quantum mechanics confirms this is not about getting better and better measurements. This is the fact that chemistry in the body relies on events which must take place in finite amounts of time according to the principles of QM.

    The problem is that your proposal violates known principles of physics.

    1. You can not measure anything to precision less than the quantum limit.
    2. You can’t gather the data and analyze it ( using essentially chemical/electrical processes which all occur on the same time scale as the chemical/electrical processes which define the dog’s state) without the possibility of a significant change occurring in the state of the dog between the time you start gathering data, and the time that the dog makes his decision.

    Let me stress that this is not about the limits on your technology. This is about the limits of measuring anything that the reality of quantum mechanics places on your data gathering instruments and data analysis machinery. The data gathering and analysis machinery must be physical objects. Your assumption of materialism demands it. They must be subject to quantum limits. Therefore there is no way even given maximum computing power you could measure the state of the dog well enough to make a prediction. Do you not understand any of the ramifications of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle?

    Before the discovery of QM it was possible for an educated man to think, that if we just measure everything to infinite precision, we can effectively predict everything that will happen in the future. Since QM it is impossible for an educated man to believe this is true. Your proposal depends on violating the principles of physics. It is not logically possible.

  45. 45
    Andre says:

    JHD

    I really liked your response, I hope Mark will be able to man-up on this, but I won’t bet my underpants on it…..

    What I have learned since becoming a believer is that in my days as an atheist I did not think about these things long enough so it was really easy to dismiss logic and rationality. I find the idea that atheists are rational people the funniest thing ever and here is why;

    They use intentional states to deny that intentional states even exist!

    Best comedy ever is a rambling atheist!

  46. 46
    Mark Frank says:

    JDH

    I am sorry if my response appeared smug. I did not mean to give offence. I have a lot to do and didn’t have time for a long response. I will spend a bit more time on different types of impossibility.

    I agree that there are two types of impossibility:

    1. We do not have the technology to do something that would be possible if we had better, and faster technology.

    2. The problem is really impossible because it violates a basic principle of physics.

    However, there are other types of impossibility (in fact there are infinitely many – as I have said many time every modal statement carries an implicit or explicit condition). One is logically impossible: it is logically impossible that all swans are white and there is a black swan. This is impossible whatever the laws of physics. One way to prove something is logically possible is to imagine it happening. There is no doubt we can imagine a vet making accurate predictions of a dog’s decision. My thought experiment is not an empirical experiment into what is possible according to the laws of physics. It is an investigation into what we mean by free will and is it compatible with determinism plus a random element. It is quite reasonable to investigate this by asking how we would react to situations that are logically possible although physically impossible.

    (I am also not convinced that the vet story is impossible according to the laws of physics – but I do not want this response to get too long).

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: JDH is right, the process state is sensitively dependent on initial and intervening conditions, is highly non-linear and is deeply quantum with info access and processing lags on the order of the relevant response times or worse. This is similar tot he old socialist central planing assumption that material knowledge and processing can be centralised to plan an economy. Failed, for much the same reason, and for the even more directly relevant reason that it depends on the imponderable, human — not merely canine — responsibility, understanding and freedom of action. But then, you deny that this exists — never mind the clever disguise word, compatibilism. KF

  48. 48
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio @ 43 (c)

    strong AI theory (the idea that consciousness should be an emergent property of the complexity of the software) is a complete empirical failure.

    That’s an elegantly refined way to describe it.
    I’d rather call it Sci-Fi hogwash. 😉
    Although we have to admit it’s been a very profitable ($$$) idea for its proponents. It sells presentations, books, films, videos.

  49. 49
    Dionisio says:

    #46

    One is logically impossible: it is logically impossible that all swans are white and there is a black swan. This is impossible whatever the laws of physics.

    Are you sure?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.....poster.jpg

    http://wallpaperswiki.com/wall.....5;1680.jpg

    😉

  50. 50
    Mark Frank says:

    #49 Dionisio

    I don’t see the relevance of your comment. Of course there are black swans. It remains logically impossible that all swans are white and there is a black swan.

  51. 51
    gpuccio says:

    Dionisio:

    “Sci-Fi hogwash” has its merits, too! 🙂

    I suppose that what Mark means is that the two statements:

    a) All swans are white

    and

    b) There are black swans

    are not logically compatible. IOWs, if we accept non contradiction and the basic principles of logic, if one is true that implies that the other is false.

    The point with deductive reasoning is that it is very strong (provided that we accept the rules of logic, and I have nothing against that) and has nothing to do with external empirical reality. It lives on its own rules. The problem, on the other hand, is hat it does not really add anything to our knowledge: it just makes explicit what is implicit in the premises (which is not at all a small accomplishment).

    Inferential cognition, instead, is very different. It does add to our knowledge, but it is never so strong and beyond doubt as deductive knowledge.

    Empirical science is essentially about inferential cognition, but is makes essential use of deductive knowledge and of the rules of logic in building hypotheses and verifying their consistency.

    Indeed, it is a true and amazing mystery that mathematics, the pure innate form of deductive cognition, which has in itself no relationship with empirical reality (in the sense that it is not derived by it: OK, I know, I am all for the neoplatonic theory of mathematics!), still is so powerful in explaining empirical reality.

    Quantum theory is a very good example; a theory which would never exist without refined mathematical tools, many of them created by human mind without any idea that they would be so useful in a branch of physics (for example, complex numbers), is probably the most successful explanatory theory of all times.

    That is, in itself, a problem that requires reflection and, possibly, explanation.

  52. 52
    Dionisio says:

    #51 gpuccio

    Yes, it’s about the two statements together, but I found his reference to black swans very interesting, so I decided to joke about that particular subject 😉
    That’s why I included the official poster of a movie that was named exactly that way, although it’s not a real swan. That was done purposely to give a hint that I was joking 😉
    Now, looking back with hindsight, I see it could have helped if I labeled my post ‘OT’.
    Thank you.
    🙂

  53. 53
    gpuccio says:

    Dionisio:

    Yes, I supposed you were joking, and I have appreciated the quote of the movie.

    However, that was too good an occasion for some remarks about deductive reasoning! 🙂

  54. 54
    Dionisio says:

    #50 Mark Frank

    #49 Dionisio

    I don’t see the relevance of your comment. Of course there are black swans. It remains logically impossible that all swans are white and there is a black swan.

    My comment was intended for a joke (see post #52). Hence it has no serious relevance in your discussion with GP, KF, VJT, JDH (on #45 Andre called him JHD), and others.
    This subject is high up there above my pay grade, therefore I can only get involved with irrelevant jokes related to a word or statement I may find interesting 😉
    Actually, at the end of the offending post #49 you may see the winking face 😉
    BTW, talking about swans, I’m trying to play Tchaikovsky’s music for the ‘Swan Lake’ to a bunch of swans swimming in a nearby lake to see what choreography they would dance to 😉

  55. 55
    Mark Frank says:

    Dionisio

    I understand (now). e-mails and comments like these are so easily misunderstood.

  56. 56
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio,
    Yes, I noticed in #51 you used the occasion for additional comments on the interesting subject you folks are discussing here, which -as I mentioned to Mark- is high above my knowledge level and capacity to discuss it.
    Well done! Feel free to correct me anytime you notice I misunderstood something in the discussions. Thank you!
    🙂

  57. 57
    Dionisio says:

    #51 gpuccio

    The point with deductive reasoning is that it is very strong (provided that we accept the rules of logic, and I have nothing against that) and has nothing to do with external empirical reality. It lives on its own rules.

    The problem, on the other hand, is that it does not really add anything to our knowledge: it just makes explicit what is implicit in the premises (which is not at all a small accomplishment).

    Inferential cognition, instead, is very different. It does add to our knowledge, but it is never so strong and beyond doubt as deductive knowledge.

    Empirical science is essentially about inferential cognition, but it makes essential use of deductive knowledge and of the rules of logic in building hypotheses and verifying their consistency.

    Indeed, it is a true and amazing mystery that mathematics, the pure innate form of deductive cognition, which has in itself no relationship with empirical reality (in the sense that it is not derived by it: OK, I know, I am all for the neoplatonic theory of mathematics!), still is so powerful in explaining empirical reality.

    Quantum theory is a very good example; a theory which would never exist without refined mathematical tools, many of them created by human mind without any idea that they would be so useful in a branch of physics (for example, complex numbers), is probably the most successful explanatory theory of all times.

    That is, in itself, a problem that requires reflection and, possibly, explanation.

    Agree. Very insightful commentary. Thank you. 🙂

    Glad to see my irrelevant joke on black swans kind of provoked your interesting comments, which I was able to understand well. Hopefully others will appreciate what you wrote as well (that’s why I quoted it again at the beginning of this post). 🙂

  58. 58
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio,

    The point with deductive reasoning is that it is very strong (provided that we accept the rules of logic, and I have nothing against that) and has nothing to do with external empirical reality. It lives on its own rules.

    The problem, on the other hand, is that it does not really add anything to our knowledge: it just makes explicit what is implicit in the premises (which is not at all a small accomplishment).

    Inferential cognition, instead, is very different. It does add to our knowledge, but it is never so strong and beyond doubt as deductive knowledge.

    Empirical science is essentially about inferential cognition, but it makes essential use of deductive knowledge and of the rules of logic in building hypotheses and verifying their consistency.

    Indeed, it is a true and amazing mystery that mathematics, the pure innate form of deductive cognition, which has in itself no relationship with empirical reality (in the sense that it is not derived by it: OK, I know, I am all for the neoplatonic theory of mathematics!), still is so powerful in explaining empirical reality.

    Quantum theory is a very good example; a theory which would never exist without refined mathematical tools, many of them created by human mind without any idea that they would be so useful in a branch of physics (for example, complex numbers), is probably the most successful explanatory theory of all times.

    That is, in itself, a problem that requires reflection and, possibly, explanation.

    Are strings theory and multiverse theory also examples of inferential cognition or examples of wishful thinking?

    What about the regulatory procedures in biological systems?

  59. 59
    gpuccio says:

    Dionisio:

    Strings theory and multiverse theory? Maybe wishful inferential cognition. 🙂

    Regulatory procedures? There is much we still have to infer there!

  60. 60
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Interesting thought experiment by Mark Frank, if I understand it correctly.

    We imagine a genius who can “predict with 100% accuracy how a dog will choose in any given situation given its past history and current circumstances. Surely this is conceivable?”

    We might consider that a dog makes a decision here and one there. To eat this food, chase the rabbit or just sit down.
    But there’s a lot more. The genius can predict, with 100% accuracy, every decision … how many times the dog wags its tail, what it will sniff and when, what precise path its paws will take when running with another dog, which way it will move its head to see things … etc.

    Is that conceivable? I would say “yes” if a dog could be reduced to a master set of programming codes. That’s the materialist/evolutionary view. So, of the millions of decisions the dog makes each day in body movements, all of them should be predictable. So, I first wonder why we can’t do that. If we correctly predict, with 100% accuracy, every movement of one dog (we cracked the dog-behavior-programming code), we would then be able to predict the behavior of every dog, in every situation on planet earth.

    Conceivable? For me, “no”. I don’t think it can be done, outside of the problems in physics mentioned above.

    We might say that a dog responds randomly and doesn’t make decisions on those smaller matters. Ok, but if so, then that’s a major difference between dog and human being. We do actually make small decisions on how to move our bodies, what to look at and how to respond to stimuli (excepting reflex reactions). A lot of these are built on habit, but we still decide.

    Choosing against in-grained habits is a sign of free will. That’s how we overcome harmful addictions.

    Can we imagine that absolutely everything we do was programmed/determined into us at the beginning of time? Yes, I’d think so. We can imagine that some sort of god actually makes every decision for us. We can also imagine that we freely decided every single response and decision we ever made – perhaps in a previous life we programmed our own behavior and now we’re just living it out.

    The point here, from my view … it’s interesting to imagine certain things but in this case it’s more than seems a reasonable scenario.

  61. 61
    Mark Frank says:

    SA #60

    Can we imagine that absolutely everything we do was programmed/determined into us at the beginning of time? Yes, I’d think so. We can imagine that some sort of god actually makes every decision for us.

    This is all I need. The dog is just a way to help people imagine that people might be determined (or determined + random). The next step is to ask – if you discovered your decisions were in fact predictable would say you still had free will?

    If your answer is “yes” then determinism is compatible with free will as it is generally understood and experienced.
    If your answer is “no” then the defining characteristic of free will is that it is unpredictable i.e. it is not some thing we experience personally when we make decisions. Because the experience has not changed – just the predictability.

  62. 62
    Mung says:

    drc466 @ 40:

    I’m not certain that we are not reading too much into Mark’s thought experiment. In shorter form it resolves to:
    1) Assume human behavior is deterministic

    But why should we assume this? Even Mark is not a full blown determinist.

  63. 63
    Mung says:

    Jaceli123

    This paper unlike the others shows how they can predict not only simple choices but complex ones.

    Personally I don’t find it at all surprising to find that some thoughts of a rational person are predictable.

  64. 64
    Mung says:

    ok, so why can’t a thought experiment involve a violation (or suspension) of the laws of physics. (Does Maxwell’s Demon, for example?)

    Say I begin my thought experiment as follows.

    Suppose the laws of physics allow X … (when it is well known that the laws of physics do not allow X).

    Will I get ridiculed off the stage for proposing such a thought experience under the logic that such a thought experiment would violate the laws of physics?

  65. 65
    JDH says:

    Mark,

    Here is the point.

    1. Our wonderful minds ( noticed I said “minds” and not brains ) can imagine a lot. We can imagine things which are logically inconsistent.
    2. We can imagine things which violate laws of physics.
    3. We can imagine things where we have access to infinite amounts of information simultaneously.

    The big and completely understandable problem is that in many people’s minds statements 2 and 3 are unrelated.

    But they are not. QM has revealed to mankind the bizarre and unintuitive rules that knowing some pieces of information make other pieces of information unavailable. Its not that we can’t measure the other piece of information. It is just not there.

    I admit this boggles the mind a bit. But this makes the so-called logical universe entangled with the mechanical universe.

    You can’t start a sentence with “Suppose I know these two quantum mechanically complementary values to infinite precision.” You can’t do it logically. There exists no such state. Any supposition that starts like that is not about this universe.

    You can’t know the precise value of the momentum of a particle AND also know its precise position.
    You can’t know the exact energy at a point at infinitely small time intervals.

    So in the dog case, knowing the dog’s brain state would be knowing all of the electrical potentials ( delta E ) at the exact same interval of time ( delta T ). This is not only not possible, such knowledge just does not exist. This knowledge can not possibly be known in this universe. Your example is therefore NOT logical and does not qualify as a valid thought experiment in this universe.

  66. 66
    JDH says:

    Mung,

    Thought experiments, to have any relevance to our existence in this universe, have to be constrained by the true fundamental laws of physics. ( Note: please notice that I said the “true fundamental laws of physics”. It is possible that some things we have “inferred” to be laws may just be “laws” that hold in a local epoch of time and space. )

    We can certainly consider in our minds, worlds where the true fundamental laws of physics are violated. But the result of such speculation will NEVER give us useful information for judging what is true in this universe.

  67. 67
    JDH says:

    And for you nit-pickers out there. In 65 where I said, “You can’t start a sentence with…” It should read, “You can’t start a through experiment with…”

  68. 68
    JDH says:

    Oops again. I meant, “You can’t start a thought experiment with…”

    I wish there was a way to edit comments for obvious errors rather than clutter up the space with corrections.

  69. 69
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mark Frank #61

    The dog is just a way to help people imagine that people might be determined (or determined + random). The next step is to ask – if you discovered your decisions were in fact predictable would say you still had free will?

    If I discovered that every tiny decision I make in every situation was predicted by someone with 100% accuracy, I think there’d be a lot to deal with. The solution to this problem would be found in origins. As I explained, I was either programmed somehow, or a god created/decides every action.

    If I discovered that either case was true, I would know, with certainty, that I do not have free will. Thinking my actions were freely chosen would be an illusion.

    So, I don’t agree that free will and determinism could be compatible, in reality. Yes, the illusion of each is compatible with each other. I can imagine I am free while I am, in reality determined. I can imagine I am being controlled by an external agent while I am really free.

    But to truly be free while having been programmed in advance for every possible action? Obviously, that’s not compatible.

    If your answer is “no” then the defining characteristic of free will is that it is unpredictable i.e. it is not some thing we experience personally when we make decisions. Because the experience has not changed – just the predictability.

    Could you explain that further? Yes, “it is unpredictable” from outside. Of course, I can predict within myself how I will freely choose something.

    Yes, it’s possible that everything is an illusion. It’s possible that the world began to exist one minute ago. We can’t prove or refute it. But I think we look for common human experience to try to make sense of things. I have no good reason to reject the idea that I freely choose and I’m not determined by an external agent in all my decisions.

    Obviously, my human community has always supported that with the notions of accountability, responsibility and the support to improve one’s behaviors and correct oneself (and to learn and communicate and make creative decisions). We trust that we can freely learn from history and that there is a non-illusory reality. We see limits to our freedom but also recognize debts and responsibilities. I think even hardened determinists recognize the same, which argues against that point of view.

    But yes, this could all be an illusion. If so, then it doesn’t matter much. But we live lives as if it does matter very much. Why?

  70. 70
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio

    Strings theory and multiverse theory? Maybe wishful inferential cognition. 🙂

    I like this general hybrid concept you just coined!

    WIC: Wishful Inferential Cognition

    Hey, but we have to admit this WIC stuff has cool sounding attractive titles that can make bestselling books ($$$)

  71. 71
    Mung says:

    JDH:

    Thought experiments, to have any relevance to our existence in this universe, have to be constrained by the true fundamental laws of physics….We can certainly consider in our minds, worlds where the true fundamental laws of physics are violated. But the result of such speculation will NEVER give us useful information for judging what is true in this universe.

    I would find this more believable if physicists refrained from engaging in thought experiments. 🙂

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_experiment

    As far as true fundamental laws of physics, that’s even debatable. What are the proofs of the first and second laws of thermodynamics?

  72. 72
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio

    Regulatory procedures? There is much we still have to infer there!

    Agree. 🙂

    But it shouldn’t be difficult to get it done, now that we have so much information gathered from the research reports – the whole thing doesn’t look that complex after all, does it? 😉

  73. 73
    JDH says:

    Mung,

    I assume there is a difference between the “true fundamental laws of physics” and the laws we have inferred by the law of induction form experimental observations.

    The “laws” must always be open to change that can account for all the past observations, but add on some detail which may only occur at other scales or under different constraints.

    However, when trying to logically decide a question of philosophical importance to the real world ( such as whether we have free will ), it is just plain wrong to propose a thought experiment which does not comport with the known laws.

  74. 74
    Mark Frank says:

    #73 JDH

    However, when trying to logically decide a question of philosophical importance to the real world ( such as whether we have free will ), it is just plain wrong to propose a thought experiment which does not comport with the known laws.

    It depends on your objective. It you are trying to decide an empirical question such as whether the speed of light is constant then a thought experiment must conform to the laws of physics. If you are trying to decide a philosophical question or pin down the meaning of a word then there is no such requirement. You see it all the time on this very forum e.g. as people try to work out the conditions under which we might legitimately conclude design.

  75. 75
    Mark Frank says:

    SA #69

    If I discovered that either case was true, I would know, with certainty, that I do not have free will. Thinking my actions were freely chosen would be an illusion.
    So, I don’t agree that free will and determinism could be compatible, in reality. Yes, the illusion of each is compatible with each other. I can imagine I am free while I am, in reality determined. I can imagine I am being controlled by an external agent while I am really free.
    But to truly be free while having been programmed in advance for every possible action? Obviously, that’s not compatible.

    I don’t find that at all obvious, especially if you allow for determined to include determined plus random. The word programmed is misleading because that implies some other body planning what you are to do. If you substitute predictable then it becomes more palatable and if you then add with possibly an unpredictable element very palatable. But I guess it is a question of how you define free will.

    Could you explain that further? Yes, “it is unpredictable” from outside. Of course, I can predict within myself how I will freely choose something.

    Are you sure? I can’t predict what I am going to choose in many situations.

    Yes, it’s possible that everything is an illusion. It’s possible that the world began to exist one minute ago. We can’t prove or refute it. But I think we look for common human experience to try to make sense of things. I have no good reason to reject the idea that I freely choose and I’m not determined by an external agent in all my decisions.

    I have always said that you can freely choose and I am certain your choices are not determined by an external agent. I just say that your choosing freely is compatible with your choices being either determined or having an unpredictable element.

    Obviously, my human community has always supported that with the notions of accountability, responsibility and the support to improve one’s behaviors and correct oneself (and to learn and communicate and make creative decisions). We trust that we can freely learn from history and that there is a non-illusory reality. We see limits to our freedom but also recognize debts and responsibilities. I think even hardened determinists recognize the same, which argues against that point of view.
    But yes, this could all be an illusion. If so, then it doesn’t matter much. But we live lives as if it does matter very much. Why?

    So I am not saying it is an illusion or that notions of accountability etc don’t count. I am just saying we don’t need a third alternative to predictable or unpredictable!

  76. 76
    JDH says:

    Mark,

    The start of your thought experiment was the claim that it was reasonable that we could learn enough about the inner workings of a dog brain such that a genius vet could be 100% sure that he would be able to predict the dogs behavior. You assume that to be a likely possibility. But it is pure speculation. So I just ran with a few or your assumptions.

    1. I assume from past discussions that you are a materialist. ( Really, sorry if this is wrong, it kind of defeats all my arguments if you are not arguing from a materialist point of view. The rest of this post continues to assume you are a materialist. ).

    Since you are a materialist, your thought experiments HAVE to conform to a materialistic point of view, even if you are arguing a philosophical point. You cannot consider options where there are violations of the laws of physics because your initial assumption of materialism forbids it.

    I was just showing that under the assumption of materialism, it was illogical to assume we could ever be able to analyze a dog’s brain enough to 100% predict the dog’s choices based on the state of his brain. The size of the data set needed to do a thorough analysis of the state of the dog’s brain is such that you could not nail down the data in the time that it would change.

    I do not think a thought experiment which starts with an unproven, and what I think is illogical speculation proves anything.

  77. 77
    Graham2 says:

    VJT: Im interested to get your reaction here: I know you claim we have free will, and can therefore choose whatever we want, but eventually we have to choose something. If we are to choose, say between A & B, and we choose (say) A, then how did we make the choice ?

    By throwing a dart ? By applying a criterion ? How do you think we do it. ?

    Also, do you think the final decision is made in our brain ? In a ‘mind’ ? In our soul ?

  78. 78
    Mark Frank says:

    JDH

    The start of your thought experiment was the claim that it was reasonable that we could learn enough about the inner workings of a dog brain such that a genius vet could be 100% sure that he would be able to predict the dogs behavior. You assume that to be a likely possibility. But it is pure speculation. So I just ran with a few or your assumptions.

    I did not claim is was reasonable. I claimed it was conceivable – quite a different thing. (I didn’t even call it a thought experiment – that was VJ). It was simply an exploration of when we might use the term free will and when we might not. The physical impossibility of it is irrelevant as are underlying assumptions. I have exhausted all the ways I can think of explaining this and am going to stop the discussion here.

  79. 79

    Dionisio @ 6

    I saw an atheist posting in an online forum and replied that naturalism implies that everything happens by external causes, so that atheists who are committed to naturalism (as most are) would have to believe they did not have free will. I mentioned that prominent atheists such as Michael Shermer, Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris have argued on the basis of naturalism that humans don’t have free will. Harris even wrote a book entitled Free Will, to show why he believes that humans don’t have it. I concluded by asking the atheist if he was a robot.

    The atheist thought he had a clever answer. He asked me about “Calvinist robots.” He may have thought that he’d gotten me, that as a Christian I either would have to defend Calvinism because it’s part of Christianity or shut up.

    However that didn’t work. My reply was that neither Calvinists nor atheistic naturalists liked to be reminded about how very close to each other their positions on free will are. And he had no response.

  80. 80
    Dionisio says:

    #79 RalphDavidWestfall
    Thank you for your interesting commentary.
    I would like to comment on this, but first got a couple of questions that perhaps you could help me clarify:
    What does that phrase “Calvinist robots” mean?
    What does that phrase “Calvinism is part of Christianity” mean? IOW, is Calvin mentioned in the Christian scriptures?
    Thank you.

  81. 81
    Dionisio says:

    #79 RalphDavidWestfall

    Actually, does anyone know what ‘free will’ really means?

  82. 82
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung,

    given heat transfer on temp difference and a defined quantity S that characterises it, the clausius form of lex 2 th is a direct algebraic consequence, as I clip App I my always linked note:

    >> a] Clausius is the founder of the 2nd law, and the first standard example of an isolated system — one that allows neither energy nor matter to flow in or out — is instructive, given the “closed” subsystems [i.e. allowing energy to pass in or out] in it. Pardon the substitute for a real diagram, for now:

    Isol System:

    | | (A, at Thot) –> d’Q, heat –> (B, at T cold) | |

    b] Now, we introduce entropy change dS >/= d’Q/T . . . “Eqn” A.1

    c] So, dSa >/= -d’Q/Th, and dSb >/= +d’Q/Tc, where Th > Tc

    d] That is, for system, dStot >/= dSa + dSb >/= 0, as Th > Tc . . . “Eqn” A.2

    e] But, observe: the subsystems A and B are open to energy inflows and outflows, and the entropy of B RISES DUE TO THE IMPORTATION OF RAW ENERGY.

    f] The key point is that when raw energy enters a body, it tends to make its entropy rise. >>

    The statistical interpretation on number of ways to arrange mass and energy at micro levels consistent with a macro-observable thermodynamic state [which points to the chain of required y/n q’s to specify that microstate as defining entropy on an info basis . . . ] leads to the well known result of overwhelming tendency to move to the dominant cluster, absent constraints.

    The first law is an empirical generalisation that has proved pivotal in properly understanding the world. Recall, that there WAS a change, formerly mass was also thought to be conserved, now we see that rest mass is translatable into energy, and it is energy that is conserved.

    The third law is a further statistically grounded analysis, that shows why refrigeration cycles can only approach 0 K.

    The zeroth law defines an equivalence relation that effectively defines equality of temperatures.

    Are these “proved”?

    No more and no less than any empirically grounded result.

    JDH is right to highlight Einstein’s Energy-Time uncertainty form of Heisenberg’s principle. The Planck constant sets a fundamental uncertainty in physical values that is tied to the time scale of processes, and in the position-momentum form, to location and predictability of path.

    Thought exercises in physics are pivotal, ever since Galileo. Indeed, he observed that balls rolling in a U-trough tried to reach back to original height. So, move to a frictionless U and extend the bottom indefinitely. (I skip a historical stage . . . )

    The law of inertia, that bodies tend to continue in uniform straight line motion unless externally constrained, drops out. (Rest is a special case . . . and it turns out “at rest” is relative to an observer’s inertial frame of reference.)

    And of course, the law of inertia reflects energy conservation as well as momentum conservation. (“Motion” is an old term for momentum, quantity of motion. Force acting through time accumulates momentum, through space, work.)

    And so forth.

    KF

    PS: That lock-up in inappropriate incorrect Captcha is there again.

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    D: Responsible freedom boils down to, our ability to choose, reason etc are not determined by forces external to (and undermining of) the task in hand so that the sense of choosing is delusional. That is, when we make a rational choice, it is not blind mechanical cause-effect and chance statistics rooted in molecular motions, nor is it inevitably psycho-social conditioning adversely affecting our reason at individual class or other scales, nor is it strictness of potty training etc. This is a case of rejecting the grand delusion fallacy, which undermines reasoning, warrant, knowledge, morality, liberty and the value of the human being. KF

  84. 84
    Dionisio says:

    KF
    Interesting explanation. Thank you.
    If someone (A) decides to love (agape) another person (B), who by all worldly standards is not lovable, is that decision (which implies a commitment) associated with free will? (in this case A’s).

  85. 85
    Graham2 says:

    KF: same question as I proposed to VJT: Have you thought about how you make a decision ?

  86. 86
    Axel says:

    ‘Strings theory and multiverse theory? Maybe wishful inferential cognition. :)’

    It sounds more like ‘cat’s cradle technique and epic poetry,’ to me. But I’m lowering the tone. ‘Inferential cognition’ sure sounds much grander.

  87. 87
    Dionisio says:

    Axel,
    But don’t forget the important qualifier ‘wishful’ that gpuccio added to the term ‘Inferential cognition’ in this case 🙂

  88. 88
    JDH says:

    Interesting comments from Mark Frank:

    It is quite reasonable to investigate this by asking how we would react to situations that are logically possible although physically impossible.

    I did not claim is was reasonable. I claimed it was conceivable – quite a different thing. (I didn’t even call it a thought experiment – that was VJ). It was simply an exploration of when we might use the term free will and when we might not. The physical impossibility of it is irrelevant as are underlying assumptions. I have exhausted all the ways I can think of explaining this and am going to stop the discussion here.

    Mark,

    Please, we have no use for “If pigs could fly…” speculations here. It is a waste of time to consider something which is physically impossible even if we want to just “ask how we would react to it”. Because no one obviously would ever react to it. It is, as the great philosopher John Cleese would put it pointless.

    That is why we don’t have discussions on this board which start with statements like
    “Suppose I all of the sudden had two heads…”, but do have discussions about things like. ” Suppose a person has had there carpus callosum surgically cut…”

    It is pointless to describe a “never can ever happen event” and then have a meaningful “exploration of when we might use the term free will and when we might not.” Exploration of space which can never occur does not lead to the discovery of truth.

    I would like to clarify, that truth can be gathered from discussion about possible things that we would certainly never do like, “Suppose we passed a law making being left-handed illegal…”.

    It is also true that quantifiable physical information can be gleaned from relaxing constraints that complicates a problem too much, “Suppose that these wires have absolutely no resistance.” Of course all information gathered from that speculation, must include an estimate of how much the incorrect information changes the answer.

    I also want to clarify that it is also useful to consider situations which direct human observation is impossible. “Suppose a space probe was sent directly into the sun.”

    I also want to clarify that it is also useful to consider situations where someone lies to us… “Suppose a person was tricked into believing that his vet was a genius and could predict 100% of his dog’s choices”

    But …

    It is impossible to logically prove philosophical truth if you start with an assumption which can never happen. You can discover philosophical truth about another theoretical world where your assumption is possible, but if you start with an impossible assumption, your entire argument is ALWAYS pointless because it proves absolutely nothing.

    I am sorry to be so blunt, but I think you recognize this as true and are being intellectually dishonest here. You realize that, “…the physical impossibility of it is…” not only relevant, but if true, makes any further discussion pointless.

    And if you still do not get this, I am willing to try again. It is my own opinion, that it will take you running into a few walls like this to ever be able to conclude that compatibilism does not work in this world. I know that is a slightly arrogant statement because many intelligent people have professed some form of compatibilism. I think that they have all been very clever at avoiding the issues that prove their assumptions to be logically inconsistent. I am hoping that you are brave enough to dispense with impossible beliefs. It prevents the discovery of truth.

  89. 89
    Axel says:

    You mean, ‘desiderative excogitation’, GP?

    I’m currently musing on the elegance or otherwise of ‘inferential cogniteratum’, which does present a certain parsimony, but on the other hand, it could be stretching the latin beyond a point where parsimony could even be a consideration. Or considerative, as the case may be.

  90. 90
    Dionisio says:

    JDH

    but do have discussions about things like. ” Suppose a person has had there carpus callosum surgically cut…”

    their corpus callous?

  91. 91
    Axel says:

    Or, rather, ‘desideratively excogitative (inferential cognition)?

  92. 92
    Dionisio says:

    wouldn’t it be nice to edit the comments after they have been submitted or at least to turn off the type-ahead autocorrect feature, which sometimes is kind of annoying?

    Corpus callosum

  93. 93
    Dionisio says:

    Axel

    Expressing desire to consider or think (something) out carefully and thoroughly?

  94. 94
    Acartia_bogart says:

    gpuccio #43, thank you for responding. Your thoughts are very well presented. If I am reading your response correctly (and I apologize in advance if I am not).
    a) and b) I don’t have any argument with.

    For c)

    …the widespread idea that consciousness and its processes can and should be explained in terms of arrangements of physical objects is in itself a philosophy, not a scientific idea.

    I would disagree that it is not scientific. I would reword it that ‘there is no evidence to suggest that it cannot be explained in terms of physical objects (i.e., structure and chemistry).’ This inference is based on the extensive studies that have been performed on brain chemistry and brain injuries/strokes/dementia, etc. But I also wouldn’t say that we ‘shouldn’t’ examine it from other perspectives.

    If I get your meaning, I think that d) works for both approaches.

    e)

    That includes studying the consciousness-matter interface for what it empirically is (an interface), and not with the unwarranted assumption that consciousness arises from matter.

    I think that this is a phyliosophy that is not scientifically based. You are inferring that consciousness does not arise from matter when there is absolutely no evidence to make this conclusion. And as suggested above, we know that we can destroy and/or interrupt consciousness through manipulations of the brain (i.e., matter), therefore, the logical inference is that it likely arises from matter. But again, I am not saying that we should limit our studies to this, only that we should not exclude it.

    f) and g) are presupposing a designer, which is putting the cart before the horse.

    h) I completely agree.

    Again, thank you for responding honestly and respectfully without resorting to sarcasm and insults. It is refreshing.

  95. 95
    Axel says:

    Sorry, Dionisio Areopagitatis. I seem to be getting you and GP, muddled up here. It’s they furren names you two have gotten.

  96. 96
    Dionisio says:

    Axel,
    Sorry for what?

  97. 97
    Dionisio says:

    Axel
    What does the expression “furren names” mean?

  98. 98
    JDH says:

    Dionisio @ 90 – see JDH @65

  99. 99
    JDH says:

    oops. I meant JDH@68

  100. 100
    Axel says:

    In #89, Dio, I addressed GP, when actually, I believe, I was responding to your #87. Though it gets quite convoluted one way or another. Anyway, evidently no offence taken, so I’m pleased.

  101. 101
    Axel says:

    Dio, ‘furren’ means ‘foreign’. It was my haplessly attempting to express myself in an American, rustic patois of the South. Well, as far as that made-up word, ‘furren’ is concerned, anyway.

  102. 102
    Mung says:

    As in, What’s that all over the couch? Furren stuff.

  103. 103
    johnnyb says:

    Mark Frank –

    First of all, I disagree with your premises. I don’t have any problem with the idea of a dog having free will, and I doubt that even if we knew 100% the content of their brain, we might not be able to predict its actions. Likewise for that of an infant.

    I think VJ Torley hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that our available responses grow as we mature, which makes the effect of the will greater. Likewise, as VJT pointed out, the development of language (really, it is higher-level thought, but language enables it) allows us to expand our range of available effects as well. Therefore, the reason why it *looks* like the infant and the dog are predictable is because their will is overwhelmed by the limited scope of the choices they can participate in. As they grow (especially humans) their abilities grow, as does the effect of their choices, and therefore, their will.

  104. 104
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mark #75

    I read that you’re not going to respond further here and that’s understandable but I just wanted to offer a few more comments.

    I don’t find that at all obvious, especially if you allow for determined to include determined plus random. The word programmed is misleading because that implies some other body planning what you are to do. If you substitute predictable then it becomes more palatable and if you then add with possibly an unpredictable element very palatable. But I guess it is a question of how you define free will.

    I’ll admit that I’m confused on this. We have a case where every decision is predicted with 100% accuracy. This same case includes a random element. I don’t think any sequence that can be predicted with 100% accuracy can truly be considered random. Predictability implies regularity and a law-like function. We have also a mix of predictable and random in your instance and I don’t understand how that works. But we can leave it for another discussion on another thread.

    I can’t predict what I am going to choose in many situations.

    I’d think you’d have a much higher success rate in predicting your own behavior than anyone else would,though. As you weigh options, you improve your own ability to predict yourself. This is all done internally and I’d question how an external agent could predict your choices better than you can.

    So I am not saying it is an illusion or that notions of accountability etc don’t count. I am just saying we don’t need a third alternative to predictable or unpredictable!

    I guess it’s “somewhat predictable” as another option. I don’t understand how predictiblity works in this case, without knowing why all of those decisions could be predicted.
    Could someone predict the outcomes of a random event with 100% accuracy? We can imagine that happening — perhaps someone with unusual ability or luck could do it. There are fictional stories about people who do such things. But does that mean the events are not random? I don’t think the luck ability to predict something says anything about the thing that is being predicted, necessarily.

  105. 105
    Dionisio says:

    JDH
    Yes. Thank you.

  106. 106
    Dionisio says:

    Axel,
    Thank you for explaining that term that I didn’t know. My vocabulary has increased. 🙂

  107. 107
    gpuccio says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    Thank you to you! It is perfectly possible to have different convictions, and share them in respect.

    I would say that we should probably stick to d), without any prejudice.

    It is very difficult to prove that “we can destroy and/or interrupt consciousness”. I don’t believe that is possible, and I have debated that point many times, but probably this is not the right moment to do that again.

    However, when I say that we should study the interface and its laws, I am not assuming that consciousness does not arise form matter. It is not necessary to assume anything for that. You see, the interface exists. It is the interface between two different observed things: subjective phenomena and objective configurations of matter. Those two series of facts are perceived differently, and there is no doubt that they interact. Therefore, we can observe an interface between the two series of facts, and study it. No assumptions are needed.

  108. 108
    gpuccio says:

    Axel:

    I am very excited at the thought that I have a furren name! Thank you. 🙂

  109. 109
    Axel says:

    That’s a bit too cryptic for me, mung. Unless you mean a delightful ‘au pair’ girl having a snooze!

    But my half-baked attempts at a ‘furren’ vernacular, I expect, invite gobbledygook and misunderstandings galore.I blame it on my swiftly advancing years.

  110. 110
    Axel says:

    Not at all, gpuccio. They do tend to sound more snazzy. Even when merely of an automotive persuasion, such as mine.

  111. 111
    kairosfocus says:

    G2:

    Many, many times — I even had to pass an exam on that once, Decision Theory.

    One of the pivotal issues there, was that a decision node is not a probabilistic distribution node. Similarly, in programming at mac code level, one goes off and inspects the flag register to trigger which of alternative sequences is done, maybe looping back for a do while/until. In Monte Carlo sims, statistical seeds drove explorations of credible ranges of outcomes in situations with a blend of mechanical sequence and injected randomness.

    But all of that was not yet actual rational decision.

    I still think Reppert has captured essentials, in building on a point by Lewis:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    Absent real, rational insight and understanding driven contemplative choice, knowledge, reason and morality alike collapse in grand delusion self referential incoherence fallacies.

    And while it is easy to make up arguments as to how subjective choosing is compatible with objective dynamics of blind chance and mechanical necessity, that in the end is in the same problem of grand delusion . . . when you argue, should I just say, you can do no other than your programming never mind the subjective sense of having “reasons” for your conclusions?

    Shipwreck.

    KF

  112. 112
    Graham2 says:

    KF: Im not sure what any of that means … my question relates to the process we follow to choose between, say, A & B. I presume we assess alternatives, etc,etc, and based on some sort of weighting, choose one, say A. Is this what you have in mind ?

  113. 113
    Mark Frank says:

    SA #104

    I read that you’re not going to respond further here and that’s understandable but I just wanted to offer a few more comments.

    It was only the debate with JDH that I felt had run its course – although I am not going to sustain the thread as a whole much longer.

    I’d think you’d have a much higher success rate in predicting your own behavior than anyone else would,though. As you weigh options, you improve your own ability to predict yourself. This is all done internally and I’d question how an external agent could predict your choices better than you can.

    I am not sure that is true. I think it is easy to get muddled about when you make the decision. Suppose you announce to the world “in 10 minutes I will choose to eat a bar of chocolate” and then 10 minutes later you do.  Actually you chose to eat the bar of chocolate when you made the announcement and I am not at all sure you would predict you were going to make the announcement the day before whereas someone who was rather clever and knew you well might well have predicted it better.

    I guess it’s “somewhat predictable” as another option. I don’t understand how predictiblity works in this case, without knowing why all of those decisions could be predicted.Could someone predict the outcomes of a random event with 100% accuracy? We can imagine that happening — perhaps someone with unusual ability or luck could do it. There are fictional stories about people who do such things. But does that mean the events are not random? I don’t think the luck ability to predict something says anything about the thing that is being predicted, necessarily.

    To me random entails unpredictable and that doesn’t mean always different from what everyone predicts – it means that if the outcome of X is random then people who predict the outcome of X are wrong a consistent and significant proportion of the time and however much they work at it they will never improve on that. But the big question is: is there some third option other than predictable and random? I can’t see what it is.

  114. 114
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Graham2,

    You ask:

    If we are to choose, say between A & B, and we choose (say) A, then how did we make the choice?

    By throwing a dart? By applying a criterion ? How do you think we do it?

    Also, do you think the final decision is made in our brain ? In a ‘mind’? In our soul?

    Quick answer (as my computer is still kaput and as I’m in an Internet cafe, with 8 minutes to spare):

    I’ve discussed these issues in a couple of posts of mine:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....m-is-real/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-possible/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ompatible/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....will-dead/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....aggerated/

    In short: my decisions are made by me, but they are non-bodily acts, and hence acts of my soul alone. Decisions are not random. They are based on a vision which I construct for myself of what’s good for me – here and now, and in the long-term. Of course, in constructing such a vision, it is possible to willfully ignore certain facts that one should advert to, because of over-weening self-love – which is what makes wickedness possible.

  115. 115
    Mark Frank says:

    #114 VJ

    I think your posts and comments have improved since your computer went kaput – but you know my taste.

    Constructing a vision is also an act done out of free will is it not? So what was it based on?

    This is not a trivial point. This thread has brought home to me that one of the problems of libertarian free will is the infinite regress of choosing to choose, which can also be phrased as controlling my choice because controlling X entails choosing to do X.

  116. 116
    Graham2 says:

    Its slowly dawning on me that MF & I are chasing the same point.

    VJT: You don’t need to refer to other stuff, just your opinion in your own words is fine. (Please don’t do a Bornagain77 on me)

    Your reply, in essence, was this: my decisions are … acts of my soul

    If this is the case, then I don’t think we can go much further. Someone who thinks the decision (to have a chocolate) is made in the soul is not really going to make a lot of sense.

  117. 117
    Mark Frank says:

    Graham2

    I apologise – I had not been reading your comments which do seem to address much the same point.

  118. 118
    Graham2 says:

    MF: I am trying to get any of the creationists to fess up to how they think a decision is made. It can only be a random act (of no interest) or the result of some process (weighing up alternatives). Whether this is done in the brain, the soul, the liver or whatever is not important.

    However, when they quite honestly admit all their decisions are made in the soul, I just get the awful sinking feeling that we are not in the same universe.

  119. 119
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2 and Mark:

    I have expressed many times my point of view:

    Decisions are complex processes in the mind. They certainly imply algorithmic elaborations, and probably random events. Some decisions are certainly more compulsive, others less.

    Free will is the power of consciousness to react differently (not randomly, but according to an intuition of some moral orientation, what we usually call “conscience”) to all the contents of the conscious flow of representations, including “decisions”. The different reactions of consciousness to its contents, which have a specific moral meaning, influence the flow of contents, and therefore also the final outputs. In that sense, decisions, like feelings and cognition, have a free component, which comes from the conscious “I” and has a moral meaning. That free component can be more or less prominent in observed outputs, according to our real chances to change it, which depend on inner and outer constraints, and not on our free will.

    IOWs, our free will can change our outputs. Wow much it can change them strictly depends on many other things.

  120. 120
    Graham2 says:

    gp: That’s an awful lot of fluff, but in the end, you are still describing a process. You use the word ‘react’ a few times, which is exactly the point I am getting at: free will or consciousness or whatever engage in some sort of process. If it isn’t a process, it must be random, unless there is a 3rd possibility Im not aware of. That’s the only point I (and I thnk MF) are making.

  121. 121
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    What do you mean: a process? It’s an event, not a process. I am saying that consciousness perceives its flow of representations, and reacts to it according to a oral intuition. IOWs, we are at some level aware that we can react in different ways, and that those different ways have different moral meaning. And we are free to choose.

    That’s what libertarian free will has always meant. Billions of intelligent and serious people have believed for centuries that this is exactly what happens in their individual consciousness.

    If you have decided a priori that any possible event must be either a process (that is, I suppose, algorithmic) or random, then you are simply begging the question. You are free to do that, but why should I, or anyone else, agree with you?

    Those who believe in libertarian free will obviously believe that free choices from conscious agents are an integral part of reality, as much as necessity and randomness. You are free to disagree. But you cannot impose your view as though it were necessarily true.

  122. 122
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    Begore you accuse me of introducing new and strange undefined concepts, “oral” should be “moral”. 🙂

  123. 123
    Graham2 says:

    gpc: My use of the term ‘process’ is a bit vague, ‘algorithm’ may be a better word, but the point is that some agent (the soul, whatever, I don’t care) is making a decision. It may ‘react’ to something else, but in the end this reaction is a process that is describable. It must be either an algorithm, or random. I don’t know of any 3rd way.

  124. 124
    kairosfocus says:

    G2:

    The first level onward answer is, consult and take seriously common sense views on responsible freedom on the ground then refine such in light of our experience of self-aware responsible choice as a conscious creature.

    Now, too, the decision process you outline — and BTW cf. here on decision theory in outline (cf a short course note here) — depends on:

    a: being able to reason (not merely carry out blind mechanical cause-effect chain GIGO limited computational processing predetermined by an underlying design and/or programming, maybe with some fed in random variables . . . ), ground and warrant alternatives in a rational manner,

    b: as a self-aware, situation-aware, insightful, purposeful, valuing and morally governed contemplative logical thinker

    c: who is able to follow logic and weigh relative merits on at least an ordered ranking scale as well as handle risk and uncertainty [cf. the linked defn in the first linked from Investopedia],

    d: then go out and do whichever comes up best as opposed to merely popping up on the statistical odds or being driven by blind, mechanical cause-effect chains and whatever hidden forcings or irresistible impulses or warped perceptions they impose . . . in all this,

    e: exhibiting bounded rationality. In turn

    f: that requires genuinely responsible freedom, not

    g: the sort of determinism that results from evo mat or its fellow travellers, and

    h: it is decisively counter to the clever but loaded redefinition of “choice” in so-called compatibilism.

    i: Compatibilism ends up (perhaps by subtler routes of thought . . . hint on self referential troubles, here) in the same basic error of grand delusion as the sort of blatant electrochemical determinism that Sir Francis Crick advocated in his 1994 The Astonishing hypothesis:

    . . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

    Philip Johnson has replied that Sir Francis should have therefore been willing to preface his works thusly: “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” Johnson then acidly commented: “[[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [[Reason in the Balance, 1995.]

    William Provine in his well known U Tenn 1998 Darwin Day Keynote put it this way:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

    So, I am not going after a mere strawman, there is a genuine incompatibility between evolutionary materialism (and its fellow travellers) and responsible freedom. Which is a precondition of rationality.

    For myself, I have outlined (the original is about 25 years back) how I see evolutionary materialism as irretrievably falling into self-referential incoherence . . . even without first demanding an answer as to how the FSCO/I rich neural network programming in our CNS that gives us the pivotal linguistic ability was supposedly incrementally composed on credible empirical evidence and pop genetics:

    a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.

    b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.

    (This is physicalism. This view covers both the forms where (a) the mind and the brain are seen as one and the same thing, and those where (b) somehow mind emerges from and/or “supervenes” on brain, perhaps as a result of sophisticated and complex software looping. The key point, though is as already noted: physical causal closure — the phenomena that play out across time, without residue, are in principle deducible or at least explainable up to various random statistical distributions and/or mechanical laws, from prior physical states. Such physical causal closure, clearly, implicitly discounts or even dismisses the causal effect of concept formation and reasoning then responsibly deciding, in favour of specifically physical interactions in the brain-body control loop; indeed, some mock the idea of — in their view — an “obviously” imaginary “ghost” in the meat-machine. [[There is also some evidence from simulation exercises, that accuracy of even sensory perceptions may lose out to utilitarian but inaccurate ones in an evolutionary competition. “It works” does not warrant the inference to “it is true.”] )

    c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this meat-machine picture. So, we rapidly arrive at Crick’s claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as “thoughts,” “reasoning” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains that (as the Smith Model illustrates) serve as cybernetic controllers for our bodies.

    d: These underlying driving forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [[“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [[“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism]. And, remember, the focal issue to such minds — notice, this is a conceptual analysis made and believed by the materialists! — is the physical causal chains in a control loop, not the internalised “mouth-noises” that may somehow sit on them and come along for the ride.

    (Save, insofar as such “mouth noises” somehow associate with or become embedded as physically instantiated signals or maybe codes in such a loop. [[How signals, languages and codes originate and function in systems in our observation of such origin — i.e by design — tends to be pushed to the back-burner and conveniently forgotten. So does the point that a signal or code takes its significance precisely from being an intelligently focused on, observed or chosen and significant alternative from a range of possibilities that then can guide decisive action.])

    e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And — as we saw above — would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?

    f: For further instance, we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion. Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely cognitive, conceptual error, but delusion. Borderline lunacy, in short. But, if such a patent “delusion” is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it “must” — by the principles of evolution — somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be a major illustration of the unreliability of our conceptual reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.

    g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.

    h: That is, on its own premises [[and following Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, “must” also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this “meme” in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence. Reppert brings the underlying point sharply home, in commenting on the “internalised mouth-noise signals riding on the physical cause-effect chain in a cybernetic loop” view:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions. [[Emphases added. Also cf. Reppert’s summary of Barefoot’s argument here.]

    i: The famous geneticist and evolutionary biologist (as well as Socialist) J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]

    j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the “thoughts” we have, (iii) the conceptualised beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt based on such and (v) the “conclusions” and “choices” (a.k.a. “decisions”) we reach — without residue — must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to “mere” ill-defined abstractions such as: purpose or truth, or even logical validity.

    (NB: The conclusions of such “arguments” may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or “warranted” them. It seems that rationality itself has thus been undermined fatally on evolutionary materialistic premises. Including that of Crick et al. Through, self-reference leading to incoherence and utter inability to provide a cogent explanation of our commonplace, first-person experience of reasoning and rational warrant for beliefs, conclusions and chosen paths of action. Reduction to absurdity and explanatory failure in short.)

    k: And, if materialists then object: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that — as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows — empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories. (And as well, we must not lose sight of this: in science, one is relying on the legitimacy of the reasoning process to make the case that scientific evidence provides reasonable albeit provisional warrant for one’s beliefs etc. Scientific reasoning is not independent of reasoning.)

    l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity.

    Fellow-traveller schemes that do not decisively repudiate these schemes end in much the same morass.

    KF

  125. 125
    Dionisio says:

    KF

    Have you heard of the Maximilian Kolbe case in WW2? Could that be an example of free will?

  126. 126
    Dionisio says:

    KF

    If I’m very tempted to do something (I could provide specific examples upon request), but I decide to act contrary to the temptation, is that related to free will?

  127. 127
    Dionisio says:

    #126 follow-up
    If someone is under strong peer pressure to do something, but he/she resists the pressure, even if it upsets many around, and even suddenly makes him/her ‘unpopular’ and ‘outcast’, does that action relate to free will?

  128. 128
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: The Eng Derek Smith model, of a cybernetic loop “robot” with a two tier controller with shared resources is summarised here. The in the loop i/o controller can easily be seen as an influenced computational device that hosts an oracle that transcends the blind computational, Turing type device limit. In a world of quantum influences with astonishing impacts of the act of observation, this is not foolish on its face. The alternative, that this higher order controller is simply more of the same, runs into not only difficulties with evolutionary writing of FSCO/I rich programming, but also with the inherent limits of blind GIGO limited cause effect chain computational processing. Ponder why system development requires so much troubleshooting and debugging.

  129. 129
    Dionisio says:

    KF

    When Paul and Peter were jailed and warned to stop preaching The Way, but they kept doing it, regardless of the expected consequences, does that act relate to free will?

  130. 130
    kairosfocus says:

    D: Yes, St Kolbe’s self-sacrifice and shepherding of the others put into the starvation room with him is a capital example of responsible freedom in action in the teeth of great evil. And I have a friend who was involved with a very attractive woman, who knew just how to punch his buttons, then there was the afternoon when she worked her magic then said, she “needed” him NOW. But, he had had a crisis of conscience. His reply was, that for the sake of his soul (and hers) he had to say no. Because in the end the still small voice of conscience said it was wrong, regardless of the balance of impulses, relational cues and raging emotions. KF

  131. 131
    kairosfocus says:

    D: Those cases in point are all aptly illustrative. KF

  132. 132
    Dionisio says:

    KF @ 128

    Ponder why system development requires so much troubleshooting and debugging.

    Good question. Been there, done that.

    Even when the latest and greatest design methodology has been carefully followed.

  133. 133
    Dionisio says:

    #130 KF

    Yes. That’s it.

  134. 134
    Dionisio says:

    KF

    Can the interlocutors still explain those ‘aptly illustrative’ cases?

    Were they determined by brain control circuitry and signaling that evolved through time?

    PGMAB

  135. 135
  136. 136
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    The “third way” is exactly free choice. Can you deny that you are eliminating it from your map of reality “ab initio”? Therefore, you are begging the question. It is not an argument, just a choice.

    Your argument was, as I understand it, that in decisions there are many aspects which seem algorithmic or random. Well, I don’t deny that. I have tried to show that they exist, and they can exist together with free choice from the transcendental I. This was an answer to your argument. You have answered that simply going back to a statement that only necessary and random events exist, and that you know mo other way. OK, that is not an argument, just a statement of faith.

  137. 137
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Graham2,

    I have to disagree with your claim that if decisions are not random, they must be performed by some underlying process or algorithm. If all actions had to be performed by some underlying process, there would be an infinite regress – and nothing would get done. Some actions must therefore be properly basic. I see no reason why acts of the will could not fall into this category. In other words, there doesn’t need to be a “how” a decision is made – any more than there needs to be a “how” an excited electron radiates a photon. That does not mean that a decision “just happens” – that’s another popular non sequitur frequently invoked by people who are skeptical of free will.

    Although I don’t think there is a mechanism by which my decisions are made, however, I would be the last to deny that a lot of information processing has to go in on the brain before a decision can be made – in particular, information processing relating to accurately representing the situation that the decision is about. (If this were not so, we could not describe the decision as an informed one.)

    Hi Mark,

    With regard to the infinite regress problem: the difficulty is founded on the false assumption that defenders of libertarian free will think every choice has to be chosen in order to be freely performed. On the contrary: every action (i.e. bodily movement) which is freely performed must be the result of a choice. For a choice to be free, however, requires only that it be done for a reason which appeals to the agent, and that nothing determined it.

    As for one’s fundamental vision of life, the universe and everything: there may be quite a bit of weighing up that goes on, but in the end the choice reflects one’s own personal answer to the question, “What sort of person do I want to be?” As for why people come up with the answer they do, I can only say: because it (a) makes sense to them and (b) appeals to them.

    By the way, you’ll be happy to know that it looks like the computer won’t be fixed for the foreseeable future 🙂 I’ve re-installed Windows Vista but can’t get the computer to even finish Stage 2 of CHKDSK. (I think it’s because a recent download of AVG damaged memory irretrievably, but even before that, it was playing up.) The computer is about seven years old, so I’d say it’s done for. I may decide to rent from now on. We’ll see.

  138. 138
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT: back up on your feet PC-wise yet? KF

  139. 139
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT: Ah, I reacted to the act of posting, I see some updates. VISTA? Uh oh . . . why not try XP? And I suggest get a netbook backup, you can get those now for about USD 300 or so, with a 12 inch screen, though 10 inches is good enough for most real work. KF

  140. 140
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF #113

    I think it is easy to get muddled about when you make the decision. Suppose you announce to the world “in 10 minutes I will choose to eat a bar of chocolate” and then 10 minutes later you do. Actually you chose to eat the bar of chocolate when you made the announcement and I am not at all sure you would predict you were going to make the announcement the day before whereas someone who was rather clever and knew you well might well have predicted it better.

    It’s interesting – there are a few things going on.
    First, you set 10 minutes as a time frame. If you set 1 second, you’d have an even higher probability of predicting. Keep in mind, your thought experiment offered 100% accuracy on decisions – that will include precisely when someone will decide each thing. Could a person predict exactly when, a year from now, you’ll eat a bar of chocolate? True, you might not predict it either, but the same person will not know, even 10 minutes before you choose chocolate, when you will make that decision.

    You said also: “Actually you chose to eat the bar of chocolate when you made the announcement …” and that’s true. Or we could say, you chose sometime before the announcement. In any case, the precise moment when you made the decision is known only to you. It’s entirely internalized. This makes it much more difficult for someone to predict, with 100% accuracy, all your decisions. Without knowing your internal state, how can it be determined when, precisely, you decided?

    To me random entails unpredictable and that doesn’t mean always different from what everyone predicts – it means that if the outcome of X is random then people who predict the outcome of X are wrong a consistent and significant proportion of the time and however much they work at it they will never improve on that. But the big question is: is there some third option other than predictable and random? I can’t see what it is.

    Ok, I see my own confusion here. I don’t understand what you mean by predictable. Why is something predictable or not? I think you’re saying that if it is random it is not predictable. So, if it is not random, it is predictable.
    But you also offered that random is when people are wrong about the event “a consistent and significant proportion of the time”. But we see many cases where it doesn’t work like that – especially with human behavior. Election results, the popularity of new products, rating of TV shows — is it predictable? If not, is it necessarily random?

    So again, why is something predictable? What is it about the origin of that thing? When you have something that can be predicted with 100% accuracy in every case – what does that say about predictablity vs something that can be predicted 75% of the time?

    Free choice is a selection of options based on criteria known only to the choosing agent. The criteria that inform the choice are not determined or law-like but come from a variety of sources, ranked by value to the chooser. Emotions, spiritual values, meaning, future benefits or even self-destructive motives can be factors in decisions. But the only person who has access to those criteria is the person making the decision.

    So, even if it could be predicted some times (as random processes can be predicted sometimes), the predictability is not based on the origin of the decision. It says nothing about why the person made the choice. It’s just looking at outcomes.

    On what basis would a genius be able to predict every decision with 100% accuracy? The only thing I could propose is that the genius discovered the programming that lead to every decision. Predicting without knowing the origin or criteria weighing of the choice is more like statistical guesswork and it could never achieve 100% accuracy.

    That’s a final thought … no random process can be predicted with 100% accuracy — and any process that is modified by a random value, is a random process.

    If a process could be predicted with 100% accuracy it would not be random. There would necessarily be some kind of law-like process or design working behind it.

    So, in your example with the dog – if the genius discovered how to predict with 100% accuracy every decision of the dog, we would conclude that the dog’s behavior was not random. If not random, then what is is?

  141. 141
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Graham2

    It may ‘react’ to something else, but in the end this reaction is a process that is describable. It must be either an algorithm, or random. I don’t know of any 3rd way.

    I think the fact that neither random nor algorithm explain what is happening is evidence that there is, necessarily, a third way that we consider free will.
    An algorithm is written before the event to produce various outcomes. So, where did the algorithm come from? The algorithm cannot write itself or evaluate itself. There’s an entity (self, soul) that observes the content and quality of the algorithms used in the decision – and to choose or reject certain reasoning paths.

  142. 142
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ  #137

    In other words, there doesn’t need to be a “how” a decision is made – any more than there needs to be a “how” an excited electron radiates a photon. That does not mean that a decision “just happens” – that’s another popular non sequitur frequently invoked by people who are skeptical of free will.

    This is key not only to the question of free will also the general issue of causality.  My position is that things are either caused or they are not. (To be more precise events have multiple causes which limit them to some extent but may not completely determine them – so it may be that some aspects of the event are uncaused e.g. the emission of alpha particles may be caused by an atom of uranium but the exact timing is not caused).  And if they are not caused, then they just happen. It seems like theists (and some others) evade this by invoking some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo. So in the case of the first cause – it doesn’t need to be caused because it is a “necessary being” whatever that is – rather than just accepting it just happened. And in the case of personal decisions you ascribe a characteristic “free will”  instead of accepting the usual sense of “free” to mean “not constrained”.
    To put it another way – a person’s decisions are preceded by conditions and events which to some extent constrain or influence those decisions – I guess we agree on that even if you think that some of those conditions are immaterial. The condition includes that person’s wishes and moral vision, what they are consciously aware of, and doubtless many other factors.  A decision then happens under those influences but not necessarily completely determined by them. I think we can all agree to that. The difference between us is that I stop there. For me that is an account of decision making at very high level. I don’t understand what you add by saying – and the decision had the attribute of free will.

  143. 143
    Dionisio says:

    #136 gpuccio

    The “third way” is exactly free choice.

    Though unrelated, the case of “The Third Way” to evolution, it’s also another example of free choice. Those respected scientists admitted the inadequacies and deficiencies of “the second way” (i.e. ‘n-D e’), but definitely don’t want to accept the possibility of “The First Way” which is “The Only Way” that was called “The Way” in the first century of this age. 🙂

  144. 144
    Box says:

    Vjtorley,
    do you hold self-causation (causa sui), to be logically possible?

  145. 145
    kairosfocus says:

    Box, the self-moved, acting as a going concern along a cumulative spiral path of action driven by decisions is not self-referentially incoherent. We are like that. That is not the same as self-initiating in the sense of calling or causing oneself to come into existence. KF

  146. 146
    Box says:

    KF, does ‘self-moved’ imply that a thing is simultaneous cause and effect? If so, is there a problem with the law of non-contradiction?

  147. 147
    Dionisio says:

    Box
    Just to make it a little easier for me to understand the term, can you provide an example of self-causation? Thank you.

  148. 148
    Mung says:

    Graham2:

    However, when they quite honestly admit all their decisions are made in the soul, I just get the awful sinking feeling that we are not in the same universe.

    LoL!

    You get that ‘awful sinking feeling’ in your brain, your soul, your liver or someplace else likewise not important.

  149. 149
    Box says:

    Dionisio,
    Self-organization (as we see in organisms), self-perception, self-reflection, self-esteem and so on are arguably all examples of self-causation.

  150. 150
    kairosfocus says:

    Box, nope, this is describing a reflexive, feedback process. Something that happens every time we make a decision. G

  151. 151
    Mung says:

    gpuccio:

    Graham2:

    The “third way” is exactly free choice. Can you deny that you are eliminating it from your map of reality “ab initio”? Therefore, you are begging the question. It is not an argument, just a choice.

    I don’t think he rejects it “ab initio.” I think he just doesn’t know where to place the decision-making, whether in the brain, the soul, the liver, or somewhere else.

    And of course we agree. There is no physical location of the immaterial. We’re not puzzled by this, he is.

  152. 152
    Dionisio says:

    Box,

    Self-organization (as we see in organisms),

    isn’t that the result of the physical properties of the molecular components and their relative positions within the molecules?

  153. 153
    JDH says:

    Mark Frank,

    Help me out please. I cannot possibly see why this is so hard for you. I admit the problem may be my confirmation bias, or me being blind to obvious holes in the arguments. My question is: Why do you continue to assume materialism, compatibilism, and other metaphysical notions which DO NOT fit the empirical observations that you yourself make.

    For example you assume materialism and as an antecedent assume…

    1. ) every human thought has a material cause.

    You end up either having to say there are a) no intentional choices or b) an infinite regress of intentional choices.

    conclusion ‘a’ makes no sense from a probabilistic analysis of many observations of choices made and, as VJT points out, the fact that they can be the result of ideas expressed only in language or other abstract symbols INDEPENDENT of the media of expression.

    conclusion ‘b’ is not logically possible.

    Why oh why can’t you come to the only logical conclusion that premise 1 is false.

    I don’t mean to ask that question flippantly or in an abusive manner. I am just really perplexed why in the age of quantum mechanics, modern biology, and advanced signal processing anyone still clings to the idea of a materialistic universe. Please help me to see that this holding on to materialism is not just an extreme exercise in foolishness. To my shame, I really can not comprehend any other possibility.

  154. 154
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    And if they are not caused, then they just happen. It seems like theists (and some others) evade this by invoking some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo. So in the case of the first cause – it doesn’t need to be caused because it is a “necessary being” whatever that is – rather than just accepting it just happened.

    Thanks for the laughs Mark.

  155. 155
    gpuccio says:

    Mung:

    He says that any event must be either the result of a process (a necessity algorithm) or of random systems. And that he does not know any other alternative.

    So, he is eliminating “ab initio” the possibility that free choices exist, because by definition a free choice is neither the result of necessity nor a random event. So, he is not debating free will. He is just stating that it does not exist.

    I am perfectly fine with that choice, he is a free individual and he has to make his cognitive choices. But again, that is not an argument.

  156. 156
    Dionisio says:

    #152 follow-up

    don’t we want to know what causes the component elements to be in those relative positions?
    In the case of the proteins, don’t they result from an elaborate process that combines transcription, translation, splicing, folding, etc.
    What determines when those processes occur? how long, how many times, where? many factors involved. Up- and down-regulation, signaling pathways, the whole nine yard.

  157. 157
    Box says:

    KF #150, I don’t understand your comment.

    Let me rephrase my question. When “I” make a free decision, self-moved (without external determination), does self-moved imply that “I” is simultaneously cause and effect? In the sense that there is a cause “I” that causes itself (by making a decision) to be an effect “decisive I”.
    Similarly, during self-perception, am I simultaneously observer and object?
    And my question is: if so, is there a problem with the law of non-contradiction?

  158. 158
    Box says:

    Dionisio #152 #147,
    I was trying to clarify the term self-causation. I don’t want to argue with you if self-organization is a genuine principle or not in organisms.

  159. 159
    kairosfocus says:

    Box,

    Feedback is a common aspect of system behaviour, where final outputs or intermediate stages come back to influence inputs. It gives rise to all sorts of interesting effects, where a past and/or present state affects the way the system acts onwards.

    That is the system acts on itself.

    And when memory and things dependent on memory are material aspects, that further amplifies the past affects the future effect.

    These are both highly relevant to human behaviour.

    (If you have ever tried to walk with a bucket full of water held in a hand, you may know some of the implications of feedback, as the lags in the loop are often just enough for attempts to stabilise further destabilising, and so water gets sloshed out.)

    Likewise we have a meta reflective capacity to reflect on our inner state and thoughts etc, we are self-aware. In that self awareness, we are both observed and observer.

    But, that is not at all the same as saying that we initiate our beings or mindedness from nothing.

    When “I” the transcendent, the soul, make a decision, I may have external influences and internal ones, but it is I who move. I am not a determined dynamic system that follows a necessary path.

    And, if the determinism were so, I could not be a reasonable, warranting, knowing being. I could not make responsible choices.

    And no, there is no contradiction involved.

    I am influenced from within and from without, but that is not the same as I am blindly programmed and controlled. I choose, often in the teeth of my inclinations, because I determine that I shall do the right not the impulsive or the easy. We all face that choice: will we be ruled by our impulses and passions or by our determination to know and do the right, the reasonable and the true?

    Down that road of blind control lies the grand delusion fallacy that ends in self referential incoherence.

    KF

  160. 160
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: Necessity of being is a serious issue on modes of being. This is not the place to go into a long elaboration on the self evident nature of first principles of right reason, and the status of a weak form principle of sufficient reason, but we may simply notice that on inquiring of a given A, why it is (or why it is not), we can see that there are impossible and possible beings, and that there are contingent and non-contingent possible beings. The former depend on an external enabling factor, and the latter have no such dependence. Consequently they must exist in any possible world. For instance, start with the number 2 and the relationship summarised as 2 + 3 = 5. There is no possible world in which they do not hold, and they are necessary beings. But the real issue is that a necessary being — as it is not dependent on enabling causes — will be without beginning or end. Which is of course reflective of a key traditional characteristic of God: the Eternal. So the tone above, in all likelihood, reflects an underlying hostility to God . . . which may well be shaping perceptions. As for the notion of an infinite successive causal regress of beings, the problem is not only that there is no empirical foundation for this whatsoever, but that there is a serious problem: one cannot traverse an infinite succession of discrete, finite steps for the very same reason why one cannot count up to infinity. In rather crudely simple terms, infinity, infinity less one, infinity less two, infinity less three . . . etc simply will not get us anywhere. I suggest you re-think. KF

  161. 161
    Dionisio says:

    Box,

    Ok, thank you. 🙂

  162. 162
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: That which has a beginning, of course is a possible and contingent being, thus is caused. It has long since been shown that nothing — non-being — has no causal powers, and that the quantum mechanics usually trotted out to assert a-causal being is nothing like that (especially once one understands the role of necessary, enabling causal factors). No RA nucleus and no possibility of nuclear decay, etc etc across ever so many quantum effects. That we may know only sufficient conditions for a distribution of possibilities so that an event is possible, does not mean it comes out of nowhere, & nothing, for no good reason.

  163. 163
    Dionisio says:

    #158 Box,

    I understand “self-causation” is associated with the process of “causing itself”.

    I understand “self-organization” is associated with the process of “organizing itself”. But in this case, the ‘self’ must already exist (although kind of disorganized), hence it must have been “caused” earlier by something else, not itself.

    That’s why I could not understand the analogy between the two terms.

    Did I get this right?

  164. 164
    Box says:

    Dionisio #163,

    Indeed you got it right, I was talking “change” not “coming into existence”.
    I used the term self-causation as a general term for all inner relations that an agency may have. Such a relation at the very least causes the agency to change. For instance, self-perception can change a person; can make a person realize what a great guy he is after all. But it may very well be the case that self-perception is fundamental to consciousness.
    So, maybe there is even room for, with respect to consciousness, discussing self-causation in the strong sense, that is, as an explanation for coming into existence.

  165. 165
    Graham2 says:

    The ‘3rd way’ is free will. That doesn’t help. If we make a choice between A & B,, and choose A, we need to have a reason to choose A, and not B. If the reason was different, we would choose B. Something in the universe has caused us to choose A. What is it ? Just giving it a label ‘free will’ doesn’t help. I can call it a telephone, it still doesn’t answer the question.

    You haven’t taken the problem a single inch forward.

  166. 166
    Silver Asiatic says:

    KF 160

    But the real issue is that a necessary being — as it is not dependent on enabling causes — will be without beginning or end.

    The origin of dependency cannot be dependency. It has to be something non-dependent.

  167. 167
    Dionisio says:

    Box,
    Generally speaking, I’m not well versed in these philosophical topics like mind and consciousness. They kind of get too high above my limited capacity to understand things.
    I enjoy more dealing with simpler things I can look at and analyze as if they were electronic circuits or software programs. That’s why I’m so fascinated by the informational processes that occur during the first few weeks of human development at cellular and molecular levels. These are things you can follow, observe, analyze, as long as the required data is available.
    For example, the mechanisms associated with the cell fate determination, asymmetric cell division, centrosomes segregation timing, mitotic spindle checkpoints, kinetochores / microtubules tension, etc.
    There’s plenty of material in this area to spend a long time studying very intensively. No much time left for philosophical chatting. But every once in a while I can jump in and take a look at the ongoing discussions and maybe sometimes comment on what I read.
    Now you know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would have said. 🙂

  168. 168
    Graham2 says:

    VJT #137: You waffled, but didn’t answer the question. You creationists bang on and on and on about free will. You trot it out as the answer to theodicy (or something). Surely you have thought about the problem ? Havent you ever thought about how decisions are made ?

  169. 169
    Box says:

    KF: And, if the determinism were so, I could not be a reasonable, warranting, knowing being. I could not make responsible choices.

    You are absolutely right. These sentences should be put up on signs everywhere. They should be learned and rehearsed, just as long as everyone understands them.

  170. 170
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Something in the universe has caused us to choose A. What is it ?

    If you’re saying that everything in the universe is a physical/material entity, then what caused the choice is some physical thing or law. Why is that necessarily the case? You experience your own self, but you can’t give any physical characteristics of what your “self” is. You can weigh options and judge and select freely — but what is this this “mechanism” of choosing that we call “self”? Why does it necessarily have to be a physical thing? Why can’t you describe the physical dimensions of your own decision-making mechanism?

    We choose things for a reason. We could say “the reasons caused us to choose”. But we can create the reasons. “Since today is Tuesday, I will drink beer.” The fact that it is Tuesday did not cause us to drink. What you get is in infinite regress (Why do you drink on Tuesday? Because it comes before Wednesday. Why is that a factor? Because Wednesdays I drink wine. Why is that? I can make up reasons ad infinitum …)

    Why can’t we simply find the origin of all these decisions in a reason? Again, it’s the self that can generate an infinite number of reasons.

    This is evidence that the decision does not come from programming but from a non-physical entity.

    What caused us to create the reason for the choice? It’s the self or soul that creates or finds reasons. The person can freely select among options with the awareness that it is not being caused or determined or forced, necessarily, to choose one or the other.

  171. 171
    Graham2 says:

    SA: What caused us to create the reason for the choice I think you are starting to see the problem. Where we differ is that you retreat to some mystical ‘non physical entity’ and park the problem there. The truth seems to be pretty obvious and simple: I eat because Im hungry. See ? no infinite regression required. Why do you think you eat ? VJT thinks the decision comes from the soul.

    You are now going to instantly retreat to a discussion of moral issues. Groan.

  172. 172
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I eat because Im hungry.

    Feel free to edit and disagree …

    Q. Why are you hungry?
    A. Because hunger is a physical reaction to lack of food.
    Q Why do we have that physical reaction?
    A Evolution caused it
    Q Why?
    A So we would survive
    Q What happened to organisms before the evolution of hunger?
    A They didn’t need hunger because … [make up something here]
    Q Why did evolution want us to survive?
    A Because we would die otherwise.
    Q What is wrong with dying?
    A Evolution made us afraid of it
    Q Why?
    A Because evolution wants us to survive
    Q Why?
    A Because survival is good and dying is bad
    Q What is wrong with dying?

  173. 173
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    You say:

    “If we make a choice between A & B,, and choose A, we need to have a reason to choose A, and not B.”

    No. The essence of free will is that we can choose both A and B. Sour moral conscience will intuitively perceive A as “good” and B as “not good” in the deepest sense, for our deepest destiny. It is not a reasoning, just an intuition about what we are representing (A and B). You can say that it comes from the soul, if you like. Again, it is not a reasoning, just an intuition.

    So you can say: why should we choose B? There are many reasons. B is apparently more likable, or appeals more to our razionalization, or gratifies more our personal self-esteem. And so on. Or there is some compulsive force in our mind which is strongly in favor of B, whatever the cost.

    IOWs, in many cases, the non free influences that act on us would favor the choice which our intuition tells us to be “not good”.

    But we are free to choose. Let’s say that we have some inner strength that can overcome those influences, if we choose to side with our deeper intuition. That we do that or not is exactly what is under our control. The choice cannot be explained in terms of reasoning, because it is not a reasoning (although it certainly can take into good account the good reasonings of the mind). It is more similar to siding for what we deeply love when all the rest tempts us otherwise. It is an inner loyalty, which we are free to embrace or to disavow. It is choosing to choose or choosing not to choose, and letting other things choose for us.

    You say:

    “Something in the universe has caused us to choose A. What is it? Just giving it a label ‘free will’ doesn’t help.”

    It is not “something in the universe”. It is us. Our I, our independent center of consciousness. It is not a label. It is a view of life.

  174. 174
    Upright BiPed says:

    I wonder if Graham is even capable of conceptualizing the counter-argument that G Puccio has put forward against his position.

    I think not, but I could be mistaken. He would have to actually articulate it in its proper terms to convince any reasonable person otherwise.

    G Puccio’s observation trumps Graham’s argument – flat out. Also, GP offered his observation with the simple caveat that as long as Graham understands the position he puts himself into, then there is no further argument to be made –> in other words, he (Graham) has simply made a choice without providing an argument for it. However, I think Graham is far too much of a competitive partisan for that, he is certain to want to be seen as entirely justified in his claims. He will not want them to be reduced to being merely unsupported choices, worth no more than any other.

  175. 175
    Upright BiPed says:

    Oops, I see I’ve crosws posted GP….

  176. 176
    gpuccio says:

    Box (#157):

    “Let me rephrase my question. When “I” make a free decision, self-moved (without external determination), does self-moved imply that “I” is simultaneously cause and effect? In the sense that there is a cause “I” that causes itself (by making a decision) to be an effect “decisive I”.
    Similarly, during self-perception, am I simultaneously observer and object?
    And my question is: if so, is there a problem with the law of non-contradiction?”

    My opinion.

    Self-perception is one thing. In it, we perceive and for that same reason we know we exist as perceivers. It is really difficult to separate the two intuitions, and it is probably wrong to try.

    Of course, we can reflect on the fact that we perceive. That is different, because we are creating mental representations about the experience of perceiving, and of being subjects. That could be called “self-awareness”.

    But in simple awareness, in perceiving, there is implicit the intuition of the I. I don’t see that as a problem of cause and effect. And there is, IMO, no violation of the law of non-contradiction.

    I don’t see the same situation with free will. In free will, I would say that my I is the cause of the decision, and the decision the effect. Here, there is a cause and effect relationship. Let’s say that some free alternative in the way that my consciousness interact with my outer interface is (at least in part) the cause of the observable decision.

    Graham2 would ask: what determines which alternative will take place. The only answer, in a free will scenario, is: our I. IOWs, a free choice cannot be analyzed as an outer phenomenon, which obeys the law of phenomenic cause and effect: phenomena are caused by similar phenomena. A free choice is an event of the transcendental I: it has other laws, and other connotations. One of them is its moral meaning: choices are never neutral to our personal destiny, as I have tried to argue.

  177. 177
    Graham2 says:

    gpc: I appreciate the effort you made to address the issue. Amongst all the words, it seems you have just pushed the problem back to an ‘I’. VJT pushes it back to the soul. Either way its a determination to invoke a supernatural (non physical) entity, which just creates a new problem for you: to justify this invention.

    UBP: You are not contributing anything here.

  178. 178
    Dionisio says:

    On most occasions, this kind of discussions between two opposite irreconcilable worldview positions are ended long before they start. 🙁
    Perhaps the visiting onlookers benefit from reading both arguments and arriving at their own conclusions, if they are open-minded.

  179. 179
    Box says:

    Gpuccio,

    thank you for your comment.

    Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that in self-perception the “I” is indeed simultaneously observer and object.
    Would that constitute a violation of the law of non-contradiction?

  180. 180
    ppolish says:

    Does my Skyrim character have free will? For those of you who have not played a video game since Pong or Space Invaders would be impressed with the “Open World” games of today.

    Skyrim is maybe 100 square miles of forests, mountains, rivers, coastlines, cities, towns, etc etc with politics, religions, laws etc etc.

    There are 1000s of people programmed to eat, sleep, get up each day and go to work etc. Incredible programming.

    And one character is of your design. You can wander around the whole place interacting at will with the people. With the animals and “creatures” too.

    Here is a link, if you click be warned that the player has a potty mouth as he wanders his character around the city of Whiterun.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ata_player

  181. 181
    Upright BiPed says:

    Graham

    I am merely pointing out that you are failing to respond to a valid observation about your position. It is not clear whether you are doing so because you do not understand it, or because you’d rather ignoring it for rhetorical purposes.

    In either case, you’ve still failed to respond to it. You can correct that situation by merely stating something to the effect that “Yes, in accord with my priors, I deny that anything can exist which cannot be reduced to matter, and therefore I not only remove the possibility of such a thing from the outset, but I also assume my position to be true”.

  182. 182
    Mung says:

    Graham2:

    Havent you ever thought about how decisions are made?

    I’d have to decide to think about that, and I choose not to.

  183. 183
    Mung says:

    I’m waiting to hear how Graham2 decided he was hungry.

    And I wonder if Graham2 ever eats when he is not hungry.

  184. 184
    Graham2 says:

    Dion: irreconcilable worldview positions That’s pretty much it. There is a huge flurry of words (KF Im looking at you!) but in the end the religious believe morals, decisions, mathematics (BA77!) all spring from the soul, the ‘I’, the ‘mind’, or some other spirit. Theres not much that can be done here.

  185. 185
  186. 186
  187. 187
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    And if they are not caused, then they just happen. It seems like theists (and some others) evade this by invoking some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo. So in the case of the first cause – it doesn’t need to be caused because it is a “necessary being” whatever that is – rather than just accepting it just happened.

    Why is this funny? Well, it’s me here. Look first for the irony.

    People who believe in a necessary reason apparently do so for no good reason.

    Unlike Mark.

    He believes in things that “just happen” no reason, no cause, no need to be caused, it just happened, that’s all, just accept it. Brute fact.

    And then accuses the others of “invoking some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo.” Oh, the irony!

    Thank God we don’t use Mark’s method in science (or any other field of human endeavor).

    The gun, your honor, it just went off, all by itself!

  188. 188
    Dionisio says:

    #184 Graham2

    So why do you keep coming back here?
    Can you explain what attracts you so much to engage in argument after argument in this blog?
    Is that your free will or your intuition?
    What else?

  189. 189
    Graham2 says:

    Dion: Its like looking at a car accident. We all do it, Ive no idea why, but in this case, to answer your question, I yielded to the temptation to ask a simple question about free will: How do we make decisions ?

    I thought the reply may be interesting, but it turned out to be lots and lots of noise, but very little light. Apparantly our decisions are made by some vague, undefined spirit, in some undefined way. Maybe its the soul, maybe our consciousness, maybe its ‘I’. If I get hungry and decide to eat, its my soul deciding I should have a sandwitch. Does this make sense to you ? I thought it was the function of my brain, but apparently not.

  190. 190
    Dionisio says:

    G2
    I really don’t have time to waste discussing with you this stuff here. You may ask someone else if you want to.
    If you want to discuss with me, see my over 250 posts in the thread about “the third way” in this same blog and feel free to comment on any of them, but no philosophical chat, stick to pure science.
    Got it this time buddy?

  191. 191
    gpuccio says:

    Box (#179):

    I don’t think so.

    The subject, the object and the process of perception are essential components of being a perceiving I. They are the I’s nature.

  192. 192
    Mark Frank says:

    GP

    In free will, I would say that my I is the cause of the decision, and the decision the effect.

    “I” refers to an object which exists for an extended period. A decision is an event. So what causes the event to happen at that particular moment? It is a change in the “I”? Or an external change? And if it is a change in the “I” what causes that to happen at that moment?

  193. 193
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    First of all, you know that I consider the “I” as the subject which refers to itself all the different representations, including the mental states.

    You know also that I consider free choice as the inherent ability of the I of reacting differently to those representations.

    So, the answer to your questions is simple: the choice happens at specific times because it is a free reaction of the I to specific representations, which are obviously caused by different external or internal events on which the I has no special control.

    As I have said many times, at each moment there are two different factors: the representations of the internal and external stimuli with which the I comes in contact (the deterministic/random part), and the I (the subject which represents those things) which can freely react to those representations. Of course, the results of the free choices modify the following events, so they become part of what the I experiences at successive times.

  194. 194
    Mark Frank says:

    GP

    So, the answer to your questions is simple: the choice happens at specific times because it is a free reaction of the I to specific representations, which are obviously caused by different external or internal events on which the I has no special control.

    Is that reaction the decision or is there some change within the I which then leads to the decision?
    Does it go like this:

    Stimuli combined with “I” => Decision

    or more like this

    Stimuli => Reaction of “I” => Decision

    The second case doesn’t help much as it is just pushes the question back to the reaction of the “I”. So I guess it is the first case. So what is the contribution of the “I”. It can’t be actively doing anything or that would become the second case. So it has to be a passive enabler – a condition which has to be present but does not provide the impulse for things to happen.

  195. 195
    kairosfocus says:

    G2:

    I notice, a dodge of the issue on the merits:

    There is a huge flurry of words (KF Im looking at you!) but in the end the religious believe morals, decisions, mathematics (BA77!) all spring from the soul, the ‘I’, the ‘mind’, or some other spirit. Theres not much that can be done here.

    That speaks, volumes.

    Do, tell me, when you do a complex Math derivation, such as a cumbersome Integration, for which there is no standard one size fits all rule, is there an exercise of perception, reasoning, reference to ways you can refactor the expression to get a standard form etc etc, or is there not? Do tell me if there is or is not a self-aware, insight based process that makes logical inferences driven by meaning, deciding to refactor towards a specific form, then another if that doesn’t work, then finally, aha, yes, here it is. Tell me that this is blind algorithms written by incremental blind chance and mechanical necessity. No, don’t tell me, tell any virtuoso mathematician.

    And, he will laugh in your face, for he has doubtless struggled with head-buster problems for years and decades.

    Go ask any serious designer of a complex entity that has to work based on intricate interaction of parts about what s/he goes through, and try to suggest there is no insightful I there, no carefully nurtured creative mind, no soul with a determination towards excellence.

    Hey, go ask Reginald Mitchell’s ghost about why he worked himself to death while fighting cancer to design the Spitfire.

    Then, ask the remaining survivors of the Blitz in 1940, what they think of Mitchell’s brain-child, the Supermarine Spitfire.

    What I see here is ideological dismissiveness on your part, not a serious grappling.

    Let me summarise a note or two.

    On the evo mat view and that of its fellow travellers, we are blindly programmed by a process that — in the teeth of evidence on the source of FSCO/I — somehow wrote our language using programming. Somehow, that resulting blind cause-effect chain and statistical noise system is not seriously challenged by the GIGO problem that, say, haunted the Pentium when it would happily churn out incorrect answers to fl pt ops, as the debugging did not catch key errors.

    Sorry, I will not buy that and anyone who understands how hard it is to get a computational system to come together in a reliably working config won’t either.

    And that does not even touch fact no 1: we are self-aware, insight based reasoning, contemplative, purposeful, conscious beings.

    Somehow, conscious, insightful mindedness, reasoning resting on this and knowledge resting on this are to be accepted as what MUST have emerged from a blind non-rational incremental survival process, as that is the only thing permitted since evo mat ideologues dominate in key institutions. And, the Haldane challenge, why, let’s just ignore it and try to drown it out with our own talking points.

    So, I give the key clip to Haldane, as I get back to the over-brimming slate of issues on the table:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. ]

    Your problem is not me, it is with the issue Haldane highlighted so long ago now, and for which the dodge, duck and slip-slide away eighty five or so years later speaks louder than any repetition of the argument you have yet to squarely face.

    KF

  196. 196
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Let me give Plato his due place at the table, from The Laws Bk X . . .

    >> Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

    Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

    Ath. I do.

    Cle. Certainly we should.

    Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

    Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

    Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

    Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

    Cle. Exactly.

    Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.] >>

  197. 197
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: To see what G2 would dismiss without serious response — having demanded expansion of earlier brief comments on decision making (and by implication of a reference, Decision Theory) — kindly cf 124.

  198. 198
    Silver Asiatic says:

    If I get hungry and decide to eat, its my soul deciding I should have a sandwitch.

    In the US we have what is called soul food – which kind of goes along with soul music.

    Have you ever thought about why you choose one kind of food rather than another? Why not eat exactly the same thing every day? Cows eat grass every day – the same thing. Why do you choose something different?

    I am hungry, so I choose to eat.
    I am hungry, so I choose a sandwich or a burger or pizza or pasta or a taco. Why?

    Answer: Because I like pizza.
    Q: Why?
    A: That’s my favorite
    Q: Why?
    A: I like it
    Q: Why?
    A: That’s just the way I am
    Q: So “I” makes the choice, and unseen, unobservable characteristics of “I” want one thing versus another for no other reason than “that’s the way I” is, right?
    A: …

  199. 199
    Silver Asiatic says:

    “I” refers to an object which exists for an extended period.

    What kind of “object” is “I”? Where is it? What are its dimensions?

    A decision is an event. So what causes the event to happen at that particular moment? It is a change in the “I”? Or an external change?

    As above, “I is an object”, but what are its mechanisms? What are its parts? If we agree that “I” exists, we might also wonder why we don’t have answers about the physical nature of “I”. We can’t observe physical changes to “I” and therefore cannot measure them.

    And if it is a change in the “I” what causes that to happen at that moment?

    We have to establish that “I” is a physical object first. If it is, then some other thing will cause it to move or change.
    If “I” is not a physical object, then that’s a different discussion.

  200. 200
    gpuccio says:

    Mark (#194):

    Is that reaction the decision or is there some change within the I which then leads to the decision?
    Does it go like this:

    Stimuli combined with “I” => Decision

    or more like this

    Stimuli => Reaction of “I” => Decision

    The second case doesn’t help much as it is just pushes the question back to the reaction of the “I”. So I guess it is the first case.

    I guess too. But I would like to clarify, to avoid misunderstandings, that I would say “choice” rather than decision. “Decision” is usually the final result that we observe. “Choice” is the free event which takes place in our consciousness, and contributes to our “decisions”. So, our choices are free, but our decisions are strongly constrained.

    So what is the contribution of the “I”. It can’t be actively doing anything or that would become the second case. So it has to be a passive enabler – a condition which has to be present but does not provide the impulse for things to happen.

    I am not sure I understand what you mean. First of all the I is not an object, but a subject. Second, the I interact with reality through representations of inputs and free choices (outputs).

    I would not say that the I “is not doing anything”. It continuously does two things: perceives and chooses (represents and acts).

    Understanding what perception means and what choice means in terms of intellectual reasoning is difficult. Can you say what subjective perception is? No. We just know because we perceive. The same is true of free choice.

    Certainly, the I interacts with the body, mainly through the brain interface. A possible model is that the I is constantly connected to brain activities, probably at quantum level. The “choice” could express itself by modifying the quantum state of critical brain events, maybe at the wave function collapse level.

    Psychologically, the choice can be seen for example in this way: different representations are perceived by the I, corresponding to different possible feelings or actions. The I can interact with brain events so that some representations gain strength and others lose it. The following interaction between different neural networks, which expresses itself as an observable decision, is therefore changed.

    So, I believe that the I does something. You will never understand or accept this model because you insist in considering the I as an object, made of parts and subject to the same laws as material objects. But that is not the case. The I is a subject, a transcendental subject. Perceiving and willing are its natural properties, and its perceptions are conditioned by its inputs, while the I itself conditions its outputs.

    So, I am not sure of why you call the I “a passive enabler”. The I is never passive. It is “passive” in perception because that is the meaning of perception itself: let the forms of outer events “enter” consciousness (be represented). And it is very active in choice, because that is the meaning of choice: shaping reality so that it may be different from what it would be if our choices were absent, or simply different.

  201. 201
  202. 202
    Mark Frank says:

    GP thanks.
      I had not appreciated the distinction you are making between choice and decision. So it looks like the model is:
      Stimuli => Perception => Choice => Decision

    So, I believe that the I does something. You will never understand or accept this model because you insist in considering the I as an object, made of parts and subject to the same laws as material objects. But that is not the case. The I is a subject, a transcendental subject. Perceiving and willing are its natural properties, and its perceptions are conditioned by its inputs, while the I itself conditions its outputs.

    I don’t think it makes any difference to this specific argument whether the “I” is an object or a subject (not that I understand the difference) it is still presumably something and either changes or it doesn’t.   I think you are saying that while perceptions may constrain and increase the likelihood of certain choices and cause a choice to happen at a particular time the only other relevant thing is the act of choosing.  So far that is compatible with compatibilism (if you see what I mean). So what is the additional element  that differentiates it from a random outcome, and why does this additional element matter?

  203. 203
    Graham2 says:

    GP: Another way of looking at this is to ask the ‘I’ (or whatever) why did it choose an option AFTER it has chosen the option. Say the choice was to make a sandwich, the question (addressed to the agent ‘I’) would be: Why did you choose to make a sandwich ?

    Now, could you supply a possible answer to that question ?

  204. 204
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    Not understanding the difference between an object and a subject is somewhat a problem for our discussion…

    However: the additional element is that the act of choosing is not random. What we choose is morally good or bad, it can be in tune with our deeper nature, or with more superficial parts of our being. IOWs, the representations that we choose to “help” or “discourage” have different moral meaning for our I and for its destiny. So, there is nothing random in that. There is the constant freedom of the I to choose what is “good” or choose what is “bad” (but can absolutely be more desirable if a more superficial context of representation is adopted). Choosing what is “good” has certain effects on our condition, choosing what is “bad” has different effects. the cumulative effect of our choices, both good and bad, changes what we are and our personal destiny.

    The real difference is this: libertarian free will is the belief that our personal destiny can be changed by us. Really, not only because we seem to choose what we must choose anyway.

    You may ask how does the I know what representations are good and what are bad. That does not come from intellectual reasoning (although intellectual reasoning can be part of the representations). It comes from intuition of the fundamental values of our consciousness. That is what has been called, for millennia, “moral conscience”.

    So, a good use of free choice consists in adhering to that deep intuition. A bad use of free choice consists in denying it. But the intuition is the same, both in those who choose good and in those who choose evil. It’s the choice that is different.

  205. 205
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    As I have tried to explain, making a sandwich is a decision, not necessarily a relevant choice.

    Now, making a sandwich (or not making it) when we feel that it will bad for us to eat it (but still we desire to eat it) is more probably a context where free choice could have an important role.

    IOWs, some decisions are trivial, and do not have a great relevance. Many of them could be automatic, with scarce of no contribution of free will.

    However, it is always a good use of free will trying to live not too automatically. Cultivating the habit of living in serene but deep awareness of higher values, for instance, is a spiritual discipline which, if willingly embraced, will help to change our destiny.

    Asking a person why he has decided something is not always the best way to analyze free will in action. Persons are frequently intellectually confused about what they do or will, often because they lie to themselves and others about that (I am not being haughty here, I willingly put myself in the bunch!). What I mean is that I do believe in free will, but I don’t believe that we really know how we use it. We often believe that we are free in things where we have been completely constrained, and viceversa.

    I believe that we have the intuition that we are choosing freely many important things. And that intuition is perfectly true. Being aware of what we are really choosing or not choosing, on the other hand, is a very difficult art.

  206. 206
    Graham2 says:

    gp: scarce or no contribution of free will That’s an odd statement. If free will ‘contributes’ to the decision, then we are exactly back to the starting question: How does ‘free will’ ‘contribute’?. The agent making the decision is constantly being pushed back to the soul, the ‘I’, free will, etc etc. My point (and I think MF) is: How does this agent contribute to the decision?. Its exactly the same question we have been chasing all along.

    All the moral issues are a distraction, just concentrate on a simple example. (like a sandwich).

  207. 207
    Mung says:

    Graham2, have you ever eaten even though you were not hungry?

    Also, how and why do you decide that you are hungry?

    Lastly, who or what is this “I” that “you” are trying to feed?

  208. 208
    Mung says:

    Mark,

    You seriously can’t think of any good reason someone could have for believing in a necessary being?

    And you don’t think that appealing to things popping into and out of existence willy nilly with no reason or cause is not “invoking some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo”?

    If what you describe is actually going on in our world, how on earth does science work? Magic?

  209. 209
    Graham2 says:

    Mung: Yes, Ive eaten when not hungry (eg: for politeness) How do I decide: Its a physiological process, the usual stuff. Why do I decide: Not really a sensible question. There is no ‘why’. What is the ‘I’: This is your problem, not mine.

  210. 210
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2 (and Mark):

    I have tried to explain a possible model of how the I interacts and contributes to decisions in mt post #200 to Mark. I paste the relevant part here:

    “Certainly, the I interacts with the body, mainly through the brain interface. A possible model is that the I is constantly connected to brain activities, probably at quantum level. The “choice” could express itself by modifying the quantum state of critical brain events, maybe at the wave function collapse level.

    Psychologically, the choice can be seen for example in this way: different representations are perceived by the I, corresponding to different possible feelings or actions. The I can interact with brain events so that some representations gain strength and others lose it. The following interaction between different neural networks, which expresses itself as an observable decision, is therefore changed.

    So, I believe that the I does something. You will never understand or accept this model because you insist in considering the I as an object, made of parts and subject to the same laws as material objects. But that is not the case. The I is a subject, a transcendental subject. Perceiving and willing are its natural properties, and its perceptions are conditioned by its inputs, while the I itself conditions its outputs.

    So, I am not sure of why you call the I “a passive enabler”. The I is never passive. It is “passive” in perception because that is the meaning of perception itself: let the forms of outer events “enter” consciousness (be represented). And it is very active in choice, because that is the meaning of choice: shaping reality so that it may be different from what it would be if our choices were absent, or simply different.”

    Moreover, I am not “pushing back” anything. The I is obviously the origin of choices, if free choices exist (that is what we are debating).

    I will just mention here some of the strange statements that you and Mark have been making in the last few posts (certainly, in perfect good faith).

    Mark (post #202).

    “I don’t think it makes any difference to this specific argument whether the “I” is an object or a subject (not that I understand the difference)” (Emphasis mine).

    You (post #206):

    “All the moral issues are a distraction,” (in a debate about free will)

    You (post #209, to Mung):

    “What is the ‘I’: This is your problem, not mine.”

    Now, I am perplexed. Are you and Mark denying the existence of subjectivity and of conscious experiences? Are those things just ad hoc inventions of creationists? Have you already solved the hard problem of consciousness deciding that it does not exist?

    I quote Chalmers here, for reference:

    “It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.”

  211. 211
    Graham2 says:

    Gp: I don’t know about mark, but Im not too fussed about what ‘I’ is, or how it behaves at a detailed level, all Im trying to get is some idea of whether it is involved in making decisions or not.

    You say: …it (I) is very active in choice…

    So the ‘I’ is influencing the decisions we make. Have we established that much ?

  212. 212
    Mark Frank says:

    Mark:

    Not understanding the difference between an object and a subject is somewhat a problem for our discussion…

    I do of course understand the grammatical difference – but it seems to me that while I am a subject from my point of view, I am an object from your point of view.

    However: the additional element is that the act of choosing is not random.

    And yet it varies in an inherently unpredictable manner within the constraints of determinism.  I need to understand what it is rather than what it is not.

    What we choose is morally good or bad, it can be in tune with our deeper nature, or with more superficial parts of our being. IOWs, the representations that we choose to “help” or “discourage” have different moral meaning for our I and for its destiny. So, there is nothing random in that.

    Why not? Random is about what caused (or did not cause) the event to happen. It is not about its significance to people.

    There is the constant freedom of the I to choose what is “good” or choose what is “bad” (but can absolutely be more desirable if a more superficial context of representation is adopted). Choosing what is “good” has certain effects on our condition, choosing what is “bad” has different effects. the cumulative effect of our choices, both good and bad, changes what we are and our personal destiny.

    The eruption of a volcano can bring about changes both good and bad which affect our personal destiny.I think what you are talking about is that these events with the added free will component make us morally responsible for those acts. But that is an effect of the added free will component. It doesn’t tell me what the component is and why it is not random.

    The real difference is this: libertarian free will is the belief that our personal destiny can be changed by us. Really, not only because we seem to choose what we must choose anyway.

    That is evading the point.  We both agree choices affect our personal destiny. I am asking what is the magic element about a choice that makes it different from a random event. To say the difference is that it is a real choice is hardly an answer.(If it is random then it is not the case that we must choose it. Random entails not determined by what preceded it).

    You may ask how does the I know what representations are good and what are bad. That does not come from intellectual reasoning (although intellectual reasoning can be part of the representations). It comes from intuition of the fundamental values of our consciousness. That is what has been called, for millennia, “moral conscience”.

    That is a different debate which applies even if you accept determinism and/or compatabilism.
    In summary – I asked:

    So what is the additional element  that differentiates it from a random outcome, and why does this additional element matter?

    You have answered the second half of the question by talking about the moral implications but you haven’t told me what that additional element is. I am trying to understand how an event can be both non-determined and non-random and I cannot see an answer. I think that in the end you will say it comes down to some intuition. I don’t share that intuition. But the point I want to make is that it is a perfectly coherent view to say that I don’t have the intuition but these are still real choices with moral implications.

  213. 213
    Mark Frank says:

    GP #212 was addressed to you but I accidentally began it with my own name! (I wonder if I did that out of free will or not?)

  214. 214
    Mark Frank says:

    #210 GP

    Just seen that this was also addressed to me. It seems to be primarily about the hard problem of consciousness. Of course I accept that people (and indeed many species of animal) have subjective experiences and this makes them different from other objects that don’t. I just think that makes them a special type of object. I think what confused me was the use of the word “subject” to refer to objects which have subjective experiences. I suspect this is only a semantic confusion.

  215. 215
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2 #211:

    “So the ‘I’ is influencing the decisions we make. Have we established that much ?”

    Yes. At least, the decisions where free choice is involved. As I have said, it is possible that some “decisions” are mostly, or completely, automatic.

  216. 216
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    You say:

    I do of course understand the grammatical difference – but it seems to me that while I am a subject from my point of view, I am an object from your point of view.

    IT’s not the grammatical different which is important. It’s the essential difference. What I perceive is your behaviour and your body and your outputs, not your “I”. I can perceive only my own subjective consciousness.

    It’s not a question of grammar. An object can be the subject of a verb, as in “the stone hit the table”. But thst’s not the meaning of “subject” in my arguments. The meaning is “an identity which perceives and represents, which has subjective experiences”.

    You say:

    And yet it varies in an inherently unpredictable manner within the constraints of determinism. I need to understand what it is rather than what it is not.

    It is unpredictable, but that does not mean that it is random. It is a “third way”: a conscious free choice.

    It is an important part of what exists, maybe the most important. Can you understand what matter is? What energy is? What consciousness is? What pain or joy are?

    We cannot “understand” those things. We know they exists, and we can describe laws about how they interact, but that’s all.

    I suspect that by “understanding” you just mean: “I must be able to explain consciousness, the I and free choices in terms of the only things that I believe to be real, that is matter and energy or you name it”. That only means that you want to reduce reality to what you already accept. It’s called “reductionism” and, IMO, it is not a good approach to knowledge.

    Why not? Random is about what caused (or did not cause) the event to happen. It is not about its significance to people.

    We both know that random has many meanings. If you just mean “unpredictable”, well I can accept that. But that does not mean anything relevant, just that nobody can predict what the free choice will be (that’s why we call it free).

    About significance, you equivocate. The significance of a free choice is not “to people”. It’s inherent to the choice itself, and that’s why the choice influences in different ways the destiny of the individual who makes it. So, the moral significance of the choice is a property of the choice itself, like spin is a property of a particle (just a metaphor, don’t take it literally) :).

    The eruption of a volcano can bring about changes both good and bad which affect our personal destiny.I think what you are talking about is that these events with the added free will component make us morally responsible for those acts. But that is an effect of the added free will component. It doesn’t tell me what the component is and why it is not random.

    I have more or less answered that. I will only specify that the eruption of a volcano can change our destiny, but is not under our free control, as far as I know. Our free choices can change our destiny because of the moral significance they have, therefore because of a specific property of the choice itself which originated from our I (we have control on what choice to make, either a good one or a bad one, before we do it). Of course, after we have made a choice, we have no more control on it, and it will influence our destiny as any other external factor.

    That is evading the point. We both agree choices affect our personal destiny. I am asking what is the magic element about a choice that makes it different from a random event. To say the difference is that it is a real choice is hardly an answer.(If it is random then it is not the case that we must choose it. Random entails not determined by what preceded it).

    In you view, choices affect our destiny, but they are not free. IOWs, you use “choice” as I use “decision”. It is not important that a choice (intended as a deterministic/random pattern on which we have no control) influences us. In that sense, it is not different form a volcano, only it is a volcano erupting in our mind. We have no more control on it than we have on the volcano. I know, you will say that we have control because it happens in our mind, but that’s exactly where I firmly believe that compatibilism is a trick. “Control”, in our human meaning, means another thing. Of course, if you accept that you can say that a switch “controls” the light, then you can say anything.

    You have answered the second half of the question by talking about the moral implications but you haven’t told me what that additional element is. I am trying to understand how an event can be both non-determined and non-random and I cannot see an answer. I think that in the end you will say it comes down to some intuition. I don’t share that intuition. But the point I want to make is that it is a perfectly coherent view to say that I don’t have the intuition but these are still real choices with moral implications.

    Again the random thing. Random means many things:

    a) Events which are fully deterministic, but that we cannot describe in a deterministic model, because we don’t know all the variables or because it is too complex. “Random” means that we can describe them by a probability distribution of some kind.

    b) Events which (probably) obey only a probability distribution, but are not fully determined (like wave function collapse in QM).

    However, “random” always describes a pattern by which we describe the events: a probabilistic distribution.

    Choices can probably be described, on big numbers, by a probabilistic distribution. But I believe that this fact is explained by the many deterministic variables which influence them. IOWs they are like a), but with an error factor which can well not obey any deterministic or probabilistic rule (the free choice).

    Free choices, if they exist, would share with b) the fact that they are not deterministic. We have no idea if they obey any probabilistic distribution, because we cannot really observe the free choice itself. In a context of libertarian free will, they are characterized by a moral significance which is intrinsic to the choice and determines its effect on ourselves. (because making good or bad choices has different effect on the person who makes them).

    I know you say you don’t share the intuitions on which the libertarian model is based. I am fine with that, because in my model it is a free choice, and must be respected. As you asked about details of how my model works, I tried to answer.

  217. 217
    gpuccio says:

    Mark #213:

    Maybe you intuitively recognized the mystic truth that we are just the two faces of the same reality (just a joke! 😉 )

  218. 218
    Graham2 says:

    gp: where free choice is involved … so it is possible for us to make a decision where free will is NOT involved ? Could you provide an example ?

  219. 219
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    I have said very clearly that not all our outputs are controlled by free will. If you call decision any human output, many of those decisions will have no free will involved. Many decisions are automatic, effected by mental habits.

    I would say that we exercise free choice all the time in our mental states, but not all the components of our metal activity are equally controlled by free choice. Probably, we could day that one of the ways we choose is that we choose on what we intervene.

  220. 220
    Graham2 says:

    gp: Could you give an example of an ‘output not controlled by free will’. To save time, we are talking all the time here of conscious decisions. Some things we do are truly involuntary (heartbeat etc) but these are not relevant to the discussion. So, could you give an example ?

  221. 221
    Mark Frank says:

    GP

    It is unpredictable, but that does not mean that it is random. It is a “third way”: a conscious free choice.

    It occurs to me that another to get at this is instead of asking you what you mean by conscious free choice is to pursue what you mean by random. For me random means inherently unpredictable so there is no third way.
    You wrote:

    Random means many things:
    a) Events which are fully deterministic, but that we cannot describe in a deterministic model, because we don’t know all the variables or because it is too complex. “Random” means that we can describe them by a probability distribution of some kind.
    b) Events which (probably) obey only a probability distribution, but are not fully determined (like wave function collapse in QM).
    However, “random” always describes a pattern by which we describe the events: a probabilistic distribution.
    Choices can probably be described, on big numbers, by a probabilistic distribution. But I believe that this fact is explained by the many deterministic variables which influence them. IOWs they are like a), but with an error factor which can well not obey any deterministic or probabilistic rule (the free choice).

    I am surprised you use obeying a probability distribution as a criterion for random.  Chaotic systems (of which there are many) are unpredictable but conform to no probability distributions as far as we know (this is the subject of research – but the experts are not saying they must conform to a pdf but we don’t know what it is – they are saying we are trying to discover if there is a pdf). I would still call such systems random but if you do not want to extend the term random to these systems let’s just call them chaotic. What do you mean by random/chaotic other than unpredictable?

    Free choices, if they exist, would share with b) the fact that they are not deterministic. We have no idea if they obey any probabilistic distribution, because we cannot really observe the free choice itself. In a context of libertarian free will, they are characterized by a moral significance which is intrinsic to the choice and determines its effect on ourselves. (because making good or bad choices has different effect on the person who makes them).

    I pretty much agree with all of this last paragraph – here is my version.

    Free choices may well not be deterministic. We have no idea if they obey any probabilistic distribution. They are characterized by a moral significance which is intrinsic to the choice and has an effect on ourselves. (because making good or bad choices has an effect on the person who makes them).

    What is striking is how similar our beliefs are!  The differences would appear to be relatively unimportant. Yet mine is compatibilism which disturbs you so much.

  222. 222
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    I agree that we can leave involuntary actions out of the discussion.

    Among conscious actions, while I obviously have no way to “measure” how free they are (I have clearly said that it is impossible to know that), I can hypothesize. For example, conscious actions are performed with different degrees of attention, intensity, emotional participation, subconscious influences, and so on.

    Let’s consider attention. Many acts in daily life are performed out of well established habits. That requires less attention, and it is likely that actions performed automatically or semi-automatically by habit imply no special use of free will (they are the necessary consequence of the free choices made when we established the habit). Your example of eating a sandwich could well belong there.

    The opposite would be true when we are trying to fight a negative habit, and have to exercise all our attention and will if we want to succeed. Here, free choice is probably very active: it can initiate the change in behavior or renounce to do that. There is a clear conflict between desires, and that is the best context for free choice to intervene. The choice of not eating a desired sandwich when we know that it is harmful for our health is a good scenario.

    But the best scenario for free will, IMO, is when we can remain loyal to something or someone that we love, or simply betray it or him or her for some personal gain. This is the essence of the problem, because IMO free will is first of all a matter of love, of loyalty to our deepest loves in spite of contrasting forces and desires.

  223. 223
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    Well, this discussion is interesting.

    Chaotic systems are deterministic, they only require special mathematical treatments that render them completely unpredictable, because of a very high dependence on initial variable values.

    OK, I have no idea if chaotic systems obey some probabilistic function or not. You say that that is still unsolved, and that’s fine for me.

    So, we could say that we have three kinds of system of events: necessary, probabilistic and chaotic. All three are still completely deterministic, we make the distinction only according to how we can describe them and predict their evolution.

    Then we have a fourth type, QM collapses, which (probably) is not deterministic at all, but still obeys some probability distribution.

    And the, in my model, we have a fifth type, free choices, which are modifications of the necessary flow of events initiated by a conscious agent, which are not determined at all, and possible do not obey any probabilistic distribution. So, they are different from both chaotic systems, which are determined, and QM collapses, which obey their probability distribution and are not connected to a conscious choice of an agent.

    Indeed, according to the model I have proposed, free choice could be exactly that: modification of the QM behavior in the brain because of the intervention of the conscious I which is linked to the brain interface.

    You say:

    I pretty much agree with all of this last paragraph – here is my version.

    Free choices may well not be deterministic. We have no idea if they obey any probabilistic distribution. They are characterized by a moral significance which is intrinsic to the choice and has an effect on ourselves. (because making good or bad choices has an effect on the person who makes them).

    What is striking is how similar our beliefs are! The differences would appear to be relatively unimportant. Yet mine is compatibilism which disturbs you so much.

    OK, let’s understand each other well. Would you agree to say:

    “Free choices may well not be deterministic, nor random, nor chaotic.” Unpredictable is fine.

    Do you agree that the moral significance is due to which choice we make among different ones that we can really make? And that this simple fact sets the basis for our responsibility?

    IOWs, do you agree that at time T0 our destiny can really go in different ways, and that all the deterministic and random and chaotic and QM variables that act on us at time T0 would cause some course (let’s call it C1), and that only some free choice from us at time T0 can change that course, making it become C2, and that C2 can be morally better (or worse) than C1, and that we are therefore fully responsible for acting and causing C2, or not acting and letting C1 happen?

    And if you agree to those things, in what sense are you a determinist (or, if you prefer, a compatibilist)?

  224. 224
    Mark Frank says:

    GP
    I am not convinced chaotic systems are deterministic. It seems to me that it only needs a component that is as unpredictable as a QM wave function and they will be inherently unpredictable not just hard to predict in practice.  However, there is a deeper philosophical point.  It may be that in practice QM wave functions conform to pdfs (I am no expert) but there is no reason in principle why a QM effect should not be found which does not conform to any pdf. i.e. it is unpredictable in essence as a chaotic system is unpredictable in practice. What would you call such an effect? I would like to call random or chaotic but if you prefer to reserve those terms, I can only call it unpredictable or undetermined.  What I am getting at is that you cannot differentiate the predictability of choice from the predictability of other undetermined events simply on the basis of that the others conform to a pdf.

    Do you agree that the moral significance is due to which choice we make among different ones that we can really make? And that this simple fact sets the basis for our responsibility?

    I agree that you can only be held morally responsible for doing something if it was possible to do something different.  I think we might differ over the interpretation of “possible”.

    IOWs, do you agree that at time T0 our destiny can really go in different ways, and that all the deterministic and random and chaotic and QM variables that act on us at time T0 would cause some course (let’s call it C1), and that only some free choice from us at time T0 can change that course, making it become C2, and that C2 can be morally better (or worse) than C1, and that we are therefore fully responsible for acting and causing C2, or not acting and letting C1 happen?

    Not quite. We don’t agree totally. You want to insist that free choice is somehow distinct from random and chaotic and QM.   But we both agree that choices (a ) may well be undetermined (b ) do not necessarily correspond to a pdf (c ) are morally significant – that is a lot of agreement. Does it really matter so much whether or not choices have another characteristic – one you can apparently intuit and I cannot?

  225. 225
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    As far as I can understand, chaotic systems are special system where small differences in the initial conditions can generate huge differences in the evolution of the system, because of the special mathematics involved.

    OK, I have read, as have probably you, that in such a system, in principle, even a quantum uncertainty could be so amplified as to become a completely different outcome (some extreme form of the butterfly effect), but I doubt that in practice that is really a model for real observations. More likely, the uncertainty in our knowledge of the initial conditions is linked to the implicit errors in any form of measurement, or to limitations in our understanding of the variables implied. However, the system in itself id considered deterministic (it’s exactly the special form of the mathematics that confers to the system its unpredictability, a beautiful example of unpredictability by necessity).

    QM is different. From what you say, I am not sure that you understand correctly the main concept in it (well, I am not sure that I understand it correctly, too, with QM you never know! 🙂 ). However, as far as I understand, in QM the wave function is completely deterministic in its evolution, and that’s what makes QM one of the most precise theories in the history of physics.

    But, when the wave function “collapses” (for example, because of some experimental setting), the observed effects are not predictable. But they certainly follow a probability distribution: the probability distribution is the wave function itself (or more precisely, it is derived from it). So, quantum events must necessarily obey a probability distribution, because the wave function itself, the central concept in QM, is their probability distribution.

    From Wikipedia:

    “In most treatments of quantum mechanics, the wavefunction is complex-valued. In one important interpretation of quantum mechanics called the Copenhagen interpretation, the modulus squared of the wavefunction, |?|2, is a real number interpreted as the probability density of finding a particle in a given place at a given time, if the particle’s position is to be measured. Since the wavefunction is complex valued, only its relative phase and relative magnitude can be measured. It does not directly tell anything about the magnitudes or directions of measurable observables, one has to apply quantum operators to the wave function ? and find the eigenvalues which correspond to sets of possible results of measurement.” (Emphasis mine)

    Finally, I agree that we agree on some things, and certainly not on others. In the end, it does not really matter very much. I think that your true feelings about free will are those of a libertarian, and not of a strict determinist. That’s probably why you are a compatibilist. I am sure that you are a very moral person, and that I would agree with you on many things.

    However, worldview confrontation has its merits. With our worldviews (or even more restricted beliefs) we offer ourselves to others, and that is a beautiful experience of great value.

  226. 226
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: Chaos is a popular word for certain classical nonlinear dynamical systems exhibiting sensitive dependence on initial conditions. They are strictly deterministic but because of that dependence will cause large and effectively unpredictable divergence between close initial points, across time. Such butterfly effect divergence is NOT a shift from blind mechanical necessity and/or noise. Chaos is not a gateway to genuine responsible freedom. KF

  227. 227
    Graham2 says:

    Its slowly dawning on me that the religious people here see free will as a moral issue. The remarks of VJT,GP, etc keep returning to this. I approach it as a purely technical problem (and maybe MF as well) but all along, its seen as a moral question. Free will is somehow required for moral reasons. I wish they could just say it.

  228. 228
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    The point is that free will is technically relevant because it has a moral meaning. You cannot separate the two aspects.

    The intuition of free will give sense and consistency to our whole behavioral reality, exactly as the intuition of meaning gives sense and consistency to our whole cognitive reality.

    Meaning, feeling, purpose and free will are all conscious subjective experiences. They cannot be understood or even defined in purely objective terms. They are intuitive, all of them.

  229. 229
    Graham2 says:

    I find all that completely incoherent, but when trying to understand how you religious people think, I consistently underestimate the importance of morality. You actually think certain things have to exist because they are morally required. Its a funny way to think, but there you are.

    If VJT had made this clearer, it would have saved MF & I a lot of time.

  230. 230
    kairosfocus says:

    G2:

    The issue is responsible freedom, and you betcha that it is morally freighted . . . starting with, we got rights and responsibilities to respect rights. Like unto that, we got minds that can choose or refuse to follow evidence and meaningful, reasoned insights on such that warrants — yet another morally freighted concept . . . that we accept certain conclusions as true. Where truth — often, “light” — and our duty to seek, respect and live by it are as paramount as it gets.

    And, if that had not registered long, long, long since, it is because you have been reading with blinkers. And, have been ignoring the longstanding point made by Plato in The Laws, Bk X on the implications and social consequences of spreading evolutionary materialism.

    Here is Wm B Provine of Cornell [IIRC] inadvertently exposing the vital holes in evo mat views relative to exactly these concerns, in his 1998 U Tenn Darwin Day keynote . . . which has been cited any number of times and has been headlined including by BA:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

    Without responsible freedom, we can neither be moral nor rational, we would be playthings of unconscious forces that shape and control the electrochemistry of the CNS, partly through genetics, partly through whatever wiring obtains, partly through noisiness in the telecomms sense, partly through psychosocial programming and accidents of whatever has happened to a given individual.

    That is the context where Crick stated in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis:

    . . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

    Plainly, if Sir Francis is included, this dramatically undermines his own thought. This is why ID thinker Phillip Johnson responded that Dr Crick should therefore be willing to preface his books: “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” (In short, as Prof Johnson then went on to say: “[[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [[In Reason in the Balance, 1995.])

    Going on, Haldane put the matter of undermining reason on the table at the turn of the 1930’s, as has also been highlighted any number of times:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    In short, evo mat is self referentially absurd.

    Going on, there are self evident moral truths that are knowable and known, such as that we are morally bound to respect core rights such as life. Hence the moral yardstick I have underscored: it is self-evidently wrong, wicked, evil to for pleasure kidnap, torture, rape and murder a child. (Which, I base on an actual case with an actual child I knew who was fatally subjected to just this horror — this is not a hypothetical, and if you doubt me try to explain yourself to the still grieving father.)

    You cannot reasonably deny that we are under the moral government of OUGHT.

    Which means that we face the IS-OUGHT gap and the implication (given the need for grounding) that there is but one place where we may find an IS capable of grounding OUGHT. The foundations or roots of reality.

    As I have repeatedly underscored, since Plato, it has been well known by leading thinkers that evo mat cannot provide such an is.

    There is, and has been for centuries, just one serious candidate: the inherently good creator God who is a maximally great and necessary being, the root of reality.

    And so, let us see what other candidates can be brought to the table of comparative difficulties.

    Where, no, this is not “a funny way to think,” it is highlighting a cluster of absolutely crucial issues.

    But in the meanwhile, here is Locke citing Hooker at the point where he set out to ground rights and justice in state and community in Ch 2 of the 2nd treatise on civil govt:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80]

    Back to the local battlefronts . . .

    KF

  231. 231

    Graham2 said:

    You actually think certain things have to exist because they are morally required.

    I think a better way to say it is that it we theists consider it wiser to hold a premise (objective morality) true than not if one must abandon reason and ignore their own daily experience to deny the premise – especially for no reason other than to hold on to an ideological fancy.

    The same can be said for other such premises, like libertarian free will, for example. If one faces a choice between a sound thought system with a good premise that matches experience and one that must deny our own sense of conscience and free will into self-refuting absurdity, there really is only one good option.

    Its a funny way to think, but there you are.

    If by “funny” you mean “a commitment to a hold premises that are rationally reconcilable with how we actually must behave and think”, then yes.

  232. 232
    Mung says:

    Hi Mark,

    Have you ever observed a fractal generation program in operation? Do you have an opinion as to whether it’s deterministic, or not?

    Chaos & Fractals

  233. 233
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    I am not convinced chaotic systems are deterministic.

    As kf likes to say, quoting Wikipedia against interest:

    This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future behavior is fully determined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved.

    Chaos Theory

    Does that meet your definition of deterministic, Mark?

  234. 234
  235. 235
    Querius says:

    It’s my contention that chaos is deterministic only in principle, but not in practice. To demonstrate this, pick any point on a number line at random. The odds are that it’s an irrational number. Let’s say that the number is exactly Pi. What are the odds that you can pick Pi again? Exactly. To an infinite number of places. Not gonna happen!

    Chaos is somewhere between deterministic and random. Chaos is a nice place where you can hide free will, God, and external intervention to events, making them undetectable.

    -Q

  236. 236
    Mark Frank says:

    #233 Mung

    I should perhaps have written that I am not convinced that real chaotic systems are deterministic. Theoretical ones are indeed both unpredictable and deterministic but as it says further down the same article you quoted:

    It can be difficult to tell from data whether a physical or other observed process is random or chaotic, because in practice no time series consists of a pure “signal”. There will always be some form of corrupting noise, even if it is present as round-off or truncation error. Thus any real time series, even if mostly deterministic, will contain some randomness

  237. 237
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Graham2

    The agent making the decision is constantly being pushed back to the soul, the ‘I’, free will, etc etc. My point (and I think MF) is: How does this agent contribute to the decision?

    I think a more central question you’re asking is if there is an agent at all. You’re saying there is no “self” or “I” – right? What is the “thing” that researches, weighs options, carrys on an internal dialogue and then chooses? That’s what we generally call “self” or “I”. But you’re denying this – right? Does none of that inner discussion and consciousness of what to choose and evalution of choice exist? There is no agent?

    Why do I decide: Not really a sensible question. There is no ‘why’. What is the ‘I’: This is your problem, not mine.

    You’re conceding this entire topic to us. You don’t think that we can ask why you decided? That’s meaningless?
    Yes, “what is the I”? Does it exist? You could use science to answer that if you want. But to hand this kind of research over to the ID community (or “religious people”) would be quite significant, I’d think.
    There’s quite a lot of academic work done to try to determine what the “I” is.

  238. 238
    Graham2 says:

    Why cant our brain do all that stuff ?

  239. 239
    Phinehas says:

    G2:

    “Why cant our brain do all that stuff?”

    In other words, what hard problem of consciousness?

  240. 240
    Phinehas says:

    GP:

    We both know that random has many meanings. If you just mean “unpredictable”, well I can accept that. But that does not mean anything relevant, just that nobody can predict what the free choice will be (that’s why we call it free).

    Perhaps you are using “predict” with a very specific or narrow meaning here. To be clear, are you saying that foreknowledge would preclude free choice? Or only that being able to predict in terms of cause-and-effect chains and outcomes (i.e. determined outcomes) would preclude free choice?

  241. 241
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Graham2

    Have you ever wondered:

    “I am going to teach myself”. Huh? Who is the teacher and who is the student? They’re both your brain?

    When you “take care of yourself” – why do you need two parties involved in that?

  242. 242
    gpuccio says:

    Phineas:

    I would definitely say that “being able to predict in terms of cause-and-effect chains and outcomes” precludes free choice. The essence of free choice is exactly that: cause and effect chains up to time 0 cannot entirely explain what happens at time 0, if a free choice is performed at that time.

    To avoid violations of the physical laws of cause and effect, we can hypothesize that the free choice is instantiated at quantum level, at the consciousness brain interface.

    The question if “foreknowledge would preclude free choice” is more complex. Maybe it depends on what kind of foreknowledge.

    We can certainly have some foreknowledge of the chains of cause and effect which constrain a free choice. That is some foreknowledge, but no complete foreknowledge. In no way can we know in advance the free component.

    So, I would say that a complete foreknowledge “in the chain of time” would definitely preclude free choice.

    It is possible that a “knowledge from out of time” may exist. That would not preclude free choice. For example, if one believes in a god who is beyond time and space, that god could well know all the choices that will ever exist, and in no way that precludes the freedom of those choices, in the same way that our knowledge of the choices “after” they have been made does not interfere with their freedom.

  243. 243
    Graham2 says:

    gpc: cause and effect chains up to time 0
    You got it in one, the point I have been trying to make all along. But then you spoil it by: if a free choice is performed

    You have already decided free choice (whatever that is) must be involved. You have the answer you want, then start looking for a justification. Sigh.

  244. 244
    Phinehas says:

    GP:

    Thanks for the clarification. I really enjoy reading your posts in this and other discussions. I find your arguments insightful and utterly convincing.

    However, I have to say that I’m not convinced that foreknowledge would definitely preclude free choice any more than post-knowledge does. (Nor am I convinced to the contrary, I should add.)

    Choice only happens at T0. Looking back from T0, the (remembered) past is determined and immutable, but that doesn’t mean that free choice was not possible at T-60. I don’t see why, in principle, looking forward in time (if we could do such a thing) could not function the same way. Looking forward from T0, the (pre-membered) future is determined and immutable, but that doesn’t mean that free choice will not be possible at T+60.

    But perhaps this has more to do with Quantum Mechanics and the collapse of wave functions, for which I have only a layman’s fascination.

    It is possible that a “knowledge from out of time” may exist. That would not preclude free choice. For example, if one believes in a god who is beyond time and space, that god could well know all the choices that will ever exist, and in no way that precludes the freedom of those choices…

    Sure, but if you throw in Revelation as a transfer of knowledge from out of time to inside time, and combine that with Prophecy, then is free will overruled? (We probably don’t want to go too far down the sovereignty vs. free will debate, so it is OK if you don’t go into a lot of detail with your answer. I’m just curious about your views.)

    Again, if you wish to stay away from getting too theological with the discussion, I will understand, but I have always been intrigued by the following Bible passage and its implications for foreknowledge and free choice.

    1 Samuel 23:10-13 (ESV)

    10 Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” 13 Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition.

  245. 245
    Mung says:

    Graham2:

    Why cant our brain do all that stuff ?

    What our?

    Graham2:

    Why cant our brain do all that stuff ?

    Good point. Take your brain out of your body and you’d be amazed at the things it can do without you!

  246. 246
    gpuccio says:

    Phinehas:

    Thank you for the kind words.

    I think that what you call “pre-remembering” would happen “out of time”, in a sense.

    Our usual map of reality assumes that the cause effect relationship implies that the cause precedes the effect. Maybe that QM or other future views could challenge that simple principle, but for the moment I would stick to it.

    Regarding theological implications (prophecy, and so on), I certainly don’t want to debate those aspects in detail. However, I will only say, again:

    a) A knowledge from “out of time” is perfectly compatible with free choice, IMO.

    b) A manifestation of that knowledge in time, “in advance” of the effect, could be more of a problem. That is a common “scenario” in science fiction, for example. But again, it’s perfectly possible that some general trends of events are strongly determined, and that still free choice is not denied. I have never thought that free choice means that nothing is pre-determined. A lot of things are probably pre-determined, and still we can be free in what can still be changed by ourselves. Free choice is not omnipotence.

  247. 247
    gpuccio says:

    Graham2:

    Please, try to understand that I was answering a specific question by Phineas. Be fair, and look at my whole discourse.

    To be clear, I don’t believe that free choice can be demonstrated scientifically. O=n the other hand, it is equally impossible to falsify it scientifically. In that sense, it is not a purely scientific issue (in that, it is completely different from design).

    I believe that both determinism (including compatibilism) and libertarian free will are philosophical views with scientific implications. They are not purely scientific issues.

    The point is that libertarian free will is perfectly compatible with empirical facts and with our inner intuitions about ourselves and reality, while determinism is perfectly compatible with empirical facts but it denies our fundamental inner intuitions about ourselves and reality (free choice, responsibility, possibility of modifying our personal destiny).

    Accepting one philosophy or the other is a free choice.

  248. 248
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio

    I have never thought that free choice means that nothing is pre-determined. A lot of things are probably pre-determined,…

    Agree. For example, I don’t recall choosing my parents, or the place I was born in, or the first language I spoke, or the first toys I played with, or the first school I was sent to, or the neighborhood I grew up in,…

    🙂

  249. 249
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio

    To be clear, I don’t believe that free choice can be demonstrated scientifically. On the other hand, it is equally impossible to falsify it scientifically. In that sense, it is not a purely scientific issue (in that, it is completely different from design).

    That makes sense. 🙂

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