Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

Straight talk from Searle on free will

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John Searle, who is currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of the world’s most highly respected philosophers. In a recent nine-minute interview with Closer To Truth host Robert Lawrence Kuhn, Searle succinctly defined the problem of free will, in laypersons’ language. Although Searle finds it difficult (as a materialist) to see how human beings could possibly possess free will, he also realizes that it’s impossible for us not to believe that we have it. If it is an illusion, then it’s one we can never hope to escape from. At the same time, Searle is withering in his criticism of “compatibilist” philosophers, who assert that even if our actions are fully determined, we can still believe in a kind of free will.

Intriguingly, Searle argues during the interview that there has to be an evolutionary basis for free will. After all, he declares, if free will is an illusion, and our actions are causally determined by neurophysiological processes over which we have no conscious control, then how do we explain the suite of behavior which we have evolved, not only for rational decision-making, but also for teaching our children how to make rational decisions? It would seem strange, says Searle, for evolution to make such a huge investment, for something which served absolutely no purpose.

Here are some of the highlights from Searle’s interview (bolding is mine – VJT):

John Searle: The reason that we have a special problem about free will – and this is typical of a lot of philosophical problems – is that we have inconsistent views, each of which is supported by apparently what are overwhelming reasons. The reason that we have for believing in free will is that we experience it every day. We have the experience that the decisions were not themselves forced by antecedently sufficient causal conditions, … where the causes are sufficient to produce the effect. But on the other side, you’ve got an overwhelming amount of evidence that everything that happens has a causal explanation in terms of causally sufficient conditions…. And we don’t see any reason to suppose that’s not generally true. As far as we know, human behavior is part of the natural world, and it looks like it ought to be explained in terms of causally sufficient conditions. But if that’s true, that everything has causally sufficient conditions, that we’re completely at the mercy of causal forces, then free will is an illusion.

John Searle: In the case of other illusions, you can live your life in the knowledge that it is just an illusion. There are certain standard optical illusions, and you live your life on the assumption that the two lines are the same length, even though they look different lengths, in that Muller-lyer illusion. But when it comes to free will, you can’t live your life on the assumption of determinism. You go into the restaurant, and the waiter says: “Do you want the veal or the steak?”, you can’t say: “I’m a determinist. Que sera, sera. I’ll just wait and see what happens,” because – and this is the point – if you do that, if you refuse to exercise free will, that refusal is intelligible to you only as an exercise of free will. Now Kant pointed this out. We can’t shake off the conviction of free will. This doesn’t show that it’s true: it could be completely false. It could be a massive illusion. If so, [it’s] the biggest illusion that evolutionary biology ever played on us, because we live our life on the assumption of that freedom. We can’t get out of that assumption – and yet, for all we know, it might be false. We might be completely determined.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn: And that would make that evolutionary product an incredible waste, or an effort being done to create that, when it would be irrelevant.

John Searle: Totally irrelevant. Yes. Now, the only thing that inclines me to think, “Well, maybe there is some evolutionary basis for free will,” is that we don’t know of any other part of evolutionary biology where you have such an expensive phenotype as conscious, rational decision-making. We devote an enormous amount of resources to teach our children how to do it, and just in crude biology, an awful lot of blood has to go to the brain, in order to sustain this mechanism, and to be told, “Well, it doesn’t have any evolutionary function; it’s just a massive illusion, it doesn’t do anything for you” – that’s a highly compelling argument that it’s not so. But it certainly would make it something unusual, as evolutionary biology goes. We would have this expensive mechanism for conscious, rational decision-making, and it’s all useless; it’s all epiphenomenal.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn: So we have these two pillars of information – each one self-consistent, each one based on enormous amounts of information – the physical world, every event has a cause – and our sense of volitional free will, our perception of free will, and you have the evolutionary cost – and they are absolutely incompatible.

John Searle: Yes. Not only are they incompatible, but it’s hard to see how we could give up on either of them. [You] see, normally when you get two incompatible things like this, you just give up on one. Now I don’t see how we can give up on either of these. There are various possibilities that I can canvass.

John Searle: Now, I should tell you most philosophers think this problem has been solved. They’ve been solved by something called compatibilism which says, “Well, really, if you understand what these words mean, you’ll see that free will and determinism are really compatible. To say that you have freedom is to say that you’re determined by certain sorts of causes – such as your desires – instead of somebody putting a gun at your head. I just think that’s a cop-out. Compatibilism evades the problem. The problem can be stated without using these words. The problem is: is it the case that for every decision that I make that the antecedent causes of that decision were sufficient to determine that very decision?

Robert Lawrence Kuhn: Because if they are…

John Searle: We have no free will.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn: And it’s an illusion?

John Searle: That’s right.

John Searle: There is an “experience gap.” We do have an “experience gap” every day. You decide: who am I going to vote for in the next election? Now you don’t just sit back and wait to see something happen. You actually have to think it through and make up your mind. Now that’s what I’m calling the gap: the conscious experience that the reasons that you have for an action, though they are rationally the basis for that action, don’t typically compel that action. Yes, I did like this feature of that candidate, and I did like this other feature of that other candidate, but I voted for this guy. But I could have voted for that person, equally well. I wasn’t compelled or forced.

John Searle: Here is the puzzling feature: as far as our conscious experiences are concerned, it seems to me our conscious reason, at the level of the mental, is not causally sufficient to force the next [decision]… I mean, you can see that by contrasting the cases where it is – where you really are in a grip of an obsession – with the cases where it isn’t. But the tougher question is: what about at the level of neurobiology? If the neurobiological level is causally sufficient to determine your behavior, then the fact that you have the experience of freedom at the higher level is really irrelevant.

Readers can watch the interview here (h/t Professor Jerry Coyne):

(Closer to Truth has a larger series of videos on the subject of free will, which is available here.)

Searle takes causal determinism for granted in the foregoing discussion, but as physicists are well aware, determinism does not hold at the submicroscopic level, where quantum indeterminacy reigns supreme.

Could the phenomenon quantum indeterminacy rescue our belief in free will? The renowned astrophysicist Arthur Eddington (1882-1944) thought so, although he expressed himself more cautiously in his later years. Nowadays, quantum indeterminacy is often pooh-poohed as totally irrelevant to the problem of free will, on the grounds that if an action is random and undetermined, then it is no more of a free decision than a causally determined action would be.

However, this objection presupposes that proponents of free will are identifying a free choice with some quantum-level event. But if we define a free choice as a macroscopic event which is imposed upon a large number of submicroscopic quantum-level events, and if we reject the common reductionist assumption that causation is always “bottom-up,” then it is possible to describe how a higher-level macroscopic event could be non-random, without being causally determined. I have described in several previous posts (see here, here, here and here) how this could work:

…[I]t is easy to show that a non-deterministic system may be subject to specific constraints, while still remaining random. These constraints may be imposed externally, or alternatively, they may be imposed from above, as in top-down causation. To see how this might work, suppose that my brain performs the high-level act of making a choice, and that this act imposes a constraint on the quantum micro-states of tiny particles in my brain. This doesn’t violate quantum randomness, because a selection can be non-random at the macro level, but random at the micro level. The following two rows of digits will serve to illustrate my point.

1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1
0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1

The above two rows of digits were created by a random number generator. The digits in some of these columns add up to 0; some add up to 1; and some add up to 2.

Now suppose that I impose the non-random macro requirement: keep the columns whose sum equals 1, and discard the rest. I now have:

1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0

Each row is still random (at the micro level), but I have now imposed a non-random macro-level constraint on the system as a whole (at the macro level). That, I would suggest, what happens when I make a choice.

Top-down causation and free will

What I am proposing, in brief, is that top-down (macro–>micro) causation is real and fundamental (i.e. irreducible to lower-level acts). For if causation is always bottom-up (micro–>macro) and never top-down, or alternatively, if top-down causation is real, but only happens because it has already been determined by some preceding occurrence of bottom-up causation, then our actions are simply the product of our body chemistry – in which case they are not free, since they are determined by external circumstances which lie beyond our control. But if top-down causation is real and fundamental, then a person’s free choices, which are macroscopic events that occur in the brain at the highest level, can constrain events in the brain occurring at a lower, sub-microscopic level, and these constraints then can give rise to neuro-muscular movements, which occur in accordance with that person’s will. (For instance, in the case I discussed above, relating to rows of ones and zeroes, the requirement that the columns must add up to 1 might result in to the neuro-muscular act of raising my left arm, while the requirement that they add up to 2 might result in the act of raising my right arm.)

I’d now like to throw the discussion open to readers. Has Searle successfully refuted compatibilism? Can belief in libertarian, “contra-causal” free will survive, in an age of science? Could I have done otherwise than write this post? Finally, does evolution provide grounds for believing in some sort of free will, as Searle thinks?

Over to you.

71 Replies to “Straight talk from Searle on free will

  1. 1
    Neil Rickert says:

    I mostly agree with Searle’s analysis. But I don’t entirely agree.

    But on the other side, you’ve got an overwhelming amount of evidence that everything that happens has a causal explanation in terms of causally sufficient conditions….

    That’s where I disagree with Searle.

    Searle says that we have overwhelming evidence for determinism. As far as I can tell, the amount of evidence that we have is precisely zero.

    I’ll add that I’m a compatibilist. But I agree with Searle, that compatibilism does not settle the issue. The reason that I’m a compatibilist, is that I see it as giving the best account of what I mean by “free will”. However, if the world were deterministic, then compatibilism would not help.

    I could summarize my view as follows. The evidence that we have free will is compelling, though I’ll admit that is not logical proof. Since I believe we have free will, therefore the world is not deterministic. And, as it happens, evidence from QM supports the view that it is not deterministic.

    Sorry, I can’t agree with you on macro-determination of micro events. Your illustration with binary digits seems to me to be better described as macro selection of which micro-events we will pay attention to.

    I’m always puzzled by Jerry Coyne’s take on this. He sees free will as an illusion. But if free will is an illusion, then human reasoning is also an illusion. Similarly, if the world is deterministic, then evolution is an illusion, and what we must really have is front loading. But Coyne does not see those implications. He fully accepts the validity of his reasoning for evolution, and refuses to accept that if free will is illusory, then that reasoning is also illusory.

  2. 2
    Origenes says:

    VJTorley:

    Top-down causation and free will

    What I am proposing, in brief, is that top-down (macro–>micro) causation is real and fundamental (i.e. irreducible to lower-level acts). … if top-down causation is real and fundamental, then a person’s free choices … can constrain events in the brain occurring at a lower, sub-microscopic level, and these constraints then can give rise to neuro-muscular movements, which occur in accordance with that person’s will. ….
    … my own top-down model of free will … serves as the matrix upon which non-random, but undetermined, free choices are imposed, via a form of top-down causation.

    Indeed, top-down causation must be real and fundamental for a person to be free. Assuming that laws and boundaries of the physical realm must be respected and given their high density, it is no surprise that it takes an extraordinary designed form (the human body) to instantiate the requirements for top-down causation; relevant to spiritual beings like us.

  3. 3

    Quantum non-determinism doesn’t alleviate the essential problem of physicalist free will; even if random quantum variances are an essential cause within the ongoing physical system, quantum-fluctuated free will would be just as irrelevant and just as much an illusion as deterministic free will.

    The essence of the free will issue is not “deterministic vs non-deterministic”, but rather “supernatural vs natural”. Unless a agency exists that can deliberately override naturally-occurring bottom-level physical processes, including random quantum fluctuations, free will is irrelevant and an illusion, and the idea of acting or thinking rationally is nonsense.

    Logically either such an agency is necessarily acting with acausal deliberacy (supernatural) or it is an irrelevant illusion.

    Searle says:

    But on the other side, you’ve got an overwhelming amount of evidence that everything that happens has a causal explanation in terms of causally sufficient conditions…. And we don’t see any reason to suppose that’s not generally true.

    That statement is simply and overwhelmingly false. Every waking moment of every single day we live provides us with a first hand, empirical demonstration that the physicalist concept of free will is false. That agency is the root of all other arguments and evidences; without supernatural free will, nothing we argue can work, and science is a sham. It is the root of sentient existence and prefaces everything we argue or deliberately do.

    To dismiss supernatural free will is to recuse yourself from the table of rational debate and action and deny the existence of the only thing that you have to argue with.

  4. 4
    Origenes says:

    For top-down causation to be possible, the causal closure of the physical — ‘completeness’ — must not be true. IOWs determinism must not be true, there must be “gaps” in the dense structure of physical laws and boundaries.

    I’m wondering if Gödel’s incompleteness theorem can be used to argue against the possibility of causal closure of the physical.
    If causal closure implies a formalized ‘theory of everything’ — including basic arithmetic truths — then, by Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, it may be provably impossible.

  5. 5
    Barry Arrington says:

    “Has Searle successfully refuted compatibilism?”

    Compatibilism is absurd on its face, so it does not require a lot of effort or intelligence to defeat it. The conversation usually goes like this:

    Materialist: “If we change the meaning of ‘free will’ to be something other than ‘free will’ then determinism is perfectly compatible with ‘free will’ as we have re-defined it.”

    Non-materialist: OK. But is “free will” as originally defined as the ability to have done otherwise (and BTW it is defined that way because that is the way every single person on the planet experiences it) compatible with determinism?

    Materialist: Why do you cling to your illusions?

  6. 6

    If free will is an illusion, who (or what) brought me to this site to type this comment?

  7. 7

    WLM@3: “To dismiss supernatural free will is to recuse yourself from the table of rational debate and action and deny the existence of the only thing that you have to argue with.”

    Checkmate.

  8. 8
    gpuccio says:

    VJ:

    OK, that’s fun, and for me it is really easy 🙂

    1) Has Searle successfully refuted compatibilism?

    I suppose so. To refute compatibilism is the simplest task in the world. Compatibilism is indeed a self-refuting doctrine.

    2) Can belief in libertarian, “contra-causal” free will survive, in an age of science?

    Yes. Of course. Truth can always survive, especially in an age of science, which should be a search for truth.

    3) Could I have done otherwise than write this post?

    Yes. But I am happy that you did write it.

    4) Finally, does evolution provide grounds for believing in some sort of free will, as Searle thinks?

    I doubt evolution provides ground for anything. so the answer is definitely: no!

  9. 9
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    Just a few quick comments before I retire for the evening.

    Neil Rickert writes that my illustration with binary digits seems to him to be better described as macro selection of which micro-events we will pay attention to. Perhaps I should have explained that the whole point of my illustration was that the will has the (top-down) ability to exclude certain combinations of micro-events from ever arising. That was the whole point of screening out those combinations that add up to the wrong total, in my example.

    Origenes comments that it should be no surprise that it takes an extraordinary designed form (the human body) to instantiate the requirements for top-down causation. I agree. The requirements are far from trivial. Just for starters: a top-down agent must be able to keep track of and control the behavior of its various components. The level of integration required for that is astonishing.

    William J. Murray contends that unless some agent exists that can deliberately override naturally-occurring bottom-level physical processes, including random quantum fluctuations, “free will is irrelevant and an illusion, and the idea of acting or thinking rationally is nonsense.” For my part, I would contend that there’s no need for the agent to be able to over-ride bottom-level physical processes; however, the agent must be able to constrain those processes, and prevent certain “undesirable” combinations from occurring.

    Origenes wonders if Gödel’s incompleteness theorem can be used to argue against the possibility of causal closure of the physical. Origenes might like to have a look at Minds, Machines and Godel, by Professor J. R. Lucas, which was first published in Philosophy, XXXVI, 1961, pp. 112-127, and reprinted in The Modeling of Mind, Kenneth M. Sayre and Frederick J. Crosson, eds., Notre Dame Press, 1963, pp. 269-270, and in Minds and Machines, ed. Alan Ross Anderson, Prentice-Hall, 1964, pp. 43-59. See also his paper, Satan Stultified: A Rejoinder to Paul Benacerraf, in The Monist, vol.52, no.1, January 1968, pp. 145-158.

    Barry Arrington insightfully points out that the real question which materialists need to address is: is the ability to have done otherwise compatible with determinism? That is the nub of the matter.

  10. 10
    Origenes says:

    VJTorley,

    Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.

    A quick comment:

    VJT: there’s no need for the agent to be able to over-ride bottom-level physical processes; however, the agent must be able to constrain those processes, and prevent certain “undesirable” combinations from occurring.
    – – –
    …. Each row is still random (at the micro level), but I have now imposed a non-random macro-level constraint on the system as a whole (at the macro level). That, I would suggest, what happens when I make a choice.

    I could not help noticing how VJT’s concept of top-down causation is in perfect accord with Dembski’s concept of a ‘search’ and the production of information:

    William Dembski: There is a connection with information, obviously: in finding a target, a search produces information. It gets to the target and rules out things that are not in the target, and thereby realizes one possibility to the exclusion of others. So searches produce information in the sense I have just described.

    The ‘target’ of the search is by free choice. ‘Ruling out things that are not in target’ is the way to instantiate the choice into physical reality.

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    William J Murray @ 3

    To dismiss supernatural free will is to recuse yourself from the table of rational debate and action and deny the existence of the only thing that you have to argue with.

    “Supernatural free will” doesn’t get you anywhere. It just pushes the problem off into another domain. It doesn’t solve it.

    Our universe appears to be contingent. Current events are just the latest links in chains of cause and effect stretching back through history. For the universe to be apprehensible through reason and logic it must be that way. For us to exist as ordered, rational beings it must be that way. So the problem has always been, how do we explain our experience of exercising free will?

    If your putative supernatural domain is home to some intelligent agency capable of “deliberately overrid[ing] naturally-occurring bottom-level physical processes, including random quantum fluctuations”, it too must be ordered if it is something other than random chaos. That means that it too must be contingent, bound by cause and effect relationships just as our universe is. And that means that the same problem of free will must exist there. There may well be other domains of existence of which we are as yet unaware. They can’t be ruled out but I don’t see that they can help with free will either.

  12. 12

    Current events are just the latest links in chains of cause and effect stretching back through history.

    No they are not, not physically. That chain stopped at the moment information was introduced in a local system and created a biology.

  13. 13
    StephenB says:

    It seems a waste of time to study the interaction of physical nature and the human brain for an answer to the problem of free will. The will is better understood as an immaterial (or as WJM says, “supernatural”) faculty of the soul that empowers an intelligent agent to be a causeless cause.

    Also, it seems pointless to speak of top-down or bottom-up causation as a singular cause of any volitional act. A better question would be this: To what extent do psycho-dynamic, behavioral, and biological factors limit our free will, and to what extent does the freedom that remains allow us to to make moral choices.

  14. 14
    Origenes says:

    Seversky: Current events are just the latest links in chains of cause and effect stretching back through history. For the universe to be apprehensible through reason and logic it must be that way. For us to exist as ordered, rational beings it must be that way.

    You got that exactly wrong:

    1. If determinism is true, then all our actions and thoughts are consequences of events and laws of nature in the remote past before we were born.
    2. We have no control over circumstances that existed in the remote past before we were born, nor do we have any control over the laws of nature.
    3. If A causes B, and we have no control over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B.

    Therefore

    4. If determinism is true, then we have no control over our own actions and thoughts.

    Therefore, assuming that rationality requires control,

    5. If determinism is true, we are not rational.

  15. 15
    JDH says:

    Forgive me everyone if I just don’t get it. I do not understand WHY anyone in the world struggles with the problem of free will. Here is my contention.

    1. I believe that materialism makes as one of its founding assumptions that immaterial entities can not affect the physical world.

    2. I firmly believe the existence of free will is undeniable.

    3. I firmly believe that free will can only be true if there are immaterial entities which can affect the physical world.

    4. THEREFORE, God has made the world so that anyone who OBSERVES the world and RATIONALLY thinks about the problem of free will —- MUST come to the conclusion that materialism is FALSE.

    People only struggle with the issue of free will because they want materialism to be true and God to not be required. God will rightly judge the fools who have used their God granted free will to make this foolish decision. In other words Bertrand Russell was wrong… in the obvious demonstration that free will exists God has exposed Himself… He has not hidden himself.

  16. 16
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio @8

    I doubt evolution provides ground for anything

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with you on that point. 🙂

    Darwinian and/or neo-Darwinian evolution have provided -for many years- fertile ground for some folks out there to sell lots of books and textbooks that include substantial amounts of nonsense. Some of those books are on the [pseudo?]”Science” section bookshelves of many bookstores, though they belong in the “Fiction literature” section.
    Simply pathetic, but that’s the reality no one can deny.

  17. 17
    bill cole says:

    How is it possible to have a worldview and then change that worldview without free will?

    When it comes to the mind, materialism looses explanatory power.

  18. 18
    StephenB says:

    Let’s have some real straight talk. The purpose for denying free will is to avoid the task of resisting temptation.

  19. 19
    Origenes says:

    Bill Cole: How is it possible to have a worldview and then change that worldview without free will?

    Easy. A worldview is nothing but brain chemicals, comes into existence by chemicals and is changed by chemicals. IOWs blind non-rational chemistry decides what is true and what’s not.
    Yes, you heard it right. And it makes ‘perfect sense’, as Seversky @11 “explains”:

    Current events are just the latest links in chains of cause and effect stretching back through history. For the universe to be apprehensible through reason and logic it must be that way. For us to exist as ordered, rational beings it must be that way.

    C.S.Lewis:
    If human reason came from non-reason it would lose all rational credentials and would cease to be reason.

    Haldane:
    “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]

  20. 20
    rvb8 says:

    ‘Could I have done otherwise than write this post?’ Ummm, No!, Dr Torley you could not. Your upbrining, your life experiences, your education (and your interpretation of that education, influenced by family, and those you are BOUND to hold dear), all determine that you could not.
    There will be some here who now will no doubt come out with the, ‘I was an atheist, and then using my God given free will, chose to abandon that nihlistic perspective.’ In determinism this argument is also unsupportable, as the neighbouhoods, and towns, the nearness of churches, the Islamic country you were born in (moderate-Indonesia; crackpot-Saudi Arabia), all determine your behaviour in your existance.
    BA77, has absolutely no choice in writing in any way, other than the way he writes. I, of course am subject to the same determinastic forces; and I am unendingly greatful at the dumb, stupid, deterministic luck, that made this so. It releives me of all the bowing and scraping, the endless guilt and fear associated with people who assume there is a higher power to offend.
    It also improves my moral character, because I realise that through no fault of their own people can be absolute pricks (also, murderers, dictators, or Trumps), and they have my unending sympathy, and because I am deterministic in outlook, also, empathy.

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8 engages in unseemly moral preening at 20. Ironic moral preening too. Because for him torturing babies for pleasure and feeding the poor have exactly the same objective moral standing — i.e., none at all. He insists there is no objective moral standard, and the only reason that he prefers feeding the poor over torturing babies for pleasure is that evolutionary processes have resulted in that preference. For him, if evolutionary processes had resulted in him preferring torturing babies, then that would be good.

    And that is why the materialist worldview is literally insane. No sane person lives as if it were true. No sane person acts as if he has no free will, because he is certain that it does. No sane person acts as of the materialist account of morality is true, because everyone knows it is not.

  22. 22
    mike1962 says:

    If rvb8’s philosophy is correct, we can safely ignore rvb8’s philosophy and anything else he says.

    Whew! What a relief.

    Back to my dinner…

  23. 23
    PaV says:

    Illusion: An illusion is some particular reality that everyone sees, and is fooled, or deceived, by it. And, not only fooled by this singular reality, but fooled about it in exactly the same way.

    To say that free will is an illusion is to say that consciousness itself, and free will as an adjunct to consciousness, causes each singular/individual person to be deceived, and to be deceived in a multiplicity of ways, and ways which are independent of each other. This illusion is not common to all, but unique to each person, and unique in every instance of a decision being made.

    IOW, compared to the simple instance of an illusion, the unreality, or illusion of free will, is something that is infinitely more complex. We cannot compare the two without making a category type mistake.

    Hence, compatibilism seems to be ruled out because of the extreme complexity it would require.

    [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

    Determinism:

    If we are in actual fact unable to make decisions freely, but are driven to them by unknown causes, then:

    (1) why are we able to even pose the question of whether or not we possess free will? IOW, if we are ‘determined,’ then what is the antecedent cause leading to our asking about free will; i.e., what gives rise to this ‘illusion’?

    (2) Similarly, if determinism is real, then the answer to the previous question concerning free will is ‘no.’ However, if the answer is anything other than ‘no,’ (that is, that we do, in fact, have free will) then somehow this existing determinative reality has led us to embrace an illusion. So, if any one person answers the previous question in the affirmative, then that means that the determinative reality which exists is capable of bringing about deceptions, which then makes this determinative reality itself unreliable.

    IOW, the existing determinative reality is untrustworthy, and any conclusion we reach that this determinative reality exists must itself be untrustworthy.

    Bottom line: Determinism itself, were it to exist, is deceptive.

    [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

    Simple Toy Image of Free Will:
    someone at the helm of the who has total control of the ship.

    Next, we find that this ‘someone’ is actually a robot built on a huge scale, and when we look at the interior of this robot, we find a control room that looks just like the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise, including someone at the helm.

    Next, we find that this ‘someone’ at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise facsimile inside the robot is itself a robot, but it, too, is built on a large scale. When we look inside this robot at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise facsimile, inside the robot at the helm of the actual U.S.S. Enterprise, we find a robot. . .

    And so forth ad infinitum. We have an infinite regress.

    How do we solve this?

    The only way is to simply state that there is an actual ‘person’ at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise, who is in charge, and who has, like all persons, free will.

    IOW, determinism leads to an infinite regress that can only be overcome by positing a person who has free will.

    Now, let’s look at the actual actions taken by the actual U.S.S. Enterprise.

    The actual U.S.S. Enterprise has a determinative structure to it: you press some lever, and some action takes place that is the end result of a continuum of determinative causes. This is just like the “neurobiology” humans are born with.
    Therefore, even if our “neurobiology” is completely “determined,” SOMEONE has to do the directing if we hope to avoid the infinite regress.

    Now, if we want to avoid this situation by appealing to randomness, quantum randomness, if you like, there is no relief.

    Why? Because all you have to do is introduce some random event in the string of determinative causes leading to any function the starship performs. This only means that the desired action may, or may not, occur. It’s not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ ‘on’ or ‘off,’ situation. But all this means is that the person in charge of this ‘machinery’ must make prudent decisions about when, how, and how many times to pull a certain lever, or to push a certain button.

    So nothing essentially changes, and the ultimate causative agent of this now somewhat random determinative structure remains that of the person in charge.

  24. 24
    rvb8 says:

    Barry, you have a fondness for the ‘torturing babies’ image, however I won’t psychoanalyse.
    Do you deny that if your parents had procreated in a different part of the world the Barry we know here at ID would be indistinguishable from the Barry of alternative birth? We are the sum of our experiences, good and bad, and we have absolutely no control over these, outside a very marginal one of educational backround (which also alters our behaviour depending on the teacher, school, philosophy, we are exposed to), and the people we,’choose?’ to associate with.
    mike1962, you can safely ‘ignore’ my determinaism, because you have no free will in the matter.
    The reason manmade laws are infinately preferrable to God ordained ones, is that man realises our inability to control our actions at times, God and people of a theistic bent are far less maliable. I am glad we have laws to protect us from the morality of the self righteous. I also understand it is far better to be moral (aid my fellow human being, care for the sick, give to charity etc) as this creates a deterministic environment which will create better outcomes; better people if you will, which is inturn, good for me.

  25. 25

    BA @ 21: Well said, as usual.

    rvb8: Do you keep coming to this site on your free will? If not, what drives you here?

  26. 26
    StephenB says:

    rvb8

    The reason manmade laws are infinately preferrable to God ordained ones, is that man realises our inability to control our actions at times, God and people of a theistic bent are far less maliable.

    The entire legal system is based on the assumption that free will exists and that people are responsible for their crimes. To recognize “diminished capacity” is to argue for diminished free will, meaning that free will is the normal condition. Didn’t you know that?

    I am glad we have laws to protect us from the morality of the self righteous.

    How is the law going to protect you from a self-righteous person if the self-righteous person doesn’t have free will? Incredibly, you just finished saying that you have empathy for murderers because they have no free will. What irony! You hold self-righteous people accountable to the law because you think they can do better, but you give murderers a pass because their background made them do it.

    I also understand it is far better to be moral (aid my fellow human being, care for the sick, give to charity etc) as this creates a deterministic environment which will create better outcomes; better people if you will, which is inturn, good for me.

    How can you make the “better” moral decision if determinism can force you to make a worse decision? How can you create a better outcome if determinism sends you on a path to create a worse outcome?

  27. 27
    rvb8 says:

    TWSYF; I come here because as a boy growing up, and regularly going to Sunday school I was dismayed, even as a child at the rank stupidity of my Sunday school teachers, and many of my fellow students. I had two close friends there, who also today are atheists because of our environment over which we had no control.
    Today I visit a few creationist sites, but mainly science ones, to offer a counter point to all this free will defense, that gets far too much emotional air time. And let’s face it who isn’t moved by individuals and their personal, “Triumph of the Will”.
    Only, when we examine closely each individual story we see that events entirely outside of the individuals control were always the main causal factor in the individuals success or failure.
    My question is this: Does it really bother you to know that your life is largely out of your control? For example how many middle clas people on the 29th of October 1929 knew that the next day they, their families, and millions of others would be paupers: Determinism at work. Events that form you, need not be so grand, perhaps your uncle hit you when you did something wrong, this caused you to struggle harder; this caused you to become a wife beater; who knows?
    But, ‘free will’? Heh:)

  28. 28
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8 @ 24:

    You have a fondness for the ‘torturing babies’ image, however I won’t psychoanalyse

    I use the illustration because it is an example of extreme objective evil. I understand why you don’t like it. It brings into stark relief the nonsense you spew about morality being based on mere subjective preferences, no different essentially from the preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla. And it makes you look feckless, stupid and execrable. The little shot you took at me here doesn’t help you in that department either.

    this creates a deterministic environment which will create better outcomes

    Notice what rvb8 has done here. He uses the word “better” as if it has objective meaning. In other words, he affirms the very thing I said even as he attempts to deny it — when it comes to moral choices, no person acts as if materialism is true.

  29. 29
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8:

    I was dismayed, even as a child at the rank stupidity of my Sunday school teachers

    A sad but typical story. rvb8’s views were fixed as a child based on a child’s experiences and he has never looked back.

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8:

    Today I visit a few creationist sites, but mainly science ones, to offer a counter point to all this free will defense

    rvb8 has said, essentially: I exercise my free will to go to websites to try to get other people to exercise their free will to choose not to believe in free will.

    *palm forehead*

  31. 31
    rvb8 says:

    I don’t ‘not’ like the image of the baby torturers, it’s effective in portraying evil, it’s merely repetative and thus loses its sting, perhaps; child sex slavery, or related to this pedophilia, or income disparity, or any number of other evils atheists such as myself are responsible for, as we have no grasp on morality, because we don’t have a God to explain to us what is right and what is not right. (My parents did this, if it was left to God I’m not sure if the results would have been as effective.)
    Although I do have to ask, was there any human morality pre-decalogue? (Oh, and the decalogue’s morality leaves out that today humans have made slavery a sin, homosexuality is acceptable, wife beating a sin, disagreeing with your parents acceptable, genocide a big sin (God couldn’t grasp this point?), lending money acceptable etc etc etc etc.)
    About my mind being set in childhood by idiot religious teachers; not quite. I have three older brothers, and a younger sister who went to the same Sunday school, and remain wedded to the church; decent people too.
    My family took from Sunday school a (to them), pre-determined natural goodness in the Book. I went 180 degrees the other way, the Book to me was beautiful, but so obviously human contrived, that even today I think it beggers belief that it is held up as a ‘moral’ tome!
    You haven’t answered my question: Say you were born in another English speaking, Christian country; we’ll call Scotland a country. Grow up there in a Presbytarian environment, with good schooling, good health care etc, would Barry be the same Barry of US vintage, or would the pre-determined environment create an entirely different animal?

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8:

    I don’t ‘not’ like the image of the baby torturers

    Oh, so your only purpose was to take a gratuitous shot at me. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Say you were born in another English speaking, Christian country . . . would Barry be the same Barry

    Are you asking if I were a different person would I be a different person? Well, I suppose I would. I don’t think that tautology helps your argument against free will. The different person I would be would certainly be influenced by environmental and genetic factors. No one denies that. The issue is whether he would have libertarian free will. And he would. Just like you have libertarian free will that you have exercised to come onto this site to try to get other people to use their libertarian free will to choose not to believe in libertarian free will.

  33. 33
    rvb8 says:

    My point about Scotland was not tautology, I was genuinely trying to show how the environment, a single conversation, a well argued point, completely unanticipated, can mould a life into a shape that the owner of that life did not choose, that was not planned.
    And I’m certainly not going to get into a poltical discussion; ‘Libertarian free will’? Eh!? I would have thought adding the suffix phrase ‘free will’ to Libertarian is redundent. I have heard of Libertarian Socialism, and Libertarian Marxism, and Libertarian Republicanism, but your one is new to me.
    Thanks for the chat. I was not trying to impugn your good character.

  34. 34
    vividbleau says:

    StephenB

    “It seems a waste of time to study the interaction of physical nature and the human brain for an answer to the problem of free will. The will is better understood as an immaterial (or as WJM says, “supernatural”) faculty of the soul that empowers an intelligent agent to be a causeless cause.”

    Stephen I am having difficulty understanding a “causeless cause” Are you saying that there are causes that have no cause?

    Vivid

  35. 35
    vividbleau says:

    rvb8

    ‘Could I have done otherwise than write this post?’ Ummm, No!, Dr Torley you could not. Your upbrining, your life experiences, your education (and your interpretation of that education, influenced by family, and those you are BOUND to hold dear), all determine that you could not.”

    You must be insane. Only someone off their rocker would waste bandwith trying to convince others that they are in error when the other party is incapable of being persuaded because they cannot do otherwise but reject your entreaties.

    On the other hand you cannot do anything other than what you do and are yourself incapable of being swayed by any arguments presented that are contrary to your stated position.

    The question that must be asked is why do you waste your time to such a futile enterprise? Wait I know it’s because you can do no other.

    Do you at least have the ability to ponder on the absurdity of all this?

    Vivid

  36. 36
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    my goodness. you’re a slow one, barry.

  37. 37
    DillyGill says:

    rvb8 @31 says
    “or any number of other evils atheists such as myself are responsible for, as we have no grasp on morality, because we don’t have a God to explain to us what is right and what is not right”
    The Christian position is not the atheists have no morality, I have never heard any Christian argue this. It is the common belief of Christians that our conscience is God given to all, as a gift from God, to help us navigate the world we find ourselves in. The ten spiritual principles (ten commandments if you prefer) are an extra tool for use because of how easy it is to sear the conscience and justify ones own position whilst perusing what one might think will bring safety, security and happiness. The Bible repeatably states that the problem with man is not that with out God he is hell bent on doing evil rather it states that he wants to do ‘what is right in his own eyes’ . The end result of this often (sometimes over many generations) ends in a place absent of the designers principles.

  38. 38
    DillyGill says:

    rvb8 @31 states
    “today humans have made slavery a sin” There are billions of people on this planet who live on slave wages.

    Also there are many who believe themselves to be free who are merely living under a repackaged slavery where the slave has the idea that he is free thus making a more content slave. What the Bible denotes as ‘acceptable’ slavery and acceptable standards of living would be a major boost in living standards for a significant percentage of the human population.

  39. 39

    vjtorley responded:

    For my part, I would contend that there’s no need for the agent to be able to over-ride bottom-level physical processes; however, the agent must be able to constrain those processes, and prevent certain “undesirable” combinations from occurring.

    I don’t see how “constraining” and “overriding” such processes are essentially different concepts in this context. Also, we don’t just prevent undesirable combinations, we actively generate new combinations to come up with new ideas and to find acceptable alternatives.

    If, say, our will is collapsing quantum potentials in our brain chemistry according to a deliberate supernatural intent, I’m not sure how saying we are “constraining” such quantum outcomes is any different than saying we are “overriding” a natural tendency for random quantum indeterminancy.

  40. 40

    Seversky said:

    If your putative supernatural domain is home to some intelligent agency capable of “deliberately overrid[ing] naturally-occurring bottom-level physical processes, including random quantum fluctuations”, it too must be ordered if it is something other than random chaos. That means that it too must be contingent, bound by cause and effect relationships just as our universe is.

    You present a false dichotomy, Seversky, between an ordered sequence of causation and “random chaos” as being the only two possible types of phenomena that can logically exist.

    First, logic dictates there must be an end, so to speak, to the sequences of causation, a first or fundamentally necessary cause – a final acausal cause which prevents infinite causal regression or insufficient cause.

    Second, you simply ignore the entire postulate of this thread – free will – as a third kind of phenomena, neither causally ordered or randomly chaotic, and simply assign it as a sub-category of the causally ordered and insist it must be that or random chaos. But, that’s the whole point, Seversky – it is postulated as neither.

    Acausal deliberacy answers the logical problem of the causality issue, being neither orderly caused nor randomly chaotic in nature.

    And that means that the same problem of free will must exist there. There may well be other domains of existence of which we are as yet unaware. They can’t be ruled out but I don’t see that they can help with free will either.

    You don’t see it because you refuse the premise of what free will is, and rather insist it must be other than what it is premised to be: acausal deliberacy.

  41. 41

    Without supernatural free will (transcending/overriding/constraining physical sequences from outside of the causal chain) and a supernatural basis for logic, rationality itself is impossible. This is the physicalists’s dilemma which they must simply ignore even though it makes any argument they present otherwise intrinsically self-refuting.

    You might as well argue that language doesn’t exist.

  42. 42
    mw says:

    I believe; the only free will that matters: we did not ask to be born, but we will have to ask to be saved. A free, simple choice, on which rests the eternal fate of the human life form.

    Did God know who would be saved or not from the beginning of human free will?

  43. 43
    GCS says:

    Good Morning Everyone,

    Even that greeting is just one of many I could have chosen. If I do not have free will in choosing that then there is no free will. I will admit that my choice of greeting is limited by many social constraints, some I am aware of and some unconscious. I am aware that there are forces working on me. However, I know that I am making a choice and there is always at least one other choice I could have made.

    If there is not free will how can we condemn, or even be upset with, a young man running down people in Nice? After all he really did not have any choice.

    The answer is of course that our free will is determined by a spiritual part of our existence that is not controlled by the material world. That is why we do not hold a dog morally responsible. Rather we excuse it for acting on instinct for a dog must act like a dog.

    The comment by RVB8 on his siblings remaining in the Church is a perfect example of free will. He went 180 from them. He was not forced, he choose to go that way. He could today choose to go back.

    That is the basic thing. It all comes back to our choices.

    My entry into the Church (baptised April 14, 2001 – my second of three birthdays!) did not change the world, only how I saw it. All I can say is that the world from the Christian view is a world that makes sense. The world I saw before that was a much harsher, meaningless world.

    God Bless

  44. 44

    There are billions of people on this planet who live on slave wages.

    What you see here is merely the difference between wildly-paid corporate leaders and cultural/political content-providers on the one hand, and the often poor, incapable and unorganized masses on the other. It’s merely the playing out of the different arrangements of neural protein in their brains. Obviously, it’s nothing to bother about. Whether the disparity is greater or lesser at any given point in time, it remains irrelevant in the true nature of things. As humans beings who feel pain and seek satisfaction, we may say that our conditions are better or worse, but as a scientifically-enlightened people, we can rest assured that those notions are ultimately silly in light of inexorable laws. I suppose there is a sense of intellectual dignity in simply accepting the things that do not changed, chief among them is the reality of inequity-based suffering as an inherent condition of the environment. Certainly there is no data to suggest that humans intend to stop taking advantage of each other. People do what profits them, and frankly given the resources, it would profit the upper half if the bottom half were simply to die. With a fully modern (reality-based) understanding of matter, we can all take solace — those who waste fortunes on their whims and those who have nothing to eat — that its simply a numbers game. The best you can hope for is to have those lucky protein arrangements above the mean, and let chemistry take it course.

    /sarc

  45. 45

    rvb8 said:

    You haven’t answered my question: Say you were born in another English speaking, Christian country; we’ll call Scotland a country. Grow up there in a Presbytarian environment, with good schooling, good health care etc, would Barry be the same Barry of US vintage, or would the pre-determined environment create an entirely different animal?

    It all depends on what you think is actually going on when a person is born; is it a spiritual force inhabiting and animating a biological tool, or is it just a biological automaton programmed by chemistry and environment?

    If the former, then you can expect a person to be that same person in some essential ways, even though working through and within different materials and situations will certainly necessitate some variations of action and thought. IOW, “Let’s find a way to not be cold” means a different set of activities and thoughts in various physical environments. In this manner, s spiritual being in a physical body can know by conscience that an activity is wrong even if society at large holds the action to be right.

    If the latter, there is no reason to worry about slaves or slave wages; it’s just how physics and chemistry shake things out. You might as well worry that some leaves on a tree get more light than others. There would be no “essential” aspect to any person, and a stray scent or piece of food can tip the scale from behaving with love to behaving cruelly.

  46. 46
    StephenB says:

    vivid

    Stephen I am having difficulty understanding a “causeless cause” Are you saying that there are causes that have no cause?

    Yes. God is a causeless cause. Logically, the first cause of all other causes must be a causeless cause.

    Also, a human who executes a moral act is a causeless cause in that one sense. He is morally responsible for what he does because his moral act (and the decision that precedes it) is not caused by previous events, though the biological, behavioral, and psycho-dynamic conditions that provide the context for his moral act, are caused.

    On the other hand, a human is not a causeless cause in the sense that his capacity to make a moral decisions come from God. Or, to put it in the active voice, God causes the human faculties of intellect and will to exist, but He is not responsible for what humans do with those faculties.

  47. 47
    specter13 says:

    These people seem to have lobotomized themselves. I’m laughing imagining RVB looks a lot like Jack Nicholson being led to his bed at the end of One Flew Over while typing….

  48. 48
    vividbleau says:

    Stephen

    “Yes. God is a causeless cause. Logically, the first cause of all other causes must be a causeless cause.”

    I understand that, my fault since my question was poorly worded. Thinking about the rest of your answer.

    I am interested on your take regarding Augustine’s position, “non posse non peccare” (not able not to sin)

    Vivid

  49. 49
    vividbleau says:

    RE 48

    To be clear Augustine is referring to natural man after the fall.

    Vivid

  50. 50
    velikovskys says:

    William:
    all depends on what you think is actually going on when a person is born; is it a spiritual force inhabiting and animating a biological tool, or is it just a biological automaton programmed by chemistry and environment?

    I don’t see how a spiritual force programming us is different that environment and chemistry, any evidence that this spiritual force is not programmed itself by unknown factors? Does the spitball force work by altering the chemical configuration?

  51. 51

    velikovskys said:

    I don’t see how a spiritual force programming us is different that environment and chemistry, any evidence that this spiritual force is not programmed itself by unknown factors?

    I recognize from the way you word your complaint that you “don’t see”, velikovskys, because you fundamentally misunderstand. The spiritual force is not programming “us”; we are that spiritual force inhabiting and directing the physical tool/interface. Also, you fail to understand that the supernatural nature of free will is logically postulated here as being acausal and supernatural, not asserted as a fact requiring supporting evidence.

    While others might consider human souls to be caused entities, I do not. The supernatural will of humans is something I postulate as entirely acausal.

  52. 52

    rvb8 @ 27: I get all of that. There are lots of reasons people become atheists or theists.

    My question was whether you come to this site on your own free will. In response you stated that you were dismayed at the stupidity of your Sunday school teachers and fellow students, and now you want to provide counterpoint views on creationist (and science) sites. Sounds to me like free will actions based on unresolved anger and hatred issues (just my opinion). Are you saying that you are driven or compelled to this site without any free will of your own?

    As to your question for me, no, it does not bother me at all to know that my life is largely out of my control. I choose (by my free will) to enjoy the good things while I have them and help those who need help while I can. There are lots of reasons in my past that could lead me to act otherwise (I hear that voice, too), but in the end I choose the other voice…of love, compassion, mercy and faith. Two competing voices from which one is chosen to believe and follow. That’s free will.

  53. 53
    velikovskys says:

    William:
    I recognize from the way you word your complaint that you “don’t see”, velikovskys, because you fundamentally misunderstand

    Not complaining just trying examine your explanation,yes it is possible that I don’t understand.

    The spiritual force is not programming “us”; we are that spiritual force inhabiting and directing the physical tool/interface.

    I get that is your view, dualism. that somehow the immaterial interfaces with the material causing the vessel to respond. Why not the brain performing the same function? We have evidence of what brain damage causes.

    Other questions abound, if we really believe we are a spiritual force, why does morality care about the physical bodies? You are not torturing a child, that child is spiritual , untouchable . Torture is some spiritual force messing with chemistry.

    Also, you fail to understand that the supernatural nature of free will is logically postulated here as being acausal and supernatural, not asserted as a fact requiring supporting evidence

    I understood that convenient aspect too. What is the logic that the supernatural is not bound by its nature, curtailing its exercise of will to only certain parameters like our material body is bound by its chemistry and its structure and its knowledge?

  54. 54
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    rvb8 @ 20:

    It also improves my moral character, because I realise that through no fault of their own people can be absolute pricks (also, murderers, dictators, or Trumps), and they have my unending sympathy, and because I am deterministic in outlook, also, empathy.

    Your world view strips all dignity from human beings [including you!] and reduces them only to “…irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be captured and destroyed.” (1 Peter 2:12)

    Peter continues to describe those who view people in this way: “They blaspheme in matters they do not understand, and like such creatures, they too will be destroyed.”

    If humans are indeed made in God’s image, then to describe humans as brute animals is a blasphemy. You certainly have the freedom to make that choice (see how easy that was, to acknowledge free will), but you can’t then pick your consequences. Someone stronger than you will do that for you.

  55. 55

    velikovskys said:

    Not complaining just trying examine your explanation,yes it is possible that I don’t understand.

    No, it is obvious that you do not understand.

    I get that is your view, dualism.

    No, my view is not dualism. Try to understand; do not try to coerce what I say into some preconceived notion.

    that somehow the immaterial interfaces with the material causing the vessel to respond.

    Ultimately, it is my view that everything is essentially one kind of thing; it just appears different depending on one’s perspective. Logically, that “one kind of thing” cannot be material in nature, because matter is far too limited to provide what is necessary.

    Why not the brain performing the same function? We have evidence of what brain damage causes.

    Again, this is a logical argument. If brain states are considered physical effects, then they cannot solve the physicalist’s dilemma of free will.

  56. 56

    Velikovsky,

    Whether or not I can provide you with some characterization of a supernatural will and how it works is entirely irrelevant to the point. Unless you accept a supernatural, acausal free will, you have necessarily abandoned any hope of rational discourse. If we are entirely caused phenomena, then we might as well be leaves rustling chaotically on neighboring trees while some freak accident of chance has the sunlight causing us to think that those noises are both willful and rational.

    However it might actually work or be arranged is entirely irrelevant to the fact that it must be supernatural and it must work — or debate here is absurd.

  57. 57
    vjtorley says:

    Hi William J Murray,

    You wrote:

    While others might consider human souls to be caused entities, I do not. The supernatural will of humans is something I postulate as entirely acausal.

    I take it you believe that God maintains all contingent beings in existence, and that you and I are contingent beings. So I assume that what you mean here is that while the will of human beings depends on God for its existence, its acts (or choices) are uncaused. Do I understand you correctly?

    There has been a long-running debate among libertarians as to whether human choices are uncaused or self-caused (i.e. I cause my own choices). Personally, I think it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup: it depends on what you mean by “cause.” But I’d be interested to hear your take on this issue.

    I’d also like to comment on rvb8’s question:

    Say you were born in another English speaking, Christian country; we’ll call Scotland a country. Grow up there in a Presbyterian environment, with good schooling, good health care etc, would Barry be the same Barry of US vintage, or would the pre-determined environment create an entirely different animal?

    Personally, I think that my identity as a person depends on my having had the parents I had; consequently, had I been born of different parents, I would not be “me.” A Hindu would reject my assumption, of course; so would a Platonist. St. Augustine probably would too, since he defined a human being as a mind, rather than an animal with a rational soul.

    You might enjoy reading this article: From Augustine’s Mind to Aquinas’ Soul by Fr. John O’Callaghan. Fr. O’Callaghan argues that belief in a soul does not imply substance dualism, or the belief that soul and body are two things. On the contrary, he maintains that every human being is a unity. An organism’s soul is simply its underlying principle of unity. The human soul, with its ability to reason, does not distinguish us from animals; it distinguishes us as animals. The unity of a human being’s actions is actually deeper and stronger than that underlying the acts of a non-rational animal: rationality allows us to bring together our past, present and future acts, when we formulate plans. When Aquinas argues that the act of intellect is not the act of a bodily organ, he is not showing that there is a non-animal act engaged in by human beings. He is showing, rather, that not every act of an animal is a bodily act.

    Anyway, I’d be interested to hear what you think.

  58. 58
    StephenB says:

    vivid @48

    I am interested on your take regarding Augustine’s position, “non posse non peccare” (not able not to sin)

    Vivid, as you probably know, Augustine discussed four classes of persons: Pre-fall (able to sin and not sin), Post-fall (able to sin and unable to not sin), Reborn (able to sin and not sin) Glorified (unable to sin).

    I interpret the second category to mean that man’s will; severely weakened (though not totally obliterated) by the fall, still allows him to perform some good acts; but he will, nevertheless, eventually, and by necessity, offend God in some way. He simply cannot avoid it. In an unredeemed state, and without supernatural grace, he does not have the moral power to live a perfect life.

    Still, he does have enough freedom of the will to make some good moral choices. If he had lost his free will entirely, he could not even turn to God for help in order to be redeemed. which would, in itself, be a good act.

  59. 59
    EvilSnack says:

    StephenB @ 18:

    Let’s have some real straight talk. The purpose for denying free will is to avoid the task of resisting temptation.

    Well, it also rationalizes the conduct of those who wish to coerce the rest of us to go along with their wifty plans.

    After all, if free will is an illusion, then there’s nothing wrong with ordering people around at gunpoint.

  60. 60

    vjtorley said:

    I take it you believe that God maintains all contingent beings in existence, and that you and I are contingent beings. So I assume that what you mean here is that while the will of human beings depends on God for its existence, its acts (or choices) are uncaused. Do I understand you correctly?

    I don’t believe the soul of a human is a contingent entity.

  61. 61
    Querius says:

    The problem with John Searle’s position as a materialist is that quantum mechanics has falsified materialism. This completely undercuts Professor Searle’s presuppositions considering that the fundamental nature of reality is probabilistic information that’s dependent on observation and measurement.

    Professor Searle is also unfamiliar with Chaos theory which undercuts determinism. If a butterfly in Brazil can cause tornadoes in Texas, what effect will a moth in Mexico have on a brain in Beaumont?

    It really wouldn’t hurt some of these philosophers to take some modern courses in physics to move them out of the comforts of the 19th century.

    -Q

  62. 62
    velikovskys says:

    William:
    No, my view is not dualism. Try to understand; do not try to coerce what I say into some preconceived notion.

    Fair enough

    Ultimately, it is my view that everything is essentially one kind of thing; it just appears different depending on one’s perspective. Logically, that “one kind of thing” cannot be material in nature, because matter is far too limited to provide what is necessary.

    Go on, you seem to be saying either matter is not part of ” everything” or it is not exclusively everything. What is necessary for what?

    Again, this is a logical argument. If brain states are considered physical effects, then they cannot solve the physicalist’s dilemma of free will

    As you say we have no evidence that the immaterial is not deterministic as well bound by its own nature as the physical world is.

    Whether or not I can provide you with some characterization of a supernatural will and how it works is entirely irrelevant to the point

    It certainly does not help the hypothesis and causes one to wonder if the dichotomy you present represents reality . Now I accept that how things are may irrelevant for you

    Unless you accept a supernatural, acausal free will, you have necessarily abandoned any hope of rational discourse.

    I accept it is possible, but I am not sure that your premise is valid.

    If we are entirely caused phenomena, then we might as well be leaves rustling chaotically on neighboring trees while some freak accident of chance has the sunlight causing us to think that those noises are both willful and rational.

    Possible of course, in which case your reasoning of what is the only basis of rationality was created by an irrational tool. But even a defective tool can be useful if one can determine how it is defective

    However it might actually work or be arranged is entirely irrelevant to the fact that it must be supernatural and it must work — or debate here is absurd.

    That certainly is a possibility , but since you have by your own admission been wrong in the past, you may be again. That is why dialogue is useful.

  63. 63
    vjtorley says:

    Hi William J Murray,

    You write: “I don’t believe the soul of a human is a contingent entity.”

    That’s an interesting viewpoint. Since some human souls are clearly morally deficient, and since whatever isn’t contingent is necessary, it follows that you are committed to believing that some necessary entities are deficient. That’s a rather odd position, since (a) it is hard to see how a simple entity (i.e. one which is by nature devoid of parts) could possibly be described as deficient (as it can lack nothing that should belong to it by nature – unlike a composite entity, which may sometimes lack one or more parts which it should normally possess – e.g. a three-legged sheep); and (b) not only classical theists, but many other philosophers as well, would maintain that an entity which is composite cannot be necessary. Do you consider the soul to be simple, composite, or neither of the above?

  64. 64
    vjtorley says:

    Hi William J Murray,

    I just noticed your reply to velikovskys:

    “Ultimately, it is my view that everything is essentially one kind of thing; it just appears different depending on one’s perspective.”

    OK, so you’re a monist. That answers my question. So your view is that although the soul of a human may appear to be morally deficient, it should properly be regarded as an aspect of a much Larger Reality, which is in no way deficient. On your view, this Larger Reality would be simple and unconditioned, and hence necessary. That’s a much more consistent view.

    What, then, do you make of evil?

  65. 65

    velikovskys said:

    As you say we have no evidence that the immaterial is not deterministic as well bound by its own nature as the physical world is.

    I didn’t say we have no evidence. (In fact, we have ongoing direct empirical evidence (our conscious experience) that our will is not deterministic.)

    What I said is this is not an evidential argument. Regardless of what you call it, unless there is acausal deliberacy (whether we call it a supernatural agency or not), you cannot escape the physicalist’s dilemma wrt free will.

    It certainly does not help the hypothesis and causes one to wonder if the dichotomy you present represents reality

    It’s not a hypothesis. Whether or not it is actually true is entirely irrelevant to the fact that it is a logically necessary premise in order for rationality to exist and in order for our ongoing conscious experience to not be a total solipsistic illusion generated by happenstance chemical interactions.

    Are you unable to engage the logic? Or unwilling? You keep trying to make this some sort of scientific investigation.

    I accept it is possible, but I am not sure that your premise is valid.

    Feel free to provide a physicalist premise that frees us from the chains of whatever solipsistic thoughts and utterances happenstance interactions of chemistry happen to produce so that we can have confidence in the rationality of our analysis and conclusions.

    Possible of course, in which case your reasoning of what is the only basis of rationality was created by an irrational tool. But even a defective tool can be useful if one can determine how it is defective

    You cannot fix an inaccurate ruler by measuring it with itself.

  66. 66
    PaV says:

    vjtorley:

    You responded thusly to WJMurray:

    You write: “I don’t believe the soul of a human is a contingent entity.”

    That’s an interesting viewpoint. Since some human souls are clearly morally deficient, and since whatever isn’t contingent is necessary, it follows that you are committed to believing that some necessary entities are deficient. That’s a rather odd position, . . .

    You go on to say why this is “odd.”

    . . . since (a) it is hard to see how a simple entity (i.e. one which is by nature devoid of parts) could possibly be described as deficient (as it can lack nothing that should belong to it by nature – unlike a composite entity, which may sometimes lack one or more parts which it should normally possess – e.g. a three-legged sheep); and (b) not only classical theists, but many other philosophers as well, would maintain that an entity which is composite cannot be necessary. Do you consider the soul to be simple, composite, or neither of the above?

    The “soul” is immortal, but not eternal. So the ‘soul’ shares, or participates, in the necessary being of an Eternal God, and so, would have similarities to it. If you try to pigeon-hole everything, I suspect errors will arise since we’re dealing here with a ‘hybrid’ being. Jesus is fully God, and man. If he wasn’t contingent, then how did he die? And, if He wasn’t necessary, then how did he rise from the dead?

    We’re up against the mystery of the Incarnation here; and, as you full well know, mysteries are hard to sort out.

    I was just reading about a “holographic” photon—which is a sort of bizarre congruence of words—and we might liken ‘man’ to a holographic image, the kind we see at Disneyland, where at the Haunted Mansion a woman speaks to us from a globe. Globes, as we know, don’t contain women; but here we see an image of woman who is speaking to us. There really is a fairly good connection between this holographic, yet detailed and dynamic image, and our reality as humans.

    Let’s note that the holographic image is the result of the manipulation of light: an intelligent act. Hence the image is the blend of natural elements and the infusion of an intellectual component, one that must be continuously maintained for the image to itself continue.

    Just some thoughts.

  67. 67

    vjtorley,

    I consider evil to be a quality that is only present below the wholeness of god; superficially, it is a corruption of the proper functioning of the interface which allows an individuated (by the interface) particle of god to observe, experience and intend. Ultimately, all evil (corruption) inadvertently aids in the good.

  68. 68
    velikovskys says:

    Wjm:
    I didn’t say we have no evidence. (In fact, we have ongoing direct empirical evidence (our conscious experience) that our will is not deterministic.)

    Our conscious experience is also that will can be coerced.

    What I said is this is not an evidential argument. Regardless of what you call it, unless there is acausal deliberacy (whether we call it a supernatural agency or not), you cannot escape the physicalist’s dilemma wrt free will.

    You have yet to show ,except by defining it as so, that non material free will is not determined by its nature as well.

    It’s not a hypothesis. Whether or not it is actually true is entirely irrelevant to the fact that it is a logically necessary premise in order for rationality to exist

    Reason exists or it doesn’t, your premise is not necessary for it to exist. It can justify the belief if true.

    in order for our ongoing conscious experience to not be a total solipsistic illusion generated by happenstance chemical interactions.

    Our experience could be solphistic illusion even with your spiritual force premise. Not sure why you think chemical reactions are happenstance, most seem to be anything but happenstance.

    Feel free to provide a physicalist premise that frees us from the chains of whatever solipsistic thoughts and utterances happenstance interactions of chemistry happen to produce so that we can have confidence in the rationality of our analysis and conclusions

    Possible sophistic thoughts and utterances

    You cannot fix an inaccurate ruler by measuring it with itself.

    No you can’t,but you use it to built a house which is useful

  69. 69
    bornagain77 says:

    John Searle on Free Will – Michael Egnor – July 21, 2016
    Excerpt: I have pointed out many times that the human intellect and will are immaterial powers of the mind. This is so because abstract thought is the contemplation of universal concepts, such as mathematics, ethics, philosophy, logic, etc., none of which have complete instantiation in matter. The concept of “justice” isn’t a physical thing — it has no location or length or mass or volume. Therefore, it cannot be in brain tissue. Therefore it must be an immaterial thing. And the argument that there is a representation of the concept of justice in the brain, but not the concept of justice itself, is of no use. In order to represent the concept of justice, one presupposes the concept of justice. A photograph presupposes the existence of that which is represented in the photograph. A map of a city presupposes a city. Representation presupposes that which it represents. So, even if there is a “representation” of the concept of justice in the brain, you haven’t explained the concept of justice, which is that which you need to explain.
    Abstract thought is immaterial, and the intellect and will, which are the powers by which we contemplate abstract thoughts, are immaterial powers of the mind. As such, the will cannot be determined by physics and chemistry, because the will is not a physical or chemical process. The will is free, in the sense that it is not determined by any physical thing. Of course the will is influenced by physical substances, such as alcohol, and the will is influenced by immaterial powers such as the intellect (a subject for discussion another time), but influence is not determination.
    It is in the nature of man that his will is an immaterial power of the soul, and the will is free in the sense that it is not determined by physical processes. The denial of free will is a crude philosophical error, made not only by philosophical naïfs like Jerry Coyne, but by accomplished philosophers like John Searle.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....03013.html

  70. 70

    velikovskys said:

    Our conscious experience is also that will can be coerced.

    I’ve never consciously experienced my will being coerced. I think the idea of “coerced will” is pretty much an oxymoron.

    You have yet to show ,except by defining it as so, that non material free will is not determined by its nature as well.

    It’s hard for me to understand how you are still not getting this. In an attempt to explain logically how we can have actual free will and save our arguments from nihilistic, solipsistic nonsense, X (the source of free will) is posited as an acausal loci of intent. You then come back with “but X may not be an acausal loci of intent”.

    That’s a non-sequitur. It’s so off-base, it’s not even wrong. Acausal intentionality is the very thing being premised must exist in order to provide true free will; your answer may be “well, it may not exist. You haven’t demonstrated that it exists.”

    That doesn’t even make sense. It doesn’t matter if it actually exists; what matters if it’s the only thing that can logically provide any meaningful free will.

    Reason exists or it doesn’t, your premise is not necessary for it to exist. It can justify the belief if true.

    Unless you provide an alterntive, you haven’t made a logical case that it is not necessary. I don’t see any other way to provide free will; at the end of the day, if will is caused, it is not free will. You cannot have a caused free will intention. It’s a contradiction in concepts.

    Our experience could be solphistic illusion even with your spiritual force premise. Not sure why you think chemical reactions are happenstance, most seem to be anything but happenstance.

    You completely do not understand my point. I don’t say “the supernatural exists, so there is acausal will; I’m saying that in order to a answer the free will problem, acausal intent must exist, and I’m calling that supernatural, because it’s presumed acausal nature.

    Possible sophistic thoughts and utterances

    That’s not a premise, that’s a bald assertion of possibility in lieu of a premise that can lead to the conclusion.

  71. 71
    Querius says:

    John Searle, call home. This just in:

    http://releases.jhu.edu/2016/0.....the-brain/

    -Q

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