Free will, is it just an illusion?

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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Metsfanmax on Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:02 pm

BigBallinStalin wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:So, you didn't really choose to respond? Then what did you just do--or rather, how did you do it? (remember not to choose your words as you type your next response).

I like Haggis' focus on the POV--i.e. within the system v. outside of the system. And still, the process is endogenous, so the unidirectional claim about environment influencing us is false.


You are operating under the assumption that actions can meaningfully be attributed to a person in the fully deterministic model. I contend that they cannot. To speak about something a person is "doing" in a world where they don't make any choices is farcical, because the person is no longer outside the system. You can only be outside of the system if you have free will.

Also, I'm starting to get tired of your arrogant and rude responses. The next time you do that, I'm probably just going to foe you again, and leave it there this time.


It's rude of me to say that your unidirectional claim is false? You haven't demonstrated otherwise, so hopefully you'll deal with it maturely.

Is it rude of me to ask you in a tongue-and-cheek manner to contradict yourself? You still are, so then what? You're angry at me because you've cornered yourself into your own contradiction? People got pissed at Socrates for asking questions, so please don't act like them.


No, it is rude to suggest that I did not think about what I was saying before I said it.

Recently, you've sidestepped with a "oh, language doesn't matter in the deterministic model" and "assume fully deterministic model is true; therefore, your contention is false." The latter position is as false as all theological arguments which start with, 'assume God exists', so let's move on. Language does matter (i.e. subjectively defining oneself, human action, and the environment within which we operate), and this goes back to Haggis' distinction between "within the system" and "outside of the system." You're focused on a philosophical problem which has no bearing within our actual world--other than the meaning which you attribute to your deterministic model within this world (even language--i.e. the fundamental means through which your actions become meaningfully attributed to your person--make your model seemingly relevant to this world). In other words, "within the system" you use such means--within the system--to imagine something "outside of the system," but still it's not there. There is no "outside of the system." It's a language muddle, as Wittgenstein puts it.


You have misunderstood my position. I was not arguing about whether the deterministic model was true, I had not taken a stance on that yet. I was simply making some statements about what would be the case if the deterministic model were true. Whether or not my conclusions about this are true, is independent of whether the deterministic model is correct.

You have also misunderstood my position about the nature of "being in the system." I was agreeing that there is no "outside of the system," but I contend that people who believe in free will (e.g. you, evidently) do in fact believe in that -- because it suggests that the mind does not exist in the same realm as the physical laws that govern the activity of the brain (I don't believe the emergence argument disproves this).

Finally, I don't really know what you mean to imply by saying I'm focused on a philosophical problem. The entire discussion of free will is a purely abstract philosophical discussion, because regardless of whatever else is true, I feel like I make actual choices, even if I know rationally that this is not the case.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Woodruff on Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:12 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:Finally, I don't really know what you mean to imply by saying I'm focused on a philosophical problem. The entire discussion of free will is a purely abstract philosophical discussion, because regardless of whatever else is true, I feel like I make actual choices, even if I know rationally that this is not the case.


While I agree with you regarding it being a primarily philosophical discussion (which I enjoy), I don't understand how you could actually know that's not the case.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby crispybits on Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:28 pm

BigBallinStalin wrote:
crispybits wrote:The analogy was throwaway, the point is that you're assuming that such a thing as a "choice" exists. Can you give me an example of how we could separate an event (the choice) from the causal chain which precedes it, without just diving into random chance and percentage probabilities? If we can't, and the choice is entirely causal and/or random rather than self-directed then it is not a choice at all. Theoretically you can assume far advanced technology and increased knowledge of neuroscience, etc. It doesn't have to be realistic with current tech/knowledge.


Well, wait a minute. Can you answer the questions, so I can understand where you're going with this?


So, when do you never have any option but one? And in such a circumstance, why do you have no alternatives?
    (if there's no answer to this, then your previous contention can be discarded).
    (Is your answer, "well there are no choices," which is similar to saying, "these aren't the droids you're looking for"? It doesn't work, but we'll go down that road if you like, but it depends on how you answer the following questions).

(recall, the person thinking about leaving their job)
Are such people correct in the perception of their set of options?
Do they define their own choices?
Does "the environment" actually constrain them, or do they constrain themselves?*


    *recall tidbit on locus of control.


approach/methodology
So, your future path and your current options can be constrained by your own perception, as well as by the fundamental constraints (you might not be a mathematical genius, or have Y-colored skin, or whatever).
Because of these given variables, does this mean you have no free will?
Are we missing out other variables?
Have we explained the process of decision-making and outcomes correctly?

    (I ask these questions because I have no idea what you're looking for. How do you determine if our system is free will or deterministic? How do you know that "choice" does not exist? What's your criteria for knowing/demonstrating? Etc. etc. etc.)


Causality and self-directed actions aren't exclusive, so the underlined doesn't make sense. What are you asking for? I can give theories which explain processes, but I need context from you, so that I can best apply its relevance to our conversation.


You never have any option except one. That's kinda the point. Our consciousness creates an illusion of choice when in reality the laws of physics make the choice for us, and then we just catch up and convince ourselves we've done it.

Lets try a different analogy (and remember these aren't meant to be taken 100% literally, they're figurative):

Assume:
x = 1034
y = 2142
z = 523

Calculate 469xy + 342xz + 610yz using only a pen and paper and long multiplication - no calculators or other artifical aids.

Now the answer to that question is always going to be 1,907,064,036. It's the answer even before you start conciously working it out. But your brain doesn't have the knowledge of the answer, so it has to work it's way through it and get to the answer at the end.

It's sort of the same with choices. Causality/quantum has already determined what the decision you will make to a particular set of apparent options is at any given point in time. You can no more change that decision than you can change the answer of the maths problem during the process of working it out. Studies have shown that the brain makes this decision away from the concious thought processes, and the concious thought processes then catch up some time afterwards.

Given that you have no concious control over which option you will decide, the fact that you can convince yourself that you do is irrelevant. I could convince myself that I'm really good at beer pong, but that act of self-persuasion has no bearing on whether I am objectively any good at beer pong.

So to get to the answers for your questions:

Are such people correct in their perception of their set of options? They are correct in the way that they can perceive a set of possibilities, however these are not options, they are simply things that it would be possible for this to happen. Just like it is possible that I could get up from my computer right now, go into the shop downstairs and beat up the shop assistant. That doesn't mean that they have a choice between those options, simply that this is a list of things that are viable possibilities that could conceivably happen.

Do they define their own choices? They define what they think are decisions they are making. They are incorrect in classifying them as choices, because whatever they think about the decisions they think they are making, actually their decision was made at the start of the causal chain (however far you want to trace that back), and it was not a concious choice but merely a natural event governed by the laws of physics.

Does the environment constrain them? Reality constrains them. Reality constrains itself. They can never do anything other than what the causal chain leads them to do, even if they believe they are self-directed actors making their own decisions.

As I said, can you give me an example where the act of making a decision is not based on the causal chain that ends in the firing of certain neurons in the brain, and sometime after that by the illusion that we have conciously chosen one option over another?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Gillipig on Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:38 pm

The challenge for anyone in defence of free will is to postulate a line of reasoning that explains why it is more reasonable to assume that something we don't have any positive evidence for, exists, rather than not exist. He who makes the extrodinary claim shall also provide the extrodinary explanation. And it is an extrodinary claim to say that something, independent of causality, non random, unlike anything else, "probably only found in humans", exists. (I assume the latter is most pro-free will'ers viewpoint) It is not an extrodinary claim, contrast to popular opinion, to say that we don't have free will. Free will is an unneccesary add on, we don't really need it to explain anything. If we don't have free will then we live in very a determinstic world (which in many ways we already know we do), where only some form of randomness could potentially upset the link of causality. Some may not find that a world that suits their liking but it's not a world view that is extrodinary or difficult to explain.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby puppydog85 on Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:44 pm

Definition of "Free Will": That man's actions or choices are voluntary, under his control, and such that he has the outward ability to do other than what he actually chose to do. It can also be called "metaphysically free will"; the person's choices are self-determined, rather than forced or compelled.

And I would say yes, he has it and that it is not an illusion.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Metsfanmax on Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:47 pm

Woodruff wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:Finally, I don't really know what you mean to imply by saying I'm focused on a philosophical problem. The entire discussion of free will is a purely abstract philosophical discussion, because regardless of whatever else is true, I feel like I make actual choices, even if I know rationally that this is not the case.


While I agree with you regarding it being a primarily philosophical discussion (which I enjoy), I don't understand how you could actually know that's not the case.


I don't know that it will always be the case, I just do not believe that we don't have any evidence to the contrary at the present, so I wouldn't describe any current discussions on the subject as existing in the realm of the practical.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:48 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:So, you didn't really choose to respond? Then what did you just do--or rather, how did you do it? (remember not to choose your words as you type your next response).

I like Haggis' focus on the POV--i.e. within the system v. outside of the system. And still, the process is endogenous, so the unidirectional claim about environment influencing us is false.


You are operating under the assumption that actions can meaningfully be attributed to a person in the fully deterministic model. I contend that they cannot. To speak about something a person is "doing" in a world where they don't make any choices is farcical, because the person is no longer outside the system. You can only be outside of the system if you have free will.

Also, I'm starting to get tired of your arrogant and rude responses. The next time you do that, I'm probably just going to foe you again, and leave it there this time.


It's rude of me to say that your unidirectional claim is false? You haven't demonstrated otherwise, so hopefully you'll deal with it maturely.

Is it rude of me to ask you in a tongue-and-cheek manner to contradict yourself? You still are, so then what? You're angry at me because you've cornered yourself into your own contradiction? People got pissed at Socrates for asking questions, so please don't act like them.


No, it is rude to suggest that I did not think about what I was saying before I said it.

Recently, you've sidestepped with a "oh, language doesn't matter in the deterministic model" and "assume fully deterministic model is true; therefore, your contention is false." The latter position is as false as all theological arguments which start with, 'assume God exists', so let's move on. Language does matter (i.e. subjectively defining oneself, human action, and the environment within which we operate), and this goes back to Haggis' distinction between "within the system" and "outside of the system." You're focused on a philosophical problem which has no bearing within our actual world--other than the meaning which you attribute to your deterministic model within this world (even language--i.e. the fundamental means through which your actions become meaningfully attributed to your person--make your model seemingly relevant to this world). In other words, "within the system" you use such means--within the system--to imagine something "outside of the system," but still it's not there. There is no "outside of the system." It's a language muddle, as Wittgenstein puts it.


You have misunderstood my position. I was not arguing about whether the deterministic model was true, I had not taken a stance on that yet. I was simply making some statements about what would be the case if the deterministic model were true. Whether or not my conclusions about this are true, is independent of whether the deterministic model is correct.

You have also misunderstood my position about the nature of "being in the system." I was agreeing that there is no "outside of the system," but I contend that people who believe in free will (e.g. you, evidently) do in fact believe in that -- because it suggests that the mind does not exist in the same realm as the physical laws that govern the activity of the brain (I don't believe the emergence argument disproves this).

Finally, I don't really know what you mean to imply by saying I'm focused on a philosophical problem. The entire discussion of free will is a purely abstract philosophical discussion, because regardless of whatever else is true, I feel like I make actual choices, even if I know rationally that this is not the case.


Then what position would you like to argue in favor for?

re: underlined, How do you know?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Metsfanmax on Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:53 pm

BigBallinStalin wrote:Then what position would you like to argue in favor for?


None. I haven't the slightest inkling of what the mind is. I am baffled every day by the fact that "I" exist, and that "I" have thoughts. I am literally unable to wrap my mind around what my mind is. So I don't really think I have any justification for trying to go and make statements about how it works. I am just evaluating the consequences of the hypotheses that were proposed here.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:44 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:Then what position would you like to argue in favor for?


None. I haven't the slightest inkling of what the mind is. I am baffled every day by the fact that "I" exist, and that "I" have thoughts. I am literally unable to wrap my mind around what my mind is. So I don't really think I have any justification for trying to go and make statements about how it works. I am just evaluating the consequences of the hypotheses that were proposed here.


We're just about to get into that with crispybits. For nearly all scenarios, I just roll with the assumption that "I" = my brain and body, and then we can separate the parts from the whole and examine each in turn. The "mind" is similar to the "I," but I don't find the word to be useful since it fails to clarify anything. That word seems to only create language problems, for which there are no answers---but it does allow those philosophers to chase their tails like dogs, which they get paid well enough to do so.

If it helps, I'd suggest reading Wittgenstein* and Thich Nhat Hanh**. They put a lot of my philosophical worries at ease.

    *His Blue Book serves as a good intro, but it's early Wittgenstein, so it's not 100% representative of his body of work. His more complicated--but fun--work is Philosophical Investigations.

    **See: The Art of Mindfulness and The Miracle of Mindfulness. D.T. Suzuki on Zen Buddhism is a good alternative from the roads of "western" thinking which is composed great thinkers who in some scenarios have led nearly all of us to no useful answers and questions.

Anyway, as a rehash, which hypothesis do you find to be the most convincing and why?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Metsfanmax on Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:48 pm

BigBallinStalin wrote:Anyway, as a rehash, which hypothesis do you find to be the most convincing and why?


Everything that scientists have learned so far points to the idea that the rules of nature can be expressed in a form that humans can understand, and that the form is completely deterministic. So the most convincing argument, to me, is that everything humans do could in principle be calculated, given the state of the universe before the action at sufficient precision, and sufficient computing power.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:24 pm

crispybits wrote:You never have any option except one. That's kinda the point.


I am presented with two options on a broad level at this time: (1) continue reading, or (2) ignore your post. Apparently, I have more than one option. After some time of deliberating between the two choices, I chose (1).



crispybits wrote:Our consciousness creates an illusion of choice when in reality the laws of physics make the choice for us, and then we just catch up and convince ourselves we've done it.


So, the laws of physics constrain our choices? Do they constrain all choices—or specific choices? If the laws of physics constrain a limited range of choices, then I’d still maintain that we have free will. I know I cannot jump 20 feet high because “laws of physics,” but this doesn’t mean I lack free will.

To me, the issue of free will v. …determinism? or argument of constraints? are two separate issues. And, although we may face some constraints imposed by ‘nature’ (i.e. laws of physics), it doesn’t follow that we lack free will.


crispybits wrote:Lets try a different analogy (and remember these aren't meant to be taken 100% literally, they're figurative):

Assume:
x = 1034
y = 2142
z = 523

Calculate 469xy + 342xz + 610yz using only a pen and paper and long multiplication - no calculators or other artifical aids.

Now the answer to that question is always going to be 1,907,064,036. It's the answer even before you start conciously working it out. But your brain doesn't have the knowledge of the answer, so it has to work it's way through it and get to the answer at the end.


I see that you've said to take the example figuratively, but there's problems. (a) This is a context-specific scenario which you’re universalizing toward all scenarios, and (b) I don’t see how the rules of mathematics force me to accept one option when I am faced with eating pork or chicken, or when choosing various long-term paths for my life.

*After reading throughout your whole post, do you mean to say that there’s some mathematical method regarding the brain which can 'decompose' every single process of every decision for every particular circumstance of time and place into pure math? You're talking about creating a multivariable function for the decision to fart right now or continue typing?

crispybits wrote:It's sort of the same with choices. Causality/quantum has already determined what the decision you will make to a particular set of apparent options is at any given point in time. You can no more change that decision than you can change the answer of the maths problem during the process of working it out. Studies have shown that the brain makes this decision away from the concious thought processes, and the concious thought processes then catch up some time afterwards.


How does “causality/quantum” ‘determine’* my decisions? And in what scenarios? All of them?

    *’determine’, as in.. ‘restrict’? Because causality and quantum are not conscious decision-making entities, so we’re only speaking of restriction. If so, and if causality/quantum does not restrict everything, then isn’t there free will/some scope of choices to be made?

Does the brain/the thought process remain the same throughout one’s lifetime? (I think we can agree that it doesn’t). So, what caused it to change? (myself):

I can pursue an easier life, where I forego my studies and apply my skills in the business world. It’s very simple, but it’s not what I want. I envision a different future, and I strive toward it. Through years of trial-and-error, “I” have been shaping my own brain, my own thought process, and although as humans we face certain constraints by the brain, it doesn’t follow that “I” am some robot—completely subjected to the “will” of the brain. (Why separate the individual/mind from his/her brain?—hence the quoted words).

In a previous time, I perceived many routes—i.e. to use your analogy, I faced a “math problem.” But the context was not: solve this and this is the answer. Rather, it was: “if you want, you can try to solve this through continued action, but the answer from the present time is unknowable. Or you can solve these other problems.” There’s plenty of options there, so I don’t see how your analogy holds.

With decisions, there is uncertainty, and so it is with the social sciences. With the physical/natural sciences, there’s much less—and it’s very much different and limited in its applicability toward understanding human action. I’m not buying the argument that the laws of physics serve as a constraint on some scenarios; therefore, you have no free will.

In short, I can obviously change my decisions and even the range of later choices, so there is no “one answer” for every possible choice along one’s future path(s). Furthermore, with the maths problem, I can even ignore the rules and answer with “2.” Don’t you love it? I chose to answer with “2,” yet the “Laws of Physics” argument concludes that this would be impossible, right? Two is definitely incorrect, but I can still choose, so even with your example, the laws of physics--or rather maths--don’t constrain my choices.


crispybits wrote:Given that you have no concious control over which option you will decide, the fact that you can convince yourself that you do is irrelevant. I could convince myself that I'm really good at beer pong, but that act of self-persuasion has no bearing on whether I am objectively any good at beer pong.


I don’t see how that claim is true given my responses above, but to clarify:

1. You’re separating an individual from his brain, thus pitting them as two different ‘decision-making’ ‘entities’ against each other. One, the brain, is the conscious decision-maker, and the other, the… body? is the unconscious decision-maker. I = body, and brain = ???. No, the mind, body, and brain are connected, and to me serve as one whole, which I define as “one’s self” or “me.”

Now, does the brain shape the way we choose? For sure. Let’s read Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, and we can see some of the contexts in which the brain may constrain/control our conscious decision-making, but it’s not 100% nor always occurring, nor does it support your position, which seems to be stretching the claims of neuroscience too far.

Since we are capable of controlling and influencing our brains through education, self-monitoring, self-discipline, etc., then it doesn’t follow that the brain-body/”I” relationship is unidirectional. Nor is it true that “we have no conscious control,” for I exert influence, thus control, over the brain with education, discipline, and monitoring. The brain is composed of various parts, some of which require discipline. It’s like a group of muscles which greatly benefit from exercise, so I don’t see them distinct from myself.

For example,

Saxitoxin: “That guy is swoll!”
Crispybits: “No, his muscles are swoll, but he isn’t.”

???


crispybits wrote:So to get to the answers for your questions:

Are such people correct in their perception of their set of options? They are correct in the way that they can perceive a set of possibilities, however these are not options, they are simply things that it would be possible for this to happen. Just like it is possible that I could get up from my computer right now, go into the shop downstairs and beat up the shop assistant. That doesn't mean that they have a choice between those options, simply that this is a list of things that are viable possibilities that could conceivably happen.


Options v. possibilities? What do you mean? So long as I choose one of many options and evaluate the possibilities of any option, then I don’t see the relevance between separating them and concluding as you have. Even with a list of possibilities, you still must act or choose. If you choose not to act, then the possibility of anything being achieved becomes 0%--except for of course the possibility of the option: “none of the above”, which became 100%. If you choose to act, then the other possibilities may become actualized. Therefore, the underlined cannot be true.

Most people choose not to be violent, and although some think of such actions in a much more serious manner, they still choose not to do so. Yet, some nonetheless choose to act violently. People obviously have choices and make them.

The main point about perceiving one’s choices is that people can exercise and reinforce an external locus of control, thereby ‘confirming’ the existence of a deterministic world/non-free will world.


crispybits wrote:Do they define their own choices? They define what they think are decisions they are making. They are incorrect in classifying them as choices, because whatever they think about the decisions they think they are making, actually their decision was made at the start of the causal chain (however far you want to trace that back), and it was not a concious choice but merely a natural event governed by the laws of physics.


The underlined has yet to be demonstrated.

Note: The laws of physics do not ‘govern’ in the same sense that conscious decision-making entities govern. “2+2=4” doesn’t control me, nor does gravity control me—in the conscious decision-making sense. Gravity certainly constraints my options (I can’t jump to Jupiter), but it doesn’t follow that I lack free will.

crispybits wrote:Does the environment constrain them? Reality constrains them. Reality constrains itself. They can never do anything other than what the causal chain leads them to do, even if they believe they are self-directed actors making their own decisions.


What causal chain?

What was the causal chain of my asking you that question?

crispybits wrote:As I said, can you give me an example where the act of making a decision is not based on the causal chain that ends in the firing of certain neurons in the brain, and sometime after that by the illusion that we have conciously chosen one option over another?


I can’t demonstrate it perfectly, and neither can the either side, so neither can seemingly disprove the other (free will v. determinism); however, we have a choice! The brain and “I” are one, so on those grounds, I can dismiss this kind of argument.

You can lift the hood of a car and exclaim, “ah-ha! there is what moves the car; therefore, the car does not move, but only the engine!” but as a whole it’s still a car which moves. To step outside of the analogy, we’re still talking about humans. Simply because there’s an organ in which occurs the “thinking” or “decision-making,” it doesn’t follow that the whole can no longer think or make decisions. If we took that seriously, then “I” do not pump blood throughout my body—my heart does. But so what? “You” are still pumping blood through your veins. And the swoll guy is swoll--not just his muscles.

You’re separating an individual/the self from the brain, and I don’t find that kind of reasoning to be useful for clarifying the context of this issue.

(Once again, this sounds like a problem of language).
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby crispybits on Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:57 pm

Indeed - it feels like we're talking past each other to an extent.

Let me try to re-state another definition of free will and lets see if you can agree with that and lets take it from there:

Free will is the ability of an agent to act without the constraint of necessity and at their own discretion.

Necessity in this definition would include causal interactions such as the fact you have enjoyed strawberry ice cream more than chocolate ice cream in the past would mean that if given the "choice" between strawberry and chocolate ice cream you will choose strawberry in the future (assuming that "choice" is based solely on which you enjoy more and ignoring other factors like peer pressure of all your friends ordering chocolate, a recent glut of strawberry ice cream desserts meaning the chocolate would seem nice for a change, etc)
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:02 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:Anyway, as a rehash, which hypothesis do you find to be the most convincing and why?


Everything that scientists have learned so far points to the idea that the rules of nature can be expressed in a form that humans can understand, and that the form is completely deterministic. So the most convincing argument, to me, is that everything humans do could in principle be calculated, given the state of the universe before the action at sufficient precision, and sufficient computing power.


Sure, and maybe there is a Higher Being. To me, both of those claims are similar, but hey perhaps there are constants in the social sciences (so far there are none).

Regarding computational power:
http://castroller.com/Podcasts/MisesIns ... ia/2847715

That's an interesting audio. It's about the Venus Project and its inability to address knowledge and incentive problems via a "scientific method" for allocating resources based on preferences and so on.


When I look at the mathematical aspect of social science today, I really doubt that "everything humans do could in principle be calculated." If you could have something like google and facebook, which monitors all of their users' activities, then maybe, but you'd still be working with only correlations at that point. The little I know of neuroscience looks promising, but I'm just not a convinced believer in your stated possibilities.


What do you mean by "the form is completely deterministic"? Could you give an example?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Metsfanmax on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:32 pm

BigBallinStalin wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:Anyway, as a rehash, which hypothesis do you find to be the most convincing and why?


Everything that scientists have learned so far points to the idea that the rules of nature can be expressed in a form that humans can understand, and that the form is completely deterministic. So the most convincing argument, to me, is that everything humans do could in principle be calculated, given the state of the universe before the action at sufficient precision, and sufficient computing power.


Sure, and maybe there is a Higher Being. To me, both of those claims are similar, but hey perhaps there are constants in the social sciences (so far there are none).

Regarding computational power:
http://castroller.com/Podcasts/MisesIns ... ia/2847715

That's an interesting audio. It's about the Venus Project and its inability to address knowledge and incentive problems via a "scientific method" for allocating resources based on preferences and so on.
When I look at the mathematical aspect of social science today, I really doubt that "everything humans do could in principle be calculated." If you could have something like google and facebook, which monitors all of their users' activities, then maybe, but you'd still be working with only correlations at that point. The little I know of neuroscience looks promising, but I'm just not a convinced believer in your stated possibilities.


I doubt that we would ever have the computing power necessary to actually carry out the calculation. That is not the point. The point is that it is meaningful to state what the calculation is. Even if we could never actually calculate the state of the universe at t+1 based on complete information at t, it is nevertheless true (as far as we have yet determined) that the state of the universe at t+1 is completely determined by the state of the universe at t. The idea of free will requires this not to be the case. If you are meaningfully going to make a choice, then I contend it should not be possible for an external observer to know in advance what the choice will be. If that choice is completely determined by natural laws, then your mind has not done anything except play out the cosmic drama that unfolds every second in the universe.

What do you mean by "the form is completely deterministic"? Could you give an example?


Yes. According to Newton's second law, if I place a one kilogram particle on a frictionless surface and exert a force of 1 Newton on it, it will always accelerate by precisely 1 m/s^2(*). There is no element of unpredictability in what the state of the universe will be as a result of the action.

*Ignoring the effects of special relativity, which are not important for the answer.

BBS wrote:I am presented with two options on a broad level at this time: (1) continue reading, or (2) ignore your post. Apparently, I have more than one option. After some time of deliberating between the two choices, I chose (1).


Do you really believe this? In what alternative scenario would you have made a different "choice?" If the thought process that led you to the conclusion was based on some series of weighed pros and cons, those pros and cons were determined completely by your past experiences, and if we re-ran the universe again up to this point, is there any chance you could have made a different decision? If not, in what meaningful way have you actually made a choice?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:45 pm

crispybits wrote:Indeed - it feels like we're talking past each other to an extent.

Let me try to re-state another definition of free will and lets see if you can agree with that and lets take it from there:

Free will is the ability of an agent to act without the constraint of necessity and at their own discretion.

Necessity in this definition would include causal interactions such as the fact you have enjoyed strawberry ice cream more than chocolate ice cream in the past would mean that if given the "choice" between strawberry and chocolate ice cream you will choose strawberry in the future (assuming that "choice" is based solely on which you enjoy more and ignoring other factors like peer pressure of all your friends ordering chocolate, a recent glut of strawberry ice cream desserts meaning the chocolate would seem nice for a change, etc)


Is it that certain? Preferences are subjectively defined and can be fickle. My favorite is that if you like chocolate more than vanilla, and vanilla more than strawberry, it still doesn't follow that you would like chocolate more than strawberry. (in math econ., we'd side-step the reality by assuming: c>v>s, but with humans, it's not just true).


crispybits wrote:(assuming that "choice" is based solely on which you enjoy more and ignoring other factors like peer pressure of all your friends ordering chocolate, a recent glut of strawberry ice cream desserts meaning the chocolate would seem nice for a change, etc)


I like this assumption, but you're talking about various choices because each entails a different opportunity cost. Peer pressure happens which (1) may constrain choices, or it (2) may expand choices--if one is feeling extra-rouge. Too much previous strawberry ice cream will modify your desire for it again (diminishing returns), so you face a different 'profit' of consuming chocolate ice cream compared to strawberry. The choice of having either when you haven't had ice cream in ages is different.

So, it's not the "choice between strawberry or chocolate," but rather the "choice between strawberry and chocolate given the circumstances of time and place," which is many different choices. Since these circumstances matter, why assume them away? It would make things simpler, but would we get the right answer? I doubt it.


"Necessity" to me means 'necessary'. For example, one must eat food---assuming they wish to live. That's a physiological constraint. Another is: everyone's intelligence differs; therefore, some have greater ability in shaping their futures, surroundings, and themselves compared to others. That's a physiological constraint.

So we have necessary activities, but in some cases, they need not be necessary--relative to my opinion (e.g. a food strike, or fasting). Nevertheless, a food strike may be necessary for someone else. It depends on the circumstances of the individuals.


I'm not sure how to fix your definition of free will.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:55 pm

@crispybits


If I knew how to answer the following:

(1) How do individuals define/perceive their profit and opportunity cost? Explain the process.

Then we could separate the endogenous variables from the exogenous. Endogenous at the individual-level would be: "you" and your brain. 'Exogenous' to that would be the relationship between you and your immediate v. broad surroundings--including other people as well. But, that isn't quite exogenous because that relationship can be bidirectional, so... <shrugs>.

Maybe the ultra-exogenous would be physical rules that govern our bodies--e.g. the desire to eat (for nearly all people). But then, how do you compare these ultra-exogenous factors with the semi-exogenous/endogenous ones? I simply keep them separate, so I'd distinguish between your "laws of physics" argument and the "non-laws of physics" aspect, and conclude: "laws of physics" constrain our options, so we still room to choose.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:33 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:
I doubt that we would ever have the computing power necessary to actually carry out the calculation. That is not the point. The point is that it is meaningful to state what the calculation is. Even if we could never actually calculate the state of the universe at t+1 based on complete information at t, it is nevertheless true (as far as we have yet determined) that the state of the universe at t+1 is completely determined by the state of the universe at t. The idea of free will requires this not to be the case. If you are meaningfully going to make a choice, then I contend it should not be possible for an external observer to know in advance what the choice will be. If that choice is completely determined by natural laws, then your mind has not done anything except play out the cosmic drama that unfolds every second in the universe.


RE: underlined,
What do you mean? Because if I knew someone really well and successfully predicted his decision (e.g. I placed a bet and won), it doesn't follow that that someone "didn't meaningfully make a choice." (Stocks and bonds traders are great at doing this for large scales of individuals and organizations). What's the difference between "knowing in advance" and "predicting"? Do you mean: "to know in advance with absolute certainty"?*

    *If absolute certainty is required, then what of the uncertainty principle? ---namely, this part: "For instance, the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa." (wiki)

________________
To clarify: an atom is incapable of having free will since its "decisions" are entirely governed by natural laws. You'd agree?

RE: bold,
Suppose someone discovered that when x-amount of neutrinos pass through the Earth, then people are 50% more likely to desire sex. If this proven to be a fact, then would this fit your criteria of natural laws determining one's choices?

Suppose someone discovered that when x-amount of neutrinos pass through the Earth, then people are 100% more likely to desire sex. If this proven to be a fact, then would this fit your criteria of natural laws determining one's choices?



Metsfanmax wrote:
What do you mean by "the form is completely deterministic"? Could you give an example?


Yes. According to Newton's second law, if I place a one kilogram particle on a frictionless surface and exert a force of 1 Newton on it, it will always accelerate by precisely 1 m/s^2(*). There is no element of unpredictability in what the state of the universe will be as a result of the action.

*Ignoring the effects of special relativity, which are not important for the answer.


"No element of unpredictability"....

So, you're looking for some law which completely eliminates any uncertainty* of an outcome?

    *uncertainty: "uncertainty is present when the likelihood of future events is indefinite or incalculable."

Or/and are you looking for some law which perfectly defines the risk* of any means to any end?
    *risk: "risk is present when future events occur with measurable probability"

Metsfanmax wrote:
BBS wrote:I am presented with two options on a broad level at this time: (1) continue reading, or (2) ignore your post. Apparently, I have more than one option. After some time of deliberating between the two choices, I chose (1).


[1]Do you really believe this? In what alternative scenario would you have made a different "choice?" [2]If the thought process that led you to the conclusion was based on some series of weighed pros and cons, those pros and cons were determined completely by your past experiences, and if we re-ran the universe again up to this point, is there any chance you could have made a different decision? If not, in what meaningful way have you actually made a choice?


[1]Given the apparent absence of a framework/model which demonstrates the validity of determinism, substitutes must be found; therefore, yes, I believe that.

[2] Sure. I could've thought of something more interesting to do, which I didn't conceive in the original, universal trial. The opportunity cost would've varied, so based upon its value compared to the perceived profit of reading his post, I may have decided either way. Who knows. Also, I don't constantly weigh pros and cons at every time for every decision, so during the second trial, I could've been entirely capricious.

I like the idea of imagining an ability to re-run the universe to test for this, but how is that practical?

If the determinist position relies on imaginary, universal reruns in order to make its case, then shouldn't it be closeted in the Unfalsifiable section--next to God, Thor, FSM, and Paramatma?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Metsfanmax on Wed Jul 10, 2013 11:27 pm

BigBallinStalin wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:
I doubt that we would ever have the computing power necessary to actually carry out the calculation. That is not the point. The point is that it is meaningful to state what the calculation is. Even if we could never actually calculate the state of the universe at t+1 based on complete information at t, it is nevertheless true (as far as we have yet determined) that the state of the universe at t+1 is completely determined by the state of the universe at t. The idea of free will requires this not to be the case. If you are meaningfully going to make a choice, then I contend it should not be possible for an external observer to know in advance what the choice will be. If that choice is completely determined by natural laws, then your mind has not done anything except play out the cosmic drama that unfolds every second in the universe.


RE: underlined,
What do you mean? Because if I knew someone really well and successfully predicted his decision (e.g. I placed a bet and won), it doesn't follow that that someone "didn't meaningfully make a choice." (Stocks and bonds traders are great at doing this for large scales of individuals and organizations). What's the difference between "knowing in advance" and "predicting"? Do you mean: "to know in advance with absolute certainty"?*


Yes, I meant to know in advance with absolute certainty (but see below).

    *If absolute certainty is required, then what of the uncertainty principle? ---namely, this part: "For instance, the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa." (wiki)


Quantum mechanics is a deterministic system, even though it results in probabilistic outcomes for measurements. As I said, the point is not whether we could make an accurate prediction of the human's behavior. The point is to distinguish between a system where the human has made a choice, in the sense that the mind has exerted some sort of control over the environment instead of vice versa, and a system where the environment completely determined what the mind thought and did.

________________
To clarify: an atom is incapable of having free will since its "decisions" are entirely governed by natural laws. You'd agree?


Yes, and since humans are collections of atoms, it's hard for me to avoid the inevitable conclusion that humans do not have free will either.

RE: bold,
Suppose someone discovered that when x-amount of neutrinos pass through the Earth, then people are 50% more likely to desire sex. If this proven to be a fact, then would this fit your criteria of natural laws determining one's choices?

Suppose someone discovered that when x-amount of neutrinos pass through the Earth, then people are 100% more likely to desire sex. If this proven to be a fact, then would this fit your criteria of natural laws determining one's choices?


Your use of the phrase "more likely" is meaningless for this discussion, because it refers to a statistical sample and not an individual. We are discussing the individual when we discuss free will. A better question is, did the neutrinos passing through initiate some nuclear reactions that spawned a chain of events terminating in an increased desire to have sex?

I also don't believe that choice exists, at least in this framework. If the universe is deterministic, natural laws don't determine choices, they just have definite consequences. You're incorrectly describing my argument to even use the word choice, and it's resulting in an incorrect understanding of what I am saying. At the very least, you'd have to clearly define what it means for a human to make a choice.

Metsfanmax wrote:
What do you mean by "the form is completely deterministic"? Could you give an example?


Yes. According to Newton's second law, if I place a one kilogram particle on a frictionless surface and exert a force of 1 Newton on it, it will always accelerate by precisely 1 m/s^2(*). There is no element of unpredictability in what the state of the universe will be as a result of the action.

*Ignoring the effects of special relativity, which are not important for the answer.


"No element of unpredictability"....

So, you're looking for some law which completely eliminates any uncertainty* of an outcome?

    *uncertainty: "uncertainty is present when the likelihood of future events is indefinite or incalculable."

Or/and are you looking for some law which perfectly defines the risk* of any means to any end?
    *risk: "risk is present when future events occur with measurable probability"


I was referring to the former. There is no stochastic element to the equations that we write down that govern the universe (the uncertainty principle, for example, does not affect the determinism of Schrodinger's equation).

Metsfanmax wrote:
BBS wrote:I am presented with two options on a broad level at this time: (1) continue reading, or (2) ignore your post. Apparently, I have more than one option. After some time of deliberating between the two choices, I chose (1).


[1]Do you really believe this? In what alternative scenario would you have made a different "choice?" [2]If the thought process that led you to the conclusion was based on some series of weighed pros and cons, those pros and cons were determined completely by your past experiences, and if we re-ran the universe again up to this point, is there any chance you could have made a different decision? If not, in what meaningful way have you actually made a choice?


[1]Given the apparent absence of a framework/model which demonstrates the validity of determinism, substitutes must be found; therefore, yes, I believe that.


It is not obvious to me why a lack of proof for determinism means that you made a choice. There are plenty of ways to construct a non-deterministic universe in which you still had no control over your actions.

[2] Sure. I could've thought of something more interesting to do, which I didn't conceive in the original, universal trial. The opportunity cost would've varied, so based upon its value compared to the perceived profit of reading his post, I may have decided either way. Who knows. Also, I don't constantly weigh pros and cons at every time for every decision, so during the second trial, I could've been entirely capricious.

I like the idea of imagining an ability to re-run the universe to test for this, but how is that practical?

If the determinist position relies on imaginary, universal reruns in order to make its case, then shouldn't it be closeted in the Unfalsifiable section--next to God, Thor, FSM, and Paramatma?


The thought process is the same for believers in free will. In order to argue that free will exists, you must argue that you could have made a different choice than the one you did (i.e., abandon crispybits' post). But why should I lend any credence to that hypothesis? The only evidence we have is what actually happened, which is that you read the post. In order to convince anyone that the result could have been different, you would need to re-run the universe with the same initial conditions and get a different outcome. That is, the burden of proof is on you. I have one piece of evidence that suggests that you would have made that choice (the evidence being that you did make that choice) and you have zero pieces of evidence suggesting that it could have happened another way. You can assert that you "could've thought of something more interesting to do," but why should I believe this has a non-zero probability?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby jonesthecurl on Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:15 am

Let's go back to basics: what is the point of asking if we have "free will"?
If it is to get the answer to the question, then I would suggest that the persona asking wants to know the answer.
If you are asking the question, but believe you had no choice but to ask it, it's a bit of a shit question.
I would further suggest that if one has no free will, there is no "one" to ask the question.
Nobody can believe that they have no free will, because by holding that belief they are effectively denying their own existence.
No?
And remember what the poet said – “in booty there is loot, and in loot booty.” Or sump’n like that.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby chang50 on Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:38 am

jonesthecurl wrote:Let's go back to basics: what is the point of asking if we have "free will"?
If it is to get the answer to the question, then I would suggest that the persona asking wants to know the answer.
If you are asking the question, but believe you had no choice but to ask it, it's a bit of a shit question.
I would further suggest that if one has no free will, there is no "one" to ask the question.
Nobody can believe that they have no free will, because by holding that belief they are effectively denying their own existence.
No?


The point for me is intellectual curiousity,the joy of philosophic enquiry.It is precisely because the topic is difficult to grapple with that gives it it's fascination.
Nobody can ACT as if they don't have freewill I agree,but that does not mean it exists or we are denying our own existence.
So far in this debate Crispy and Mets have made the more cogent arguments IMHO.No-one arguing for freewill has begun to explain why the firing of neurons in a human brain is exempt from the chain of causality stretching back to the big bang,which every other physical action is part of.Do the laws of physics as currently understood not apply here?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby jonesthecurl on Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:45 am

Well, at a profoundly fundamental level, if I have no free will, I don't exist.
I rather think that I do exist.
I'm not that sure about the rest of you.
incidentally, I went back before I posted and corrected some spelling errors. I do believe that I could have decided not ot.
And remember what the poet said – “in booty there is loot, and in loot booty.” Or sump’n like that.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby chang50 on Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:59 am

jonesthecurl wrote:Well, at a profoundly fundamental level, if I have no free will, I don't exist.
I rather think that I do exist.
I'm not that sure about the rest of you.
incidentally, I went back before I posted and corrected some spelling errors. I do believe that I could have decided not ot.


Following that line of reasoning,does that mean everything without freewill does not exist,or are you talking specifically about humans,and perhaps some other animals?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby jonesthecurl on Thu Jul 11, 2013 3:29 am

What I mean, is "I" do not exist without free will. There is a lump of meat and brain that fills the physical position that jonesthecurl happens to occupy, but without volition, it is not the person that "I" perhaps foolishly believe to exist. Incidentally, the meat and brain that is typing this believes that it deliberately typed "ot" rather than "to" at the end of its last post. Perhaps it's wrong, just as it's wrong that it knows the difference between "its" and "it's", and uses them in a grammatically correct manner.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby chang50 on Thu Jul 11, 2013 6:16 am

jonesthecurl wrote:What I mean, is "I" do not exist without free will. There is a lump of meat and brain that fills the physical position that jonesthecurl happens to occupy, but without volition, it is not the person that "I" perhaps foolishly believe to exist. Incidentally, the meat and brain that is typing this believes that it deliberately typed "ot" rather than "to" at the end of its last post. Perhaps it's wrong, just as it's wrong that it knows the difference between "its" and "it's", and uses them in a grammatically correct manner.


I can understand why you and others feel the thesis diminishes their personas,Harris mentions this in the video.Personally I recoiled when I first came across the concept a couple of years ago.It strikes at the very heart of what we like to think it is to be human.Yet when you get past the emotional response the science appears sound thus far,although further research can always change things.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Metsfanmax on Thu Jul 11, 2013 6:53 am

jonesthecurl wrote:What I mean, is "I" do not exist without free will. There is a lump of meat and brain that fills the physical position that jonesthecurl happens to occupy, but without volition, it is not the person that "I" perhaps foolishly believe to exist. Incidentally, the meat and brain that is typing this believes that it deliberately typed "ot" rather than "to" at the end of its last post. Perhaps it's wrong, just as it's wrong that it knows the difference between "its" and "it's", and uses them in a grammatically correct manner.


I agree with everything you have said about the nature of identity. Yet that is not a reason to accept philosophically that free will exists. If free will does not exist, at any rate, then my mind tends to be one of the ones that accepts that it does not, and this is OK with me since I am at ease with the fact that I am simply an advanced species of monkey on an unimportant rock in a gigantic universe. If free will does not exist and you have one of the minds that is not at ease with this fact, well, sucks to be you.
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