Half a second to consciousness

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Well something from nothing is simply illogical, how can something happen for no reason at all. As for laws, as noted above even if laws exist there has to be something in the fundmental that is in accordance with rule following.
I don't know why something can't happen for no reason at all. And if you say that a reason is always required, you have an infinite regress.

I don't see how it would make sense to ask how fundamentals work if by "work" we mean explaining them in terms of other fundamentals - isn't this like asking how laws would work in the physicalist ontology?
No, I mean how does it work in terms of behavior, interaction with other fundamentals, descriptive laws, etc.

Though, for example, there could a metaphysical argument on how a fundamental like the Pure Actuality of the Prime Mover is given over, in a limited sense, to agents in Its creation. In this example the Prime Mover, who is the First Cause in the Now rather than the first point in a temporal chain, decides the final causes (telos) of non-conscious entities* allows beings created in Its image to determine - in a more limited manner - their own telos. So free will would follow from a causal model that is derived from elements of metaphysics which starts from accepting Act (Reality of what exists Now) & Potency (Reality of Possibility).
What was the cause of the First Cause?

This is fine, yet still does not explain how the First Cause or derived agents make decisions.

But if the laws just describe what happens, they aren't enforcing that any cause necessitates its outcome. Which just brings us back to causes as dispositions.
But if a group of causes does not necessitate a particular outcome, what other factor "determines" the actual outcome? Why is the outcome not arbitrary?

And if there's a little bit of randomness, isn't this like feces in a barrel of wine - it contaminates the whole? It seems with a bit of randomness you just have a random - meanign arbitrary - universe. (Though without laws, which we know can't simply impose themselves on reality, even a deterministic universe is "random" in that it's arbitrary nothing changes given the causes always under-determine the outcome.)
The universe is at some level random, but the outcomes at a macro level appear to be nonrandom.

What kind of law gives a stochastic average? The limiting case doesn't seem to be very coherent in a physicalist reality? Of course if the simulation is Consciousness Created, it would seem Consciousness is the "actualizer" deciding on what possibilities are made real as well as underlying Time.
As soon as you use the word "decide," you open up the question: How is the decision made?

~~ Paul
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

I don't know why something can't happen for no reason at all. And if you say that a reason is always required, you have an infinite regress.
Not really, there just has to be something fundamental. For the Panexperientialist that's consciousness distributed through creation, for the Classical Theist that's the Prime Mover's consciousness.

But the problem with laws - beyond their being a brute fact - is there's an Interaction Problem along with their being, as you've noted, a description of what happens rather than an explanation.

No, I mean how does it work in terms of behavior, interaction with other fundamentals, descriptive laws, etc.
Descriptive laws aren't normative so not sure why one would need to explain how free will worked with something that isn't a real phenomenon? Though even if they are extant, then it would depend on the principles - for example one might include novelty and the Principle of Precedence (where measurement fixes a reality of possibility) as the physicist Lee Smolin does. (He notes that if he is correct it does offer a pathway to free will though it's not guaranteed. I would say his mistake is to assume consciousness isn't the driver of causation.)

But before asking how free will works one would need to ask how anything works, which gets us back to the question of causality. For if Consciousness in some form or another is the driver of causation some (most?) of those other things follow from its (Its/His/Her?) existence and so aren't fundamentals.

If causation is driven by fundamental Consciousness then asking why things happens and how they interact gets us into things like Process Philosophy. For example I would say, since you need something like Consciousness to have causation anyway, one should look to how consciousness deals with the causal force of past causation. That gets into Whitehead's ideas of a taking in of the past to produce novel results.

What was the cause of the First Cause?
Heh, I get the feeling you've not read the actual Cosmological argument....

So you think you understand the cosmological argument?


Lots of people – probably most people who have an opinion on the matter – think that the cosmological argument goes like this: Everything has a cause; so the universe has a cause; so God exists. They then have no trouble at all poking holes in it. If everything has a cause, then what caused God? Why assume in the first place that everything has to have a cause? Why assume the cause is God? Etc.

Here’s the funny thing, though. People who attack this argument never tell you where they got it from. They never quote anyone defending it. There’s a reason for that. The reason is that none of the best-known proponents of the cosmological argument in the history of philosophy and theology ever gave this stupid argument. Not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides, not Aquinas, not Duns Scotus, not Leibniz, not Samuel Clarke, not Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, not Mortimer Adler, not William Lane Craig, not Richard Swinburne.
Why I specifically noted the Prime Mover is the First Cause in the Now.

This is fine, yet still does not explain how the First Cause or derived agents make decisions.

But if a group of causes does not necessitate a particular outcome, what other factor "determines" the actual outcome? Why is the outcome not arbitrary?
I would say Consciousness, since as noted above you need something like Consciousness to have causation anyway.

The universe is at some level random, but the outcomes at a macro level appear to be nonrandom.
So everything that happens in the next moment happens for no reason at all?

As soon as you use the word "decide," you open up the question: How is the decision made?
You can ask this question about anything that happens - if we use the word "change" we open up the question. Yet if we go by your answer that the fundamental level of reality is random, and out of pure contingency resolves itself into a predictable state for no reason at all, I don't see what stops free will from existing. It's all arbitrary anyway right?

Or, if you say the randomness is constrained (for no discernible reason but brute fact) then you have a selection from a limited number of possibilities.

Your claim seems to be one of those possibilities gets selected for absolutely no reason at all but at the same time you are sure it's not Consciousness that makes the selection.

It seems odd to suggest a reality of pure, arbitrary contingency exists - and is our own reality - but free will is a logical impossibility that cannot exist in any possible reality no matter if Consciousness is fundamental, if Consciousness is the carrier of causation, if a Prime Mover exists, if Consciousness has some deeper connection to Time than usually assumed, if Consciousness is an agent in a higher frame playing through the simulation of this reality, and so on....

I did ask for a proof, which is what one usually expects from strong claims like logical impossibility, but you said you had none?
 
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Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Not really, there just has to be something fundamental. For the Panexperientialist that's consciousness distributed through creation, for the Classical Theist that's the Prime Mover's consciousness.
Why don't fundamental existents requires a reason for existing? And if they don't, then why are you rejecting randomness?

But the problem with laws - beyond their being a brute fact - is there's an Interaction Problem along with their being, as you've noted, a description of what happens rather than an explanation.
I'm not sure what the difference is between a "description" and an "explanation." I think the interaction problem comes in if you believe that laws have an independent existence.

Descriptive laws aren't normative so not sure why one would need to explain how free will worked with something that isn't a real phenomenon?
Obviously I was asking how free will works in terms of laws describing it. I was not suggesting the laws have an independent existence.

Though even if they are extant, then it would depend on the principles - for example one might include novelty and the Principle of Precedence (where measurement fixes a reality of possibility) as the physicist Lee Smolin does. (He notes that if he is correct it does offer a pathway to free will though it's not guaranteed. I would say his mistake is to assume consciousness isn't the driver of causation.)
So what if it is? Why does that relieve us of the task of describing how consciousness leads to libertarian free will?

But before asking how free will works one would need to ask how anything works, which gets us back to the question of causality. For if Consciousness in some form or another is the driver of causation some (most?) of those other things follow from its (Its/His/Her?) existence and so aren't fundamentals.
Possibly, but that still doesn't help.

Heh, I get the feeling you've not read the actual Cosmological argument...
How does it avoid an infinite regress?

I would say Consciousness, since as noted above you need something like Consciousness to have causation anyway.
I guess we've reach a point of no further progress.

I don't care what you call the fundamentals, the prime mover, the first cause. Sure, let's say it's consciousness. That does not in any way address how this thing makes free decisions.

You can ask this question about anything that happens - if we use the word "change" we open up the question. Yet if we go by your answer that the fundamental level of reality is random, and out of pure contingency resolves itself into a predictable state for no reason at all, I don't see what stops free will from existing. It's all arbitrary anyway right?
What stops it from existing is that you cannot give a coherent description of how it might work. I can specify a flowchart as a description of a determined decision. I can specify random events that result in an arbitrary decision. I can do this independently of whether they actually exist. But you cannot give even a simple description of how an agent might make an indetermined nonrandom decision. You can specify various ideas about the source of the decision, but not how the decision is made.

Your claim seems to be one of those possibilities gets selected for absolutely no reason at all but at the same time you are sure it's not Consciousness that makes the selection.
I'm not the one claiming that one of the possibilities are selected for "no reason." That's you. I'm entirely happy to set aside/reject both determinism and randomness as decision making methods. What method do we have left?

If the problem here is that specifying the method would necessarily be mechanistic and the free decision making method cannot be mechanistic, then so be it.

~~ Paul
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

Why don't fundamental existents requires a reason for existing? And if they don't, then why are you rejecting randomness?
Randomness isn't a fundamental, it's just a claim that something is happening without reason.

I'm not sure what the difference is between a "description" and an "explanation." I think the interaction problem comes in if you believe that laws have an independent existence.
If they don't have an independent existence what constrains causes?

Obviously I was asking how free will works in terms of laws describing it. I was not suggesting the laws have an independent existence
Why would there be laws describing it? No God, no Laws.

So what if it is? Why does that relieve us of the task of describing how consciousness leads to libertarian free will?
Depends on the model. Remember, my only question was why free will was impossible. I've already posted a variety of links people can follow if they want an explanation of how free will fits.

What I wanted to know, as I've said multiple times, is why you would say free will is impossible in all possible worlds.

Possibly, but that still doesn't help.
I would think this would be where you posted a proof.

How does it avoid an infinite regress?
Because we know change happens. The argument starts from observing change and then arguing for a Prime Mover. Which isn't to say the argument is unassailable but perhaps it would be good to find the real argument and read it.

I just don't see how a person could know free will is impossible without looking at causal models such as those involving a Prime Mover.

I guess we've reach a point of no further progress.
Well I've been waiting for a coherent explanation for why free is impossible...

I don't care what you call the fundamentals, the prime mover, the first cause. Sure, let's say it's consciousness. That does not in any way address how this thing makes free decisions.
I don't understand how you would explain a fundamental aspect of reality. Your argument was that when I think I make a decision using free will it has to be determined or random, that I have to be wrong about the feeling of freedom.

What stops it from existing is that you cannot give a coherent description of how it might work.
I believe that was the point of the link to the Whitehead essay?

I can specify a flowchart as a description of a determined decision.
But that's just saying "I was more afraid of X than I desired Y so I decided to avoid X even though it cost me Y". That's a post-hoc diagram that would require introspection. Which is a bit odd since you yourself said you don't think we can rely on introspection.

Regardless, this would also require trying to sum up vectors where different vectors representing conflicting aspects of your consciousness. But if we could provide this kind of equation there wouldn't be a Hard Problem.

It also doesn't explain why another possibility wasn't taken. It only seems to make sense because you're assuming the cause from a pattern in time (why certain mental states made you act in certain ways) in addition to the feeling of making a decision, but you've already stated the feeling of deciding is illusory.

This just seems hopelessly muddled to me?

I can specify random events that result in an arbitrary decision.
Well that's just saying the decision happened for no reason at all. That could never be an actual explanation.

But you cannot give even a simple description of how an agent might make an indetermined nonrandom decision.
Pretty sure that's what I did when I noted the Prime Mover grants aspects of its creation - namely conscious agents - the ability to actualize potency via the agents' telos. But then you made it clear you didn't know the actual argument Aquinas made when you asked "What caused God?" so...

And that's merely one possibility, there's also the Whitehead stuff I linked to. But let's recall I didn't set out to describe free will in terms of varied models of causation - I merely wanted to know why free will was impossible in all possible worlds.

I just think it's a bold claim to insist anyone who does think there is free will, or at least that it is possible in some possible worlds, must be wrong. (So philosophers like Bergson and Whitehead, the neuroscientist Raymond Tallis, physicists like George Ellis and Lee Smolin and Roger Penrose and Henry Stapp, etc...) Such a strong claim about an impossibility in all possible worlds would, I think, require an actual logical proof?

You can specify various ideas about the source of the decision, but not how the decision is made.
Not sure what you are trying to say here. If something is fundamental, like consciousness' ability to actualize potency and thus make real a particular possibility from a set of possibilities, explaining it in terms of something else would be like explaining the fundamental constants and laws physicalism takes for granted?

When there are some possibilities, and I think I've used free will to decide on a possibility, you've said this must be illusory. What I'm trying to understand is why this must be so?

I'm not the one claiming that one of the possibilities are selected for "no reason."
Okay, when everything is happening randomly what's the reason? You're starting to get more confusing here, given you just said the universe is random but apparently resolves itself into a state of non-randomness....though in previous posts you've mentioned that at the lowest level of reality there are still stochastic elements...

So perhaps you could just coherently explain what you see as explaining why something happens, and why a possibility is selected from the varied things that could happen?

That's you.
Nope. Never have I claimed in this thread that anything happens for no reason. I merely noted that in certain metaphysical paradigms free will is a fundamental aspect of reality following from consciousness being a fundamental aspect of reality.

On the other hand if you go back through your posts you've said multiple times that things just happen or happen for unknown reasons that can never be explained.

But this isn't surprising - physicalism does, as Feser notes, leave us with an unintelligible world.

If one wants to maintain a defensible atheist position, then, one has to try to make something like D work, as Russell and Mackie (and my younger self) did.One has to claim with a straight face that the world is intelligible down to the level of the fundamental laws, but beyond that point suddenly “stops making sense” (as Talking Headsmight put it).For one has to say, not that the world has some ultimate explanation that is non-theistic, but rather that it has no ultimate explanation at all.And in that case one can hardly claim to have provided a more “rational” account of the world than theism does.
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I'm entirely happy to set aside/reject both determinism and randomness as decision making methods. What method do we have left.
I don't think determinism nor randomness ever described decision making methods (or really anything else in reality). I believe I've said that over multiple posts now?

So it's not a matter of having anything left, it's needing to actually explain causality. And it seems to me adequate explanations of causality don't rule out free will.

So it is possible. Which is the main (only?) assertion I've been seeking to defend in this thread.

If the problem here is that specifying the method would necessarily be mechanistic and the free decision making method cannot be mechanistic, then so be it.
Oh I think mechanistic explanations are rarely ever good explanations. I made a whole Resources thread about that, which includes arguments for conscious entities as well as the rest of reality.
 
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S

Sciborg_S_Patel

It seems odd to suggest a reality of pure, arbitrary contingency exists - and is our own reality - but free will is a logical impossibility that cannot exist in any possible reality no matter if Consciousness is fundamental, if Consciousness is the carrier of causation, if a Prime Mover exists, if Consciousness has some deeper connection to Time than usually assumed, if Consciousness is an agent in a higher frame playing through the simulation of this reality, and so on....
Just an addendum for the interested reader (I know we have some new faces):

if Consciousness is fundamental

if Consciousness is the carrier of causation

if a Prime Mover exists

if Consciousness has some deeper connection to Time than usually assumed

if Consciousness is an agent in a higher frame playing through the simulation of this reality
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Randomness isn't a fundamental, it's just a claim that something is happening without reason.
Why can't uncaused events be a fundamental aspect of the universe?

If they don't have an independent existence what constrains causes?
The behavior of the things that do have independent existence. And when such behavior does not come into play regarding an event, then that event is random.

Why would there be laws describing it? No God, no Laws.
Please don't give me long homework assignments. Instead, summarize what the writer is saying.

Depends on the model. Remember, my only question was why free will was impossible. I've already posted a variety of links people can follow if they want an explanation of how free will fits.

What I wanted to know, as I've said multiple times, is why you would say free will is impossible in all possible worlds.
I'm not really emphasizing that free will is impossible. I'm asking for a description of how it works. Without such a description, I'm no more inclined to believe in it than I am to believe in anything else that someone names but cannot describe.

I just don't see how a person could know free will is impossible without looking at causal models such as those involving a Prime Mover.
I'm happy to read your summary of how a primer mover helps make sense out of indeterministic yet nonrandom causes.

Well I've been waiting for a coherent explanation for why free is impossible...
And likewise I've been waiting for even a hint of a description of how an agent makes a free decision.

Pretty sure that's what I did when I noted the Prime Mover grants aspects of its creation - namely conscious agents - the ability to actualize potency via the agents' telos. But then you made it clear you didn't know the actual argument Aquinas made when you asked "What caused God?" so...
So explain it to me. What you've just done is introduced another term, telos, that seems to hold the secret.

And that's merely one possibility, there's also the Whitehead stuff I linked to. But let's recall I didn't set out to describe free will in terms of varied models of causation - I merely wanted to know why free will was impossible in all possible worlds.
And I merely want a description of how it might work.

I just think it's a bold claim to insist anyone who does think there is free will, or at least that it is possible in some possible worlds, must be wrong. (So philosophers like Bergson and Whitehead, the neuroscientist Raymond Tallis, physicists like George Ellis and Lee Smolin and Roger Penrose and Henry Stapp, etc...) Such a strong claim about an impossibility in all possible worlds would, I think, require an actual logical proof?
I've given my proof: Random means not determined. It's a true dichotomy. At no point has anyone offered a description of a third way of making decisions that seems to break the dichotomy.

I very much doubt that any of these philosophers are going to answer my question. They have and will propose various sources of free agency, but do not explain how such agents make free decisions in a way that sounds like it does not reduce to deterministic and random methods. But please do quote a paragraph from one or more of them that you think sounds promising.

Not sure what you are trying to say here. If something is fundamental, like consciousness' ability to actualize potency and thus make real a particular possibility from a set of possibilities, explaining it in terms of something else would be like explaining the fundamental constants and laws physicalism takes for granted?
I am not asking you to explain it in terms of something else. I am asking you to describe how consciousness chooses which possibility to actualize. It's like asking a physicist to explain how a photon behaves, which they can do to a pretty remarkable degree.

When there are some possibilities, and I think I've used free will to decide on a possibility, you've said this must be illusory. What I'm trying to understand is why this must be so?
Because free will has only two tools: It can decide determinstically (using a flowchart) or it can pick arbitrarily (by flipping a coin).

I don't think determinism nor randomness ever described decision making methods (or really anything else in reality). I believe I've said that over multiple posts now?
A fixed flowchart is not a decision making method?

The problem is not whether free will is a fundamental aspect of some other fundamental thing. The problem is the description of how a free decision is made.

~~ Paul
 
And likewise I've been waiting for even a hint of a description of how an agent makes a free decision.
And I merely want a description of how it might work.

The problem is the description of how a free decision is made.

~~ Paul
Let come back from semantic play and ground this discussion in measurables. There are models for how information can be structured into actual organization in the objective environment, whereby creative action results from "will" operating with degrees of freedom. Determinism is measured in science, as proscribing invariable future results of a specific location/time/state in reality and described as (probability for actualization) P = 1.

A "made" decision or choice is not actually P=1, and is not an observable until there is a physical configuration caused by it. A plan (or target state) is like a message. A message can be fully composed (as a prior state) and even "in the channel" on the way to the receiver. However, the results can actualize naturally - in many slightly different ways.

I could offer as an example a model of an artificial agent making a choice, which would fulfill a definition of a free-will decision. The AI of the agent would need to have a prior database from which it can have developed measurable learning functionality.

Is this line of thinking something you would pursue?
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Let come back from semantic play and ground this discussion in measurables. There are models for how information can be structured into actual organization in the objective environment, whereby creative action results from "will" operating with degrees of freedom. Determinism is measured in science, as proscribing invariable future results of a specific location/time/state in reality and described as (probability for actualization) P = 1.
If you are describing a completely determined event, then these degrees of freedom aren't free in a libertarian sense.

A "made" decision or choice is not actually P=1, and is not an observable until there is a physical configuration caused by it. A plan (or target state) is like a message. A message can be fully composed (as a prior state) and even "in the channel" on the way to the receiver. However, the results can actualize naturally - in many slightly different ways.
Why would you assume that the decision itself is not a physical configuration?

I could offer as an example a model of an artificial agent making a choice, which would fulfill a definition of a free-will decision. The AI of the agent would need to have a prior database from which it can have developed measurable learning functionality.
Please do describe an AI choice that fits the definition of libertarian free will. Or are you talking about some other sort of free will when you say "a free-will decision"?

Is this line of thinking something you would pursue?
Sure thing.

~~ Paul
 
It's an interesting discussion between Sci and Paul... as I've said before, I don't really have a dog in this fight... but I wanted to add some things I've noticed...

If I just accept the labels of 'randomness' and 'determination' (something I don't normally like doing), I seem to encounter the problem that when I scrutinize these labels, the 'randomness' isn't really random, and the 'determination' isn't 100% reliable. If randomness isn't really random (determined), and determination isn't really determined (random)... it suggests to me that both labels are somehow talking about the same thing... and that there might be something else from which these two labels are composed - this something else I find I do not have a label for, or a description of.

Also when you two talk about this issue, it sometimes seems like you're talking about a nice flat surface encompassing 'everything' (or something like that) upon which we all agree. But I encounter a problem that I can only understand this subject from my own observations (my perspective) in spacetime. And I find it far more difficult to understand the complexities involved with this issue, when I add a second observer in spacetime. Even harder when I add further observers. So I at least, can't say whether adding interacting observers might cause some fundamental change in how we might understand this issue.

I've previously touched on this issue myself in a post last year (although for different reasons). That post is jumping off from some of McFadden's ideas, about how we might try to explain the speed of adaption of E. Coli and other simple organisms when transferred to a hostile environment (i.e. their adaption is far too quick, and specific to just be random). The diagram in my post attempts to show that the future, within which as yet unrealised E Coli patterns exist, might add up in the present through quantum coherent interference (might look like backwards causation). Influencing the direction of adaption to a more favorable place where more E. Coli organisms exist, as opposed to future directions of adaption where less E. Coli organisms exist.This micro influence affects the more stable macro system (organism) as it moves through time.

But I accept that this process could just look like it's on rails again. i.e. E Coli's future path cold be thought of as dictated, rather than chosen. Yet it might still be moving through spacetime in a way that is most cleverly dealing with (choosing) way's forward in spacetime with which it might best deal with a hostile environment that exists beyond itself as an observer (a system), it just may be really hard to observe the tiny 'choice' effect.

Alternatively I could invoke a get out of jail card, by suggesting that 'life' in spacetime, may have found a way to consistently interact with small, or large warped hidden dimension/s, that do not impact on, or interact with spacetime directly - such as Randall and Sundrum's models. Possibly through repeating protein structures. And through these protein structures, choice can be exerted. i.e. these hidden dimension/s can intrude through these protein structures into spacetime, producing a tiny effect that tips natural spacetime processes one way or another. We haven't discovered such hidden dimensions yet, but they haven't been ruled out either, and there is a lot of interesting physical and mathematical stuff which falls out when we add extra dimensional models to how we understand nature.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Out of order because I think we might be better off just re-focusing on this:

I am not asking you to explain it in terms of something else. I am asking you to describe how consciousness chooses which possibility to actualize. It's like asking a physicist to explain how a photon behaves, which they can do to a pretty remarkable degree.
Ah, now this is good stuff getting us back to the questions of causality that should precede free will discussion ->

How does a physicist explain how a photon behaves?

But I think it would be disrespectful to not address the rest of the post so Here. We. Go.->

Why can't uncaused events be a fundamental aspect of the universe?
Because it means something happens for no reason at all - that's as illogical as saying Something can come from Nothing. At least if one accepts the Principle of Sufficient Reason. And if one doesn't then it would be difficult to see why free will is a problem?

The behavior of the things that do have independent existence. And when such behavior does not come into play regarding an event, then that event is random.
Or instead of random - where something happens for no reason - in a Panexperientialist or Animist perspective free will is utilized by the things. Or, if there's a God who determines the final causes of things, agents have this capacity in a limited degree whereas mere things without consciousness have their final causes decided by the Prime Mover.

It's all not clear to me what it means to say the behavior of things have an independent existence. Isn't this saying things in themselves have causal power...wouldn't that make it possible for conscious agents to direct their causal power as they choose?

Please don't give me long homework assignments. Instead, summarize what the writer is saying.
It's not a long paper though? However to quote some relevant portions:

I will focus on recent accounts of laws of Nature and describe how the dominant ones fail without the efforts of God; I shall also outline one alternative that tries to make sense of the order of Nature and the successes of modern science without laws of Nature and without immediate reliance on God.
I endorse this kind of pre-Cartesisn/pre-Humean empiricism and I have spent a lot of effort trying to show that notions like powers and causings are not only compatible with an empiricist view of science but that we cannot make sense of science without them. This is a long story. The one thing I should note here is that in the right circumstances powers can play themselves out in regularities. But when the circumstances are not felicitous what happens may be highly variable.
I mention it because you said free will has to operate by laws, but it's not clear to me why there have to be laws at all....especially if the universe is ultimately random and somehow this pure contingency resolves into regularity.

Additionally it brings us back to the paper Causality is Not Your Enemy, noted previously, where causes don't necessitate effects and are instead dispositions. As noted there, if effects aren't necessitated then you can have free will.

I'm not really emphasizing that free will is impossible. I'm asking for a description of how it works. Without such a description, I'm no more inclined to believe in it than I am to believe in anything else that someone names but cannot describe.
Well I've been asking for an explanation for how causality works for a few pages now....perhaps you can see why I doubt the claim free will is impossible in all possible worlds?

Your lack of belief was - if I understood your claims correctly - based on the idea that everything is random or determined, but I've yet to see why I should believe that something happens for no reason at all, nor do I see why I should think causes necessitate effects.

I'm happy to read your summary of how a primer mover helps make sense out of indeterministic yet nonrandom causes.
If there is a Prime Mover, it decides the final causes. But It can grant this power in a more limited form to conscious agents.

There are no random causes here, because every thing that happens derives from the Prime Mover. As noted in Aquinas: A Beginners Guide:

For if God is the first mover underlying all the motion or change that takes place in the world, that would have to include the motion or change that results from our voluntary actions, in which case God must be the ultimate cause of those actions. But in that case, how can they be free actions? Aquinas considers this question himself (QDM 6; cf. ST I.83.1). His answer is that though God does move the will, “since he moves every kind of thing according to the nature of the moveable thing … he also moves the will according to its condition, as indeterminately disposed to many things, not in a necessary way” (QDM 6). That is to say, the nature of the will is to be open to various possible intellectually apprehended ends, while something unfree, like an impersonal physical object or process, is naturally determined to its ends in an unthinking, necessary way.

Feser, Edward; Edward Feser. Aquinas (Kindle Locations 2425-2431). Oneworld Publications (academic). Kindle Edition.
And likewise I've been waiting for even a hint of a description of how an agent makes a free decision.
Well I noted one above and have linked to a few places where there are others that discuss how free will is a fundamental. But let's look deeper into causation below.

So explain it to me. What you've just done is introduced another term, telos, that seems to hold the secret.
This gets us into the necessity of final causes - Why I said that one would have to start with causation. Here, final causation is one of Aristotle's four causes. As listed in Eric Weiss' Embodiment: An Explanatory Framework for the Exploration of Reincarnation and Personality Survival a description of the four:

Material cause is the basic stuff out of which an entity is created, efficient cause is the effect of the past on the entity in the present, formal cause is the pattern of possibilities out of which an entity forms its character, and final cause is the purpose which motivates the entity into being.10 Scientists, though they focus most of their attention on efficient causes, actually do take into account at least three of Aristotle’s four causes. Scientists speak of material cause (the basic stuff out of which everything is made) in terms such as energy and negative entropy, or fields of probability.

Scientists speak of efficient cause as the effect of the immediate past on the present. Scientists tend to thrust formal cause into the background by imagining that all formal causation is the expression of one, uniform body of “natural law” which is the same for all entities and which can be best expressed in mathematical equations which describe invariant relations among the results of measurements. Scientists, however, positively reject the notion of final cause. They want to imagine that what happens is shaped by material and efficient causes operating in an invariant scheme of natural law, but they are adamant in their rejection of final causes. They want to imagine that nothing comes into being as the expression of purpose. The four causes look quite different when they operate in an ontology of actual occasions.
So why aren't efficient causes enough? Because they lead to pure contingency:

For Meillassoux, Hume establishes once and for all that neither experience (which only pertains to the past and present, never to the future) nor a priori reasoning (which can only exclude logical contradictions) is able to guarantee the necessity of causal relations. For "there is nothing contradictory in thinking that the same causes could produce different effects tomorrow" (AF 87). If the prospect of arbitrary change is not impossible, Meillassoux argues, then it cannot be excluded from the world as it is. Where Lewis affirms the reality of all possible worlds, Meillassoux argues for "the absolute necessity of contingency," or of sheer ungrounded possibility, in our own world (AF 65).
I think this is simply illogical, that things happen for no reason at all. Though if one does accept this I don't see why free will is a problem since if contingency is the origin of a reality that resolves to predictability that is still a reality of dispositions. If anything is possible in "sheer ungrounded possibility" it would seem free will is possible as well.

But I think a better explanation would be that there is final causation - a teleology to reality (especially if efficient causation needs some kind of final causation). So the aforementioned Prime Mover - who follows from the actual Cosmological Argument - mentioned above determines the ends - the final causes - of all that happens in the non-conscious world but grants this determination of ends (in limited capacity) to free-willed entities in creation.

Or, from another perspective, we can follow Whitehead's ideas in what Weiss called at the end of that last quoted piece "an ontology of actual occasions". This takes us back to the question of what you need for a cause (thrown brick) to produce an effect (broken window).

As Esser notes you need the following for causation. He then notes, from his reading of Rosenberg's A Place for Consciousness in Nature, how this lines up with consciousness:

What types of properties must things possess for there to be causal significance? In a key move, Rosenberg proposes there must be two distinct (though interdependent) types of properties, called effective properties and receptive properties. Effective properties are the sort we usually picture as having the ability to impact other things (and ultimately on us as we investigate the world). It is argued that physics describes these effective properties. But effective properties alone cannot do the full job of real causation. A property of a thing can only be effective if some other thing is receptive to the property’s presence. You can’t have one without the other. And it is this necessary role for receptive properties that other theories have missed.
Physical concepts are circular- they are difference relations which don’t “sit on” anything else. There must be a wider system of properties on which these differences and relations are instantiated. These properties are called carriers. He then argues that phenomenal properties are perfect candidates to be carriers. Phenomenal properties are differentiated yet qualitative and are extrinsic within a system (their nature is not exhausted by the difference relations in the system). So, it is postulated that phenomenal properties are the carriers of the effective properties described by physics.

So what carries receptive properties? An experiential property. Experiencing carries receptivity. Putting it together, a natural individual is one which experiences phenomenal properties. Each event is an individual experience of phenomenal properties. This is a panexperientialist model, where each event in the world is proto-conscious, by virtue of having some sort of experience.

Finally, how do we build up from this to explain human consciousness? Well, each consciousness is a cognitively structured high-level individual with an experiential receptive field.
An Animist, it seems to me, would have a similar ontology but would simply say each event is conscious rather than proto-conscious. I'm not even sure what proto-consciousness is, and this might be a holdover from Rosenberg's - mistaken IMO - commitment to some kind of naturalism that still holds consciousness as fundamental. (He calls it "liberal naturalism", I believe it's akin to Smolin's "Naturalism II" if anyone has seen mention of these elsewhere.)

The above is why consciousness is the carrier of causation rather than bound by causation. Or to get into Whitehead's terminology of Actual Occasions:

-Prehension is receptivity to effective properties of past events (Events are the fundamental in Process Philosophy).

-Actual Occasions are that which have effective and receptive properties. There are the Events in the above quoted portion ("Each event is an individual experience of phenomenal properties.").

I've given my proof: Random means not determined. It's a true dichotomy. At no point has anyone offered a description of a third way of making decisions that seems to break the dichotomy.
Giving a definition of something isn't really proof that it exists. You've merely said things ultimately happen for no reason at all. Either they happen in a way that breaks with previous patterns ("random") or they happen in a way that is in accordance with previous patterns but without explanation for why something else doesn't happen ("determinism"). As noted above this is Meillassoux's sheer ungrounded possibility where it would be difficult to explain why free will isn't among the possibilities.

As such it's hardly convincing?

I very much doubt that any of these philosophers are going to answer my question.
They might surprise you. I was once a determinist myself after all...

They have and will propose various sources of free agency, but do not explain how such agents make free decisions in a way that sounds like it does not reduce to deterministic and random methods.
It's amusing that you can predict how they will fail - precognition? :)

But please do quote a paragraph from one or more of them that you think sounds promising.
Well I would like to get back to discussing causation - Maybe we can get back to what it means for one event/process/thing to be the cause of another and how that relationship between cause and effect work?

Additionally I've mentioned some relevant portions above - but without making this post go over the limit I will add this bit from the neuroscientist-philosopher Raymond Tallis (From How Can I Possibly Be Free):

That intentionality cannot be understood in terms of the laws of physics may seem a rather startling claim. It will help to explore a very basic example: my perceiving a material object — more specifically, my seeing a material object. If you believe the kind of account that underpins determinism, the light from the object enters my eyes and stirs up neural activity, and this activity is the basis of my seeing the object — and, moreover, my seeing the object is nothing more than this neural activity. But this story is incomplete. For while the passage of light into the brain is an instance of standard physical causation, the gaze that looks out most certainly is not. It is different from a physical causal chain in two respects. First, whereas the directionality of the phenomenon of light passing into the brain is “downstream” from cause to effect (from the object that deflected the light to the neural activity in the brain), the directionality of the gaze is “upstream,” from the effect to its cause (the neural activity to the object of the perception). And second, whereas the “forward arrow” of the causal chain that includes the triggering of neural activity by the light extends without limit forward into the causal nexus, the “reverse arrow” of the gaze is finite: it refers to and so comes to a rest on the object, and does not, for example, refer or look beyond the object to the earlier history of the light.

This “bounce back,” this causal reversal, has crucial consequences.The object that is picked out by the gaze has some notable features, the most important of which is that in human beings and not in any other sort of beings, it explicitly exceeds the experience of it. The perception is not just of the appearance of the object but about the object as something that is more than its present appearances. It is experienced as a source of future possible experiences. These possible experiences have a generic character, quite different from the definite particularity of the items in the material world. Objects of perception open up, and hold open, what we might call a Space of Possibility that exists explicitly for embodied subjects such as you and I.
I think this is a bit conservative, in the sense that I don't think this needs to be restricted to human beings or even biological entities.

Because free will has only two tools: It can decide determinstically (using a flowchart) or it can pick arbitrarily (by flipping a coin).
Well I've yet to think those are the only "tools" or that they even exist. Additionally see below.

A fixed flowchart is not a decision making method?
The actual decisions aren't adequately explained - If you are deliberating something, and spend days trying to make a decision, what explains the decision you ultimately make?

At best you could claim logic is deterministic, but not every decision is resolved by logic - it only pairs down the possibilities. So how is the decision made? To say it's random is to say there is no reason at all. So to the degree its random its not logical at all, and if its deterministic then there's another problem:

Within the context of the rest of the world the decisions are based on the influence of what you called the "system" in previous posts and so aren't logical (in fact logic would have no ground at all:

1. Materialism holds that thinking consists of nothing more than the transition from one material process in the brain to another in accordance with causal laws (whether these transitions are conceived of in terms of the processing of symbols according to the rules of an algorithm à la computationalism, or on some other model).

2. Material processes have their causal efficacy, including their ability to generate other material processes, only by virtue of their physical properties (i.e. those described by physical science), and not by virtue of any meaning or semantic content that might be associated with them. (For example, punching the symbols “1,” “+,” “1,” and “=” into a calculator will generate the further symbol “2” whether or not we associate the standard arithmetical meanings with these symbols or instead assign to them some eccentric meanings, because the electronic properties of the calculator alone are what determine what symbols get displayed. Similarly, neural processes that are in fact associated with the thought that all men are mortal and the thought that Socrates is a man would still generate the neural process that is in fact associated with the thought that Socrates is mortaleven if these neural processes had all been associated with some other meanings instead, because the neurophysiological properties of the processes alone are what determine which further processes get generated.)

3. But one thought can serve as a rational justification of another thought only by virtue of the meaning or semantic content of the thoughts. (For example, it is only because we associate the symbols “1,” “+,” “1,” “=,” and “2” with the standard meanings that “1 + 1 = 2” expresses an arithmetical truth. Similarly, it is only because “All men are mortal,” “Socrates is a man,” and “Socrates is mortal” have the meanings they do that the first two sentences logically entail the third, and only when the neural processes in question are associated with the corresponding thoughts that the first two provide a rational justification for believing the third.)

4. So if materialism is true, then there is nothing about our thought processes that can make one thought a rational justification of another; for their physical and causal relations alone, and not their semantic and logical relations, determine which thought follows which.

5. So if materialism is true, none of our thoughts ever is rationally justified.

6. But this includes the thoughts of materialists themselves.

7. So if materialism is true, then it cannot be rationally justified; the theory undermines itself.
Just substitute any deterministic metaphysics where mental states are based on the surrounding environment where he says "materialism".

The problem is not whether free will is a fundamental aspect of some other fundamental thing. The problem is the description of how a free decision is made.
If randomness can be fundamental, why can't free will be granted the same ontological status? The latter at least gives a reason for something happening by offering Consciousness as fundamental, the former is just a description of causes under-determining the result based on past observation.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

I could offer as an example a model of an artificial agent making a choice, which would fulfill a definition of a free-will decision. The AI of the agent would need to have a prior database from which it can have developed measurable learning functionality.
Sorry you lost me. What about a Turing Machine is non-deterministic? Random algorithms? But those simply rely on there being probability distributions that are stochastic without discussion of metaphysics.

All to say a random algorithm would be just as effective in a Panexperientialist World as it would in the Hyperchaos that the Materialist world entails.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

It's an interesting discussion between Sci and Paul... as I've said before, I don't really have a dog in this fight... but I wanted to add some things I've noticed...

If I just accept the labels of 'randomness' and 'determination' (something I don't normally like doing), I seem to encounter the problem that when I scrutinize these labels, the 'randomness' isn't really random, and the 'determination' isn't 100% reliable. If randomness isn't really random (determined), and determination isn't really determined (random)... it suggests to me that both labels are somehow talking about the same thing... and that there might be something else from which these two labels are composed - this something else I find I do not have a label for, or a description of.
Yeah, I think the words "randomness" & "determination" are just abstractions. If you see something happen enough times you can call it determined, it it seems the expected pattern (based on observations of other process) isn't followed it becomes "random".

But I don't think this is more than observations being labeled, it doesn't explain why anything is happening. I think we're in agreement here?

The diagram in my post attempts to show that the future, within which as yet unrealised E Coli patterns exist, might add up in the present through quantum coherent interference (might look like backwards causation).
Well if there's backward causation I would agree it would have to redefine a lot (everything?) we thought about regarding causation. I'm wary of retrocausality though as I think it seems difficult to square logically. (But maybe I'm just wrong about that.)

But I accept that this process could just look like it's on rails again. i.e. E Coli's future path cold be thought of as dictated, rather than chosen.
My question would be how is any path for anything dictated? This could be physical objects, events, mental processes. It seems to me even observer-relative phenomenon like relativity (and arguably quantum mechanics) begin by observation of simple change. What must any possible world be like for there be causation at all?

but they haven't been ruled out either, and there is a lot of interesting physical and mathematical stuff which falls out when we add extra dimensional models to how we understand nature.
Curious what "falls out"? Definitely an interesting possibility.
 
Yeah, I think the words "randomness" & "determination" are just abstractions. If you see something happen enough times you can call it determined, it it seems the expected pattern (based on observations of other process) isn't followed it becomes "random".

But I don't think this is more than observations being labeled, it doesn't explain why anything is happening. I think we're in agreement here?
Possibly... I only note that things commonly labeled determined or random sometimes appear quite the opposite when scrutinized in the extreme... which seems a problem to me.

Well if there's backward causation I would agree it would have to redefine a lot (everything?) we thought about regarding causation. I'm wary of retrocausality though as I think it seems difficult to square logically. (But maybe I'm just wrong about that.)
I don't think the future can affect past facts... I was just saying the process could look a bit retrocausal... but actually looks more route-like in spacetime (rails)... or perhaps watching where you put your feet.

'Causation' is another of these labels... much easier to explore the actual observations which you want to hang the label on.

Curious what "falls out"? Definitely an interesting possibility.
Lots of things that are way beyond my level of understanding... :) nice article which sort of explains how weirdly large the ratio is between Planck and proton masses... and how weak gravity is.

http://phys.columbia.edu/~millis/1601/supplementaryreading/WilczekScales.pdf

In Randall Sundrum models, the exponentials normally used to hide these unnaturally large numbers actually follow from Einstein's equations, which is pretty interesting, and suggests they have discovered something genuinely new.

Might help on these ideas...

 
There might be hidden dimensions maybe a part of a dimension leaked through a black hole and cause a massive eternal vibration that formed our vibrational dimension. Like the proverbial drop a pebble in to water and watch the ripples. It is possible this leaking of the dimension took some properties of the dimension, but as change went out our dimension developed our own laws and properties also
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
How does a physicist explain how a photon behaves?
This way:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photon

But I think it would be disrespectful to not address the rest of the post so Here. We. Go.
These posts keep getting longer rather than shorter.

Because it means something happens for no reason at all - that's as illogical as saying Something can come from Nothing. At least if one accepts the Principle of Sufficient Reason. And if one doesn't then it would be difficult to see why free will is a problem?
I don't see why there has to be a cause for all events. And I don't see how acceptance of uncaused events helps make room for free will.

Well I've been asking for an explanation for how causality works for a few pages now....perhaps you can see why I doubt the claim free will is impossible in all possible worlds?
And I've given you the flowchart analogy many times. This does not explain the physics of causality, but it does explain how a deterministic decision can proceed logically. I'm just asking for something similar for the libertarian decision.

Your lack of belief was - if I understood your claims correctly - based on the idea that everything is random or determined, but I've yet to see why I should believe that something happens for no reason at all, nor do I see why I should think causes necessitate effects.
Yes, but, again, I'm willing to jettison both deterministic and random decision making. This leaves, as far as I can tell, no method whatsoever of making a decision. You now have a clean slate to describe the steps taken in making a libertarian decision. That is, to describe how an "indeterministic flowchart" works.

It's amusing that you can predict how they will fail - precognition? :)
I've read many articles proposing a source of libertarian free will. Just because I'm tired of doing so now does not mean that I have not done so in the past. Never have I read a coherent description of how these proposed agents make the decision. If I had, I would not be repeating that I have not.

Well I would like to get back to discussing causation - Maybe we can get back to what it means for one event/process/thing to be the cause of another and how that relationship between cause and effect work?
I cannot explain how it works at the fundamental level, just as we really cannot explain anything at the fundamental level. A set of events causes another event to occur. Some events appear to occur without any precursors. Nevertheless, we can derive laws that explain when and how various sets of events lead to another event, to an incredible level of accuracy. Where in these models does libertarian free will fit?

Additionally I've mentioned some relevant portions above - but without making this post go over the limit I will add this bit from the neuroscientist-philosopher Raymond Tallis (From How Can I Possibly Be Free):
"That intentionality cannot be understood in terms of the laws of physics may seem a rather startling claim. It will help to explore a very basic example: my perceiving a material object — more specifically, my seeing a material object. If you believe the kind of account that underpins determinism, the light from the object enters my eyes and stirs up neural activity, and this activity is the basis of my seeing the object — and, moreover, my seeing the object is nothing more than this neural activity. But this story is incomplete. For while the passage of light into the brain is an instance of standard physical causation, the gaze that looks out most certainly is not. It is different from a physical causal chain in two respects. First, whereas the directionality of the phenomenon of light passing into the brain is “downstream” from cause to effect (from the object that deflected the light to the neural activity in the brain), the directionality of the gaze is “upstream,” from the effect to its cause (the neural activity to the object of the perception). And second, whereas the “forward arrow” of the causal chain that includes the triggering of neural activity by the light extends without limit forward into the causal nexus, the “reverse arrow” of the gaze is finite: it refers to and so comes to a rest on the object, and does not, for example, refer or look beyond the object to the earlier history of the light."

I do not know what the "gaze that looks out" is. I do not know what "the directionality of the gaze" is.

The actual decisions aren't adequately explained - If you are deliberating something, and spend days trying to make a decision, what explains the decision you ultimately make?
A stunningly complex series of deterministic sub-decisions and probably also arbitrary choices. There may even be a mechanism in the brain that taps a source of quantum randomness. But I will certainly admit that we don't experience the complete sequence of sub-decisions, which is why I think introspection is not particularly useful.

If randomness can be fundamental, why can't free will be granted the same ontological status?
I'm happy to do so, as long as some account of how that fundamental free will works can be supplied or at least proposed.

~~ Paul
 
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Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I separated this out as an independent conversation:

"2. Material processes have their causal efficacy, including their ability to generate other material processes, only by virtue of their physical properties (i.e. those described by physical science), and not by virtue of any meaning or semantic content that might be associated with them."

This begs the question by assuming that the physical properties of thoughts are independent of their meanings.

Now, it may be that the wrong meanings are encoded in the physical properties of memories and thoughts, So it is fine to conclude that our thoughts about materialism could be incorrect. But this is just as true for any other metaphysical basis of thought. Unless, that is, we beg the question again by assuming that Metaphysic X cannot have incorrect meanings associated with memories and thinking.

Perhaps a new thread about the metaphysical basis of meaning might be fun.

~~ Paul
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

There might be hidden dimensions maybe a part of a dimension leaked through a black hole and cause a massive eternal vibration that formed our vibrational dimension. Like the proverbial drop a pebble in to water and watch the ripples. It is possible this leaking of the dimension took some properties of the dimension, but as change went out our dimension developed our own laws and properties also
Interesting, reminds me of some ideas by Nobel physicist Josephson:


Traditionally in science, specific physical laws are the basis for understanding all phenomena. Wheeler however argued (in an article entitled Law Without Law) that the laws of physics are the consequence of the action of minds (observers) themselves. As will be discussed, proper development of this idea requires consideration of mechanisms of cognitive development. This kind of picture offers the possibility of explanations for certain phenomena, such as the origin of life, and the very specific details of musical compositions, that are hard to understand on the basis of conventional thinking.
A thread about him here.
 
If you are describing a completely determined event, then these degrees of freedom aren't free in a libertarian sense.
~~ Paul
The problem starts with conflating an abstraction (determined) with the states of a real world event. Science measures degrees of freedom in systems - whether they fit with anyone's sacred beliefs. Real world activity can be empirically measured, including degrees of freedom. The amount of determinism - not so much. Here is a break-thru in biology (bio-informatics), as it takes on mental processes. The last comment about nearsightedness - would be of interest to discuss as a biological adaptation.
In ‘Enormous Success,’ Scientists Tie 52 Genes to Human Intelligence

Carl Zimmer

MATTER MAY 22, 2017

Continue reading the main story
But other gene studies have shown that variants in one population can fail to predict what people are like in other populations. Different variants turn out to be important in different groups, and this may well be the case with intelligence.
“If you try to predict height using the genes we’ve identified in Europeans in Africans, you’d predict all Africans are five inches shorter than Europeans, which isn’t true,” Dr. Posthuma said.
Studies like the one published today don’t mean that intelligence is fixed by our genes, experts noted. “If we understand the biology of something, that doesn’t mean we’re putting it down to determinism,” Dr. Ritchie said.
As an analogy, he noted that nearsightedness is strongly influenced by genes. But we can change the environment — in the form of eyeglasses — to improve people’s eyesight.
There is no "one - to -one" causality in genes!!!! There is no determinism in the reality of biological events. High probability - but no magic metaphysical relationship.
 
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