What Most People Fail to Understand about the Concept of Free Will

Discussion in 'Critical Discussions Among Proponents and Skeptics' started by Dillinger, Jul 16, 2015.

  1. Dillinger

    Dillinger New

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    Regardless on how you define "free will," it must be compatible with either determinism or indeterminism. Why? Because those are the only two logical possibilities. (If anyone here believes that there is another possibility, then please share it with us.) This is what most people fail to understand about the concept of free will: If determinism holds true, then every choice we make could not have been otherwise. If indeterminism holds true, then every choice we make could only have been otherwise due to chance.

    Addendum:

    I can restate my argument simply as follows: Our decision-making process is a strictly deterministic process or some element of randomness is at play. (This is what most people fail to understand.)

    Also, I think it is fairly easy to give a rational explanation how libertarian free will can operate. (Libertarianism must reconcile itself to indeterminism.) It's called the "two-stage model of free will."

    "A two-stage model of free will separates the free stage from the will stage

    In the first stage, alternative possibilities for thought and action are generated, in part indeterministically.
    In the second stage, an adequately determined will evaluates the options that have been developed.

    If, on deliberation, one option for action seems best, it is selected and chosen. If no option seems good enough, and time permitting, the process can return to the further generation of alternative possibilities ("second thoughts") before a final decision.

    A two-stage model can explain how an agent could choose to do otherwise in exactly the same circumstances that preceded the first stage of the overall free will process." - Wikipedia: Two-stage model of free will
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015
  2. Laird

    Laird Member

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    Ha, my first extended engagement on this forum was in a thread I started on free will. I won't rehash the arguments and ideas from that thread here, but will simply summarise the key insight I have gained from another which I shared in that thread, and which, I think, makes this exclusive dichotomy irrelevant: when it comes to free will, it is not at all important whether a decision is "deterministic" or "indeterministic", what is important is whether or not it is under the creative control of the agent. In other words, which perhaps won't make so much sense unless you read that thread, if an agent "determines" its own choices, then it has free will anyway - and I don't mean in just a weak compatibilist sense, but also in a strong libertarian sense (not that I think compatibilism and libertarianism are "incompatible" when viewed through the right lens anyway). Perhaps you'll appreciate the thread, which starts off a little haphazardly, hits its straps, and then becomes very repetitive: The (in)coherence of hard determinism as an alternative to free will .
     
  3. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Maybe both? Sometimes determinism, sometimes indeterminism? Situations in which we have no choice, and situations where we do? If you have tetanus, you've no option but to bend over backwards; but if you are exercising, you do. Then there's hallucinations: if you have schizophrenia, you've no choice whether or not to see people who aren't there, but you may well have a choice whether to take a hallucinogen (unless you've taken one inadvertently or someone has slipped you one without your knowledge).

    A lot of the time, we do things automatically as a result of prior conditioning: for instance, reacting to someone who's dressed a certain way may depend on having been brought up in a specific place, West or East. We may think we have a choice about how we react in some circumstances, but maybe we don't.

    How many times can you recall having made a totally free choice, independent of any conditioning? Then again, have you ever been unable to decide and simply flipped a coin? Was the choice in that case fully free? Or would you say that your free will choice was to flip the coin and abide by the result?

    Don't get me wrong: I think we have free will. However, I do wonder how often we apply it.
     
  4. Dillinger

    Dillinger New

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    I don't think the deterministic/indeterministic dichotomy is irrelevant, since that dichotomy is the context in which the "free will" debate has historically been framed. Be that as it may, my argument still stands. Believers in the concept of free will must reconcile it with either determinism or indeterminism (because those are the only two logical possibilities.)
     
  5. nbtruthman

    nbtruthman New

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    It may be neither in some way fundamentally incomprehensible to humans. The "new mysterianism" philosophical position on consciousness may be closely related.

    "(This) is a philosophical position proposing that the hard problem of consciousness cannot be resolved by humans. The unresolvable problem is how to explain the existence of qualia (individual instances of subjective, conscious experience). Colin McGinn has said that consciousness is "a mystery that human intelligence will never unravel"."
    (Wiki)
     
  6. Neil

    Neil New

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    So what to make of many psi experiments where intention appears to play a role? For example, in PK experiments on RNGs, there is an intention for a deviation in a specified direction.

    Perhaps one would say that the intention was deterministic, but if we are dealing with a system that is fundamentally random, how would we explain such an association of a determined intention and the outcome of a random system?
     
  7. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I think that only follows in a materialistic universe - one that is causally closed.

    If conscious entities can interact with the universe, then all bets are off. Such entities by definition, have free will (obviously not unlimited free well) and can do what they like!

    If you start by trying to impose the rules that apply to physical matter - e.g. to a computer - then you have already downgraded the conscious entity to an automaton!

    If consciousness is determined or stochastic, it isn't really consciousness at all. The theoretical physicist, Roger Penrose sees this very clearly - we can't be a mechanism of some sort.

    David
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2015
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  8. Neil

    Neil New

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    I agree, and I think parapsychology will offer ways of actually empirically testing free will. Perhaps variations of precognition will allow testing this.

    This is why I also think it is goofy when people say the concept of free will "isn't even wrong."
     
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  9. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

    Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Nap, interrupted. Member

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    Conscious entities have free will by definition? Where did you get that definition?

    It doesn't matter if it's a computer or a hypercomputer. You still can't give a coherent explanation of how it has access to libertarian free will.

    ~~ Paul
     
  10. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

    Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Nap, interrupted. Member

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    It's incoherent. I'll ask you and David to give a coherent description of how the conscious agent makes a decision in a way that isn't some combination of predetermined and random.

    ~~ Paul
     
  11. Neil

    Neil New

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    It's an empirical question. The inspiration for a test would be the real world type of precognitive vision, where the person perceives something, but then takes action to avoid the situation.

    Imagine a presentiment experiment perhaps that allows one to cancel the display of the image by choice if the person thinks it might display a bad image. If one could show an effect that the person is more likely to abort the display before a bad image, and it corresponds to a presentiment effect, then I would say this strongly suggests a free will that is not deterministic (otherwise one couldn't avoid the effect), nor is it probabilistic, since there is a corresponding presentiment effect prior to the use of an RNG to select the image.
     
  12. Xissy

    Xissy New

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    I can imagine either (1) a combination of random and deterministic or (2) free will a brute fact and/or as mystery.

    1) Things are kind of stochastic. Our history determines the distribution. If I see a delicious apple in front of me, there is a 70% chance for me to grab it.

    2) Our actions are not caused but rather brute facts, at least to some extend (I guess we all agree that our experiences influence our actions). They could be brute facts like moral statements in case of platonism. This reminds me of a necessary beeing / unmoved mover, which just is. This would also be some kind of mystery for us. (McGinn)
     
  13. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

    Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Nap, interrupted. Member

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    Why is that any more demonstrative of free will than some sort of emotional reaction? Meanwhile, I'm not convinced it's an empirical question. If something is not determined then it is random. There is no logical room for a third sort of decision making.

    Sorry, I don't understand. Could you expand on this?

    ~~ Paul
     
  14. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well if you take that viewpoint, what you are really saying is that consciousness is mechanistic - in other words that it fits within materialism - inside the world of AI etc. Because what you are saying is that given all the initial conditions, the action of the supposed free will could be simulated on a computer - using real or pseudo random numbers if you want the case of non-deterministic free will.

    All those ideas fit together, and come together with the Hard Problem. It also opens you up to some very strange possibilities - such as the idea that your alarm clock is conscious!

    The best comparison, is looking at Newtonian mechanics without electromagnetism. The whole scheme is consistent but it just isn't the way reality is structured.

    Genuine consciousness is a new component of reality (at least new as a scientific conception) that changes the rules.

    BTW, your desire to prove that a particular action was taken by genuine free will can never be satisfied one way or the other, because you can always imagine that the decision went one way or the other because of some random molecular motion!

    David
     
  15. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

    Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Nap, interrupted. Member

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    A combination doesn't help one desiring libertarian free will. Declaring free will a brute fact doesn't explain how it works.

    ~~ Paul
     
  16. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

    Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Nap, interrupted. Member

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    Assume consciousness is not mechanistic. Now explain how I make a decision in a way that is not wholly determined and random. I think the best you can do is say that there is some magical third method that you cannot describe.

    ~~ Paul
     
  17. Xissy

    Xissy New

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    @Paul
    So what? A combination helps as both determinism and chance included but the result is kind of both. We could argue if that is enough, sure.

    But free will as a brute fact seems to be a coherent answer. One hypothesis could be that an agent causes a will act to exist, as an unmoved mover. And our actions would be a combination of experiencen (determinism) and such a will act. The interesting question is, if such brute facts exist at all (I think so!).

    How it works is a different question. And it could be quite useless in case of brute facts. I fully accept that we don't understand everything.

    Nevertheless, I think the burden of proof is not on my side. As with consciousness I can "experience" my free will. It could be an illusion. But I don't believe that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2015
  18. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

    Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Nap, interrupted. Member

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    But that's the argument, right?

    Having a will is fine. But saying that a free decision is partly deterministic and partly will just gives a name to the nondeterministic aspect that you cannot describe.

    The burden of proof is certainly on your side, as any philosopher will agree. If you cannot even give a hint of an explanation of how libertarian free will works, there certainly can't be any burden to refute your non-explanation.

    ~~ Paul
     
  19. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well I guess you can call t magical, and I'll call it non-material! You have to face it, if you want to force materialistic assumptions on to your theorising, you will get materialistic conclusions out of it!

    David
     
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  20. Xissy

    Xissy New

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    @Paul

    Sure. Google Libertarianism. There are philosophers out there who define such a combination as "free will".

    You (or at least Dillinger) are the one who equates nondeterministic with random. Call brute facts nondeterministic, if you like. But it's far from beeing random.

    Surely not. I said a free will act could be a brute fact and not a contingent entity/process. It's quite similar to consciousness (and probably related).That's the explanation. To ask for a mechanism doesn't even make sense in this case.

    I doubt that all philosophers will disagree. Take Colling McGinn for example. And the burden is still on your side. You want to convince me that I have no free will, that my actions are either determined or pure chance. But that contradicts my experience! I am not convinced.
     
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