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 Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility? 

Can we have free will and moral responsibility?
Yes 65%  65%  [ 13 ]
No 5%  5%  [ 1 ]
Don't know 10%  10%  [ 2 ]
Don't agree with how the question is presented 20%  20%  [ 4 ]
Total votes : 20

 Do/can we have free will and moral responsibility? 
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Although, like Val, this thread can make my brain hurt, I was curious about
Compassionist wrote:
We can change without requiring any free will. Our desire for change arises according to causality e.g. wanting to quit smoking. This leads to appropriate actions e.g. using nicotine patches.


I'm a smoker and manage the cognitive dissonance with no problem. I don't want to quit smoking, but am almost bullied the very few times I have to see my GP. Although I know it is bad for me and may lead to an earlier death I choose to continue smoking. I have the option to access the nicotine patches et al, but choose not to. I wonder where causality is in that? It certainly feels to me that I am making a - possibly not my best :) - decision of my own free will.

When this thread started I ticked yes, I do have free will. Despite the learned and thoughtful responses here I still think I do....


March 30th, 2012, 10:10 pm
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Val wrote:
I can't keep away. Just to point out that selling a house in Peckham and moving to Achiltibui is a very good idea.

where is Achiltibui? sounds Pictish


March 30th, 2012, 10:11 pm
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Fia wrote:
When this thread started I ticked yes, I do have free will. Despite the learned and thoughtful responses here I still think I do....

keep the faith, Fia! Mind you, I have not yet viewed the video that Emma recommends watching...[later, more than 6 seconds] still don't know what the fuss is about - Emma, to me all this shows is that our decisions are deterministic. Sometimes I think that one's view depends on one's mood or personality. Compo feels enslaved so will never believe in FW, but I feel very free in some way, and maybe that is why I cannot imagine that empirical research will dent my belief that I can do things in several ways, to be decided at the time yet in theory predictable


March 30th, 2012, 10:15 pm
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Fia wrote:
I'm a smoker and manage the cognitive dissonance with no problem. I don't want to quit smoking, but am almost bullied the very few times I have to see my GP. Although I know it is bad for me and may lead to an earlier death I choose to continue smoking. I have the option to access the nicotine patches et al, but choose not to. I wonder where causality is in that? It certainly feels to me that I am making a - possibly not my best :) - decision of my own free will.
Well, you are, in most people's colloquial usage of the term, as well as in a legal sense. No one's forcing you to choose to carry on smoking. You want to carry on, because you enjoy it. Smoking a cigarette is satisfying, rewarding. No doubt it helps you relax, relieves stress. Perhaps it also helps you think, helps you concentrate. You associate it (I'm guessing) with positive things, like taking a break, winding down at the end of the day, or celebrating after achieving something. As well as pleasures of taste and smell, and an almost erotic oral pleasure, it also provides the visual pleasure of watching the smoke curling away. It's companionable; it helps pass the time; when done with others it's sociable. Sliding a cigarette out of the pack and putting it to your lips and lighting it and taking the first puff is a ritual, and you like rituals. You associate smoking with memories — good memories. You associate it with you: it's part of you, part of your way of being, your personality, your style, your identity. Giving it up would be like giving up part of yourself. And not something you think of as a bad part. And although you see the downsides, you're not someone who responds to the reproaches of authority figures, so your GP's lectures have no effect. At least, they don't have the effect of making you want to give up smoking. They might possibly have a slight reinforcing effect, making you more determined to cling on to this important pleasure in the face of nags and killjoys. But in any case, for you, the enjoyment you get out of smoking has much greater weight than the fear of lung cancer, or cardiovascular disease, or emphysema, or bronchitis, or an increased risk of suffering from or dying of any one of various other diseases, or living seven or eight years less than you might otherwise do, even though you are perfectly aware of all those risks, and even though you would, presumably, all things being equal, prefer to live a relatively long and healthy life. Nothing's guaranteed anyway. There are plenty of diseases you could get, or accidents you could have, that have nothing to do with smoking. And even the diseases that clearly are caused by smoking are just, for you, future possibilities. They're not certainties. But your enjoyment of smoking is a certainty; it's real; it's here and now. And your enjoyment of smoking and your addiction to nicotine and your dislike of being bullied by GPs or the government or anyone else are all just as much a part of you, the real you, as your desire to survive and thrive and not suffer. So even if your decision to keep smoking seems to be an irrational one, by many people's standards, including, perhaps, your own, it's still your decision and no one else's. And knowing that it's your own decision makes it feel, at least on some level, that it's the right decision. Image

Apologies if that's all rubbish, and nothing like how it is for you. I was only guessing. Trying to imagine what it might be like. I've never smoked. :D

For me, what is significant in the context of this topic is that the factors that lead to the thoughts and emotions and beliefs and attitudes that in turn lead to your decision not to stop smoking are all ultimately out of your control. There is no bit of you that is somehow standing apart from it all, making an entirely independent decision. So although I think you're capable of making a different decision in the future, I wouldn't blame you if you never decide to give up smoking. And most importantly, I don't think you deserve to suffer for it. I don't think you deserve to get some disease as a consequence of smoking. There are many people who would, though they might not put it in quite that callous a way. They believe that if you do something to yourself that you know is potentially harmful, and it harms you — well, you had it coming. And there are even more people who believe that people deserve to suffer as a consequence of the harmful or potentially harmful things they do to other people. That concerns me. I don't really care whether anyone wants to believe in something they call free will or not. All I care about is the widely held belief that people deserve to suffer as a consequence of the things they do deliberately, of their own "free will", if those things are seen as wrong. I think that belief is pernicious.
Fia wrote:
When this thread started I ticked yes, I do have free will. Despite the learned and thoughtful responses here I still think I do....
Ah, well ... on your own head be it. :wink:

Emma


March 31st, 2012, 12:46 pm
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Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
It has been suggested that the self is an illusion, not an entity.
Two words: false dichotomy.

Emma

Would you like to expand? Do you subscribe to the Bundle Theory of the Self?


March 31st, 2012, 12:52 pm
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Fia wrote:
Although, like Val, this thread can make my brain hurt, I was curious about
Compassionist wrote:
We can change without requiring any free will. Our desire for change arises according to causality e.g. wanting to quit smoking. This leads to appropriate actions e.g. using nicotine patches.


I'm a smoker and manage the cognitive dissonance with no problem. I don't want to quit smoking, but am almost bullied the very few times I have to see my GP. Although I know it is bad for me and may lead to an earlier death I choose to continue smoking. I have the option to access the nicotine patches et al, but choose not to. I wonder where causality is in that? It certainly feels to me that I am making a - possibly not my best :) - decision of my own free will.

When this thread started I ticked yes, I do have free will. Despite the learned and thoughtful responses here I still think I do....

A friend of mine is an alcoholic. He drinks and drinks and drinks even though he knows that it is bad for his health and bank balance. The reason he drinks is because he is addicted. Similarly, you smoke because you are addicted to smoking. Nicotine affects the way your brain works. This is why it is so hard to quit smoking. This addiction is caused by neurochemical mechanisms which occur entirely according to causality. Just as your refusal to quit smoking is entirely according to neural activities which occur according to causality. You do not have free will and you do not have the power to transcend causality. The same applies everyone else, including me.


March 31st, 2012, 1:07 pm
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animist wrote:
Fia wrote:
When this thread started I ticked yes, I do have free will. Despite the learned and thoughtful responses here I still think I do....

keep the faith, Fia! Mind you, I have not yet viewed the video that Emma recommends watching...[later, more than 6 seconds] still don't know what the fuss is about - Emma, to me all this shows is that our decisions are deterministic. Sometimes I think that one's view depends on one's mood or personality. Compo feels enslaved so will never believe in FW, but I feel very free in some way, and maybe that is why I cannot imagine that empirical research will dent my belief that I can do things in several ways, to be decided at the time yet in theory predictable

The research shows that scientists can know your choice 6 seconds before you know your choice. This is observing causality in action. You are in denial about the fact that neither you, nor others have free will. Denial is the first line of defence, so, your denial is entirely according to causality.


March 31st, 2012, 1:10 pm
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animist wrote:
Mind you, I have not yet viewed the video that Emma recommends watching...[later, more than 6 seconds] still don't know what the fuss is about
Note that I wasn't making a fuss about it. I've always been quite cautious about using these experiments as supporting evidence, and I still am. What I found interesting about the video, which I wasn't really recommending, because I find Marcus du Sautoy incredibly annoying in it, were the comments from John-Dylan Haynes in response to du Sautoy's comment: "So that's rather a frightening idea, that I'm a hostage to neuronal activity that's happening six seconds earlier." Haynes says: "Well, I wouldn't call it a hostage situation, because thinking of it as a hostage implies a dualism between your conscious mind and your brain activity. But the conscious mind is encoded in brain activity; it is realised by brain activity; it is an aspect of your brain activity. And also the unconscious brain activity realises certain aspects of you; it's in harmony with your beliefs and your desires. So in most cases it's not going to force you to do something you don't want to do." And later: "If we find that a person's thoughts are very closely encoded in their brain activity, we can't make a distinction between these thoughts and the brain activity. We don't need to assume that they're two separate entities existing in two different spaces. Rather they're different aspects of the same physical process." That's sort of the conclusion I've been reaching as a consequence of reading A Mind of Its Own by Cordelia Fine and Incognito by David Eagleman, which refer to various examples of research in this area. And I thought Haynes's comments were interesting in the light of things you've said before, in the Free Will thread, about free will being a function of consciousness. And other things you've said about the importance of reason or consideration in determining whether, or to what extent, one is morally responsible for something one does. How do we distinguish between actions that seem to have been totally automatic, chosen entirely at an unconscious level, and those that seem to have involved conscious choice? And why would we even need to?
animist wrote:
Emma, to me all this shows is that our decisions are deterministic.
Funnily enough, that's one thing I don't think it does show. I think there's plenty of room for a little bit of indeterminism.
animist wrote:
Sometimes I think that one's view depends on one's mood or personality. Compo feels enslaved so will never believe in FW, but I feel very free in some way, and maybe that is why I cannot imagine that empirical research will dent my belief that I can do things in several ways, to be decided at the time yet in theory predictable
Well, I feel free too, in some senses. I certainly don't feel enslaved. I also believe that I can do things in several ways. And I'm not convinced that what I will do is even in theory predictable, because chaos theory seems to suggest that even a fully determined complex system isn't predictable, and there's still that possibility of the element of indeterminacy in the form of true randomness. It's possible that there's something about my personality that inclines me to believe what I do. But since I haven't always believed it, and my personality has been relatively stable, it seems unlikely that it's a major factor.

Emma


March 31st, 2012, 2:04 pm
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Emma wrote:
And I thought Haynes's comments were interesting in the light of things you've said before, in the Free Will thread, about free will being a function of consciousness. And other things you've said about the importance of reason or consideration in determining whether, or to what extent, one is morally responsible for something one does. How do we distinguish between actions that seem to have been totally automatic, chosen entirely at an unconscious level, and those that seem to have involved conscious choice? And why would we even need to?
those are fair points, and if I said that FW was a function of consciousness I was not speaking very precisely. For one thing, on the point I have made several times about "automatic" behaviour (in the sense of habitual mundane activities like getting up), these do not seem all that "conscious" - that's why we call them semi-automatic (though of course not in the sense that some inorganic mechanical device would be said to "behave" automatically). So I don't think that there is some linear relationship between FW and self-consciously deliberative behaviour, though I know I gave the calm deliberation of a rational person as a sort of paradigm for FW and MR. As far MR goes too, habitual behaviour is I, would say, chosen (because formation of the habit presupposes a decision or in fact several repeated decisions) so one is arguably at least as MR for such habits as for deliberated one-offs.

Lots more thinking on this needed, animist!

When I mentioned "fuss" I certainly did not mean to imply that you personally were making a fuss, sorry. Having met me, you may know my liking for alcohol in moderation, as a result of which my posts are often in a moderately euphoric haze :laughter: :redface:


March 31st, 2012, 2:34 pm
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Compassionist wrote:
The research shows that scientists can know your choice 6 seconds before you know your choice. This is observing causality in action. You are in denial about the fact that neither you, nor others have free will. Denial is the first line of defence, so, your denial is entirely according to causality.
for the umpteenth time, I believe in causality and in some causal dependence of thoughts/decisions/consciousness on the brain and thence the body. I just don't think this invalidates free will and I have no conception of what free will could be apart from this causal nexus.


March 31st, 2012, 2:48 pm
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Fia wrote:
I have the option to access the nicotine patches et al, but choose not to. I wonder where causality is in that? It certainly feels to me that I am making a - possibly not my best :) - decision of my own free will.
but you seem to go along with Compo in opposing causality and free will. If your decisions and feeling of freedom are not caused by anything, how do you account for them?


March 31st, 2012, 2:50 pm
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Compassionist wrote:
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
It has been suggested that the self is an illusion, not an entity.
Two words: false dichotomy.
Would you like to expand?
Oh, I am expanding, daily. To expand on the topic of the self would take a book. Fortunately, one has already been written: The Ego Trick, by Julian Baggini. I recommend it.
Compassionist wrote:
Do you subscribe to the Bundle Theory of the Self?
Not quite. I think the word "self" can refer to a bunch, or bundle if you like, of different processes, but we also have a sense of self, of continuous personal identity, which is, as you'd expect, a sense. We have various senses, in addition to the usual five. The ones that are particularly important in the context of discussions about free will and moral responsibility are, apart from the sense of self or continuous identity, the sense of agency, and the sense of ownership. These are not illusions, any more than our senses of colour, or taste, or balance are illusions. They're just our way of making sense of the world and our interaction with it. They don't give us the complete picture. They couldn't. We wouldn't be able to deal with the enormous volume of information the complete picture would entail. They're selective. And sometimes they do create illusions. But that doesn't mean that they are illusions.
Compassionist wrote:
The research shows that scientists can know your choice 6 seconds before you know your choice.
No, it shows that scientists can predict which of two buttons you'll press, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, not stated in the video but I believe it's 60%, up to 6 seconds before you press a button.
Compassionist wrote:
This is observing causality in action.
What kind of observation wouldn't be observing causality in action?
Compassionist wrote:
You are in denial about the fact that neither you, nor others have free will. Denial is the first line of defence, so, your denial is entirely according to causality.
Asserting that someone is in denial about something is a bad form of argument and very insulting. It implies that, at some level, they really know that they don't have free will but they just can't face up to that fact. And you have no reason to think that's true. It's presumptuous and rude! I get very annoyed when religious people tell me that deep down I know that God exists but I just don't want to accept it. Grrrrrrrr!

Emma


March 31st, 2012, 2:56 pm
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animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
The research shows that scientists can know your choice 6 seconds before you know your choice. This is observing causality in action. You are in denial about the fact that neither you, nor others have free will. Denial is the first line of defence, so, your denial is entirely according to causality.
for the umpteenth time, I believe in causality and in some causal dependence of thoughts/decisions/consciousness on the brain and thence the body. I just don't think this invalidates free will and I have no conception of what free will could be apart from this causal nexus.

You don't think that causality invalidates free will. How is that possible? Doesn't the same set of variables lead to the same choice? Could a different choice have occurred given the same set of variables? I think not.


March 31st, 2012, 4:48 pm
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Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Oh, I am expanding, daily. To expand on the topic of the self would take a book. Fortunately, one has already been written: The Ego Trick, by Julian Baggini. I recommend it.

Dr Susan Blackmore said that the self is an illusion in her book 'Consciousness: An Introduction'. She said the same thing in her book 'The Meme Machine'. She proposed that we are all genetomemetic organic machines for spreading genes and memes. I will try 'The Ego Trick' - thank you for the recommendation.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
Do you subscribe to the Bundle Theory of the Self?
Not quite. I think the word "self" can refer to a bunch, or bundle if you like, of different processes, but we also have a sense of self, of continuous personal identity, which is, as you'd expect, a sense. We have various senses, in addition to the usual five. The ones that are particularly important in the context of discussions about free will and moral responsibility are, apart from the sense of self or continuous identity, the sense of agency, and the sense of ownership. These are not illusions, any more than our senses of colour, or taste, or balance are illusions. They're just our way of making sense of the world and our interaction with it. They don't give us the complete picture. They couldn't. We wouldn't be able to deal with the enormous volume of information the complete picture would entail. They're selective. And sometimes they do create illusions. But that doesn't mean that they are illusions.

The academics don't agree with each other about consciousness, immortal soul, free will, reincarnation, afterlife, etc. I wish we know the whole truth.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
The research shows that scientists can know your choice 6 seconds before you know your choice.
No, it shows that scientists can predict which of two buttons you'll press, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, not stated in the video but I believe it's 60%, up to 6 seconds before you press a button.

Being able to predict which of the two buttons (left or right) will be pressed is pretty impressive. I wonder if they could test the making of other choices. It would be cool if everyone could be monitored on MRI or PET scanners all the time. I would love to see my brain in action inside such scanners. Where did you get the 60% from?

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
This is observing causality in action.
What kind of observation wouldn't be observing causality in action?
Compassionist wrote:
You are in denial about the fact that neither you, nor others have free will. Denial is the first line of defence, so, your denial is entirely according to causality.
Asserting that someone is in denial about something is a bad form of argument and very insulting. It implies that, at some level, they really know that they don't have free will but they just can't face up to that fact. And you have no reason to think that's true. It's presumptuous and rude! I get very annoyed when religious people tell me that deep down I know that God exists but I just don't want to accept it. Grrrrrrrr!

I wasn't trying to insult animist. My sincere apologies if I offended animist. No one has yet explained how one could possibly have free will given the way the brain works and the kind of reality we seem to inhabit. Given what we know about the way the brain works, it is impossible to have free will and I really think that people who claim to have free will and ascribe free will to others are in denial about the fact that our will is not free. This debate about free will and moral culpability is very different from whether or not God exists and the comparison doesn't work. Of course, the philosophical problems of solipsism and simulation hypothesis, etc. are still insoluble. When we talk about a scientific worldview, we take a leap of faith that our percption of reality actually corresponds to what reality is really like. This belief could be wrong. Solipsism and simulation hypothesis can't be tested so we are stuck. How can I possibly know for sure that you and all other living and non-living things are anything more than perceptual illusions? How can I possibly know for sure that my perceived reality actually corresponds to what reality is really like? I know that dogs can smell things I can't smell. I know that dogs can hear things I can't hear. How do I know these things? I have seen dogs follow the olfactory trail and I have seen them respond to dog whistle. Could all my sensory inputs be simulations? Possibly. I can't know for sure. That is why I am a strong agnostic regarding the ultimate nature of reality. All I have to go by are my limited sensory, cognitive and affective processes. We are not even free to think anything and everything. I couldn't have thought as an infant the thoughts I can think now. We can't really be free thinkers given our cognitive constraints.

I am assuming that other people have similar sensory, cognitive and affective processes to myself. That would explain why we can all interact e.g. reading posts and replying to posts. There is no such thing as an objective awareness of reality because awareness, by definition, is subjective. We have the shared subjective awareness that we live on a planet called the Earth in a galaxy called the Milky Way in a universe which came into existence 13.75 billion years ago. This shared subjective awareness doesn't guarantee that reality is really what we individually and collectively perceive it to be. We could all be living batteries for machines as proposed in the film called 'The Matrix'. Enough about reality!

Do you really think that I could have refrained from stating that I think animist is in denial about having free will? Just as you couldn't have refrained from protesting, I couldn't have refrained from stating. It's not animist's fault that he is claiming to have free will. You know that I am a hard determinist. As far as evidence goes, all choices occur according to causality. If a fly or a gorilla or a dolphin or Adolf Hitler or Mohondas Gandhi or Albert Einstein or Celine Dion or you or animist or an apple tree or a bacterium or a virus or any other living thing had my genes, physical environments, nutrients and experiences, it would have been typing these words right here, right now.


March 31st, 2012, 5:21 pm
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Compassionist wrote:
Being able to predict which of the two buttons (left or right) will be pressed is pretty impressive.
I agree.
Compassionist wrote:
Where did you get the 60% from?
My memory. But there's a reference to it in this Nature article: "Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will": "Haynes's 2008 study modernized the earlier experiment: where Libet's EEG technique could look at only a limited area of brain activity, Haynes's fMRI set-up could survey the whole brain; and where Libet's participants decided simply on when to move, Haynes's test forced them to decide between two alternatives. But critics still picked holes, pointing out that Haynes and his team could predict a left or right button press with only 60% accuracy at best. Although better than chance, this isn't enough to claim that you can see the brain making its mind up before conscious awareness, argues Adina Roskies, a neuroscientist and philosopher who works on free will at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Besides, "all it suggests is that there are some physical factors that influence decision-making", which shouldn't be surprising." And that last point is pretty close to what animist has said about it.
Compassionist wrote:
I wasn't trying to insult animist. My sincere apologies if I offended animist.
I didn't think you were trying to insult him, and I doubt that he's offended. :wink:
Compassionist wrote:
No one has yet explained how one could possibly have free will given the way the brain works and the kind of reality we seem to inhabit.
Compatibilist philosophers have written entire books attempting to do just that. Unfortunately, I don't understand them, or what I've read of them. That doesn't mean they're wrong. It might just be something that's difficult to understand. Just because no one has explained it to you in a way that makes sense to you doesn't mean that it's not possible. You're agnostic about things like reincarnation and solipsism, which no one has explained in a way that makes sense to me either, so how come you're not agnostic about some kind of free will? How come it's the one thing you're sure about? I'm not sure about it. I'm sceptical about it.
Compassionist wrote:
Given what we know about the way the brain works, it is impossible to have free will ...
That might depend on how you define free will. Compatibilists define it differently from how metaphysical libertarians define it.
Compassionist wrote:
... and I really think that people who claim to have free will and ascribe free will to others are in denial about the fact that our will is not free.
But how can you possibly know that? It might be true of some people. I don't know. But you can't possibly know that it's true of all people who believe in free will. Again, how can you be a strong agnostic about so much woolly nonsense, and so certain about what's going on in somebody else's mind?
Compassionist wrote:
This debate about free will and moral culpability is very different from whether or not God exists and the comparison doesn't work.
I wasn't making a comparison between the two debates. I was making a comparison between your arrogance in claiming to know what's in the minds of people who believe in free will and the arrogance of religious people who claim to know what's in the minds of atheists!
Compassionist wrote:
Of course, the philosophical problems of solipsism and simulation hypothesis, etc. are still insoluble. When we talk about a scientific worldview, we take a leap of faith that our percption of reality actually corresponds to what reality is really like. This belief could be wrong. Solipsism and simulation hypothesis can't be tested so we are stuck.
No, not really. Solipsism might be logically unassailable, but it's bullshit. It's not worth wasting any time or effort on.
Compassionist wrote:
Do you really think that I could have refrained from stating that I think animist is in denial about having free will? Just as you couldn't have refrained from protesting, I couldn't have refrained from stating.
Ah, but if you really think about what you were saying and how arrogant it was, how presumptuous, how unbecoming a strong agnostic, you might refrain in future. Which is why I protested. :wink:
Compassionist wrote:
You know that I am a hard determinist. As far as evidence goes, all choices occur according to causality. If a fly or a gorilla or a dolphin or Adolf Hitler or Mohondas Gandhi or Albert Einstein or Celine Dion or you or animist or an apple tree or any other living thing had my genes, physical environments, nutrients and experiences, it would have been typing these words right here, right now.
Yes, I know what you think. You've said it several times. Animist is a determinist, too. He's said it several times. He too believes that all events occur according to causality. But he's also a compatibilist. He believes in a kind of free will that is compatible with determinism. Quite a lot of philosophers are compatibilists. They seem to be very clever people, and they have thought much, much more about this subject than either you or I have. They might be right or they might be wrong, but I do not for one second think that they are all in denial. Have a look at a video of Daniel Dennett speaking on the subject, like this one. I don't expect you to agree with him, but surely you can respect his sincerity?

Emma


March 31st, 2012, 6:47 pm
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Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
My memory. But there's a reference to it in this Nature article: "Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will": "Haynes's 2008 study modernized the earlier experiment: where Libet's EEG technique could look at only a limited area of brain activity, Haynes's fMRI set-up could survey the whole brain; and where Libet's participants decided simply on when to move, Haynes's test forced them to decide between two alternatives. But critics still picked holes, pointing out that Haynes and his team could predict a left or right button press with only 60% accuracy at best. Although better than chance, this isn't enough to claim that you can see the brain making its mind up before conscious awareness, argues Adina Roskies, a neuroscientist and philosopher who works on free will at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Besides, "all it suggests is that there are some physical factors that influence decision-making", which shouldn't be surprising." And that last point is pretty close to what animist has said about it.

Thank you for the link. It is fascinating.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
No one has yet explained how one could possibly have free will given the way the brain works and the kind of reality we seem to inhabit.
Compatibilist philosophers have written entire books attempting to do just that. Unfortunately, I don't understand them, or what I've read of them. That doesn't mean they're wrong. It might just be something that's difficult to understand. Just because no one has explained it to you in a way that makes sense to you doesn't mean that it's not possible.

Daniel Dennett is a compatibilist. He explained his position in 'Freedom Evolves'. It didn't make sense to me. It's possible that he is right and the hard determinists are wrong but strangely enough, hard determinism makes sense to me. If you penalise people for speeding, it reduces speeding. This is simple cause and effect. No free will is necessary for this process to work. Why would we need compatibilism? It is redundant.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
You're agnostic about things like reincarnation and solipsism, which no one has explained in a way that makes sense to me either, so how come you're not agnostic about some kind of free will? How come it's the one thing you're sure about? I'm not sure about it. I'm sceptical about it.
Compassionist wrote:
Given what we know about the way the brain works, it is impossible to have free will ...
That might depend on how you define free will. Compatibilists define it differently from how metaphysical libertarians define it.
Compassionist wrote:
... and I really think that people who claim to have free will and ascribe free will to others are in denial about the fact that our will is not free.
But how can you possibly know that? It might be true of some people. I don't know. But you can't possibly know that it's true of all people who believe in free will. Again, how can you be a strong agnostic about so much woolly nonsense, and so certain about what's going on in somebody else's mind?

As I said in my previous post, I am assuming that other people have similar sensory, cognitive and affective processes to myself. Perhaps they don't. If you take away that assumption, it is not possible for me to consider others to be as unfree as I am. I actually feel constrained. I don't feel free. I have to take Seroquel to keep myself from hallucinating. How is this compatible with free will?

It is impossible to prove or disprove solipsism, simulation hypothesis, Maya, reincarnation, afterlife, etc. That is why I am a strong agnostic about such things. I know there are various conflicting definitions of free will. Which one is right? I am using the one that I can relate to i.e. free will is the freedom to choose freely.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
This debate about free will and moral culpability is very different from whether or not God exists and the comparison doesn't work.
I wasn't making a comparison between the two debates. I was making a comparison between your arrogance in claiming to know what's in the minds of people who believe in free will and the arrogance of religious people who claim to know what's in the minds of atheists!

Was I being arrogant? It didn't feel that way to me. It flowed from the assumption that other people's sensory, congnitive and affective processes are similar to mine. Hard determinism is consistent with all I know about what it is like to be me, other people and reality. Once again, I am sorry for causing offence.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
Of course, the philosophical problems of solipsism and simulation hypothesis, etc. are still insoluble. When we talk about a scientific worldview, we take a leap of faith that our percption of reality actually corresponds to what reality is really like. This belief could be wrong. Solipsism and simulation hypothesis can't be tested so we are stuck.
No, not really. Solipsism might be logically unassailable, but it's bullshit. It's not worth wasting any time or effort on.

How do you know that solipsism is bullshit and not worth the time and the effort? It actually doesn't take much time or effort! What about simulation hypothesis or reincarnation according to karma or afterlife? I read 'Closer to the Light: Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children' by Melvin Morse. He used the near-death-experiences of children to 'show' that afterlife exists. I had a near-death-experience as a child. I used to consider it to be proof of the existence of an afterlife. Later on, I became agnostic about it as it is possible that the experience could have been the result of the neural activity of a dying brain.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
Do you really think that I could have refrained from stating that I think animist is in denial about having free will? Just as you couldn't have refrained from protesting, I couldn't have refrained from stating.
Ah, but if you really think about what you were saying and how arrogant it was, how presumptuous, how unbecoming a strong agnostic, you might refrain in future. Which is why I protested. :wink:


Thanks to your protest, I will certainly refrain from doing so in the future but I don't think I could have refrained in the past because the variables were different at that point in the spacetime continuum. What can we really say is true with 100% certainty? I am 100% certain that I am conscious. Am I really a human or am I an alien trapped in a simulation machine? I honestly don't know. I can say with 100% certainty that today is the 31st of March 2012 and I am pretty confident that people who read this post will agree. Are my parents, wife, son, neighbours, etc. real people or simulations? Are you (the readers of this post) real people or simulations? You might tell me that you are a real human being but are you sure? Could all of us be aliens trapped in a simulation machine? Could death be the only exit from this simulation?

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
You know that I am a hard determinist. As far as evidence goes, all choices occur according to causality. If a fly or a gorilla or a dolphin or Adolf Hitler or Mohondas Gandhi or Albert Einstein or Celine Dion or you or animist or an apple tree or any other living thing had my genes, physical environments, nutrients and experiences, it would have been typing these words right here, right now.
Yes, I know what you think. You've said it several times. Animist is a determinist, too. He's said it several times. He too believes that all events occur according to causality. But he's also a compatibilist. He believes in a kind of free will that is compatible with determinism. Quite a lot of philosophers are compatibilists. They seem to be very clever people, and they have thought much, much more about this subject than either you or I have. They might be right or they might be wrong, but I do not for one second think that they are all in denial. Have a look at a video of Daniel Dennett speaking on the subject, like this one. I don't expect you to agree with him, but surely you can respect his sincerity?

Emma
Thank you for the link. I watched it. I have already read his book 'Freedom Evolves' so I am familiar with his stance. I respect everyone's sincerity and respect everyone's human rights. I still don't understand how the same variables could produce a different choice. A choice doesn't occur in a vacuum. A choice occurs as a result of interacting variables. We can avoid speeding because we don't want to be penalised for speeding but this choice doesn't occur free from causality but according to causality. We desire rewards and we desire to avoid penalties. These desires don't arise in a vacuum. For example, I don't play the national lottery because the odds of winning the jackpot is too low. This decision occured as a result of neurological processes which allows me to consider costs, benefits and risks. Our awareness, values and abilities govern our choices. If I were aware of which six numbers will be drawn in today's national lottery, that would reduce the risk of losing to zero and the chance of winning to 100%. In that case, I would certainly buy the ticket with the winning numbers. There is nothing free about this decision making process. My brain activity facilitates this process, as well as the process required for posting this message. If I were psychotic or in a coma, the processes would be hindered. There is nothing free about that either. We can't escape causality and make free choices.


March 31st, 2012, 7:42 pm
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Emma wrote:
I didn't think you were trying to insult him, and I doubt that he's offended. :wink:
correct, I was not offended, but thanks for mentioning it, Emma. It is very difficult when you have very strong views, as Compo does, to accept that others just will not see the truth of what you say :wink:, and so it's tempting to resort to words like "denial". I have done this myself on the thread about Global Warming (encouraged by the fact that Global Warming Deniers is a commonly used phrase), and (though I did not use the word "denial") I said a couple of times to you that I found it hard to accept that you believe what you do about responsibility :idea:


April 1st, 2012, 7:44 am
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Compassionist wrote:
You don't think that causality invalidates free will. How is that possible? Doesn't the same set of variables lead to the same choice? Could a different choice have occurred given the same set of variables? I think not.

neither do I, that's why, as Emma mentioned, I suppose I am a compatibilist, though I had never been interested in this subject as a philosophy student and obviously don't have the knowledge of someone like Dennett. My fix on the topic is that everyone in fact has the sensation of FW and acts so; you called it an illusion or delusion, and you never dealt with my objections to doing this. So I maintain that it is not an illusion or delusion. Emma mentioned the problem of semantics, and that's probably why we continue to argue over this nebulous concept - but one which is important for attributing moral responsibility; and the longer I have thought about this, the more I think that FW may be necessary for any moral judgment. I think it was Wilson who long ago, in the terms of this forum, expressed very well the fact that, from our subjective states, FW is a reality, whereas from the scientific outside, it does not seem to be a necessary concept. And before you say that subjective must be wrong and objective must be correct, I suppose that I think they are both different ways of expressing reality, just as art and literature can be valid ways of expressing reality as well as science and history.


April 1st, 2012, 7:56 am
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animist wrote:
Emma wrote:
I didn't think you were trying to insult him, and I doubt that he's offended. :wink:
correct, I was not offended, but thanks for mentioning it, Emma. It is very difficult when you have very strong views, as Compo does, to accept that others just will not see the truth of what you say :wink:, and so it's tempting to resort to words like "denial". I have done this myself on the thread about Global Warming (encouraged by the fact that Global Warming Deniers is a commonly used phrase), and (though I did not use the word "denial") I said a couple of times to you that I found it hard to accept that you believe what you do about responsibility :idea:

I am relieved to hear that you were not offended. I am still puzzled why compatibilism would be necessary when hard determinism already explains the process of decision making. I define free will as the freedom to choose freely. I don't get to choose freely. I am constrained by my limited awareness, human values and limited abilities. I detest the fact that I live on a planet where the wealthiest 10% own 90% and 90% of humanity suffer in poverty. Every 3 seconds a child dies due to the effects of poverty e.g. malnutrition and preventable or treatable diseases. I detest the fact that pharmaceuticals have patents. Dr Jonas Salk didn't believe in patents. He believed in helping those in need of help. I detest the fact that I can't change the way this world runs. I am a prisoner. I am not free. I am crying as I type these words.


April 1st, 2012, 8:08 am
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Compassionist wrote:
animist wrote:
Emma wrote:
I didn't think you were trying to insult him, and I doubt that he's offended. :wink:
correct, I was not offended, but thanks for mentioning it, Emma. It is very difficult when you have very strong views, as Compo does, to accept that others just will not see the truth of what you say :wink:, and so it's tempting to resort to words like "denial". I have done this myself on the thread about Global Warming (encouraged by the fact that Global Warming Deniers is a commonly used phrase), and (though I did not use the word "denial") I said a couple of times to you that I found it hard to accept that you believe what you do about responsibility :idea:

I am relieved to hear that you were not offended. I am still puzzled why compatibilism would be necessary when hard determinism already explains the process of decision making. I define free will as the freedom to choose freely. I don't get to choose freely. I am constrained by my limited awareness, human values and limited abilities. I detest the fact that I live on a planet where the wealthiest 10% own 90% and 90% of humanity suffer in poverty. Every 3 seconds a child dies due to the effects of poverty e.g. malnutrition and preventable or treatable diseases. I detest the fact that pharmaceuticals have patents. Dr Jonas Salk didn't believe in patents. He believed in helping those in need of help. I detest the fact that I can't change the way this world runs. I am a prisoner. I am not free. I am crying as I type these words.
sorry about the last, and sometimes I feel that I should be using my spare time to do whatever I can to help victims of poverty and oppression, rather than indulging in pointless philosophical debates


April 1st, 2012, 8:21 am
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