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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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Joined: July 14th, 2007, 8:38 am
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animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
How do you know that someone is likely to commit a crime? There is no reliable way of predicting the future. Have you watched the film called 'Minority Report'? It's set in the future where pre-cogs have visions of future crime and the police arrest people based on the visions. I don't think it would be ethical to lock people up as they might commit a crime.

you are right in that, despite the causality (which in fact we agree is behind all human thought and action) it is probably always going to be impossible to predict with certainty that a youngster whose parents are criminal and who has a sub-criminal record of violence and/or thieving will, on maturity, commit a crime. The point is that, if you adopt a penal policy based not on responsibility but on utilitarian considerations of preventing future crime, the temptation to disable such people by restricting their liberties is considerable. You seem to slide back towards a responsibility-based approach by saying that it would not be "ethical" to lock up people on the probabalistic premiss that they might commit a crime (which is what I assume you are saying). Why should it not be ethical if the only objective of public morality is to adjust the variables (to use your favourite word) so that the incidence of crime is minimised?

The problem is that we can't help being ourselves and the choices we make. Why is it that Bill Gates created Microsoft and not me? Causality. Why is it that Bill Gates was arrested for speeding and not me? Causality. If I had Bill Gates' genes, physical environments, nutrients and experiences than I would have made his choices and vice versa. In my opinion, the only reason we would imprison people for crimes is that if we don't have any negative consequence attached to crimes then crimes would increase. I can see that it would be tempting to lock people up in order to prevent possible crimes but we can't imprison people based on probabilities.


March 21st, 2012, 5:05 pm
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Compassionist wrote:
animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
How do you know that someone is likely to commit a crime? There is no reliable way of predicting the future. Have you watched the film called 'Minority Report'? It's set in the future where pre-cogs have visions of future crime and the police arrest people based on the visions. I don't think it would be ethical to lock people up as they might commit a crime.

you are right in that, despite the causality (which in fact we agree is behind all human thought and action) it is probably always going to be impossible to predict with certainty that a youngster whose parents are criminal and who has a sub-criminal record of violence and/or thieving will, on maturity, commit a crime. The point is that, if you adopt a penal policy based not on responsibility but on utilitarian considerations of preventing future crime, the temptation to disable such people by restricting their liberties is considerable. You seem to slide back towards a responsibility-based approach by saying that it would not be "ethical" to lock up people on the probabalistic premiss that they might commit a crime (which is what I assume you are saying). Why should it not be ethical if the only objective of public morality is to adjust the variables (to use your favourite word) so that the incidence of crime is minimised?

The problem is that we can't help being ourselves and the choices we make. Why is it that Bill Gates created Microsoft and not me? Causality. Why is it that Bill Gates was arrested for speeding and not me? Causality. If I had Bill Gates' genes, physical environments, nutrients and experiences than I would have made his choices and vice versa. In my opinion, the only reason we would imprison people for crimes is that if we don't have any negative consequence attached to crimes then crimes would increase. I can see that it would be tempting to lock people up in order to prevent possible crimes but we can't imprison people based on probabilities.
I agree that we cannot help being ourselves, but we can help making particular choices. You do not answer my question: just why cannot we imprison people based on probability? In fact, we do detain or otherwise penalise people on the basis of what they might do rather than what they have done - for instance, detention of those thought to be a danger to national security. And anyway, this is not my central challenge to you: if nobody can help what they in fact do, what is the difference between doing something bad and being highly likely to do something bad?


March 22nd, 2012, 10:57 am
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animist wrote:
I agree that we cannot help being ourselves, but we can help making particular choices. You do not answer my question: just why cannot we imprison people based on probability? In fact, we do detain or otherwise penalise people on the basis of what they might do rather than what they have done - for instance, detention of those thought to be a danger to national security. And anyway, this is not my central challenge to you: if nobody can help what they in fact do, what is the difference between doing something bad and being highly likely to do something bad?

The difference is that those who have done something illegal have actually done it i.e. they have crossed the probability threshold into actuality. That is why we can lock them up but not those who might commit crimes.

You say that we can help making particular choices. How do you know that? Are you saying that I could like mint flavoured ice-cream instead of strawberry flavoured ice-cream? In that case, why don't I? As far as I can tell, choices occur according to causality and free will is imaginery. Can you prove to me that I have free will? Can you prove to me that you have free will? Can you prove to me that anyone else has free will? How could such a free will exist outside the causal matrix?


March 22nd, 2012, 7:57 pm
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Compassionist wrote:
animist wrote:
I agree that we cannot help being ourselves, but we can help making particular choices. You do not answer my question: just why cannot we imprison people based on probability? In fact, we do detain or otherwise penalise people on the basis of what they might do rather than what they have done - for instance, detention of those thought to be a danger to national security. And anyway, this is not my central challenge to you: if nobody can help what they in fact do, what is the difference between doing something bad and being highly likely to do something bad?

The difference is that those who have done something illegal have actually done it i.e. they have crossed the probability threshold into actuality. That is why we can lock them up but not those who might commit crimes.

You say that we can help making particular choices. How do you know that? Are you saying that I could like mint flavoured ice-cream instead of strawberry flavoured ice-cream? In that case, why don't I? As far as I can tell, choices occur according to causality and free will is imaginery. Can you prove to me that I have free will? Can you prove to me that you have free will? Can you prove to me that anyone else has free will? How could such a free will exist outside the causal matrix?

To answer your last point first, if you actually read what I say, I don't suggest free will as some mysterious entity outside the causal matrix. As to proving it, since we all I think have the feeling of free choice at times, it is in a sense up to you to disprove it, which you have not done. Yes, in committing a criminal act, I pass from desire and fantasy into actuality, but this is my whole point - if I cannot really help passing my wishes into a criminal action, why should I be punished more than someone who has these wishes and may act them out but so far has not done so? The only answer is the one that you deny: it is that unless one is compulsively pushed (in the pathological sense of eg kleptomania) towards criminal action, then one decides whether to actually commit the crime or not, and that crucial decision is the basis of moral responsibility and just punishment.


March 23rd, 2012, 8:20 am
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animist wrote:
[W]hat you [Compassionist] say seems to be that punishment is OK and necessary but blame and reproach are not. That does seem pretty close to Emma's views ...
It doesn't seem close to my views to me. :D Of course, it all depends on what you mean by punishment and blame and reproach. But, to repeat what I've said many times before, my stance is that punishment — i.e. inflicting a disadvantageous or unpleasant or damaging event or circumstance on someone as retribution for an offence — is not morally desirable. No one deserves to be punished. Blame is OK, if we're simply talking about assigning responsibility for an action that has had negative consequences. Where I'm uncomfortable with blame is where it is seen as a justification for punishment in the sense I've just used, whether that punishment is formal or informal. Reproach, where it is simply the expression of hurt or anger or disapproval at someone's behaviour, is OK, and indeed necessary, I believe. If people do things that harm others, then at the very least they need to know that, and understand it, if possible. So, they need to be blamed, in the sense of being identified as responsible for particular harmful act, and reproached, in the sense of hearing the expressions of hurt, anger or disapproval from those who have been harmed by their actions, or from others on their behalf. And they need to be prevented from doing those things again, if at all possible. Let's call that correction, for the time being, to distinguish it from punishment as I've used the word above. I think we need to find ways to correct people's harmful behaviour that involves causing them the least possible harm. In some cases, causing them harm is unavoidable if we want significantly to reduce the chances that they will cause greater harm to others. But we need to be sure that we don't do things that actually increase the likelihood that they will harm others. At the moment, I think that some of the things we call punishment, including locking people up, in some cases very probably do just that. Still, I accept that there will be cases where locking people up is necessary, and on balance reduces harm.

Yes, this does seem to be a very utilitarian approach. But it is not purely utilitarian. It also incorporates an egalitarian, rights-based convention, that if someone fails to respect the rights of others then that weakens their claim to have their own rights fully respected. Though only in so far as is necessary to reduce harm, and no more. This is not a matter of retribution; it's a matter of consistency. If rights are claimed, they need to be respected. If they are not respected, what is the basis for the claim?
animist wrote:
The other thing that occurs to me is that this very calculating utilitarian approach to punishment seems to justify preventive punishment; if someone is likely to commit a serious crime but has not, why not just lock them up? It seems unjust, but then if they had actually committed the crime this would not be their fault because it was really the causes wot done it, not their free will - is that what you think?
Just as I don't think someone deserves to be punished if he or she has committed a crime, I also don't think someone deserves to be punished if he or she hasn't committed a crime but is merely considered to be "likely" to do so. Actually, there's a lot to be said for ... um, let's call it "preemptive correction", even though it sounds just as sinister as "preventive punishment" — for doing things that will reduce the chances of serious crimes being committed in the future, by people who have not yet committed even one serious crime. I think it's something we should try to do — with a great deal of care. We should try to reduce those troublesome criminogenic factors. In some circumstances, perhaps, if the likelihood of harm is so high as to amount to certainty, then preemptive correction might possibly entail loss of liberty for an individual. Well, that happens already: we lock people up because we think they are likely to cause serious injury to themselves or to others. Though we call it sectioning, not punishment. And of course we had control orders, now rebranded as terrorist, prevention and investigation measures. But these things are seriously problematic, because if someone hasn't yet done anything harmful, hasn't yet failed to respect the rights of others, then their own claims to have their rights respected are still strong. So we need to have powerful evidence. And it's hard to imagine how we might have powerful evidence that doesn't actually amount to evidence of conspiracy to commit a crime, which is itself already a crime.

But assuming that there might be such circumstances (while not yet being able to imagine them), we would still need to be sure that what we were doing would reduce the likelihood of harm being caused, and not increase it. In my view, locking up everyone who is assessed to be "likely to commit a serious crime" would most probably cause an awful lot of harm in the long term. I think it would reduce respect for the rights of others, and increase anti-social and pro-criminal attitudes. It would vastly increase the prison population, introducing those who have merely thought about doing harm to those who have actually done harm, and who might be able to give them pointers, and useful connections.

I believe there are effective methods of preemptive correction already available, and I suspect there will be more effective ones in the future. But I wouldn't call them that. :D

Emma


March 24th, 2012, 5:13 pm
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animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
animist wrote:
I agree that we cannot help being ourselves, but we can help making particular choices. You do not answer my question: just why cannot we imprison people based on probability? In fact, we do detain or otherwise penalise people on the basis of what they might do rather than what they have done - for instance, detention of those thought to be a danger to national security. And anyway, this is not my central challenge to you: if nobody can help what they in fact do, what is the difference between doing something bad and being highly likely to do something bad?

The difference is that those who have done something illegal have actually done it i.e. they have crossed the probability threshold into actuality. That is why we can lock them up but not those who might commit crimes.

You say that we can help making particular choices. How do you know that? Are you saying that I could like mint flavoured ice-cream instead of strawberry flavoured ice-cream? In that case, why don't I? As far as I can tell, choices occur according to causality and free will is imaginery. Can you prove to me that I have free will? Can you prove to me that you have free will? Can you prove to me that anyone else has free will? How could such a free will exist outside the causal matrix?

To answer your last point first, if you actually read what I say, I don't suggest free will as some mysterious entity outside the causal matrix. As to proving it, since we all I think have the feeling of free choice at times, it is in a sense up to you to disprove it, which you have not done. Yes, in committing a criminal act, I pass from desire and fantasy into actuality, but this is my whole point - if I cannot really help passing my wishes into a criminal action, why should I be punished more than someone who has these wishes and may act them out but so far has not done so? The only answer is the one that you deny: it is that unless one is compulsively pushed (in the pathological sense of eg kleptomania) towards criminal action, then one decides whether to actually commit the crime or not, and that crucial decision is the basis of moral responsibility and just punishment.

I can't relate to your claim (in bold) that we all have the feeling of free choice at times. I constantly feel trapped in a life I wish I wasn't born into. I have had lots of awful experiences I was not free to prevent e.g. being beaten severely for no good reason, being raped, watching people kill each other, being lied to and being lied about, being robbed, failing exams, being in bike, motorbike, car, bus and train crashes, being delusional, being psychotic, being tearful, being depressed, being hypomanic, etc. So, it is up to you to prove to me the existence of this 'free choice' you speak of.


March 24th, 2012, 7:27 pm
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The fact that you can't relate to another's feeling of free choice is your problem Compassionist. From what you tell us you have experienced quite a bit of brute luck, but that is exactly what it is, and you have had the hard end of the stick. No amount of casuistry on your part about fate and causality will get round this matter. We feel that we are free because we are free at certain levels, in which luck plays its part. And that's a very human trait, one that can be overplayed or downplayed. We may spend a proportion of our daily living trying to ensure that shit doesn't happen but somewhere along the line we get dumped on. I'm being rather idiomatic here but I hope that I make my point. Part of the small freedoms we all have is to accentuate the positive, otherwise a bad day don't end. Humanism is one such positive attitude, a recognition that our appreciation of how evolution works, how society is constructed, big picture stuff, helps to work with the small picture daily business of personal freedoms. Why would you want it otherwise? Even grief can be overcome in time. So stop brooding unhealthily on the negatives Compassionate. Celebrate the small victories in life. For inspiration I recommend a Life of David Hume, who in most things was truly compassionate.


March 25th, 2012, 8:28 am
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phalarope wrote:
The fact that you can't relate to another's feeling of free choice is your problem Compassionist. From what you tell us you have experienced quite a bit of brute luck, but that is exactly what it is, and you have had the hard end of the stick. No amount of casuistry on your part about fate and causality will get round this matter. We feel that we are free because we are free at certain levels, in which luck plays its part. And that's a very human trait, one that can be overplayed or downplayed. We may spend a proportion of our daily living trying to ensure that shit doesn't happen but somewhere along the line we get dumped on. I'm being rather idiomatic here but I hope that I make my point. Part of the small freedoms we all have is to accentuate the positive, otherwise a bad day don't end. Humanism is one such positive attitude, a recognition that our appreciation of how evolution works, how society is constructed, big picture stuff, helps to work with the small picture daily business of personal freedoms. Why would you want it otherwise? Even grief can be overcome in time. So stop brooding unhealthily on the negatives Compassionate. Celebrate the small victories in life. For inspiration I recommend a Life of David Hume, who in most things was truly compassionate.

What is it like to be you? Or to be a bat or a dolphin or a whale or a chimp or another human? I don't know. I don't feel free. I am glad that you seem to feel free. I can't relate to such a feeling. I feel trapped by existence. I do try to focus on the positive and take constructive actions to make life better despite the unfairness and suffeuring life is full of. This attempt is not free from causality, it is the result of causality. I don't think I or anyone else could have made different choices in the past. How would that work? The variables which govern each choice would need to differ in order to produce a different choice. How could I or you or anyone else have made a different choice given the same variables? It's impossible. How could anyone transcend the constraints of causality? What would be the mechanism of such freedom? How could anyone have this freedom? I really don't see how that would be possible.


March 25th, 2012, 7:47 pm
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Compo, I agree with most of Phalarope's remarks, though I am very sorry that your life has been so unhappy and unfree. But if you remember, a week or so back you denied even that you were "free" to use your computer to send posts to TH. You must surely at least have the sensation of free will over such actions?


March 26th, 2012, 2:03 pm
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animist wrote:
Compo, I agree with most of Phalarope's remarks, though I am very sorry that your life has been so unhappy and unfree. But if you remember, a week or so back you denied even that you were "free" to use your computer to send posts to TH. You must surely at least have the sensation of free will over such actions?

Thank you animist. I have adapted to the vagaries of life, so. don't worry about me. In an earlier post what I had said was:
Quote:
I didn't say that choices are predetermined. I said that choices occur according to causality. This is a live dynamic determination by the interaction of variables. For example, if you hadn't posted your message, I would not have been posting this reply. So, your post is the cause and my reply is the effect. Am I free to reply? I wasn't free to reply until this point in the space-time continuum. I am free to reply now but not before and not later. Causality rules the small scale, as well as the large scale. Our choices don't occur outside the flow of causality but according to it.


I stand by what I said then. Also, in my previous post in this thread I had said:
Quote:
I don't think I or anyone else could have made different choices in the past. How would that work? The variables which govern each choice would need to differ in order to produce a different choice. How could I or you or anyone else have made a different choice given the same variables? It's impossible. How could anyone transcend the constraints of causality? What would be the mechanism of such freedom? How could anyone have this freedom? I really don't see how that would be possible.


Do you understand how a choice arises as a result of interacting variables? Aren't all choices inevitable given the mechanism by which they arise? No one has explained how anyone could have made a different choice given the same variables. That's because such a thing is impossible. Wouldn't your choices have been mine if I had your genes, physical environments, nutrients and experiences? The mechanisms of causality doesn't permit any extra-causal freedom. :D


March 27th, 2012, 9:30 am
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Compassionist wrote:
The mechanisms of causality doesn't permit any extra-causal freedom. :D
Yes, quite. But animist is not claiming that there is such a thing as extra-causal freedom. What he's saying, I believe, is that there is another kind of freedom that means that we have moral responsibility for our actions. Or at least some of them, some of the time. And although I don't entirely agree with him, I don't entirely agree with you either. Because if there is no such thing as extra-causal freedom, if it's a logical impossibility, then it makes no sense to me to talk of being trapped or imprisoned by causality. If one is a prisoner, then there is an outside world that one can at least imagine escaping to. But there is nothing outside the causal universe. It's all there is.

And yet freedom has a meaning to so many of us, perhaps all of us. It has a meaning to us even if we don't feel free. There is a difference between doing something because you have been forced to do it by someone, and doing it because you want to do it. The fact that your want has been causally determined doesn't eliminate that difference, doesn't make all actions equally unfree.

Causality is just the way the universe works. It doesn't imprison us. It creates us. It makes us us. We are, if you like, the products of causality, rather than its prisoners. The things that constrain us are also products of causality. The circumstances and events of our lives are causally determined (or at least, almost entirely determined) by the variables you talk about, various external and internal factors, some of which are outside our control in all senses of the word, and all of which are, ultimately, causally determined by things outside our control. Animist has picked up on my use of the word "ultimately" here, and I think he's right to do that. There is a distinction between ultimate and proximate cause. Our own behaviour is causally determined, proximately, by the abilities and limitations of our own bodies, by our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, desires, perceptions, interpretations, memories and imaginations, and these things are part of us; they constitute our "selves". Yes, they are all ultimately determined by things outside our control. And in my view that is why we don't deserve to be punished for them. But since we experience them as part of our selves, then most of us are able, at least some of the time, to feel that we are free to act according to our own "will". I'm not talking about "free will" in the philosophical sense here, just the common or garden kind of will, constituting our desires, our wants, our appetites, our preferences, both conscious and unconscious. When we feel free, it tends to mean that we are able to act in ways that are reasonably consistent with those desires, wants, appetites, preferences. No, wait. It's more complicated than that. When we feel free, it tends to mean that we are able to act in ways that are reasonably consistent with our conscious desires, wants and preferences. But when our actions seem to be controlled by our appetites, despite our conscious desires, then we feel less free. We talk about being "slaves to our appetites".

What is important, I think, is that there is no single unchanging self with a single set of consistent and constant desires, wants, appetites and preferences. Such things tend to be conflicting and fluctuating. And often we act in ways that satisfy some while thwarting others. When we make a decision, even one about something fairly simple and mundane in our lives, it seems to me that there’s often a bit of a battle going on. What I'm beginning to think now is that it is possible to learn to become more aware of that battle and to become more consciously involved in it. If we have a strong desire — say, to live as good, long and happy a life as we can — then we can learn ways to improve the chances of that desire winning battles with, say, our immediate appetites. Yes, the presence and strength of that desire and our ability to learn ways of giving it priority are causally determined. But that doesn't alter our experience of freedom.

And I'm not just talking about those of us who are fortunate in their circumstances. I think it is possible to be severely constrained by one's circumstances, and yet still feel free. And that feeling of freedom is not an illusion. Because extra-causal freedom is an impossibility, there's no point in comparing the freedom we experience with that impossibility, and deciding that it doesn't measure up. That would be like comparing the love we experience with some romantic ideal of "true" love, and deciding that it doesn't measure up. Or comparing the happiness we experience with some concept of perfect bliss, and deciding that it doesn't measure up. It's worse than pointless; it's damaging, it's destructive. The freedom we experience, like love and happiness, is good. We need to enjoy it when we can, and find ways of getting more of it!

Hallelujah, and amen! :D

Emma


March 27th, 2012, 12:11 pm
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this is just a Julian Baggini books essay but it touches some issues:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/caa4f212-688b ... z1qKfsmtLR


March 27th, 2012, 4:49 pm
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Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
The mechanisms of causality doesn't permit any extra-causal freedom. :D
Yes, quite. But animist is not claiming that there is such a thing as extra-causal freedom. What he's saying, I believe, is that there is another kind of freedom that means that we have moral responsibility for our actions. Or at least some of them, some of the time. And although I don't entirely agree with him, I don't entirely agree with you either. Because if there is no such thing as extra-causal freedom, if it's a logical impossibility, then it makes no sense to me to talk of being trapped or imprisoned by causality. If one is a prisoner, then there is an outside world that one can at least imagine escaping to. But there is nothing outside the causal universe. It's all there is.

How do you know that the causal universe is all there is? I am a strong agnostic regarding the ultimate nature of reality. It is entirely possible that there are an infinite number of universes in the omniverse and all possibilities are actualised in these infinite number of universes.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
And yet freedom has a meaning to so many of us, perhaps all of us. It has a meaning to us even if we don't feel free. There is a difference between doing something because you have been forced to do it by someone, and doing it because you want to do it. The fact that your want has been causally determined doesn't eliminate that difference, doesn't make all actions equally unfree.

I agree that there is a relative freedom e.g. I am more free outside a jail than I would be inside a jail. However, both circumstances are products of causality. What I find frustrating is that the relative freedom we have doesn't allow us to prevent all suffering. Of course, we can prevent some negatives. That too is according to causality. What we do and do not do are entirely the products of causality. My point is that each of our choices could not have been any different given the same variables. That is why it is unjustifiable to hold living things morally culpable. Living things are no more culpable than lightning or earthquake or tornedo. If we could imprison or terminate earthquakes, we would - not because an earthquake is morally culpable but because it causes destruction, suffering and death.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Causality is just the way the universe works. It doesn't imprison us. It creates us. It makes us us. We are, if you like, the products of causality, rather than its prisoners. The things that constrain us are also products of causality. The circumstances and events of our lives are causally determined (or at least, almost entirely determined) by the variables you talk about, various external and internal factors, some of which are outside our control in all senses of the word, and all of which are, ultimately, causally determined by things outside our control.

We are both products and prisoners of causality. The fact that we cannot set ourselves free from the causal constraints of our existence shows that we are prisoners of causality. The fact that we didn't even choose to come into existence also shows that we are prisoners of causality.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Animist has picked up on my use of the word "ultimately" here, and I think he's right to do that. There is a distinction between ultimate and proximate cause. Our own behaviour is causally determined, proximately, by the abilities and limitations of our own bodies, by our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, desires, perceptions, interpretations, memories and imaginations, and these things are part of us; they constitute our "selves". Yes, they are all ultimately determined by things outside our control. And in my view that is why we don't deserve to be punished for them. But since we experience them as part of our selves, then most of us are able, at least some of the time, to feel that we are free to act according to our own "will". I'm not talking about "free will" in the philosophical sense here, just the common or garden kind of will, constituting our desires, our wants, our appetites, our preferences, both conscious and unconscious. When we feel free, it tends to mean that we are able to act in ways that are reasonably consistent with those desires, wants, appetites, preferences. No, wait. It's more complicated than that. When we feel free, it tends to mean that we are able to act in ways that are reasonably consistent with our conscious desires, wants and preferences. But when our actions seem to be controlled by our appetites, despite our conscious desires, then we feel less free. We talk about being "slaves to our appetites".
Whether we are masters of delayed gratification or an impulsive instant gratifier, we are still prisoners of causality. It is possible to train people, just as it is possible to train puppies. The degree of trainabilility depends on causality. There are people who are genetically suited to be sprinters. Training such people would produce much better sprinters than training average people. I agree with what you said about 'feeling free' and 'feeling less free' regarding our conscious desires. That doesn't make us morally culpable. Some of us might be quick to anger while others are slow to anger. Some of us might be better at delaying gratification. The fact that some are better at self-control is entirely according to causality. Given the same variables, the same choices would occur. That is why people and other living things should not be labelled morally culpable.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
What is important, I think, is that there is no single unchanging self with a single set of consistent and constant desires, wants, appetites and preferences. Such things tend to be conflicting and fluctuating. And often we act in ways that satisfy some while thwarting others. When we make a decision, even one about something fairly simple and mundane in our lives, it seems to me that there’s often a bit of a battle going on. What I'm beginning to think now is that it is possible to learn to become more aware of that battle and to become more consciously involved in it. If we have a strong desire — say, to live as good, long and happy a life as we can — then we can learn ways to improve the chances of that desire winning battles with, say, our immediate appetites. Yes, the presence and strength of that desire and our ability to learn ways of giving it priority are causally determined. But that doesn't alter our experience of freedom.

I agree that we can learn ways to improve the chance of living good, long and happy lives. This occurs according to causality. Some are better at learning than others. Our experience of 'freedom' is limited. For example, no one is holding a gun to my head and saying that I must reply to your post. Yet, I feel the urge to reply. I feel compelled to argue my point that it is impossible for someone to have acted differently given that same variables.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
And I'm not just talking about those of us who are fortunate in their circumstances. I think it is possible to be severely constrained by one's circumstances, and yet still feel free. And that feeling of freedom is not an illusion. Because extra-causal freedom is an impossibility, there's no point in comparing the freedom we experience with that impossibility, and deciding that it doesn't measure up. That would be like comparing the love we experience with some romantic ideal of "true" love, and deciding that it doesn't measure up. Or comparing the happiness we experience with some concept of perfect bliss, and deciding that it doesn't measure up. It's worse than pointless; it's damaging, it's destructive. The freedom we experience, like love and happiness, is good. We need to enjoy it when we can, and find ways of getting more of it!

It is impossible for me to teleport from one place to another at will. It doesn't mean there is no point in comparing walking with teleporting just because I can't teleport. I wrote a short story called "Omniverse Forever" where the protagonist is omnipotent and is able to prevent all suffering and unfairness throughout the omniverse which consists of an infinite number of universes. The scenario is impossible for me in this life but I had fun fantasising. Just because extra-causal freedom is impossible for us, it doesn't mean it is pointless to imagine such extra-causal freedom.


March 27th, 2012, 7:13 pm
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animist wrote:
this is just a Julian Baggini books essay but it touches some issues:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/caa4f212-688b ... z1qKfsmtLR

Many thanks for the link. I loved reading the article. I knew from my prior readings in neuroscience about the experiments of Benjamin Libet which showed that
Quote:
"some moments before you are aware of what you will do next ... your brain has already determined what you will do. You then become conscious of this ‘decision’ and believe that you are in the process of making it."


March 27th, 2012, 7:47 pm
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You seem to be lost in a maze of dualist events within the brain, as if awareness were somehow separate from the 'determined' brain with a life of its own, awareness as a catch up process after the event. Is your brain somehow separate from you? Are you brain free? Does your brain operate separately from itself like the 'ghost' of that part that is 'determined'? The brain in the vat? You seem to be arguing that the brain is 'unfree' one moment, and determined, and that the next moment the brain is somehow freed, undetermined, to be aware of its unfreedom. Oi already!


March 28th, 2012, 7:29 am
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phalarope wrote:
You seem to be lost in a maze of dualist events within the brain, as if awareness were somehow separate from the 'determined' brain with a life of its own, awareness as a catch up process after the event. Is your brain somehow separate from you? Are you brain free? Does your brain operate separately from itself like the 'ghost' of that part that is 'determined'? The brain in the vat? You seem to be arguing that the brain is 'unfree' one moment, and determined, and that the next moment the brain is somehow freed, undetermined, to be aware of its unfreedom. Oi already!

I am not lost. I have never claimed to be a dualist. I am a monist who subscribes to the bundle theory of the self. I am also a strong agnostic regarding the ultimate nature of reality and deities as there are many things we cannot know e.g. Maya and Simulation Hypothesis are untestable. I am also a hard determinist. Choices occur according to causality. Given identical variables, identical choices will occur. There is no room for free will and personal culpability. I am also an ex-Muslim ex-Christian Compassionist Humanist. If you or anyone else had my genes, physical environments, nutrients and experiences, you would have been me and vice versa. We are all products and prisoners of causality and are, therefore, morally neutral.


March 28th, 2012, 4:28 pm
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Compassionist wrote:
How do you know that the causal universe is all there is? I am a strong agnostic regarding the ultimate nature of reality. It is entirely possible that there are an infinite number of universes in the omniverse and all possibilities are actualised in these infinite number of universes.
In that case, you're not a prisoner of causality, you're a prisoner of the laws of the omniverse! Besides, there's no reason to assume that one would be freer in an acausal universe. I find it hard to imagine such a thing, but I certainly cannot imagine living in it for any length of time. Nothing would be predictable. One might spontaneously combust at any time. Or spontaneously liquefy, or gasify, or petrify, or shrink to microscopic proportions, or grow enormous. And even if one managed to stay in the same shape for a while, one would probably find it very difficult to sustain meaningful relationships with any other beings. That's assuming that a product of causality like you or me could exist for even an instant in an acausal universe. Which seems unlikely.
Compassionist wrote:
I agree that there is a relative freedom e.g. I am more free outside a jail than I would be inside a jail. However, both circumstances are products of causality.
Yes. So what? What if you were orbiting round Jupiter for an eternity without any cause at all. Would you be freer?
Compassionist wrote:
What I find frustrating is that the relative freedom we have doesn't allow us to prevent all suffering.
And we have absolutely no reason to think that if we had the kind of acausal free will that some people believe in we would be able to prevent all suffering. You're talking about two entirely different things, as animist has already pointed out. Free will does not imply omnipotence.
Compassionist wrote:
Of course, we can prevent some negatives. That too is according to causality. What we do and do not do are entirely the products of causality.
Yes, I know. And again, so what? In an acausal universe, we'd struggle to prevent any negatives. We wouldn't know why they were happening. Well, there wouldn't be a "why". They'd have no cause. And we couldn't expect that anything we might do to try to prevent them would have the desired effect anyway. We'd be unable to cause anything.
Compassionist wrote:
My point is that each of our choices could not have been any different given the same variables. That is why it is unjustifiable to hold living things morally culpable. Living things are no more culpable than lightning or earthquake or tornedo. If we could imprison or terminate earthquakes, we would - not because an earthquake is morally culpable but because it causes destruction, suffering and death.
Compassionist, I get that point. You've made it repeatedly. I've made similar points. I wasn't disagreeing with that point. What I was disagreeing with was the idea that we are prisoners of causality. That's something you've said so many times, and sometimes I get the impression that it's become a kind of mantra for you. But I think it's one-sided, and destructive. You seem to have focused on the cons of causality, and are ignoring its pros! I like causality. I like the way it enables me to feel pretty confident that I'm going to wake up in the morning, that there's actually going to be a morning, that the birds will sing, that the sun will shine, if not today, then sometime soon. I don't find that restricting; I find it liberating. It frees me from having to worry about every second of unpredictable existence, and allows me to ... um ... worry about a usually manageable number of ... er ... specific worrying things. :sad2:
Compassionist wrote:
We are both products and prisoners of causality. The fact that we cannot set ourselves free from the causal constraints of our existence shows that we are prisoners of causality. The fact that we didn't even choose to come into existence also shows that we are prisoners of causality.
For a start, we can escape the causal constraints of our existence. Suicide is an option available to almost all of us. Second, do you believe that everyone and everything that existed in a hypothetical acausal universe would have chosen to come into existence? If so, why should that be the case? If we did choose to come into existence in such a universe, it would not follow that we would actually do so. In an acausal universe, choosing would count for nothing. The concept of choice would be meaningless. None of our actions would necessarily lead to the consequences we'd expect in a causal universe. If we had feet, then putting one of them in front of the other alternatingly might just as easily take us backwards or downwards or upwards as forwards. At least in a causal universe, you know where you stand, literally as well as figuratively. Hell, the more I think about it, the more I think we've had a lucky escape. Think about it, Compassionist. The acausal universe might easily be a much more terrifying place. More terrifying than your average prison. Causality, in comparison, is a place of refuge, a safe harbour, a sanctuary. :D
Compassionist wrote:
Whether we are masters of delayed gratification or an impulsive instant gratifier, we are still prisoners of causality. It is possible to train people, just as it is possible to train puppies. The degree of trainabilility depends on causality. There are people who are genetically suited to be sprinters. Training such people would produce much better sprinters than training average people. I agree with what you said about 'feeling free' and 'feeling less free' regarding our conscious desires. That doesn't make us morally culpable. Some of us might be quick to anger while others are slow to anger. Some of us might be better at delaying gratification. The fact that some are better at self-control is entirely according to causality. Given the same variables, the same choices would occur. That is why people and other living things should not be labelled morally culpable.
Again, I'm not arguing with you about moral culpability. What I've been trying to say is that some of these variables you refer to are part of us. There is such a thing as self-control, as you acknowledge. The fact that it is caused is relevant only in so far as it reminds us that we want to improve self-control, say, in ourselves or in others, we have to do something about it. We have to seek or give help. As thundril has said elsewhere, we can work together on this. We can be each other's causes and effects. We can create virtuous circles. You must know this; you are a compassionate man. You must sometimes feel that you have made a positive difference to other people's lives. And you must have felt a bit of a lift when others have acted kindly towards you. It's true we can't alleviate all suffering, but we can alleviate some. What does it matter if our ability to do that is caused. What is exciting is that we are capable of causing. We're not just the passive recipients of causation. We are not the prisoners of causality. We are not just in the causal universe. We are part of it. We aren't just products of it; we're producers. Simultaneously caused and causing. We are causal by definition. It isn't a prison sentence; it's a gift.
Compassionist wrote:
I agree that we can learn ways to improve the chance of living good, long and happy lives. This occurs according to causality. Some are better at learning than others. Our experience of 'freedom' is limited. For example, no one is holding a gun to my head and saying that I must reply to your post. Yet, I feel the urge to reply. I feel compelled to argue my point that it is impossible for someone to have acted differently given that same variables.
And I find that quite bizarre considering I'm not disagreeing with you on that particular point! :laughter: Compassionist, let me be the cause of you losing the urge to make that point again. Please!
Compassionist wrote:
It is impossible for me to teleport from one place to another at will. It doesn't mean there is no point in comparing walking with teleporting just because I can't teleport.
It does mean that there's no point in comparing walking with teleporting and finding it wanting. And going on about it, every time you have to walk from A to B. "Well, all right; I'll walk over to the fridge, but it would be so much easier if I could just press a button on my iPhone for an app that makes me dematerialise over here in front of the TV and then rematerialise in front of the fridge."
Compassionist wrote:
I wrote a short story called "Omniverse Forever" where the protagonist is omnipotent and is able to prevent all suffering and unfairness throughout the omniverse which consists of an infinite number of universes. The scenario is impossible for me in this life but I had fun fantasising. Just because extra-causal freedom is impossible for us, it doesn't mean it is pointless to imagine such extra-causal freedom.
Not pointless to imagine, no. And good to have fun. But pointless to use such an imagined freedom as a reason to bemoan the shortcomings of causality. Actually, I think your omnipotent protagonist might well be impotent in an acausal universe. Unless, somehow, he or she could be the one exception, the one being in the universe with the power to cause. And it is a wonderful thing, you know, the power to cause. Something to be appreciated. :D

Emma


March 28th, 2012, 4:53 pm
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Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
How do you know that the causal universe is all there is? I am a strong agnostic regarding the ultimate nature of reality. It is entirely possible that there are an infinite number of universes in the omniverse and all possibilities are actualised in these infinite number of universes.
In that case, you're not a prisoner of causality, you're a prisoner of the laws of the omniverse! Besides, there's no reason to assume that one would be freer in an acausal universe. I find it hard to imagine such a thing, but I certainly cannot imagine living in it for any length of time. Nothing would be predictable. One might spontaneously combust at any time. Or spontaneously liquefy, or gasify, or petrify, or shrink to microscopic proportions, or grow enormous. And even if one managed to stay in the same shape for a while, one would probably find it very difficult to sustain meaningful relationships with any other beings. That's assuming that a product of causality like you or me could exist for even an instant in an acausal universe. Which seems unlikely.

The omniverse is hypothetical. In my short story, the "Omniverse Forever", the protagonist has a great time being omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omniculpable.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
I agree that there is a relative freedom e.g. I am more free outside a jail than I would be inside a jail. However, both circumstances are products of causality.
Yes. So what? What if you were orbiting round Jupiter for an eternity without any cause at all. Would you be freer?

A prisoner is not free to go to the park but someone outside the prison is. Of course, both are still products and prisoners of causality. If I were in orbit of Jupiter for an eternity, I would not be free to go to the park, rather like the prisoner in a cell. Whether stuck in a cell or outside a cell or stuck in orbit of Jupiter, all are still products and prisoners of causality.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
What I find frustrating is that the relative freedom we have doesn't allow us to prevent all suffering.
And we have absolutely no reason to think that if we had the kind of acausal free will that some people believe in we would be able to prevent all suffering. You're talking about two entirely different things, as animist has already pointed out. Free will does not imply omnipotence.

In my short story, free will exists because the protagonist is omnipotent. Without omnipotence, free will cannot exist. I am not omnipotent, therefore, I do not have free wll. Anyone who is not omnipotent, does not have free will.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
Of course, we can prevent some negatives. That too is according to causality. What we do and do not do are entirely the products of causality.
Yes, I know. And again, so what? In an acausal universe, we'd struggle to prevent any negatives. We wouldn't know why they were happening. Well, there wouldn't be a "why". They'd have no cause. And we couldn't expect that anything we might do to try to prevent them would have the desired effect anyway. We'd be unable to cause anything.

In my short story, the omnipotence of the protagonist enables him to prevent all suffering and unfairness and everyone lives happily ever after. Why wouldn't anyone love such an omniverse?

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
My point is that each of our choices could not have been any different given the same variables. That is why it is unjustifiable to hold living things morally culpable. Living things are no more culpable than lightning or earthquake or tornedo. If we could imprison or terminate earthquakes, we would - not because an earthquake is morally culpable but because it causes destruction, suffering and death.
Compassionist, I get that point. You've made it repeatedly. I've made similar points. I wasn't disagreeing with that point. What I was disagreeing with was the idea that we are prisoners of causality. That's something you've said so many times, and sometimes I get the impression that it's become a kind of mantra for you. But I think it's one-sided, and destructive. You seem to have focused on the cons of causality, and are ignoring its pros! I like causality. I like the way it enables me to feel pretty confident that I'm going to wake up in the morning, that there's actually going to be a morning, that the birds will sing, that the sun will shine, if not today, then sometime soon. I don't find that restricting; I find it liberating. It frees me from having to worry about every second of unpredictable existence, and allows me to ... um ... worry about a usually manageable number of ... er ... specific worrying things. :sad2:

I am sorry if I have given the impression that I am only aware of the negatives of causality. I am aware of both the positives and the negatives of causality. My frustration comes from my unfulfilled desire to prevent all suffering and unfairness. In my short story, the protagonist gets to do just that and everyone lives happily ever after!

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
We are both products and prisoners of causality. The fact that we cannot set ourselves free from the causal constraints of our existence shows that we are prisoners of causality. The fact that we didn't even choose to come into existence also shows that we are prisoners of causality.
For a start, we can escape the causal constraints of our existence. Suicide is an option available to almost all of us.

I did overdose on lithium and anti-depressants but they didn't work - causality rules and I am still trapped! I suppose jumping from a very high building might be a better technique for suicide. The thing is, I don't know for sure that suicide would end my existence. What if Hinduism is correct and we are reincarnated according to our karmic bank balance? After all, it is impossible to disprove the concept of Maya.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Second, do you believe that everyone and everything that existed in a hypothetical acausal universe would have chosen to come into existence? If so, why should that be the case? If we did choose to come into existence in such a universe, it would not follow that we would actually do so. In an acausal universe, choosing would count for nothing. The concept of choice would be meaningless. None of our actions would necessarily lead to the consequences we'd expect in a causal universe. If we had feet, then putting one of them in front of the other alternatingly might just as easily take us backwards or downwards or upwards as forwards. At least in a causal universe, you know where you stand, literally as well as figuratively. Hell, the more I think about it, the more I think we've had a lucky escape. Think about it, Compassionist. The acausal universe might easily be a much more terrifying place. More terrifying than your average prison. Causality, in comparison, is a place of refuge, a safe harbour, a sanctuary. :D

I agree with your point. The omniverse of my short story, has an omnipotent saviour who prevents all suffering thanks to her omnibenevolence and everyone gets to live happily ever after!

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
Whether we are masters of delayed gratification or an impulsive instant gratifier, we are still prisoners of causality. It is possible to train people, just as it is possible to train puppies. The degree of trainabilility depends on causality. There are people who are genetically suited to be sprinters. Training such people would produce much better sprinters than training average people. I agree with what you said about 'feeling free' and 'feeling less free' regarding our conscious desires. That doesn't make us morally culpable. Some of us might be quick to anger while others are slow to anger. Some of us might be better at delaying gratification. The fact that some are better at self-control is entirely according to causality. Given the same variables, the same choices would occur. That is why people and other living things should not be labelled morally culpable.
Again, I'm not arguing with you about moral culpability. What I've been trying to say is that some of these variables you refer to are part of us. There is such a thing as self-control, as you acknowledge. The fact that it is caused is relevant only in so far as it reminds us that we want to improve self-control, say, in ourselves or in others, we have to do something about it. We have to seek or give help. As thundril has said elsewhere, we can work together on this. We can be each other's causes and effects. We can create virtuous circles. You must know this; you are a compassionate man. You must sometimes feel that you have made a positive difference to other people's lives. And you must have felt a bit of a lift when others have acted kindly towards you. It's true we can't alleviate all suffering, but we can alleviate some.

I agree with you. My complaint is that causality didn't make me omnipotent as well as omnibenevolent. I am traumatised by many awful experiences and have regular nightmares - consequently, I sleep poorly. Damn causality! It should have made me omnipotent as well as omnibenevolent. Of course, causality is not sentient. It is simply a process and is not really at fault.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
What does it matter if our ability to do that is caused. What is exciting is that we are capable of causing. We're not just the passive recipients of causation. We are not the prisoners of causality. We are not just in the causal universe. We are part of it. We aren't just products of it; we're producers. Simultaneously caused and causing. We are causal by definition. It isn't a prison sentence; it's a gift.
Compassionist wrote:
I agree that we can learn ways to improve the chance of living good, long and happy lives. This occurs according to causality. Some are better at learning than others. Our experience of 'freedom' is limited. For example, no one is holding a gun to my head and saying that I must reply to your post. Yet, I feel the urge to reply. I feel compelled to argue my point that it is impossible for someone to have acted differently given that same variables.
And I find that quite bizarre considering I'm not disagreeing with you on that particular point! :laughter: Compassionist, let me be the cause of you losing the urge to make that point again. Please!
Compassionist wrote:
It is impossible for me to teleport from one place to another at will. It doesn't mean there is no point in comparing walking with teleporting just because I can't teleport.
It does mean that there's no point in comparing walking with teleporting and finding it wanting. And going on about it, every time you have to walk from A to B. "Well, all right; I'll walk over to the fridge, but it would be so much easier if I could just press a button on my iPhone for an app that makes me dematerialise over here in front of the TV and then rematerialise in front of the fridge."
Compassionist wrote:
I wrote a short story called "Omniverse Forever" where the protagonist is omnipotent and is able to prevent all suffering and unfairness throughout the omniverse which consists of an infinite number of universes. The scenario is impossible for me in this life but I had fun fantasising. Just because extra-causal freedom is impossible for us, it doesn't mean it is pointless to imagine such extra-causal freedom.
Not pointless to imagine, no. And good to have fun. But pointless to use such an imagined freedom as a reason to bemoan the shortcomings of causality. Actually, I think your omnipotent protagonist might well be impotent in an acausal universe. Unless, somehow, he or she could be the one exception, the one being in the universe with the power to cause. And it is a wonderful thing, you know, the power to cause. Something to be appreciated. :D

Emma

I agree that the power to cause is something to be appreciated. I just wish I was omnipotent as well as omnibenevolent and thus be able to prevent all suffering - just like the protagonist in my story.


March 28th, 2012, 5:48 pm
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Compassionist wrote:
The omniverse is hypothetical.
I know. I was just trying to get into the spirit of it. :wink:
Compassionist wrote:
In my short story, the "Omniverse Forever", the protagonist has a great time being omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omniculpable.
Gosh! Doesn't sound like my idea of a great time. :D
Compassionist wrote:
If I were in orbit of Jupiter for an eternity, I would not be free to go to the park, rather like the prisoner in a cell. Whether stuck in a cell or outside a cell or stuck in orbit of Jupiter, all are still products and prisoners of causality.
Ah, no. That's why I specifically said, "What if you were orbiting round Jupiter for an eternity without any cause at all. I was hypothesising some future introduction of acausality to our universe. Suddenly uncaused things start happening. It wouldn't mean greater freedom; it would mean greater unpredictability.
Compassionist wrote:
In my short story, free will exists because the protagonist is omnipotent. Without omnipotence, free will cannot exist. I am not omnipotent, therefore, I do not have free wll. Anyone who is not omnipotent, does not have free will.
I don't follow that, Compassionist. I mean, I'm not saying that the sentence "Anyone who is not omnipotent does not have free will" is false. But if we're talking about the kind of free will that enables people to act independently of their own biology and environment and all the various circumstances that hold at the time of acting, which is a kind I don't believe in and consider to be impossible (as do compatibilists like animist), then I don't see why that would have to be coupled with omnipotence (something else I don't believe in and consider to be impossible). Metaphysical libertarians claim that, given a particular set of circumstances, we are not compelled to do one particular thing: there is more than one option available to us; we can make choices. They are not claiming that we have an infinite number of choices, or that we can do absolutely anything.
Compassionist wrote:
In my short story, the omnipotence of the protagonist enables him to prevent all suffering and unfairness and everyone lives happily ever after. Why wouldn't anyone love such an omniverse?
It's hard to love a figment of somebody else's imagination, Compassionist. An omniverse is, by definition, "the conceptual ensemble of all possible universes, with all possible laws of physics" (according to Wikipedia). Your omniverse, by eliminating universes like the one we're in, with the laws of physics that we've got, which make omnipotence and omnipresence and omniscience impossible, ceases to be an omniverse. It's a uverse, a fictiverse, an imagiverse.
Compassionist wrote:
I am sorry if I have given the impression that I am only aware of the negatives of causality. I am aware of both the positives and the negatives of causality. My frustration comes from my unfulfilled desire to prevent all suffering and unfairness. In my short story, the protagonist gets to do just that and everyone lives happily ever after!
It is the phrase "prisoners of causality" that focuses on the negatives. But if what you are really railing against is the fact that you're not omnipotent, then it is not causality that's the problem. You're frustrated that you're a mere human being, not a god. You're frustrated that, given a particular set of circumstances, you are not able to do absolutely anything and everything, rather than merely that you're not able to do one thing rather than another. Seems a daft thing to get frustrated about, in my view. If something's impossible, it's impossible. It's the possible but extremely difficult that I find frustrating. :wink:
Compassionist wrote:
I did overdose on lithium and anti-depressants but they didn't work - causality rules and I am still trapped! I suppose jumping from a very high building might be a better technique for suicide. The thing is, I don't know for sure that suicide would end my existence. What if Hinduism is correct and we are reincarnated according to our karmic bank balance? After all, it is impossible to disprove the concept of Maya.
I would hope that you have other reasons for not committing suicide apart from the possibility that you might be reincarnated. I would hope that the fact that there are people you love and who love you would count for more. The fact that, despite your lack of omnipotence, you are able to do some things that reduce the suffering and increase the pleasure of other people, and that you are able to experience pleasure yourself.
Compassionist wrote:
I agree with your point.
I'm very glad to hear it, but ...
Compassionist wrote:
The omniverse of my short story, has an omnipotent saviour who prevents all suffering thanks to her omnibenevolence and everyone gets to live happily ever after!
You seem to have become fixated on this. I hope it's just temporary, because you've only recently written this short story, so it's fresh in your mind. But I hope you're able to let it go. It's nice sometimes to escape to imaginary places where everything's fine and dandy. But if it only serves to make this world seem terrible in comparison, then I'm not sure it's something we ought to do too much and too often.
Compassionist wrote:
I agree with you. My complaint is that causality didn't make me omnipotent as well as omnibenevolent. I am traumatised by many awful experiences and have regular nightmares - consequently, I sleep poorly. Damn causality! It should have made me omnipotent as well as omnibenevolent. Of course, causality is not sentient. It is simply a process and is not really at fault.
Exactly! And also bear in mind that many people who suffer as a consequence of past traumas are able to get better. There's an organisation I support called Freedom from Torture which provides clinical services to the survivors of torture, people who gone through experiences so terrible that they are hard for me to imagine. It doesn't eliminate all suffering, but it reduces it. There are all sorts of things that can be done that cause a reduction in suffering. You don't have to be omnipotent to be able to sleep at night. In fact, come to think of it, I wouldn't have thought the average omnipotent being would sleep at all!
Compassionist wrote:
I agree that the power to cause is something to be appreciated. I just wish I was omnipotent as well as omnibenevolent and thus be able to prevent all suffering - just like the protagonist in my story.
Well, dammit, Compassionist, if you really are omnibenevolent then that's pretty darned impressive. Musn't be greedy, eh?

Emma


March 29th, 2012, 12:11 pm
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Compassionist wrote:
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
What I find frustrating is that the relative freedom we have doesn't allow us to prevent all suffering.
And we have absolutely no reason to think that if we had the kind of acausal free will that some people believe in we would be able to prevent all suffering. You're talking about two entirely different things, as animist has already pointed out. Free will does not imply omnipotence.

In my short story, free will exists because the protagonist is omnipotent. Without omnipotence, free will cannot exist. I am not omnipotent, therefore, I do not have free wll. Anyone who is not omnipotent, does not have free will..

Compo, you are not really listening to anyone else. As Emma said, omnipotence (or FTM even power if it is something less than total) is not the same as free will, whatever your story says. Actually, it is not just the case that free will does not entail omnipotence (which is what we seem to be on about here, with its corollary that - for you - absence of omnipotence entails absence of free will), it is also the case (and I think I might have said this already) that omnipotence does not entail free will. Even if you were omnipotent, you would still be subject to causality in respect of your origins (assuming you had origins) and so, by your reckoning, not free.


March 29th, 2012, 1:37 pm
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