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

Intuitions based on our every day experience are the bane of philosophy, metaphysics, and interpretations of our physical theories like quantum theory.

There is no justification for using our intuitions of every day experience for metaphysical reasoning.
Fair call. I'll just add that even if it might contradict our intuitions, metaphysical reasoning shouldn't contradict our experience (i.e. of being conscious, and of the (possible) contents of that consciousness) - not at all that I'm saying that you or anyone else in this thread is falling prey to that mistake, because I don't think you are.
 
Fair call. I'll just add that even if it might contradict our intuitions, metaphysical reasoning shouldn't contradict our experience (i.e. of being conscious, and of the (possible) contents of that consciousness) - not at all that I'm saying that you or anyone else in this thread is falling prey to that mistake, because I don't think you are.
Hmm, at first I was thinking I agreed, because I think empirical evidence is what should drive our physical theories and also our metaphysical reasoning, but when you said the experience of the contents of our consciousness I am not so sure. Perhaps I do not understand what you mean. For example, why shouldn't metaphysical reasoning contradict a hallucination?
 
Hmm, at first I was thinking I agreed, because I think empirical evidence is what should drive our physical theories and also our metaphysical reasoning, but when you said the experience of the contents of our consciousness I am not so sure. Perhaps I do not understand what you mean. For example, why shouldn't metaphysical reasoning contradict a hallucination?
I think it's just that we need to synchronise our meanings, but probably we do agree.

Metaphysical reasoning might contradict our interpretation of the experience of what is being labelled as "an hallucination" (the contents of our consciousness at that particular point in time), but it cannot contradict that we experienced whatever it was that is being labelled "hallucinatory", nor that whatever it was (the "hallucination") had the characteristics (as an experience) of which we were conscious.
 
The deeper we go the more abstract and removed from our every day experience things become. It makes sense that if we go deeper still, it will become more abstract, not suddenly going back to a reductionist realist type of explanation. But that doesn't change that we have to have different levels of descriptions based on the frame of reference that are needed to make sense of that reference frame. We just have to be careful of absolute ontological statements since many of the ontologies will be relative to the theory used to describe that domain. This is also a good reason against scientific realism.
There are still posts that I have to get back to in this thread and this theme was in at least one of them that I wanted to respond to.

I think we have to be cautious here and not mistake our models and descriptions (ie: in this case our physics) with the object that we are modelling. Although I haven't studied it in any kind of depth, I think I get what you are saying in terms of as we get further down in QM it starts to look abstract - concept like tables or even matter lose don't make sense at that level.

But I think we have to recognise that our model is only as good as - well - our model. We've already found limits to how good our models are and how well they function at certain scales. Neutonian physics works at one level, not so good at another. Quantum mechanics as well.

Is there any reason to assume that QM is the end of the line? I'm inclined not to (or at least be not at all surprised when some new breakthrough appears).

I think there's a tendency to intinctively move our concepts up and down the line. So we sometimes think of matter in the smallest reduction as billiard balls, or in the macro as proballistic. Or the fact that at the smallest smallest level QM appears abstract so we bring it back up and conclude it all must be abstract.

Whatever the truth, each of these models works at some level for our purposes, but that doesn't mean that any single one of them works in all cirumstances. What this indicates, I think, is that there are still gaps in our model. I know physicists have been desperately looking for a unified theory. But given that we don't have one I think we have to be careful in how far we go in applying these models to our metaphysic.

That said, we can only do the best that with what we have so to some extent, unless we want to abandon metaphysics entirely (which might be the preference of some) and we need to draw some provisional conclusions.

As abstract as things look at the smallest scales its not "nothing" and as we branch out we see it act probabilistically and then further up billiard bally. But at any scale it seems to operate in a way that we can identify patterns that let us make predictions - that is, at least for now, there appears to be order. Even on the abstract level there is order. Each billiard ball can be drilled down to the abstract and back up. Given that our different models seem to work on this stuff at different levels it is depending to zero on one and describe it as the ultimate, or fundamental - but if our ultimate conception doesn't incorporate the others, then we're probably missing something.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
The problem is that you are looking for a reductionist answer, when, as Neil has helpfully pointed out, causality (and hence reductionism) breaks down at the ultimate level. As I indicated in my last post, I think the answer to the mystery lies in the nature of consciousness rather than in some mechanism. Perhaps the real problem is that you are (as best I can tell) a physicalist, and thus that on some level you don't "really" believe in consciousness - at least not a consciousness that cannot be reduced to the physical and to physical interactions.
Perhaps, but I do think that consciousness is logical, and I haven't heard an explanation for free decision making that sounds coherent and logical. Perhaps that is a limitation of my or our ability to present ideas and understand them. But I'm suspicious that the "no mechanism" gambit is use to facilely.

This is good stuff. I'll keep thinking about it.

~~ Paul
 
Perhaps, but I do think that consciousness is logical, and I haven't heard an explanation for free decision making that sounds coherent and logical. Perhaps that is a limitation of my or our ability to present ideas and understand them. But I'm suspicious that the "no mechanism" gambit is use to facilely.

This is good stuff. I'll keep thinking about it.
Nice - and you know what? Even before I started posting here, when I was just lurking, I recognised that you are intelligent, and I have never (except in my more paranoid moments - yes, they definitely happen) bought into the idea that you are trolling or presenting yourself and your position disingenuously, I think that you are just looking for a way of understanding that "clicks" with you, from prior beliefs which differ drastically from the mainstream on this forum. So, I'm trying to supply that "click" whilst at the same time recognising that that might be hubris, and that it might go the other way around: that something you say will "click" with me and change my view.

So, in the interests of "justifying the coherence and logicality" of my idea of free decision making: perhaps you can start by thinking of it as "free" in the sense of "not necessitated", which, surely, is coherent and logical - after all, you have admitted the logical possibility of entirely different initial conditions for our universe even if it were deterministic, thus certainly entailing that the overall contents of especially an indeterministic universe (which we appear to exist in) are not overall "logically necessary", from which it is a short step to understanding that the contents of our free will choices themselves are not "necessary" even if they are "generally related to one another in what seems to be a causal manner".

And if you were to then divorce consciousness from reducibility to physical systems, you would have, as, again, Neil has been arguing from a slightly different metaphysic, an "ultimate source" (consciousness) of volition for the non-necessary (free) choices which we make - which pretty much gets you all the way to my view of libertarian free will. And I know that this final step is the hardest one, the one which you see as a '"no mechanism" gambit', but:

(1) If the entire universe can be explained without a mechanism, then why not free will choices?, and,

(2) Honestly, I think it best matches with what we actually experience: that we do not feel "forced" into our decisions, but that somehow, through our consciousness, we "make" (freely create) our decisions.
 
By the way, a random thought for anybody in this thread who wants to answer: if you got "free will" on a Pictionary card, what would you draw?
 
Is there any reason to assume that QM is the end of the line? I'm inclined not to (or at least be not at all surprised when some new breakthrough appears).
No, and that is an important point. We know quantum theory is incomplete, however, so far, all attempts at a more fundamental theory use quantum principles (M-theory, loop quantum gravity, computational models, etc.).

Arouet said:
I think there's a tendency to intinctively move our concepts up and down the line. So we sometimes think of matter in the smallest reduction as billiard balls, or in the macro as proballistic. Or the fact that at the smallest smallest level QM appears abstract so we bring it back up and conclude it all must be abstract.
Have I done that?

Arouet said:
Whatever the truth, each of these models works at some level for our purposes, but that doesn't mean that any single one of them works in all cirumstances. What this indicates, I think, is that there are still gaps in our model. I know physicists have been desperately looking for a unified theory. But given that we don't have one I think we have to be careful in how far we go in applying these models to our metaphysic.
I agree, but at the same time continuing to use classical theory over quantum theory for metaphysical reasoning is absurd, and this is very common in many areas today. So far quantum theory is by far the most accurate model we have, and attempts at unified theories also use quantum principles. It should be noted that while classical theory still works in certain domains, its underlying metaphysics has been completely falsified.

Arouet said:
That said, we can only do the best that with what we have so to some extent, unless we want to abandon metaphysics entirely (which might be the preference of some) and we need to draw some provisional conclusions.
I don't think metaphysics should be abandoned, since I think it can help to attempt to unify different branches of science. However if it is not an informed metaphysics using the most contemporary physics, then it is a complete waste of time.

Arouet said:
As abstract as things look at the smallest scales its not "nothing" and as we branch out we see it act probabilistically and then further up billiard bally. But at any scale it seems to operate in a way that we can identify patterns that let us make predictions - that is, at least for now, there appears to be order. Even on the abstract level there is order. Each billiard ball can be drilled down to the abstract and back up. Given that our different models seem to work on this stuff at different levels it is depending to zero on one and describe it as the ultimate, or fundamental - but if our ultimate conception doesn't incorporate the others, then we're probably missing something.
I disagree because each time we find a more fundamental theory, the old theory's metaphysics is completely falsified. We can still use the old theory in its particular domains, but it must be in an operationalist interpretation. To try to incorporate a falsified metaphysics I think would be incorrect, and it should be that the more fundamental theory is used for metaphysical reasoning.
 
Perhaps, but I do think that consciousness is logical, and I haven't heard an explanation for free decision making that sounds coherent and logical. Perhaps that is a limitation of my or our ability to present ideas and understand them. But I'm suspicious that the "no mechanism" gambit is use to facilely.

This is good stuff. I'll keep thinking about it.

~~ Paul
If you think consciousness is entirely logical, what do you make of Gödel's incompleteness theorems and our ability to perceive mathematical truths? I think it is a compelling reason to think that consciousness is not purely logical/algorithmic.
 
Ectoplasm is created from the recombination of oxygen and hydrogen that has been dissociated (unbound chemically and energetically), originally taken from the physical medium and the seance sitters. The apport's etheric body is replicated and used as a template to exactly copy the qualities of the object being apported. The template is filled with ectoplasm and, often, combined with elements not found within the medium's/sitters physical being (eg. high levels of copper). Consciousness is applied and the energy from that consciousness 'transports' aka apports through the medium as conduit into the seance room.
No MU, ectoplasm is cheesecloth, gauze or rolled up muslin. This has been exposed many times, if you bother to read into the history of physical mediumship and its many exposures you would see this. Or have a chat with your old pal Mr. Donnis.
 
Then you have some kind of interesting definition of evolution, along with every other process that occurs in the deterministic world. Do computers compute in a deterministic world? Do atmospheric processes produce weather?
Well I don't believe that a deterministic world is possible, but waiving that for the moment, the answer would be yes to both of your questions...but the answer would not be yes to "can creatures develop adaptations in response to changing environments" for example. As I said in a previous email, evolution would have no meaning save the grinding out of the one possible option (in said universe).

Natural selection makes perfectly good sense in a deterministic world. It's the mechanism by which certain of the deterministic processes involved in evolution operate. It works just fine with pseudorandom numbers, as many simulations show.
No it doesn't. There are no options to select between so no "filtering of possibilities" process could ever operate. Computer simulations of natural selection are not natural selection as it is envisioned to take place in the biological world. You are simply running an algorithm. And only a nut like Dennett would actually believe that nature is an algorithm.

Anyway, we agree that in this universe there is indeterminism. I don't know whether you think pure randomness without cosmic will is sufficient for evolution.
It might be. I just don't think it exists (but I know you feel the same way about cosmic will).

If we're going by empirics, I would say we are pretty certain that photons don't have consciousness. We can predict and harness them in myriad ways without any mention of consciousness in the math or in the technology. They never appear to exert any will against our use of them.
How about against our observing both their position and their momentum? See, there's different ways of looking at things (excuse the pun). Anyway, while I certainly don't think that photons have "shown us" their consciousness, I don't see anything in your case above that persuades me they don't have one either.

But there is no cosmic will in the 60/40 choice. Or are you saying that the fair 10-sided die is actually not fair due to the intervention of cosmic will? I don't think you're saying that. So the cosmic will is neutral with respect to the roll of the die, in which case it is unnecessary.
But there is no 'true indeterminacy' in the 60/40 choice. Or are you saying that the fair 10-sided die is actually not fair due to the intervention of true randomness? I don't think you're saying that. Cosmic will is necessary for the open-ness in the scheme. Without it you have grinding determinism (*as you would,too,without your true randomness)

So the actual free decision is being made in the other modules, right?
No.It's being made in the President module.

I'm confused because I do not understand where the decision is being made and how much of it requires free will.
I'm sorry that you feel confused, because it is straightforward. The decision is being made in the President module, by the President. He takes advice on the inputs, but can override the advice. You are struggling to create problems that do not exist. This module could easily be instantiated using a naive guy in a room and slips of paper passed in the door.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Nice - and you know what? Even before I started posting here, when I was just lurking, I recognised that you are intelligent, and I have never (except in my more paranoid moments - yes, they definitely happen) bought into the idea that you are trolling or presenting yourself and your position disingenuously, I think that you are just looking for a way of understanding that "clicks" with you, from prior beliefs which differ drastically from the mainstream on this forum. So, I'm trying to supply that "click" whilst at the same time recognising that that might be hubris, and that it might go the other way around: that something you say will "click" with me and change my view.
I appreciate your trust in my participation.

So, in the interests of "justifying the coherence and logicality" of my idea of free decision making: perhaps you can start by thinking of it as "free" in the sense of "not necessitated", which, surely, is coherent and logical - after all, you have admitted the logical possibility of entirely different initial conditions for our universe even if it were deterministic, thus certainly entailing that the overall contents of especially an indeterministic universe (which we appear to exist in) are not overall "logically necessary", from which it is a short step to understanding that the contents of our free will choices themselves are not "necessary" even if they are "generally related to one another in what seems to be a causal manner".
I certainly acknowledge that indeterminism means that various forks in the sequence can be selected in a way that isn't deterministic.

And if you were to then divorce consciousness from reducibility to physical systems, you would have, as, again, Neil has been arguing from a slightly different metaphysic, an "ultimate source" (consciousness) of volition for the non-necessary (free) choices which we make - which pretty much gets you all the way to my view of libertarian free will. And I know that this final step is the hardest one, the one which you see as a '"no mechanism" gambit', but:

(1) If the entire universe can be explained without a mechanism, then why not free will choices?, and,
Do you mean the origin of the universe? If there is no sneaky mechanism lurking behind some kind of multiverse, then I would say the origin is random. But this sort of speculation is above my pay grade.

(2) Honestly, I think it best matches with what we actually experience: that we do not feel "forced" into our decisions, but that somehow, through our consciousness, we "make" (freely create) our decisions.
I agree things feel that way, but I place no stock in that. And I don't mean that therefore our decisions are necessarily deterministic. I simply don't think that we are feeling things accurately since we do not actually experience our decision making processes, whatever they may be.

~~ Paul
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
If you think consciousness is entirely logical, what do you make of Gödel's incompleteness theorems and our ability to perceive mathematical truths? I think it is a compelling reason to think that consciousness is not purely logical/algorithmic.
I don't think anyone claims that human thought is either complete or consistent, so I don't see how Godel applies. But I was unclear. I don't mean that consciousness necessarily leads to logical thought; it doesn't. I just mean that the mechanisms of consciousness are logical, just like the rest of biology. At least, I think so.

~~ Paul
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Well I don't believe that a deterministic world is possible, but waiving that for the moment, the answer would be yes to both of your questions...but the answer would not be yes to "can creatures develop adaptations in response to changing environments" for example. As I said in a previous email, evolution would have no meaning save the grinding out of the one possible option (in said universe).
Interesting. I don't see the difference.

No it doesn't. There are no options to select between so no "filtering of possibilities" process could ever operate. Computer simulations of natural selection are not natural selection as it is envisioned to take place in the biological world. You are simply running an algorithm. And only a nut like Dennett would actually believe that nature is an algorithm.
Wait a minute. You're saying that evolution simulations that employ pseudorandom number generators aren't really doing evolution? But if I reworked Evj* to employ a true random number generator, then it would be doing evolution? I can promise you that there would be no difference between the two simulations.

You must hold that even true random numbers don't make evolution real evolution.

It might be. I just don't think it exists (but I know you feel the same way about cosmic will).
But surely there is no cosmic will participating in Evj when reworked to use a true random number generator, is there?

How about against our observing both their position and their momentum?
That would be an interesting way for them to protest.

I'm sorry that you feel confused, because it is straightforward. The decision is being made in the President module, by the President. He takes advice on the inputs, but can override the advice. You are struggling to create problems that do not exist. This module could easily be instantiated using a naive guy in a room and slips of paper passed in the door.
I don't understand how this is any kind of free choosing, but so be it.


~~ Paul

* http://schneider.ncifcrf.gov/papers/ev/evj/
 
I don't think anyone claims that human thought is either complete or consistent, so I don't see how Godel applies. But I was unclear. I don't mean that consciousness necessarily leads to logical thought; it doesn't. I just mean that the mechanisms of consciousness are logical, just like the rest of biology. At least, I think so.

~~ Paul
I think you miss the point of the Gödel theorems. It is our ability to understand that transcends the logic, that our ability to understand isn't algorithmic. How can the mechanisms be logical if we have a clear demonstration that our ability to understand isn't computational?
 
Interesting. I don't see the difference.
The difference between what and what?

Wait a minute. You're saying that evolution simulations that employ pseudorandom number generators aren't really doing evolution? But if I reworked Evj* to employ a true random number generator, then it would be doing evolution? I can promise you that there would be no difference between the two simulations.
That's deceptive (I don't mean by you). Because to simulate evolution, you are in effect claiming to make a determinstic process (a simulation algorithm running by determinism) stand in for a true process in the actual (indeterministic) universe in which that algorithm resides. That's not workable.

You must hold that even true random numbers don't make evolution real evolution.
Well, true "randomness" is only possible with intra-cosmic forking, so while it might not be sufficient in philosophical speak, it is certainly necessary.

But surely there is no cosmic will participating in Evj when reworked to use a true random number generator, is there?
A tRNG is using true indeterminacy.


That would be an interesting way for them to protest.
Would you expect a human way?

I don't understand how this is any kind of free choosing, but so be it.
Just ask yourself why the naive guy in the room isn't free choosing...when he is.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I think you miss the point of the Gödel theorems. It is our ability to understand that transcends the logic, that our ability to understand isn't algorithmic. How can the mechanisms be logical if we have a clear demonstration that our ability to understand isn't computational?
I don't think we have a clear demonstration of that. But to discuss this issue intelligently, I would have to refresh my memory on all things Godel. I found this to be a great resource:

http://www.amazon.com/Gödels-Theore...440465079&sr=8-1&keywords=godel+use+and+abuse

~~ Paul
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
The difference between what and what?
Between evolution and the weather.

That's deceptive (I don't mean by you). Because to simulate evolution, you are in effect claiming to make a determinstic process (a simulation algorithm running by determinism) stand in for a true process in the actual (indeterministic) universe in which that algorithm resides. That's not workable.
I think it's entirely workable, because a pseudorandom number generator that is decoupled from the evolutionary processes is plenty random enough. And if I employ a true random number generator, then the algorithm is no longer deterministic.

Well, true "randomness" is only possible with intra-cosmic forking, so while it might not be sufficient in philosophical speak, it is certainly necessary.
Sorry, I don't understand.

A tRNG is using true indeterminacy.
And so an evolution simulation with a true RNG is real evolution?

Just ask yourself why the naive guy in the room isn't free choosing...when he is.
I'm confused by this, too.

~~ Paul
 
I don't think we have a clear demonstration of that. But to discuss this issue intelligently, I would have to refresh my memory on all things Godel. I found this to be a great resource:

http://www.amazon.com/Gödels-Theorem-Incomplete-Guide-Abuse/dp/1568812388/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440465079&sr=8-1&keywords=godel use and abuse

~~ Paul
How is it not clear? The fact that we base mathematics off of intuitive understanding should make it obvious. Axiomization of mathematics failed and was proven impossible (a priori, no less!), yet we understand the mathematics.
 
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