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

A topical post:

@Kai and @Paul C. Anagnostopoulos, I have been following your exchange at times very closely and at times more casually. As you would expect, I sympathise with Kai, and I think a lot of his points are very apt, however, I also feel that he has unfortunately to some extent "fallen into Paul's trap". What is this trap? The false dichotomy between that which is "deterministic" versus that which is "utterly random". This is particularly apparent in the ongoing Presidential Choice example. Kai has to some extent been forced into defending the independent existence (or at least the independently conceptual existence) of a genuinely random "choice module" which in some sense has no other role than to insert openness into an otherwise deterministic decision-making process. This allows Paul the opportunity to express bemusement at how genuine randomness could be compatible with genuine choice. It is not, though, in my view, the right way to look at free will choices. It is too reductive. In reality, there is no sharp, categorical distinction between some "deterministic aspect of our choice-making which is necessitated" - and in some sense forced upon us - and some "utterly random, indeterministic part of our choice-making". There is simply a free choice-making process which overall is not necessitated - it cannot be split into this neat little dichotomy of "deterministically necessitated" and "indeterministically utterly random"; it has its own "inner logic" which is both meaningful and free, but which is, more importantly, an expression/outcome of the agent's genuinely free volition.

I have no idea whether this is a helpful or even welcome comment, I just wanted to put in my two cents. Keep up the good fight, Kai.
 
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Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Well, it's not irrelevant Paul, because the point I was replying to is that the initial conditions in chaotic systems produce the same results...no they don't, not in the real world. They only do this in pseudorandom simulations, which is a pretty good indicator that such simulations do not reflect reality.
If the chaotic system also involves randomness, then I certainly agree. Are there any purely deterministic chaotic systems in the real world? I don't know.

Note that the official definition of chaos is something like this, from Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos:

"Chaos is aperiodic long-term behaviour in a deterministic system that exhibits sensitive dependence on initial conditions."

In what way shall we "narrow it down" that, say, the concept of true randomness does not also need "narrowed down"?
Huh? I'm just trying to figure out what you think true evolution requires other than determinism and randomness (the kind that really is just arbitrary).

Yes, of course. Open-ness is necessary (imo) but this is not enough to beget a world of zebras and oak trees.
So what else is necessary?

It may be sufficient for my "open-nes requirement" but it is not sufficient for evolution. Other factors are necessary. Cosmic will in my opinion, chief among them.
Ah, good. So how does this cosmic will contribute to evolution?

Well...you could begin by reminding me why it is that a naive "President" who has access to the basic alternatives and to the advice weightings arriving at the input gate, cannot make a decision based on that information and native aptitude. He does not need access to external "memories." All he needs are the boildown of the scenario considerations from all "expert modules"...and that can be reduced to a number, he doesn't even need to know what ANY of that is about...added to his ability to select among outcomes. You now have the complete functional choice module...and it will indeed function.
What is native aptitude? You mention it, but then you say he doesn't need to know what any of the choices are about. Given that, what does he need any aptitude for? He is just acting as a fair 10-sided die to select the 60% choice or the 40% choice.

Is it really not clear what the problem is? What does the President do other than the equivalent of rolling a fair 10-sided die?

~~ Paul
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I have been following your exchange at times very closely and at times more casually. As you would expect, I sympathise with Kai, and I think a lot of his points are very apt, however, I also feel that he has unfortunately to some extent "fallen into Paul's trap". What is this trap? The false dichotomy between that which is "deterministic" versus that which is "utterly random". This is particularly apparent in the ongoing Presidential Choice example. Kai has to some extent been forced into defending the independent existence (or at least the independently conceptual existence) of a genuinely random "choice module" which in some sense has no other role than to insert openness into an otherwise deterministic decision-making process. This allows Paul the opportunity to express bemusement at how genuine randomness could be compatible with genuine choice. It is not, though, in my view, the right way to look at free will choices. It is too reductive. In reality, there is no sharp, categorical distinction between some "deterministic aspect of our choice-making which is necessitated" - and in some sense forced upon us - and some "utterly random, indeterministic part of our choice-making". There is simply a free choice-making process which overall is not necessitated - it cannot be split into this neat little dichotomy of "deterministically necessitated" and "indeterministically utterly random"; it has its own "inner logic" which is both meaningful and free, but which is, more importantly, an expression/outcome of the agent's genuinely free volition.
I have suspended the dichotomy between determinism and true randomness for the sake of this conversation. I'm open to the concept of something that is not truly random lurking in the indeterminism (not-determinism) that we are discussing.

However, I would like to hear something other than "inner logic which is both meaningful and free" and "agent's genuinely free volition." Because those are words that do not satisfy me in my quest to understand how a decision can be not-deterministic but also not arbitrary, regardless of how deeply such a decision is buried in some agent.

If I cannot get anything more than those words, I'll remain skeptical yet still interested.

~~ Paul
 
A topical post:

@Kai and @Paul C. Anagnostopoulos, I have been following your exchange at times very closely and at times more casually. As you would expect, I sympathise with Kai, and I think a lot of his points are very apt, however, I also feel that he has unfortunately to some extent "fallen into Paul's trap". What is this trap? The false dichotomy between that which is "deterministic" versus that which is "utterly random". This is particularly apparent in the ongoing Presidential Choice example. Kai has to some extent been forced into defending the independent existence (or at least the independently conceptual existence) of a genuinely random "choice module" which in some sense has no other role than to insert openness into an otherwise deterministic decision-making process. This allows Paul the opportunity to express bemusement at how genuine randomness could be compatible with genuine choice. It is not, though, in my view, the right way to look at free will choices. It is too reductive. In reality, there is no sharp, categorical distinction between some "deterministic aspect of our choice-making which is necessitated" - and in some sense forced upon us - and some "utterly random, indeterministic part of our choice-making". There is simply a free choice-making process which overall is not necessitated - it cannot be split into this neat little dichotomy of "deterministically necessitated" and "indeterministically utterly random"; it has its own "inner logic" which is both meaningful and free, but which is, more importantly, an expression/outcome of the agent's genuinely free volition.

I have no idea whether this is a helpful or even welcome comment, I just wanted to put in my two cents. Keep up the good fight, Kai.
I agree. This is why I was disappointed that the idea of emergent thoughts exerting a causal influence on choices was dropped. It isn't a a dichotomy of deterministic or random, since it involves both.
 
If the chaotic system also involves randomness, then I certainly agree. Are there any purely deterministic chaotic systems in the real world? I don't know.

Note that the official definition of chaos is something like this, from Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos:

"Chaos is aperiodic long-term behaviour in a deterministic system that exhibits sensitive dependence on initial conditions."
I see no evidence that chaotic systems are real-world deterministic.


Huh? I'm just trying to figure out what you think true evolution requires other than determinism and randomness (the kind that really is just arbitrary).
Why are you trying to figure this out, when our conversation was originally about the role of open-ness.



Ah, good. So how does this cosmic will contribute to evolution?
I think it is bedrock of both choice and a self-organizing principle that begets all form...real or imagined.


What is native aptitude? You mention it, but then you say he doesn't need to know what any of the choices are about. Given that, what does he need any aptitude for? He is just acting as a fair 10-sided die to select the 60% choice or the 40% choice.
Native aptitude is open-ness, which as I mentioned above is inseparable from cosmic will.

Is it really not clear what the problem is? What does the President do other than the equivalent of rolling a fair 10-sided die?
He doesn't roll a fair sided die. Cosmic will cannot be reduced to mechanism. He can take the advice to any degree that he wants, and he can change that degree entirely between choices. Or he can disregard the advice.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I see no evidence that chaotic systems are real-world deterministic.
I don't know.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/GL017i003p00223/abstract

Why are you trying to figure this out, when our conversation was originally about the role of open-ness.
Because I don't know what you think openness is, other than pure randomness. There has been talk of cosmic will and such like.

I think it is bedrock of both choice and a self-organizing principle that begets all form...real or imagined.
So does it choose mutations?

Native aptitude is open-ness, which as I mentioned above is inseparable from cosmic will.
Okay.

He doesn't roll a fair sided die. Cosmic will cannot be reduced to mechanism. He can take the advice to any degree that he wants, and he can change that degree entirely between choices. Or he can disregard the advice.
I don't see how if, as you say: "he doesn't even need to know what ANY of that is about..."

~~ Paul
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I agree. This is why I was disappointed that the idea of emergent thoughts exerting a causal influence on choices was dropped. It isn't a a dichotomy of deterministic or random, since it involves both.
The dichotomy doesn't prevent a process from being partially deterministic and partially random. It only means that there is no third, unrelated means of making a decision. But, as I said, I'm happy to suspend the dichotomy.

~~ Paul
 
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/GL017i003p00223/abstract

Dead page.

Because I don't know what you think openness is, other than pure randomness. There has been talk of cosmic will and such like.
And I don't know what you think pure randomness is, or what evidence you deduce for it.

So does it choose mutations?
The mutations could only have organized consequences by means of cosmic will, and mutations are simply changes in structures generated by cosmic will. It doesn't need to "choose mutations" because neither "mutations" or anything else are more powerful than cosmic will.


I don't see how if, as you say: "he doesn't even need to know what ANY of that is about..."
Okay, well then again I don't understand that problem you are having or imagining that the notional president would have.
 
The dichotomy doesn't prevent a process from being partially deterministic and partially random. It only means that there is no third, unrelated means of making a decision. But, as I said, I'm happy to suspend the dichotomy.

~~ Paul
It is a third option because it is an emergent causation, not something that just results from deterministic, Indeterministic, or a combination.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Interesting. Works fine for me. I'll try again:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/GL017i003p00223/abstract

And I don't know what you think pure randomness is, or what evidence you deduce for it.
It's a completely uncaused event. I thought you had agreed that was reasonable, although I am having trouble keeping track of everything hidden in the not-determinism. I cannot prove there isn't cosmic will behind every supposedly random event, although that sounds like an extra thing for which the proponent needs to show evidence. There certainly isn't any evidence that nuclear decay, for example, is anything other than completely arbitrary. If the cosmic will is manipulating the universe through non-arbitrary nuclea decay, we seem to be oblivious to it.

The mutations could only have organized consequences by means of cosmic will, and mutations are simply changes in structures generated by cosmic will. It doesn't need to "choose mutations" because neither "mutations" or anything else are more powerful than cosmic will.
So that means that a computer simulation of evolution, which produces organization, is backed up by cosmic will? Or is the simulation some kind of cosmic-will-independent organization producer?

Okay, well then again I don't understand that problem you are having or imagining that the notional president would have.
He wouldn't have any problem if all he does is roll a die. Any additional decisions he makes must be for the purpose of skewing the 60/40 probabilities to some other probabilities. But he has no information with which to make any such decisions.

Of course, I don't know if information is actually involved in free will decisions. That's because no ones dares to describe how such decisions are made, lest the description sounds like a mechanism.

~~ Paul
 
That's not enough of a description to make it something other than a combination. How does the agent make the decision about what to cause?

~~ Paul
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/GL017i003p00223/abstract

Ah, a model. I said real-world deterministic.


It's a completely uncaused event. I thought you had agreed that was reasonable, although I am having trouble keeping track of everything hidden in the not-determinism. I cannot prove there isn't cosmic will behind every supposedly random event, although that sounds like an extra thing for which the proponent needs to show evidence. There certainly isn't any evidence that nuclear decay, for example, is anything other than completely arbitrary. If the cosmic will is manipulating the universe through non-arbitrary nuclea decay, we seem to be oblivious to it.
I think the action of cosmic will is always "uncaused" if by this is meant things *coerce* the choice moment itself among the choices available. I don't know if nuclear decay is truly without rhyme or reason, or not, but since self-organization as at an extremely primitive level there, I would not expect to see much in the way of informationally meaningful activity.


So that means that a computer simulation of evolution, which produces organization, is backed up by cosmic will? Or is the simulation some kind of cosmic-will-independent organization producer?
But a computer doesn't *really* produce organization. It itself is pre-organized by an authentic neutral system begat by cosmic will (we've been here before, too). Organisms and aggregates. I haven't changed my view.

He wouldn't have any problem if all he does is roll a die. Any additional decisions he makes must be for the purpose of skewing the 60/40 probabilities to some other probabilities. But he has no information with which to make any such decisions.
He doesn't need information to make those decisions. That is itself the open-ness he embodies.

Of course, I don't know if information is actually involved in free will decisions. That's because no ones dares to describe how such decisions are made, lest the description sounds like a mechanism.
There's no danger of it sounding like a mechanism, because it is always the willed action of an aware principle. Mechanisms, on the other hand, are found nowhere in nature, and are merely a fictitious category invented by human beings.
 
That's not enough of a description to make it something other than a combination. How does the agent make the decision about what to cause?

~~ Paul
The information generation and relations of the agent are emergent, novel, and irreducible, and causally affect the choices being made. It is not reducible to the underlying deterministic or Indeterministic properties and is not algorithmic.

This is essentially saying that the novel irreducible thoughts, that are being consciously attended to, on part of the agent are what are responsible for choices.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Ah, a model. I said real-world deterministic.
Everything about the real world is a model. But it's probably impossible to say whether there are any complex real-world processes that are deterministically chaotic. I'm not sure how we would test this.

I think the action of cosmic will is always "uncaused" if by this is meant things *coerce* the choice moment itself among the choices available. I don't know if nuclear decay is truly without rhyme or reason, or not, but since self-organization as at an extremely primitive level there, I would not expect to see much in the way of informationally meaningful activity.
So perhaps there are some natural processes that are truly random?

But a computer doesn't *really* produce organization. It itself is pre-organized by an authentic neutral system begat by cosmic will (we've been here before, too). Organisms and aggregates. I haven't changed my view.
I think you're ignoring simulations where only a framework is organized and the processes just do their own thing, possibly with a true RNG. But anyway.

He doesn't need information to make those decisions. That is itself the open-ness he embodies.
So he is making a decision without any information? How could that be anything other than arbitrary?

There's no danger of it sounding like a mechanism, because it is always the willed action of an aware principle. Mechanisms, on the other hand, are found nowhere in nature, and are merely a fictitious category invented by human beings.
Then why won't people explain how free will works without quite often objecting to the question on the grounds that such an explanation would be mechanistic?

~~ Paul
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
The information generation and relations of the agent are emergent, novel, and irreducible, and causally affect the choices being made. It is not reducible to the underlying deterministic or Indeterministic properties and is not algorithmic.
According to Kai there is no danger of the explanation sounding like a mechanism. Yet here you say it cannot be a mechanism.

This is essentially saying that the novel irreducible thoughts, that are being consciously attended to, on part of the agent are what are responsible for choices.
I'm fine with emergent, novel, irreducible thoughts. But if they are not arbitrary with respect to the subject at hand, then some sort of cogitation is going on to come up with them.

~~ Paul
 
According to Kai there is no danger of the explanation sounding like a mechanism. Yet here you say it cannot be a mechanism.
I don't understand what you mean?

Paul said:
I'm fine with emergent, novel, irreducible thoughts. But if they are not arbitrary with respect to the subject at hand, then some sort of cogitation is going on to come up with them.

~~ Paul
Well sure, but those thoughts are themselves causal. Isn't that the kind of free will people think they have? That their thoughts choose the action, and the thoughts are not irreducible to the underlying processes?
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I don't understand what you mean?
Kai said

"There's no danger of it sounding like a mechanism, because it is always the willed action of an aware principle. Mechanisms, on the other hand, are found nowhere in nature, and are merely a fictitious category invented by human beings."

If so, then some description of the free will decision process should be possible without it sounding like a mechanism.

Well sure, but those thoughts are themselves causal. Isn't that the kind of free will people think they have? That their thoughts choose the action, and the thoughts are not irreducible to the underlying processes?
Yes, that's a partial description of what people seem to want. But how are the thoughts themselves caused? How is the decision "calculated" by the agent? I put "calculated" in scare quotes to emphasize that I understand they are not calculated like a computer.

~~ Paul
 
Everything about the real world is a model. But it's probably impossible to say whether there are any complex real-world processes that are deterministically chaotic. I'm not sure how we would test this.
No. The world is certainly not a model. Many things can be abstracted to a model, but there are usually losses in the abstraction.


So perhaps there are some natural processes that are truly random?
Or the drift in these events is so low that one can only become aware of them by monitoring large scale events, as in the Global Consciousness Project. Or else the bottom of the hierarchy of cosmic will is simply itself, without contextualized emergence.

I think you're ignoring simulations where only a framework is organized and the processes just do their own thing, possibly with a true RNG. But anyway.
No I don't think I am ignoring those. All computers are the same at core. Of course, if you add a tRNG, then you can no longer formally talk about a computer as such.
So he is making a decision without any information? How could that be anything other than arbitrary?
I already answered this.

Then why won't people explain how free will works without quite often objecting to the question on the grounds that such an explanation would be mechanistic?
In your many repeats of this statement, you simply misunderstand the ontology you are criticizing. As I've said to you multiple times, it's the same as me asking you how "materialness" works or how the "randomness" you imagine to exist works. When you are asked this, you simply reply with ontics, and that's ok, because it is an ontic. There is no "how" of cosmic will, Paul, if by "how" you mean a process or cause that it itself is beholden to. No: this IS cause...everything else is secondary. There is no manual of "cosmic will mechanisms" it needs to consult in order to carry out its role in universal ecology.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
No. The world is certainly not a model. Many things can be abstracted to a model, but there are usually losses in the abstraction.
Sorry, I meant our knowledge of the real world is a model. I'm not sure how we could determine whether there are any purely deterministic chaotic processes in nature.

Or the drift in these events is so low that one can only become aware of them by monitoring large scale events, as in the Global Consciousness Project. Or else the bottom of the hierarchy of cosmic will is simply itself, without contextualized emergence.
I very much doubt the GCP is finding anything real, but that's a different thread.

No I don't think I am ignoring those. All computers are the same at core. Of course, if you add a tRNG, then you can no longer formally talk about a computer as such.
It's not the computer, it's the software. But anyway, another topic.

I already answered this.
I don't think you have. In fact, here is part of our conversation:

Paul: "Then the choosing module does nothing more than an $n$-sided die can do."
Kai: "If the die were weighted on certain sides, then you are correct."
Paul: "Which therefore is not making a free choice. If there is any free choosing going on, it seems like it is in other modules."
Kai: "No that's not true at all and I have no idea why you think that."

Do you see why I am confused? Perhaps I can't tell when you are talking about your model and when you are talking about some deterministic model. I have paid careful attention to this conversation and I have no idea what information the President uses to make the decision, if any information is used at all.

In your many repeats of this statement, you simply misunderstand the ontology you are criticizing. As I've said to you multiple times, it's the same as me asking you how "materialness" works or how the "randomness" you imagine to exist works. When you are asked this, you simply reply with ontics, and that's ok, because it is an ontic. There is no "how" of cosmic will, Paul, if by "how" you mean a process or cause that it itself is beholden to. No: this IS cause...everything else is secondary. There is no manual of "cosmic will mechanisms" it needs to consult in order to carry out its role in universal ecology.
I'm okay with cosmic will being the cause, but I still don't understand how this will makes decisions.

It's not just me repeating the statement. Look at post #531. Isn't Neil concerned about mechanism? Yet you say there is no such thing as mechanism in nature.

~~ Paul
 
Kai said

"There's no danger of it sounding like a mechanism, because it is always the willed action of an aware principle. Mechanisms, on the other hand, are found nowhere in nature, and are merely a fictitious category invented by human beings."

If so, then some description of the free will decision process should be possible without it sounding like a mechanism.


Yes, that's a partial description of what people seem to want. But how are the thoughts themselves caused? How is the decision "calculated" by the agent? I put "calculated" in scare quotes to emphasize that I understand they are not calculated like a computer.

~~ Paul
Thoughts are caused via information generation of the agent. The decision could be "calculated" by a combination of subconscious thoughts and biases, conditioned responses, and consciously attended thoughts, and the degree of freedom depends on the degree that consciously attended thoughts contribute to the calculation and decision.

A decision based on habit (like taking a certain freeway exit) is not a free choice, even though it is a choice made by a conscious agent. A habit developed like smoking creates a habituated response to smoke that is again a choice, but very little freedom (if any) is exerted in the choice since it is driven by behavioral habits and physiological pressures of drug addiction. In the decision to quit smoking, the more one consciously attends to the choices, the more free choice can be exerted, but if not, one falls right back into non-free choice habits.
 
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