• TheMadFool
    7.2k
    Free will has always puzzled me. Is it the same for you?

    To the extent I'm aware, free will is an unsolved riddle. Nobody knows whether it's real or illusory.

    Choice is central to free will. Free will can be translated as the ability to make choices free from influences we have no control over.

    However, there seems to be a flaw in this point of view which can be exposed by a simple examination of the digital world.

    Computers routinely make choices. From the little that I know, coding requires decision making elements at a fundamental level. Do we say that computers have free will? No.

    Therefore, the concept of free will is fundamentally flawed if it's based on ability to make choices. If that's the case, then free will is an empty concept because we can't use the ability to choose as a method of verifying/falsifying it. That's like pulling the rug from under free will - it becomes a meaningless concept.

    What say you?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Free will can be translated as the ability to make choices free from influences we have no control over.TheMadFool

    I find this a strange way to b define it.

    Choice is precisely the will to move in a particular direction that can and will be affected by all influences, this making outcomes unpredictable. It can be analogized as a tug-of-war. It is the direction and amount of will that is indicated by the agent that creates the choice.

    Computers routinely make choices.TheMadFool

    Computers don't make choices. They are programmed by humans who do make choices when writing the programs.
  • TheMadFool
    7.2k
    Very strange that no one challenges it.Rich

    Well, I'm working at this problem indirectly. Free will is central to morality, which in turn, necessitates the choice to do good rather than bad. Yes, there's a whole lot of philosophy dependent on free will me thinks. Anyway, I hope you understood why I think choice is absolutely fundamental to the concept of Free Will.

    Computers don't make choices. They are programmed by humans who do make choices when writing the programsRich

    Yes, they're programmed to make choices by humans. I agree. The punchline here is that, given choice can be programmed, it loses its ability to be a discerning variable for free will. In other words, choice, the ability to make one, can't distinguish between free will and no free will.

    As the ability to choose is foundational to free will, removing it, by the above reasoning, destroys the concept all together.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Free will is central to morality, which in turn, necessitates the choice to do good rather than bad. Yes, there's a whole lot of philosophy dependent on free will me thinks. Anyway, I hope you understood why I think choice is absolutely fundamental to the concept of Free Will.TheMadFool

    For my part, I entirely drop the notion of Free Will add it muddles the problem. I just speak of choice in the manner I describe. It is very precise and mirrors exactly the action that we are taking when we make choices, the agent is calling upon will to move in a particular direction. Morality, a subjective concept or judgement can be tied to the choices we make but it's parenthetical to na discussion of whether it not we can and do make choices.

    The punchline here is that, given choice can be programmed,TheMadFool

    This only creates confusion. The computer is not making choices in the manner the human agent does. The human choice is not determined by some program. Computers follow directions given to them by humans. One can say that computers are algorithmically driven-a huge difference.
  • TheMadFool
    7.2k
    For my part, I entirely drop the notion of Free Will add it muddles the problem.Rich

    My turn to say this is odd. I think the value of human life, for what it's worth, rests on Free Will. To choose to be good rather than bad. To choose to appreciate rather than depreciate. To choose to live one's life according to one's free will. The sense of self-determination is essential to meaning in life, no matter how ephemeral it is. Freedom is the lifeblood of society. Freedom of speech, freedom to live, freedom of faith, freedom, freedom. So, I think I speak on everybody's behalf when I say Free Will is important.

    The computer is not making choices in the manner the human agent doesRich

    How do you know that? You don't. Choice-making can be and is programmable. Computers are the evidence. Being so, the ability of making choices is no longer a viable discriminating quality re Free Will.

    Therefore, Free Will doesn't make sense because its confirmation/disconfirmation relies on a property (making choices) that has no differentiating power.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    My turn to say this is odd. I think the value of human life, for what it's worth, rests on Free Will. To choose to be good rather than bad.TheMadFool

    There are unpredictable consequences for any actions. Results may be deemed good it's bad by the enumerable number of lives affected. Judgement always is after the action and at any point cannot foresee possible future consequences. Moralists can pursue morality and they wish but it turns philosophy into an endless parlor game. I previously in annother thread referred to the Daoist take of the farmer and his son which illustrates the idea.

    With that said, we make our choices based upon who we are and where we are trying to go. An analogy would be learning to sail on the ocean.

    How do you know that?TheMadFool

    Observation of myself and others. I am no more s computer than I am a slide-rule or an abacus. If you think you are a computer, there is nothing I can say or do to dissuade you. You have that choice.
  • CasKev
    411
    @TheMadFool

    Even leaving choice in the equation, free will is illusory.

    Did you create yourself? No, you only exist because of some fluke of nature, or the design of some higher power. Did you choose your mother and father? Did you choose your country of birth? Does someone choose to be neglected? Does someone choose to be abused? Does someone choose the beliefs of the society they are born into? No, no, and no.

    The very first choice a person makes is a product of their biological make-up, and the sensory experiences they've encountered up to that point, none of which were controlled by that person. Every decision thereafter is based on a combination of instinct, and the perceived results of previous choices. Even your choice to believe or not believe what you are currently reading is based on the experiences you've had and the choices you've made up until now. At the root of that series of choices are inputs over which you had no control.
  • noAxioms
    877
    Well, I'm working at this problem indirectly. Free will is central to morality, which in turn, necessitates the choice to do good rather than bad.TheMadFool
    Excellent way to approach it.

    I feel as if the free will problem is nonexistent because I take this approach. First of all, various philosophy of the mind interpretations have completely different premises about what really is a person, morals, choice, volition, etc. So the confusion only exists if you take the premises of one view and apply them to a different view.

    Computers don't make choices. They are programmed by humans who do make choices when writing the programs.Rich
    You have not stated your premises for this assertion, but I'm guessing a dualistic set of premises, in which case you're right.
    A physical monist says choice is a purposeful selection of action, which is what a machine (thermostat say) does and a rock doesn't. It senses a specific condition and acts on that condition and not just a fatalistic random effect of prior causes, which is how a rock does not choose when to break in half.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    guessing a dualistic set ofnoAxioms

    I don't think there is any dualism. I'm describing my observations that life is totally different than tools of life. I've could try to say a hand is like a hammer out that a hammer is human, but that is not what a observe.

    A physical monist says choice is a purposeful selection of action, which is what a machine (thermostat say) does and a rock doesn't.noAxioms

    A machine doesn't make choices. The choices are made by the human that programs the machine. Just like a hammer doesn't make choices. The choices are being made by the human that is using it. Similarly, a piano don't make choices. The pianist is making the choices. Tools used by humans are not human.

    There are many, many other observations I've made that distinguish life from tools.
  • noAxioms
    877
    A machine doesn't make choices. The choices are made by the human that programs the machine. Just like a hammer doesn't make choices. The choices are being made by the human that is using it. Similarly, a piano don't make choices. The pianist is making the choices. Tools used by humans are not human.Rich
    No, I may set the threshold but don't actually tell the thermostat when to turn on the heat. I simply design the thing to make its own choice based on a comparison between the temperature and the setting . I arrange it so it is capable of making that choice, but if the choice is mine, I would have no need of the thermostat, and there would just be a manual toggle on the wall.

    So I disagree, but that is my definition I'm working from. You can define choice any way you want of course. The idea is to find a set of definitions/premises that don't contradict.
    So what is choice that a machine doesn't have it but a human does? I'm not (yet) asserting it has free will. Just trying to get the terms straight.
  • noAxioms
    877
    OK, I think you might not ascribe choice to the thermostat because the purpose it serves is that of it's installer (the house occupant), not its own. If so, I think I can drive that definition to contradiction, but perhaps we first need to figure out what we mean by 'will', and the distinction between free and not free.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I feel will as a force being generated from within me which creates the impetus to move in a particular direction, together fulfilling the choice. It can be imagined as a directed wave.
  • TheMadFool
    7.2k
    At the root of that series of choices are inputs over which you had no controlCasKev

    Yes, I understand. What I'm referring to is the essential nature of choice in the free will problem. The way to distinguish free will from no free will is through studying the nature of choice. Choice comes first and then existence/nonexistence of free will follow. In short, choice is necessary to keep the concept of free will afloat because the ability to choose freely is a criteria to make the distinction between free will and no free will.

    So said, computers too make choices and we all know they're programmed to do so. Therein we realize that the ability to choose loses all utility in distinguishing free will from no free will. And without this free will ceases to be a concept at all.

    In a way, my argument literally destroys free will as an idea, even in its simplest form. Free will simply cannot exist as a concept. It's like a square circle in this sense - impossible.

    You have that choiceRich

    But choice is programmable e.g. a simple code below is a choice making step:

    If x > 1 then 4/x else goto line 10

    If choice is programmable then free will becomes nonsense.

    Ok
  • Rich
    3.2k
    So said, computers too make choicesTheMadFool

    Computers follow programmatic algorithms. If they actually were making independent choices the world computer networks would be in total chaos. Everyone is totally reliant on a computer's inability to make choices. Out of curiosity, how did you come by this idea that computers make choices?

    If x > 1 then 4/x else goto line 10TheMadFool

    This is an algorithmic decision tree that the computer, hopefully, will execute as directed without fail. Humans created this decision tree out if their choice. They could have done it differently.
  • noAxioms
    877
    I feel will as a force being generated from within me which creates the impetus to move in a particular direction, together fulfilling the choice. It can be imagined as a directed wave.Rich
    Not really asking how it makes you feel. That road leads to solipsism since even I don't have choice since I don't make you feel that way when I pick vanilla. You can presume I have similar feelings, but there is no way to apply the rule to anything nonhuman. I want a definition of will, not of human will.

    I would think that at its core, 'will' is what an 'agent of choice' wants to do. It is the output of the choice, the volition. This definition seems to work regardless of one's view, even if we differ on what constitutes an agent of choice.
    The will is free if the desired choice can be effected, and thus the agent can bear responsibility. So if I will to help a choking person but I'm inhibited by a barrier between us, the will is not free to perform the act, and thus is not responsible in any way for not helping the other person in need.

    Anyway, that's sort of the basics in my view. None of the above presumes a particular philosophy, although 'bear responsibility' was not touched on at all.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Not really asking how it makes you feel.noAxioms

    Will is a feeling that the body generates. That is how we know it and observe it. Sometimes its effects can be observed by others as one exerts themselves. It is strange that feelings are made subservient to words or other symbols. Will is directly experienced.
  • noAxioms
    877
    If x > 1 then 4/x else goto line 10

    If choice is programmable then free will becomes nonsense.
    TheMadFool
    Only if you use inconsistent definitions. If going to line 10 is the right thing to do in this case, and there is no inhibition to the PC going there (such as there is no line 10), then this is an example of free will in my view.
    If going to line 10 is the wrong thing to do, the will is still free, but the program must now bear whatever responsibility it holds for going to the wrong place. Perhaps it will malfunction and crash.

    This is very similar to the responsibility relationship between my toes and my brain. The brain evolved partly to bear responsibility to keep the toes safe. If the brain (the agent) doesn't do its job and notice the rock, the toe is injured and the brain bears the responsibility. The pain is experienced upstairs, not by the toe. There is no evolutionary advantage to the toe experiencing pain for choices it did not make. The pain is in the correct place and serves as a deterrent to future toe stubbage.
    Yes, that's a word.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    The will is free if the desired choice can be effectednoAxioms

    Will is neither free nor does it have control of outcome. One can only try to make the choice. There are all manner of constraints and influences that affect outcomes. One can only attempt to move in a particular direction. Two football lineman exhibit this type of tug-of-war.

    Insofar as responsibility is concerned, that is a issue of human condition. Since outcomes are unpredictable, responsibility is purely subjective which is why we have courts to adjudicate.
  • noAxioms
    877
    Will is a feeling that the body generates. That is how we know it and observe it. Sometimes its effects can be observed by others as one exerts themselves. It is strange that feelings are made subservient to words or other symbols. Will is directly experienced.Rich
    Again, you are describing human will. I have no way of applying that elsewhere. If humans are special, then that's a premise, and you have to tell me why. If they're not, then the introspection is useless in determining what else has will.
  • noAxioms
    877
    Will is neither free nor does it have control of outcome. One can only try to make the choice. There are all manner of constraints and influences that affect outcomes. One can only attempt to move in a particular direction. Two football lineman exhibit this type of tug-of-war.

    Insofar as responsibility is concerned, that is a issue of human condition. Since outcomes are unpredictable, responsibility is purely subjective which is why we have courts to adjudicate.
    Rich
    You seem to be under the impression that I'm asserting something. I'm just putting out a set of premises that I think works. If you disagree, tell me where my definitions run into conflict.

    If you have a different set of premises, that's great. But your descriptions have been confined only to personal experience of the thing, and that doesn't tell me what the thing might be.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I don't believe humans are special in having will. Almost any life form can be observed expressing will. To what extent they have choices is unclear since there is no way to communicate with other species at this time.

    My approach to philosophy is more experiential and then comparing my experiences with others observing similarities within the differences and differences within the similarities, constructing and visualizing patterns in the process.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    You seem to be under the impression that I'm asserting something. I'm just putting out a set of premises that I think works. If you disagree, tell me where my definitions run into conflict.noAxioms

    I understand that you are suggesting some premises and I am suggesting a slightly different way to frame the issue. I think confusion arises when teens like Free Will are imbued with more than actual experience suggests, hence my analogy to a tug-of-war where will and choice are being expressed with outcomes unpredictable. I apologize if you felt I was misunderstanding your posts.
  • TheMadFool
    7.2k


    The point is choice-making is programmable. That nullifies the discriminating power of human ability to choose to make the distinction free will as opposed to no free will.

    That effectively makes free will an impossible concept to even think of. ''Free will'' can't be defined and is meaningless 4 ÷ 0.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    The point is choice-making is programmable.TheMadFool

    Programming attempts to create a decision tree. Your use of a human trait and applying it to a computer is your choice, but as I said, if computers were really making choices the world would descend into utter havoc. Thank god they they don't. You might as well imbue choice into any tool including a hammer. A tool follows instructions, humans do not.
  • noAxioms
    877
    The point is choice-making is programmable. That nullifies the discriminating power of human ability to choose to make the distinction free will as opposed to no free will.

    That effectively makes free will an impossible concept to even think of. ''Free will'' can't be defined and is meaningless 4 ÷ 0.
    TheMadFool
    This is one of those areas where the philosophy of mind matters.
    Your example that choice-making is programmable only works under physical monism. A dualistic view has a different definitions of 'agent of choice', which is defined as the immaterial mind. The computer may or may not have one of those, but if it does, it is apparently not capable of altering the determined course made by the program, and therefore is not free.
  • TheMadFool
    7.2k
    A tool follows instructions, humans do not.Rich

    Is that a categorically true statement? No, because it's impossible to know we aren't programmed. Think of God as the programmer and the human mind as a computer.

    The computer may or may not have one of those, but if it does, it is apparently not capable of altering the determined course made by the program, and therefore is not free.noAxioms

    Brain:Mind :: Hardware:Software.

    It's impossible to know the mind isn't software coded by, say, God.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Is that a categorically true statement? No, because it's impossible to know we aren't programmed. Think of God as the programmer and the human mind as a computer.TheMadFool

    It is possible by observing oneself, but if one wishes to hand-off their intelligence and ability to choose to some outside supernatural force, they are free to make the choice and live such a life. However, I suggest that one doesn't carry such a belief into court. God made me do it or Natural Laws made me do it is not considered a viable defense strategy.
  • TheMadFool
    7.2k
    God made me do it or Natural Laws made me do it is not considered a viable defense strategy.Rich

    Indeed, our whole lives are predicated on free will - we're responsible for our actions. That's why the justice system, and morality as a whole exist.

    All I'm saying is, as is generally understood, the ability to make choices can't distinguish the presence or absence of free will because it's programmable.

    EDIT: Free will and choice making ability are not connected in any real sense.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    EDIT: Free will and choice making ability are not connected in any real sense.TheMadFool

    You seem to be connecting, or equating, the very idea of "free will" with libertarian (incompatibilist) free will. This is the ability for agents to settle between various options that are metaphysically open, in a sense, prior to the time of action or decision. Also, what you are calling "choice making" seems to be an instance of the sort of ability that compatibilists deem to be sufficient for free will (or merely for moral responsibility). But you are not very explicit about that.

    Hence, your thesis seems to boil down to the claim that compatibilist free will is possible even if libertarian free will isn't. This is rather common place, though not unworthy of discussion.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    as is generally understood, the ability to make choices can't distinguish the presence or absence of free will because it's programmable.TheMadFool

    This is the first time I've heard of such a concept so it must have gone viral last night if it is generally understood.

    Believe as you wish, it is your choice. It would be interesting to know why people make such choices. I think they just feel comfortable knowing that it had all been taken care of by some supernatural forces. Very common among religious people.
  • Janus
    9.3k
    To the extent I'm aware, free will is an unsolved riddle. Nobody knows whether it's real or illusory.TheMadFool

    If we are exhaustively natural beings determined by the laws or order of physical nature and those laws are comprehensively rationally intelligible, then free will, conceived in a way that can justify moral responsibility and praise and blame, must be an illusion.

    If we are not exhaustively natural beings and/or if nature is not comprehensively rationally intelligible, then we might be free in the radical way that is necessary to justify moral resonsibility and praise and blame.

    The problem is that we can never know which of these alternatives are true, so it will forever remain a matter of faith. Do you want to have faith in your own 'first person' experience or in the 'third person' scientific view of human nature?
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