• Jamesk
    303
    I think that the compatabilism argument is deeply flawed. I am starting to believe that we all do have the capacity to act freely, however we rarely choose to do so.

    It is true that deterministic forces strongly influence our choices as much they do to everything in the universe, it is also true that humans are indeed special and do have agent causation powers of their own.

    The rock has no choice in moving when the stick hits it, the determinist says the agent also has no choice either and this is not always the case.

    We spend most of our lives in 'automatic mode', rarely taking time to consider our own choices and in doing so we allow the deterministic forces to control our choices. It is actually much easier and far less scary to go through life like this rather than actually thinking properly about our actions.

    When we act in this way we say that we are acting 'in character' however, we know that sometimes people don't always act in character, sometimes they do things that we say are out of character and I think that this is actually an example of freewill.

    What do you think?
    1. Do we possess the capacity of freewill? (4 votes)
        Yes
        50%
        No
        25%
        Undecided
        25%
  • Ciaran
    53
    sometimes they do things that we say are out of character and I think that this is actually an example of freewill.Jamesk

    You seem to be suggesting that there are two options for acting; "in character" and "out of character". If so, then the first decision which needs to be made is whether one is going to act "in character" or "out of character" in any given scenario. You paint "in character" actions as if they were automatic and "out of character" actions as if they were thought through. So surely, when faced with a choice, the first decision must be whether to deal with this choice by automatic action (call it intuition, maybe) or by consideration. But then this itself becomes a choice, and the problem recurs. How are you going to choose how to choose, intuition or consideration. This is then another choice...

    The problem with your characterisation is that you don't seem to be able to take the first step without intuition, and as soon as intuition has got involved it is no longer free will.
  • Jamesk
    303
    The problem with your characterisation is that you don't seem to be able to take the first step without intuition, and as soon as intuition has got involved it is no longer free will.Ciaran

    I am not trying to base the hypotheses on intuition at all, or at least I don't think that I am. Acting in character is when we do things as we 'sleepwalk' through life, I may be appealing here eastern doctrines of enlightenment.

    My point is that we do not actually make decisions, we let the issues decide themselves by considering (if we even bother to think about them) the determiniastic forces and influences and following the ones most suitable for our needs. Our needs in this case I believe is to be able to remain in a sleepwalking state.

    In this state freewill becomes something that we try to avoid because we do not know what we want. The hardest situation any of us face is deciding what we really want, it takes so much effort that we prefer just to submit to causal influences.

    Awaking ourselves (achieving even temporary enlightenment) we are capable of agent causation which we refer to as acting out of character. When a policeman or firefighter risk their lives to save others we applaud their bravery but we are not surprised by it because we see them as acting in character. When we see them balking at such a task we feel that they were acting out of character.

    When we see a mild mannered, cowardly person risk their lives to save another we are surprised by the act and give it a special place of honour. Could this be because we are secretly applauding their ability to wake up and make truly conscious decisions?

    I know that there are many holes in my theory but it is at the early stage of development, maybe we can grow something out of this or maybe it will die on the table.
  • Ciaran
    53


    I think I understand the gist of what you're saying, but I'm talking about the first decision. In your terminology, the decision whether to "wake up" or not. What motivates that decision? You must consciously decide "I am no longer going to sleep-walk through this bit of my life, but rather I'm going to really make decisions using my intellect". So how does one make this first decision, the decision to really think about one's decisions?

    Surely, if this first decision is taken whilst sleep-walking, then all following decisions are simply the consequence of this one and so entirely in character. If, alternatively, the decision to "wake up" is the result of an out of character analysis, then one already has "woken up" (because one is now making decisions analytically) in which case we have to ask, what woke us up?
  • Jamesk
    303
    in which case we have to ask, what woke us up?Ciaran

    You have hit the nail on the head. If we say the awakening happens through causal influence then the theory sinks like a lead balloon. We need to examine what we believe are the causes for people to behave out of character and see if we can find a genuinely internal one.
    .
    Could it be that the mind acts like the universe and has it's own a parallel process of reflective determination? I think that often these acts of freewill / uncharacteristic acts are born from personal crisis.

    I realise my argument is not as strong as the counter argument that you present, however there could be a case where human behavior is as complicated as the universe.
  • Ciaran
    53


    I may well be missing something, but to me, the answer seems simple. Our decisions are mostly made by our brain's internal workings, occasionally some step in that process refers the decision to the conscious, analytical part because the correct course of action is no longer obvious. At this point 'we' (the part of our brains which is aware of a unified set of thoughts) decide what to do.

    So, personal crisis is a good example. The subconcious brain (on autopilot) does not seem to be getting the results from the automatic decision making it is expecting, it refers the decision about whether to continue in autopilot up to the conscious analytical part. We experience this as a crisis of confidence, but it's really just the unconscious reporting that it's decision-making algorithm is not working for some reason.
  • Jamesk
    303
    I think that we oversimplify the nature of determination and causal influence. We know that there is a factor called 'the individual' that allows two people in the same circumstances to act differently. Some people do 'break' the chains of influence that determine their acts as far as we can tell.

    If determinism is true, and we can understand and quantify it then we should be able to predict everyone all the time. I don't think that these forces have quite the hold over us that the determinist or compatibilist say. Any hold it has over us is voluntary, we chose to sleepwalk through life because we are fundamentally lazy.

    I am trying to prove that we can act freely even if we choose not to most of our lives.
  • Ciaran
    53
    Any hold it has over us is voluntary, we chose to sleepwalk through life because we are fundamentally lazy.Jamesk

    Yes, so if we 'choose' to sleepwalk through life, we must also 'choose' to stop sleepwalking, yes?

    But if we must 'choose' to stop sleepwalking, we must make that choice **whilst sleepwalking**. So that choice must be determined, it cannot be our free choice (by your definition) because we have not yet woken up sufficiently to make it.

    Yet, if a sleepwalking, determined state can result in our making a choice which is uncharacteristic (the choice to "wake up") then you are left with no phenomenon to explain, we have just established that it is perfectly possible for a fully determined state to result in uncharacteristic decisions.
  • Jamesk
    303
    Yes, so if we 'choose' to sleepwalk through life, we must also 'choose' to stop sleepwalking, yes?Ciaran

    Perhaps it is not a choice. If it is born from crisis then it could well be a violent internal reaction (yes I am aware that Hume has an answer for this). An event happens which 'shakes' out of the trance, this much is deterministic I will give you.

    If a determined event causes / leads us to act out of character, the decisions then made while out of character are still decisions of freewill even if the conditions leading to put us in the state to do so were deterministic.

    Did I make sense?
  • Noah Te Stroete
    575
    This is an interesting and worthwhile conversation. I can’t wait to see where it goes.
  • Ciaran
    53


    Yes, I see where you're going. The fact that we can demonstrate it is possible to experience a choice which is out of character, but nonetheless deterministic does not in of itself imply that all such choices are deterministic, your theory certainly seems to be a possible one. The point I'm unsure on is that if at least one 'out-of-character' choice can be deterministic, then we have no phenomenon to explain. Your theory might be sound, but not necessary?
  • Jamesk
    303
    Yes I can see that I am merely providing sufficient grounds. Is it fair though to demand necessity from something that is dealing with causation? I
  • Ciaran
    53


    Yeah, it depends on your objective for coming up with a theory. Obviously with science we want to use our theories to make predictions, and (under an assumption that we can infer the future from the past) we can select the ones which have performed best.

    Philosophy is different though, in that we're using our theories post hoc, they're just there to comfort us about things which are the case, but can be conceived of on a number of different, equally valid, ways. We choose the way we find most comforting.
  • Jamesk
    303
    I am looking for a way to make freewill truly compatible with determinism. My approach is to try and firstly show that determinism exists but is not absolute, and that there are occasions when we can be free from it's influence. Secondly to establish the possibility of a limited libertarian freewill, not limited in its freedom but limited in its employment.

    'Sleepwalking through life' is a state that also needs further examination. We now know that our brains are inherently lazy and are much happier using old memories of observations than doing the hard work of processing all that sense data. This is how magicians and illusionists trick us, our brain tends to process a mere fraction of the visual sense date we receive, relying on memory to fill in the blanks.
  • Ciaran
    53
    My approach is to try and firstly show that determinism exists but is not absoluteJamesk

    It's the "that" and "is" I'm having trouble with. Replace them both with "could be" and you'll have a fine theory, but trying to prove that they actually are is a lost cause.
  • SophistiCat
    648
    I am trying to prove that we can act freely even if we choose not to most of our lives.Jamesk

    Your proof, as far as I can see, consists in redefining what it means to "act freely." To paraphrase Russell, this method of redefining words has many advantages; they are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil.

    The core of what you are saying consists in the observation that most of the time people "sleepwalk" through life, but sometimes they do something "out of character." (Like that mother of four who one day, for no obvious reason, killed all of her children... Oops! Bad example.) Which is true enough, but also a banality.
  • Jamesk
    303
    It's the "that" and "is" I'm having trouble with. Replace them both with "could be" and you'll have a fine theory, but trying to prove that they actually are is a lost cause.
    5 minutes ago
    Ciaran

    Ok so something like 'It could be the case that non-absolute determinism exist'? Or 'It could be the case that determinism exists with only finite influence'?

    Feel free to chip in.
  • Jamesk
    303
    Your proof, as far as I can see, consists in redefining what it means to "act freely."SophistiCat

    I love Russell but that isn't what I am trying to do, any success is purely accidental. I do not seek to redefine either term just to contextualize (?) them. Determinism exists with exceptions and freewill exist in those exceptions where determinism does not.

    I think that's what I am trying to say anyway :)
  • Ciaran
    53


    Yeah, I mean I'm quite happy with 100% determinism myself, but if you're looking for an alternative which also provides an explanation of why some people do seem to invest very little in most decisions, then it seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to think.
  • Jamesk
    303
    Perhaps I am trying to say that a person acting 'out of character' is a person not acting according to his personal set of deterministic influences. By showing that it is possible to do so would seem to limit determinism and free up a place for a freewill to exist through true agent causation.
  • SophistiCat
    648
    What exactly do you mean by "determinism" here? Are you using a strict physicalist definition, or some loose metaphorical one, as in "business as usual"? I am asking because what you say about people acting "out of character", "enlightenment," etc. doesn't seem to have much to do with physical determinism.
  • TWI
    151
    Kismet, there's no escape.
  • Jamesk
    303
    I am struggling with the distinction between fatalism and determinism.
  • Valentinus
    251
    The emphasis placed upon isolating a "moral agent" from other causes to prove alternative possibilities is not the only possible approach.

    So, for instance, Spinoza rejects the idea of humans having an agency outside of natural causes but nonetheless states they have responsibility for their condition and have influence upon our existence as a consequence. It doesn't parse well without reading the rest first but here goes:

    "If men were born free, they would form no conception of good and evil as long as they were free.
    Proof.--- I said that he is free who is led by reason alone. He, therefore, who is born free has only adequate ideas and accordingly has no conception of evil (Coroll., Prop 64, Part 4.) and consequentially (for good and evil are correlative) none of good."
    Ethics, Prop, 68, Book 4.

    From this point of view, the alternatives are possible through understanding and not from making any particular outcome that appears from "new" causes.
  • Jamesk
    303
    Thanks for the post, I also immediately thought of Spinoza although in the subject matter he never gets a mention. I remember something about him though, every thing is determined yes but he also says that if he could understand his desires he could control them or something like that. Need to dig him up again and look at that.
  • Valentinus
    251

    I think some of the reason why Spinoza is not included in most of the current discussions of the idea of will, free or otherwise, comes from him challenging the assumptions that his contemporaries and thinkers in the past made without much examination. His rejection of "God" being an agent that can do anything he wants is directly tied to the limits he sees in human agency. Humans act toward ends. To apply this principle to God is a projection of our conditions and principles of action on to the Creator.

    Whether one agrees with his approach or not, his theism reveals how other thinkers' theisms are influencing the conversation. Maybe the idea of determinism is not self evident since it is posterior to different models of causality.
  • TheMadFool
    2.7k
    I don't know. We can count all mental experience on our finger tips. For instance we think logically or irrationally. We feel love or hate, etc.

    At max we have in our tool bag, say, 20 mental states we can experience. Right?

    Do you call that free?

    Seems more like clever marketing to me.

    I want a word with my maker:smile:
  • TWI
    151
    Looking back over my life I cannot think of any decision I've made could have been any different considering the conditions prevailing at that time. I get the distinct feeling that my actions were already set beforehand, which, if true, would indicate that free will is an illusion.
  • Jamesk
    303
    Determinism seems to be proposing a tautology.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    575
    Determinism seems to be proposing a tautology.Jamesk

    I am now of the opinion that we are predetermined in some respects, but we may also have some free will; but how is determinism proposing a tautology?
  • Noah Te Stroete
    575
    What I mean is, our urges may sometimes compel us to act in certain specific ways, but we may have certain boundaries in which we can act freely.
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