• PoeticUniverse
    740
    Free: occurring without coercion within circumstantial and situational constraints imposed by normal conditions.Pathogen

    This is good, and it defines 'free' to be that the will is free to operate, the function of the will being to collapse scenarios of selections and their consequences into the best choice to be real-ized.

    Hardly anyone would contest this, so there should be no big fuss so far.
  • Mww
    1k


    While I concur wholeheartedly with this, it does merely kick the metaphysical can down the transcendental road. There has to be some logically sustainable rendition of “free” in order for the will to do its job. Therein lay the fuss.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113


    Free: occurring without coercion within circumstantial and situational constraints imposed by normal conditions.

    One of my biggest issues with these debates is that people always define free as uncoerced. In my opinion, this is just framing the debate with loaded language. I do not believe in libertarianism.

    I think the best you can do philosophically is to argue for "will." Just drop the qualifier, which is a theologically generated concept, which was invented to salvage the notion of God being just in the light of suffering. E.g. suffering is the result of human volition therefore God is still good.

    So my argument for "will," would basically be Dennett's position. We have a range of options that appear to be able to be subjected to conscious deliberation on our part, and the range is determined by cause and effect, and it seems to be the case, that we can choose between these options. So epistemologically, it is not possible to know if we are actually deliberating or if it just appears that we are, for all intents and purposes, it seems to us as if we are making choices. Therefore, it might be safe to say that we have a "will."
  • PoeticUniverse
    740
    There has to be some logically sustainable rendition of “free” in order for the will to do its job.Mww

    The general job of the will might be to insure the person's future in combination with reflecting the person as s/he has become as of that moment.

    The fuss is about the consistency of the will, which, although appreciated as nature's useful means toward one's survival and keeping one to basically remain as true to one's self, leaves the person to necessarily be an automated process, which is not well received emotionally, since, well, then it seems one is not in control, whatever 'control' means, really, and who knows what benefit it could confer over the quick and deep process of two hundred trillion neuron connections figuring things out quite well.
  • Mww
    1k
    libertarianismrlclauer

    I have no problem with libertarianism of the philosophical sort, re: Belsham, 1789. So saying, the libertarian premise of the non-anarchist personal autonomy is a necessary condition for the will’s determinant functionality.
    ————————

    Just drop the qualifierrlclauer

    Absolutely. Will is a rational faculty in and of itself, or rather, it must be treated as such if it is expected to be the foundation of moral dispositions. I guess the whole....er.....fuss..... really depends on what one thinks the will is supposed to do.
    ————————

    a range of options that appear to be able to be subjected to conscious deliberation on our partrlclauer

    At no time is this more apparent then when the moral agent wills himself to do something he really doesn’t want to do.....and does it despite his wants.
    ————————

    it seems to us as if we are making choices. Therefore, it might be safe to say that we have a "will."rlclauer

    Exactly. It is impossible to prove one way or another, but no one can rationally argue, except for the case of reflex or accident, that we do not weigh options for purely personal well-being, especially when no imperative is in residence.
  • Mww
    1k
    The general job of the will might be to insure the person's future in combination with reflecting the person as s/he has become as of that moment.PoeticUniverse

    I can live with that. It simplifies to that which I see you enunciated in the next paragraph: “...basically remain true to oneself”. Although, I would take exception to the “useful means to one’s survival”. We don’t have the survival issues of our predecessors. Nothing, in the normal course of current events, wants us for dinner, and nobody wants to hang our heads on a pike at the castle keep. Worldly scale and humanity in general being understood, of course.
    ————————

    The fuss is about the consistency of the willPoeticUniverse

    ....which reflects back on what one thinks the will should be doing. If the will is the causal determinant of moral dispositions, and one remains, as you say, true to himself, in other words, he is a moral agent, then his will must be consistent. If the will is inconsistent, then the agent is necessarily contradicting himself, hence is immoral by implication. Consistency of will is morality reduced to its core.

    One way of looking at it anyway.
  • PoeticUniverse
    740
    They wanted to be free of their wills,
    Since wills seem to be full of old-time ills,
    So, they cut them off, now of wills bereft—
    The problem is that there was no ‘they’ left.
  • Relativist
    851
    epistemologically, it is not possible to know if we are actually deliberating or if it just appears that we are, for all intents and purposes, it seems to us as if we are making choices. Therefore, it might be safe to say that we have a "will."rlclauer
    IMO, if we seem to deliberating, then we ARE deliberating. Similarly with the act of making choices.

    Please explain how the SEEMING can be an illusion.
  • Relativist
    851
    The fuss is about the consistency of the will, which, although appreciated as nature's useful means toward one's survival and keeping one to basically remain as true to one's self, leaves the person to necessarily be an automated process, which is not well received emotionally, since, well, then it seems one is not in control, whatever 'control' means, really, and who knows what benefit it could confer over the quick and deep process of two hundred trillion neuron connections figuring things out quite well.PoeticUniverse
    The "automated process" consists of mental processes; they are performed by a mind. The output of this process would not come to be were this specific mind (which includes its beliefs, dispositions, desires, habits of thought...) not doing the processing.

    My point is that determinism does not negate the fact that our minds are causal agents, agents whose beliefs (among other things) are factors that lead to the choice that is made. Yes, the beliefs were determined by prior experiences (as well as the DNA it started with), but they are still beliefs, and they are part of the processing.
  • Echarmion
    879
    The fuss is about the consistency of the will, which, although appreciated as nature's useful means toward one's survival and keeping one to basically remain as true to one's self, leaves the person to necessarily be an automated process, which is not well received emotionally, since, well, then it seems one is not in control, whatever 'control' means, really, and who knows what benefit it could confer over the quick and deep process of two hundred trillion neuron connections figuring things out quite well.PoeticUniverse

    But this is only true if you separate the person from their substrate, that is, if you hold that there are brain-states that do not represent the person whose brain they occur in. I would hold that whatever brain-states we observe are merely physical manifestations of the person.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    IMO, if we seem to deliberating, then we ARE deliberating. Similarly with the act of making choices.

    Please explain how the SEEMING can be an illusion.

    Optical illusions are a great example. Also, our brain filling in missing information is another good example.

  • removedmembershiprc
    113

    You begin by suggesting the matter be treated simply as will, which I am not immediately opposed to on the grounds that it is implicitly understood to be free. However, you then go on to undermine the purpose of this discussion by suggesting that will itself is merely an illusion, presumably by deterministic principles. While I agree that portions of our world are governed by deterministic principles there is no reason to assume all of it is, going to a physical example consider quantum mechanics in which there is very little that could be said to be determined until an ill-defined event called an observation takes place. The point is that we do not know how things work at this point and assuming that everything must be deterministic from the greatest cosmos to the tiniest atoms is jumping the gun a bit. Additionally I agree with @Relativist, if we seem to be deliberating then we are in fact deliberating.

    First of all, a lot of our disagreement can be cleared up by simply saying I was not saying "will" is an illusion (although I happen to think it is), I said it is epistemologically ambiguous. We can only know from our perspective, which is tainted by mental constructions of "self, and will, and agency," etc.

    As far as quantum indeterminacy, I do not see how random events means you have free will. In my opinion, suggesting there are random events at a particle level undermines the notion that a complex organism comprised of particles can thereby exhibit intentional volitional deliberation and action. If it is just random, where is the volition. I suppose you could argue that the conscious observer, or your "self" the thing which is "freely willing," is locating those particles within their field of probability, therefore initiating the mechanical process which actuates the desired action, but I think that is just a form of spooky action at a distance, and suggests a kind of ghost in the machine. If your mental processes are a function of physiological states, I think suggesting the physiological states are determined by mental processes is just putting the cart before the horse.
  • Relativist
    851
    IMO, if we seem to deliberating, then we ARE deliberating. Similarly with the act of making choices.

    Please explain how the SEEMING can be an illusion.

    Optical illusions are a great example. Also, our brain filling in missing information is another good example.
    Vision produces beliefs about the world; some of the beliefs may be false: illusions.

    Why think the perception of deliberative control is an illusion? This seems like arguing for solipsism. Like with solipsism, it can't be proven false. But also like solipsism: nobody actually believes it. We actually innately believe there is an external world with other minds, and we innately believe we actually perform deliberations. Determinism doesn't falsify that. So you need some justification to consider it illusory- something more than logically possible.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113

    Vision produces beliefs about the world; some of the beliefs may be false: illusions.

    Why think the perception of deliberative control is an illusion? This seems like arguing for solipsism. Like with solipsism, it can't be proven false. But also like solipsism: nobody actually believes it. We actually innately believe there is an external world with other minds, and we innately believe we actually perform deliberations. Determinism doesn't falsify that. So you need some justification to consider it illusory- something more than logically possible.

    You are attempting to prove something like free will actually exists. If your argument is, it's epistemologically ambiguous so why not just agree with what appears to be the case, that's fine, but it does not show anything like free will actually exists. It sounds like you agree with my description of senses being easily duped and the notion of volitional causation is a function of our perspective. Where we disagree is you think given the evidence, we should just err on the side of our perception being correct.

    I just happen to acknowledge that I could be mistaken, and you seem to suggest that because it APPEARS that we are having this experience, that qualifies as evidence in and of itself. In my opinion that argument works fine in getting around on a daily basis, but it does not prove anything.

    As far as "Why think the perception of deliberative control is an illusion?" fair question. I think the reason to think this is because it is a more humane perspective. I approach this from wanting to have a more compassionate way of viewing humans, especially in their economic context. Our society ascribes this notion of free will to our actions, and therefore, suggests that your economic position is deserved because you were the architect of that experience through your mental activity or laziness, etc. This leads to the notion that punitive lack of access to resources (poverty and homelessness), are deserved conditions, and some hedge fund manager taking home a 20 mil dollar bonus is just exponentially more productive and valuable within the economic context. Once you introduce the idea of determinism, this whole idea of punishing people for "not being valuable enough to the economy through the impotence of their otherwise potential to be better through making better choices," divorces them of the environmental and economic contexts which constrain their range of "choices."

    Therefore, I introduce the idea of determinism, not economic determinism proper, but a form of it, to hopefully create a space for a less punitive economic system, and to view outcomes in a more systemic and holistic sense. This is why erring on the side of the will being an illusion, or like the steam of bio-electrical-chemical reactions, serves my world view.
  • Relativist
    851
    To be clear, I think we have "free will" in the compatibilist sense, consistent with determinism. If you deny free will, you also deny responsibility and accountability for yourself and others. IMO the best evidence of free will is the fact that we can learn from our mistakes: we make many decisions out of ignorance, learn something from the experience, and then make better decisions in future similar situations. Do you deny that learnings can help us make better decisions? How can THIS possibly be an illusion?

    This perspective doesn't diminish the compassion framework you have in mind. It's STILL true that our conditions and experiences determine the choices we make. This is not inconsistent with personal responsibility, because despite those conditions and experiences, we can still learn.

    Where we disagree is you think given the evidence, we should just err on the side of our perception being correct.rlclauer
    No. I'm pointing out the fact that we DO believe our senses - and this belief is not a product of deduction; it's natural. Optical illusions prove that we can be mistaken, but they don't imply our natural trust is misplaced. It doesn't imply we should immediately start questioning every bit of sensory input we receive. The implicit trust is reasonable. Trusting that we are free to make choices based entirely on factors internal to ourselves is similar - we naturally trust that we're controlling it, and just like with vision, we shouldn't question this control except in those instances where we have reason to believe otherwise. Surely you DO actually have this implicit trust in your own ability to make choices, just like you also trust there is an external world despite the possibility that your mind is all that exists.

    Although our internal factors were CAUSED, these factors collectively are who/what we are. Most of us also want to do better, and we can indeed take actions to help us do better. It doesn't matter that the "wanting to do better") has been caused (by DNA, conditioned responses, etc) - it's still a motivator, and a part of ourselves.

    It's self-defeating to deny that you have the free will to address the factors that elicit your compassion (like poverty, child abuse, etc). To take action consistent with your compassion, you must feel that you actually have to power to alleviate these problems.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    I just do not agree with the way you frame this. Why do you need to invoke agency in order to have compassion? If compassion is a byproduct of information pertaining to the material conditions which generate outcomes, and that information can deterministically alter the way a particular brain interprets outcomes of individuals given material conditions, it is a completely superfluous step to invoke an agent, who analyzes the information and makes a decision. The argument I just made applies to your example of learning as well. If you have two AI's interacting with information and with each other, and those interactions alter their code, given certain deterministic programming and overseeing supervisory programs, are you gonna say that if the code is altered the AI is now a conscious agent. No, of course you would not make that argument. You only do it in the case of the human being because there is a dominant narrative in the strain of human thought which requires agents in order to be coherent.

    As far as acting on your senses in a natural and non-deductive analysis, your point dissolves as information is obtained. If the first reaction to an optical illusion is to naturally believe it, then information which discloses the nature of the illusion is disclosed, now deduction will be applied to the viewing of phenomena similar to the optical illusion. This simply means that once deduction is introduced, naturally relying on sensory information no longer totally explains how that information is interpreted by the brain. Therefore, invoking natural responses dissolves as information is gained, and thereby, invoking it as a bit of evidence for free will, also dissolves.

    A brief comment on compatibilism. Compatibilism simply redefines free will, and is only a viable argument given a lack of information about the system. Therefore, libertarianism and compatibilism are equally incoherent, as compatibilism acknolwedges causal determinants, but kicks the can into unexplained territory, and then claims, see free will must exist in this space!
  • Relativist
    851
    If you have two AI's interacting with information and with each other, and those interactions alter their code, given certain deterministic programming and overseeing supervisory programs, are you gonna say that if the code is altered the AI is now a conscious agent.rlclauer
    The two AIs DO have a causal role, just not a conscious one - since they aren't conscious. The critical issue is that there's no basis for holding them accountable. (more on this later).

    Why do you need to invoke agency in order to have compassion?rlclauer
    You don't need agency to HAVE compassion. You need agency to act on this compassion.

    As far as acting on your senses in a natural and non-deductive analysis, your point dissolves as information is obtained. If the first reaction to an optical illusion is to naturally believe it, then information which discloses the nature of the illusion is disclosed, now deduction will be applied to the viewing of phenomena similar to the optical illusion. This simply means that once deduction is introduced, naturally relying on sensory information no longer totally explains how that information is interpreted by the brain. Therefore, invoking natural responses dissolves as information is gained, and thereby, invoking it as a bit of evidence for free will, also dissolves.rlclauer
    You're analyzing an instance of an optical illusion - which are notable only because they are exceptional. I'm talking about sensory input IN GENERAL. You don't skeptically analyze all the objects you encounter in the course of your everyday life simply because of the possibility you are misperceiving them.

    A brief comment on compatibilism. Compatibilism simply redefines free will, and is only a viable argument given a lack of information about the system. Therefore, libertarianism and compatibilism are equally incoherent, as compatibilism acknolwedges causal determinants, but kicks the can into unexplained territory, and then claims, see free will must exist in this space!rlclauer
    My position is that "free will" is a concept associated with responsibility and accountability.

    It makes perfect sense to hold someone accountable for their actions: the action one takes are a consequence of one's beliefs, genetic dispositions, environmentally introduced dispositions, one's desires and aversions, the presence or absence of empathy, jealousy, anger, passion, love, and hatred. These factors are processed by the computer that is our mind to make a choice. If the consequences of that choice cause harm to someone else, how SHOULD others respond? Should they just excuse it because he had not choice (this seems to be the implication of your position)? No. We know he could have chosen differently had he been less reckless, or considered others, or any number of things. By doing so, that person becomes less likely to repeat the mistake - because he will have learned something. In effect, his programming will be changed because consequences provide a feedback loop that changes him.

    Suppose the AIs in your example could experience pain, pleasure, regret, empathy, love, hate, and if it had desires that it worked to fulfill for the positive feelings it would experience, and aversions that it avoided because the negative feelings it would experience. Also suppose it could relate its choices to the consequences including the emotions it invoked, and that it could reprogram itself so that future choices would produce more positive and less negative outcomes.That would be closer akin to the "free willed" choices of humans. Whether or not we call it "free will" is irrelevant - my point is that accountability and responsibility comprise a feedback loop that we should acknowledge exists, and be glad of it. You weaken or break the loop when you deny accountability.
  • Possibility
    618
    The fuss is about the consistency of the will, which, although appreciated as nature's useful means toward one's survival and keeping one to basically remain as true to one's self, leaves the person to necessarily be an automated process, which is not well received emotionally, since, well, then it seems one is not in control, whatever 'control' means, really, and who knows what benefit it could confer over the quick and deep process of two hundred trillion neuron connections figuring things out quite well.
    — PoeticUniverse
    The "automated process" consists of mental processes; they are performed by a mind. The output of this process would not come to be were this specific mind (which includes its beliefs, dispositions, desires, habits of thought...) not doing the processing.

    My point is that determinism does not negate the fact that our minds are causal agents, agents whose beliefs (among other things) are factors that lead to the choice that is made. Yes, the beliefs were determined by prior experiences (as well as the DNA it started with), but they are still beliefs, and they are part of the processing.
    Relativist

    This discussion operates at the level of self-reflection - referring to a ‘self’ which purposefully maintains its relative consistency despite the variability of the related physical events/objects to which this ‘self’ conceptually refers or relates. It is the value of a consistent ‘self’ in relation to ‘survival’ that leaves the person to be an ‘automated process’.

    When we recognise that these beliefs, dispositions, desires, habits of thought, etc are value structures determined by certain combinations of prior experiences, and therefore not only predictable but also subject to changes through experience (learning, etc), then we can prioritise/value a consistency of self as a ‘survival’ tactic, OR we can continually reflect on, evaluate and alter the factors that lead to our actions.

    It is our subjective value structures (including those ‘outsourced’ to certain ideological or authoritative systems) that determine our actions, but it is our awareness of, connection to and collaboration with the options in these value structures that determine the freedom of this basic faculty for purposefully initiating actions. If one accepts the undeniable value of a consistent self as the only reality, as fundamental to their survival, for instance, then there is no capacity for evaluating all the factors that lead to any ‘choice’ that is made - no selection, no act of choosing, only a single realised item.
  • PoeticUniverse
    740
    we can continually reflect on, evaluate and alter the factors that lead to our actionsPossibility

    Pending the finding and better usage of the apparatus outside of time that has us choosing freely above and beyond our brain network process, one can hone one's natural awareness, connections, and collaboration—emotionally, logically, predictively, physically, and imaginatively, perhaps, by getting high on life, somehow, which ought to stir the pot of creativity. Well, it sounds good, anyway.

    Heart-flight is love that the wondrous Earth brings,
    Which winds to the soul whisper unimaged things;
    Senses merge, as streams, to flow beyond joy;
    Imagination fires enlightened wings.
  • Possibility
    618
    In pro-active thinking processes future actions are not necessarily determined by previous experiences, conditioning, genes, etc. but rather may instead arise purely from intellectual processing towards some outcome. People do this all the time when they plan for possible future situations.Pathogen

    Thank you for expressing your position relative to mine. I recognise that you’re not entering into discussions about how free will relates directly to deterministic perspectives here, which is where my thread differs and you’ve noticed a focus on unconscious choices in some of the discussion. But I don’t think we differ that much in our viewpoints.

    I agree with you that intellectual processing can imagine possible future situations that are not directly determined by previous experiences. However, in order to actualise any plan, there needs to be awareness, connection and collaboration with the potential for such a situation: how previous experiences, conditioning, genes, etc of ourselves and others can contribute to a plan for actualising this possible future situation. If we’re unaware of how these causal conditions can be structured and restructured, all the intellectual processing is effectively imagination.
  • petrichor
    231
    I think it very difficult, if not impossible, to defend the idea of free will with rational argument. And it seems easy to disprove. So the matter would seem settled. And yet, I find myself unconvinced, as my intuition that I am free to act as I will is very strong. It reminds me of the sense of the flow of time, which is also hard to defend rationally. Some intuitions like this I find far more convincing than any tidy syllogism.

    My existence is surprising to me. If it weren't so obvious, I wouldn't believe it either.

    I think that we simply don't understand the deep nature of time, space, matter, causality, consciousness, agency, selfhood, and so on, well enough to be justified in drawing firm conclusions here. Frankly, we just don't understand what we are talking about. Puzzlement and uncertainty are warranted. Those who think they know for sure one way or another should check their hubris. My suspicion is that neither position really fits the reality. To know the truth here would probably involve having a quite different understanding of what everything really is than anyone has yet had. Maybe it is beyond our comprehension.

    Honestly though, I have read and thought a fair bit about it and I have never seen a good argument for free will, nor have I even come across a clear definition of it that I think really captures what I intuit. And there is too much talk of deliberation, as if it is always a long process of thinking. The intuition of freedom deals with something much more basic and immediate, and something definitely related to a self, something owned. It isn't simply "will", but "my will". I caused the action, on purpose, and I could have done otherwise. There is an arbitrariness here, but mine. Not simply non-determined. I determined it, at least to a degree. And nothing beyond me fully determined my determination. But what am I? Answering that question rightly is critical! And it might be impossible for us to rightly answer it.

    And the Libet results, IMO, are usually horribly misinterpreted. The experiment involves instructing the person to allow the rising random impulses in the nervous system to complete as actions, basically uninterfered-with, after first priming it with it a request for a certain kind of impulse. Given the instructions, the results don't surprise me at all, and they certainly don't show that all behavior at all times is entirely the outcome of impulses that are already in motion before awareness of the intention to act occurs.
  • TheMadFool
    4.1k
    Nice. I think you need to elaborate further on the conjunction free will because while the analysis is superb free will I.e. free and will, together, adds another dimension to the problem. I mean what about awareness of factors that influence our choices?
  • PoeticUniverse
    740
    Honestly though, I have read and thought a fair bit about it and I have never seen a good argument for free will, nor have I even come across a clear definition of it that I think really captures what I intuit.petrichor

    Aside from the trivial non-coercion meaning and the randomness that harms any kind of will, the "definition" eludes us since it never works out, so far, but the Holy Grail of the crux of it is to find a way above and beyond the automated brain will being true to itself that lets there be some higher agency that is somehow 'free' and 'independent' of the brain will or able to will the brain will, but, again, we not being able to well define this 'free' idea, much less to go on to show it.
  • Possibility
    618
    And the Libet results, IMO, are usually horribly misinterpreted. The experiment involves instructing the person to allow the rising random impulses in the nervous system to complete as actions, basically uninterfered-with, after first priming it with it a request for a certain kind of impulse. Given the instructions, the results don't surprise me at all, and they certainly don't show that all behavior at all times is entirely the outcome of impulses that are already in motion before awareness of the intention to act occurs.petrichor

    I’m with you on all of what you’ve said - this in particular.

    I guess I’m just not content to leave it there, though. This is what philosophy is all about, isn’t it? Or are we just critics, waiting around for someone else to do the work? I was reading your post with great interest, but I hoped you would then offer something constructive to this particular discussion...
  • Mww
    1k
    unconscious choices (which I admit exist)Pathogen

    What is an unconscious choice?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.5k
    So my argument for "will," would basically be Dennett's position. We have a range of options that appear to be able to be subjected to conscious deliberation on our part, and the range is determined by cause and effect, and it seems to be the case, that we can choose between these options. So epistemologically, it is not possible to know if we are actually deliberating or if it just appears that we are, for all intents and purposes, it seems to us as if we are making choices. Therefore, it might be safe to say that we have a "will."rlclauer

    The whole issue with the "free" part is whether you really have different options or not. Whether you can really make a choice, including seemingly arbitrary choices.
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