• Dunsy22
    4
    Sam Harris believes free will is an illusion. If he's right, would that mean we are all philosophical zombies?

    First to define the term 'p-zombie' from Michael Egnor;
    "A p-zombie (a philosophical zombie, as distinguished from the kind that sells movies) is identical to a human being but has no first-person (subjective) experience. It’s a meat robot, so to speak, that is indistinguishable in behavior from a human being. Thus, my p-zombie would look exactly like me, walk like me, talk like me, write blog posts like me, etc.. It would do exactly as I do but it would not have an “I” like me. It would feel nothing and think nothing. It would have no “I” at all. To borrow a concept from philosopher Thomas Nagel, there would be nothing it is like to be a p-zombie."

    Each of us firmly believes “I am not a p-zombie.” but if free will is an illusion as Sam claims, wouldn't that make us all p-zombies?
  • Zelebg
    599
    Sam Harris believes free will is an illusion. If he's right, would that mean we are all philosophical zombies?

    Except “Sam Harris” each of those words and phrases can be interpreted in many ways, resulting in many different opinions. People present different answers thinking they disagree, when mostly they are not even answering the same question.

    For example, his argument is that we are not conscious of our decisions, rather than saying anything about whether they are free or not. And this is just one little branch among many others where people can split opinions about the very question, before any answer could even be attempted.
  • Zelebg
    599
    Sam Harris believes free will is an illusion. If he's right, would that mean we are all philosophical zombies?

    No, Sam’s position is that we do have epiphenomenal consciousness, that is phenomenal subjective experience without any causal effect, just passive observers.

    Zombies argument is about this ‘subjective experience’ or qualia, it is not about free will. I guess most people do not even consider such a zombie as a possible candidate for free will until it’s certain it is conscious first. On the other hand, I’d say free will is a separate issue and does not require sentience.
  • Isaac
    3k
    It would feel nothing and think nothing.Dunsy22

    How would it walk if it thought nothing? How would it avoid damaging itself if it felt nothing?
  • Zelebg
    599
    How would it walk if it thought nothing? How would it avoid damaging itself if it felt nothing?

    Like robots and zombies, with varying success.
  • Isaac
    3k
    Like robots and zombies, with varying success.Zelebg

    You've measured the successes of zombies? Aren't you worried about the whole flesh-eating thing? You've seen the films, right? It rarely turns out well for the intrepid scientist.
  • Dunsy22
    4
    How would it walk if it thought nothing? How would it avoid damaging itself if it felt nothing?Isaac

    A p-zombie could be an atomically and behaviorally perfect replica of you - acts, walks, talks, etc. just as you do, the only difference being this replica does not have subjective/phenomenal experience like you do (and therefore no free will, like you [may] have).

    No, Sam’s position is that we do have epiphenomenal consciousness, that is phenomenal subjective experience without any causal effect, just passive observers.Zelebg

    Maybe I misinterpret Sam's position, but I don't understand your interpretation either - could you elaborate? We have phenomenal subjective experience but ultimately only as passive observers (and not as 'active' observers with complete free will)?
  • SophistiCat
    1.4k
    Rather than Sam Harris (who, to be honest, isn't much of a philosopher), I would recommend Daniel Dennett as an eloquent proponent of an "illusionist" take on consciousness and free will. But keep in mind, the view is fairly nuanced and cannot be summarized in one word; you will need to do a little reading (or listening).
  • Isaac
    3k
    A p-zombie could be an atomically and behaviorally perfect replica of you - acts, walks, talks, etc. just as you do,Dunsy22

    Right, for which it would have to both think and feel, otherwise it would neither have the data nor the processing power to act, walk or talk.

    So what's missing is the very thing which has been assumed. P-zombies are incoherent, they say "imagine a thing like us in every way except self-awareness" and then, without any justification at all suggests that such a thing would be materially indistinguishable from us.
  • NOS4A2
    3.9k


    Free will, to me, is more a problem with identity. Who or what decides our next action? If one identifies as the entirety of his organism, he decides his next action and therefor has free will. If one identifies as some homunculus, perhaps seated somewhere within (an "I", a "consciousness", a brain), he often finds himself at the mercy of the body who no doubt decides for him.
  • Sir Philo Sophia
    189
    Free will, to me, is more a problem with identity. Who or what decides our next action?NOS4A2

    So, would you say a sense of agency is required? Would you say an 'intention" is required to determine/measure if 'free will' of the 'agent' actually occurred? If we are talking about a non-sentient software program in a robot agent then can it be called 'free will' if all the intentions of the robot were predetermined by its programmer? If the agent is not free to reprogram itself to create and act of its own intentions then it would seem it likewise cannot be said to have any meaningful 'free will'.
  • NOS4A2
    3.9k


    So, would you say a sense of agency is required? Would you say an 'intention" is required to determine/measure if 'free will' of the 'agent' actually occurred? If we are talking about a non-sentient software program in a robot agent then can it be called 'free will' if all the intentions of the robot were predetermined by its programmer? If the agent is not free to reprogram itself to create and act of its own intentions then it would seem it likewise cannot be said to have any meaningful 'free will'.

    Yes, I would say a robot would have to learn free will, which would involve being self-programmed. So it would have to learn the limits of its operation before intending how and in which way to operate.
  • Sir Philo Sophia
    189
    So it would have to learn the limits of its operation before intending how and in which way to operate.NOS4A2

    so, the agent would have to be self-aware?
  • NOS4A2
    3.9k


    so, the agent would have to be self-aware?

    It would at some point have to become self-aware. I think humans exhibit evidence of self-awareness within the first couple years of life.
  • Sir Philo Sophia
    189
    It would at some point have to become self-aware.NOS4A2

    OK, so say I make a robot that evolves its own personality, goals, and decision making by way of a genetic algorithm, and then have it makes its own final action decisions based on its personal/unique personality, and goals, and, in part, on a random number generator to help bias it to action when split decisions are experienced (likely not too different than what most humans do). So, have I not then invented/created a robot which has intentional 'free will' but no self-awareness?
  • Zelebg
    599
    Maybe I misinterpret Sam's position, but I don't understand your interpretation either - could you elaborate? We have phenomenal subjective experience but ultimately only as passive observers (and not as 'active' observers with complete free will)?

    Sam Harris and free will argument have nothing to do with qualia and zombie argument.
  • Dunsy22
    4


    I agree. I re-read Sam's book Free Will last night, his free will argument says that we are essentially self-aware, subjectively conscious biological robots that voluntarily and involuntarily make decisions as a result of our genetic and environmental conditions (which we don't ourselves choose). I keyed in on the 'biological robots' part of this idea and jumped to the question 'does that mean we are all just p-zombies and don't realize it'. Nonsensical because Sam acknowledges we are self-aware and subjectively conscious.
  • TheMadFool
    7.5k
    Each of us firmly believes “I am not a p-zombie.” but if free will is an illusion as Sam claims, wouldn't that make us all p-zombies?Dunsy22

    Since you talk of the so-called I let'a try and comprehend what this I is. Imagine two situations as follows:

    1. You're driving a car, weaving through traffic with the expertise of a formula one race car driver

    and then the unthinkable (so far as you're concerned) happens...

    2. Your car blows a tire and you are now tumbling through the air in a spectacular crash, parts flying in all directions, you being thrown around violently inside your car

    The two situations differ in that in 1, you're in control, assumed here to be a scenario in which free will exists but in 2, you have lost all control and you are at the mercy of chance and whatever it throws your way i.e. you have no free will.

    Is it the case that in 1, there's, in Nagel's terms, something to be like you and in 2, there's nothing to be like you. I guess I'm saying that the absence of free will doesn't mean we're p-zombies for there is something to be like you, me, anyone even if free will is absent.
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