Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Freedom, Determinism, and Naturalism

A redated post.

C. S. Lewis wrote:

Thus no thoroughgoing Naturalist believes in free will: for free will would mean that human beings have the power of independent action, the power of doing something more or other than what was involved by the total series of events. And any such separate power of originating events is what the naturalist denies. Spontaneity, originality, action “on its own” is a privilege reserved for “the whole show” which he calls Nature.

The reason Lewis seems to be offering for saying that the Naturalist must deny free will doesn’t seem to mainly be that if Naturalism were true, determinism would be true, but he seems rather to be saying that free will involves a kind of independent agency on the part of persons that would be proscribed given naturalism.

In a footnote, John Beversluis replies as follows:

Some contemporary naturalists, for example, Daniel Dennett, John Searle, Jaegwon Kim, and Keith Parsons, reject determinism not only on the level of microparticles but generally and argue that naturalism is compatible with believing that human beings have free will.

I am not sure about these philosophers, and what kind of free will these people believe in. Students of the free will question know that there are two conceptions of free will: a conception compatible with determinism, and a concept that is incompatible with determinism. Daniel Dennett wrote an entire book, Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting, which is well known as a classic defense of the compatibilism.

Eventually, I would like to consider the question of whether a thoroughgoing naturalism is compatible with the incompatibilist or libertarian conception of free will. For the purposes of this discussion, however, I want to concede, for the sake of argument, that compatibilism is true, and I will try to show that it is far from clear that a thoroughgoing naturalism is really compatible with free will.

Compatibilist theories of free will trade on the idea that even if determinism is true, the proximate cause of an action can be one’s desire to perform the action. A compatibilist or soft determinist will say emphasize the fact that if you did something, if it is free in the compatibilist sense, you did what you wanted to do. If, say, you robbed the local Bank of America branch, it is not likely to be true that you wanted to be a law-abiding citizen, but the fickle finger of fate grabbed you by the scruff of the neck and made you commit a crime. No, you robbed the bank because, in the words of Willie Sutton, “That’s where the money is."

But notice what is implied in these kinds of theories. First, in order for this theory to be true, desires have to exist. There are naturalistic theories of mind, eliminativist theories, according to which desires are the posits of “folk psychology” and do not in fact exist. Now eliminativists do maintain that a matured neuroscience will replace the terms of folk psychology with successors, but will can the compatibilist theory be fitted in with a successor? Have eliminativists even addressed this issue?

But suppose we accept the existence of desires. In order for the compatibilist theories to work, the desires have to be causally efficacious. It must be the case that my desire for X can cause my action in pursuit of X. But, of course, naturalistic theories of mind, given their commitment to the causal closure of the physical, inevitably face the specter of epiphenomenalism. That is, even if it is thought that beliefs and desires exist on the hypothesis of naturalism, (which, as I have indicated in a previous post, typically involves a commitment to a causally closed mental-free realm and the bottom of everything), how can it be that my desire can cause anything? In other words, in order for a naturalist to even accept a compatibilist theory of free will, they must solve the problem of mental causation. William Hasker and I have argued that naturalists cannot solve the problem of mental causation, and if I have been right in my discussions here, they cannot consistently even believe in compatibilist free will, much less incompatibilist or libertarian free will.

51 comments:

Hans said...

Lewis would refute these naturalists by pointing out that we do not choose to do things simply because we desire to choose to do them.

A free will that has a cause? What could that strange oxymoron mean?

Not everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the definition of free will means that our choices do not have causes.

Mark Frank said...

Victor - where did you argue that naturalists cannot solve the problem of mental causation? To me that is the crux of your position and I would have thought the problem was much greater for the non-naturalist.

If you think a desire is something non-natural then you have a problem with how it can cause natural events (whatever your views on free will). The whole point of naturalism is that a desire is another way of looking at natural events and so there is no problem in desires causing natural events.

(I would add that I am not sure the whole naturalist/non-naturalist distinction holds up with detailed analysis - but that's another story).

Victor Reppert said...

Why the problem of mental causation is a problem for philosophical naturalists is something I have treated in my book, on this blog, and on my specialized argument from reason blog, Dangerous Idea 2. Given the fact that physics is causally closed, he problem is seeing how something mental can cause anything. It's acknowledged as a serious difficulty even by naturalistic philosophers such as Jaegwon Kim. Just type "mental causation" into the search engine for this blog or the other one and you'll find plenty of stuff.

Hans: The concept of cause does not need to involve determination of the effect. Smoking causes cancer, but does not guarantee the occurrence of cancer. It makes cancer more likely. However, even when we consider things that just make something more likely, everything nonphysical still has to be excluded if you accept the principle of the causal closure of the physical.

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

You cited Lewis as saying:

”Thus no thoroughgoing Naturalist believes in free will: for free will would mean that human beings have the power of independent action, the power of doing something more or other than what was involved by the total series of events. And any such separate power of originating events is what the naturalist denies. Spontaneity, originality, action “on its own” is a privilege reserved for “the whole show” which he calls Nature.”

You then wrote:

”The reason Lewis seems to be offering for saying that the Naturalist must deny free will doesn’t seem to mainly be that if Naturalism were true, determinism would be true, but he seems rather to be saying that free will involves a kind of independent agency on the part of persons that would be proscribed given naturalism.”

Perhaps I am not understanding Lewis correctly here, but I believe that he was saying that a naturalist will simultaneously be a determinist. And if everything is determined by physical processes/the laws of nature, then free will as understood in the libertarian sense does not (or cannot?) exist. When Lewis makes reference to “spontaneity” or “originality”, he is saying these things which are indicators of free will, would not exist because they would be swallowed up by “the whole show” which is nature and its exhaustive determinism through physical processes which then necessitates every event that occurs.

Beversluis is quoted as saying:

”Some contemporary naturalists, for example, Daniel Dennett, John Searle, Jaegwon Kim, and Keith Parsons, reject determinism not only on the level of microparticles but generally and argue that naturalism is compatible with believing that human beings have free will.”

Dennett is a strongly committed compatibilist. Don’t know Kim or Parsons views on the free will issue. Surprisingly, considering he is a naturalist, Searle takes a libertarian free will view (which I might add he strongly argues for and convincingly argues for in his book RATIONALITY IN ACTION). Where it gets interesting for Searle is that he argues that free will in the libertarian sense is clearly real, and yet Searle being a naturalist also believes in determinism at the level of particles (including at the level of neurobiology). So he has a bit of a problem: how to show these two realities to be compatible (he talks about it in his most recent books but I think while he is very strong on showing the reality of libertarian free will, he is grasping at straws when it comes to trying to bring free will in the libertarian sense and determinism at the particle level together).

”Eventually, I would like to consider the question of whether a thoroughgoing naturalism is compatible with the incompatibilist or libertarian conception of free will.”

THAT is precisely where Searle shipwrecks in my opinion.

Speaking of compatibilism you wrote:

”Compatibilist theories of free will trade on the idea that even if determinism is true, the proximate cause of an action can be one’s desire to perform the action.”

So desires cause actions, according to compatibilism? Or more strongly: our desires **necessitate** our actions? I don’t buy this, as we are able to reflect upon and consider different desires we are thinking about and then we (as agent causes) select which desire we will act upon and do actions to fulfill that desire.

”But suppose we accept the existence of desires. In order for the compatibilist theories to work, the desires have to be causally efficacious. It must be the case that my desire for X can cause my action in pursuit of X.”

Actually I would say that the compatibilist has to show more: namely that desires **necessitate** their resulting effects/the action caused by that particular desire. And this is precisely where I see one of the breakdowns in compatibilist theory (i.e. a person may have a desire in their mind and yet not act upon that desire; if desires necessitated effects once the desire was in your mind you would then inevitably and inescapably be moved to an action by that desire, but that is not how it works as people have desires all the time which they do not act upon; if someone should suggest that we are necessitated by the “strongest desire” in our mind this is merely stating a truism as the desire we choose to act upon is then seen as the “strongest desire” but this does not tell us why one desire is **stronger** than another).

“But, of course, naturalistic theories of mind, given their commitment to the causal closure of the physical, inevitably face the specter of epiphenomenalism. That is, even if it is thought that beliefs and desires exist on the hypothesis of naturalism, (which, as I have indicated in a previous post, typically involves a commitment to a causally closed mental-free realm and the bottom of everything), how can it be that my desire can cause anything?”

I do not believe that desires cause anything. It is better to say, in my opinion, that the agent chooses to act upon (or refrain from acting upon) a particular desire, so it is the person or agent that is the cause of his own action, not a particular desire. That is also why when someone commits a crime, we do not hold his desire responsible for the action, we hold HIM responsible for the action! :-) And we assume that if he is to be held fully responsible for the crime, he had a certain amount of sanity and self awareness when he committed the crime (and of course his lawyer could attempt to exonerate him or lessen his guilt by arguing that he was acting while insane and so his action was necessitated and he could not do otherwise due to his mental incapacity!).

“In other words, in order for a naturalist to even accept a compatibilist theory of free will, they must solve the problem of mental causation.”

Amen preach it brother! :-)

“William Hasker and I have argued that naturalists cannot solve the problem of mental causation,”

Amen again!

“and if I have been right in my discussions here, they cannot consistently even believe in compatibilist free will, much less incompatibilist or libertarian free will.”

Actually I think they can hold to compatibilism and naturalism simultaneously (i.e., that with the sufficient amount of complexity in the physical system consciousness then arises, but this consciousness is produced by the physical system/brain, this is kinda where Searle is heading though he does not see that his libertarian view of free will does not fit with his naturalism, one has got to go, leave the premises! He really wants to hold onto his naturalism but he also knows that his arguments clearly and persuasively establish libertarian free will, so . . . .)

Hans wrote some things I want to comment upon. Hans wrote:

”A free will that has a cause? What could that strange oxymoron mean?”

This comment does not make sense in light of agent causation which is a form of libertarian free will. Within the ranks of libertarian theory on free will there are some such as Reid, Plantinga, Moreland, Craig, etc. etc. who hold to agent causation. In this view, which I believe to be both correct and common sensical, the agent makes his/her own choices and causes his/her own actions. So Hans a person can have free will in the libertarian sense, and the cause of his/her actions is himself/herself, the agent who is causing his own actions (so free will understood in this way most definitely involves a free will and causation). If you want another example of this, consider God in creating the world. Does God have free will in the sense of being capable of making his own choices and doing his own actions, choices and actions which are not necessitated by some external factor? Yes. When he created the world, did He act freely? When he created the world did he cause the world to exist? So in God we clearly see an example of free will involving a cause, an agent causing his own actions.

Hans went on to say:

”Not everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the definition of free will means that our choices do not have causes.”

What or whose definition of free will “means that our choices do not have causes”?

Again if I am an agent that does my own actions, makes my own choices, then I am the cause of my own actions. And if I make choices which lead to my actions am I not the cause of the choice? And if **I** make the choice how can you say that our choices do not have causes? If it is not me making the choice, then what causal factor is making the choice Hans?

Robert

unkle e said...

Two brief (and inexpert!) comments ....

1. Don't some of the neuroscience experiments (by Libet et al) purport to show that the conscious intention to act was preceded by a non intentional brain state? If so, then desire to act is a result of the brain's intention to act, not the cause of it. Without some form of dualism, both our actions and our wants would be determined.

2. If acting under coercion, we are not regarded as being free. So why did I want to rob the bank? The only answer I think a naturalist can give is that there was physical chain of causes and effects that included my brain and extended right back to before I was even born. Again, our actions are not only determined, but not freely chosen - the choice is illusory because our wanting is not freely chosen. Again, unless dualism or something like it is true.

I guess I'm arguing against combatibilism, but I think your original assumption of compatibilism can't really stand. At least, that's how it seems to me, and has done ever since I read Elbow Room.

Clayton said...

I think one of the reasons that this sort of post leaves some of us naturalists unmoved (apart from our intellectual dishonesty, I'll save a certain character the trouble...) is that your argument seems to have the following form:

Maybe naturalists could believe in FW but there are outstanding problems understanding something in a naturalist framework.
Thus, naturalists "cannot solve the problem".

I'd note three things.
* There are outstanding problems in supernaturalist metaphysics as well.
* The fact that there is an outstanding problem in naturalism is perfectly compatible with finding a solution to that problem. An actual argument that the problem cannot be solved might change things, but I've never seen anything approximating that. (If you have a reference, show me the reference.)
* The 'problem' you think arises for naturalism is that of explaining something phenomenon or understanding some phenomenon given certain limited resources. That's different from an actual argument that some phenomenon would not occur if naturalism were true. To move from 'We don't understand X, given N' to 'Given N there wouldn't be X' is to assume that we have amazing epistemic powers. We don't have them.

Connecting points 1 and 3 should drive that home. No one understands how mental causation works, given either naturalism or supernaturalism. No one understands how moral obligations come to be, given either naturalism or supernaturalism. Since you seem unprepared to say that mental causation is unreal or adopt an error theory, it seems to me that you are selectively applying a standard to the naturalist. Thus, I'm just as unmoved by your arguments against naturalism as I would be by some evil twin of yours that argues from the fact that dualists cannot explain how mental causation works to the conclusion that supernaturalism is false if the mind moves the body or we are under moral obligations.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Mark is right that when it comes to mental causation, the naturalist has the better end of the stick. That is, if the mind is natural (e.g., some neuronal process) it is trivial to see how mental causation is possible. If the mind is not part of nature, it is quite opaque. Something that has no mass, voltage, or spatial extent is supposed to influence the activity of the neurons that control behavior.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Interesting article on mental causation, When is a brain like the planet?.

I'm reading it now. General point:
"The question is then in what sense, if any, the occurrence of the properties we call mental can be causes of anything. I will attempt an answer, which in summary is this: Property identifications are local, not universal; locally, occurrences of mental properties are aggregates of occurrences of neural properties; aggregates can have causal relations that none of their constituents have, and mental properties do so. I claim that the form of the answer conforms pretty exactly to causal claims in everyday science apart
from neuroscience, and the substance of the answer conforms equally well to the leading edge of current neuropsychological explanations."

William said...

unkle e:
...1. Don't some of the neuroscience experiments (by Libet et al) purport to show that the conscious intention to act was preceded by a non intentional brain state? ...

Yes, but this merely defends the well explored idea that the unconscious mind has input into our decisions, especially when timing is involved. Decision making in a situation where an arbitrary timed start is involved appears to be a process where coming to a decision to start occurs in the unconscious as some kind of randomized repetitive coin flip, and the start of a positive choice can be seen before the person is consciously aware.

It's been long suggested that many actions are influenced unconsciously. That does not mean that the process is not a free choice.


--------

Clayton:
...No one understands how mental causation works, given either naturalism or supernaturalism. ...

True, but including free will in naturalism would seem to involve a non-material extension of current physics. Incorporating a causative link from a supernatural component of agents (human or animal) to current physics would not require such and extension to one who already admits the supernatural as an ordinary component of the world.

So the problem has assymmetric implications between the two philosophies, I think.

Doctor Logic said...

William,

"So the problem has asymmetric implications between the two philosophies, I think."

If contra-causal free will were what we experience, then naturalism (and logic) might have a problem, as you say. However, we don't observe contra-causal free will, i.e., the kind of free will accepted by incompatibilists. Our observations are consistent with compatibilism. Moreover, compatibilist free will gives us free will in all the ways worth having, and contra-causal free will is logically incoherent. So dualism ends up explaining nothing.

Robert said...

“If contra-causal free will were what we experience, then naturalism (and logic) might have a problem, as you say.”

Nice to see this admission. I take this to mean that you admit that if libertarian free will is real, then naturalism has a problem accounting for it.

“ However, we don't observe contra-causal free will, i.e., the kind of free will accepted by incompatibilists.”

Observe? What do you mean observe? If we have and make choices in our minds, and our minds are immaterial then how are you going to observe this phenomena. Or does “logic” say that if we cannot observe it then it must not be real or exist?

“Our observations are consistent with compatibilism. Moreover, compatibilist free will gives us free will in all the ways worth having, and contra-causal free will is logically incoherent.”

In all the ways worth having sounds like you are parroting Dennett here. Not very persuasive.

And this claim that contra-causal free will is “logically incoherent” is a wild exaggeration. We all know exactly what it means to have and then make a choice. And if we ever have a choice where we can actualize more than one possibility (though not both simultaneously if they are mutually incompatible) then free will is not incoherent. Alvin Plantinga says your compatibilism involves very weak arguments have you seen his comments about your view? It’s in a famous message titled ADVICE TO CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHERS, if you haven’t read it yet.

“So dualism ends up explaining nothing.”

No, if a form of substance dualism is true and real (say God creating us with immaterial souls that interact with our physical bodies), then it **will be** involved in accurate explanations of our intentional actions as we are doing what we were designed to do when we have and make choices involving our souls and bodies.

Robert

Doctor Logic said...

Robert,

Suppose I decide to jump out of the way of a lava flow because I like my life and want to survive. I DO NOT have the feeling that, having decided that I much prefer avoiding being burnt to a crisp by evading the lava, I might choose otherwise if placed into identical conditions and state of mind.

And, I bet, neither do you.

The libertarian "freedom" to jump into the lava (despite that option being counter to my preferences) is, in fact, the exact OPPOSITE of free will.

Of course, I don't know how I will decide before I have decided, but that does not mean that, going through the process again under identical conditions, I would choose differently.

Think about it. Whether or not the universe is deterministic, I would still be ignorant of my final choice until I had actually given it consideration, and gone through the process of choosing. The lack of foreknowledge inherent in this process would be there, determinism or not, so a lack of foreknowledge about the eventual decision is not a sign of libertarian free will.

Call the above an "experience" if "observation" is a term that prevents you from considering the claim.

Moreover, if my decision to evade the lava did not depend on the past, and did not depend on constants (things outside of time), then it must depend on NOTHING (since everything has been excluded), and thus be the most random possible decision. Randomness is the complement of determined. This is why libertarian free will is incoherent. It's logically excluded because the set of all things in the past and outside of time is exhaustive.

Finally, dualism is NOT an explanation of mental qualities. How can it be? Dualism is the statement that those mental qualities do not reduce to anything. Dualism is the statement that those mental qualities are basic. Dualism says they just are, being beyond explanation. They are brute facts. If brute facts are explanatory, then the physical constants of our universe, being brute facts, are adequate explanation of themselves for you, are they not? (Hint: NO, the ultimate laws of the universe, being brute facts, do not explain themselves.)

William said...

Doctor Logic:

...However, we don't observe contra-causal free will, i.e., the kind of free will accepted by incompatibilists...

Can you truly say that you have never changed your mind, even at the last minute, after weighing and reweighing the alternatives? Both conscious and unconscious mechanisms work together in such a situation.

I think some kind of agent causation is implicit in the American concept of freedom, and is thus worth defending.

Oh course we usually do what we are determined to do by our environment and our cellular composition: we cannot help but breathe, for the most part, for example, and we generally respond in greatly predictable ways to an overdetermining event such as stepping on a tack :).

To extrapolate that to the claim that we NEVER use an ability to cause events as agents independent from our environment and biology is a stretch. If you have THAT kind of predictability down, I want to go to the race track with you and win a few races, since theay must be all predetermined by environment and biology in a way that you are certain of :).

Doctor Logic said...

William,

Can you truly say that you have never changed your mind, even at the last minute, after weighing and reweighing the alternatives? Both conscious and unconscious mechanisms work together in such a situation.

Suppose I am deciding between chocolate and strawberry ice cream. I generally prefer chocolate. However, as I am about to request chocolate from the shopkeeper, a pleasant memory of a day at the seaside in Hastings is recalled to me. The memory features a scoop of strawberry ice cream. Feeling nostalgic, I choose strawberry ice cream.

Now, what are you saying about my choice?

Obviously, I preferred my choice of strawberry because I was feeling nostalgic.

Are you saying that my unexpected recollection of my day at Hastings was the free part? How was that free? It may have been subconscious AND determined, for all we know. And, if it was subconscious and not determined, I surely didn't decide to bring forth that particular memory. It was random.

The issue at hand is whether, back in the very same situation with same state of mind, feeling nostalgic, preferring strawberry, I might have chosen chocolate instead. It is not my intuition that, were I in identical circumstances, I would deviate from my net preference.

I think some kind of agent causation is implicit in the American concept of freedom, and is thus worth defending.

I disagree, but even if it were implicit, I think an argument from patriotism would be fallacious.

To extrapolate that to the claim that we NEVER use an ability to cause events as agents independent from our environment and biology is a stretch.

If my brain can perceive that I might prefer one of several courses of action, and it can compute the likely outcome of each course, and then choose the course based on my preference for the outcome, that IS agency.

Implicitly, what you seek is an ability to defeat agency. You want to act in a way that has nothing to do with states of affairs or your preferences for them. That's not freedom. That's randomness.

BTW, I'm not saying there's no randomness. I'm saying randomness is not freedom.

Crude said...

The problem for the naturalist isn't just giving some kind, any kind of account of mental causation (or, to lower the bar even further, to give some account of the -appearance- of mental causation.) It's to do so while at same time straddling a commitment to a thoroughly - not just partially, but thoroughly - mechanistic view of matter/metaphysics.

I have a feeling that's not only impossible, but in essence it isn't even being tried anymore except among the eliminative materialists (and even there, only the more legendary ones.) Like materialism (which turned into physicalism, which is now so broad I'm pretty sure panpsychism can be called physicalism), it may have been quietly buried a long, long time ago.

William said...

Perhaps the 21st century problem isn't any more about defining a compatibility between determinism and free will. Maybe it's more one of defining a compatibility between indeterminism and free will. I don't know of much written about this, actually.

William said...

Doctor Logic:

...It is not my intuition that, were I in identical circumstances, I would deviate from my net preference.
...

I think we have good experimental data showing that memories can and do change somewhat on recollection. We seem to easily rationalize our choices as rationally completely determined in our memory more than I think is justified, just perhaps because we know we cannot redo those events.

Unless we can reliably predict what an agent will do, that agent is free (and/or chaotic) and not determined, based on empirical data. Claiming that the agent is really totally deterministic merely based on our recollections of our past decisions won't work scientifically, IMO.

Note I'm not really agreeing with Dennett (if I read him right) that our uncertainty about the future, in practice, IS free agency. I'm saying that a commonsense perception of freedom to choose cannot be empirically denied, and that determinism cannot be experimentally proven.

arminianperspectives said...

Suppose I am deciding between chocolate and strawberry ice cream. I generally prefer chocolate. However, as I am about to request chocolate from the shopkeeper, a pleasant memory of a day at the seaside in Hastings is recalled to me. The memory features a scoop of strawberry ice cream. Feeling nostalgic, I choose strawberry ice cream.

Feeling nostalgic and choosing according to that feeling doesn't mean that the feeling irresistibly caused your choice. That is a leap in logic "Dr. Logic". It could just mean that you freely chose in accordance with your feeling of nostalgia, rather than in accordance with your usual preference for chocolate.

In other words, you, as the free agent, decided to give more weight to your feeling of nostalgia than your general preference for chocolate, and chose accordingly (or we could say that that simply amounted to your choice). Your reason for choosing the strawberry was the feeling of nostalgia, but that doesn't mean that any such feeling irresistibly caused your choice.

God Bless,
Ben

Robert said...

Dr. Logic wrote:

“Suppose I decide to jump out of the way of a lava flow because I like my life and want to survive. I DO NOT have the feeling that, having decided that I much prefer avoiding being burnt to a crisp by evading the lava, I might choose otherwise if placed into identical conditions and state of mind.
And, I bet, neither do you.”

This is a not a good example because you intentionally picked an example where the readers here would all jump out of the way. We talk about having a choice when you really are considering two different possibilities. Using your lava example, imagine a person named Zork who is part of a group that lives on an island where there are volcanoes and lava flows and in their belief system if one person sacrifices himself by jumping into the first lava flow this lessens the loss of life for the others. For Zork he would have a real choice between sparing his own life (a legitimate desire) and jumping in the lava to spare the lives of others (a legitimate desire). He could do either option and he would deliberate between both options and either option that he selects he does so for reasons (so the action is neither random nor chance). We could all present outrageous “choices” where we would all make the same choice. All that you are doing is arguing from the unlikeliness of certain choices being made to the conclusion that we do not have free will. But that does not logically follow.

I could say the pilots flying air planes would not intentionally crash their planes and this would be true in the vast majority of cases. However if we switch the setting to the 1940’s and we are dealing with Heroshi a Japanese Zero pilot things would change. Heroshi like Zork has a belief system where ritual suicide is an honorable and noble choice. So Heroshi has a choice between saving his own life or ditching his Zero into the deck of an air craft carrier. Most of us would not intentionally choose to blow ourselves up. And yet Hakeem is part of a group of Islamic fundamentalists who believe that blowing themselves up is a noble action against the infidels. Examples could be multiplied, but what you might think is unthinkable or something you personally could never choose to do speaks only of your own personal range of choices (not the range of choices of others which may be very different than your own). And having different range of choices is not the same as showing that we never have a choice, that we never have free will. And I would argue that in each of the cases that I have given here, the person doing what we would not choose to do, nevertheless is acting quite rationally from their perspective. In each case, from their perspective, they have good reasons to do what we might consider unthinkable.

“The libertarian "freedom" to jump into the lava (despite that option being counter to my preferences) is, in fact, the exact OPPOSITE of free will.”

The problem here is that some choices may involve competing preferences. I go for ice cream and say my favorite is chocolate. But say they also have a one-half off sale on another flavor that I like. Now I will choose which preference is more important at that time (the favorite flavor or to save some money). Or perhaps I have just started a diet and so total abstinence is my preferred option.

Robert

Robert said...

Now for someone who apparently prides himself on being logical Dr. Logic’s next statements fall short.

“Moreover, if my decision to evade the lava did not depend on the past,

What do you mean “depend” on the past. If you claim that past events determine our actions, that is simply begging the question for determinism.

“and did not depend on constants (things outside of time),”

Again, what do you mean by “depend” on “constants”? If you claim these “constants” determine/necessitate our actions, that is again, simply begging the question for determinism.

“then it must depend on NOTHING (since everything has been excluded), and thus be the most random possible decision.”

Your first two statements merely assume the very thing that you ought to prove, that the past or “constants” necessitate our actions. Since you beg the question twice your argument is not persuasive at all. Now you engage in yet another logical fallacy: false dilemma (you state, assert, claim, but do not argue, that either our actions are necessitated by past events or “constants” OR it must depend on NOTHING. Now given only two choices, either the past or constants OR NOTHING, let’s see what should we choose? :-)

Also, you leave out the very possibility of agent causation causing an intentional action. You also may be assuming without any proof event causal theory (that events are merely caused by other events, not by personal agents, or for example souls operating through their bodies). So you beg the question multiple times here and present a false dilemma, not very logically compelling.

“Randomness is the complement of determined. This is why libertarian free will is incoherent. It's logically excluded because the set of all things in the past and outside of time is exhaustive.”

Now here is your claim, that LFW is logically incoherent, and what is your argument for this? According to you, our choice is between randomness and determined (or un-caused and caused) with you presumably believing that if something is determined then it is necessitated. But this is yet another question begging assumption. Is it possible that some things are caused by a necessitating cause (e.g. consider a chemical reaction where given the combination of certain chemicals a certain result will necessarily follow) and others by an agent cause that causes the outcome but is itself not necessitated in its action of choosing? That possibility is just cavalierly dismissed which is yet another fallacy. With your false dilemma you simply ignore the possibility of agent causation involving non-necessitated actions.

Robert

Robert said...

Dr. Logic wrote:

“If my brain can perceive that I might prefer one of several courses of action, and it can compute the likely outcome of each course, and then choose the course based on my preference for the outcome, that IS agency.”

If my soul can perceive that I might prefer one of several courses of action . . .

How do you know that it is our brain doing the actions of reasoning? This merely assumes materialism which I don’t accept. And regarding reasoning, reasoning involves ideas, concepts, meanings, thoughts, beliefs, values/preferences, LOGIC, none of which are physical realities. How is this physical “brain” which is purely physical performing these non-physical operations?

“Implicitly, what you seek is an ability to defeat agency. You want to act in a way that has nothing to do with states of affairs or your preferences for them. That's not freedom. That's randomness.”

Another false dilemma: either our choices involve “states of affairs or your preferences”(i.e., which according to you can only be necessitated events) OR our choices do not involve “states of affairs or your preferences” (i.e. which according to you is LFW). But again a third possibility is left out of the picture, the very possibility that fits our experience and LFW (i.e., we choose and our choices involve “states of affairs or your preferences” and yet our choices are not necessitated by “states of affairs or your preferences”). I believe that when we make intentional choices we always do so for reasons in light of what we consider important. We don’t make intentional choices for no reasons. And yet our intentional actions are not necessitated either.

Robert

Doctor Logic said...

Everyone,

I'm not saying that determinism is the case. Obviously, it is largely the case. What I am saying is that

1) Anything not determined by the past or by things outside of time is random.

1.1) The world may be partially random/brute.

2) Our intuitions are 100% compatible with determinism or determinism + randomness.

Doctor Logic said...

William,

I'm saying that a commonsense perception of freedom to choose cannot be empirically denied

Sure, but what does freedom to choose mean?

It means the following:

i) That I perceive alternate courses of action.
ii) That I can (partially) forecast the outcome of each course of action.
iii) That I can choose my course based on my preference of outcome.
iv) That the outcome is frequently as I predicted it to be.

No one denies this. The thing is, this is 100% compatible with determinism. In fact, it seems incompatible with the alternatives.

Doctor Logic said...

Ben,

In other words, you, as the free agent, decided to give more weight to your feeling of nostalgia than your general preference for chocolate, and chose accordingly (or we could say that that simply amounted to your choice). Your reason for choosing the strawberry was the feeling of nostalgia, but that doesn't mean that any such feeling irresistibly caused your choice.

So, you're localizing the choice not to the outcome of preference satisfaction, but to the setting of preference priority.

Let's suppose this is true. On what basis did I prioritize my preferences? Why nostalgia instead of habit, say?

If there is a reason, then that reason determined the outcome. If nothing determined the outcome, there was no reason involved. It was more random than a coin toss.

Doctor Logic said...

Robert,

Like Ben, you seem to be localizing the actual decision to the prioritization of preferences. My question to you is the same as it is to Ben. On what basis was the prioritization made?

As for there being no alternative to determinism and randomness, you seem to have misunderstood me. I'm not begging the question, I'm working from a plain definition of "determined."

An act or event is determined if it had to occur because of past events or because of timeless rules. If I drop a rock to the floor, it has to fall to the floor because the initial conditions before I dropped it necessitated the fall. That's why we say that gravitation's actions on matter are deterministic - they necessarily determine the future.

Now, if something is not determined, then the outcome is not necessitated by the past or by timeless factors. So, suppose I am choosing ice cream flavors again. Suppose that my preferences are determined by the past factors (which may include past decisions). You are saying that the thing that is not determined is my priority of preferences. However, in denying determinism in the decision, you are saying that this prioritization is not necessitated by anything whatsoever. Nothing in the past, and nothing outside of time. So, what does that leave? My decision is random.

Note that none of the above assumes physicalism. Assume we have non-material souls if you like. If the souls have reasons, those reasons determine and necessitate.

If it helps, consider the most random event you can imagine. That event outcome is random because it is fundamentally not necessitated by anything at all. Brute = random = totally undetermined.

What about a blend of determined and random? No problem. Suppose I have a 60% chance of going with habit, and a 40% chance of going with nostalgia. This is equivalent to placing 60 red balls and 40 green balls in a barrel and randomly picking a ball from the barrel. In other words, a probability distribution reduces to a determined part (the breakdown of balls in the barrel) and a random part (the selection of a ball from the barrel).

William said...

Doctor Logic:

...In fact, it seems incompatible with the alternatives.,,

I agree with this post of yours, up to that sentence. I instead think that the true result of your theoretical mixing of determinism and randomness is some kind of NON-determinism.

Think of XORing the series 1,2,3... with a random integer. Is the result mostly predictable? I think not.

Add to this a hypothetical ability of agents to affect the probabilities of a given random input by their free choices by and you have anything BUT determinism.

The question is one of the strange dance we do in our choice making, between what is determined and what is random. I would like to hypothesize that such a metaphorical "dance" is neither truly random nor truly determined.

Doctor Logic said...

William,

It seems to me that we can reduce every event down into the equivalent of a deterministic production of a probability distribution, followed by a random selection according to the distribution. (Total determinism is a special case in which the probability distribution is 100% for one outcome.)

Further, the above is universal for any event because for any event localized in time, it is reasonable to ask whether the distribution is determined by the past (or timeless factors) or not. (Again, this is the case whether or not we're talking about physical or non-physical systems, whatever that means.) If we have non-material minds, those minds are still making decisions localized in time, so the question plays out in the same way.

Now, we can agree that there may be true randomness in the world, but randomness isn't freedom. That part of my choice not determined is a random selection. When adherents of LFW refer to freedom, I don't believe they mean that there is randomness or some combination of determinism and randomness like I have described above.

The point of LFW, IMO, is to assign ultimate blame, and justify retribution in some ultimate sense. Randomness can't fulfill that role. In contrast, the compatibilist cares only about proximate blame, and I think most compatibilists devalue retribution in favor of consequentialism.

William said...

Elementary particles are neither truly random nor truly determined. Why should the soul be otherwise :)

Doctor Logic said...

William,

The probability distributions for elementary particle events are determined. The final event is a random selection according to the determined distribution.

This is just as I described in my last comment. (BTW, my PhD thesis relied heavily on quantum field theory calculations.)

What you mean is that elementary particles are not wholly deterministic, and not wholly random. Agreed. But that which is not determined is random.

William said...

I think that there is room in the world for agents that are not truly random, and not truly deterministic. You appear to believe that that is "all there is." I think both of our positions fit the known data, and I think mine fits the evidence of commonplace subjective experience better. I cannot prove this any more than you can show that everything in human experience can be confined within the determined and random alone.

Interesting choice here; but in either case, determinism is false in human terms at least :).

Doctor Logic said...

William,

There is room for agents that are not wholly random, and not wholly deterministic. However, there is no room for agents that are not some combination of the two.

1) For every event, E, that is located in time, we can ask whether the outcome of the event was determined by the past or by timeless factors.

2) If the outcome of the event is determined by the past then those factors necessarily determine a probability distribution for the outcome.

3) When the event actually occurs, the outcome is equivalent to an unbiased, undetermined selection from the necessary probability distribution. This selection from the probability distribution is not necessitated by anything at all. There are no reasons for one selection over another. If there were past or constant factors that would bias the selection, they would have been included in the original probability distribution.

4) Randomness is exactly the same thing as a total lack of bias when making a selection from a probability distribution.

For example, when rolling a 10-sided die, the probability distribution is assumed to be 10% for each face to come up. A random throw is one in which there is no bias to any face.

Note that this complementarity between "determined" and "random" is logically airtight. Something is either determined/biased, or it isn't. If I choose to favor nostalgia instead of habit, that part of my decision that is not fixed by past factors is utterly unbiased, and therefore, utterly random.

Now, maybe you think unbiased = free. That is, you think that decisions start from a deterministic probability bias, followed by a free/unbiased selection from that distribution. What I'm saying is that, if this were your definition, it would be the case that unbiased = free = RANDOM.

William said...

fruit flies

Doctor Logic said...

William,

To quote the paper:

It is critical to emphasize at this point that the processes leading to behavioral indeterminacy may very well be deterministic: indeterministic output of deterministic systems is a well-known phenomenon.

When the authors refer to indeterminacy here they mean unpredictability. They are talking about chaotic nonlinear systems. Such systems are 100% deterministic in the philosophical sense, but simply unpredictable (and "indeterminate") in the experimental sense. Chaotic systems have so much variability that we would need to know the initial conditions to nearly infinite precision to predict their behavior. This is irrelevant because the point is not whether we can predict a person's actions, but the nature of determinism, randomness, etc.

Imagine we live in Newton's classical universe. It's a clockwork universe where everything is predictable in principle. However, there will be systems in this universe that are unpredictable in practice because we can't know the initial conditions with adequate precision to predict their behavior. All this is true even without quantum mechanics. If we humans were machines in a classical Newtonian universe, our behavior could still be unpredictable, while being completely deterministic in the philosophical sense.

Also from the paper:

In addition to the inevitable noise component, we detected a nonlinear signature suggesting deterministic endogenous processes (i.e., an initiator) involved in generating behavioral variability.

In other words, philosophically, the paper has nothing to do with the comments I have made.

William said...

It seem to me that the combination of random choice generation (including choices the random re-combination of which might be productive of truly novel patterns of data in the universe) and deterministic value-based choices results in a quality that we call something like free will, at least in animals (moral consciousness is something I dare not tackle).

So the two horns of the classical dilemma of free will are overcome by embracing the two horns at once as a combination.

Emergent or not, that combination is not just a two part thing. It is something beyond the two parts to which you keep trying to decompose it.

This has been said better in the May issue of Nature if you can get it.

Doctor Logic said...

William,

What you propose is logically impossible.

It should be easy to see. Take some event. At the time of the event, account for all deterministic factors. You'll be left with a probability distribution for the outcome. That probability distribution describes ALL the bias going into the event. That means the final selection has no bias in it whatsoever. If the final selection had any bias, that bias would be part of the deterministic probability distribution.

arminianperspectives said...

So, you're localizing the choice not to the outcome of preference satisfaction, but to the setting of preference priority.

Not sure I understand this. Feel free to explain this further.

Let's suppose this is true. On what basis did I prioritize my preferences? Why nostalgia instead of habit, say?

I don't know, but the agent has the God given power to reason and choose in either direction. You can deny this, but it is begging the question. Then it just becomes a matter of assertions and counter-assertions.

If there is a reason, then that reason determined the outcome.

But not irresistibly so. Like I said, the agent chose in accordance with one reason (or motive) over the other. If he chose because of nostalgia, then that was the reason. But it doesn't mean it was a choice that nostalgia irresistibly caused him to make. He could have chosen otherwise for other reasons. In ether case, the choice was free and the choice was made for reasons. Reasoning is part of the decision making process and flows from the agent freely (i.e. nothing outside of the agent himself causes him to reason and choose this way or that).

If nothing determined the outcome, there was no reason involved.

The agent determined the reason (i.e. the agent did the reasoning that led to his choice, and did so freely) and was therefore the cause of his own choice, and the cause of the outcome.

It was more random than a coin toss.

Not at all. Coins don't reason and weigh options. They are at the mercy of physical causation, a causation that the coin has no power to resist. So really, your view is closer to that of a coin toss, in that you seem to see the agent irresistibly moved this way and that by certain motives which somehow have a weight all their own.

Really, all you are asking is something like, "what caused the cause to cause?" Not much of a question there (we could just keep going, "what caused the cause to cause the cause to cause, etc.). That could be said of anything that causes something. But the will is a full and adequate cause itself, so it is senseless to ask what caused the will to cause this or that.

God Bless,
Ben

Doctor Logic said...

Ben,

But the will is a full and adequate cause itself, so it is senseless to ask what caused the will to cause this or that.

You are missing the incoherent nature of your claim.

An event is like a crossroads in history. The outcome of the event is the path that history takes. So a decision is an event, and the outcome is the choice that is made.

Now, tell me, what do you think it means for an event to have a random outcome?

Ooh! I just had a very cool idea! You may have heard of philosophical zombies. Well, imagine instead a philosophical seizure patient (PSP). PSP is identical to me in most regards. PSP is subject to deterministic factors, just like me. However, when PSP makes a decision, his decision is a random selection from the determined probability distribution.

For example, suppose that PSP and I are in the ice cream shop. We both prefer chocolate ice cream by habit, but we also both have exactly equal nostalgic inspiration for strawberry ice cream. Suppose that determinism influences us so that there is a 50% probability of each of us going for strawberry or chocolate.

According to you, I freely choose strawberry in a way that is not random (whatever that means). In PSP's case, he chooses between the two at random.

Now, what is the difference between PSP and I?

Well, let's think about it. At time T when we make our decision, history could go either way for each of us. According to you, I cause myself to choose strawberry. However, I could say exactly the same thing of PSP. PSP causes himself to choose strawberry. It's just that PSP causes himself to choose in a random fashion.

In what way is my cause of my decision different from PSP's cause of his? How is my self causation different from PSP's?

If I possessed another reason to choose strawberry that tipped the scales, then PSP would have had exactly the same reason. After all, PSP is identical to me in all respects except he has randomness in instead of "free will".

I put it to you that there's no possible difference between my decision-making and PSP's. I will never have more reason to choose a particular outcome than PSP, and self-causation can just as well be said to apply to me as to PSP.

arminianperspectives said...

You are missing the incoherent nature of your claim.

I don’t see anything incoherent, but that doesn’t mean I am missing something.

An event is like a crossroads in history. The outcome of the event is the path that history takes. So a decision is an event, and the outcome is the choice that is made.

Not sure I agree with the way you have described things here. I would also not make a necessary distinction between a decision and a choice. You seem to see choice as the actualization of a decision, but I see choice as the will settling on one particular alternative possibility. The actualization of that choice is a completely different matter. So the way I have been speaking of choice, it is not really any different than a decision.

Now, tell me, what do you think it means for an event to have a random outcome?

There is nothing deliberate behind it to control it in any particular direction (though that is only one way to view randomness, but I think the best way to speak of it given the context of this discussion).

Ooh! I just had a very cool idea! You may have heard of philosophical zombies. Well, imagine instead a philosophical seizure patient (PSP). PSP is identical to me in most regards. PSP is subject to deterministic factors, just like me. However, when PSP makes a decision, his decision is a random selection from the determined probability distribution.

That last sentence doesn’t really make any sense to me, “his decision is a random selection from the determined probability distribution.” I will probably need quite a bit of clarification there in order to address this properly.

Continued below,

arminianperspectives said...

Continued from above,

For example, suppose that PSP and I are in the ice cream shop. We both prefer chocolate ice cream by habit, but we also both have exactly equal nostalgic inspiration for strawberry ice cream. Suppose that determinism influences us so that there is a 50% probability of each of us going for strawberry or chocolate.

That last sentence doesn’t make sense either. Determinism doesn’t influence to a certain percentage. Determinism is absolute. Determinism either causes you to “choose” strawberry or chocolate. Really there is not even a choice involved since the determined course was the only real possible course (otherwise it would not be determined).

Therefore, in such a scenario there is nothing to choose from since the will can only possibly move in the predetermined way. Maybe you are using determinism in an unusual way, but since you haven’t bothered to define it, it is hard to follow your thought experiment.

According to you, I freely choose strawberry in a way that is not random (whatever that means). In PSP's case, he chooses between the two at random.

Again, I can’t really address this as your example thus far seems to muddle the two views together.

Now, what is the difference between PSP and I?

I can’t really answer this since you seem to be arguing from the perspective of pre-determinism, a position I do not hold. I guess I would say nothing since in determinism both PSP’s actions and yours are completely pre-determined, i.e. they happen of necessity, completely out of the control of either person.

Continued below,

arminianperspectives said...

Well, let's think about it. At time T when we make our decision, history could go either way for each of us. According to you, I cause myself to choose strawberry. However, I could say exactly the same thing of PSP. PSP causes himself to choose strawberry. It's just that PSP causes himself to choose in a random fashion.

So are you assuming my view for both persons, or your view for both persons? Or are you assuming my view for one person and your view for the other? Until I get some clarity, I don’t see how I can answer any of this. I will say that in my view one is certainly capable of choosing randomly, but the point is that one can also choose freely and deliberately without that choice being random (i.e. the choice is done for reasons). Someone with libertarian free will could do either. He could choose randomly or deliberately for reasons and according to motives.

In what way is my cause of my decision different from PSP's cause of his? How is my self causation different from PSP's?

O.K., here it seems that you are assuming LFW for you and determinism for PSP. But earlier you said that you were both determined, so it is hard to follow your argument here. It doesn’t seem to have necessary continuity.

If I possessed another reason to choose strawberry that tipped the scales, then PSP would have had exactly the same reason. After all, PSP is identical to me in all respects except he has randomness in instead of "free will".

Concerning your first sentence, you seem to be back to affirming determinism for yourself again, since you speak of reason “tipping the scales”. That is not how the LFW position would describe things. I explained this earlier when I said,

“So really, your view is closer to that of a coin toss, in that you seem to see the agent irresistibly moved this way and that by certain motives which somehow have a weight all their own.”

But in my position the agent gives weight to the motives in and decides accordingly. The motives do not somehow have a weight all their own that somehow “tips the scales”. In your last sentence you are speaking about randomness. So it seems you are comparing randomness with determinism. How is any of this relevant to my view (which is neither determinism nor randomness)?

I put it to you that there's no possible difference between my decision-making and PSP's. I will never have more reason to choose a particular outcome than PSP, and self-causation can just as well be said to apply to me as to PSP.

But I don’t see that you have described self-causation in any of this really, nor does it matter if the outcome appears the same. It has to do with what leads to that outcome. If an agent is a complete and adequate cause for choosing either way, then there is nothing that caused him to choose a certain way besides himself.

My view says that the agent has the God given power of alternative choice, and that power does not equate to randomness (though one could choose randomly if he desired to do so). Just as God freely chose to create the universe, yet that decision was not random, so can we freely choose to eat either chocolate or strawberry and yet that decision is not (necessarily) random. The will is unique in that way. It is neither necessitated nor random. And because the will is unique, there is nothing that will serve as a perfect comparison to it, nor is there an exact analogy to it. So all such thought experiments (even ones less muddled than yours) will fail at some point to capture the nature of the will as God created it and designed for it to operate.

In no way have you shown the LFW position to be incoherent. If anything, you have only shown that you cannot think outside the box of determinism (but maybe you were just predetermined to think that way after all).

God Bless,
Ben

Doctor Logic said...

Ben,

My new argument certainly requires refinement, but it's lack of refinement isn't the reason you don't appreciate it.

To you, the will is some kind of magic. You stick like glue to your intuitions, but philosophy isn't about intuitions. It's about reasoning.

At a quantum level, the world is a blend of determined and random. It is the probability distribution for the outcome which is determined, but the actual final state is a random draw according to the probability distribution.

Imagine flipping a coin. In classical physics, if you know the mass and position of the coin, and you know how much force was applied in the flip, you can predict exactly how the coin will land. The system is 100% deterministic, and physics tells you the outcome with 100% probability.

However, if you were dealing with a quantum coin flip (e.g., measuring the spin of a particle in a mixed state), determinism tells you that the odds are 50/50, and the outcome of the experiment is random between the two states. In other quantum scenarios, it could be more likely we'll find the spin in one state than the other.

So you are wrong when you say that determinism always leads to certainties in outcome. Determinism fixes the probability distribution. The issue we're discussing is what happens after that.

Science tells us that poverty, say, deterministically affects the way people behave by changing the probability that they will commit crimes. This determinism, by itself, is not in conflict with LFW. The issue is, if deterministic factors alter the probability that you will rob a bank, what happens at the decision point? LFW turns out to be incoherent because, any "reason" the agent has to decide one way or the other would already have been factored into the probability distribution, and so it always comes down to a random selection. It's airtight.

Robert said...

“An event is like a crossroads in history. The outcome of the event is the path that history takes. So a decision is an event, and the outcome is the choice that is made.”

A “what” is an event? DECISION? In normal language usage if we speak of a decision we mean that the person was considering alternative possibilities (that they believed they could actualize, or why do people **agonize** over the decision)and then made their choice from between the alternative possibilities. Having and making a choice makes no sense in a fully determined universe. In such a universe we may make choices but we never have choices. And speaking of decisions presupposes the person had a choice. In my observation of human persons they universally speak and act as if they have choices which is why they talk about having decisions.

“Now, tell me, what do you think it means for an event to have a random outcome?”

I thought we were talking about INTENTIONAL ACTIONS here. By their very nature intentional actions involve doing actions for reasons, with a purpose in mind. An intentional action is to be distinguished from an unintentional action, accident or random action. Random in the context of actions just means that it was not done intentionally. A four year old understands this distinction and speaks of “Daddy you did that on purpose”, which is the opposite of a random action.

All events are caused, random means not intended, not purposed, when I talk about choosing freely I am referring to intentional actions, actions done for reasons for a purpose. Something without a mind or without intention is not acting freely

“Ooh! I just had a very cool idea! You may have heard of philosophical zombies. Well, imagine instead a philosophical seizure patient (PSP).”

A seizure is an unintentional action. A person having a grand mal seizure is not intending those movements.

Robert

Robert said...

“PSP is identical to me in most regards. PSP is subject to deterministic factors, just like me.”

Subject to deterministic factors just like me, just begs the question.

“However, when PSP makes a decision, his decision is a random selection from the determined probability distribution.”

If his decision is done for reasons and a purpose is involved, then it is not random. If you are going to start talking about intentional actions done for reasons being random, then as Wittgenstein famously put it: language has gone on holiday.

“For example, suppose that PSP and I are in the ice cream shop. We both prefer chocolate ice cream by habit, but we also both have exactly equal nostalgic inspiration for strawberry ice cream. Suppose that determinism influences us so that there is a 50% probability of each of us going for strawberry or chocolate.”

Again, you assume the very thing that needs to be proved (i.e. that “determinism influences us”). You just can’t keep merely stipulating your view to be true and then expect us to accept that. Again, for someone who apparently prides himself on logic this is not logical nor persuasive.


“According to you, I freely choose strawberry in a way that is not random (whatever that means).’

Not random is easy to understand, again a four year old understands the difference between “Daddy did it by accident” versus “Daddy did it on purpose”.

“In PSP's case, he chooses between the two at random.”

But you said that PSP had the exact same thoughts that you had, the past recollection, the usual preference for chocolate, etc.. If PSP chooses in line with one of these thoughts for a reason, then he is involved in an intentional action that is not random whether he is a zombie or not. If PSP does not choose in line with one of these thoughts, if no thought or reason or purpose is involved then the action is not an intentional action and PSP does not have the exact same thoughts as you do.

Even zombies do things for reasons, :-) so they are acting intentionally when they break down the door to get to the humans on the other side of the door! :-)

Robert

Robert said...

“Now, what is the difference between PSP and I?”

If you are both acting for reasons, engaging in purposeful action, involving thoughts, deliberations, etc. then you are both engaging in an intentional action. If either of you is not doing the action for reasons, and no thoughts or deliberations are involved then neither of you is engaging in an intentional action.

You seem very confused on the issue of intentional actions. I suggest that you read John Searle’s RATIONALITY AND ACTION. Searle is a materialist like you and yet he clearly understands the nature of intentional actions and he also argues for a libertarian free will position.

Your whole discussion is muddled and out of touch with the nature of intentional actions. I am not going to comment much further but one of your statements merits further comment:

“If I possessed another reason to choose strawberry that tipped the scales, then PSP would have had exactly the same reason. After all, PSP is identical to me in all respects except he has randomness in instead of "free will".”

Again this is full of confusion. If PSP is identical to you IN EVERY WAY and doing an intentional action (which means he/she/it is doing the action for reasons, the action is purposeful, the action involves thoughts and considerations and deliberations)then PSP is NOT ACTING RANDOMLY.

Consider the difference between a person flipping a coin and the coin. The person if they are say involved in a game of chance, is performing an intentional action done for reasons, purposeful, so if we were speaking correctly we would never describe it as a RANDOM ACTION. On the other hand, the coin, having no mind, having no intentionality, having no reasons, no purpose for which it is doing an action, is not involved in an intentional action.

Or imagine another scenario, you and PSP are attending a lecture on the falsity of determinism where questions are allowed during any point in the lecture. At some point you desire to ask the lecturer a question for the purpose of showing that determinism is true not false, so you perform the intentional action of raising your hand to signal the lecturer that you intend to ask a question. Would anyone knowing these facts describe your action of raising your hand as an accident or random? On the other hand, PSP has a seizure so that PSP’s left hand shoots up. As PSP’s raised hand is due to a seizure, and was not intended by PSP as a sign to the lecturer, would we describe it as an intentional action or as a random raising of the hand?

“I put it to you that there's no possible difference between my decision-making and PSP's. I will never have more reason to choose a particular outcome than PSP, and self-causation can just as well be said to apply to me as to PSP.”

And if there is no difference between you and PSP, if you both minds, have thoughts in your minds, think about these thoughts, think about these different alternative possibilities and then for reasons, engage in a purposeful action, an intentional action, then neither of you is acting randomly both of you are engaging in an intentional action. Now if you want to refer to actions done for reasons as random, that is your choice, but it is not rational nor convincing.

Robert

arminianperspectives said...

My new argument certainly requires refinement…

I’ll say.

…but it's lack of refinement isn't the reason you don't appreciate it.

Well, you’re simply wrong there. The reason I “don’t appreciate it” is precisely because you didn’t explain so that it made sense.

To you, the will is some kind of magic. You stick like glue to your intuitions, but philosophy isn't about intuitions. It's about reasoning.

When did I say the will is like magic? And much of philosophy is based on intuition. However, I haven’t really based anything on intuition thus far.

At a quantum level, the world is a blend of determined and random. It is the probability distribution for the outcome which is determined, but the actual final state is a random draw according to the probability distribution.

O.K., you are begging the question of materialism here. I am not a materialist. Since I would say that the mind and will are immaterial, there is nothing in what follows that would apply to my position.

Imagine flipping a coin. In classical physics, if you know the mass and position of the coin, and you know how much force was applied in the flip, you can predict exactly how the coin will land. The system is 100% deterministic, and physics tells you the outcome with 100% probability.

Right, because it is based on materialistic laws. The mind is immaterial so this is irrelevant.

However, if you were dealing with a quantum coin flip (e.g., measuring the spin of a particle in a mixed state), determinism tells you that the odds are 50/50, and the outcome of the experiment is random between the two states. In other quantum scenarios, it could be more likely we'll find the spin in one state than the other.

So you are wrong when you say that determinism always leads to certainties in outcome. Determinism fixes the probability distribution. The issue we're discussing is what happens after that.


Strict determinism does indeed lead to certainty of outcome. What you are describing is resistible influences. Within the theological debate, determinism means that our every action is necessitated in a particular direction and cannot help but to go just as necessitated. Necessity does not just increase odds or percentages. It causes something to happen exactly as it happens in such a way that there was no other possible way it could happen. Therefore, it is nonsense to speak of probabilities in such a context. Now if you want to take the materialistic approach, it is useless unless you can first prove that the mind is material and obeys materialistic laws of the universe.

Science tells us that poverty, say, deterministically affects the way people behave by changing the probability that they will commit crimes.

“Affects” does not mean “determine”. Affects has to do with resistible influence and not the necessity of determinism.

This determinism, by itself, is not in conflict with LFW.

Right, because it isn’t determinism.

The issue is, if deterministic factors alter the probability that you will rob a bank, what happens at the decision point? LFW turns out to be incoherent because, any "reason" the agent has to decide one way or the other would already have been factored into the probability distribution, and so it always comes down to a random selection. It's airtight.

It may be airtight in your mind, but you have yet to demonstrate that in any fashion. All you have said is that we are influenced by external factors. I agree. Can that affect probability? Sure. But if the will can choose according to either influence, regardless of probability, then the will is not determined by probability. Nor is it random, since the choice is deliberate and in accordance with a particular motive.

God Bless,
Ben

Doctor Logic said...

Ben,

You've got to get out of that straight jacket that makes you continually think I'm premising my argument on physicalism. My point is not that everything operates at a quantum level. I don't care whether souls are immaterial. It makes no difference to the argument at all. And you tacitly admit so when you say this:

All you have said is that we are influenced by external factors. I agree. Can that affect probability? Sure.

Okay, you agree with me. Factors in the material world and the immaterial world affect the probability of the outcome of a decision. (See? NOT begging the question.)

You are very probably not going to jump out of a skyscraper today, and, subject to your own assumptions.

We both assume that the world is not purely deterministic (which, BTW, is orthogonal to the question of whether the world is fully physical and reductionist or dualist - dualist pictures can also be deterministic, too). Again, NOT begging the question.

So, now let's get back to the ice cream. Depending on my preferences and desires at the time, I'm going to choose chocolate or strawberry. Suppose that all the physical and immaterial factors combined lead me to have a 50/50 probability of getting either one.

On what basis can I possibly choose between the chocolate and strawberry?

Suppose that I assemble a COMPLETE list of reasons (e.g., preference satisfactions) for choosing chocolate or strawberry. Suppose, again, hypothetically, that there are seven reasons to choose chocolate (C1, C2, ...C7), and six reasons to choose strawberry (S1, S2,...S6). And further suppose that each reason has a different weight such that I derive my odds of 50%. That is, the reasons for each choice are evenly matched going into the decision.

Finally, suppose the outcome of my decision is strawberry.

We've lined up all the assumptions, and none of them beg the question.

If my decision were based on a new reason not in the set S, then that reason constitutes reason S7, i.e., a reason to go with strawberry. This new reason S7 should have been factored into my original list, and so it would have changed the probability distribution. That means that S7 cannot exist because it contradicts the premise that I started from a complete list of reasons to choose strawberry. Make S7 as peculiar as you like, and it won't change things. Try S7 = "My strongest single desire, is C1, and I want to practice self-denial, so I'll go with strawberry." It still belongs in any complete set of reasons, S.

Consequently, it must be the case that I choose one set over the other for no reason at all. And that, my friend, is utterly random.

Note: I don't need to be conscious of all the reasons in sets C and S. All that matters is that sets C and S would predict (for an omniscient agent) the mere likelihood of choosing chocolate or strawberry.

arminianperspectives said...

Doctor Logic,

I am still having a very hard time following your argument, but I will do my best to address what you have written sometime tomorrow.

God Bless,
Ben

arminianperspectives said...

You've got to get out of that straight jacket that makes you continually think I'm premising my argument on physicalism.

Your arguments in the last post seemed to clearly draw an analogy between the cause and effect nature of the material world and the will. That is the reason I pointed out that such things are really irrelevant to my position. You should at least allow for the possibility that any misunderstanding on my part comes from the rather muddled nature of your argumentation to date, rather than any self-imposed straight jacket, etc.

My point is not that everything operates at a quantum level. I don't care whether souls are immaterial.

I never said it was. In fact your last post referenced macro cause and effect as well as how things might act at a quantum level.

It makes no difference to the argument at all. And you tacitly admit so when you say this:

All you have said is that we are influenced by external factors. I agree. Can that affect probability? Sure.


If it makes no difference, then why did you bring it up in the first place?

Okay, you agree with me. Factors in the material world and the immaterial world affect the probability of the outcome of a decision. (See? NOT begging the question.)

Fine.

You are very probably not going to jump out of a skyscraper today, and, subject to your own assumptions.

O.K.

We both assume that the world is not purely deterministic (which, BTW, is orthogonal to the question of whether the world is fully physical and reductionist or dualist - dualist pictures can also be deterministic, too)

I agree that dualist pictures can be deterministic (i.e. Calvinism), but I fail to see how one can be a materialist and not hold to strict determinism (unless you will somehow appeal to quantum physics).

Again, NOT begging the question.

Not this time anyway.

So, now let's get back to the ice cream. Depending on my preferences and desires at the time, I'm going to choose chocolate or strawberry. Suppose that all the physical and immaterial factors combined lead me to have a 50/50 probability of getting either one.

Well, one immaterial factor is the freedom of the will which can choose against any probability. Probability simply has reference to what we would believe to be likelihood. However, the agent can choose in what might be classified as an unlikely manner, and do so intentionally (i.e. not randomly).

Continued below,

arminianperspectives said...

Continued from above,

On what basis can I possibly choose between the chocolate and strawberry?

On whatever basis the free agent decides upon.

And further suppose that each reason has a different weight such that I derive my odds of 50%. That is, the reasons for each choice are evenly matched going into the decision.

Again, this doesn’t accurately reflect my position, since reasons do not carry a weight all their own (this has already been explained to you). Rather, the agent assigns weight to one over the other in the very act of choosing. In other words, the agent assigns the strongest motive force by simply choosing one option over the other.

Finally, suppose the outcome of my decision is strawberry.

How about, suppose my decision is strawberry.

We've lined up all the assumptions, and none of them beg the question.

That’s debatable (see above). And it does seem that you are at least still inaccurately describing my position to some extent.

If my decision were based on a new reason not in the set S, then that reason constitutes reason S7, i.e., a reason to go with strawberry. This new reason S7 should have been factored into my original list, and so it would have changed the probability distribution. That means that S7 cannot exist because it contradicts the premise that I started from a complete list of reasons to choose strawberry. Make S7 as peculiar as you like, and it won't change things. Try S7 = "My strongest single desire, is C1, and I want to practice self-denial, so I'll go with strawberry." It still belongs in any complete set of reasons, S.

Consequently, it must be the case that I choose one set over the other for no reason at all. And that, my friend, is utterly random.


Not at all. You choose according to one set by giving greater weight to that set. All the reason for choosing that set is in the set itself. That is why I said earlier that we choose in accordance with motives. We can choose in accordance with one motive as well as the other. We can choose in accordance with one “set” of reasons as well as the other, and any such choice will be intentional and not random since it is in accordance with motives or reasons, and not for “no reason” at all (which would in that case be random).

Note: I don't need to be conscious of all the reasons in sets C and S. All that matters is that sets C and S would predict (for an omniscient agent) the mere likelihood of choosing chocolate or strawberry.

And your point is what? The agent can choose against what may be perceived as likelihood, so how does this bolster your argument?

As I said before, the will is unique. It is capable of choosing freely and intentionally without those choices being random. You can assert otherwise, but then, as I mentioned before, it is just a matter of competing assertions. It is like claiming that a duck is incoherent because there is nothing to perfectly compare a duck to. Well, a duck is a duck and it is not incoherent just because we see no other examples of duck that are not, in actuality, duck.

God Bless,
Ben

Doctor Logic said...

Ben,

You choose according to one set by giving greater weight to that set. All the reason for choosing that set is in the set itself. That is why I said earlier that we choose in accordance with motives. We can choose in accordance with one motive as well as the other. We can choose in accordance with one “set” of reasons as well as the other, and any such choice will be intentional and not random since it is in accordance with motives or reasons, and not for “no reason” at all (which would in that case be random).

Let's unpack this.

So I have my sets S and C. Before I decide, the odds of going for either set are even. (That was a premise.) Do I have a reasons for assigning weights for the elements of the sets or do I not?

What you seem to be describing is the process of rationalization. Suppose my brain randomly opts for strawberry. If you ask why did I choose strawberry, I can cite the elements of the set S. However, just because there are reasons for choosing strawberry in S doesn't explain my choice of weighting. There are initially equally sound reasons for for choosing chocolate in C. The issue is, how was weight assigned in S's favor rather than C's? If there's no (meta-)reason at all, then the choice was random, because the weighting choice depended on nothing.

Now, I'm all on board with rationalization. People do it all the time. But rationalization is post hoc. It's a way of finding justifications for an action after the fact. I think you would agree that the ability to rationalize a decision after it was made doesn't mean the decision wasn't random.

I'm looking for reasons why you weighted one set over the other, and I argue that if you had reasons for so weighting, then those reasons would already have been in C or S. Of you lacked reasons, then the weighting you assigned was arbitrary and random. And just because it's not determined doesn't make it "free."

Rasmus Møller said...

Libet "no free will" conclusion seems invalidated...

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17835-free-will-is-not-an-illusion-after-all.html

- probably nobody will notice this late posting, but I did not want to pollute other topics.