Monday, June 22, 2009

Hempel's Dilemma

This is the Wikipedia entry on Hempel's Dilemma. It raises some questions for physicalism.

69 comments:

legodesi said...

I'd take this with a grain of salt. There are multidudes of problems in defining film genres, but that doesn't make it completely useless to use such categories.

Steve said...

I notice that on neither horn of the dilemma are the laws of nature themselves "natural". Nor are any "initial conditions" to which they apply. The cosmological argument raises it head.

Steve Lovell

Ilíon said...

Or, to look at this from a different direction ---

IF one can induce an 'atheist' to admit the total inability of materialism to account for reality, THEN it is all but guaranteed that this 'atheist' will turn to "promissory materialism" to account for reality.

Crude said...

Promissory materialism or new mysterianism anyway. Which is where promissory materialism goes when the worry is those promises will eventually be brought up.

J said...

Heh . Dualists, cartesian or otherwise, are the mysterians. Simply chanting "intentionality" doesn't really prove anything: the believers regularly beg the question on choice and "freedom"--apparent freedom.

The libertarians and compatibilists, it should be remembered, make the rather unscientific assumption that people are the ultimate source of their own actions, that somehow we can stop nature merely by thinking. Even in an informal sense that seems rather strange. You don't decide to be hungry, or thirsty, or cold. You are hungry at times--maybe after sunday school--and then you drive down to the IHOP for some heavenly cakes. You are capable of sort of shaping the impulse, but not the need for food--you could have gone to Denny's! The hunger impulse itself is not of your own choice whatsoever.

A rat in a maze might be faced with two or more doors to get to his food pellet, and it seems he makes a choice, but really he's sort of just responding to stimuli at a given time. Human have more high-powered chip-sets than rats, but the principle's the same. We don't really "choose" out of some completely free volition, but respond.

For any given response it does not seem the compatibilist view holds either. It seems you could have done differently, but that's only in the sense that a rat seems to have chosen one maze-entrance rather than another. Compatibilism holds only in the sense that there's is some slightly holistic aspect to human brains--lets even agree unique---they can shape, or steer responses to given impulses and stimuli, but not in some metaphysical sense.

legodesi said...

"You don't decide to be hungry, or thirsty, or cold."

Evidence of some natural processes doesn't constitute evidence against a given supernatural process.

Doctor Logic said...

What the dilemma shows is that it makes a lot more sense to define natural to mean lawful. Physical stuff (of the known physics variety) is a subset of this natural because it is lawful.

What's the relevance to dualism? Well, in principle, there could be a natural dualism, i.e., one in which mental stuff is fundamental (like spacetime) and subject to (or a participant in) non-physical mental laws. However, in practice, dualists hate this idea. It leaves no room for libertarian free will, as J points out. It simply replaces physical physics with mental physics.

The problem with the alternative is that the supernatural (non-lawful) can't explain anything. If F predicts X no better than ~X (because F is not lawful), then ~F does the same. So how is F going to explain X any better than ~F?

There is a simple fact about determinism that no one here has rebutted. If my decision to do X is not determined by anything in the past nor by anything outside of time (i.e., constants), it is fundamentally random and brute because I've exhausted all the possible things it could depend upon. I wonder if any dualists here will ever face up to this issue.

J said...

Really Dr. Logic's there's little point in endlessly hashing it out with the DI regs. .

I recommend like 'zine, as in thorazine.

Halleloojah

Ilíon said...

Doctor Look! A Pony!: "What the dilemma shows is that it makes a lot more sense to define natural to mean lawful. Physical stuff (of the known physics variety) is a subset of this natural because it is lawful."

The Wikipedia article: "Naturalism, in at least one rough sense, is the claim that the entire world may be described and explained using the laws of nature, in other words, that all phenomena are natural phenomena. This leaves open the question of what is 'natural', ..."

It is precisely in explicating what was meant by terms such as 'lawful' that the dilemma is exposed. Waving your hands as you substitute terms cannot not make the problem go away.


Doctor Can't Be Bothered To Think It Through: "The problem with the alternative is that the supernatural (non-lawful) can't explain anything. If F predicts X no better than ~X (because F is not lawful), then ~F does the same. So how is F going to explain X any better than ~F?"

Your problem is that you *refuse* to think honestly and critically.

The really interesting bits of reality are "non-lawful," cannot be explained in terms of 'lawfulness;' non-exhaustively, and in no particular order:
* music
* language
* thought
* the existence of reason
* the ability to reason
* the existence of minds
* the ability of minds to communicate
* the ability of minds to deceive, to intentionally mis-communicate
* the existence of explanations
* intentionality
* [And Much Much More!]


Doctor The-Truth-Is-Not-In-Him: "There is a simple fact about determinism that no one here has rebutted. If my decision to do X is not determined by anything in the past nor by anything outside of time (i.e., constants), it is fundamentally random and brute because I've exhausted all the possible things it could depend upon. I wonder if any dualists here will ever face up to this issue."

You really are a pathetic fool, "Doctor" (Il)logic. And also a liar -- for witness, you are "offended," and will sputter about how "wrong" it is of me, that I have called you a fool and a liar ... as, according to your false metaphysic, "the laws of nature" have determined that I must.

In short, you don't yourself believe your own bullshit.


Doctor The-Truth-Is-Not-In-Him: "There is a simple fact about determinism that no one here has rebutted. [false dilemma and misuse of terms] I wonder if any dualists here will ever face up to this issue."

Since when are others required to rebut the false dilemma you assert, knowing it to be false even before you assert it, or treat seriously your continual and deliberate misuse of language?

Sure, others can rip apart your illogic; as can I. But I prefer to look at the root of the (immediate) problem: you are intellectually dishonest.

Or, since that blunt truth gets the panties of the Congregation of Niceanity into a twist, you assert that you yourself don't exist. Fine; I have neither need nor obligation to take seriously nor to respect that which does not exist.

======
The Wikipedia article: "Hempel's Dilemma is relevant to philosophy of mind because explanations of issues such as consciousness, representation, and intentionality are very hard to come by using current physics although many people in philosophy (and other fields such as cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience) hold to physicalism."

Translation: The really interesting bits of reality simply cannot be explained in terms of 'physicalism' (or in terms of 'naturalism'); nevertheless, 'atheists' will soldier on "explaining" all of reality in those terms.


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This post brought to you by "entre."

One Brow said...

Is the three-body problem "currently explained by our best physical theories"? Last I heard, a three-body system was basically unpredictable under current gravitational theory, but it was a matter of computational complexity and measurement precision, not the theories of physics. The human brain is certainly more complicated.

I would point out there is a difference between "current physics has sufficient raw materials to encompass the explanation" and "we have the knowledge to assemble those raw materials into a full explanation". I would say we are on neither horn of Hempel's dilemma, because we have all the physics we need, but we don't know enough yet about how that physics is put together.

Anonymous said...

"Heh . Dualists, cartesian or otherwise, are the mysterians. Simply chanting "intentionality" doesn't really prove anything: the believers regularly beg the question on choice and "freedom"--apparent freedom."

There may be a few dualists of that sort. But most dualists (e.g. David Chalmers) claim that certain features of the mental are fundamental. There is nothing more mysterious about that than claiming that mass or charge are fundamental entities in the universe. It seems nowadays after Chalmers it's reasonable to say that physicalists are mysterians. They have no clue how the mental can logically (or metaphysically) supervene on the physical, but it just does.
The theist and the dualist alike claim that mental aspects of the universe are fundamental. It's an open question how the dualist's claim supports the theist's claim and I expect more work do be done in that area.

Anonymous said...

"There is a simple fact about determinism that no one here has rebutted. If my decision to do X is not determined by anything in the past nor by anything outside of time (i.e., constants), it is fundamentally random and brute because I've exhausted all the possible things it could depend upon. I wonder if any dualists here will ever face up to this issue."

The principle of agent causation tries to answer this issue. Actually it has been adressed by most dualists and libertarians in one way or another.

J said...

It seems nowadays after Chalmers it's reasonable to say that physicalists are mysterians. They have no clue how the mental can logically (or metaphysically) supervene on the physical, but it just does.

Classic begging the question. Who agreed to "supervenience""? Jargon for like Ghost. As far as the semantics of "mysterians" goes I'd say someone who says soul-ghosts exist--or claims the "Mental" must be apart from neurology-- affirms mystery, and someone who says ghosts don't exist, doesn't.

For that matter, Chalmers' zombie analogy was, yes, merely an analogy. Not science, and not even really a necessary argument.

Thinking, however marvelous, is just one attribute of humanness--a point the sunday schoolers simply cannot fathom. The young-Kant-to-be needs food, water, housing, cash, and maybe even a Kantette (unless...er fuggetaboutit) before he speculates on the Great Philosophastical Classics.

Joshua said...

Thinking, however marvelous, is just one attribute of humanness--a point the sunday schoolers simply cannot fathom.

Citation please? As far as I can see, the Christians have been the most consistent throughout history in arguing that soul and body are inseparable.

Ilíon said...

Joshua,
It's not wise to take seriously anything said by a "troll."

Anonymous said...

Who agreed to "supervenience""?
Well I think everybody agrees with supervenience. There is overwhelming evidence for supervenience. The question that divides physicalists and dualists is what kind of supervenience: logical, metaphysical or nomological. Do you know of anybody who denies superveneince?

"Classic begging the question." How am I begging the question?

As far as the semantics of "mysterians" goes I'd say someone who says soul-ghosts exist--or claims the "Mental" must be apart from neurology-- affirms mystery, and someone who says ghosts don't exist, doesn't. The dualist primarily sais that mental states exist and that they don't logically or metaphysically supervene on the physical. He also claims that mental states (or at least their phenomenal aspects) are fundamental in some sense. Both statements are not more mysterious than claiming that causality does not supervene on the physical or that mass and charge are fundamental. And both are usually endorsed by physicalists.

As for the physicalist's claim that the mental supervenes logically or metapysically on the physical, thit certainly is mysterious as long as nobody has given an account of how this could be. And nobody has done so for the phenomenal aspects of consciousness. With nowodays knowledge about the physcial it seems like a mystery how the phenomenal aspects of consciousness supervene logically or metaphysically on the physical.

For that matter, Chalmers' zombie analogy was, yes, merely an analogy. Not science, and not even really a necessary argument. No, it's not an analogy (an analogy for what?). It's an argument for the conclusion that the physical doesn't entail the phenomenal aspects of the mental. And of course it's not science, it's a philosophical thought experiment.

"Thinking, however marvelous, is just one attribute of humanness--a point the sunday schoolers simply cannot fathom" Nobody denies that of course. But then questions raise: how is it an attribute of humanness, what is humanness? And we're back to the philosophy of mind.

Anonymous said...

sorry for the typos, that was a quick answer.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

The principle of agent causation tries to answer this issue. Actually it has been adressed by most dualists and libertarians in one way or another.

I don't think it has. Agent causation is just another name for the libertarian belief that there's a third option after determinism and randomness. It's not an argument. Just a belief. And it does nothing to face up to its incoherence.

An agent may be the stage for a decision, or necessary to the decision, but the issue is sufficiency, not necessity. The agent is not sufficient to determine the decision.

It's the same with neutron decay. You won't see neutron decay products flying out from the vacuum. The initial neutron is necessary for the decay to take place. It's required as part of the stage. However, the direction of the decay products is not determined by the initial state. That's what makes it fundamentally random and a brute fact of the universe.

Similarly, if the prior state of a person is inadequate to determine a decision, the under-determined part has fundamental randomness and brute nature.

The libertarian says the choice is self-caused, meaning that it could not be determined by the initial state. The decision is ultimately made. If the decision were random, we would say the decision was made but not determined. However, what the libertarian wants is a decision that's made AND determined, but not determined by a prior state. So the libertarian supposes that there's this thing called free will that magically determines the decision at the time it is made, without determining it as a function of the past (or constants). That is, there's a flash of conscious will at the moment of the decision, that fixes the decision to... whatever it turns out to be! But therein lies the problem. You can't "determine" something to be whatever it's going to be, no matter what it turns out to be. It's nonsense. It's equivalent to saying the decision is what it is, and is only what it is. That makes the decision a brute fact - a random fact.

It makes no more sense to say we humans determine our decisions free of determination by the initial state than it does to say that neutrons determine the direction of their decay products to be whatever they turn out to be, independent of the initial state.

Hmmm. Where's my thorazine...

J said...

If you merely mean supervenience as in "a human is more than his brain cells, or a personality and character seems different than mere body, and organ," that's trivial, sort of like saying people are funny, and they aren't monkeys! That's not how it is typically used (and the jargon comes from Stanford way, I believe). Superveniences is meant in metaphysical-dualist sense--they S-v-sters want to claim a supernatural realm exists apart from your neurology, and you exist in that realm, as do morals, truths, Jeezuss, and all the rest.

And Chalmers zombie argument is an analogy. At best inductive, or cogent. Not axiomatic, and not a proof that soul exists, whatsoever. Like many believers you conflate mere possibility with like reality.

As far as the bio. and economic claims, Im quite sure they were instantiated by your breakfast of wheeties or a bagel, or snapple, etc.

Hobbes, however unhip, understood food, water, property, the commodity----and Descartes and Co didn't, or generally overlooked economic man

J said...

Hey Idion the Machiavellian Troll said something correct for once! Don't pay attention to him.

And I suggest most of the theo-chat at DI is machiavellian, rather than metaphysical. Christendom advances the interests of some (ie. the DI sunday schoolers) better than say Jeffersonian democracy does, or some other Weltanschauung. One can go on and on about supervenience, dualism, etc but at the end of the day one is trying to earn money to take care of basic necessities--food, housing, transportation, spouse, etc (unless say one was fortunate enough to inherit boo-coo shekels, and make it to a Steinford U. like easy living). Metaphysics is a luxury.

Anonymous said...

Hey J

"Superveniences is meant in metaphysical-dualist sense"

That's not how the term is usually used (in ethics or philosophy of mind). I think you might like Chalmer's "the conscious mind", it contains a great introduction into the idea of supervenience. And even David Lewis liked the book, so there is a good chance you as a materialist like it too. ;-)

And Chalmers zombie argument is an analogy. Can you elaborate this point? I can't see how it could possibly be an analogy. And I've never seen anybody in philosophy claim it is.

Like many believers you conflate mere possibility with like reality.
Mere logical possiblity is enough to establish the failure of logical supervenience. Actual possibility is not needed in this context. Oh and I think Chalmers is not a theist.

One Brow said...

They have no clue how the mental can logically (or metaphysically) supervene on the physical, but it just does.

Actually, we have a very good analogy available to us: computer software. When you encode a storage device with computer software, you do not change the basic of mass, volume, etc. Instead, you change the patterns of matter on the disk. mental constructs in the brain would be the result of sophisticated patterns in the neurons, learning is changing those patterns in specific ways, etc.

Ilíon said...

You're such a fool, One Brow: so dishonest, so willfully deceived; so illogical, so irrational.

Anonymous: "... There is nothing more mysterious about that than claiming that mass or charge are fundamental entities in the universe. It seems nowadays after Chalmers it's reasonable to say that physicalists are mysterians. They have no clue how the mental can logically (or metaphysically) supervene on the physical, but it just does. ..."

One Brow: "Actually, we have a very good analogy available to us: computer software. When you encode a storage device with computer software, you do not change the basic of mass, volume, etc. Instead, you change the patterns of matter on the disk. mental constructs in the brain would be the result of sophisticated patterns in the neurons, learning is changing those patterns in specific ways, etc."

Indeed!

For, as was proven by analogy many hundreds of years ago, a complex material-mechanical symbolic information storage and retrieval system is the equivalent of a mind. For instance, that's why historically in our culture, a blank piece of paper or parchment, a container of ink, and a quill or pen have long been rightfully recognized as the moral equivalent of a human being -- for, after all, in this complex system, all that changes when symbols are transcribed to the surface is the pattern of the distribution of the matter of which the system is comprised.

J said...

Ah you mean supervenience per so-called second or higher order logic, not like a claim about mental events or the brain itself (and phil. of mind types do use it to suggest dualism).

In technical terms, that's considered bullshit.

(I don't pretend to be Goedel, but Goedel showed there was no consistent axiom schema or for second order logic).

Anytime logicians or philosophers start "quantifying" about non-observable objects/events/qualities, reach for yr Darwin, TH Huxley, and periodic table.

Another thing: "qualia", though not really consistently used, suggests any subjective experience cannot be reproduced, whether say of color, sound, taste, memory, whatever. Yet many mammals do see colors, and hear, experience sensation (that's why they have......... ears, eyes, etc). Cats would therefore seem to have qualia; ergo, cats have souls! Q E f-n D.

One Brow said...

You're such a fool, One Brow: so dishonest, so willfully deceived; so illogical, so irrational.

Coming from you, that has no meaning, because your use of those terms in only randomly connected to reality.

Anonymous:
They have no clue how the mental can logically (or metaphysically) supervene on the physical, but it just does. ..."

One Brow:
"Actually, we have a very good analogy available to us..."

Ilion:
Indeed!

For, as was proven by analogy many hundreds of years ago, ...


Now, when I respond to a claim of "have no clue" with "have a very good analogy", you put forth that my claim is something akin to "proven by analogy". In reality, the gap between "have no clue" and "proven" is quite broad. So, as long as you continue to to say the negation of the former is akin to a claim of the latter, I can't take any proclamation of yours concering on being fooling, dishonest, decieved, illogical, or irrational as having any degree of legitimacy.

One Brow said...

(I don't pretend to be Goedel, but Goedel showed there was no consistent axiom schema or for second order logic).

Actually, it's that there is no complete, consistent, and sound axiom schema. Consistent alone is fairly easy.

Ilíon said...

"Coming from you, that has no meaning, because your use of those terms in only randomly connected to reality."

On top of all your other skillz, you a clown! Wow! That's awesome!

Anonymous said...

Hey OneBrow

"Actually, we have a very good analogy available to us: computer software."

The question is whether it is a useful analogy. What do we need to explain about computers? The way they work, their functional states. But functional states have never been a problem for the physicalist, we have a pretty good idea how to explain the functional history of the brain or a computer. That's why this is sometimes called "the easy problem". The big question is why certain functional states correlate with phenomenal aspects (consciousness, qualia) while others seemingly don't. Does the computer analogy help to answer this question? No, because we don't even know if there is any non-functional aspect to a computer. And if computers would have phenomenal mental properties, then we would just know that there are more instances of the problem. It wouldn't help us to solve the problem.

Anonymous said...

"Ah you mean supervenience per so-called second or higher order logic, not like a claim about mental events or the brain itself (and phil. of mind types do use it to suggest dualism)."

I don't really understand what you mean but my guess is that this has not much to do with supervenience. Supervenience is understood this way usually: If you have entities A and B you can't change A without thereby changing B and vice verca. Applied to the mind supervenience can look like this (Plantinga's formulation, NP means neurophysiological property):

"Strong Supervenience (S+): For any possible worlds W and W* and any structures S and S*, if S has the same NP properties in W as S* has in W*, then S has the same content in W as S* has in W*."

Supervenience can either be broadly logical supervenience or nomic supervenience

The supervenience relationship between a thing and its parts is a broadly logical supervenience relationship. There is no possible world where you can change the thing without changing it's parts.

The supervenience relationship between intentionality and a brain seems to be a nomological one. There are possible worlds (zombieworlds) where there are brains but no intentionality.

Anonymous said...

Hey Doctor Logic

Thanks for your comment on agent causation. I don't have much to say on this topic because I'm not very competent on it.
It seems to a layman like myself that problems only arise if you define that everything that is not determined is random.

"You can't "determine" something to be whatever it's going to be, no matter what it turns out to be. It's nonsense. It's equivalent to saying the decision is what it is, and is only what it is. That makes the decision a brute fact - a random fact."

I think this is what Van Inwagen calls the mind argument. I have a hard time seeing what the argument really is. Is it that brute facts are always random? Why should this be so?

It certainly seems that introspection shows how things can go this way: if I choose to move my finger, it's not wholly determined by the past (I may have decided to move the finger eventually but not when exactly), it's not determined by randomness (I have a good control over the process) but it is me as a person who determines the outcome. It seems we have really good evidence for that kind of causation.

What has to be shown is that the evidence is deceptive and that the third option as a concept is incoherent. And this hase to be done without a premiss that begs the question (such as "whatever isn't determined is random). And I've never seen any argument that comes close to this.

Ilíon said...

Anonymous: "... There is nothing more mysterious about that than claiming that mass or charge are fundamental entities in the universe. It seems nowadays after Chalmers it's reasonable to say that physicalists are mysterians. They have no clue how the mental can logically (or metaphysically) supervene on the physical, but it just does. ..."

One Brow: "Actually, we have a very good analogy available to us: computer software. When you encode a storage device with computer software, you do not change the basic of mass, volume, etc. Instead, you change the patterns of matter on the disk. mental constructs in the brain would be the result of sophisticated patterns in the neurons, learning is changing those patterns in specific ways, etc."

Ilíon: "Indeed!

For, as was
proven by analogy many hundreds of years ago, a complex material-mechanical symbolic information storage and retrieval system is the equivalent of a mind. For instance, that's why historically in our culture, a blank piece of paper or parchment, a container of ink, and a quill or pen have long been rightfully recognized as the moral equivalent of a human being -- for, after all, in this complex system, all that changes when symbols are transcribed to the surface is the pattern of the distribution of the matter of which the system is comprised."

One Brow: "Now, when I respond to a claim of "have no clue" with "have a very good analogy", you put forth that my claim is something akin to "proven by analogy". In reality, the gap between "have no clue" and "proven" is quite broad. So, as long as you continue to to say the negation of the former is akin to a claim of the latter, I can't take any proclamation of yours concering on being fooling, dishonest, decieved, illogical, or irrational as having any degree of legitimacy."

One Brow, you're intellectually dishonest, and we both know it. Moreover, we both know that we both know it: so there is no point in getting upset over saying it.


You're both intellectually dishonest and simply dishonest --

The Anonymous said: "They have no clue how the mental can logically (or metaphysically) supervene on the physical, but it just does. ..."

And you "refuted" his statement by claiming that an analogy (and which particular analogy is simply a reflection of your false assumptions about the nature of reality) between computer software and hardware, on the one side, and minds and brains, on the other, proves his claim false.

You asserted a "proof by analogy."

And now you want to whinge and bitch because I mocked your foolish (and illogical) behavior-and-argument.

I'm not "nice," you know I'm not "nice," I have no intention to be "nice;" deal with it: stop choosing to be illogical, stop being intellectually dishonest and I'll nothing to mock. It's simple, really.

=========
Somewhat amusingly, this post brought to you by "boolizi"

J said...

possible worlds

More bogusity. When you say something exists (even in formal logic via existence quantifier), you show where it is, provide some evidence, or define it via axiom. Or STFU. Platinga's endless appeals to "modal logic" mean about as much as astrology.

And logical supervenience (a bit different than modality, but similar in terms of bogusity) does hang on so-called second order logic.

What are the qualities being predicated of anyway?? Intentionality itself? A Personality? Res Cogitans? Soul-ghost? Not exactly capable of definition, or even in older, positivistic terms not capable of being verified--ergo, meaningless. And even if there were some slight metaphysical supervenience, a few shots of tequila (put through the mystery soul interface), or couple vicodins render it incapable of driving, or playing chess, doing math etc. The penal code affirms physicalism, for most part.

Anonymous said...

Hey J

"More bogusity. When you say something exists (even in formal logic via existence quantifier), you show where it is, provide some evidence, or define it via axiom. Or STFU. Platinga's endless appeals to "modal logic" mean about as much as astrology."

How can you have evidence for something that does not exist? Possible worlds are not actual, they are just possible. The concept of possible worlds has been advanced by the materialists David Lewis and Saul Kripke too. Nothing about it is "bogusity". Possible worlds are an important "tool" of contemporary philosophy.

"And logical supervenience (a bit different than modality, but similar in terms of bogusity)"
Supervenience is a simple and clear concept in principle. It is widely endorsed by dualists and materialists alike. If you call it "bogusity" it seems you're not familiar with modern thought or simply refusing it. You can of course do that, but then a philosophy blog is maybe not the right place for you ;-)

One Brow said...

The big question is why certain functional states correlate with phenomenal aspects (consciousness, qualia) while others seemingly don't.

I agree, that's an issue that will require a lot of investigation, and we are nowhere near solving it.

However, I was not proposing the computer as a solution, but as an analogy of how we might see minds as emergent properties of brains. It would be in the patterns of neuronic connections, the way those patterns get fired, etc., just like software is not only the patterns of circiuts on the disk, but also in the computer interpreting those patterns to evaluate states and perform actions based upon those states.

No, because we don't even know if there is any non-functional aspect to a computer.

I'm not sure what you mean by non-functional here. You don't think consciousness and qualia are functional?

And if computers would have phenomenal mental properties, then we would just know that there are more instances of the problem. It wouldn't help us to solve the problem.

If we ever do get to computers developing such states, we will be able to examine them in ways that we are ethically restrained from dealing with humans.

One Brow said...

One Brow, you're intellectually dishonest, and we both know it.

I accept that you believe it.

Moreover, we both know that we both know it: so there is no point in getting upset over saying it.

I don't get upset over meaningless statements.

And you "refuted" his statement by claiming that an analogy ... between computer software and hardware, on the one side, and minds and brains, on the other, proves his claim false.

You asserted a "proof by analogy.
"

HIs claim was that there was no clue. An analogy can certainly qualify as a clue, and in my opinion, this analogy serves the purpuse. I offered a counter-example to his universal negarion, so if you were to classify this is somewhat logical terms, it would be "disproof by counter-example".

I'm not "nice," ...

You're not nasty, either. There was a time when I thought the failure to be able to hold a conversation with you (as in, ideas would be read, understood, adn interpreted by both sides) was due in some part to my own lack, but then you made very clear that you simply have no interest in such discussions. So you're not even irritating anymoe.

Anonymous said...

Hey One Brow, thanks for your answer.

"I agree, that's an issue that will require a lot of investigation, and we are nowhere near solving it."

The question is how we could proceed with the investigation. It's obvious how we can find out why humans talk, think, act. Those are the "easy" problems and it seems reasonable to expect a solution to them in physical terms (within the limits of quantum uncertainty). But how are we to proceed if we want to find out why the talking, thinking and acting has a phenomenal aspect to it? The dualist doesn't need to fill this gap. He thinks those phenomenal aspects are fundamental and all we can find out is which mental states correlate with which physical states. The physicalist has to do more. He has to offer a solution on how the physical entails those phenomenal aspects. A look at nowadays physicalist theories shows, that this quest is so hopeless, that many physicalists would rather deny the very existence of qualia or phenomenal aspects than attempts a solution. I think this is a bad strategy, it's modifying the explanandum because we can't find the appropriate explanans.

"It would be in the patterns of neuronic connections, the way those patterns get fired, etc., just like software is not only the patterns of circiuts on the disk, but also in the computer interpreting those patterns to evaluate states and perform actions based upon those states."

I'm not sure that the software is not only patterns on a disk. Maybe it's just that. I'm very sympathetic to eliminativists such as Mericks here: everything "software" causes can be wholly explained in purely physical terms. Why should we believe software exists? Every sensation software causes in people can be explained by states of a disk or pattern in spacetime. We don't need the entity software, so let's eliminate it from our ontology. Does the same strategy work for ourselfes? Nope, we have direct evidence through introspection that we exist. (Maybe software has the same introspection, due to the other mind problem we'll most likely never know).

"I'm not sure what you mean by non-functional here. You don't think consciousness and qualia are functional?"
I think the ideas of zombies, inverted spectrum and dancing qualia show that qualia/sensations don't play a functional role. They can't be defined by what causes them and what they cause. Everything humans do can be explained in physical terms only, so qualia is irrelevant and thus not analyzable in functional terms.

"If we ever do get to computers developing such states, we will be able to examine them in ways that we are ethically restrained from dealing with humans."

I'm not sure whether we could ever know that we succeeded in creating such computers.
And don't you think the same moral standarts should apply to computers if they have mental states? :-)

Ilíon said...

"Supervenience is a simple and clear concept in principle. It is widely endorsed by dualists and materialists alike."

So is 'abracadabra' a "simple and clear concept in principle."

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

You're comment implicitly suggests that an event can be only partially determined, and, therefore, at least partly free. The example you gave was moving a finger - the ultimate movement of the finger was determined, but the precise time of the movement was not. This kind of thinking implicitly assumes that the complement of determinism is some mixture of freedom and randomness. The distinction between kinds of undetermined outcomes is important because randomness is generally not considered to be a form of freedom. Randomness doesn't solve the theist's problem of responsibility, doesn't solve AfR-type arguments, and we would likely all agree that the less randomness in our thinking, the more rational we were.

Bottom line, you are making a distinction between random, free and determined. I am saying that the claimed difference is incoherent.

Let's define what it means for something to be determined. Whenever we have an event locatable in time, we can ask whether the outcome of that event was fixed or determined by the state of affairs before the event, or by general constants (like the gravitational constant or perhaps even fixed laws of logic or mathematics), i.e., nomologically.

Certainly, as with your finger-moving example, an event might be only partially determined. If we go back to neutron decay, we can see that there are laws that determine/fix the energy of the resulting electron, neutrino and proton. However, the direction of their travel is not determined. Some directions are more probable than others, but the actual direction in a given decay is determined by nothing at all - no constants and nothing in the prior state. Also, while a neutron has a mean lifetime, the exact time of its decay is not determined by the prior state. In fact, the mean lifetime of a neutron is about 15 minutes, and if I hold a neutron in a box, and after 3 days, it still hasn't decayed, I can still expect the neutron to last, on average, 15 minutes from now. This shows that the *actual* time at which the neutron decays does not depend on the past, nor on constants, even if it is more likely to occur within 15 minutes.

The problem is that, when something is not determined, or when part of something is not determined, that undetermined part depends upon nothing whatsoever. The set of all things in the past and all things outside of time is exhaustive. So when something is left undetermined, there's absolutely nothing left for it to depend on. I can't imagine anything more random than that part of an event that has no dependencies.

cont...

Doctor Logic said...

cont...

When demanding freedom as an ingredient in reasoning, libertarians will argue that in rationally accepting a step in a proof, I am freely choosing the to accept that step. For example, when I conclude that the Pythagorean Theorem is correct, I freely choose to accept the conclusion, and my acceptance is not forced by anything other than the validity of the proof. But the validity of the proof is a timeless, constant fact! If my acceptance depends on the validity, then it is determined. On the other hand, if the validity of the proof were not a factor in my acceptance of the conclusion, then my acceptance of it would be unrelated to whether it was valid. If my acceptance is determined by nothing whatsoever, it would be random. So the validity of my reasoning is the degree to which my reasoning is determined by the validity of the proof, not the degree to which it is undetermined.

Finally, think about the connection between brute and randomness this way. A random event is equivalent to a one-time law that applies at only a single place and time. For example, "this particular neutron will decay at this particular time, and with these radiated particles." Being a random event, this law does not reduce to some more general set of hidden variables and laws. The one-time law is like a constant of the universe. That makes it a brute fact.

Libertarian free will has exactly the same structure. I decide to move my finger now, and not later, but that decision is caused by no prior state or general constants? It can only be described by a one-time law "DL moved his finger at exactly time T." That makes it a random, brute fact.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

With regard to the "hard problem", I really don't think it's that hard.

First, Dennett says that the qualia for X have the function of telling you that you can sense X. So qualia are indeed functional.

Second, we know quite a bit about neural networks, and the way they learn patterns and interconnect. We know that the part of my brain that represents the color blue is neurally linked to memories of every blue thing I've ever seen or thought about. We also know that this part if my brain is indirectly linked to my emotion center by the links to all those recorded experiences. This means that, upon seeing blue, my blue center lights up, and it triggers lots of other centers to light up in parallel. Hence, the sight of blue is accompanied by a unique chorus of all the memories and concepts neurally linked to the blue neurons, and a chorus of emotional echoes from all those past experiences. If anything, given what we know of neuroscience, we ought to be very surprised if there was nothing it was like to sense the color blue.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dr Logic

Thanks for the detailed answer. I'll start first with the topic I'm most familiar with. I'll get back to your other post tomorrow.

"First, Dennett says that the qualia for X have the function of telling you that you can sense X. So qualia are indeed functional."

Presumably there is a complete physical story for why I behave in certain ways when I'm exposed to a colour. Qualia has no place in this story and is superfluous. The zombie, inverted qualia and dancing qualia thought experiments reveal that the actual quale is functionally void. The only way you can understand qualia functionally is - that's what Dennett is doing - redefining it as the functional role one is in if one is exposed to a sensation. But that is to ignore the explanandum as Chalmers says. Dennett is sometimes considered to be an eliminativist because he redefines all the mental vocabulary to functional terms and then explains them with cognitive models. He then also stresses that this is all that has to be done to explain consciousness. This leads directly to an eliminativist view about the mental, which is a highly unplausible view as most philosophers agree. (His book has been dubbed "consciousness ignored" by some philosophers)

"If anything, given what we know of neuroscience, we ought to be very surprised if there was nothing it was like to sense the color blue."

I agree that we have good knowledge of what happens when a person is exposed to sensations. But I think the claim that we'd expect that it feels a certain way to be exposed to a sensation solely based on neurology is highly implausible. There are many highly complex processes in nature, many of them can be seen as storing and processing information (a human cell or the immune system) but we don't expect any of them to feel a certain way. It seems clear to me that we only think that certain brain processes have to be accompanied by certain phenomenal sensations because of the analogy of other minds.

Anonymous said...

Hey DL

"You're comment implicitly suggests that an event can be only partially determined, and, therefore, at least partly free. The example you gave was moving a finger - the ultimate movement of the finger was determined, but the precise time of the movement was not. This kind of thinking implicitly assumes that the complement of determinism is some mixture of freedom and randomness."

I don't know if partial determination is the right term. I'm still free to refrain from moving the finger once I decided to move it within the next 5 minutes. It's a sort of self-limitation which can be seen as limiting my freedom, but I'm free to loose myself from this self-limitation.

"Randomness doesn't solve the theist's problem of responsibility, doesn't solve AfR-type arguments, and we would likely all agree that the less randomness in our thinking, the more rational we were."

I agree with you here.

"Some directions are more probable than others, but the actual direction in a given decay is determined by nothing at all - no constants and nothing in the prior state."

As you say some directions are more probable than others. And the probability of the directions is not a result of statistics, it's a direct result of the theory. This seems to indicate that there is some restraints for the outcome of the event after all. It's not entirely random, it follows certain probabilities. The outcome can be called quasidetermined by the probabilities assigned to each possible outcome by the apparatus of quantum theory. The problem is that our terminology isn't any good for this. We use the world "random" for all kinds of randomness.

"The problem is that, when something is not determined, or when part of something is not determined, that undetermined part depends upon nothing whatsoever."
This seems to be the introduction of the premiss discussed earlier. Introducing this without further argument seems to be begging the question. And I think we have good counter-examples in quantum theory here. The path an electron takes in the double-slit experiment is not completely random. Also it's not partly determined (by the fact that the experiment takes place) and partly random (the actual outcome of the experiment). The very path itself follows the probability of quantum calculus. And it's important to notice that this is very different from the probability of a plane crashing. There the whole probability has been calculated with the help of statistics of past events. The actual crash of the plane has nothing to do with this probability. Probability in this sense is to systematize knowledge about the past. In quantum mechanis this is different. We could know the probability before a single experiment was conducted. It's logically possible that aristotle knew the probability of an outcome in the double-slit experiment.
I think one possible interpretation is that we have something different than determination or randomness here. What it is and how it is possible is beyond what I know, but it's happening all the time. I think your premiss would actually eliminate quantum "randomness" as well as libertarian choice.

Anonymous said...

"The set of all things in the past and all things outside of time is exhaustive. So when something is left undetermined, there's absolutely nothing left for it to depend on. I can't imagine anything more random than that part of an event that has no dependencies."

As said above, I think this is not true as quantum theory teaches us. The outcome of the double-slit experiment is not determined in the classical sense, but it's not entirely random either, the outcome conformes to or is influenced by certain probabilities (different than the probabilities of everydays life).
The libertarian claims that persons make choices. So he claims that the descision isn't random or determined. To describe the process seems equally impossible as with all things percieved by introspection, but that shouldn't count against the idea (or else we'd all have to be eliminativists).

"On the other hand, if the validity of the proof were not a factor in my acceptance of the conclusion, then my acceptance of it would be unrelated to whether it was valid."

I think introspection clearly shows how the validity of an argument can influence my decision to accept it without wholly determining it (some refuse valid arguments without being stupid).

"If my acceptance is determined by nothing whatsoever, it would be random."
The libertarian thinks it's determined by many factors, one being a person's choice.

"So the validity of my reasoning is the degree to which my reasoning is determined by the validity of the proof, not the degree to which it is undetermined."
I agree with you. But the libertarian also adds that an agent has to choose to accept the validity of the proof. This makes is possible, that it's actually the validity of the argument that makes him (among other things, such as his himself) accept it.

(That's where the argument from reason jumps in. Kim's exclusion argument and Merricks microexlucion argument claim that if there is a necessary and sufficient condition for a mental state X in physical terms, then the mental state leading to the later mental state X has no work to do and is irrelevant. But validity clearly is a feature of the mental, physical processes can't be valid. So validity is irrelevant for the acceptance of an argument.)

"A random event is equivalent to a one-time law that applies at only a single place and time." Do you think it makes sense to call a connection between two events that doesn't happen regularly a law? Usually a law is thought to require regularity. Or do you mean to label a "thing" a law here? Is there in your opinion an entity that determines the outcome of a random event? It seems this would eliminate randomness again, because logically it would be possible to know that law-entity before the "if" sitution of the law happened.

To conclude: I think criticism of libertarianism is mostly based on false confidence into our concepts of causality and randomness. Whenever I ask people opposing libertarian choice about their concept of randomness and compare it to quantum intederminacy, then they have a very hard time describing what they mean and usually it opposed our empirical evidence.

Ilíon said...

It's only deniers of the reality of freedom who have to turn to "randomness" in the futile attempt to pull their bacon out of the deterministic fire.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I'm pretty familiar with quantum mechanics, as my PhD thesis was on applications of quantum field theory.

Let's take a super-simple example of quantum dice. Imagine I have quantum dice, and when I cast them, there is an equal probability of them turning up 1 through 6.

The difference between classical dice and quantum dice is that the randomness in the latter case is epistemic. The reason that classical dice appear random to us is that we lack the ability to measure the initial conditions with enough precision, and we lack the ability to compute the way the dice will land. (At least, on the casino floor.)

Quantum dice are different. It's not a question of the randomness being epistemic - the randomness is fundamental. (In theory, there might be some hidden variable explanation for QM, but let's suppose for now that QM is fundamentally random, and not merely epistemically so).

So, how do I imagine the probability working for our quantum dice? I imagine I have 6 equally sized bins, each containing 1/6th of the probability of the outcome. I imagine filling these bins with labeled ping pong balls, such that each bin has a number of ping pong balls proportional to its share of the probability. In this case, it means each of the bins has the same number of balls (1 ball per bin would work in this case). Then I imagine pouring the balls from all the bins into one giant tub. The outcome of the event is a random choice from the giant tub. If I pull a ball at random, and it says 3, the die roll was a 3.

Now, imagine loaded quantum dice. The 6 is twice as likely to appear as any of the other numbers when the die is cast. In that case, we imagine the bin corresponding to the 6 to have twice as many balls in it as any other bin. And when we pour the contents of the individual bins into the giant tub, and draw a ball at random, the likelihood of drawing a ball that corresponds to the 6 is twice as high as it is for drawing balls corresponding to the other numbers.

In other words, probability distributions tell us how the contents of the giant tub are constituted. Probability distributions do not eliminate the randomness because it's still ultimately a random draw.

We can imagine the analogue of this for decision-making. Causal factors determine the number of balls in the bins corresponding to each decision outcome. For example, if I am a rather rational person, my seeing that a theorem follows from axioms might give me a 90% chance of accepting the proof. That just means there's 9 times as many proof-accepting balls in the tub as other balls, but the draw is still random. And if it isn't random, it's determined.

Do you think it makes sense to call a connection between two events that doesn't happen regularly a law?

No, but that's sort of my point. If there's no law, there is no connection.

One Brow said...

I'm purely a philosophical amatuer, so if I am misinterpreting you, please believe there was no malicious intent.

But how are we to proceed if we want to find out why the talking, thinking and acting has a phenomenal aspect to it? The dualist doesn't need to fill this gap. He thinks those phenomenal aspects are fundamental and all we can find out is which mental states correlate with which physical states. The physicalist has to do more. He has to offer a solution on how the physical entails those phenomenal aspects .

You are drawing a distinction between "functional" and "phenomenal", but I see those descriptions as intimatesly connected. The experience of something being "red" serves a functional purpose for my brain. Separating the experience from the purpose for that experience stikes me as looking at a single player on a basketball court, and wondering why he seems to be overplaying the ballhandler to the left.

A look at nowadays physicalist theories shows, that this quest is so hopeless, that many physicalists would rather deny the very existence of qualia or phenomenal aspects than attempts a solution. I think this is a bad strategy, it's modifying the explanandum because we can't find the appropriate explanans.

Well, what I have read indicates that there attempts are better descibed as re-interpretation than denial. In any case, I don't see the issue of explaining phenomenal aspects as emergent data as being anything more than understanding the details of the emergence patterns. Of course, there's a lot of details, last I checked the connections in a typical human brain exceeded those on the best computers by several orders of magnitude.

Every sensation software causes in people can be explained by states of a disk or pattern in spacetime. We don't need the entity software, so let's eliminate it from our ontology. Does the same strategy work for ourselfes? Nope, we have direct evidence through introspection that we exist. (Maybe software has the same introspection, due to the other mind problem we'll most likely never know).

Pattern is not a purely phsical phenomenon, at least not one that is inherent to the holder of the pattern. a pattern must be interpreted to be a pattern.

I think the ideas of zombies, inverted spectrum and dancing qualia show that qualia/sensations don't play a functional role. They can't be defined by what causes them and what they cause. Everything humans do can be explained in physical terms only, so qualia is irrelevant and thus not analyzable in functional terms.

We cetainly do not know this to be true. If consciousness is an ermgent property of physical matter, then zombies are basically impossible, and qualia are the natural result of the emergent phenomena.

I'm not sure whether we could ever know that we succeeded in creating such computers.

Nor do I.

And don't you think the same moral standarts should apply to computers if they have mental states? :-)

Firstly, we will have much more highly detailed histories of the creation and development of the conscious of such machines, and secondly, we can monitor the workings of machines in ways that would not be ethical for humans.

Ilíon said...

One Brow (to Anonymous): "I'm purely a philosophical amatuer, so if I am misinterpreting you, please believe there was no malicious intent."

One Brow's problem is not that he is a "philosophical amatuer" but rather that he is intellectually dishonest:
"Firstly, we will have much more highly detailed histories of the creation and development of the conscious of such machines, ..."

Computers are not conscious (and they never will be). Consciousness is an attribute of minds, and computers are not (and never will be) minds, for computation is not 'mind' and 'mind' is not computation.

Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for your answers

I'm away for a couple of days and will post a response on thursday. Have a good time.

Anonymous said...

Hey DL

Understanding quantum mechanics is difficult enough, interpreting the apparatus however is even more challenging. I certainly don't doubt your knowledge on quantum mechanics, but I don't share your interpretation. The concept of quantum randomness you employ seems to be based on an analogy of epistemological randomness. This is not helpful because it replaces ontological randomness for something we are more familiar with, but which is not hard to understand at all.

Within epistemological randomness it's easy to see how someone can apply the word "random" correctly and still predict that certain events will happen more often. Your example illustrates this very well. With ontological randomness things are not that simple. There we don't know the underlying mechanism that makes certain outcomes more probable than others. There it's a brute fact that certain outcomes are more probable than others. It's not clear how this is compatible with the concept of randomness. Simply stating that it's not determined and therefore random seems to miss the important fact, that the outcome still conformes to the calculated probabilities. This seems to be a case between what we can be called determined and what we'd understand under "random".

Also a libertarian doesn't have to agree that there is ontological randomness. Quantum "randomness" might well be the result of god's choice:

"God would have to be conceived of as actually manipulating micro-events (at the atomic, molecular, and according to some, quantum levels) in these initiating fluctuations on the natural world in order to produce the results at the macroscopic level which God wills. But such a conception of God's action … would then be no different in principle from that of God intervening in the order of nature with all the problems that that evokes for a rationally coherent belief in God as the creator of that order. (Peacocke 2004"

The only argument one can make against such an interpretation is of this form:

1.We don't know what determines the outcome of certain quantum processes.

2.Therefore they are random.

But this is certainly not a valid argument, and if someone makes it valid, he'll have to do so by introducing a highly disbutable premiss: whenever we don't know the cause of something, it is random.

The libertarian may claim that there are only two possible connections between two events: causality and free choice. I don't see how any of your arguments can affect such a statement.

Anonymous said...

"You are drawing a distinction between "functional" and "phenomenal", but I see those descriptions as intimatesly connected. The experience of something being "red" serves a functional purpose for my brain."

I also think that they are intimatesly connected, but I think it's a purely nomological connection and not a logical or metaphysical. And it's this idea that makes me oppose your second statement. It seems logically possible that my brain could do all the work when being exposed to a red object without giving raise to a red experience. It's certainly conceivable which is a strong indication for logical possibility. And nobody has succeded to show that it is not logically possible.

"Well, what I have read indicates that there attempts are better descibed as re-interpretation than denial. In any case, I don't see the issue of explaining phenomenal aspects as emergent data as being anything more than understanding the details of the emergence patterns.

In a review of Dennett's "consciousness explained" some guy wrote that Dennett first denies phenomenal consciousness and then denies that he denies it. If you look at the use of his mental terms, it's quite clear that he only includes the functional meaning. He then also says that the only things in need of explanation are the phenomenons his terms label. This is equivalent to the denial of any nonfunctional aspects of the mental, such as qualia and consciousness. Eliminativists are even more straightforward about this.
Concerning your second statement: I think a lot depends on what you mean with "explain". If you mean that we simply need to find out how they correlate, then you're pretty much a property dualist and think that the correlation is a fundamental feature of the universe. If you think that we can find out why they correlate, you can take the route of the physicalist. But then the prospects of explaining are gloomy: the hard question has not been answered by any physicalist. And many physicalists share this sentiment which is why they take the route of denying the existence of a hard problem. But I simply don't see how this is an intelligible position.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

You seem to say that ontological randomness may not exist in QM if God is making a choice instead of the ping pong balls being picked at random. However, this doesn't solve the problem.

On what basis does God choose the ping pong balls? Here, again, we have two possibilities. Either God must take the ping pong balls as he does because God, being ideal, must make an ideal choice (which is ideally predictable).

On the other hand, if God picks capriciously in a particular case, then no ping pong ball is any better than another. There, God's choice is ontologically random. It is determined by precisely nothing at all.

Just saying God "chose" something doesn't make the outcome non-random. If God had no reason to choose ball 1 over ball 13245, then God's choice would be a brute fact of history.

Would you say that God cannot make an ontologically random choice?

Anonymous said...

"Either God must take the ping pong balls as he does because God, being ideal, must make an ideal choice (which is ideally predictable)."

There may be many cases where there is no ideal choice, see f.e. Van Inwagens no-minimum argument for the problem of evil. So the next possibility you propose is important:

"On the other hand, if God picks capriciously in a particular case, then no ping pong ball is any better than another. There, God's choice is ontologically random. It is determined by precisely nothing at all."

I think this answer either begs the question by reintroducing the premiss "whatever isn't determined by objective factors is random" or redefines the notion of randomness such that it includes choice. Both ways are not interesting for a libertarian and do not threat his idea of choice. He thinks an event is not random because he chose it (maybe god can somehow base his choice on a source of randomness - f.e. quantum randomness not influenced by god - to make it entirely random, this thought experiment may illustrate the difference between choice and randomness).

"Just saying God "chose" something doesn't make the outcome non-random. If God had no reason to choose ball 1 over ball 13245, then God's choice would be a brute fact of history." I agree that this is a brute fact, but this doesn't make it random. If you have to move your finger in a certain moment but don't have any reason to do it in a particular moment, do you think the movement of your finger is then random? To me it seems clearly that it is not. It's fundamentally different from quantum randomness (given it is not directed by god or any other person) because you chose to do it.

"Would you say that God cannot make an ontologically random choice?" I think he can't make an ontologically random choice without choosing to base his choice on another source of ontological randomness. He could maybe decide to do something only if a certain ontologically random process turns our this way rather than another. Then his choice would be ontologically random, but only because of the additional source of ontological randomness.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should add that I agree with you that a choice of the sort you suggested may look entirely random to an observer. But I'd say it isn't random because - other than ontological randomness - it's the outcome of a person's choice.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I think your granting of special immunity to choice over every other kind of event is question-begging and special pleading. Although, you may regard the question-begging issue as a stalemate, the special pleading issue falls in my favor.

If I understand correctly, the libertarian says that the otherwise random part of a choice is brute but not random. I've heard libertarians say that a choice is like a new instance of first-mover causality. Now, what is to stop me from saying that neutrons also possess this feature?

Obviously, neutrons don't deliberate the way we do, but deliberation is irrelevant. Recall that the probabilistic aspects of the decay dictate how many ping pong balls there are in each bin, but the final selection of a ball is "random". If neutrons were agents, their deliberative choice would go into the determination of the probability distribution, but the final choice (actually picking the ping pong ball) would not be deliberative. So, if the feature of creating first-mover-like causal threads can apply to people, why not neutrons? When you rejected the idea that neutron decay was ontologically random, why didn't you say that the decay was first-mover-like, and therefore, not random (even if brute)?

In other words, while I might deliberate in deciding I must move my finger before the hour is up, if I capriciously choose the particular time of moving it, the capricious choice is like the unpredictable part of neutron decay, and just as brute. That part of the "choice" is not deliberative - i had no reasons to move it now rather than 2 seconds from now.

So, I put it to you that for any purpose (not just the practical purposes), brute and random are one and the same.

Suppose that surgeon Bob is fixing an artery. Bob knows there's a 1 in 100,000 chance the procedure will free a clot that causes a stroke in the patient's brain. Bob and patient deliberate and agree that surgery should proceed. This deliberation is deterministic - it depends upon reasons and causes that are fixed. However, suppose that, during the procedure, the precise movements of Bob are not determined by reasons. As chance would have it, in moving his finger at time T (as opposed to, say, T+1 second), surgeon Bob frees a clot in the patient's artery, and the patient has a stroke. Bob could not have known that by moving his hand at precisely time T, he would cause this particular patient to have a stroke. Is Bob responsible for the patient's stroke?

Well, that all depends on your definition of responsibility. However, it seems to me that Bob is no more responsible for the stroke than if the clot were loosed by an ontologically random cosmic ray. Alternatively, if cosmic rays are first-mover-like (instead of ontologically random), there's absolutely no difference (apart from nomenclature) between radioactivity and Bob's non-deliberative decision, and so Bob still does not have responsibility for the stroke.

Perhaps more succinctly, the degree to which a personal choice is first-mover-like is the degree to which a neutron decay is first-mover-like. That is, if I avoid special pleading, there's no difference between the non-determined part of a decision and a radioactive decay.

Anonymous said...

I don't think my argument is a case of begging the question. I only claim that choice, randomness and a determined event are different, and they obviously seem different. Now it's up to you to show that this impression is misleasing. In order to do so you need to come up with an argument that leads to the conclusion "whatever is not determined is random" without having something similar as a premiss. And as far as I can see nobody has done this so far.

"If neutrons were agents, their deliberative choice would go into the determination of the probability distribution, but the final choice (actually picking the ping pong ball) would not be deliberative."

I think this is taking the analogy too far. If we could really split quantum randomness into these two stages, not much mystery would remain. The mystery is that there is (as far as we know) no underlying mechanism that explains how something can be random and still conform to probabilities. So even if we use the word randomness loosely, this is not a classical case of randomness.

"So, if the feature of creating first-mover-like causal threads can apply to people, why not neutrons?"

Because (perhaps) there is no choice involved with neutrons, nobody decides the outcome. I think the libertarian claims that this is the difference between ontological randomness and choice.

"When you rejected the idea that neutron decay was ontologically random, why didn't you say that the decay was first-mover-like, and therefore, not random (even if brute)?"

I'm not sure whether neuron decay is ontologically random or not, but if it is not, then I'd agree with what you suggest.

"That part of the "choice" is not deliberative - i had no reasons to move it now rather than 2 seconds from now.

I think it's interesting that most compatibilist end up with judgements like this. Everybody else thinks he's absolutely free to move the finger. I think this is an indication that compatibilist can't accommodate ordinary freedom with determinism, instead they have to change the meaning of the word slightly to do so. My guess is that most people have somthing like libertarian free will as their standart position. Clearly my introspection takes me towards this position.

"Is Bob responsible for the patient's stroke?"

I think freedom is possibly a necessary condition for responsibility, but not a sufficient condition. Thus in my opinion responsibility cases are not very useful for discussing ultimate freedom, they introduce new difficulties. If you ask me whether he was free, I'd say he clearly was.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I have lots of things to say, but I'll limit myself for now. :)

First, to our intuition about choice, I want to emphasize that the common belief that free choice contradicts determinism is deeply mistaken. The proper intuition is that, when I freely choose X over Y, I mean that

1) I preferred X, and so I chose X
2) If, instead, I had preferred Y, I could and would have chosen Y
3) Choosing X or Y results in the expected consequences of my choice occurring most of the time.

(e.g., if I choose chocolate ice cream over strawberry, but my chocolate ice cream tastes exactly like strawberry, it's fair to say that I lacked the choice of chocolate ice cream).
(Also, in the above, preferred means "preferred, all things considered".)

However, it is contradictory to think that free choice must also mean

4*) If I preferred X, I could have chosen Y anyway

In other words, when we say that there is free choice, we mean that, had conditions been identical EXCEPT that I preferred an alternative, then I could have chosen that alternative.

I don't believe anyone intuits that, had conditions been identical in every way, even down to my preferences, and I had preferred X, I could still have chosen an alternative. That would be a negation of free choice. After all, I cannot decide I prefer to choose X, but be unable to prevent myself from choosing Y in response.

So, I strongly disagree that our intuitions side with the libertarian.


Second, quantum mechanics works precisely as I have described it. The formulas that lead to the probability distribution have interesting structure (e.g., wavefunctions), but the result is a set of ping pong balls from which a random choice is made. You say:

If we could really split quantum randomness into these two stages, not much mystery would remain. The mystery is that there is (as far as we know) no underlying mechanism that explains how something can be random and still conform to probabilities.

Splitting it into two stages doesn't mean we have a mechanism.

The random picking from bins is taken to be basic - something fundamental (and unintuitive) about the way the universe works.

The division into probability distributions + random picking is something perfectly familiar to quantum physicists.

Because (perhaps) there is no choice involved with neutrons, nobody decides the outcome. I think the libertarian claims that this is the difference between ontological randomness and choice.

Sounds like special pleading. If there's absolutely no mechanism in deciding (the non-deterministic part of deciding, anyway), I see no difference between the neutron and a mind.

Third, you say that libertarian freedom is necessary for responsibility. Why? If time-warping and repeating the decision could yield a different outcome, the decision itself cannot say anything about the person except some trivia of history about him. For me, the intuitive rationale for responsibility (e.g., "That Bob stole the bread indicates that Bob is a bad person.") doesn't work unless the stealing of the bread indicates something about Bob other than arbitrary non-determinism.

IOW, what makes the non-deterministic part of a choice non-arbitrary?

Anonymous said...

Hey DL, thanks for taking all the time to anwer my comments. I'm learning quite something about the compatibilist view here :-)

"First, to our intuition about choice, I want to emphasize that the common belief that free choice contradicts determinism is deeply mistaken."

I'd admit that folk-intuitions are not always very clear. But calling them "deeply mistaken" seems wrong to me. First: whenever you tell someone about determinism of the brain, he'll conclude that he wouldn't have free will if this were true. Second, Van Inwagens consequence argument appeals mostly to laymen and philosophers specialised in the free will debate. (While, according to Van Inwagen, compatibilism is favoured by philosophers with no special interest in the free will debate.) Those two points alone show that my claim can be challenged but is not clearly mistaken.

Another argument that (in my opinion) demonstrates that common intuitions about free will support libertanianism is the following:
It's probably possible to control other beings with brain implants. Contemporary scientists succeeded in controlling insects. They influence the insect in the part of his brain where the motion is controlled. It seems reasonable though that someday we can infuence brains at a much higher level and "program" their wished and desires. Such a being would - according to the compatibilist - be entirely free because it follows it's desires (possibly even higher order desires). But everybody else agrees that this being is not free. This means that the common notion of freedom differs significantly from the compatibilist's notion.

"The division into probability distributions + random picking is something perfectly familiar to quantum physicists."

I don't think things are that clear. I agree with you about everything concerning the wave function and it's collapse, but what ontologically happens then is not at all clear. And importantly, it's about interpreting the theory, not the theory itsself. I think your understanding of the process involves a problematic understanding of probability:

1. Division into probability distributions

2. Random picking

In epistemic randomness these two stages are clearly possible as your example with the ping pong balls shows. What are probability distributions in this case? They are a description of the underlying mechanism that determines the outcome of the event. Probability calculus in the epistemic sense is systematizing our knowledge (or lack thereof) of a system (the system being the underlying mechanism).

How is this possible if there is no underlying mechanism as some interpretations of quantum mechanics suggest? We don't know. We have no clue how something can be ontologically random and yet conform to probability. The only analogy at hand fails because it presupposes and underlying mechanism. It seems that things can be quasi-determined: not determined yet not entirely random.

Anonymous said...

"Third, you say that libertarian freedom is necessary for responsibility. Why?"
I think the consequence argument shows why.

1. Everything is determined by the past and the laws of nature.

2. The past and the laws of nature are not up to me.

3. Therefore my choice is not up to me.

(This is the simplest form, the discussion about it has become very sophisticated.)

"For me, the intuitive rationale for responsibility (e.g., "That Bob stole the bread indicates that Bob is a bad person.") doesn't work unless the stealing of the bread indicates something about Bob other than arbitrary non-determinism."

I think we have very different intuitions about the nature of persons. I just can't make the jump to "whatevery isn't determined is random". I see that there are problems fleshing out what exactly choice means, but we have that problem with everything concerning introspection and phenomenal mental aspects. And yet those obviously exist.
As a matter of fact, I think the sort of determinism (either determinism of absolute randomness) you suggest leads -via the exclusion argument- straight to epiphenomenalism.

P.S.: Can you tell me what you mean by special pleading? I haven't heard that term.

One Brow said...

It seems logically possible that my brain could do all the work when being exposed to a red object without giving raise to a red experience. It's certainly conceivable which is a strong indication for logical possibility. And nobody has succeded to show that it is not logically possible.

I'm only arguing that there is no need for a strong separation of the mind and body, not that their unity has been established beyond reason to doubt.

This is equivalent to the denial of any nonfunctional aspects of the mental, such as qualia and consciousness.

I simply disagree that saying something requires an explanaiton is denying its existence. Further, seeing qualia and consciousness as emergent does not make them non-functional. Their emergence could easily be necessary, or at least inevitable, given the functionality.

Eliminativists are even more straightforward about this.

Yes, they atempt to redefine the phenomena.

Concerning your second statement: I think a lot depends on what you mean with "explain". If you mean that we simply need to find out how they correlate, then you're pretty much a property dualist and think that the correlation is a fundamental feature of the universe. .

I'm not familiar enough with these lables to be comfortable categorizing myself either way. I see patterns and their interpreters as being real, but I don't know if I would call them fundamental from the perspective of the universe.

If you think that we can find out why they correlate, you can take the route of the physicalist. But then the prospects of explaining are gloomy: the hard question has not been answered by any physicalist.

Which is no guarantee it won't be answered. Why should I consider the prospects gloomy?

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for the challenges.

Such a being would - according to the compatibilist - be entirely free because it follows it's desires (possibly even higher order desires). But everybody else agrees that this being is not free. This means that the common notion of freedom differs significantly from the compatibilist's notion.

My basic answer to this is that this test isn't experiential. In other words, our personal experience of free will is unrelated to this scenario because, if we were so controlled, we couldn't possibly know it. Life would feel exactly the same.

The reason we think such a scenario would counter free will for ourselves is that it contradicts our present higher order desires. If I want to vacation in Hawaii, the potential alteration of my mind to extinguish that desire is threatening to my desire. And the same goes for all of my higher order desires.

However, an influence on higher order desires might be impossible to detect, and if it were detected, we might not care. If I vacation in Hawaii, and I undergo a life-changing experience after which I find I desire to drop out of the metropolitan rat race, I don't care that this change is caused externally by Hawaii.

Our parents have influenced us quite profoundly. As have millions of experiences. Very few of us wish that we could escape these influences. We like our desires as they are, and we don't care where the desires came from. We consider our desires to be part of who we are, and we don't say these things are a threat to our free will.

More to the point, we don't generally do an accounting for where our desires come from. We may agree that certain procedures would be threatening to what we currently desire, but that doesn't mean that our present desires weren't similarly influenced by external factors.

How is this possible if there is no underlying mechanism as some interpretations of quantum mechanics suggest? We don't know. We have no clue how something can be ontologically random and yet conform to probability.

I don't understand why you think mechanism is important here. Indeed, when has a lack of mechanism ever been problematic for a dualist? :)

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I think the consequence argument shows why.
1. Everything is determined by the past and the laws of nature.
2. The past and the laws of nature are not up to me.
3. Therefore my choice is not up to me.


What does "up to me" mean? Even if I am ultimately a product of external forces, there's still a "me". There's still an entity that sees the world, makes predictions about the future, and acts according to the most preferable outcome. I agree with Dennett that in every useful and important way, we retain free will.

Emotionally, the consequence argument flows from pride, i.e., "there's something about me that decided to return the lost wallet, and I would have done this no matter what my history had been." However, this kind of thinking doesn't work because when the causal factors are removed, there's nothing left for the decision to depend upon. If I had some non-material goodness that was responsible for my decision, then my next decision would also be *determined* by this goodness. So the decision is not about me except inasmuch as it happens to me.

Suppose that every time we dropped an object, the rate at which it accelerated towards the ground was different. That is, instead of their being one gravitational constant, the constant was different for every moment in time (and space). In that case, there would be no law of gravity per se. The acceleration due to gravity would be a brute fact for every instance of falling. As we release an object to drop it, we would be unable to predict how it would fall because its rate of falling does not depend on the past. It seems that our dispute is about whether the gravitational "constant" is ontologically random or just brute. My question to you is, what's the difference?

There's no possible experience or experiment that could tell the difference between something brute and something ontologically random. Brute facts are far more random than most accidents.

If I drop an object a second time, its rate of acceleration could be different from last time, so the rate of acceleration says nothing about the object in question. Why should the brute part of an agent decision be any different? Place that agent in the exact same situation again and they could decide to do something different. Treating the person any different because of a brute decision seems bizarre to me.

As a matter of fact, I think the sort of determinism (either determinism of absolute randomness) you suggest leads -via the exclusion argument- straight to epiphenomenalism.

I'm still the one predicting the future and choosing which acts will get me the most preferable outcome. Just because my history (e.g., my parents and my past environment) are powerful factors in my processes does not mean the processes do not occur in me.

It still makes sense to say that "The Pacific eroded Monterey Bay". It does not matter that the Pacific is the result of the Big Bang, galaxy and solar system formation, supernovas, moon-induced tides, etc. There's still something we can define as the Pacific, and the original statement makes perfect sense.

P.S.: Can you tell me what you mean by special pleading? I haven't heard that term.

Here's the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_pleading

I think of special pleading as taking indexical information as distinguishing for some unrelated purpose.

Anonymous said...

"In other words, our personal experience of free will is unrelated to this scenario because, if we were so controlled, we couldn't possibly know it."

Keep in mind that we're discussing what the common notion of freedom means. People are afraid of the control scenario as various reactions to the insect experiments show, so their notion does differ from the compatibilist's notion. The general fear of determinism is another pointer.
Of course there are many different meanings for "freedom". Freedom can mean absence of constraint in some contexts, f.e. if a prisoner may leave the prison and a police officer tells "you're free to go". But those are special circumstances and do not exhaust the notion. I think it's rather obvious that most people think they are also free in a positive sense: free to have done otherwise than what they did.

Compatibilist usually claim that the negative concept of freedom (absence of constraint) exhausts the concept, but that's highly implausible and philosophical laymen (and more and more philosophers) sharply disagree with them.

Kant considered a merely negative concept of freedom as a "wretched subterfuge".

Also I think your defence against the thought experiment doesn't succeed. We could know that we're controlled this way: we could see the wires on our head and the remote control controlling us. But a clever scientist would of course command us to like this situation.

"However, an influence on higher order desires might be impossible to detect, and if it were detected, we might not care"

Exactly, I (being controlled) might not care in the thought experiment, but everybody else will. So in an important sense people don't consider myself free and possibly even I would not consider myself free. But I could be programmed the way that I like being not free. (Maybe it's even possible to change my concept of freedom via remote control, but that's another story.)

"Our parents have influenced us quite profoundly. As have millions of experiences. Very few of us wish that we could escape these influences."

Exactly, so if the compatibilist wants to save his merely negative notion of freedom as the only, true or common sense notion, then he must begin to make ad hoc corrections to his notion. Some influences, such as my parents education, don't endanger my freedom, others, such as the mad scienctist with the remote control, do. This will result in a highly implausible ad hoc definition of freedom.

"I don't understand why you think mechanism is important here. Indeed, when has a lack of mechanism ever been problematic for a dualist? :)"
Dualists simply disagree with physicalists about which mechanisms are basic. Mechanism is important here because it's the only thing we know that allows something to be (epistemically) random and still conform to probabilities. If there is no underlying mechanism, your analogy falls short.

"Even if I am ultimately a product of external forces, there's still a "me". There's still an entity that sees the world, makes predictions about the future, and acts according to the most preferable outcome."

This "you" would be irrelevant for the outcome of any event, you're zombietwin acts exactly the same way you do. The only way Dennett can demonstrate the we still have some "good freedom" is to change the definition of freedom to get a purely negative concept, then use some examples as intuition pumps and make use of our intuition that we're metaphysically free.

Anonymous said...

"Emotionally, the consequence argument flows from pride, i.e., "there's something about me that decided to return the lost wallet, and I would have done this no matter what my history had been."

I don't think that's an argument, it's just an assertion. I can just as well claim that compatibilism is a psychological strategy to avoid depression ;-) And the consequence argument is a very successful philosophical argument and I doubt an argument simply appealing to pride could achieve this.

"As we release an object to drop it, we would be unable to predict how it would fall because its rate of falling does not depend on the past. It seems that our dispute is about whether the gravitational "constant" is ontologically random or just brute. My question to you is, what's the difference?"

Unfortunately I can't give you a direct answer to this question (this doesn't mean much though, it happens quite often when discussion ontology), but I can give you an indirect answer: In the case of choice there is exactly one person who was able to predict the outcome before it happened, namely the person who decided it. With ontological randomness, nobody can predict the outcome.

"I'm still the one predicting the future and choosing which acts will get me the most preferable outcome. Just because my history (e.g., my parents and my past environment) are powerful factors in my processes does not mean the processes do not occur in me."

I don't think you could still properly consider yourself "predicting" and "choosing". You're rather observing the development of your brain and its effects (via physical-mental correlations) on your psyche. You'd think you're doing things because of that notorious intuition about metaphysical freedom and mental causation, but at the end of the day those are just intuitions.

"It still makes sense to say that "The Pacific eroded Monterey Bay". It does not matter that the Pacific is the result of the Big Bang, galaxy and solar system formation, supernovas, moon-induced tides, etc. There's still something we can define as the Pacific, and the original statement makes perfect sense."

As a mereological nihilist I don't think any of these statements is true. It's useful to talk about objects doing things, but it's not true. All the causal work those things do is done by their parts, so my ontology has no place for them.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

There are two intuitions in response to two questions.

1) What is my personal experience of decision-making?

2) What would I consider an undesirable influence on my decision-making?

(1) is perfectly compatible with determinism+randomness because we don't exhaustively test our decisions for dependence on external factors.

In regards to (2), you are saying, and I am agreeing, that once one is under the influence of the controller, one still considers oneself as free as ever. One is evaluating courses of action according to one's desires, and the consequences are coming to pass as expected.

In other words, nothing in our experience can tell for sure if we're "free" (assuming there's a coherent alternative to determinism+randomness). This only reinforces the fact that (1) is compatible with determinism+randomness.

The fact that we reject certain forms of control as being anti-freedom is perfectly consistent with the idea that freedom is the ability to effectively act in accordance with our present higher order desires. You reject being wired up to a controller because it threatens your present higher order goals. The intuition doesn't prove anything relative to compatibilism.

You are trying to use intuition (2) to overcome what I see as a necessarily complementary relationship between between determinism and randomness.

Furthermore, eliminating determinism runs you into an equally counterintuitive situation with respect to (2). If the causal factors that lead to a decision cancel out, then the only thing left is the brute fact of an arbitrary decision. If the decision isn't arbitrary, then it must be because it is determined by something, but if it's determined, it isn't free.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Dualists simply disagree with physicalists about which mechanisms are basic. Mechanism is important here because it's the only thing we know that allows something to be (epistemically) random and still conform to probabilities. If there is no underlying mechanism, your analogy falls short.

Ontological randomness is the absence of mechanism. This is fine because mechanism creates the probability distribution. The selection from the distribution is non-mechanical and brute. It seems very straightforward to me.

I know you've distinguished ontological randomness and bruteness. Would you agree with me that something that is brute is also non-mechanical?

I would say that X is mechanical if you can predict X and its behavior from the mechanism behind X. However, once you reach a basic level, you can no longer do this. For example, if quarks are basic, we can't predict quarks and their properties from some underlying mechanism. Something that is basic can be a component of a mechanism, but is not itself a mechanism.

Would you say that libertarian free will is a mechanism?

In the case of choice there is exactly one person who was able to predict the outcome before it happened, namely the person who decided it. With ontological randomness, nobody can predict the outcome.

Puzzled. I can't predict my decision before I've made it, can I? Perhaps I can predict my consequential action after I've made my decision, but then we're talking about execution and not choice.

I don't think you could still properly consider yourself "predicting" and "choosing". You're rather observing the development of your brain and its effects (via physical-mental correlations) on your psyche. You'd think you're doing things because of that notorious intuition about metaphysical freedom and mental causation, but at the end of the day those are just intuitions.

So, if I evaluate inputs, predict the future, select a course of action based on the most preferable consequences, am I not making a choice? This is choice as I experience it. I never ever experience, say, being rewound in time back to the instant of a decision point and choosing differently. Seems like it would be question-begging to define true choice as non-deterministic choice.

Aesthetically, you may not like the idea of a deterministic universe, but that seems irrelevant to the discussion.

As a mereological nihilist I don't think any of these statements is true. It's useful to talk about objects doing things, but it's not true. All the causal work those things do is done by their parts, so my ontology has no place for them.

Isn't that greedy reductionism? I have very specific parameters for defining what the Pacific ocean is. If the ocean is a mechanism consisting of countless parts, my statement is as true as if the ocean is basic and non-mechanical. After all, I can meaningfully say X does Y without knowing whether X is basic.

Anonymous said...

Hey DL

Whether (1) is compatible with determinism+randomness is an open question. Maybe our phenomenal experience of deciding would be completely different in a deterministic world or in an entirely random world. Maybe we are in a deterministic world and our phenomenal experience is thus compatible with determinism. Any answer to this question is a mere guess and doesn't help the compatibilist or incompatibilist in any way. Once we know which principles govern our universe, we'll know that our phenomenal experience is compatible with them. But we're not there yet.

"In regards to (2), you are saying, and I am agreeing, that once one is under the influence of the controller, one still considers oneself as free as ever. One is evaluating courses of action according to one's desires, and the consequences are coming to pass as expected."

I'm sorry if I didn't express myself clear enough. I meant that such a person will only beliefe to be free, if you can also change her concept of freedom from the common notion so some other notion. And even if the controlled person will consider herself free, everybody else won't. This clearly shows that the compatibilist notion of freedom is an artificial notion, something that might be compatible with determinism, but something people don't care for. There are senses of freedom that mean absence of constraint, but there is also the other sense, the ability to do otherwise. And this latter notion is important to people.

"In other words, nothing in our experience can tell for sure if we're "free""

There is always the possibility of illusion. But I think we need a very good philosophical argument to think that aspects of introspection are illusions. In this case I don't think there is any such argument. We all think we're metaphysically free. It seems to be a fundamental condition of being human as several authors have pointed out.

"You reject being wired up to a controller because it threatens your present higher order goals. The intuition doesn't prove anything relative to compatibilism."

It proves one thing, the term freedom compatibilists use differs from the common notion. This makes compatibilism less interesting for most people (and philosophers as recent developments show).

"If the causal factors that lead to a decision cancel out, then the only thing left is the brute fact of an arbitrary decision. If the decision isn't arbitrary, then it must be because it is determined by something, but if it's determined, it isn't free."

This is another version of the claim that whatever isn't determined is random. I don't see any argument here. A decision may be "brute", but it's still a decision.

Anonymous said...

"Ontological randomness is the absence of mechanism. This is fine because mechanism creates the probability distribution. The selection from the distribution is non-mechanical and brute. It seems very straightforward to me."

Everything would be fine if there would be a first stage where the probability distribution is fixed (ping pong balls added) and then a second ontologically random event, where selection happens (selecting a ball). This would be an underlying mechanism for the outcome. But I know of no interpretation of quantum mechanics which assumes this. This presupposes realism about the wave function. The wave function would have to be an existing entity which interacts and fixes the constraints of the random pick. But this leads to an extremely puzzling ontology and I don't know anybody who is realist about the wave function. But once you give up this idea, you're back to the puzzle of "not determined and yet not entirely random". It's brute but not random.

"Would you say that libertarian free will is a mechanism?"

I'd say our capacity to decide is like any mental capacity fundamental. No knowledge about physics entails knowledge about mental aspects.

"I can't predict my decision before I've made it, can I? Perhaps I can predict my consequential action after I've made my decision, but then we're talking about execution and not choice."

Then your intuition differs significantly from most people in the world. If I promise to be at the cinema at a certain time I know that my prediction is true (given a lack of external factors). And yet it certainly needs another decision to actually go there at that time.

"So, if I evaluate inputs, predict the future, select a course of action based on the most preferable consequences, am I not making a choice?"

Looks can be deceiving (and it's usually physicalists who deny direct knowledge of mental states). You don't know that you evaluate, predict, select. You only know that it seems to you you're doing these things. Should determinism turn out to be true, you'd have been decieved. There was no "you" doing these things any more than there is a "you" fixing the constants of physics. "you" would be the outcome of a psychophysical law where you can't influence the mental part any more than the physical. And, as some tell us, maybe the idea of a you is nothing but socially learned any way. You can still choose to live in this illusion if it promotes your wellfare and you can't face this new view, but at the same time you know that it's an illusion.


"Aesthetically, you may not like the idea of a deterministic universe, but that seems irrelevant to the discussion."

We all have our preferences. I've never appealed to them in this discussion though :-)

"Isn't that greedy reductionism? I have very specific parameters for defining what the Pacific ocean is. If the ocean is a mechanism consisting of countless parts, my statement is as true as if the ocean is basic and non-mechanical. After all, I can meaningfully say X does Y without knowing whether X is basic."

Mereological nihilism is an ontology, it's about the question what really exists, not what is useful or informative to assume. Many things that are wrong are useful. To say that a car is thirsty certainly is meaningful and useful, yet it is strictly speaking false.
Mereological nihilism is strongly related to reductionism. If reductionism about an composed object is wrong, then mereological nihilism will not eliminate the composed object. This would inflate the catalogue of existing things. Mereological nihilism could still be true for other objects though.

Trenton Merricks has written an excellent book about it, It's a joy to read.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

A lot seems to be hinging on definitions, and I see your definitions as question-begging (and you may see mine in the same way). But this is only because we're not defining the same terms. We should be able to clear things up with the right terminology.

Here are some definitions...

Brute: A fact about the universe is brute if it cannot be uniquely determined by any other factors. This includes facts that are partially determined.

Compatibilist Random: The complement of determined. A brute fact is random (or partially so) because it's not completely determined.

Libertarian Random: A scenario in which every possible outcome is equally likely. An outcome that's the result of a totally flat probability distribution.

Compatibilist Freedom: 1) I have the awareness of a choice of action, I predict the outcome of the actions, choose the preferable action, and the action has the intended effect much of the time. 2) If I go back in time to the point of my decision, and if things were different only in that I had preferred an alternative, I could have chosen the alternative and probably obtained the new intended effect.

Brute Freedom: If I go back in time,to the point of my decision, and if everything was identical, including my preference for what I originally chose, I could still have chosen the alternative and probably obtained a different effect.

Libertarian Freedom: Brute freedom wherein not all possible choices were equally likely.

I think we agree that event outcomes (human choices in particular) are some combination of determinism and brute fact. The only difference between our two views is that I call the brute facts random, and you call them simply brute. That is, whenever the likelihood of the different outcomes are different, i.e., the probability distribution isn't flat, then you don't call it random. So far, we're just talking definitions, and we agree on everything.

By the definitions above, even neutron decay isn't random in the libertarian sense. If libertarian freedom is defined as above, even I might be a libertarian! I think very few of our choices have no deterministic preference at all, i.e., the probability distribution is almost never flat.

So what is our disagreement? Well, we might think the disagreement is a question of epistemic versus ontological randomness. However, as far as I can tell, the libertarian model is ontologically random in the sense of being ontologically not determined by anything. You can't have outcome X be determined by the outcome X - that's not what determined means. If the outcome can't be determined from past factors, it's random.

If I promise to be at the cinema at a certain time I know that my prediction is true (given a lack of external factors). And yet it certainly needs another decision to actually go there at that time.

This isn't what we're talking about. We're talking about the decision to actually go to the movies. If you decide at an earlier time that you will conditionally go to the movies (conditional upon safety, say), you have decided to alter the probability distribution of actually going.

Yet, the libertarian says that we don't alter that probability distribution to 100% until we make the final decision at the time of the event. Your limo can pull up to the theater, and you can have the door open ajar, and still decide to not go. What determines whether you go? Nothing. There's nothing left for the decision to depend upon. All the deterministic factors (including past decisions), physical laws, etc, have been accounted for, and you can still decide against the odds. So you don't know if how you'll decide. At best, you only know the odds you'll decide.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and it's a good idea to clarify our definitions, thanks.

"By the definitions above, even neutron decay isn't random in the libertarian sense. If libertarian freedom is defined as above, even I might be a libertarian! I think very few of our choices have no deterministic preference at all, i.e., the probability distribution is almost never flat."

I think there is something in your definition of libertatrian free will that most libertarians would reject. There are conceivable scenarios where the probability of each choice is the same, f.e. if the desires for each choice are the same. What makes the outcome free instead of random is the fact that it was caused by an agent. It was not caused by some property of the agent or a mechanism within him, but by him simpliciter.

"However, as far as I can tell, the libertarian model is ontologically random in the sense of being ontologically not determined by anything."

As far as I understand Roderick Chisholm, he's saying that an event is caused by the agent, but the agent was not caused to cause the event by any other events. Entirely random events would not be caused by anything. And maybe there are partially random events that are caused to some degree by events.

"Yet, the libertarian says that we don't alter that probability distribution to 100% until we make the final decision at the time of the event. Your limo can pull up to the theater, and you can have the door open ajar, and still decide to not go. What determines whether you go? Nothing. There's nothing left for the decision to depend upon. All the deterministic factors (including past decisions), physical laws, etc, have been accounted for, and you can still decide against the odds. So you don't know if how you'll decide. At best, you only know the odds you'll decide."

Are you suggesting that when I think about my future self, that I think of it as a random generator and I can never be sure what my future self is gonna do?
I'm not entirely certain but I guess I agree that I don't know the truth of any future proposition about my actions. But I think I know facts about my future acts. That is, I have a justified belief about them that might turn out to be true. If my justified belief turns out to be true I knew about those future acts (given a standart account of knowledge as justified true belief and that there are true statements about the future).
And in my opinion it's also plausible that I have a sort of justification for my beliefs about my own future act that differs from everybody elses justification about them.
I think that's all that is needed to show the difference between agent causation and randomness.

I think the question whether I know that certain propositions about my future acts are true is a difficult and subtle question. But I don't think this is needed to clarify the difference between randomness and agent causation. A different type of justification for my beliefs about my own future actions seems already enough and I think most people agree that we do have this sort of special justification for our beliefs about our own future acts.