Perhaps surprisingly, there was quite a bit of agreement among panelists on several contentious points concerning discussions of free will. Here is a partial list:
* Neuroscience cannot actually establish the truth of determinism. At best, that’s an area of competence of physics.
* Libet’s classical experiments have done close to zero to show that we do not make conscious decisions. Indeed, good neurobiological evidence shows that conscious deliberation plays a primary role in some of our decision making processes.
* fMRI data are interesting, but they can only indirectly provide clues to discriminate among different hypotheses concerning human volition (a much better term than the hopelessly marred “free will”).
* Nobody any longer seriously defends a notion of free will that relies on dualism or, a fortiori, even more metaphysically suspect concepts like souls. (Well, okay, some theologians do, but then again, astrologers still defend the idea of cosmic influences on our personality...)
Let’s take a brief look at some of the above claims, starting with the issue of determinism. The best that neuroscience can do is to show that behavior X is neurally correlated with activity in brain structure Y. This has precisely nothing to do with determinism because non-deterministic effects could be present at much more physically fundamental levels than those dealt with by neuroscience and never show up on the neuroscientist’s radar. That’s why determinism is really an issue for physics. And let’s clear the air about oft-repeated claim (most recently by Alex Rosenberg, in an awful book that I’m currently reviewing for The Philosopher Magazine) that physics has shown determinism to be true. Au contraire, mon ami, physics has, once and probably for all, shown determinism to be wrong, via of course quantum mechanics. Before the good reader’s ire leads him straight to the comments section of this post, let me be clear that I know perfectly well that random quantum events do not rescue naive conceptions of free will (because randomness is not at all the same thing as deliberative decision making). But the fact remains that the best of modern physics shows us that determinism is not of this world — you are free (so to speak) to draw your own metaphysical conclusions from that bit of science, as long as you keep in mind that it ain’t neuro-science.
What about Libet’s experiments? You know, the one showing that people make unconscious decisions about when to push a button hundreds of milliseconds (according to more recent evidence, even several seconds) before they become aware of having made the decision? I always thought this was a strange way to attack either free will or consciousness, and my panelists readily agreed. First off, Libet-type experiments are conducted by telling subjects to push a button when “they feel the urge rising.” This is hardly the sort of deliberative reflection we associate with human volition, so it’s not testing anything like “free will.” Second, it would be truly surprising if a lot of decisions were not actually made by our unconscious. Indeed, we know this is the case, for instance for all automated tasks (driving a car, hitting a baseball), and we know why: conscious reflection would be too slow in most of those cases, sometimes potentially costing us our lives. Third, it is simply bizarre to think of my unconscious decisions as “not really mine.” Whose are they, then? “I” am not just the conscious processing of information and awareness of that processing, “I” am also my distributed cognition at all levels of my nervous system, including unconscious processing of information. If you disagree, this means that most of the times you are not actually driving your car, your inner zombie is (did he also decide where to go?).
Now to the much talked about fMRI data. Let’s set aside the well acknowledged (by neuroscientists) fact that this is still a very blunt instrument, that it doesn’t really measure brain activity (only oxygen consumption by brain cells, used as a proxy for brain activity), and that it is still next to impossible to carry out the scans in real time (those beautiful pictures of brains “doing” this or that are actually sophisticated statistical composites of various individuals) and in realistic situations. At the moment, all that an fMRI scan can establish is that there is a correlation between activity X and oxygen consumption by brain area Y. That’s it. While this is much better than we could do until a few years ago, and while Lau at the roundtable cautiously explained how this sort of information may help us discriminate among some functional hypotheses, it is a far cry from the sort of claims that are made these days on the basis of fMRI research.
To begin with, of course, just remember the old mantra: correlation is not causation. Correlations may be spurious or the result of a third, as yet unmeasured process, that is affecting both correlates. Moreover, even if we could establish causality, this would constitute only a very partial explanation for whatever it is that is going on. Take, for instance, the much talked about fMRI of people immersed in deep prayer. They do show that certain areas of the brain are preferentially involved in that activity. But then again, how could it be otherwise? Everything we think or do has to pass through some sort of neural signal after all. What the fMRI cannot tell us is whether, say, the mental state induced by deep prayer (or meditation) indicates a reduced proprioception (which would explain in entirely materialistic terms the sense of expanded consciousness and detachment from one’s own body that sometimes accompany the experience), or the fact that subjects are actually accessing a non-material realm, just as they claim they are, based on their phenomenological experience. Indeed, it isn’t even clear what sort of evidence could discriminate between the two “hypotheses” (just for the record, yes, I do think the second possibility doesn’t have a prayer — ah! — of being true).
Finally, from the bulleted list above, if no serious philosopher or neuroscientist defends a notion of free will that relies on dualism of any sort, what kind of notion is then being defended? As Roskies puts it in her paper linked above, we are really talking about human volition, of which there are several types, each likely to end up requiring its own neural machinery, and carrying its own philosophical implications. Her list includes (apologies for the extended quotations, but she really did put it pretty darn well):
* Volition as initiation. “The will is thought to be critical in endogenously generated or self-initiated actions, as opposed to exogenously triggered actions, like reflexes or simple stimulus-response associations.” This is the sort of thing that Libet-type experiments address, and as we have seen, this type of volition is likely to be unconscious.
* Volition as intention. “Intentions are representational states that bridge the gap between deliberation and action. Arguably, intentions can be conscious or unconscious. Moreover, there may be different types of intention involved in different levels of planning for action.”
* Volition as decision making. “In one prevalent view, the paradigmatic exercise of the will lies in our ability to choose what course of action to take, rather than to initiate or represent future action. Many philosophers have located freedom of the will in the ability to choose freely [note: this doesn’t mean “a-causally”] which intentions to form. Decision often precedes intention and initiation.”
* Volition as executive control. “The control aspect of volition is the notion that higher-order cortical regions can influence the execution of action by lower regions. This may take several forms. For example, one conception is that volition involves the conscious selection of action.”
* Volition as feeling. “The experience of willing is an aspect of a multifaceted volitional capacity. ... There are at least two phenomenological aspects of agency: the awareness of an intention or urge to act that we identify as prior to the action, and the post hoc feeling that an action taken was one’s own.” This is probably the sort of volition that the Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne and Alex Rosenbergs of the world think of when they say that free will is an illusion. Incidentally, they don’t seem to have a clue as to why nature would endow us with such an illusion.
I hope the above is enough to whet your appetite. Go check the video (reach for a beer before you start, it lasts one and a half hours), and especially some of the papers and books written by our panelists.
p.s.: Thanks to Michael De Dora for organizing the panel discussion, and to the Center for Inquiry for editing and posting the video.
The summary alone is delicious, and the cartoon a cherry on top! I hope to find the time to listen.
Before I do, let me just put on record my doubts about the ontological status of representational states. I have argued in the past that there may be room for a certain kind of dualistic revival, because no one has been able to settle the ontology of mathematics on the one hand (if math is purely a useful made-up language, then it follows that its proofs and all the science that relies upon them are also made up, as Rorty would claim), and because no one has adequately explained the more-than-the-sum-of-its-neuronal-parts ontological status of the self. I don't claim to hold all the answers, and I don't seek to promote mysticism of any kind, but I decline to accept monism (or dualism, for that matter) as proven until it is.
Clay Farris Naff
Forms and their strategic functions are dualistic, but that's likely about it.ReplyDelete
In this panel, Jesse Prinz drew out the progressive implications of questioning contra-causal free will (CCFW) for criminal justice and tax policy. Here's a fairly accurate transcript of his remarks between 1:11:30 and 1:13:30, with a few elisions:ReplyDelete
"The problem is that we have some choices that are affected in ways that lead to consequences that I think we need to revise. Take two examples. One of them is punishment. We send people to prison, we deprive them of their liberty, their autonomy, and we make them suffer terribly where in many cases we can identify social forces that might have played a major role in leading them to engage in this criminal behavior. So the method of shaping behavior through incarceration is not only not a terrifically effective one to alter behavior, but it might be unjust or unethical given that it’s a strong form of punishment, a strong form of cruelty, for behaviors that might have originated in a person’s social environment rather than in their evil soul. [Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen argue this too, see their paper online "For the law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything."]
"Second example, and here my own New York liberalism will come out. Taxation: we have a lot of people who make a lot of money, and some people make a lot of money because they are particularly clever, but a lot of people make a lot of money because they were born in the right circumstances... There’s a lot of luck of birth right that goes into having the fortunes that some of us have, and if your success in the world is partially a function of that privileged position that you had nothing to do with, then the notion of redistribution, of distributive justice that involve putting people who are in this particular position of privilege in a tax bracket that makes them give away some of that to people who might not have been born in such a position of privilege seems to look more justified than it would look if we didn’t have a correct picture of the determinants of action...Having these conversations about the kinds of sources of behavior control might help usher us toward policy changes that would have a huge impact on how we conduct our lives."
None of the other panel members took exception to this, perhaps for lack of time. Maybe the personal and policy implications of questioning CCFW are starting to propagate. I'd like to think so, http://www.naturalism.org/progressivepolitics.htm & http://www.naturalism.org/criminal.htm
excellent post. Debatable as expected for such an issue, but great for triggering analysis and debate of this thorny matter.
I see you do not mention Dennett's book Fredom Evolves. Any opinion?
I don't think many philosophers take contra-causal (a-causal?) free will seriously these days. Though that doesn't immediately settle the question of moral responsibility, as much as I tend to agree with some of the specifics statements that Jesse made.
> I see you do not mention Dennett's book Fredom Evolves. Any opinion? <
I preferred his "Elbow Room," and am generally sympathetic to compatibilist accounts like his.
Anyone who argues either for or against determinism implicitly presupposes that determinism is false. Because if (complete) determinism is true, then all arguers say what they say and think what they think not from rational considerations, but merely because they are predetermined to do so by antecedent conditions.ReplyDelete
Incomplete or partial determinism is another matter that leaves plenty of room for debate about the implications of brain states (or early toilet training or whatever) for moral responsibility.
Choice makers in any form of an indeterminate universe would need at least a modicum of freedom to make them. And in a fully determinate universe, nothing would have needed or evolved choice making functions to begin with.ReplyDelete
All efforts to date intended to escape the implications of lack of free will have been nothing more than re-definitions of 'free will'.ReplyDelete
This attempt is futile. Only those that are desperate to preserve their belief in free will will fail to recognize this change of subject that is so obvious to those that aren't bothered by the idea of humans being products of forces which they did not choose and cannot refuse.
Good article, Massimo! I'll probably listen to the discussion, sounds interesting.ReplyDelete
@Phiwilli: "Anyone who argues either for or against determinism implicitly presupposes that determinism is false. Because if (complete) determinism is true, then all arguers say what they say and think what they think not from rational considerations, but merely because they are predetermined to do so by antecedent conditions."
Here is a calculator. If I push 2+2 and then hit enter, the screen displays 4. But I'm an electrical engineer - I have a pretty good idea of how the calculator works. I know, for example, that its relevant behaviour is determined from top to bottom (regardless of whether low-level physics is).
It follows, on your view, that I should not trust its output! After all, it did not output "4" by any rational or mathematical process, but "merely" because it was predetermined to do so by "antecedent conditions."
My view, on the other hand, is that the calculator instantiates a mathematical calculation IN determined physics. It doesn't need to step outside of physics, or be made of pure numbers, in order to do this. Analogously, a human brain (on a good day) instantiates the physical process of rational choice from WITHIN determined physics.
"Incomplete or partial determinism is another matter that leaves plenty of room for debate about the implications of brain states (or early toilet training or whatever) for moral responsibility."
Ack, no! Incomplete or partial determinism is much much WORSE for rational choice/volition/moral responsibility than determinism, just like short-circuiting a few nodes at random in my calculator makes it much much WORSE at adding.
Wow, Jerry Coyne's post is a real desk-banger:ReplyDelete
"A kid who holds up a liquor store with a gun is no more “responsible” for his actions—in the sense of being able to freely refrain from them—than is someone with a brain tumor who becomes aggressive and attacks another person. The only difference is that the physical influences on behavior are more obvious in the second case."
Seriously, that's the ONLY difference Coyne can think of? And then:
"...what on earth does he mean by “our capacities to control our actions”? We can’t control our actions, for crying out loud, because there is no “we” there that can override the laws of physics. We could not have done otherwise."
If the ONLY sense of "could" that makes any sense involves acausally changing the laws of physics by fiat, that means "could" is essentially a meaningless word, which ought to be thrown out in every context! Surely there is another, meaningful sense of "could" that doesn't violate physics, Jerry! Why, I bet you use it every day, as in "I could go for sushi..."
@Massimo: "Au contraire, mon ami, physics has, once and probably for all, shown determinism to be wrong, via of course quantum mechanics."ReplyDelete
I cannot resist saying that this is only on some interpretations - see e.g., Quantum Mechanics, Theory & Philosophy by Jonathan Allday. To me it is not clear what is even meant by indeterminism; I'm betting the notion itself is simply a huge category error.
1. IMO, Dennett doesn't say that much new in Freedom Evolves that he didn't in Brainstorms. (The older he gets, the more he seems to "recycle.")
2. Beyond that, Dennett doesn't draw the logical conclusion about free will, or the lack thereof, that he should when he (rightfully, I believe, rejects the "Cartesian theater.")
3. Someone like Daniel Wegner DOES draw the rightful conclusion, or at least stands in that general direction. And that conclusion is?
If there's no "Cartesian meaner," then there's no "Cartesian free willer" either. It makes no more and no less sense to talk about conscious free will than it does unitary consciousness in general. (With a little more thought, and a little more "worry" about free will as a "problem," Hume might have espoused something similar 250 years ago.)
Where DOES Coyne dig up his nuttery at times? I disagree with Nahmias myself, but on better and stronger grounds by far than Coyne does. (My take is that people like Nahmias are espousing a version of the old "god of the gaps" in terms of what free will is.) http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2011/11/free-will-god-of-gaps-parallel.html
Why Massimo thinks someone who erects straw men the way Nahmias does provides "a nuanced and intelligent brief discussion of the topic," I don't know. Because he doesn't. Including his is-ought error at the end of his column. Speaking of Hume! Oops!
Massimo, glad to hear you agree with Jesse on some of the specifics that follow from dismissing libertarian (contra-causal, soul-based) free will, suggests you're a progressive. You're of course right that most naturalistic philosophers don't take such free will seriously, but many of the folk do, and use it (or are influenced by it) to justify regressive social policy. Here's an example, quoted from a paper in the British Journal of Social Psychology (2011) by James B. Miles, "‘Irresponsible and a Disservice’: The integrity of social psychology turns on the free will dilemma":ReplyDelete
"In June 2009, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published research showing that up to 83% of Britons think that ‘virtually everyone’ remains in poverty in Britain not as the result of social misfortune or biological handicap but through choice (Bamfield & Horton, 2009, p. 23; 69% of those surveyed agreed with the statement and an additional 14% were unsure pp. 23–24). Because of their belief in the fairness of ‘deserved inequalities’, such respondents were discovered to have become almost completely unconcerned with the idea of promoting greater equality while at the same time asserting that Britain was a beacon of fairness that offered opportunities for all. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, there was a ‘clear sense’ across all of the groups surveyed that an individual’s situation ‘is largely of his or her own making’. Anyone can make it if they ‘really try’, the great majority of participants asserted (Bamfield & Horton, 2009, pp. 23–24).
"The 2010 British Social Attitudes Report also found that there has been a fall in those supporting any form of wealth redistribution, from 51% in 1994 to 38% in 2010; sympathy was now limited to those who did not ‘choose’ to live in poverty (National Centre for Social Research, 2010). Citing this second report, B.B.C. Radio 4’s Analysis interviewed politicians and commentators to highlight a tendency within the welfare debates to distinguish between those who are poor through ill luck and those who are poor ‘because of personal choices’ (Bowlby, 2010)."
Bamfield, L., & Horton, T. (2009). Understanding attitudes to tackling economic inequality. Retrieved from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website: http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/
Bowlby, C. (2010). The deserving or undeserving poor? London: British Broadcasting Corporation
(B.B.C. Magazine review of Bowlby’s Radio 4 Analysis episode Who Deserves Welfare? as
broadcast 18 November.) Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11778284
good comments, about quantum mechanics:
> I cannot resist saying that this is only on some interpretations - see e.g., Quantum Mechanics, Theory & Philosophy by Jonathan Allday. <
Correct, but at the very least this means that determinism has not been established. Moreover, it seems to me that indeterminism remains the most widely accepted interpretation among physicists (and even among philosophers). You keep hearing that the universe itself arose out of a "quantum fluctuation," which sounds like the most fundamental (and with the greatest consequences!) type of random event on record.
> All efforts to date intended to escape the implications of lack of free will have been nothing more than re-definitions of 'free will'. <
As the panelists made clear, nobody has seriously been thinking about free will as some type of a-causal process for a while. But the issues of the biological basis and philosophical implications of human volition remain.
> If there's no "Cartesian meaner," then there's no "Cartesian free willer" either. It makes no more and no less sense to talk about conscious free will than it does unitary consciousness in general. <
I hear a lot of people make that argument, but I think it is fundamentally misguided. First of all, to say that conscious is an "illusion" is simply a cop-out. It's a nice way to avoid dealing with what is arguably the most important characteristic of human beings. Second, consciousness is an emergent property of low-level neural activity, just like there are many other emergent properties in the physical and biological worlds, and none of them is an "illusion." (And of course I'm using the term in technical scientific and philosophical terms, not as a spooky ghost.)
"- humans being products of forces which they did not choose and cannot refuse."ReplyDelete
Of course we can refuse, that's the whole point of being "free" to choose.
The range of that freedom of choice depends to some degree on our abilities to make accurate or reliable predictions, as well as on the relative predictability of nature's interacting forces at the particular time.
Our universe at some ancient point may conceivably have been determined to be indeterminate, but it sure as hell hasn't become accidentally determinate.
Gadfly: If there's no "Cartesian meaner," then there's no "Cartesian free willer" either.ReplyDelete
Given that Dennett rejects Cartesian free will, I'm a little perplexed by this comment.
Perhaps you mean to fault Dennett for redefining "free will" (which Massimo called "hopelessly marred") to mean some other trait (or category of traits) whose compatibility with determinism is easier to defend. If so, then OK...although I must admit that I care less about these semantics than I do about the social implications of the underlying concepts (e.g. as they bear on personal responsibility).
On that note, I suspect that "free will", as it's currently used in popular culture and law, is already sufficiently vague as to be compatible in many cases with a related, yet non-Cartesian concept, like volition, as described in Massimo's list above (quoted from Roskies; also, see the first Merriam-Webster's definition here).
>"As the panelists made clear, nobody has seriously been thinking about free will as some type of a-causal process for a while. But the issues of the biological basis and philosophical implications of human volition remain."
That is exactly my point. They have opened the door to new meanings of 'free will'....Those new meanings allow for the avoidance of dealing with the original philosophical problem. I believe that this has occurred as a result of the desperate need to escape from the various implications that are seen as following from the acceptance of the view that humans cannot make a choice without that choice having a cause.
>"Of course we can refuse, that's the whole point of being "free" to choose."
If one must choose between choice X and choice Y
there must be a cause. Choice is an event. That we cannot explain a particular event does not mean that there is no causal explanation.
Of course we are caused to make a choice. But inevitable yet random accidents of nature can and will require reactive choices, as well as affect the assessments that (in our case biologically) must precede them. And because they are accidents, there will have been no determinative or historical certainties as to the response, or to the strategic and imperfect assessments that had to have preceded the particular choice.ReplyDelete
Lack of determinate explanation does not imply lack of cause or suggest non-causal explanations.
Mufi, no, I'm not confused. I don't think Dennett DOES reject Cartesian free will. He certainly doesn't do so expressly or rigorously. For more on this line of thought, please either read the book or see the documentary "A Glorious Accident." Philosopher of science Stephen Toulmin notes that Dennett in general is not so original in much of his thought on either free will or mental Cartesianism in general.ReplyDelete
That said, I'll agree with you totally on the "vagueness" issue. Massimo mentions the "vagueness" of what Libet purported to have studied without noting that this vagueness is broader than that.
Massimo: Agreed that consciousness is "emergent." But, if it's emergent in a non-Cartesian sense, then, per Hume, "free will" may be nothing more than momentary impressions of what seem to be volition. That, loosely, is where I come from. Or, to put it in Dennett's "multiple drafts of consciousness" framing:
Perhaps whichever subconscious subself is "in the saddle" at any given moment itself exercises some subconscious but nonunitary equivalent of free will.
Then, to extend Hume further and mix in "heterophenomenology": Because we can't "step outside ourselves," we act as if we not only have a unitary consciousness but a unitary free will too.
From Paul's "That which I don't want to do, I do" to dieters and addicts of today, different subselves with different subvolitions is not at all new, nor radical.
Then, the question is: Just how well can the idea of "volition" be extended to subconscious subselves?
Again, you've missed the point that choice-making is of course caused, but it's the choice process that does the determining, not some previously broken or unbroken sequence of causation.
Causation is invariably sequential, but not just simply or intentionally linear. It comes at you from all directions and most often from "expected or anticipated" accidents. Which our predictive probability assessment system handles with it's educated guesswork, i.e., trial and error, processing. A process which we have been left free to exercise. And you remain free to misunderstand.
> Ack, no! Incomplete or partial determinism is much much WORSE for rational choice/volition/moral responsibility than determinism, just like short-circuiting a few nodes at random in my calculator makes it much much WORSE at adding. <
I take your point to be that we don't want to hold people morally responsible for a random slip of the hand (or of the mind). That would be moral luck. As I understand it, the analogy works like this: if our rational decision-making is sometimes "marred" by truly random fluctuations, then a morally suspect decision may be excusable because it results from one of those random fluctuations.
But I think this line of reasoning depends on certain assumptions about how, when, and why randomness enters into the scenario. Returning to the calculator analogy, it seems to me that you're making narrow assumptions about when the short-circuiting happens. If the short-circuiting disrupts the addition algorithm itself, then the analogy holds. But what if you have an unusually sophisticated calculator with two different addition algorithms, and randomness comes into play only when the calculator choses between them? Say these two algorithms are equally accurate, but offer different trade-offs between speed and energy efficiency. And say that the calculator, when not specifically instructed to use one or the other, randomly choses between them to achieve a balance between energy-efficient calculation and fast calculation.
Now let's posit a situation in which a process fails, because a critical calculation takes too long. Investigating the situation, we find that the calculator, in its blind ignorance, randomly "chose" the slower algorithm. Wouldn't we then hold that the calculator was the cause of the problem? Wouldn't we try to "rehabilitate" the calculator, reprogramming it to base its choice of algorithms on contextual information? And should that prove impossible, wouldn't we replace it with a more reliable calculator?
In this scenario, the problem was caused by a random event, but we still in some sense hold the calculator responsible for the result. On the other hand, if we could ascertain that the problem had been caused by a cosmic ray randomly flipping a bit in memory, we wouldn't hold the calculator responsible at all -- all else being equal, we wouldn't even replace it.
>"Which our predictive probability assessment system handles with it's educated guesswork, i.e., trial and error, processing. A process which we have been left free to exercise."
There are no un-caused "accidents". Our "trial and error processing" is caused....as is our result based upon trial and error. "free will" only exists if it is redefined to include causal forces. "emerging" is an event. So, that which has 'emerged' has been caused to emerge.
As I predicted, you've been caused to misunderstand.
@Scott: "In this scenario, the problem was caused by a random event, but we still in some sense hold the calculator responsible for the result. On the other hand, if we could ascertain that the problem had been caused by a cosmic ray randomly flipping a bit in memory, we wouldn't hold the calculator responsible at all -- all else being equal, we wouldn't even replace it."ReplyDelete
Right, I'd say in the first case our stance to the calculator would be analogous to our stance to a mentally ill person, or a person with a brain tumor. We would hold its responsibility diminished by forces not under its control. In the second case, I agree with you.
The point I was trying to make is that if indeterminism got severe enough, we would all be effectively mentally ill; hence we would all have a diminished capacity defense, and moral responsibility would indeed be gibberish. So what I am really claiming is that determinism is not merely compatible with free will, but necessary for it.
In order for moral responsibility to make sense, our choice-making machinery has to be relevantly dependent on & determined by the moral facts of the matter; to the extent you replace that dependence with rolls of the die, you reduce our responsibility.
Ridiculous. If we didn't choose to handle accidents, nothing in the biological world would happen.ReplyDelete
@DJD: "That is exactly my point. They have opened the door to new meanings of 'free will'....Those new meanings allow for the avoidance of dealing with the original philosophical problem. I believe that this has occurred as a result of the desperate need to escape from the various implications that are seen as following from the acceptance of the view that humans cannot make a choice without that choice having a cause."ReplyDelete
Well, again, we come to the pros and cons of rescuing a concept vs. throwing it out. If you had surveyed the public 200 years ago, I guarantee you that if pressed for a definition of "life," they would have given you a definition which included something about elan vital or immaterial souls or some flummery like that. And yet despite their confusion about the metaphysical status of "life," the concept "life" does actually carve reality at the joints. There really, honestly is a difference between an amoeba and a diamond. So it was better to rescue the concept "life" than to loudly declare that there was no such thing as "life," and start talking instead about "moving matter" versus "still matter" or something.
Likewise, even though many people are confused about the metaphysical requisites of choice, the concept "choice" does still carve reality at the joints, as does the concept "free will" (pace Massimo who seems to think the term too sullied).
"This attempt is futile. Only those that are desperate to preserve their belief in free will will fail to recognize this change of subject that is so obvious to those that aren't bothered by the idea of humans being products of forces which they did not choose and cannot refuse."ReplyDelete
This reminds me that incompatibilism seems to be a last vestige of dualism - a failure to realize that human beings ARE physical creatures themselves, not unphysical creatures blown hither and thither BY impersonal physics like chaff on the wind.
Re: 'I'm betting the notion [of indeterminism] is simply a huge category error.' & indeterminism in quantum mechanics.
Quantum fluctuations (and vacuum fluctuations) and radioactive decay all appear to be genuine stochastic processes. Of course you may dogmatically insist that there is an underlying determinism which, due to our current epistemic limitations, evades us, but I see no reason to posit an underlying determinism outside of an a priori commitment to a certain metaphysical predisposition.
I wonder what a *genuine* stochastic process *would* look like if not the ones I mentioned. In other words, what possible observational state of affairs would, for you, serve as evidence for genuine indeterminism?
That aside, I take your general point regarding the Free Will debate: If a random quantum process in my brain could lead me to become a Democrat, then I could not be free in any relevant sense of the word. Determinism is important for free will, but libertarians need the will (or the self) to be the determiner.
Wikipedia: "Incompatibilism is the view that a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that people have a free will."ReplyDelete
There likely wouldn't be any people or life at all in a deterministic universe, so the question of any wills there would be moot.
> Those new meanings allow for the avoidance of dealing with the original philosophical problem. I believe that this has occurred as a result of the desperate need to escape from the various implications <
Well, nobody at the panel struck me desperate in the least, so I take their discussion to be the result of thoughtful reflection, not desperation.
Modern compatibilist views can be seen in great detail in Hobbes and Locke's views on the Free Will debate.
Compatibilism is at best a cop-out. The universe is either determinate, which means its actions are predetermined, or it's indeterminate, which means its actions are self (i.e., itself) determined.ReplyDelete
> Quantum fluctuations (and vacuum fluctuations) and radioactive decay all appear to be genuine stochastic processes. Of course you may dogmatically insist that there is an underlying determinism which, due to our current epistemic limitations, evades us, but I see no reason to posit an underlying determinism outside of an a priori commitment to a certain metaphysical predisposition.
Are these quantum events you've described genuine stochastic processes? Ie, are they due to the collapse of a wavefunction upon observation, a la Copenhagen? Or are they the deterministic result of entanglement between the observer and the quantum state under observation, a la Everett?
The Many-Worlds interpretation of QM isn't dogmatic; it's a complete acceptance of the theory of quantum mechanics (no special cases for non-unitary transforms).
Many Worlds interpretation is speculative at best, and defies the rules of sequential change at its worst.ReplyDelete
@Ian: "Right, I'd say in the first case our stance to the calculator would be analogous to our stance to a mentally ill person, or a person with a brain tumor. We would hold its responsibility diminished by forces not under its control. In the second case, I agree with you."ReplyDelete
It's interesting that you map the analogy that way; perhaps you are right to do so. But in fact, my intention was to construct the analogy such that the first case maps not to a mentally ill person, but simply to someone who is ignorant of some morally salient fact. And while I think it's true that such ignorance might partially mitigate that person's guilt, I can think of scenarios in which it would not absolve him or her completely.
For example, imagine someone who is somehow ignorant of the effects of alcohol consumption on one's ability to operate a car. Say that person, while driving along, feels a sudden random impulse to go to a bar, does so, becomes intoxicated, and then while driving home kills a pedestrian. Does this person's ignorance of the effects of alcohol absolve his or her guilt? This is something of an "intuition pump," but for what it's worth, my personal intuition says that it does not. Nonetheless, we could reasonably argue that the accident was caused by a random impulse.
Now, let's assume, for the sake of argument, that "random" above means "undetermined." Does that affect our moral judgment in any way? I don't think so. So I think indeterminism is compatible with moral responsibility. Furthermore, I think that the question of moral responsibility turns not simply on whether the mental process under consideration is random, but on how the mental process under consideration is random.
So when you say "determinism is not merely compatible with free will, but necessary for it" I'm inclined to disagree with you. (Note that I'm assuming that by "free will" here you effectively mean "moral responsibility.") Instead I would say "to be held morally responsible for their actions, people must be able to approximate, with suitable precision, certain kinds of idealized deterministic processes."
Perhaps I'm splitting hairs here, because we seem to agree in some way that holding people morally responsible for their actions requires some amount of -- let's call it predictability -- in their behavior. But it seems important to me to acknowledge that, absent some kind of a priori proof to the contrary, a process can be predictable within certain bounds without being strictly deterministic.
A calculator isn't responsible for anything we cause it to do. It doesn't control it's own choices. It doesn't act on a choice of options - it's only choice is to react.ReplyDelete
An approach to freewill not mentioned above but recently explored at the Informationphilosopher website is the two-stage model, with roots going back well over a century:ReplyDelete
It looks promising to me . . .
Phiwilli, I've reviewed Bob Doyle's book on free will which has a lot on his two stage model (Doyle hosts the information philosopher website), see http://philocafe.org/articles/review-of-free-willReplyDelete
In the free will debate, there’s a factual claim at stake about the nature of human action and decision-making. Does it involve something indeterministic or not? The other big question at issue is whether indeterminism is required for responsibility. Incompatibilists say yes, compatibilists no. This doesn’t seem to be a factual question about the world, but rather a normative question about our responsibility practices.
On the first question, Doyle’s view is that human decision-making involves selecting among alternatives that are irreducibly indeterministic by virtue of being generated by quantum noise in the brain. This should satisfy incompatibilists, he says, since the deterministic causal chain is broken. Whether Doyle’s quantum noise hypothesis holds up is of course a matter for the evidence to decide...
Related to the second question, Doyle argues that causal responsibility (as distinct from moral responsibility) only accrues if behavior is controlled by the agent, and indeterminism doesn’t help with that, rather it hurts. The selection among alternatives has to be determined by the agent’s character, motives and rational capacities; only then does it make sense to hold him responsible as a causal factor that perhaps needs restraint or rehabilitation. Anything which breaks the deterministic causal chain of the agent’s selection process among the alternatives would make him less, not more, responsible, since it wouldn’t be the agent’s doing, but rather attributable to chance. This view of responsibility should satisfy the compatibilists, Doyle says, since after all it’s compatible with, indeed depends on, what we might call agent determinism. We can and must hold people responsible as identifiable causes of socially and morally consequential effects.
So Doyle’s is a two stage model of free will, where the first stage introduces freedom from global determinism, and the second stage makes the agent responsible by preserving a type of local determinism. He calls it a “comprehensive compatibilism” since it’s compatible with both determinism and indeterminism.
>"Well, again, we come to the pros and cons of rescuing a concept vs. throwing it out."
Why does it need to be rescued ..or thrown out? Since it fits well with the direction of our scientific biological/chemical/mechanical view of animals (including humans).Why do you feel it needs to be thrown out? What you seem to be attempting to "rescue" is our ability to hold individuals morally and legally responsible for their actions.
>"This reminds me that incompatibilism seems to be a last vestige of dualism - a failure to realize that human beings ARE physical creatures themselves, not unphysical creatures blown hither and thither BY impersonal physics like chaff on the wind."......If humans are also "physical creatures" then we are, like other physical objects....blown by determinism....not "hither and tither"
@Scott: "Instead I would say "to be held morally responsible for their actions, people must be able to approximate, with suitable precision, certain kinds of idealized deterministic processes." "ReplyDelete
Oh, then it appears we agree. When I said that determinism was necessary for free will, I was tempted to throw in some fillips and caveats to the effect that moral responsibility/free will is possible in a quasi-deterministic world since brains are pretty fault-tolerant (i.e., I don't think a stray gamma ray or quantum fluctuation can actually make you murder somebody).
As for your drunk driver scenario, I think the intuition you're feeling stems from a view of the drunk driver's ignorance as culpable ignorance; i.e., they should've known better. Compare with a similar case where the driver has a sudden impulse to stop for a ginger ale, without realizing they have a rare allergy that makes ginger ale intoxicating for them. I see this as definitely non-culpable.
>"Well, nobody at the panel struck me desperate in the least, so I take their discussion to be the result of thoughtful reflection, not desperation."
That move, playing off the word "desperate" seems like a desperate move on your part to avoid the point of my statement. Try this, without the "desperate".
Those new meanings allow for the avoidance of dealing with the original philosophical problem. I believe that this has occurred as a result of the need or desire to escape from the various implications of believing that human behavior is determined....that human' have no free will....
Many feared the collapse of morality when god was declared dead....Now, there is the fear that morality will collapse if we view humans as lacking in free will....or being determined by forces not chosen.
It seems clear to me that all of the above discussions are attempts to develop a concept of free will that allows us to hold individuals responsible for their actions. It might be more efficacious and productive if we acknowledge what we are all doing. Why not simply discuss the idea of "holding individuals responsible"? Perhaps this is the concept that needs to be "rescued" or "thrown out" rather than "free will".ReplyDelete
"He calls it a “comprehensive compatibilism” since it’s compatible with both determinism and indeterminism."ReplyDelete
Begging the question as to why call "determining" within an indeterministic system "determinism," while conversely arguing the same thing can't happen if the greater system is also deterministic.
With this constant redefining of terms, it's no wonder most here don't know what the others are talking about.
The whole idea of compatibilism has been floated to make those in the theoretically deterministic systems responsible to the same degree that "free" common sense would have held them responsible to begin with.
Just give up on that cockamamie deterministic universe and all will be well (or at least weller).
@Eamon: "I wonder what a *genuine* stochastic process *would* look like if not the ones I mentioned. In other words, what possible observational state of affairs would, for you, serve as evidence for genuine indeterminism?"ReplyDelete
Good question. I think I would be willing to accept indeterminism despite my gut feeling that it is a mistake, if accepting indeterminism answered more questions than it raised. The prima facie reason for accepting indeterminism is the examples you cited (radioactive decay, etc.), but that interpretation has the following problem.
-Pretty much everybody accepts the reality of superposition, which is in effect Many-Worlds.
-Then, in order to explain the fact that our "thread of consciousness" sees only one discrete outcome, the Copenhagen interpretation posits a wavefunction collapse - essentially, all superpositions instantaneously "die," except the one containing my "thread of consciousness."
-BUT this collapse is the ONLY known phenomenon in physics that is inherently random/acausal, along with a bunch of other weird properties like non-locality, non-CPT-symmetry, faster-than-light influence...
-AND then we get to the crux of the matter: what is this queer collapse theory trying to explain in the first place?
-Answer: why our "thread of consciousness" sees only one outcome, which outcome is apparently not predictable in principle.
-SO the question becomes: what happens if we drop our intuitive idea of a single unique "thread of consciousness?"
-Answer: there is nothing left to explain. All branches of the wavefunction remember their own history, and to all of them it prima facie appears that their "thread" made it while the others didn't.
Summary: quantum randomness/collapse "explains" why our "thread of consciousness" sees only one outcome, but this is explained equally well by no collapse and no randomness. Quantum randomness does ZERO explanatory work (although at first intuitive glance, it seems to).
What do you mean by "'free' common sense" ?
That makes no sense.
Re: concepts being "rescued" or "thrown out".
Why not simply discuss the idea of "holding individuals responsible"? Perhaps this is the concept that needs to be "rescued" or "thrown out" rather than "free will".
Free in this context means a process which we have been left free to exercise.
The point being that our individually determined "will" becomes a controlling element in determining the effects of our chosen actions. Indeterminism requires that our choices will not have been fully made for us by prior circumstances.
No one likes to accept that they are simply a clock mechanism. It threatens our sense of freedom and dignity. We like to think we are moral persons....because we chose to be...rather than indoctrinated and reinforced to be. We take pride in who and what we are. We need to morally blame others that violate our expectations for "fair" behavior. Accepting the loss of this sense of pride...this sense of taking credit for what we are and what we accomplish seems threatened by the idea of being merely "products" of forces which we did not choose. And we cannot blame others for their violations of mores if we accept this fact about them. For most, accepting this view would be very threatening and perhaps depressing.
But...the effect of knowledge upon our self esteem or our about the implications it might have for our world view should not effect our intellectual consideration of the findings of science and the rational pursuit of knowledge. Otherwise...We are right back where Galileo was.
Be brave....It only hurts for a little while....then you realize that it IS possible to separate your intellectual pursuits with your everyday being and life.
Interesting way to rationalize your inability to grasp the subtleties of proximate causation and it's determinative limits.
No...It's a view I have held since I was 20 years old.
"No...It's a view I have held since I was 20 years old."
And yet you continue to defend your views against those that you know have no choice except to disagree with them. Knowing ever since your twenties that you couldn't change anything that was never meant to be changed.
Destined to spend a lifetime of futility.
What if the issue of free will, and behind it, the issue of a unitary self, has nothing, I said, *nothing* to do with either moral responsibility and little directly to do with causation? Rather, what if, in the evolution of the human brain, as seems likely, we evolved "intentionality detectors" or similar? We then attribute something called "personality" to people who seem to be intentional agents. But, the issue of heterophenomenology cuts both ways. Those apparent intentional agents attribute the same to us. (This, in turn, connects to the school of thought that the mind isn't *just* the brain, but the brain and its social interactions.)ReplyDelete
In this case, we don't just act as if we have a Cartesian self, and a Cartesian free willer; we have this point of view social reinforced. Now, a Zen monk, or a person deep into self-hypnosis, may transcend that during meditative periods, but eventually re-enters the world of social interaction.
But, if there is no unitary self, there's no unitary locus of causation, therefore no locus, or focus, for free will. Rather, free will comes along for a heterophenomenological free ride, as it were.
Or, to cruch it down, we act as if we have free will without any reason to believe that free will vs non-free will (NOT "determinism") is an actual issue.
Or, to crunch it down even further, per Goedel, Escher, Bach, perhaps we should be saying "mu" to this whole debate as somewhat sterile and having the wrong focus.
I liked the article on two-stage theories. I was in fact thinking about something very much along the lines of Popper's analogy with natural selection just the other day, unaware that the old bastard had gotten there decades ago!
> Try this, without the "desperate". Those new meanings allow for the avoidance of dealing with the original philosophical problem. <
Tried it, same result. Nobody is trying to "avoid" anything, desperately or not. People are simply trying their best to wrap their minds around what seems to be a genuine problem: on the one hand, we have a phenomenologically strong sense that we make our decisions; on the other hand, that seems hard to reconcile with the idea of determinism. Hard but not impossible, according to some. Besides, wait until later in the week for a brand new post on the many problems with determinism and its advocates...
I think Daniel Wegner was on the mark:ReplyDelete
"Does consciousness cause action? Many people think that even asking this question is absurd. How could conscious- ness not cause what we do? Every few moments of every day, we think about doing something and then do it. We think of moving a finger and then do it, we think of going to the store for milk and do it, we think of looking away from this page – and then do it. It certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to draw the obvious conclusion from a lifelong accumulation of such examples: consciousness is an active force, an engine of will.
The mind has been known to play tricks, though. Could this be one? What if our minds keep showing us the same set of appearances, leading to an impression of conscious will again and again, but never revealing to us how our actions are actually caused? One way this could happen is if both the thought about action and the action itself are caused by unperceived forces of mind: you think of doing X and then do X – not because conscious thinking causes doing, but because other mental processes (that are not consciously perceived) cause both the thinking and the doing."
-Wegner 2003 The mind’s best trick: how we experience conscious will. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.7 No.2
I'm not sure where I stand on the general argument, but two comments:ReplyDelete
1. I don't see the big problem with assigning blame in a world without free will.
If a person tells me free will does not exist, therefore I can't hold him responsible for his misdeeds, I respond that I must, because I do not have the will to do otherwise.
2. Libet's experiments don't seem to offer any insight. Sure, our brains begin functioning before we realize we're taking an action. But we still become aware of that action and can react to our own actions accordingly.
For example, if I reflexively back away when a person unexpectedly surprises me, I don't continue running down the street. I realize that the danger my body perceived is not real, and I adjust accordingly.
How do you react to this :http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-15936276
What does insanity have to do with determinism? Insane people still need to make ongoing decisions, except that some are less able than others to assess the probable but still uncertain consequences. None of which were inevitable and immune to the vagaries of random chance. Unless of course all randomness has been predetermined - in which case you might as well believe in a regression of infallible turtles.
>"What does insanity have to do with determinism?"
His insanity was determined by causal forces. He did not choose to become insane.
Nor does any one choose the forces that determine whether they will end up in prison or living a life of luxury and fulfillment.
Exactly wrong. We choose how we react to life's forces based on what we learn in part by accidents of birth, family, available schooling, and an endless chain of unrelated accidental events. The "butterfly effect" in other words.ReplyDelete
The people that this nutcase killed didn't choose to be killed, but some of them did choose to hide where his chosen efforts to kill them were thwarted.
Of course you can't or won't grasp that while no-one chooses the forces that they react to, they do choose how they react, and even insane people choose how to exhibit insanity.
And pure determinists choose how to defend their simplistic beliefs.
> "while no-one chooses the forces that they react to, they do choose how they react"
How they react is determined by their genetic endowment plus all the things that "happen" to them between birth and the time they "react" to the circumstances you cite. What "happened" to them, including the instances of learning, were not chosen by them....they were chosen by previous un-chosen instances of learning. Did you choose what to learn? On what basis did you make your choice?
On the basis of being free to choose the options that were, in the end, somewhat accidentally available - if you have somewhat accidentally inherited the ability to look for and understand them.ReplyDelete
"they were chosen by previous un-chosen instances of learning."ReplyDelete
So all learning from the beginning of time has been un-chosen?
First they resisted Galileo's reducing the importance of Earth and Human Kind....Then they resisted Darwin and the reducing of Human's to mere animals and biological entities rather than spiritual...Now they are resisting their biggest threat yet....the destruction of belief in Free Will and the implications that follow...such as the difficulty in justifying moral blame and morality itself. This onward march of science that recreates man as a mere programmed machine...with no choice...no virtue...no morality....no dignity and pride...is dehumanizing. It leaves a new believer with a loss of self esteem...pride....sense of free choice of thoughts and belief...simply indoctrinated during development to believe in this or that. It is no wonder that most people try to perform feats of rhetoric and theory of gymnastic quality in order to shield themselves from science just as they did during the times of Galileo and Darwin.
I was thinking of writing a book. What do you think of the title "The New Anti-Galileos" or perhaps "The New Anti-Darwinians"?
We already have too many anti-Darwinian books as it is - written by neo Darwinians, all now reduced to quibbling about which is the most dissimilar to the other.ReplyDelete
And of course you remind me of some of them, except a bit simpler. The ones of course who've objected to Darwin's original acceptance of the heritability of behavioral traits (such as improved choice making traits) on the grounds that such learning is not heritable, although similar instinctive behaviors are - not realizing that at some point all behaviors are learned and that instincts that preceded learning were not gifts from some pre-learned elements of creation.
But hey, go ahead and write another. There must still be readers who don't realize that the science you believe in religiously has passed them by.
>"So all learning from the beginning of time has been un-chosen?"
The reference was to the individual and during his lifetime.
Are you a "determinism denier"?
>"Tried it, same result. Nobody is trying to "avoid" anything, desperately or not. People are simply trying their best to wrap their minds around what seems to be a genuine problem: on the one hand, we have a phenomenologically strong sense that we make our decisions; on the other hand, that seems hard to reconcile with the idea of determinism. Hard but not impossible, according to some. Besides, wait until later in the week for a brand new post on the many problems with determinism and its advocates..."
It is clear that the universe does not need to be strictly deterministic for humans to lack free will. And you're not trying to avoid the notion that free will is only an illusion, and not a real attribute at all. So, you're o.k. with the realization that there is no freedom of will? I can't quite figure out what side of the debate you are on. You do say that you, "don't think many philosophers take contra-causal (a-causal?) free will seriously these days." So you don't take CCFW seriously, meaning that you reject CCFW as existing. Do I understand you correctly? (I suppose we could infer that anyone who does take CCFW seriously is not a philosopher, or at the very least one of the rare few that does.
I think you are correct when you write: "Those new meanings allow for the avoidance of dealing with the original philosophical problem. I believe that this has occurred as a result of the need or desire to escape from the various implications of believing that human behavior is determined....that human' have no free will....
Many feared the collapse of morality when god was declared dead....Now, there is the fear that morality will collapse if we view humans as lacking in free will....or being determined by forces not chosen."
>"Well, nobody at the panel struck me desperate in the least, so I take their discussion to be the result of thoughtful reflection, not desperation."
Perhaps they hid their desperation too well for you to detect...
Morality won't collapse because even determinists are free to decide that they are destined to act as if they had the right to moralize.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the response. What seems so obvious to someone that is not committed to avoiding the implications of determinism or lack of free will...that the defenders that are creating extraordinary and complicated defenses of free will.....seem to be "desperately", if not knowingly, trying to preserve the dignity and freedom of humankind and their own sense of pride, dignity, self-worth, and sense of moral goodness. That they are unaware of their motives is not surprising, given what we now know about our non conscious "goals".
>"Morality won't collapse because even determinists are free to decide that they are destined to act as if they had the right to moralize."
A determinist would not accept your belief that they were "free to decide they are destined to act" They are not free to decide what to believe. Nor are you.
my position is that free will in the sense of uncaused (or random) decision making is, and has always been, an incoherent concept. But I do think human beings (and, likely, some animals) have volition, which comes in a variety of types (as the linked article by Roskies makes clear), and that has to do with deliberative decision making. And that's all I need for moral responsibility.
Of course determinists are free to decide. They simply are not free to decide intelligently. You are the best example of this here, except that SRS is a close second. Neither of you can understand the abstraction that as long as there has been a smidgeon of uncertainty somewhere at sometime in the history of our universe, then we can have at least a smidgeon of free will.ReplyDelete
>"as long as there has been a smidgeon of uncertainty somewhere at sometime in the history of our universe, then we can have at least a smidgeon of free will."
That's your argument for free will? You make my case for me when I suggest that the free will defenders are using such convoluted arguments that they reveal the desperation they have....and my guess is that the desperation is fueled by the fact that they feel threatened by the implications that come with the acceptance of determinism and the absence of free will.
Supporting my prediction that a "convoluted" abstraction would be beyond your ken. All you seem able to do is chant your mantra that all disagreements with your dogmatic beliefs are fueled by desperation.ReplyDelete
Was Heisenberg desperate, I wonder?
O.K. so you are saying that you too reject the classic notion of free will (libertarian/contra-causal free will), and that what people experience as free will is only an illusion, because there is not any freedom to the human will. What else can you mean when you say this? Yes, the notion of uncaused and/or random decision making is incoherent (even though uncaused and/or random decision making (free will) historically has been and is currently widely believed in and defended by most every human walking the planet.) (jeremybee, for example, clearly seems to believe in freedom of will. People that have seen through the illusion of free will being a infinitesimally small minority.)
And so for a moment I thought I understood what you believed on the matter of free will.
But then in the next breath you say you do believe in volition... (not will mind you, but volition, because well this just makes all the difference in the world.) But you don't say whether you believe there is freedom to human (and apparently animal) volition. Darn. You see, it's a well known fact that non-free willists don't deny the existence of will or volition or choice, we only assert that there is no freedom to will or volition or choice. So stating that you believe in volition really does not completely inform one as to what you believe (regarding the free will question). So by this point in your reply you have taken a step back towards free willism.
Additionally, to be technically consistent, you would have to acknowledge that human volition would not be any more contra-causally free than will? Right?
But your conclusion leads me (and probably most anyone else who reads it) to believe you believe in free volition. You seem to be saying that freedom of human volition comes from deliberative decision making, and from this comes moral responsibility. (Not only for humans but also, interestingly enough, some animals. (This is a rather peculiar bonus.)) Otherwise, if human volition is not free, then there can be no assignment of a moral responsibility. Right?
So, I am left confused, also wondering if you are being deliberately obfuscatory... or you are so in ignorance that you are.
I am willing to bet you can't even define what you mean when you talk of free will... let alone what you mean by the term a smidgen of free will, or what effect a smidgen of free will might have in universe. In any case randomness does not open the door for free will, all that randomness gives us is some degree of unpredictability, not freedom.
>"Was Heisenberg desperate, I wonder?"
What has Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle got to do with free will?
"all that randomness gives us is some degree of unpredictability, not freedom."ReplyDelete
Uncertainty and randomness are not the same, in case you haven't learned or been told that.
"What has Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle got to do with free will?"
It has to do with postulating indeterminacy.
Um, jeremybee... you're equivocating. I never said uncertainty and randomness were the same thing.ReplyDelete
"It has to do with postulating indeterminacy."
Yes, but what does that have to do with free will?
(The question you were asked, still remains unanswered.)
What has indeterminacy got to do with free will?
I cannot answer any more of your questions. My last post has not been published, and that's a game changer for me.ReplyDelete
your previous comment didn't go through because I try to keep an eye on the fine line between contributing to a spirited discussion and simply dismissing or insulting other people.
it would be helpful if you toned down the rhetoric and insulting language and actually try to understand what I said. It would also be helpful if you actually checked out the referenced paper, which does a perfectly good job of explaining the different types of volition, not to mention compatibilists books like Dennett's which do a nice job at showing how one can have moral responsibility in a naturalistic universe (incidentally, where the hell did you get the idea that I think animals have moral responsibility? I just said that some may have some degree of volition. Since there are several types and degrees of volition, your conclusion is completely unwarranted).
If this sounds too ignorant or confused for you, sorry, I tried.
Oh, you may also take a look at the link above (within the discussion thread) on two-step models of "free will" (actually, volition), some of them make a decent case that randomness is required, but not in the sense you are thinking.
And on Saturday I'll publish a post critical of easy talk about determinism, also relevant to this discussion.
You do realize I am no closer to understanding your position on the matter of humans having or not having free will? I suppose it is my fault for insulting you, and thus getting you sidetracked from the really important part of my question. (Actually all I did was point out how your post made the case for two mutually exclusive positions, and thus I am confused as to what you really truly believe to be true... and that was not done to insult you, I really have no interest in insulting you.)
Let me ask again.
What is your belief?
Is there no realness to contra-causal free will?
Is free will an illusion?
Or do you believe in free will?
Or if you prefer to answer, do you believe that humans have a freedom in their volition that animals do not?
I hope these questions are not insulting. (But I fear though they are not insults, they might still be threatening, and thus feel like insults to you. And so you still might recoil from them and leave them unanswered.) I hope though that this does not prove to be the case, and that you give me your answers, as opposed to instead telling me to go read this, and go read that. My questions come from reading what you wrote, and so it is not unreasonable for me to ask for you to answer directly, not indirectly.
Now, since you asked, "where the hell did you get the idea that I think animals have moral responsibility?", I shall answer. You said in one sentence: "But I do think human beings (and, likely, some animals) have volition, which comes in a variety of types (as the linked article by Roskies makes clear), and that has to do with deliberative decision making." You tied humans and "some animals" together in this statement. If you didn't mean to include "some animals" in with humans in your discussion of human free will, than you shouldn't have added that clause in your sentence... you established the link, not me. If it was completely superfluous, then it ought not have been included. As it was, I had no choice but to conclude that what you were saying about humans also applied to these “some animals” which you grouped in on par with humans. Does that explain where in hell I got that idea?
("where the hell"... hee hee, talk about toning down the rhetoric.)
As for the Roskies article, if one follows your supplied link, it leads to a dead end for those that are not a paid member of the publication (which I am not).
I read the two step model of free will (or volition, by which I guess you really mean free volition). True, the two step model does make the “case that randomness is required”. More so than just make the case, randomness is a crucial necessity to the two step model, as it is one of the two steps. But what is the point you are trying to make? The Two Step model fails to establish any amount of freedom of the human will/volition/choice… (not that it even tries to.)
BTW, you sure are bossy. In lieu of answers to direct question you push back with these instructions:
“…tone(d) down the rhetoric and insulting language…”
“… try to understand what I said” (Duh, I am trying to understand what you are saying.)
“... check(ed) out the referenced paper…”
“… (and) compatibilists books like Dennett's…” (Like have haven’t previously done so.) Compatibilists when understood turn out to be free willists that cannot deny the vast amounts of determinism in the universe, so they feverishly endeavor to make cases that determinism and free will are compatible with each other.)
“… take a look at the link above (within the discussion thread) on two-step models of "free will" (actually, volition)…”
Animals and any choice making forms of life have volition (i.e., the faculty or power of using one's will). They simply have lesser abilities to find and assess the utility of their more limited optional responses to stimuli. They all learn from the experience of volitional trials and errors. They all make determinations. They have the degree of freedom to choose that we humans require of them before we assume that they are now among the living.ReplyDelete
Life is a determinant force in nature. In a fully deterministic universe, these choice making abilities would not have evolved as there would be no need for choice making, and no need or chance for anything similar to life to come into existence.
>"They all make determinations"
What does making "determinations" have to do with free will? Are you using 'determinations' as a synonym for "choosing".
I am no longer free to answer your questions honestly here.ReplyDelete
Give it a try.....unless your just going to cry or scream.
jeremy's latest have been blocked because the "comments" consist of a one-liner insult to other people's intelligence. In my book that doesn't qualify as constructive discourse.
Massimo, do you mean to argue that there are no differences in abilities to understand abstractions, or that some can't get to higher levels than others? Or perhaps that to lack the ability at some point to understand at a high level is a matter to keep secret lest that party feel insulted?ReplyDelete
That's like saying that this misunderstanding is in itself a deficiency when clearly many of us understand some things in particular better than others.
And further isn't it like saying that a clear reason for lack of understanding should not be used in argument because somehow it' might represent a form of deficiency that's incurable?
There has been a long history of "special knowing". Throughout history there have been individuals and groups that have believed and argued that they know things....like the existences of gods or spirits or forces that the rest do not recognize....They argued that they have certain mental or spiritual powers or experiences that allow them to "know" things that the rest of us do not......such as "experiencing" the existence of god. The rest of us rely on empiricism and rational extension of empirically based beliefs. If you have some ability or source of beliefs that the rest of us lack....please describe what that is....or perhaps simply support your beliefs with rational argument and presentation of empirical findings.
I will be happy to send you a copy of Roskies' paper, which does an excellent job at articulating thoughts about volition very similar to my own.
Concerning animal's moral responsibility, it was pure phrasing on my part, I only meant to say that animals have some type of volition, not that they have the type(s) that are relevant to our discussion. I think that only beings capable of reflecting on what they do can be held morally accountable.
As for two-step models, if you have to ask the question about the role of randomness you did not understand what two-step models are for (think in particular of Popper's analogy with the way natural selection works). You may want to revisit that literature.
Lastly, it is more than fair to ask for explanations of my own views, but surely you realize that: a) any sophisticated view of anything is based on pre-existing literature, and that in the comments section of a blog sometimes it's much easier to say "if you are interested in X go read Y" then, say, to re-paste or paraphrase an entire technical article; b) I'm not paid for doing this, so you get what I have time to give.
DJD, I don't have any "beliefs," but I do I have disbeliefs. Determinism as you present it is a belief. I disbelieve in it. And as to you being among "the rest of us," I presume you mean the rest of the true believers.ReplyDelete
As to empirical findings, they are supposedly based on and concerned with, or verifiable, by observation or experience - rather than theory or pure logic.
That's not supposed to prevent you from applying logical theories to experience. It's not meant to be the last refuge, etc.
Thanks for that reply. I too am not getting paid for doing this. Here's the short list of questions I still have:
Let me ask again.
What is your belief?
Is there no realness to contra-causal free will?
Is free will an illusion?
Or do you believe in free will?
Or if you prefer to answer, do you believe that humans have a freedom in their volition that animals do not?
> "I don't have any "beliefs"
> "Animals and any choice making forms of life have volition"
It seems like these two statements of yours are in conflict with one another. Are you aware of this?
That's not a belief, that's a logical assumption based on experience and observation. Your positions are exclusively dogmatic, presented as evidential truth, unassailable by the preponderance of opposing logic.ReplyDelete
>"Your positions are exclusively dogmatic, presented as evidential truth, unassailable by the preponderance of opposing logic."
I don't know why you would say that.I simply see that science embraces causative understandings of nature. Then I see mounting evidence that humans are one of many animals on earth. I put those two together in an attempt to understand the causes of human behavior. Since I am not a believer in god or other supernatural forces, I conclude that human behavior has causes....and causal explanations. How does that process differ from the way you form your beliefs about the causes of human behavior?
I use what you have called convoluted logic. I form well educated guesses rather than beliefs. I familiarize myself with the most up to date research from those who ask "why" as a determinant of "how," for exampleReplyDelete
Some people here ask about purpose. I don't, but I suppose there's some equivalency there.
These are problems that live in an abstract reign that's different from (although not necessarily harder than) that of mathematical logic.
"And that's all I need for moral responsibility"ReplyDelete
As Massimo knows, the possibility of constructing a deliberative, volitional account of "moral responsibility" has been definitively foreclosed by the analyses of Galen Strawson -- "moral responsibility" requires self-origination. Get over it Massimo.
From my many years of experience with this issue, it seems as if the illusion of free will has two things going for it. First is the illusion itself, the feeling that comes from human consciousness that the self is in free control of the self's behavior. Our ignorance as to what is going on in our subconscious, makes this illusion possible, powerfully persuasive, and persistent. Secondly is this linkage between the concept of having free will and moral responsibility (both negative and positive: shame/pride). The foundation of moral responsibility upon which so much of human interaction has been based on, is such a hard thing to let go of. I suspect it is, for many, too much to let go of.
I could say more, and I will in the book I am writing (The Paradox of Will), but in the meanwhile, I invite all those who see through the free will illusion to find the Non-free Willism interest page on facebook:
Those of us who understand why there is no freedom to will can speak together with each other.
Bottom line: For Massimo and those like him, there may be no getting over "it". The illusion of free will might be too much to get over. (It's not like they freely choose to not see what we can see.)
Inasmuch as the concept of moral responsibility is founded upon the (incoherent?) concept of absolute freedom, then so much the worse for moral responsibility.ReplyDelete
But then that begs certain questions, like: Was that relationship ever valid to begin with? and Is there a more reliable foundation for moral responsibility?
And I stress "absolute" here, since the concept of relative freedom (or its opposites, duress and coercion) does not seem to be in dispute.
>"Is there a more reliable foundation for moral responsibility?"
Can you think of one? One that is neither random nor caused....or caused by something that is not in turn caused?
DJD: Moral responsibility is a brute fact. In other words, if you kill someone that I love, then, one way or another, I will hold you responsible. As I see it, that non-rational impulse is the foundation. I'll leave it to the philosophers to rationalize it.ReplyDelete
>"Moral responsibility is a brute fact. In other words, if you kill someone that I love, then, one way or another, I will hold you responsible. As I see it, that non-rational impulse is the foundation."
Well stated...I agree. We do also know, however, that it is a brute fact that if we become aware of the cause or causes of a persons actions, other than their "free will"...we lose much of our desire for revenge. So...the question of free will vs. determinism will, by "brute force" come to be settled in stages as we gain a better and fuller understanding of the causes of human behavior. We will understand rather than judge.
DJD: I would agree that it's possible to curb one's desire for revenge in situations of homicide, although I wouldn't count on it, and it's also possible that understanding the causes of a homicide simply informs a judgment, such that murder remains a crime (of varying degrees), but sentences are decided according to more enlightened guidelines - say, those which are more likely to educate/rehabilitate the perpetrator (and thereby prevent a repeat offense), if and when such an outcome seems possible. (In some accute cases of sociopathy, life-long incarceration may be the only reliable way to protect potential victims.)ReplyDelete
>>"Likewise, even though many people are confused about the metaphysical requisites of choice, the concept "choice" does still carve reality at the joints, as does the concept "free will" (pace Massimo who seems to think the term too sullied)."
I find this statement to be confusing. 'Choice' is a word that seems to point to either an action or an event. It has been used primarily to explain a choice as an uncaused action....as opposed to simply an event. The whole point is that it is a human action that should be explained in terms NOT governed by the same mechanistic terms tat we use to explain events (or describe them). So...I do not understand you position that we are "rescuing" rather than discarding the notion of 'free will' when we make the key issue vanish from sight by redefining what we mean by 'free will'. Wouldn't it be better to simply describe and explain human behavior....rather than naming it something....ie. 'free will' ...a term that is so confusing and vulnerable to re-definition?
So if determinism doesn’t adequately explain the choice process for humans what does for you? It seems to me that you end up with either a purely naturalistic belief about why people do the things they do, or they choose them freely of their own volition. The problem with the first option is that it means no one is really at fault for their choices, including genocide or rape, since they couldn’t choose another option. For someone to be morally responsible for their actions they have to be able to choose the action freely (meaning they could have chosen not to do it). The problem with the second is that it doesn’t fit in the naturalistic worldview.ReplyDelete
Your assertion that further studies, at the lower levels of brain activity, will fix this issue eventually seems like a post-dated check defending a naturalistic view of choice/free-will/volition. This belief does not give your assumption credibility, it really just begs the question.
It seems to me that conscious choosing is best explained by a dualistic view of the mind, the physical and the immaterial (whatever term you’d like to give it). Yes this goes against naturalistic presuppositions on the issue, but it does explain how a study with OCD patients has shown that retraining thought patterns can change the brain’s function. And since thoughts are immaterial, there is no evidence they are created in the brain through physical processes, they shouldn’t have an affect on the material (at least not in a purely naturalistic world).
> Your assertion that further studies, at the lower levels of brain activity, will fix this issue eventually seems like a post-dated check defending a naturalistic view of choice/free-will/volition. <
Not at all. It seems self-evident to me that volition exists, and that it has a neurological basis (as evidenced from brain damage that impairs it), and the same goes with consciousness. I don't see any reason at all to invoke dualism.
> since thoughts are immaterial, there is no evidence they are created in the brain through physical processes <
There is all the evidence you want that they are created through physical brain processes. Just trying having a thought without brain processing. But when you say "immaterial" I think the word is used in ambiguous ways. Yes, in a trivial sense thoughts are immaterial. But in no sense that gives comfort to dualists.
Who's denying that volition exists? It is only unconstrained volition (i.e. "free will") that is an impossibility. And no being can be "held morally accountable" for anything, for the simple fact that no being can be causa-sui.ReplyDelete
Volition then exists but is totally constrained? Existence for a cause but for no reason.ReplyDelete
Volition is either causally determined or random. There is no third possibility. Self-determination entails the logical absurdity of an infinite regress -- "moral responsibility" requires self-determination. Ergo, "moral responsibility" is a myth.ReplyDelete
you begin to sound like a broken record.
How else might one sound when addressing broken record issues? "Free-will" (renamed, but not redefined, "volition") has been belaboured to the point of rigor mortis. Any one left in the "field" at this point is just mooching off the bureaucratic dole that is academia. American academia: the last bastion of indentured servitude.ReplyDelete
Would that be akin to deterministic servitude?ReplyDelete
No, it would be precisely everyone at "Flickers of Freedom".ReplyDelete
Thanks. An excellent website. http://agencyandresponsibility.typepad.com/flickers-of-freedom/ReplyDelete
Yes -- at FoF, there is no use indicting words, for they are no shoddier than what they peddle.ReplyDelete
What do I know of man's destiny? I could tell you more about radishes.ReplyDelete
Beckett diagnoses the present state of philosophical affairs with the cold-blooded precision of a sniper.ReplyDelete
Sniping is as volitional an action as anyone can precisely choose to cause.ReplyDelete
Wow, what a terrible post. This is my last reading of Massimo. Awful.ReplyDelete
Assemble a bunch of compatibilists looking for scraps from a Templeton grant and watch them froth... were there any incompatibilists represented? There are so many problems here I don't know where to start. I couldn't agree more with Attlee "Volition is either causally determined or random. There is no third possibility." Dennett's recognition of 'reasons' doesn't get you there. Kane's deontological freedom doesn't get you there. Doyle's centered indeterminacy doesn't get you there (consider the biases that circumvent it and all emergent phenomena). Purposive "delay libertarianism" doesn't get you there (at exactly what moment does time make one free?). Agent causality really NEEDS TO BE dualism to get you there. Pretending the subconscious is as "free" as the conscious (Massimo) doesn't get you there, unless you want to put sleepwalkers on the stand. Try and stop your heart beat with your mind (without stabbing yourself) and tell me you have freedom to do that. The identity issue is totally belied here, as well as embodied cognition issues. Ugh. The conversation needs to change. It needs to separate the pragmatic and the metaphysical. Epistemic limitations do not free will make. Cognitive and behavioral biases are like roaches- if you see 2-3, there's probably 2-3 hundred. I think THIS is evidence of a lack of control that makes any possible free will- which can never be uncaused, negligible.ReplyDelete
Is that threatening? Why should it be? As Tom Clark always writes, we *participate* in that causation. But that is still not free. If a robot was running on a mix of randomized software (for creativity, a la the cogito model) and more generalized instructions (evolved heuristics), a granted limited awareness given to this robot would not give it free will- just because it isn't privy to experiencing that 'software,' whether it is running in randomized or non-randomized mode or both simultaneously in some combination (Kanehman's dual processing, etc). The awareness is something different. Compatibilists have just as much explaining to do and I don't see any of it here, despite the bravado. In the least, you need to explain how subconscious identity running 98% of the body is as free as the conscious 'report' we experience. Metzinger gave us a tenable hypothesis for why we wouldn't evolve all awareness features (too costly, and as Tamler Sommers notes, shedding the illusion of RMR would therefore cause us to drastically reduce our moral responsibility, an evolutionary advantage [but this is a pragmatic argument ultimately]).
All right, I'm done venting.
One more thing... shooting down the Libet EEG studies when there is Fried, I; Mukamel, R.; Kreiman, G. (2011), Bode, S., He, A.H., Soon, C.S., Trampel, R., Turner, R., Haynes, J.D.. (2011), and Chun Siong Soon, Marcel Brass, Hans-Jochen Heinze & John-Dylan Haynes, (4/13/2008), is analogous to creationists complaining about carbon dating limitations in evidencing evolution. It also belies, again, the identity issue. Even Mele has publically stated, "if [complete predictability] turned out to be true, that would be a threat to free will." So what about partial predictability? Is it all or nothing? That's like Plantinga belying the strength of Mackie's evidential PoE argument because he can refute his logical PoE version.ReplyDelete
I see this issue in terms of control and influence- what I called 'predispositionalism' (including both the inner characteristics of general “dispositionalism” [i.e. internal attribution within a commonly perceived ‘personal identity’] plus situational attribution [i.e. ‘external’ context]). It's a more moderate position than fatalism or even strong determinism (perhaps closer to Paul Russell's work) that focuses on our lack of control (even probabilistically)- the strength of biases, priming, etc, that *still circumvent* the kind of indeterminacy compatibilists (and obviously libertarians) will untenably inject in the mix. It's based upon the manipulation argument(s) plus the identity crisis and doesn't even require strong determinism to be effective. Why? Because adequate determinism is enough to perpetuate the loss of control. And there is no such thing as pure control; it's never disentangled from influence.
When you recognize biases as more of a pervasive influence- like paint colors over a whole wall, rather than leaving areas pure and untouched, then the implication is that no kind of freedom remains untainted. There may be darker and lighter shades of influence, but this is different than saying that there are still pure white areas on the wall. The manipulatable mental influence that made Delgado's bull turn away is still in our makeup as well and Dennett’s ‘reasons recognition’ or Libet's ‘veto’ is only going to address that ad hoc, with more influence still active *in that veto/recognition* as well.
Responsibility should be seen in terms of safety, not retributivism per se (Clark and Pinker deal with that well enough). It's fine to base THIS upon epistemic limitations, but as long as we aren't reifying metaphysical freedom to feel better about it. There's plenty of work done on ways to ascribe the kind of 'deep responsibility' libertarians want (e.g. Strawson, Russell, etc) pragmatically without the metaphysical bits, even if the origination issue is still unsatisfying for them.
Reading back my post last night, it seems pretty rude and kneejerk, so I apologize for that. Massimo's tone in this post was just way to brash and presumptuous to me, considering the evidence and the weakness of compatibilistic arguments afloat right now. I realize that this is a time for the philosophers to have their say and for scientists to cede their input to some extent, but this post asserts too much and belies too much.
Okay, as Chuck Norris would say, "now it's finished."