Free will

Hot topics in delusion and rationalization.
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whitefork
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Free will

Post by whitefork »

Saying "I have free will" is equivalent to saying "I could have done something other than X".

Saying "There is no free will" is equivalent to saying "Your having done X mean that you could not have done otherwise".

Neither claim is provable. The conditions under which you did X cannot be duplicated.

Discuss?
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Phil
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Re: Free will

Post by Phil »

Doctor Mabuse wrote:Saying "I have free will" is equivalent to saying "I could have done something other than X".
Not necessarily. "I have free will" is not contingent upon events that have already occurred. In other words, "I have free will" can mean "I can do something other than X" or it can mean "I can do nothing, if I prefer" or it can mean "I can do X, Y, and Z".
Doctor Mabuse wrote:Saying "There is no free will" is equivalent to saying "Your having done X mean that you could not have done otherwise".
That's why I wouldn't say it.
Doctor Mabuse wrote:Neither claim is provable. The conditions under which you did X cannot be duplicated.
Do you mean to say that no Rave can be duplicated?

Seriously, perhaps you should reword your premises just a tad. Are you arguing for or against free will? Or just that free will or the lack thereof cannot be proven.
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Post by Beleth »

I agree with Phil. Very poorly worded.

Free will, or the lack of same, only applies to future choices. Your statements define them in terms of past choices.

"I have free will" is equivalent to "My future actions cannot be predicted with 100% certainty by any possible intelligence."

"There is no free will" is equivalent to "Everyone's future actions can be predicted with 100% certainty by an existing intelligence."

And I'd add two.

"Free will is an illusion" is equivalent to "Not only is there some idealistic version of free will, but the stuff we have that we call free will is different from this idealistic version in a way we can discern."

"Time travel is possible" includes in its definition "There is no free will."
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Post by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos »

How does free will work? It must involve something other than algorithmic decision-making and randomness.

What does it mean to be able to take any choice at one instant, and then to choose one specific thing an intant later?

~~ Paul
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Post by slimshady2357 »

Beleth wrote: "There is no free will" is equivalent to "Everyone's future actions can be predicted with 100% certainty by an existing intelligence."
This is also very poorly worded, or you have a very strange definition of free will.

If we could show all choices I make are determined by physical laws, we would not have shown that my choices can be predicted, not even by a being with 'perfect knowledge'. There need only be a truly random event involved.

Do you think that, say, the randomness possibly involved in quantum events gives us free will?

Adam
If there is a sin against life, its consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. -- Camus
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Post by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos »

How can randomness give us free choice, whatever that is? It might give us unpredictability, but I suspect that's different.

~~ Paul
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Post by gentlehorse »

Well, I don't know much about free will, despite the fact that I've read many a thread on the topic. All I know is that I appear to have free will, which is to say that my choices don't seem to be controlled by an external entity. If free will is nothing more than an illusion, as some have said, then it's a damned good one. Which leads me to wonder: What's the difference between Free Will and an illusion that's indistinguishable from it?
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Post by Doctor X »

Saying "I have free will" is equivalent to saying "I could have done something other than X".
I can never seem to do anything other than X. . . .

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Post by whitefork »

Beleth wrote:Free will, or the lack of same, only applies to future choices. Your statements define them in terms of past choices.

"I have free will" is equivalent to "My future actions cannot be predicted with 100% certainty by any possible intelligence."
Why should the future be different from the past with regard to free will? The past was once the future, and the future will someday be the past.
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Post by Guy Noir »

Doctor X wrote:
Saying "I have free will" is equivalent to saying "I could have done something other than X".
I can never seem to do anything other than X. . . .

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Keep your sex life out of this, doc.

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Post by voidx »

gentlehorse wrote:Well, I don't know much about free will, despite the fact that I've read many a thread on the topic. All I know is that I appear to have free will, which is to say that my choices don't seem to be controlled by an external entity. If free will is nothing more than an illusion, as some have said, then it's a damned good one. Which leads me to wonder: What's the difference between Free Will and an illusion that's indistinguishable from it?
To my mind its retroactively revising your definition of Free Will to fit with what we continue to learn about how we experience things. Most definitions of Free Will give the impression that no matter what you did decide, you could have decided differently if you had WANTED too. The difference being what you do, and what you consider you MIGHT have done. What matters is what you do in that one instance in time, with all conditions in the universe set a specific way as you make that decision. If, with all prevailing conditions exactly the same you always make the same decision, regardless of the fact that you might be pondering many possibilities, then do you truly have Free Will? Or does it merely appear that way to you?
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Post by Upchurch »

Doctor Mabuse wrote:Why should the future be different from the past with regard to free will? The past was once the future, and the future will someday be the past.
Well, depends on your view of time. If you view time as fully static, there really isnt' opportunity for free will. If you consider time to have future possibilties but static past, then there would be a distinction between between future and past in that you have the option to choose (to a limited degree) which future becomes the present and then the past, but you would not have the option to choose from potential pasts. If you consider time to be completely non-static (dynamic, perhaps?), there would be no difference in terms of free will.

Which of the three (or more) options is reflective of the actual nature of time really sort of defines the posibility and limitations of free will.
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Post by whitefork »

Static time in some kind of Newtonian sense maybe? I think that got tossed out when special relativity came along. Whether there's any time without things undergoing change is another question - when the universe is filled with nothing but attenuated heat, there won't be any time because there won't be anything to measure or be measured.

The present determines its own past and future and I'd argue that both are dynamic. Your past, my past, Julius Caesar's past are all different, as are our futures. This isn't to deny causal relations, but to say that causation is most likely more complex than it appears to be after the fact. Afterwards, we're all omniscient. Beforehand you have all sorts of uncertainties to deal with, and not just at the quantum level. The world's more complex than our explanations. We're dealing with approximations and probabilities, measurement within degrees of precision.

Did A cause B? Highly likely, but have you considered the role that C played in the experiment? You want certainty, get out of the material world and into mathematics. You want free will, go do something - or nothing.

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Post by Brian the Snail »

voidx wrote:
gentlehorse wrote:Well, I don't know much about free will, despite the fact that I've read many a thread on the topic. All I know is that I appear to have free will, which is to say that my choices don't seem to be controlled by an external entity. If free will is nothing more than an illusion, as some have said, then it's a damned good one. Which leads me to wonder: What's the difference between Free Will and an illusion that's indistinguishable from it?
To my mind its retroactively revising your definition of Free Will to fit with what we continue to learn about how we experience things. Most definitions of Free Will give the impression that no matter what you did decide, you could have decided differently if you had WANTED too. The difference being what you do, and what you consider you MIGHT have done. What matters is what you do in that one instance in time, with all conditions in the universe set a specific way as you make that decision. If, with all prevailing conditions exactly the same you always make the same decision, regardless of the fact that you might be pondering many possibilities, then do you truly have Free Will? Or does it merely appear that way to you?
Just to expand on voidx's point, gentlehorse's definition of free will seems to be similar to the "compatibilist" definition. That is, an act is said to derive from free will if there is no coercion from an external entity. So the act derives solely from the wishes and decision process of the individual. This takes its name from the fact that free will under this definition is compatible with the determinism. Determinism in the sense that the actions are completely determined by the events leading up to the action.

What most people mean when they say that they have free will, though, is something similar to the "liberatarian" definition of free will, where we can somehow "transcend" those prior events in our decision making. So, under exactly the same conditions, we can, if we wanted to, make a decision that was different every time. This might be the experience that we have when we make decisions, but it is incompatible with determinism. So, to someone who believed that determinism was true, the experience of having liberatarian free will would be an illusion. However, the same thing wouldn't be said for the compatibilist definition of free will.
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Post by gentlehorse »

voidx wrote:If, with all prevailing conditions exactly the same you always make the same decision, regardless of the fact that you might be pondering many possibilities, then do you truly have Free Will? Or does it merely appear that way to you?
I'm probably too simple-minded for this question. It doesn't matter to me whether I truly have Free Will or not. Regardless of notions involving the exact same prevailing conditions, when I make a decision I seem to be free of any external control. That, as a result of any given thought experiment, this freedom is deemed illusionary is immaterial as far as I'm concerned, as the alleged illusion of freedom is indistinguishable from the "real thing". Could I have made a different choice or was every choice I've ever made, and ever will make, determined at the moment of the birth of spacetime? Unknown and perhaps unknowable, but from my perspective I seem to be the one calling the shots and that's good enough for me. If this means that I'm retroactively revising my definition of Free Will, I guess I'll just have to choose to learn to live with that. :)
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Post by voidx »

I agree that from our perspective it seems immaterial. But then the nature of the universe really isn't all about us sad to say :D. Immaterial to our perception, but not to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the nature of the universe I'd argue.

Plus I don't think everything is pre-determined from the very beginning of the universe. I don't think its possible to predict what might happen as there does seem to be arbitrary elements to the nature of the universe. However I think our "wants" and "wishes", whatever those are, at any given point in time, would eventually be shown to be influenced, if not directly caused by prevailing conditions leading up to that point in "time".
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Post by gentlehorse »

voidx wrote:I agree that from our perspective it seems immaterial. But then the nature of the universe really isn't all about us sad to say :D. Immaterial to our perception, but not to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the nature of the universe I'd argue.
You see? That's what I mean about my being too simple-minded. I know the universe isn't all about me and my perceptions, but we're talking about Free Will here: something to which, illusion or not, I have direct access via my consciousness/awareness. Whether it's illusionary or not is immaterial to me, for reasons as I've already stated. I guess if someone were to demonstrate that FW is illusionary and point to the meaningful ramifications where the nature of the universe and humanity's place in it is concerned, I'd have no choice but to change my mind. But for now, for me, the distinction between illusory and "real" FW is meaningless. This may well be a reflection of the fact that I'm the team captain of the All Simple Nine.
Plus I don't think everything is pre-determined from the very beginning of the universe. I don't think its possible to predict what might happen as there does seem to be arbitrary elements to the nature of the universe. However I think our "wants" and "wishes", whatever those are, at any given point in time, would eventually be shown to be influenced, if not directly caused by prevailing conditions leading up to that point in "time".
Well, I certainly can't disagree with you here, seeing as how adapting my behavior to prevailing conditions enables me to survive a bit longer than I might otherwise. Franko, who used to talk about following the path of maximum perceived benefit, would agree as well, though he was (and I assume still is) a hard core determinist/fatalist where I am not. I'm just your average goober, wandering about the planet, caught up in the majesty and mystery of existence.
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Post by hammegk »

gentlehorse wrote: ...This may well be a reflection of the fact that I'm the team captain of the All Simple Nine. [/b]
Or as B'rer Rabbit said, "oh, please, anything but the briarpatch". :lol:
Franko ..... was .... a hard core determinist/fatalist ...
Interesting. I would say that is the opposite of what Franko was. He asserted Materialists/Dualists must be hard core determinists (or they react "randomly").
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Post by gentlehorse »

hammegk wrote:
gentlehorse wrote:Franko ..... was .... a hard core determinist/fatalist ...
Interesting. I would say that is the opposite of what Franko was. He asserted Materialists/Dualists must be hard core determinists (or they react "randomly").
You know, for the longest time I thought so too, figuring that he was espousing determinism and refuting the existence of Free Will in order to build toward an illustration of the inherent inconsitencies in such a worldview. At one point, I said as much and he assured me that he was indeed a determinist/fatalist, if I understood him correctly. You may well be correct, however, in that it's been a while since I've read him and I certainly can't say that I have a comprehensive grasp of his philosophy. Alas, at times it would seem that I am a very slow graviton.

Regardless, despite his unpopular status, I enjoyed reading Franko. Sometimes he'd say things that really gave me pause for thought. Other times, of course, I just wanted to strangle the guy ("strangle" in the friendliest sense of the word). I do hope he makes an appearance here, though I expect that this sentiment isn't widely shared. Toaster worshippers abound. :lol:
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Post by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos »

I still don't understand what's supposed to happen between the instant when I have multiple possible free choices, and the next instant when I make a choice. What happened between those two instants?

~~ Paul