Free Will

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Free Will

DETERMINISM

A determinist would likely agree that if determinism is true, then everything we do was directly necessitated by physical causation. That is, the way things were in the distant past, given the laws of physics, directly implied that the world would end up exactly as it is. They might add that quantum particles changed things unpredictably between then and now, but we may take that as one with the previous for my purposes.

OBSERVATIONS

Given that account of determinism, let's analyze the concept of physical causation. We make two observations.

1. First, we observe that it is distinct from the bare concept of motion. When we say that entity A caused entity B to do something, we mean more than just that entity A moved, then entity B moved. For example, if we say "the bat caused the ball to fly out of the park", we mean more than: "the bat swung, then the bat touched the ball, then the ball flew out of the park." So part of the concept of physical causation is the idea that entities can in some sense move because of one another, i.e., that they can in some sense generate motion in one another.

2. Second, we observe that it is not perceptually evident in the external world. That is, although there is an important difference between "A moved, then B moved" and "A moved, causing B to move," there is not a perceptual difference between the two. Return to the ball and bat example. We would not be able to tell the difference between a situation in which the ball simply performed the motions that it did perform (situation 1), and a situation in which it performed those motions because of the bat (situation 2). The two situations appear to be different from one another, however. There appears to be an additional element in situation 2 that does not exist in situation 1, i.e., a physical cause.

If you doubt that there is an additional element in situation 2 that does not exist in situation 1, think about the relationship between the ball and bat in situation 2. The relationship between the two of them appears to be unique in an important way. We can clarify that as follows. Suppose the bats in situations 1 and 2 and my bat sitting at home are identical in physical composition. My bat sitting at home clearly does not stand in the same sort of relationship to the ball as the bat in situation 2 does at the moment of impact, even after we ignore the positions of the bats. Further, there seems to be a way in which the relationship between the bat and ball in situation 1 is more like the relationship between my bat and the ball than the relationship between the bat and ball in situation 2. So there is something different about situations 1 and 2, even though there is nothing *perceptually* different between situations 1 and 2.

WRAPPING UP

Let’s put all of that together. If nothing in the external world or introspection could provide us with the idea of physical causation, then it is reasonable to conclude that we would not have the idea. (The only alternative is that we are born with it. If you hold that position, you have the burden of proof. I cannot be expected to prove a negative.) So, from our second observation, it must be something introspective that provides us with the idea. And it could not be any part of the introspective realm that is independent of the self, for the same reason that I cited to exclude the external world. 

So, the only way we could acquire the concept of physical causation is if the irreducible self first observes directly that it is a direct source of physical causation, then applies the concept of physical causation by analogy to those things that appear to stand in the same sort of relationship with one another as it does to the things it acts as a cause upon. The acquisition of the concept of physical causation therefore demands an irreducible self which is a cause, and therefore, physical causation would be unintelligible to a being without free will. Since determinism holds that physical causation exists and that free will does not (this is true in both the QM and non-QM variants), determinism contains an implicit contradiction.

 

 

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


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Can you define 'irreducible

Can you define 'irreducible self'? How is that different from a 'reducible self'?

Also, can't the universe be deterministic and we be able to observe that we can cause things to happen? Why must there be a (non-deterministic?) 'irreducible self' for us to notice that we can cause things to happen?

Also, the concept of causation can be gotten by observing correlation. I know that correlation merely implies that there could be causation, but most people see a correlation and immediately decide that one thing is causing another thing. I don't even think that there is a need for people to get the concept of causation from their ability to cause things. They could merely observe some thing always leading to another thing and determine that the first causes the second. Even if it is not justified to think that way, that is how people think and that is how they determine causation.

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
British General Charles Napier while in India


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 Quote: Can you define

 

Quote:
Can you define 'irreducible self'? How is that different from a 'reducible self'?

We could call your whole mind –all of your beliefs, desires, and emotions and whatever else is in your introspective phenomenal field- “you.” This is a reducible self because it is at once "you" -a self- and contains beliefs and desires that we could omit from the set of considered elements while still calling that set "you": hence, reducible self. There is also a part of your mind that we cannot pare anything away from while still calling the set of considered items "you." This is your irreducible self. The notion is difficult to pin down, but it has sufficient objective content for us to communicate about it. I have some idea of what I mean when I talk about my self as opposed to particular beliefs and desires, as I think most people do.

Though really, it doesn't matter whether we are talking about your irreducible self or one of your reducible selves for the purposes of the argument. All that matters is whether some part of whatever we end up calling your self does what I need it to do for my argument.

Quote:
Also, can't the universe be deterministic and we be able to observe that we can cause things to happen? Why must there be a (non-deterministic?) 'irreducible self' for us to notice that we can cause things to happen?

An object bumping into an object would be understood as simple motion if you did not have a preexisting concept of physical causation. So would any introspective event (barring the volitions I’m talking about, obviously). So the motion must be generated by, and its generation must be directly observed by, the irreducible self.

This must be done freely because otherwise it is not *generation* of motion. The motion is already there, and the self is just obeying it like a child tossed by a wave. It would be processed as simple motion like any other phenomenon in the absence of the concept of physical causation. You have to observe that you did something novel to your body or mind.

Quote:
Also, the concept of causation can be gotten by observing correlation. I know that correlation merely implies that there could be causation, but most people see a correlation and immediately decide that one thing is causing another thing. I don't even think that there is a need for people to get the concept of causation from their ability to cause things. They could merely observe some thing always leading to another thing and determine that the first causes the second. Even if it is not justified to think that way, that is how people think and that is how they determine causation.

Please clearly explain the impact of this.

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


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Hello.Presuppositionalist

Hello.

Presuppositionalist wrote:

An object bumping into an object would be understood as simple motion if you did not have a preexisting concept of physical causation. So would any introspective event (barring the volitions I’m talking about, obviously). So the motion must be generated by, and its generation must be directly observed by, the irreducible self.

Perhaps I am misinterpreting yet another one of your arguments, but I still don't understand why we must be the direct source of physical causation. Why is not enough for us to simply observe constant conjunction, that one event or phenomena always appears to precede another?

  

 


 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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butterbattle

butterbattle wrote:
Perhaps I am misinterpreting yet another one of your arguments, but I still don't understand why we must be the direct source of physical causation. Why is not enough for us to simply observe constant conjunction, that one event or phenomena always appears to precede another?

Correlation would not produce the "because of" that the concept of physical causation includes. "A, then B" is the only thing you could get from correlation. This is different from "A, then B because of A."

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


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 We observe that thrown

 We observe that thrown objects like balls do not suddenly change direction unless they contact a solid object, so the reason for the change of direction, so we deduce that it was contact with the bat that caused the change of direction. This would apply whether the bat was moving or not. We also observe that if the object that the ball hits is already moving, that usually has a strong effect on the direction and/or speed in which the ball moves after it rebounds off the bat. In these cases, the observation is not a matter of "A moved, then B moved".

That situation would apply to a golf ball, which is stationary until hit by the golf club. In that case, we have a long experience that simple objects like golf-balls do not suddenly start moving, especially if sitting on a level surface where gravity is not an issue. The movement immediately after it is hit by a rapidly moving club is judged to be caused by the impact of the club.

This assumption of causation in such cases seems to be based on built-in learning process, an idea strongly supported by experiments involving infants. The idea that such natural intuitive learning processes are 'wired in' to the brain makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary point of view, since it helps us learn many common relationships between actions, either our own or that of others, including that of animals, and some strongly correlated effect. It doesn't require any abstract idea of 'cause and effect', just learning from experience a series of "If ... then ...." relationships, which even higher animals acquire. We are capable of building up more sophisticated mental models of real world phenomena, of course.

it is true that we tend to associate many changes in our environment, especially sudden ones, to an active intentional 'agent', which is the root cause of much supernatural belief about the causes of natural phenomenon especially dramatic ones like violent weather, when a 'natural' intentional agent was not observable.

And it is also true that direct experience of our own actions in moving physical objects around reinforces this assumption that certain classes of motion and change in state of motion are due to intentional agents like ourselves.

These judgements are 'just' learning processes from observation and experience, which are not even exclusive to humans. Purposive action is caused by a combination of urges, desires, drives, even random whims driven by reaction to boredom, which are all in turn caused by a typically ever-widening circle of influences, events, memories, and environmental states, etc, which make our actual actions quite 'deterministic' but still fundamentally unpredictable. Fundamentally so, because even the attempt to gather all the relevant information to attempt a prediction would almost inevitable affect the ultimate choice that you were attempting to predict, considering that the influences on any decision would in principle include the entirety of one's life experience and memories.

I still don't see what 'free will' contributes to this whole scenario, since surely all our decisions are ultimately the outcome of all these desires, emotions, experience, current thoughts, etc, which in turn are caused by a whole mass of other influences. What else would a 'free' choice be based on - surely our choices are always based on the nett effect of a whole host of current states of our mind and sensory input and memories , etc. What does 'free' actually mean here? 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

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BobSpence1 wrote: We

BobSpence1 wrote:

 We observe that thrown objects like balls do not suddenly change direction unless they contact a solid object, so the reason for the change of direction, so we deduce that it was contact with the bat that caused the change of direction.

Correct. But we could only infer that after we had the concept of physical causation to apply to the bat. The question is where the concept of physical causation came from in the first place. I do not know how we could derive the concept from the sorts of interactions you are describing. It seems like we would infer simply "balls change direction when they contact a solid object," not "balls change direction when they contact a solid object, because of the contact with the solid object." We need to explain how we arrive at the ability to structure the observation with a "because of," i.e., with a generation of force by the solid object rather than just a change in motion.

Quote:
This would apply whether the bat was moving or not. We also observe that if the object that the ball hits is already moving, that usually has a strong effect on the direction and/or speed in which the ball moves after it rebounds off the bat. In these cases, the observation is not a matter of "A moved, then B moved".

That situation would apply to a golf ball, which is stationary until hit by the golf club. In that case, we have a long experience that simple objects like golf-balls do not suddenly start moving, especially if sitting on a level surface where gravity is not an issue. The movement immediately after it is hit by a rapidly moving club is judged to be caused by the impact of the club.

Correct. Once we have the concept of physical causation, we are more strongly inclined to posit a physical cause in cases like this. However, I am asking where we got the notion of a physical cause -as against a correlation- at all, and it is not obvious that the situation you describe would particularly advance that.

Quote:
This assumption of causation in such cases seems to be based on built-in learning process, an idea strongly supported by experiments involving infants. The idea that such natural intuitive learning processes are 'wired in' to the brain makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary point of view, since it helps us learn many common relationships between actions, either our own or that of others, including that of animals, and some strongly correlated effect. It doesn't require any abstract idea of 'cause and effect', just learning from experience a series of "If ... then ...." relationships, which even higher animals acquire. We are capable of building up more sophisticated mental models of real world phenomena, of course.

My argument is compatible with the existence of a concept of physical causation in infants. It simply requires that the self be capable of performing volitions when an infant.

I agree that it would "make sense" for evolution to hardwire our DNA with a concept of physical causation, but that isn't decisive. Notice that it would also "make sense" for evolution to have hardwired our DNA with concepts like, say, the concept "red," the concept "two" or the concept of agriculture. That is not evidence that we have any of those concepts because we are hardwired by evolution to have them from birth.

Further, even if you think evolution probably did equip us with a concept of physical causality, there is a sense in which evolution could equip us with the concept without hardwiring it into our DNA. Evolution could do this by designing us so that we are likely to pick up the concept very quickly after birth. In fact, if my argument is correct, then we do pick up the concept pretty quickly: after our very first volition, perhaps making it the first concept we ever form.

Now, I admit that it would be difficult to tell the difference between a concept that we picked up very early in life, and a concept that we had from birth. But the facts remain: (1) so far as I know, we haven't got proof or even evidence that the concept of physical  causality is genetic, and (2) all of the concepts I'm aware of having picked up, I picked up consciously, after birth. This warrants me in expecting a non-genetic source for the concept of physical causality.

Quote:
it is true that we tend to associate many changes in our environment, especially sudden ones, to an active intentional 'agent', which is the root cause of much supernatural belief about the causes of natural phenomenon especially dramatic ones like violent weather, when a 'natural' intentional agent was not observable.

And it is also true that direct experience of our own actions in moving physical objects around reinforces this assumption that certain classes of motion and change in state of motion are due to intentional agents like ourselves.

These judgements are 'just' learning processes form observation and experience, which are not even exclusive to humans. Purposive action is caused by a combination of urges, desires, drives, even random whims driven by reaction to boredom, which are all in turn caused by a typically ever-widening circle of influences, events, memories, and environmental states, etc, which make our actual actions quite 'deterministic' but still fundamentally unpredictable. Fundamentally so, because even the attempt to gather all the relevant information to attempt a prediction would almost inevitable affect the ultimate choice that you were attempting to predict, considering that the influences on any decision would in principle include the entirety of one's life experience and memories.

I am not sure what the impact of this section is on my argument.

Quote:
I still don't see what 'free will' contributes to this whole scenario, since surely all our decisions are ultimately the outcome of all these desires, emotions, experience, current thoughts, etc, which in turn are caused by a whole mass of other influences. What else would a 'free' choice be based on - surely our choices are always based on the nett effect of a whole host of current states of our mind and sensory input and memories , etc.

Choices certainly are the "outcome of" and "based on" those things, but that isn't obviously incompatible with free will, so long as those things don't necessitate particular outcomes all of the time. Introspection seems to show that they don't, in fact. Even with more-or-less perfect knowledge of my own mind, I notice that I am not 100% confident of exactly what I will be doing in five minutes, even though I probably will not acquire any terribly important new beliefs or desires between then and now.

Quote:
What does 'free' actually mean here? 

The choices made by the self are neither entirely determined by anything other than the self nor random. I think this because it is seemingly an accurate description of what I experience upon introspection, and on the basis of the argument that I present in the OP. 

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


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We do not need a prior idea

We do not need a prior idea of 'causation'. It naturally arises as a particular category of association between clearly linked observations as I described. We only need a general mechanism for forming these patterns of association, which are progressively built up into mental models of phenomena of interest and relevance to us, to allow us to make useful predictions of the effects of various actions of ourselves and others. As part of this process, we abstract higher level concepts, like cause-effect. You have the sequence backwards - the concept of causality is generated as part of these higher level analyses, and is not necessary to interact at a lower level with objects in our environment.

My other comments are not incompatible with 'free will', but what does the concept of free will add to our understanding, apart from describing the subjective feeling associated with the process of making a decision??

What does it mean to say our choices being determined by 'the self'? That could be seen as just another way of referring to the process I described of choices being determined by the totality of our experiences, memories, urges, desires, reactions to sensory input, etc? 

Even if you are meaning to refer to a 'soul' independent of these things, surely the decision would still have to based on all those things I listed, otherwise it makes no sense. What would this 'irreducible self' contribute to the decision process in addition to all the things I listed? We have much evidence that our apparent feeling of integrity of self is not irreducible, is a confabulation of the brain - many physical pathologies of the brain can lead to quite fragmented and damaged consciousnesses, within the one body.

Your ideas of 'irreducible self' and 'free will' don't hold up to serious examination, based on modern cognitive research and neuroscience.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

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Presuppositionalist

Presuppositionalist wrote:

"A, then B" is the only thing you could get from correlation.

Clearly, our brains are adept at recognizing patterns. Doesn't repeated correlation demonstrate that A and B are related?

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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butterbattle

butterbattle wrote:

Presuppositionalist wrote:

"A, then B" is the only thing you could get from correlation.

Clearly, our brains are adept at recognizing patterns. Doesn't repeated correlation demonstrate that A and B are related?

That's pretty much correct.

An isolated example of correlation doesn't prove causation, but if repeated independent examples all point to the same pattern of "A then B", especially if under different conditions, all reinforce the validity of the hypothesis that "if A then B", that is ultimately all we need to build up workable knowledge of reality.

If we can devise or look for examples which might allow for a demonstration that, in principle, could contradict (falsify) this hypothesis, and it stands up, we can increase our confidence in it.

I think the assumption behind the thinking of Presuppositionalist is that we need to prove causality before we are justified in assuming it, which is not necessarily true, and defies the foundations of science.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

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  Quote: We do not need a

  

Quote:
We do not need a prior idea of 'causation'. It naturally arises as a particular category of association between clearly linked observations as I described. We only need a general mechanism for forming these patterns of association, which are progressively built up into mental models of phenomena of interest and relevance to us, to allow us to make useful predictions of the effects of various actions of ourselves and others. As part of this process, we abstract higher level concepts, like cause-effect. You have the sequence backwards - the concept of causality is generated as part of these higher level analyses, and is not necessary to interact at a lower level with objects in our environment.

I agree that we have a mechanism that could form patterns of association. I do not see how this would, at some point, transmute those patterns of observation into the concept of physical causation. A pattern of association could only provide “if A moves, then B always moves”, not “if A moves, then B always moves, because of A’s motion.” You need to explain why such patterns of association would ever provide a concept of physical causation.

You cite abstraction and model building to explain the origin of the concept. Abstraction can only omit elements from particular observations (though we may of course manipulate and recombine the abstractions derived thereby). For example, we may observe a red car, then a blue car, then omit the particular colors of the cars to arrive at the abstraction “car.” But in no case does removing elements like this provide us with qualitatively new conceptual material – nor could it. You cannot arrive at a concept of physical causation by omitting elements from instances of simple motion, unless those instances already contain the “because of” element on the perceptual level. As I pointed out in the OP, however, when we observe instances of simple motion, there is no perceptual element of causation. Nor could building mental models create the additional “because of” element, as a mental model obviously cannot draw on concepts that we don’t already have and that cannot be created from concepts that we already have.

Quote:
My other comments are not incompatible with 'free will', but what does the concept of free will add to our understanding, apart from describing the subjective feeling associated with the process of making a decision??

The sort of free will that this argument concludes with explains the existence of our concept of physical causation and tells us that we have an irreducible self with the ability to generate motion in ways that are neither determined nor random.

Quote:
What does it mean to say our choices being determined by 'the self'? That could be seen as just another way of referring to the process I described of choices being determined by the totality of our experiences, memories, urges, desires, reactions to sensory input, etc? 

But there is also a self that has beliefs and desires, and to whom these experiences occur. I am not sure how you could make sense of a belief as a belief (or an experience as an experience, or a desire as a desire, etc) without a self that has the belief (experience, desire, etc).

To be clear: I am not referring to an a-personal process involving beliefs and desires. I am referring to what has the beliefs and desires. The existence of the self is at least as clear as the existence of the beliefs and other phenomena that you are talking about. Likewise, the referent of the phrase “the self” is at least as clear as the referents of the concepts “belief,” “experience,” etc. Admittedly that referent is difficult to isolate in language, but this is a problem for many concepts, particularly those derived from introspection, and does not change the fact that we do know more or less roughly what we mean when we say “the self.”

Quote:
Even if you are meaning to refer to a 'soul' independent of these things, surely the decision would still have to based on all those things I listed, otherwise it makes no sense. What would this 'irreducible self' contribute to the decision process in addition to all the things I listed?

Introspection confirms that decisions are based on beliefs and desires and so on, but it also confirms that the decision is based on them in some way that permits the decision to be neither determined nor random. This is volition, which I have claimed is the contribution of the irreducible self.

Quote:
We have much evidence that our apparent feeling of integrity of self is not irreducible, is a confabulation of the brain - many physical pathologies of the brain can lead to quite fragmented and damaged consciousnesses, within the one body.

First, “there are multiple selves when the brain has a physical pathology” is not the same as “there are always multiple selves.” Introspection says the opposite.

Second, even if there were multiple selves, my argument would still hold so long as those selves do what the argument requires. We are more interested in whether free will exists than whether there are ten selves with free will or one.

Quote:
Your ideas of 'irreducible self' and 'free will' don't hold up to serious examination, based on modern cognitive research and neuroscience.

I will be happy to examine the evidence in question, when you present it.

 

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


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butterbattle

butterbattle wrote:

Presuppositionalist wrote:

"A, then B" is the only thing you could get from correlation.

Clearly, our brains are adept at recognizing patterns. Doesn't repeated correlation demonstrate that A and B are related?

You could also get "A, then always B". What matters is there isn't a clear route from that to "A, then always B, because of A."

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


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BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

butterbattle wrote:

Presuppositionalist wrote:

"A, then B" is the only thing you could get from correlation.

Clearly, our brains are adept at recognizing patterns. Doesn't repeated correlation demonstrate that A and B are related?

That's pretty much correct.

An isolated example of correlation doesn't prove causation, but if repeated independent examples all point to the same pattern of "A then B", especially if under different conditions, all reinforce the validity of the hypothesis that "if A then B", that is ultimately all we need to build up workable knowledge of reality.

You are correct that we may not need the concept of physical causation that I am talking about to "build up workable knowledge of reality." That isn't the issue. The fact is that we have this (perhaps unnecessary) concept, and we use it, and we think it refers to something in the real world. I am trying to figure out where it came from, and I think it couldn't exist unless free will also exists.

Quote:
If we can devise or look for examples which might allow for a demonstration that, in principle, could contradict (falsify) this hypothesis, and it stands up, we can increase our confidence in it.

I think the assumption behind the thinking of Presuppositionalist is that we need to prove causality before we are justified in assuming it, which is not necessarily true, and defies the foundations of science.

I'm not saying that. I'm just wondering where the concept came from. I do not know what it would even mean to "prove" a concept. I am pretty sure you can only prove a proposition.

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


BobSpence
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Presuppositionalist

Presuppositionalist wrote:

  

Quote:
We do not need a prior idea of 'causation'. It naturally arises as a particular category of association between clearly linked observations as I described. We only need a general mechanism for forming these patterns of association, which are progressively built up into mental models of phenomena of interest and relevance to us, to allow us to make useful predictions of the effects of various actions of ourselves and others. As part of this process, we abstract higher level concepts, like cause-effect. You have the sequence backwards - the concept of causality is generated as part of these higher level analyses, and is not necessary to interact at a lower level with objects in our environment.

I agree that we have a mechanism that could form patterns of association. I do not see how this would, at some point, transmute those patterns of observation into the concept of physical causation. A pattern of association could only provide “if A moves, then B always moves”, not “if A moves, then B always moves, because of A’s motion.” You need to explain why such patterns of association would ever provide a concept of physical causation.

You cite abstraction and model building to explain the origin of the concept. Abstraction can only omit elements from particular observations (though we may of course manipulate and recombine the abstractions derived thereby). For example, we may observe a red car, then a blue car, then omit the particular colors of the cars to arrive at the abstraction “car.” But in no case does removing elements like this provide us with qualitatively new conceptual material – nor could it. You cannot arrive at a concept of physical causation by omitting elements from instances of simple motion, unless those instances already contain the “because of” element on the perceptual level. As I pointed out in the OP, however, when we observe instances of simple motion, there is no perceptual element of causation. Nor could building mental models create the additional “because of” element, as a mental model obviously cannot draw on concepts that we don’t already have and that cannot be created from concepts that we already have.

Our reasoning processes are not that precise and strictly logical, in the sense of following the precise steps of a logical or mathematical argument, as a computer would be. We make errors and our decisions and judgements are influenced by extraneous thoughts and presumptions and moods, etc. This is one way new patterns and associations and concepts can arise in our minds. Even observing unfamiliar processes and patterns in the world can trigger us to make these new connections, even in physically distinct classes of object. There was a classic case where a scientist trying to work out the structure of benzene was staring into the fire and imagining atoms dancing around in the patterns of the flames, and 'saw' as one of these random patterns a ring of six atoms, and suddenly realized this structure would possibly explain the data he had. Prior to this, all organic molecules were based on linear chains of carbon atoms, including branching in many cases.

So new combinations of the elements of logical statements can clearly be generated by related processes, 'juggling' with more elementary concepts, and such novel propositions can then be tested for validity or coherence. You may object that the concept that some event or state of associated objects may explicitly initiate another event involves a novel element that could not arise this way. I think it really is a very short conceptual step from the consistent observation of the occurrence of a change of state of motion of A immediately following contact with moving object B, to the concept of cause and effect. So short that the random processes or mental 'slips' which can generate variations on existing concepts could surely bridge it.

Truly novel concepts are typically originated by randomly rearranging the elementary linguistic bits which we use to define and express concepts, followed by a process of rejecting the clearly invalid or nonsensical ones. If any mind, at any level, only worked by strict logical recombination of a finite set of initial assumptions, there would indeed be some concepts which would be forever out of reach. Random undirected generation of raw propositions is the only way we could possibly reach such concepts in a finite sequence of thoughts - you need some mechanism to get off the railroad tracks.

There are already interesting and novel math theorems being generated by computers running software which models such processes. Not earthshakingly new yet, but highly suggestive of the possiblities. I'm not sure how you can clearly show that some particular concept or logical relationship such as 'because of' is too far away form more elementary ideas for it to be impossible to be reached by feasible mutations and recombinations of those initial ideas.

I will address your other arguments as time permits.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

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Presuppositionalist
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BobSpence1 wrote:Our

BobSpence1 wrote:
Our reasoning processes are not that precise and strictly logical, in the sense of following the precise steps of a logical or mathematical argument, as a computer would be. We make errors and our decisions and judgements are influenced by extraneous thoughts and presumptions and moods, etc. This is one way new patterns and associations and concepts can arise in our minds. Even observing unfamiliar processes and patterns in the world can trigger us to make these new connections, even in physically distinct classes of object. There was a classic case where a scientist trying to work out the structure of benzene was staring into the fire and imagining atoms dancing around in the patterns of the flames, and 'saw' as one of these random patterns a ring of six atoms, and suddenly realized this structure would possibly explain the data he had. Prior to this, all organic molecules were based on linear chains of carbon atoms, including branching in many cases.

So new combinations of the elements of logical statements can clearly be generated by related processes, 'juggling' with more elementary concepts, and such novel propositions can then be tested for validity or coherence. You may object that the concept that some event or state of associated objects may explicitly initiate another event involves a novel element that could not arise this way. I think it really is a very short conceptual step from the consistent observation of the occurrence of a change of state of motion of A immediately following contact with moving object B, to the concept of cause and effect. So short that the random processes or mental 'slips' which can generate variations on existing concepts could surely bridge it.

The mental slips that you describe clearly only employ conceptual elements that already exist in the mind. I agree that the concept of physical causation is conceptually "close" to the concept of simple motion, but these mental slips are not a plausible mechanism for bridging the two. We would have to bring in something other than standard mental slips, something capable of spontaneously generating qualitatively new concepts. Whatever that thing might be, I know of no evidence for its existence.

Quote:
Truly novel concepts are typically originated by randomly rearranging the elementary linguistic bits which we use to define and express concepts, followed by a process of rejecting the clearly invalid or nonsensical ones. If any mind, at any level, only worked by strict logical recombination of a finite set of initial assumptions, there would indeed be some concepts which would be forever out of reach. Random undirected generation of raw propositions is the only way we could possibly reach such concepts in a finite sequence of thoughts - you need some mechanism to get off the railroad tracks.

There is a sense in which I can agree with your account of concept formation. I simply disagree that it could give rise to any qualitatively new concepts, as there is not an obvious way that we could arrive at qualitatively new concepts simply by rearranging linguistic bits.

Quote:
There are already interesting and novel math theorems being generated by computers running software which models such processes. Not earthshakingly new yet, but highly suggestive of the possiblities. I'm not sure how you can clearly show that some particular concept or logical relationship such as 'because of' is too far away form more elementary ideas for it to be impossible to be reached by feasible mutations and recombinations of those initial ideas.

I will address your other arguments as time permits.

The size of the distance between the two is not the issue, the existence of any distance at all is. A concept that contains an element which is qualitatively dissimilar from all conceptual elements available to a given mind is, to all appearances, just not available to that mind.

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


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It seems to me that as soon

It seems to me that as soon as intention is involved, causation becomes apparent.

For instance, in the golf scenario, the golfball only moves when I intentionally strike it with a stick. As soon as my intention is converted to action, and the action achieves the intended and expected results, the causal chain is apparent.

It seems to me that the concept of causation is required for any intentional action. If I am unable to predict the outcome of my actions, I have no model by which to design my actions for a desired outcome. The concept of causality is not optional; it is necessary. Without it, no thinking animal could survive, as no plans could be made, no action undertaken that assumed an outcome.

It is not just the observation that one event invariably follows another. Causation is established by the use of that knowledge to provoke a specific and intentional outcome.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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nigelTheBold wrote:It seems

nigelTheBold wrote:

It seems to me that as soon as intention is involved, causation becomes apparent.

For instance, in the golf scenario, the golfball only moves when I intentionally strike it with a stick. As soon as my intention is converted to action, and the action achieves the intended and expected results, the causal chain is apparent.

It seems to me that the concept of causation is required for any intentional action. If I am unable to predict the outcome of my actions, I have no model by which to design my actions for a desired outcome. The concept of causality is not optional; it is necessary. Without it, no thinking animal could survive, as no plans could be made, no action undertaken that assumed an outcome.

It is not just the observation that one event invariably follows another. Causation is established by the use of that knowledge to provoke a specific and intentional outcome.

I agree, but I think you would have to acquire the idea of causation first, to know that hitting the golf ball would have the desired result.

I suspect these basic concepts may be acquired by infants, by some combination of observation of others actions, attempts to imitate those actions, and the effects of the random movements of their arms and legs when they contact movable objects in their environment. Imitation, in particular, is an important part of learning such things. Many animals learn by imitation to perform actions which 'cause' other things to happen. Birds have been observed to drop objects onto hard surfaces to break them open, so whether they have any conscious awareness of the principle of causality, they certainly have acquired the ability to deliberately employ it.

Even more significantly, birds have been observed placing food objects they are trying to break open onto busy roadways, since they have learned somehow, presumably by combinations of accident and observation, that cars will eventually run over the objects and break them open. It seems quite unlikely that such specific behavior evolved to be purely instinctively driven.

Alternatively, if such behavior, which clearly involves some level of awareness of the effect of particular actions, can come to be instinctive, it further weakens the concept that it requires any higher consciousness.

 

IOW, I think the evidence is that such intentional behavior is often learned by imitation, without any higher 'metaphysical' thoughts on causality - those ideas follow, when we consciously contemplate our observations. Our higher cognitive abilities then allow us to extrapolate our observations to different but analogous situations. So it seems pretty well established that there are various sources outside our internal conscious reasoning for us to acquire the ability to deliberately employ cause and effect relationships. Even crows can do it: see here.

 

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


BobSpence
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 Presuppositionalist

 

Presuppositionalist wrote:

I agree that the concept of physical causation is conceptually "close" to the concept of simple motion, but these mental slips are not a plausible mechanism for bridging the two.

What I explicitly described was more than "simple motion", it was an observation of a sequence of different motions of different objects with a violent physical contact occurring just as one object dramatically changed its trajectory. When considered in the light of the comments in my previous response to NigelTheBold, I personally have no problem at all seeing how the concept of one event causing another can be suggested explicitly by observation and experience. The instinctive ability to make such cause-effect associations would clearly be an evolutionary advantage, and crows certainly can do it. It does not require 'free' will, just intention driven by desires, etc, as I listed before. Hunger in the case of the crows.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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 I suggest you check

 I suggest you check out: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKLAbWFCh1E

 

In short, your definitions and False dichotomies are probably inaccurate.


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Baloney... what's OCD?

Baloney... what's OCD?

('Scuse me while I wash my hands.)


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We have a limited free will.

We have a limited free will. There are certain naturally predestined events, but between them there is a variety of choices how and when these predestined events will happen. Not even the wisest being is infallible in prediction.
The causation is there, I mean, there are impacts of previous causes affecting us. But they don't affect us totally. We can choose to be totally determined by them, or we can choose to withstand them and act from our own inner will, which is more diffcult, but also a progressive thing to do.

Unfortunately, modern psychology is still not modern enough about this subject. There is a knowledge of physical and emotional causes, cognitive also, but the higher states of mind are crowned with ignorance, as for the academic science. People with a low consciousness are pretty much deterministic, but it is not a rule for everyone. We have to recognize their existence and study them. This will probably happen when enough of scientists will spontaneously experience what can not be pinned down in any existing textbook of psychology. Then we will discover and verify much of what is the free will really about. Until then, it is a speculation with insufficient data.

Btw, I've heard, that the brain actually makes a decision before we consciously realize it. Is it true? What does it mean for the concept of free will, good or bad?

Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.