Morality and Free Will, a simple question

Hambydammit
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Morality and Free Will, a simple question

 Discuss amongst yourselves:

What connection, if any, does "free will" have to morality?

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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What I'd say is that

What I'd say is that morality is about making decisions.
Our concept of "making decisions" implies free will.
So us having "free will" is necessary in order for us to be "making decisions" which is in turn necessary for morality.

That's my 2c anyhow.


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Since free will is probably

Since free will is probably an illusion, then an absolute morality is an illusion as well. In reality, we all want is a set of rules groups of people agree upon to maximize each individual's pursuit of happiness. But a rational set of rules could reduce down to "Do unto others as they do unto you". This does not have to conflict with "Maximize my own pleasure". Because helping other people and living in harmony with others can be a source of pleasure.

It's like I can enjoy music playing on my own or playing in a group. But if I play in a group out of sync with everyone else, no one will enjoy making music. Or if I play the drums so loud it disturbs all the neighbors, the rule is to stop. Life is a game to survive and maximize pleasure.

Science is telling us that every human and animal is a hedonist and we don't have an choice about deciding this. Morality is part of the game we play(all the world's a stage).

The mistake atheists make is say morality is relative and coming up with an alternate source of morality and saying we're not all hedonists. Morality is a BS scam. Preachers of morality basically say "do as I say, not as I do" and "you should do something for nothing" or "your reward will be in heaven". Morality is a scam because it is based on imaginary rewards/punishments not real ones.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Strafio:  Do decisions

Strafio:  Do decisions really hinge on "free will"?  Doesn't an ant that loses its trail make a "decision," even if it's the same decision all other ants would make in the same place?  The ant has multiple options, and does one of them.  Its brain determined which it would do.

 

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None.Morality is a word


None.

Morality is a word believers use to explain the reason behind the decisions people make.

 

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Renee Obsidianwords

Renee Obsidianwords wrote:

 

None.

Morality is a word believers use to explain the reason behind the decisions people make.

 

But they don't use it for decisions like 'coffee or tea for breakfast?'. It's decisions that involve their interactions with others. Moral standards are used create the 'Us vs. Them' paradigm. As in they don't behave in ways we want.

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Hambydammit wrote:Strafio: 

Hambydammit wrote:

Strafio:  Do decisions really hinge on "free will"?  Doesn't an ant that loses its trail make a "decision," even if it's the same decision all other ants would make in the same place?  The ant has multiple options, and does one of them.  Its brain determined which it would do.

And therefore the ant has free will.

 

EDIT:

And to answer the question, morality requires free will, because otherwise we cannot be held accountable for our actions. If we have no free will, then we have no will at all. Without a will, no choices can be made. If no choices can be made, then there can be no good or bad choices.


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EXC wrote:Renee

EXC wrote:

Renee Obsidianwords wrote:

 

None.

Morality is a word believers use to explain the reason behind the decisions people make.

 

But they don't use it for decisions like 'coffee or tea for breakfast?'. It's decisions that involve their interactions with others. Moral standards are used create the 'Us vs. Them' paradigm. As in they don't behave in ways we want.

Which is why I stated to find no connection between free will and morals.

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Hambydammit wrote:Strafio: 

Hambydammit wrote:

Strafio:  Do decisions really hinge on "free will"?  Doesn't an ant that loses its trail make a "decision," even if it's the same decision all other ants would make in the same place?  The ant has multiple options, and does one of them.  Its brain determined which it would do.

 

You both effectively said the same thing. (Strafio got it right.)


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That's a difficult question

That's a difficult question to answer because people seem to mean different things when they say "free will". Would free will require that one could have done otherwise? Because I read an interesting essay the other day by Daniel Dennett titled "I Could Not Have Done Otherwise-So What?" that raised some interesting objections to the idea that believing an agent could have refrained from performing an act is a necessary condition for holding the agent responsible for that act.

But yeah, I don't know; it's a really open-ended question.

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Hambydammit wrote:  

Hambydammit wrote:

 

Strafio: Do decisions really hinge on "free will"? Doesn't an ant that loses its trail make a "decision," even if it's the same decision all other ants would make in the same place? The ant has multiple options, and does one of them. Its brain determined which it would do.

 

 

 

Honestly Hamby, I don't see where you are going with that.

 

If free will exists, then it seems to me that it must arise as an emergent property of complex organisms, possibly linked to chaos theory in some manner.

 

Let me take this back to single celled life forms. I forget which ones but I saw a paper several years ago where some such beasties hunting behavior was studied. It seemed that they used the chemical gradient at the cellular membrane as a sensing mechanism.

 

Basically, they would move a bit and then turn 30 degrees (either left or right). Then they would resample the environment and continue. As I say, this was a long time ago but I seem to recall that the 30 degree turn was critical. Apparently, even if there are only two real possible freedoms, it divides a circle into 12 sectors and allows for a form of single point triangulation.

 

As you go towards more complex organisms, the apparent degree of freedom might increase (or only seem to increase if we cannot invoke free will). Even so, in order for morality to have any meaning at all, I tend toward the idea that it only exists at a level of complexity where it is essentially impossible to analyze free will on a strictly mechanical level.

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:
Never ever did I say enything about free, I said "free."

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Gauche wrote:That's a

Gauche wrote:

That's a difficult question to answer because people seem to mean different things when they say "free will... yeah, I don't know; it's a really open-ended question.

Yep. That's why I said "effectively."

Did you really expect the thread poster to define
"free will" when this thread started! lol


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 Quote:And to answer the

 

Quote:
And to answer the question, morality requires free will, because otherwise we cannot be held accountable for our actions. If we have no free will, then we have no will at all. Without a will, no choices can be made. If no choices can be made, then there can be no good or bad choices.

So, free will is the ability to make choices, and ants make choices, so we can hold ants accountable for their actions?

Why, specifically, is free will required to hold a person accountable for their actions?

 

 

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Hambydammit
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 Quote:That's a difficult

 

Quote:
That's a difficult question to answer because people seem to mean different things when they say "free will". Would free will require that one could have done otherwise? Because I read an interesting essay the other day by Daniel Dennett titled "I Could Not Have Done Otherwise-So What?" that raised some interesting objections to the idea that believing an agent could have refrained from performing an act is a necessary condition for holding the agent responsible for that act.

But yeah, I don't know; it's a really open-ended question.

I haven't read that article, but I suspect I know Dennett's position on the matter.

So... why is the question open ended?  You pick a definition of free will and run with it.  Does believing an agent could have done otherwise change the agent's accountability for its actions?

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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 Quote:Honestly Hamby, I

 

Quote:
Honestly Hamby, I don't see where you are going with that.

Which is why I raised the question in the first place.  I don't think many people have really thought this line of reasoning out.

Quote:
If free will exists, then it seems to me that it must arise as an emergent property of complex organisms, possibly linked to chaos theory in some manner.

Oh?  And what is this property you're calling "free will" and how is it "emergent"?

Quote:
As you go towards more complex organisms, the apparent degree of freedom might increase (or only seem to increase if we cannot invoke free will).

Invoking an undefined emergent property seems philosophically... spurious.

Quote:
Even so, in order for morality to have any meaning at all, I tend toward the idea that it only exists at a level of complexity where it is essentially impossible to analyze free will on a strictly mechanical level.

Does "morality" have "meaning"?

 

 

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For the definition of Free

For the definition of Free Will I define it as controlling one's natural urges and thinking it through.

 

For example, you may really want to do something [you get this nagging feeling to do it] and yet you don't, against your feelings.

 

As for what this has to do with morality [ie making the decision based on your own moral codes, for example the benifit of society]?

 

Not really much, since it will benifit, hinder  the society or be neutral regardless of whether or not the person "chose" to do it.

 

I think however that free will will come into play as to deciding what's moral or deriving our moral code.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Hambydammit wrote:Why,

Hambydammit wrote:
Why, specifically, is free will required to hold a person accountable for their actions?

What, specifically, is the definition of what you are referring to as "free will"?


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theotherguy wrote:If no

theotherguy wrote:

If no choices can be made, then there can be no good or bad choices.

That's not an argument, unless you're appealing to fear. 

There are no inherently good or bad choices. The whole concept is manmade.

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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Computers and ants make

Computers and ants make decisions all the time, based on all the input available to them and their current state, so "free will" as an assumed 'ability' of higher level minds like ours, is not necessary to decision making.

Actually, for once, I think Cpt_pineapple has a point, in that what seem to be generally regarded as manifestations of 'free will' are decisions based on 'higher level' functions of our mind, such as reasoning and what we think of as moral judgements, etc.

I think that ultimately these are still decisions based on the nett effect of a whole set of 'inputs', just like the decisions of ants and computers, but inputs derived from a much more complex and subtle set of mental processes and intuitions, not found in ant brains or computers, such that they seem to be not as easily traced to 'simple' deterministic causes. This makes it easier to think of such decisions as 'free', in some sense.

Morality is only meaningful in a context of a conscious mind, ideally a social group, as a set of guidelines on mostly what not to do to others, and is based on empathy, and the desire for others in your group to not do those unpleasant things to you, plus the desire for the emotional rewards of positive interactions with friends and family.

The best simple encapsulation of such guidelines is the negative Golden Rule, "do not do to others what you would not wish done to you".

Consciously 'deciding' on actions taking such guidelines and 'rules' into account just requires an awareness of the likely consequences of our action measured against such criteria, altho in time such ideas become incorporated into our subconscious as intuitions, so we don't do such calculations in familiar situations, only in new ones.

I think morality does not require 'free will', just the perception that we have the option to go against the accepted moral guidelines, but give those the moral guidelines and arguments more weight in our decision making, for a range of other reasons.

 

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

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Hambydammit wrote: So...

Hambydammit wrote:

 

So... why is the question open ended?  You pick a definition of free will and run with it. 

I just meant it's open-ended in the sense that it allows for an indefinite and unstructured yet entirely appropriate response.

 

 

Quote:
Does believing an agent could have done otherwise change the agent's accountability for its actions?

 

Not necessarily. If a person says that they were compelled by their conscience to do such and such, and they could not have done otherwise, whether their actions appeared to be praiseworthy or blameworthy I would still think they were accountable to other people.

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BobSpence1 wrote:Morality is

BobSpence1 wrote:

Morality is only meaningful in a context of a conscious mind, ideally a social group, as a set of guidelines on mostly what not to do to others, and is based on empathy, and the desire for others in your group to not do those unpleasant things to you, plus the desire for the emotional rewards of positive interactions with friends and family.

So at our core, we are just operating to get a reward or avoid a punishment, right? The empathetic person and the sociopath are both trying to activate the reward circuits in the limbic system. The difference is how an activity or sensory input gets mapped into producing a reward or punishment. And this mapping is a function of genetics and conditioning.

So at our core, we are all 'selfish', just making decisions to maximize pleasure/minimize pain. What is called 'moral behavior' is just an alternate strategy of delayed satisfaction or getting pleasure from social interactions rather than 'hedonistic' pursuits(i.e. sin).

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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EXC wrote:BobSpence1

EXC wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

Morality is only meaningful in a context of a conscious mind, ideally a social group, as a set of guidelines on mostly what not to do to others, and is based on empathy, and the desire for others in your group to not do those unpleasant things to you, plus the desire for the emotional rewards of positive interactions with friends and family.

So at our core, we are just operating to get a reward or avoid a punishment, right? The empathetic person and the sociopath are both trying to activate the reward circuits in the limbic system. The difference is how an activity or sensory input gets mapped into producing a reward or punishment. And this mapping is a function of genetics and conditioning.

So at our core, we are all 'selfish', just making decisions to maximize pleasure/minimize pain. What is called 'moral behavior' is just an alternate strategy of delayed satisfaction or getting pleasure from social interactions rather than 'hedonistic' pursuits(i.e. sin).

Sure.

I think that's pretty much it. If one's decisions are ultimately based on broader, more carefully thought through, societal considerations, ie the desire to live in a more friendly, less threatening, social group, we call them 'moral'. 'Free will' is still irrelevant, except in the relative sense of decisions less obviously determined by immediate and 'instinctive' reactions to situations.

Holding someone 'accountable' is still valid if the purpose is to discourage certain types of behavior, by generating negative feelings or even actual pain/suffering in the person offending. In fact, the idea that all decisions are ultimately determined by your expectations of the likely consequences of your actions, among other  things, justifies punishment as much as, if not more  than, the idea of 'free will'.

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

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So, if no freewill precludes

So, if no freewill precludes the possibility of absolute morality. Everyone is just following their own strategy to maximize their own pleasure. What does it mean to be rational or irrational?

Does no freewill also preclude the possibility of being truely irrational? Seems like we atheists kind of throw around the 'irrational' label the way theists throw around the 'immoral' label. Like being irrational is a great sin in the Church of Atheism.

It would be irrational to be non-religious if this provided me with more pleasure. Why is it better to be non-delusional?

The only real criticism you can have of another person is to claim their actions will harm others which will in turn come back to hurt them. That they have faulty information or logic.

But they are still being rational based on their own knowledge of what they should do to maximize their own pleasure. We should stop claiming theists are irrational and instead point out better ways than religion to get pleasure and avoid anxiety.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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No 'free will' would seem to

No 'free will' would seem to exclude the typical Theist view of morality, absolute or not.

Back in the real world, the illusion of 'free will' is irrelevant to the possibility of rationality, although it may well be part of what you feel when consciously applying reasoning.

Rationality has value in deciding strategy, whatever one's aim is, whether short or long term maximizing of positive feelings, whether or not that involves enjoying the more abstract feeling of having helped one's friends, or made a positive, lasting contribution to friends and/or society, or just a more direct, personal, hedonistic pleasure. It allows us to recognize that excessive concentration on immediate pleasure, may be ultimately less rewarding than the probably less intense but much longer-lasting 'highs' of achievement and creativity.

 

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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BobSpence1 wrote:No 'free

BobSpence1 wrote:

No 'free will' would seem to exclude the typical Theist view of morality, absolute or not.

Back in the real world, the illusion of 'free will' is irrelevant to the possibility of rationality, although it may well be part of what you feel when consciously applying reasoning.

Rationality has value in deciding strategy, whatever one's aim is, whether short or long term maximizing of positive feelings, whether or not that involves enjoying the more abstract feeling of having helped one's friends, or made a positive, lasting contribution to friends and/or society, or just a more direct, personal, hedonistic pleasure. It allows us to recognize that excessive concentration on immediate pleasure, may be ultimately less rewarding than the probably less intense but much longer-lasting 'highs' of achievement and creativity.

 

Agreed.

But science tells us what everyone's aim is: To activate the reward circuits in our brain. The problem is, we don't have a pathway that automatically activates the reward circuits when we think rationally. If we did everyone would be an atheist rational thinker all the time.

Believing one will live in paradise forever produces a greater expectation of reward response. Believing an invisible man will heal your sick child provides more anxiety relief than rational thinking for many people. Believing you have 'free will' is often more comfortable.

I may make a rational decision to diet, but my reward circuits are activated when I eat, not when I decide dieting will be better for me in the long run. So essentially we have a wiring problem, not a problem of rational vs irrational thinking.

Expectation of reward(i.e. faith) is the motivator, not the actual realization of the reward. Religion has much better marketing than rationality. Rationality only does a better job of actual delivery.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Quote:And to answer the

Quote:
And to answer the question, morality requires free will, because otherwise we cannot be held accountable for our actions. If we have no free will, then we have no will at all. Without a will, no choices can be made. If no choices can be made, then there can be no good or bad choices.

Hambydammit wrote:
So, free will is the ability to make choices, and ants make choices, so we can hold ants accountable for their actions?

Free will on it's own isn't enough for accountability.
However, without free will the idea of accountability just doesn't make sense.
Can we ever hold a rock accountable for falling on to a person's toe?

Hambydammit wrote:
Why, specifically, is free will required to hold a person accountable for their actions?

If a machine does something wrong, we don't hold the machine accountable, we consider it flawed and just fix it.
We don't treat humans in the same way.
This is because we treat humans as "conscious beings" rather than mechanical machines.

BobSpence1 wrote:
I think that ultimately these are still decisions based on the nett effect of a whole set of 'inputs', just like the decisions of ants and computers, but inputs derived from a much more complex and subtle set of mental processes and intuitions, not found in ant brains or computers, such that they seem to be not as easily traced to 'simple' deterministic causes. This makes it easier to think of such decisions as 'free', in some sense.

Right. Technically humans are biological machines that follow the same rules of physics as everyone else.
However, the complexity produces a less predictable behaviour.
We tend to prefer to "model" this behaviour in terms of mental concepts such as "conscious", "will", "desire".
These mental concepts are more pragmatic than scientific so are less "technically correct".
If we were looking for a purely scientific account of human behaviour then "free will", "desire", "conscious" and "morality" would all go out the window in favour of a purely biological/behavioural description of what is happening.

It happens that our concepts of mind are useful to us as social beings so we will continue to use these mental concepts, regardless of how scientific they are.

BobSpence1 wrote:
I think morality does not require 'free will', just the perception that we have the option to go against the accepted moral guidelines, but give those the moral guidelines and arguments more weight in our decision making, for a range of other reasons.

This is where I disagree.
Once we are talking about morality we are talking in the language of Folk Psychology again.
We are once again talking in terms of beliefs, desires, choices, free will and other unscientific concepts.

To sum up what I'm saying here, we are either giving a scientific account of human action and behaviour or we are using the pragmatic Folk Psychology that we use in everyday life.
In the former there is no free will, no morality, just a mechanical universe that follows the laws of physics.
In the latter has a different purpose to giving a scientifically accurate picture of how things are.

I disagree that "Free Will" and "Morality" are illusions because an illusion is when something is pretending to be something it isn't.
Our Folk Psychology is what it is and does what it does.


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Strafio wrote:Free will on

Strafio wrote:

Free will on it's own isn't enough for accountability. However, without free will the idea of accountability just doesn't make sense.

Why not? I am accountable to the people I make social and business contracts with. I am responsible to not break the law as long as the law is protecting me. I am responsible to live up to the terms of employment and business contracts.

I am accountable to real entities instead of imaginary ones.

Strafio wrote:

Can we ever hold a rock accountable for falling on to a person's toe?

If the rock could make a contract with the person, then yes we could hold it accountable. We may have this problem soon with robots. In a way you already do make contracts with inanimate objects, you go on the internet and make business contracts with a computer, like when you buy tickets. No real person is involved. If the computer screws up, it's software should be accountable to fix the problem.

Strafio wrote:

If a machine does something wrong, we don't hold the machine accountable, we consider it flawed and just fix it.

Depends, we often throw away cars, computers, etc.. when they get too expensive to fix.

Strafio wrote:

We don't treat humans in the same way.

Sometimes we rehabilitate people. But usually that is too expensive and prisons are too overcroweded. So we just wherehouse them.

Strafio wrote:

This is because we treat humans as "conscious beings" rather than mechanical machines.

When people had slaves, they did treat them like we do machines. Religious leaders often treat the followers like machines.

But as social beings, we have a sense of wanting to have social responsibility. I think the difference is we can control machines, but we don't control other people, so we have a different set of rules. As robotics advances we will have to treat machines more like people.

Strafio wrote:

We tend to prefer to "model" this behaviour in terms of mental concepts such as "conscious", "will", "desire". These mental concepts are more pragmatic than scientific so are less "technically correct". If we were looking for a purely scientific account of human behaviour then "free will", "desire", "conscious" and "morality" would all go out the window in favour of a purely biological/behavioural description of what is happening. It happens that our concepts of mind are useful to us as social beings so we will continue to use these mental concepts, regardless of how scientific they are.

The problem is if we want to fix problems and design political, legal and economic systems that provide maximum mutual benefit, we must have an accurate model of how things really work. If one is to design and airplane that flies, you can't go around with imaginary and illusory concepts of how things work. You must gather empirical evidence and then design a system based on an accurate model of how things really work.

The present system doesn't work very well anyways. The concept of absolute morality doesn't seem to restrain many people. It seems like you are advocating a systems where some people who are superstitious should go on believing false things, like some kind of eternal punishment for making immoral choices. While the rational and scientific minded people look at the evidence and see how things really work. A two tiered society, the superstitious and the rational?

Strafio wrote:

I disagree that "Free Will" and "Morality" are illusions because an illusion is when something is pretending to be something it isn't. Our Folk Psychology is what it is and does what it does.

And doesn't work very well.

An illusion is when the mind percieves something which is either not real or is something else. An optical illusion is not 'pretending' to be anything. The pretenders are the Moralists that are telling you to behave in certain ways that are not within framework of a social contract. They are giving you the imagary reward of being a good person or heaven. They take advantage of the fact that the mind is suseptable to delusion to run a scam.

 

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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EXC wrote:

So, if no freewill precludes the possibility of absolute morality. Everyone is just following their own strategy to maximize their own pleasure. What does it mean to be rational or irrational?

Does no freewill also preclude the possibility of being truely irrational? Seems like we atheists kind of throw around the 'irrational' label the way theists throw around the 'immoral' label. Like being irrational is a great sin in the Church of Atheism.

It would be irrational to be non-religious if this provided me with more pleasure. Why is it better to be non-delusional?

The only real criticism you can have of another person is to claim their actions will harm others which will in turn come back to hurt them. That they have faulty information or logic.

But they are still being rational based on their own knowledge of what they should do to maximize their own pleasure. We should stop claiming theists are irrational and instead point out better ways than religion to get pleasure and avoid anxiety.

 

Pain can be pleasure, too.

Theism is why we can't have nice things.


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I was about to answer your

I was about to answer your points when I found this:

EXC wrote:
It seems like you are advocating a systems where some people who are superstitious should go on believing false things, like some kind of eternal punishment for making immoral choices.

I read my post 6 times over to work out where I could possibly have even so much as implied this.
Despite your scathing comments against people who believe in "imaginery beings", you seem to be arguing against imaginary points from an imaginary post.
That said, just incase you are actually reading what I'm actually writing, I'll continue answering your points.



EXC wrote:
The pretenders are the Moralists that are telling you to behave in certain ways that are not within framework of a social contract.

Maybe this is where our misunderstanding lies.
You seem to associate morality with "divine command" theories where you do what a God or tradition tells you.
Morality is actually any theory of what people should do.
Socrates equated morality with doing what is rational.
Hobbes and Locke considered morality to be social contract (like you do)
Just to make it clear, if someone is advocating something they call morality, it doesn't mean they subscribe to some religious divinity or something.

 

Strafio wrote:
Can we ever hold a rock accountable for falling on to a person's toe?

EXC wrote:
If the rock could make a contract with the person, then yes we could hold it accountable.

Fair enough.
So why can't we make these social contracts with humans and not rocks?
There's probably a number of reasons, but atleast one of them will be that humans have a "choice" in their actions wheras rocks don't seem to act based on "choices".
If a basic machine goes wrong then we consider it flawed.
If a person goes wrong we will often tell them that they're making bad choices.
When we don't think they had a choice in the matter, we don't put this blame/accountability upon them.
Accountability requires choice.
If someone has a choice, that's what we call free will.
Without this "free will" there is no such thing as accountability and it makes no sense to talk about any kind of morality.

Strafio wrote:
We tend to prefer to "model" this behaviour in terms of mental concepts such as "conscious", "will", "desire". These mental concepts are more pragmatic than scientific so are less "technically correct". If we were looking for a purely scientific account of human behaviour then "free will", "desire", "conscious" and "morality" would all go out the window in favour of a purely biological/behavioural description of what is happening. It happens that our concepts of mind are useful to us as social beings so we will continue to use these mental concepts, regardless of how scientific they are.

EXC wrote:
The problem is if we want to fix problems and design political, legal and economic systems that provide maximum mutual benefit, we must have an accurate model of how things really work. If one is to design and airplane that flies, you can't go around with imaginary and illusory concepts of how things work. You must gather empirical evidence and then design a system based on an accurate model of how things really work.

So our unscientific "folk psychology" fails when we need something that scientifically accurate?
Really??
So yes, when designing political, legal and economic systems we need to use a more scientific approach.
However, just as there is more to life that accurate scientific theories there is reason why our folk psychology, despite being unsuited for precision of science, is useful to us.
Words like "choice", "accountability" and "responsibility" are rooted in this language.
It might not be suitable for precise scientific theory but that's not what we use it for,
 


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Strafio wrote: I read my

Strafio wrote:

 

I read my post 6 times over to work out where I could possibly have even so much as implied this.
Despite your scathing comments against people who believe in "imaginery beings", you seem to be arguing against imaginary points from an imaginary post.


 

When you say people must be accountable, it's to what? It seems like accountablity is to some imaginary concept like conscience or morality. You believe morality is a real thing, I believe the lack of free will makes it an illusionary(imaginary) concept.


Strafio wrote:

You seem to associate morality with "divine command" theories where you do what a God or tradition tells you.

But morality also a kind of "divine command" that is political or is a socially acceptable behavior. For example, patriotism, being polite and being a good citizen are a kind of moral concepts, where one should be good just for the sake of being good. Society expects to behave these ways even if we don't get a reward for doing so. It's the 'you'll feel good about doing the right thing' imaginary reward.

Strafio wrote:

Just to make it clear, if someone is advocating something they call morality, it doesn't mean they subscribe to some religious divinity or something.

Then it should be clear who we are accountable to and why, and they must be real entities. Accountablity can't be treated like an end in itself, right? In that case, so called morality just reduces to fullfilling the terms of contracts one makes with others.

 

Strafio wrote:

Without this "free will" there is no such thing as accountability and it makes no sense to talk about any kind of morality.

There's the heart of our disageement. You seem to have bought into the idea of 'accountablity' being an end in itself. It's accountablity to something real with whom you have an agreement, otherwise it's BS.

Computers don't have free will, yet they buy and trade currencies, stocks, etc... How are they able to fulfill the terms of contracts without human intervention, human 'free will' making choices for them?

Strafio wrote:

However, just as there is more to life that accurate scientific theories there is reason why our folk psychology, despite being unsuited for precision of science, is useful to us.

Words like "choice", "accountability" and "responsibility" are rooted in this language.
It might not be suitable for precise scientific theory but that's not what we use it for,
 

The horse and buggy was useful for tranportation until science was applied to give us more efficient and better means of transportation. To me these concepts are all outmoded based on our current understanding.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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EXC wrote:When you say

EXC wrote:
When you say people must be accountable, it's to what? It seems like accountablity is to some imaginary concept like conscience or morality. You believe morality is a real thing, I believe the lack of free will makes it an illusionary(imaginary) concept.

I'm saying that without free will, any kind of accountability is impossible.
The issue of who we should be accountable to is a different question altogether.
That means a lack of free will would rule out social contracts too.



Strafio wrote:
You seem to associate morality with "divine command" theories where you do what a God or tradition tells you.

EXC wrote:
But morality also a kind of "divine command" that is political or is a socially acceptable behavior.

Not necessarily. Some people see morality like this, but morality doesn't necessarily mean this.
Like I pointed out in the previous post, some philosophers like Locke held a theory of morality based around social contracts.
Infact, your own "social contract" theory counts as a theory of morality.

I'm not making this up!!
See the second paragraph on the Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia wrote:
In its second, normative and universal sense, morality refers to an ideal code of conduct, one which would be espoused in preference to alternatives by all rational people, under specified conditions. In this "prescriptive" sense of morality as opposed to the above described "descriptive" sort of sense, moral value judgments such as "murder is immoral" are made.


Strafio wrote:
Just to make it clear, if someone is advocating something they call morality, it doesn't mean they subscribe to some religious divinity or something.

EXC wrote:
Then it should be clear who we are accountable to and why, and they must be real entities. Accountablity can't be treated like an end in itself, right? In that case, so called morality just reduces to fullfilling the terms of contracts one makes with others.

Some people would say that's all morality is, social contracts.
While we likely have disagreements over morality, that's a different topic.
The point at hand is that without free will there can be no accountability/responsibility to anyone or anything.
That means even the "social contract" way of life that you recommend would also be impossible.

Think of it like this, do we have contracts that hold people responsible for things beyond their control? No.
Proper contracts require failure to be down to bad choices that a person could have made differently.
To have contracts without decisions just doesn't make sense.
After all, what's the point in having a contract with a rock?
What sort of decisions is this rock supposed to be accountable for.

EXC wrote:
Computers don't have free will, yet they buy and trade currencies, stocks, etc... How are they able to fulfill the terms of contracts without human intervention, human 'free will' making choices for them?

The computers themselves aren't involved in any contract.
They don't own the things they are trading.
They are simply a machine for processing tasks set to them by humans.
When a computer fails, it is not the computer who is held accountable but the person who was responsible for the operation of this computer.
The only way we could make a contract with a computer was if its AI was complex enough for it to have free will.
Otherwise it is merely a tool to carry out functions for being complex enough to make such decisions.

Strafio wrote:
However, just as there is more to life that accurate scientific theories there is reason why our folk psychology, despite being unsuited for precision of science, is useful to us.

Words like "choice", "accountability" and "responsibility" are rooted in this language.
It might not be suitable for precise scientific theory but that's not what we use it for .

EXC wrote:
The horse and buggy was useful for tranportation until science was applied to give us more efficient and better means of transportation. To me these concepts are all outmoded based on our current understanding.

The car is more scientifically advances than walking, the aeroplane is more advanced than the car.
The spaceship even more so. It can take us to places that previous modes of transports just couldn't access.
Yet we still haven't done away with walking, despite it being something so primitive that the cavemen do it.

Why? Because while walking is no good for some purposes, like travelling from France to India, or from Mars to Jupiter, when travelling to the kitchen to make a sandwich it's ideal.
Trying to use a car or a rocket for such a purpose would be the height of stupidity.
This is because that they have been designed for long distance travel, and walking is better suited for shorter distances.
In the same way, a more scientific language is perfect for processing the empirical evidence and constructing detailed and complex theories about human behaviour.
Scientific language has been designed for scientific theories in a way that Folk Psychology just cannot compete.

That said, I would be shocked if scientific language ever replaced Folk Psychology for everyday usage.
Scientific language just hasn't been designed to fulfil this purpose.
You must have seen loads of films and cartoons that have this stereotype of a scientist that tries to use the language of scientific theories all the time.
These characters come across as socially inept because they are unable to use the appropriate language for the situation at hand.
It's a silly caricature because no real scientists are actually like that - they use language normally like the rest of us.
However, I think it displays the result of what you are advocating.


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 Strafio, forgive me, but

 Strafio, forgive me, but have you defined free will yet?  

Part of the point of this thread was to demonstrate just how convoluted discussions can get when multiple people are discussing free will.  Everybody is happy to jump on board the discussion, but very few people bother to make sure they're talking about the same thing as anybody else.

I've actually got what I believe is a pretty straightforward and easy to grasp explanation of what people think they mean when they talk about free will.  (Of course, you know that I don't believe in free will.)  I want to know what you think first, though.

 

 

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Definition of Free Will.

Definition of Free Will.
Okay.
Sometimes we talk about making choices.
Someone can choose between various options.
They make a choice and act on it.

That's acting out of free will.
I think most people agree with that much.
The disagreement comes in when we try and relate this to the physical world.

Some people see a contradiction between free will and the deterministic laws of physics.
This leads them to either reject free will or posit the mind as somewhere outside the physical world.
Humean style determinists define free will in a deterministic way, although their opponents would accuse them of re-defining it.

I agree with Kant's view.
He said that the concepts of mind and the concepts of the physical world are different types of conceptualisation.
This means they can not contradict because they aren't even in the same conceptual category.
This is where I bring in my own interpretation of Kant, that Folk Psychology is a different type of language use to the language of physics with a different purpose etc.
Therefore statements of mind and matter do not contradict etc

But I think that my definition of Free Will is the same as everyone elses.
We say that Mr Blue has a choice between buying an ice cream and walking away.
He makes a choice and we say he acted on his free will.


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 Quote:Sometimes we talk

 

Quote:
Sometimes we talk about making choices. 

Someone can choose between various options. 
They make a choice and act on it.

That's acting out of free will.
I think most people agree with that much. 

This is basically a synonym.  Free will and choice are the same thing, at least if we're not regarding the choice an ant makes as a real "choice."

Quote:
But I think that my definition of Free Will is the same as everyone elses. 

We say that Mr Blue has a choice between buying an ice cream and walking away. 
He makes a choice and we say he acted on his free will.

Then I contend that your definition is not a definition at all, but a sleight of hand.  True, in the strictest sense of the word, a "definition" can be a synonym, but in this case, we are looking for a description of the ontological reality of free will.  If I define a "glarblefark" as a "blitzenforb," I have not given you any useful knowledge, since you don't have an understanding of either word.  This, I contend, is the problem with most free will discussions.  People just shift from one ill-defined word to another as if it solves a problem.  It does not.  It just gives the illusion of doing so.

 

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote:True, in

Hambydammit wrote:
True, in the strictest sense of the word, a "definition" can be a synonym

Good. Because that's my definition and I'm sticking with it. Sticking out tongue

Quote:
but in this case, we are looking for a description of the ontological reality of free will.  If I define a "glarblefark" as a "blitzenforb," I have not given you any useful knowledge, since you don't have an understanding of either word.  

So because I defined "free will" in terms of "making a choice", we need to be clear on what I mean by "making a choice".
My answer is that we speak the same English language as everyone else.
I'm using as we all use it in everyday situations.

For Ontology, I am saying that it's part of our Folk Psychology.
The pragmatic language/conceptualisation that we use when talking about "mind"
And I am also saying that if we were using the language/conceptualisation of physics then "free will" would have no place.

However, saying "There's no free will" simply because it doesn't exist as a physical thing seems wrong to me.
If we define free will as it we should, in terms of Folk Psychology, then people DO have free will.

To deny the existence of free will on those grounds, surely it's like answering the question:
"Does there exist an even number between 2 and 7?" with
"I cannot believe in such entities until I have been given a physical defintion of them."
If we are talking about Free Will, a concept within Folk Psychology, surely the only correct way to treat it is within terms of Folk Psychology.


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My definition of Free Will

My definition of Free Will would be - the capacity to act with intent. Here, even where the capacity for intent and the action are wholly deterministic, the intent still has validity as the freedom of the individual; the individual and its intent are contained in each other.

Even when determined by external reality (for arguments sake) you cannot separate an individual from its intent, so then contrary to theotherguy, I'm going to say, even in a wholly deterministic universe where someone could not have "chosen otherwise", an individual is as responsible for their moral intent as they are responsible to their identity. 

OTOH, like theotherguy, I'm going to say that there is no morality without free will, but only in the sense that morality presupposes the capacity for intent.

Now, not forgetting that morality also presupposes the existence of two (or more) forms of intent which oppose and contrast each other; Then we must say, by the first consideration of intent and individuality being contained in each other, that there is no morality without two (or more) individuals. That is, no individual can have morality of itself, an individual has the capacity for intent, but no capacity for contrast. So an individual in the strictest sense has free will but no morality.

Yet morality presupposes that forms of intent oppose and contrast each other within the deterministic faculty of a single individual. This is not possible since two or more individuals are required for contrast. So, basically, just in defining free will we've reduced individual morality to an absurdity.

Aside*We can repair this by introducing the concept of multiple individuals in one, however, for now I'll just stick to the strictest definition of an individual...

So in the case that we have a set of two or more individuals, forms of intent can be contrasted and compared and thus we acquire morality. We need intent (the freedom of individual will) in order for there to be morality, but if we have individuals then we have intent by definition, thus all we need are the individuals. Then we can have morality.

So ultimately, to my mind the connection between free will and morality, reduces to the connection between individuals and morality. In questions of morality, free will can be ignored and is not needed, it's just doubling up on the axiom of freedom implied in the required premise of two or more individuals.

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My thoughts on this would be

My thoughts on this would be to ask what, in ordinary terms, do you think people think they are basing their choices on? What is 'determining' their choice, is it not based on their current thoughts and perceptions and state of mind? Or does it come from some other 'realm', perhaps of an actual 'soul'? Or is it random, maybe quantum style?

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BobSpence1 wrote:My thoughts

BobSpence1 wrote:

My thoughts on this would be to ask what, in ordinary terms, do you think people think they are basing their choices on? What is 'determining' their choice, is it not based on their current thoughts and perceptions and state of mind? Or does it come from some other 'realm', perhaps of an actual 'soul'? Or is it random, maybe quantum style?

Beg your pardon, Bob, but are you responding to me, here?

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Eloise wrote:BobSpence1

 

Eloise wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

My thoughts on this would be to ask what, in ordinary terms, do you think people think they are basing their choices on? What is 'determining' their choice, is it not based on their current thoughts and perceptions and state of mind? Or does it come from some other 'realm', perhaps of an actual 'soul'? Or is it random, maybe quantum style?

Beg your pardon, Bob, but are you responding to me, here?

I was mainly responding to Strafio, but if feel like commenting, feel free.

Now I look at the sequence of posts, I can see why could have seen mine as a response to yours - sorry.

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BobSpence1 wrote:My thoughts

BobSpence1 wrote:
My thoughts on this would be to ask what, in ordinary terms, do you think people think they are basing their choices on? What is 'determining' their choice, is it not based on their current thoughts and perceptions and state of mind? Or does it come from some other 'realm', perhaps of an actual 'soul'? Or is it random, maybe quantum style?

 

I'd say that sometimes we have reasons for our choices, sometimes we are spontaneous, but even when people have reasons and thereby behave as we'd predict, I still wouldn't consider their choice "determined".
I think this is because the Folk Psychology concepts are a bit looser than those of physics.
In physics we have laws that give absolute descriptions.
If A happens then B will definitely happen.
E.g. We let go of a ball, it is garaunteed by the laws of physics to accelerate at 9.8m/s/s
The effect is clearly determined by the cause.
If we know the starting conditions, the next step only has one possibility.

Folk Psychology concepts don't have such a strict cause-effect relationship.
Beliefs and desires make certain outcomes more likely, but there is always the possibility for a completely spontaneous decision.
So starting conditions A (e.g. a set of beliefs and desires) don't determine decision B, they just make it more likely - there will always be the possibility of a random decision.
That's why I don't consider decisions to be determined.

It might be that I'm having double standards here.
I say that if we know the starting conditions A in physics then B is determined, this requires us to know all of the starting conditions which might be a lot of information.
Perhaps my opposing examples in mind omit information that could be considered part of the "starting condition"
Although I say that no matter how much we know about a person's beliefs and desires, there's always the chance of a random decision, perhaps there is other information that predict this so-called random event...
But I think that our Folk Psychology language generally allows for an element of randomness that makes prevents a proper "pre-determining" of decisions.


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Eloise wrote:My definition

Eloise wrote:

My definition of Free Will would be - the capacity to act with intent. Here, even where the capacity for intent and the action are wholly deterministic, the intent still has validity as the freedom of the individual; the individual and its intent are contained in each other.

With your definition, how do we decide what has free will and what does not? Does each of the following have a free will? Why or why not?

Humans, Chimpanzees, mice, viruses, a small cluster of nerve cells, supercomputers, a pocket calculator, a rock, an atom.

 

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Strafio wrote:BobSpence1

Strafio wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:
My thoughts on this would be to ask what, in ordinary terms, do you think people think they are basing their choices on? What is 'determining' their choice, is it not based on their current thoughts and perceptions and state of mind? Or does it come from some other 'realm', perhaps of an actual 'soul'? Or is it random, maybe quantum style?

 

I'd say that sometimes we have reasons for our choices, sometimes we are spontaneous, but even when people have reasons and thereby behave as we'd predict, I still wouldn't consider their choice "determined".
I think this is because the Folk Psychology concepts are a bit looser than those of physics.
In physics we have laws that give absolute descriptions.
If A happens then B will definitely happen.
E.g. We let go of a ball, it is garaunteed by the laws of physics to accelerate at 9.8m/s/s
The effect is clearly determined by the cause.
If we know the starting conditions, the next step only has one possibility.

Folk Psychology concepts don't have such a strict cause-effect relationship.
Beliefs and desires make certain outcomes more likely, but there is always the possibility for a completely spontaneous decision.
So starting conditions A (e.g. a set of beliefs and desires) don't determine decision B, they just make it more likely - there will always be the possibility of a random decision.
That's why I don't consider decisions to be determined.

It might be that I'm having double standards here.
I say that if we know the starting conditions A in physics then B is determined, this requires us to know all of the starting conditions which might be a lot of information.
Perhaps my opposing examples in mind omit information that could be considered part of the "starting condition"
Although I say that no matter how much we know about a person's beliefs and desires, there's always the chance of a random decision, perhaps there is other information that predict this so-called random event...
But I think that our Folk Psychology language generally allows for an element of randomness that makes prevents a proper "pre-determining" of decisions.

Interesting.

It seems to me that your 'Folk Psychology' ideas are fully describable in scientific terms.

'Spontaneous' would apply to those decisions where in all the categories of factors (mood, memory, sensory perception, etc) contributing to a decision, no specific item or two were felt to be dominant, so that actual decision would be quasi-random, sort of like a chaotic 'butterfly effect' Such decisions would be effectively unpredictable.

It is not so much 'strict cause-effect relationships' which are the distinguishing feature of the physical examples you give, but situations where there is a single very clear and dominant 'cause' identifiable, such as the force of gravity acting on a falling object.

Many 'events' in the real world are the result of such a complex set of interacting contributing factors that strict prediction is often impossible in any practical sense, even if everything is strictly determined. I think the lack of understanding of this reality, and concentrating on the abstract idea of a pure isolated cause and effect, is what leads both 'ordinary' people and many philosophers to think of 'determinism' as implying something 'mechanical', with events following on clearly defined and predictable paths.

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BobSpence1 wrote:Many

BobSpence1 wrote:
Many 'events' in the real world are the result of such a complex set of interacting contributing factors that strict prediction is often impossible in any practical sense, even if everything is strictly determined. I think the lack of understanding of this reality, and concentrating on the abstract idea of a pure isolated cause and effect, is what leads both 'ordinary' people and many philosophers to think of 'determinism' as implying something 'mechanical', with events following on clearly defined and predictable paths.

This makes a lot of sense and about 33% of my mind agrees.
It's kind of what I was thinking when I wrote that "I might be having double standards" paragraph.
If so, I'd go for "Free Will" of the Humean compatibilism sort.
But I'll tell you what my other 66% is saying:

BobSpence1 wrote:
It seems to me that your 'Folk Psychology' ideas are fully describable in scientific terms.

There's some good philosophical arguments that Folk Psychology cannot be described in these terms.
I'm mainly thinking of Putnam's thesis of externalism.
(the twin earth experiment for example)
The thought experiment suggests that intentional states (e.g. beliefs and desires) cannot be reduced to functional or biological states of the person because they include information external to the thinker.
(I worded that really badly and am hoping that you are just familiar with externalism anyway.)
If not, here's a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externalism#Philosophy_of_mind

Anyhow, my conclusion from this argument is a kind of "Emergentism"
That concepts of mind cannot be reduced into scientific ones, i.e. that they cannot be fully described in scientific terms.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:
'Spontaneous' would apply to those decisions where in all the categories of factors (mood, memory, sensory perception, etc) contributing to a decision, no specific item or two were felt to be dominant, so that actual decision would be quasi-random, sort of like a chaotic 'butterfly effect' Such decisions would be effectively unpredictable.

It is not so much 'strict cause-effect relationships' which are the distinguishing feature of the physical examples you give, but situations where there is a single very clear and dominant 'cause' identifiable, such as the force of gravity acting on a falling object.


My reply to this would be that Folk Psychology deals in simple identifiable concepts.
It doesn't break them down.
So in physics we have complex events but we have no issue in breaking them down and acknowledging that they are the result of complex interactions of physical laws.
In Folk Psychology, we don't break down the concepts further.
This breaking down into simpler concepts is necessary to find a determining order underneath it.
Otherwise it's irreducibly random.

If Folk Psychology concepts can be reduced/described in terms of biological or physical terms then this "irreducibly random" argument would kind of lose it's teeth.
But if Folk Psychology doesn't reduce (e.g. Emergentism) then we have the following situation:
No matter how much information you have, you can only predict a decision with probability rather than certainty because there's an element of random unpredictability in there.
Compare this to physics where no matter how complex is it, if you had the right amount of information then you could make a perfect prediction.

Since Folk Psychology concepts don't reduce to scientific ones, and because their simplest most broken down level still leaves an element of unpredictability, the only way to break down further and find a deterministic order altogether is to leave Folk Psychology altogether and find an alternative biological account of human behaviour.




I've perhaps not worded this so well but I'll try and summarise my points:
1) Folk Psychology concepts don't reduce into scientific ones.
That is, you cannot describe them in purely scientific terms.
2) Because these concepts are irreducible, there's no way to break them down further.
3) So if a Folk Psychology concept contains an element of randomness, it cannot be broken down further to find an underlying order that provides a "quasi randomness".
4) If we stay within the language/concepts of Folk Psychology, there is irreducible randomness that does not have an underlying order to determine it this way - it remains indeterminate.

My conclusion of this is that the only way to find determinism is to leave the language of Folk Psychology in favour of a more scientific one, and that when we are using Folk Psychology terms like "belief", "choice" and "free will", this "Free Will" is non-deterministic.
My big premise in this argument is Folk Psychology not being reducible - you might disagree with that.
I think that the rest of my argument follows logically from it.


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EXC wrote:Eloise wrote:My

EXC wrote:

Eloise wrote:

My definition of Free Will would be - the capacity to act with intent. Here, even where the capacity for intent and the action are wholly deterministic, the intent still has validity as the freedom of the individual; the individual and its intent are contained in each other.

With your definition, how do we decide what has free will and what does not?

There are two yardsticks in this definition by which to judge a free will in an individual. The first is the capacity to act, we don't require the individual to act in order to judge that this definition of free will applies, we only need to assume that the capacity to act is a characteristic of the individual.  The concept of action, incidentally, requires an underlying framework relative to which it can be defined, that is, action implies its context, it is defined by its context so there is no way to avoid this. Having noted that, lets assume the context that we are accustomed to using, the ordering of events in the universe which accord with the scope of a human psyche. It is easy in this case for us to relate the concept of an act to an individual in this context because it is our context. From this position we can say definitively that certain entities are possessed of the capacity to act, so it is from there we can proceed to test these entities against the next qualification, intent.

I have seen intent defined as a preference or inclination which comes from anticipating a future. I would put that forward as how I am defining it here. So an entity that has the capacity to act with intent requires two explicit senses, a probabilistic sense, and a spatial sense (let's call it the sense of a future). From this we can look again to our familiar framework and easily identify which of the things which naturally relate in the context that we comfortably understand, that they are possessed of sensory abilities.

so then...

EXC wrote:

Does each of the following have a free will? Why or why not?

Humans, Chimpanzees, mice, viruses, a small cluster of nerve cells, supercomputers, a pocket calculator, a rock, an atom.

 

 

Given the above, from this list we can quickly mark down Humans, Chimpanzees and mice as evidently possessing the two characteristics as we readily understand them.

Viruses and small clusters of nerve cells clearly have an ability to act, and to some extent within our context seem individually responsive to sensory stimuli. So these we should note as possessing interesting potential for free will, but if it exists it exists in a way that falls outside the context familiar to a human psyche and we'd need to understand a great deal more about that context.

Supercomputers, calculators and rocks fail the first test applied in our psychological context. They do not, in any way which we readily understand, possess individual ability to act. There's no need to test them against the second criteria until such time as we were perhaps able to conceive of a context in which individual action on their own behalf made sense.

Atoms on the other hand, are somewhat more interesting in their potential than, even, viruses. We have seen the microscopic world demonstrate an intriguing level of individual action when tested against the context readily available to our psyche. Strangely enough the bit world also eludes to a responsiveness which rings familiar to our human context. However, the reality is that these characteristics have exactly that, a ring of familiarity to the context which supports the human psyche. It is not, as such, demonstrated that the eventful life of an atom or it's constituent parts is correspondent to action and intent within the framework that we understand it. So for the time being, although interesting, atoms are not marked down as freely willing entities by the proposed definition.

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Eloise wrote:Supercomputers,

Eloise wrote:

Supercomputers, calculators and rocks fail the first test applied in our psychological context. They do not, in any way which we readily understand, possess individual ability to act.

I don't see why an advanced chess or poker playing computer fails the test. All they do is "anticipate a future" before they make a move, and in fact they can now do it better and faster than humans. If they actually have to act, it's easy enough to hook a robotic arm to make them act. Once it programmed they can act on their own.

And doesn't my pocket calculator "anticipate" that I will enter a number after pressing the '+' key when doing simple arithmetic? If I press a key other than a number, I get and error because it did not 'anticipate' this.

And since a small cluster of nerve cells fails the test, but a larger brain passes. What is threshold point where an entity goes from no free will to free will?

 

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 I'm going to jump in and

 I'm going to jump in and make another suggestion that might clear up all this confusion regarding "intent" and "decision."

It strikes me as interesting that humans are the only animals who demonstrate consistent ability to think about themselves thinking about things.  We, unlike any other animal we know of, are able to contemplate the significance of our thoughts.  Other animals, it seems, simply think thoughts and then act on them.

I submit, then, that what we consider free will is really the ability to think about the decisions we make.  For this to make sense, we need to make sure we are talking about exactly the same things:

All free-moving, autonomous animals make decisions.  That is, if an animal moves through the environment of its own volition, responding dynamically to the environment, and is faced with physical situations in which it can react in one of multiple ways, it makes decisions.

I don't think we can deny that for all animals, decisions occur in real time.  That is, we make decisions when we make them, as we are experiencing the knowledge of options.  When I began thinking of free will, it was tempting to define it simply as the conscious awareness of multiple options.  I doubt, for instance, that a roach has the capability to think about which way it should run when someone turns the lights on.  I think it pretty much just reacts to its environment.  Dogs, on the other hand, appear to be able to contemplate their actions at times.  Chimpanzees certainly can.  We've demonstrated that empirically.

Even so, I was interested in figuring out if humans are uniquely able to act or think in a way that other animals cannot.  The only thing I can think of that falls into this category is the ability to think about thinking.  So, it goes like this:

I think.

I think about thinking.

I think about thinking about thinking.

****

Thinking about thinking, I believe, is free will, or more precisely, what people think they mean when they talk about free will.  As Bob and I (and others) have compellingly argued, there really isn't a possibility of something "outside" of our brain that is somehow free of the physical reality of our present state.  There is no genuinely free will.  However, when I am faced with multiple options, I can, as part of my brain's normal function, form a mental concept of my own thought processes.  Ironically, I cannot control my thoughts about my thoughts, any more than I can control my thoughts...  But, I am making a decision on a "higher" level than any other animal.

No, it's not free will, but it is a genuine difference between human actions and animal actions, and it is what must be the case if we are to have a concept of "accountability" for our actions. 

 

 

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Strafio wrote:BobSpence1

Strafio wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:
'Spontaneous' would apply to those decisions where in all the categories of factors (mood, memory, sensory perception, etc) contributing to a decision, no specific item or two were felt to be dominant, so that actual decision would be quasi-random, sort of like a chaotic 'butterfly effect' Such decisions would be effectively unpredictable.

It is not so much 'strict cause-effect relationships' which are the distinguishing feature of the physical examples you give, but situations where there is a single very clear and dominant 'cause' identifiable, such as the force of gravity acting on a falling object.


My reply to this would be that Folk Psychology deals in simple identifiable concepts.
It doesn't break them down.
So in physics we have complex events but we have no issue in breaking them down and acknowledging that they are the result of complex interactions of physical laws.
In Folk Psychology, we don't break down the concepts further.
This breaking down into simpler concepts is necessary to find a determining order underneath it.
Otherwise it's irreducibly random.

If Folk Psychology concepts can be reduced/described in terms of biological or physical terms then this "irreducibly random" argument would kind of lose it's teeth.
But if Folk Psychology doesn't reduce (e.g. Emergentism) then we have the following situation:
No matter how much information you have, you can only predict a decision with probability rather than certainty because there's an element of random unpredictability in there.
Compare this to physics where no matter how complex is it, if you had the right amount of information then you could make a perfect prediction.

Not so at all, thanks to 'Chaos', more formally studied as Non-linear Systems Theory, where even relatively simple systems can be essentially unpredictable. If you throw in Quantum Theory, that further reduces the possibility of precise prediction. 

So even in Physics we are ultimately confronted with only probabilities, not certainties. It is not possible to precisely predict the behavior of even something as 'simple' as an amoeba by 'breaking it down' to Physics. We only 'break things down' to their components to understand the structure, and how that structure leads to the basic attributes of the top level interacting elements, whether cells in a body, neuronal complexes in a brain, individual personalities in a social group, etc. Knowledge of cellular metabolism contributes nothing significant to psychology or the study of human societies. 

Physics is irrelevant to even 'formal' Psychology. 

Randomness in the real world is practically indistinguishable from a chaotically complex deterministic process. 

There is unpredictability all the way down. The best we can do, even at the most fundamental level, is measure and calculate relatively precisely the probabilities, as with radioactive decay, where all we can predict precisely is how many of a number particular atoms of the same isotope will have decayed in a specific time, but not which ones.

We have long left the idea of a Newtonian clockwork universe behind.

Quote:


Since Folk Psychology concepts don't reduce to scientific ones, and because their simplest most broken down level still leaves an element of unpredictability, the only way to break down further and find a deterministic order altogether is to leave Folk Psychology altogether and find an alternative biological account of human behaviour.

Deterministic order in the old mechanical clockwork sense is not what science is about, these days.

As long as your Folk Psychology is based on accurate observation and logic and is prepared to update its ideas if better ones are suggested, fitting the way people actually behave better than the old ones, then it is entirely consistent with science.

 

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Okay. It seems that we more

Okay. It seems that we more or less agree for practical purposes, but philosophy being the pedantic subject it is, I still have a couple of last points to put across.
You're saying that for all practical purposes, there is an element of randomness in human decision due to complexity of the underlying laws.
However, I think that Folk Psychology goes one step further.

Strafio wrote:
If Folk Psychology concepts can be reduced/described in terms of biological or physical terms then this "irreducibly random" argument would kind of lose it's teeth.
But if Folk Psychology doesn't reduce (e.g. Emergentism) then we have the following situation:
No matter how much information you have, you can only predict a decision with probability rather than certainty because there's an element of random unpredictability in there.
Compare this to physics where no matter how complex is it, if you had the right amount of information then you could make a perfect prediction.

BobSpence1 wrote:
Not so at all, thanks to 'Chaos', more formally studied as Non-linear Systems Theory, where even relatively simple systems can be essentially unpredictable.

That still slightly different.
For all practical purposes, chaotic patterns are unpredictable, but because they are are determined by underlying equations, they are atleast theoretically predictable.
That is, if a omniscient being had all the information and enough time to process it, they could perfectly predict this chaotic behaviour.
I'm saying that Folk Psychology concepts can't be broken down conceptually into underlying determining laws/equations.
So rather than being practically impossibe, it's theoretically impossible.

So I'm saying that chaotic physical events are practically unpredictable while folk psychology goes further and is theoretically unpredictable.
(I told you my disagreement was pedantic! Sticking out tongue)


You also mentioned Quantum Theory.
That was interesting because that's sometimes used as an argument against determinism in the physical world too.

BobSpence1 wrote:
Physics is irrelevant to even 'formal' Psychology.

That was me speaking from a bit of a philosophical perspective.
Because Biology has been found reducible into Chemistry and Chemistry into physics, Biological concepts can be considered to be physical ones in philosophy.
They can be used with the same precision as physical concepts and can be recognised to made up of physical components that behave within physical laws.
The aim of the distinction was to show that "Folk Psychology" doesn't break down like this.
I think Formal Psychology has a closer relationship to biology than Folk Psychology does.
 

BobSpence1 wrote:
As long as your Folk Psychology is based on accurate observation and logic and is prepared to update its ideas if better ones are suggested, fitting the way people actually behave better than the old ones, then it is entirely consistent with science.

My thoughts exactly.

I think that "Folk Psychology" is best seen as "rough science".
It's based on observation but is limited compared to more formal investigations.
It has evolved to be effective for most practical purposes but will never have the precision or reliability of a proper science.
For the most part this doesn't really matter because in real life we use it to a purpose it suits.
I remember when I first started doing philosophy at university and saw formal arguments based on mental concepts and it kind of felt wrong and ill fitting to treat them that way.
It seems my intuition was right - when we use this language naturally we use it a lot more loosely without such strict definitions.
When treating our folk psychology concepts as if they were scientifically precise we seemed to bring forward the worst of both worlds.
They lost the flexibility that allowed us to use them loosely and practically, and the formal definitions they were given weren't suited to provide us with a precise and accurate scientific theory.


Anyhow, with my self indulgent rant over, I think we pretty much agree where is matters.
I just had some pedantic points to put across.


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Hambydammit wrote:I think.I

Hambydammit wrote:

I think.

I think about thinking.

I think about thinking about thinking.

****

Thinking about thinking, I believe, is free will, or more precisely, what people think they mean when they talk about free will.  As Bob and I (and others) have compellingly argued, there really isn't a possibility of something "outside" of our brain that is somehow free of the physical reality of our present state.  There is no genuinely free will.  However, when I am faced with multiple options, I can, as part of my brain's normal function, form a mental concept of my own thought processes.  Ironically, I cannot control my thoughts about my thoughts, any more than I can control my thoughts...  But, I am making a decision on a "higher" level than any other animal.

No, it's not free will, but it is a genuine difference between human actions and animal actions, and it is what must be the case if we are to have a concept of "accountability" for our actions.  

Meta-thinking. Would you say this ability is the computer science equivilent of self-modifing code and reflection?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-modifying_code

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflection_(computer_science)

We have the ability to examine how we think, then modify what and how we think. Humans have developed this better than any other species. But there is no reason to believe machines can not achieve the same capabilities.

 

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Quote:Meta-thinking. Would

Quote:
Meta-thinking. Would you say this ability is the computer science equivilent of self-modifing code and reflection?

I'm not qualified to say.  I know jack shit about AI.

I do know that for the purpose of analogy, the physical pathways in our brain which are analogous to steps in an algorithm are constantly "self-modifying."  I must be very careful in making this statement, however, because this whole discussion revolves around the fact that we are dynamically responding to our environment, which can be viewed as the "cause" of the modifications in our brains.

I really don't like the concepts of cause and effect in regard to dynamic interactions with environments.  If I say that my brain causes me to be in a state of disbelief in god, I can just as accurately say that my environment caused my brain to put me in a state of disbelief in god.

I suppose (though I don't know) that we could say the same thing about a self-modifying code in a computer.  Without some external input, what would be modified?  The environment, which is enormous, complex, and unpredictable, is the causal agent for the series of events in my brain caused by my perception of the environment.

Quote:
We have the ability to examine how we think, then modify what and how we think.

I have to be pedantic here.  Yes, we have the ability to examine both how and what we think, although it's rather shocking to some people how little control we have over what we think.  Our thoughts about our thoughts are data, and data is what our brains process, so my "self-modified state" at any given moment is a product of both my external environment and my thoughts about my thoughts about my external environment.

My point with regard to free will is that the distinction is an artificial one that seems very relevant to us, but is not different in reality.  That is, all animals have brains which put them in states of action or thought, and no animal can control its own brain.  Brains control animals.  Animals do not control brains.  That is, I cannot make the decision to alter this or that neural pathway.  I can only do what I believe or feel at any given instant, and that belief or feeling was determined for me by my brain before I became conscious of it.  My thoughts about my thoughts existed before I became aware that they exist.  I am just as much a "slave" to my meta-thoughts as to my thoughts.

Quote:
Humans have developed this better than any other species. But there is no reason to believe machines can not achieve the same capabilities.

I am led to believe that the complexity of this ability is staggering, even to the most optimistic AI scientists, but there seems no particular reason that given enough time, we won't work out something quite similar in machines.  I think that if we don't, it will be because of practical limitations, not theoretical ones.

 

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Strafio wrote:Okay. It seems

Strafio wrote:

Okay. It seems that we more or less agree for practical purposes, but philosophy being the pedantic subject it is, I still have a couple of last points to put across.
You're saying that for all practical purposes, there is an element of randomness in human decision due to complexity of the underlying laws.
However, I think that Folk Psychology goes one step further.

Strafio wrote:
If Folk Psychology concepts can be reduced/described in terms of biological or physical terms then this "irreducibly random" argument would kind of lose it's teeth.
But if Folk Psychology doesn't reduce (e.g. Emergentism) then we have the following situation:
No matter how much information you have, you can only predict a decision with probability rather than certainty because there's an element of random unpredictability in there.
Compare this to physics where no matter how complex is it, if you had the right amount of information then you could make a perfect prediction.

BobSpence1 wrote:
Not so at all, thanks to 'Chaos', more formally studied as Non-linear Systems Theory, where even relatively simple systems can be essentially unpredictable.

That still slightly different.
For all practical purposes, chaotic patterns are unpredictable, but because they are are determined by underlying equations, they are atleast theoretically predictable.

That is, if a omniscient being had all the information and enough time to process it, they could perfectly predict this chaotic behaviour.

No, let me be clearer. There are definitely systems where it is not even theoretically possible to predict the outcome after a finite time, they usually involve strong non-linear feedback, where the outcome of one process effects the inputs to that process in a non simple way. There are others where the precision with which we would have to know the initial state in order to predict the outcome with some given finite level of accuracy, increases exponentially over time. The trajectories of molecules in a gas would be one such example.

Quote:


I'm saying that Folk Psychology concepts can't be broken down conceptually into underlying determining laws/equations.
So rather than being practically impossibe, it's theoretically impossible.

So I'm saying that chaotic physical events are practically unpredictable while folk psychology goes further and is theoretically unpredictable.
(I told you my disagreement was pedantic! Sticking out tongue)

You also mentioned Quantum Theory.
That was interesting because that's sometimes used as an argument against determinism in the physical world too.

BobSpence1 wrote:
Physics is irrelevant to even 'formal' Psychology.

That was me speaking from a bit of a philosophical perspective.
Because Biology has been found reducible into Chemistry and Chemistry into physics, Biological concepts can be considered to be physical ones in philosophy.

Biology is NOT 'reducible' to Chemistry. Biology captures concepts such as organism, life processes, ecology, etc, which are NOT describable by Chemistry. There is an area of overlap between the lower levels of description in biological processes and the complex forms of chemical reactions, which ties the two disciplines together to that inevitable and essential degree.

And so on for the other disciplines. The study of psychology does NOT depend on the specific physical properties of atoms, etc. It only depends on the patterns of thought displayed by the human brain. It is theoretically possible for such mental activity to be displayed by any similarly structured organization of elements which interacted in the same way neurons do. We could, in principle, do it with semiconductor circuits, which involve entirely different chemistry. The chemistry and physics explains how both the neurons and electronic circuits work as individual things. 

The study of how complex networks with particular sets of inputs and outputs and 'rules' for how the outputs are determined by the inputs is a separate and independent area of study in itself, NOT 'reducible' to either Physics or Chemistry.

Similarly, neither Formal or Folk Psychology are 'reducible' to Biology or Chemistry or Physics. They are about how entities, which think and react in the ways humans do, behave in all sorts of situations. The nature of the underlying brain mechanisms which support the mental processes which determine those attributes of our mind are irrelevant to psychology - they could be based on entirely different chemical systems, or even something more like electronics - all that matters is the way the brains they 'drive' behave at the level of thought and action.

Another related example - the Computer Science is NOT reducible to Electronic Circuit Theory, although the latter is essential to the design and construction of computers.

We already have at least one example of brains with significantly different basic structure from primates giving rise to similar higher levels of mental activity, namely birds such as parrots, ravens, and similar.

There is a confusing overlap between chemistry and psychology in the case of psycho-active substances, such as alcohol and drugs,which even Folk Psychology would have to take account of, but while this effect can be explained by chemistry and biology up to the point of its effect on mental state, the ultimate effect on behavior of the mental states induced by these substances is NOT explained by the chemistry or biology which causes the particular state.

Such misunderstandings displayed by people who haven't really followed the processes of science and don't really understand the way the different disciplines work and why there are such different areas of study, are why I have little patience with most philosophy. Philosophical discussion is a poor substitute for scientifically informed analysis, and seems to be more likely to lead to misunderstanding and false 'insights' by trying to squeeze a very complex science-based understanding of reality into some broad abstract theories and principles and archaic concepts.

 

 

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