Free Will Confusion

 
frankjspencejr
 
Avatar
 
 
frankjspencejr
Total Posts:  5
Joined  26-04-2011
 
 
 
26 March 2016 18:32
 

After reading several posts on free will it appears that most people are discussing something altogether different from that which Sam argues against. There are many types of freedom, but not all of them constitute free will in its philosophically most important usage.
In a wonderful two-volume tome called"The Idea of Freedom”, Mortimer J Adler outlines three basic types of freedom:
1) circumstantial freedom of self-realization
2) acquired freedom of self-perfection
3) natural freedom of self-determination
There are other freedoms such as political liberty, and collective freedom, variants of the above. But the most important one, the one that Sam addresses, is number three: self-determination.

What exactly is self-determination? It means that with a given set of circumstances, including all the physical/brain states of an individual, and all of the external influences, an individual can meaningfully choose any option from various options apparently available.

This requires that his/her choice is neither determined nor random. A strictly determined choice would always lead to the same result. A strictly random choice would be like rolling dice, and while free, it would not be meaningful, that is it would in no way reflect the specific preferences of the person doing the choosing.

So the challenge for proponents of self-determination is to explain how a choice can be neither determined nor random. One attempt would be to exhaust the possible causal descriptions and say that the choice was probabilistic, that is, weighted by the preferences of the person but with an amount of uncertainty until the choice is finally made. But examined more closely, probability consists of a determined probability distribution (e.g., at present he prefers choice A 70% of the time, choice B 21%, and choice C 9%), combined with a randomization that can lead to any of the three choices, but done enough times will approach the probability distribution. Certainly this approach favors the preferences of the individual without being strictly determined, but it boils down to determinism (probability distribution) and randomization, neither of which offers ultimate meaningful self-determination, as noted above.

A person is not ultimately responsible for a set of physical states that began with his primary set at birth and, through a series of events involving interaction with the environment leading to one new state after another, culminating in his current condition. Randomization, while adding freedom, does not add freedom that justifies ultimate responsibility. And besides determinism and randomness, or their combination (probabilistic causation) there are no other causal options. So it is causally impossible for a person to be ultimately causally responsible for a decision. So free will is impossible.

 
Hypersoup
 
Avatar
 
 
Hypersoup
Total Posts:  688
Joined  24-01-2013
 
 
 
31 March 2016 09:03
 

edit

 
 
123qweasdzxc
 
Avatar
 
 
123qweasdzxc
Total Posts:  1
Joined  27-04-2016
 
 
 
27 April 2016 15:36
 

I believe that self-determination can be illustrated in the following examples.

1. Let’s say some friends invite me to dinner. They haven’t chosen a location yet; but, will let me know later where the restaurant is. I decide tonight I’ll play a game. All my menu choices will be made by a set of rules that I establish beforehand.
Rules
A. I can only choose items from the menu which are divisible by 3 ( based on item numbering or in the case of no item numbers counting down from the top.)
B. If there is no item divisible by 3 in the course- I must skip it.
C. If there is more than one item available in a course- I must choose the second item.

I go to dinner and everything is working out great…. I’ve eliminated conditioned preferences toward certain choices and am having dishes I would have never ordered before… That is until I get to the dessert option. My favorite, Tiramisu, doesn’t fall into one of my available choices…. I think ’ what the hell. It was just a game anyways’ and order it.

In this example while the food I get is random. My choice to implement a system to negate bias was my own; and, when it no longer suited my needs, I threw the system away and ordered what I wanted anyway.
Is this not self-determination?

2. We use self-determination when making economic decisions. Lets say I want a new tv. I have a budget of $700 dollars. Being a savvy shopper, I compare the features on the available models in that price range. Where can I get the most bang for my buck?

In this example I am very present and conscious of my decision making. What features do I need? What can I do without?
Is this not self-determination?

Making conscious considered choices are hard but not impossible.

 
Hypersoup
 
Avatar
 
 
Hypersoup
Total Posts:  688
Joined  24-01-2013
 
 
 
12 May 2016 01:24
 

Hows about inductive satistical models of natural causation? Theyre neither entirely random, and nor are they “deductive nomological”. A sytatistical law would be like smoking causes cancer, probably. Or exposure to UV causes cancer, probably. A deductive law would be gravity pulls downwards in all cases. Maybe Sam is saying laws have to be deductive, or that they are random. No middle ground. But theres space in between.

Lets say I smoke, and I am free to give up smoking, I would not be outright caused in a yes or no fashion deductively, nor would my actions be purely random. Thats in fact how a populaiton works, as a whole. Some give up, and others dont. Its a probability style state of affairs rather than a digital - yes or no - one.

Ok, for the person its yes or no within a measured parameter of space and time. Take a look at then, and they have either abstained or they have not - but without external observation - or observed as a group - theyre like an unobserved electron, or a team of electrons - spread over a wave function for quitting rather than being digitised deductively.

 

 

[ Edited: 12 May 2016 01:26 by Hypersoup]
 
 
Nom de Plume
 
Avatar
 
 
Nom de Plume
Total Posts:  93
Joined  14-12-2015
 
 
 
14 May 2016 07:25
 
frankjspencejr - 26 March 2016 06:32 PM

After reading several posts on free will it appears that most people are discussing something altogether different from that which Sam argues against. There are many types of freedom, but not all of them constitute free will in its philosophically most important usage.
In a wonderful two-volume tome called"The Idea of Freedom”, Mortimer J Adler outlines three basic types of freedom:
1) circumstantial freedom of self-realization
2) acquired freedom of self-perfection
3) natural freedom of self-determination
There are other freedoms such as political liberty, and collective freedom, variants of the above. But the most important one, the one that Sam addresses, is number three: self-determination.

What exactly is self-determination? It means that with a given set of circumstances, including all the physical/brain states of an individual, and all of the external influences, an individual can meaningfully choose any option from various options apparently available.

This requires that his/her choice is neither determined nor random. A strictly determined choice would always lead to the same result. A strictly random choice would be like rolling dice, and while free, it would not be meaningful, that is it would in no way reflect the specific preferences of the person doing the choosing.

So the challenge for proponents of self-determination is to explain how a choice can be neither determined nor random. One attempt would be to exhaust the possible causal descriptions and say that the choice was probabilistic, that is, weighted by the preferences of the person but with an amount of uncertainty until the choice is finally made. But examined more closely, probability consists of a determined probability distribution (e.g., at present he prefers choice A 70% of the time, choice B 21%, and choice C 9%), combined with a randomization that can lead to any of the three choices, but done enough times will approach the probability distribution. Certainly this approach favors the preferences of the individual without being strictly determined, but it boils down to determinism (probability distribution) and randomization, neither of which offers ultimate meaningful self-determination, as noted above.

A person is not ultimately responsible for a set of physical states that began with his primary set at birth and, through a series of events involving interaction with the environment leading to one new state after another, culminating in his current condition. Randomization, while adding freedom, does not add freedom that justifies ultimate responsibility. And besides determinism and randomness, or their combination (probabilistic causation) there are no other causal options. So it is causally impossible for a person to be ultimately causally responsible for a decision. So free will is impossible.

This is a misapplication of probablity theory. Probability is a numerical representation of the liklihood of an outcome based upon very many repetitions. IOW, we performed the same experiment 1000 times and 701 times we got result A, and 299 times we got the result not-A. Whether you get the result A or not-A in any single instance is completely determined. With sufficient controls in place (more exact control over initial conditions) the closer we get to 100% consistency in the outcome. Alternately with sufficient knowledge of the initial conditions, the more likely we will correctly predict the outcome in any particular instance. These statements are implied by repeatability, a central tenet of physics.

Volition is not inconsistent with determinism. In fact volition actually depends upon the reality of determinism. If not for the belief in repeatabilty you would not be able to formulate and execute plans. IOW, if there is a God, he certainly doesn’t interfere with the motions of particles, which BTW your brain is composed of. And unless you have the ability of telekinesis, neither does your mind have control over particle’s paths. Every thought you have is completely determined, and not the result of your will, but just the result of cause and effect in a determined universe. In reality thoughts exist only superficially.

BTW, a dice roll is not random. It is complex, but definitely not random.

[ Edited: 15 May 2016 09:02 by Nom de Plume]
 
Poldano
 
Avatar
 
 
Poldano
Total Posts:  3184
Joined  26-01-2010
 
 
 
15 May 2016 21:53
 
Nom de Plume - 14 May 2016 07:25 AM
frankjspencejr - 26 March 2016 06:32 PM

After reading several posts on free will it appears that most people are discussing something altogether different from that which Sam argues against. There are many types of freedom, but not all of them constitute free will in its philosophically most important usage.
In a wonderful two-volume tome called"The Idea of Freedom”, Mortimer J Adler outlines three basic types of freedom:
1) circumstantial freedom of self-realization
2) acquired freedom of self-perfection
3) natural freedom of self-determination
There are other freedoms such as political liberty, and collective freedom, variants of the above. But the most important one, the one that Sam addresses, is number three: self-determination.

What exactly is self-determination? It means that with a given set of circumstances, including all the physical/brain states of an individual, and all of the external influences, an individual can meaningfully choose any option from various options apparently available.

This requires that his/her choice is neither determined nor random. A strictly determined choice would always lead to the same result. A strictly random choice would be like rolling dice, and while free, it would not be meaningful, that is it would in no way reflect the specific preferences of the person doing the choosing.

So the challenge for proponents of self-determination is to explain how a choice can be neither determined nor random. One attempt would be to exhaust the possible causal descriptions and say that the choice was probabilistic, that is, weighted by the preferences of the person but with an amount of uncertainty until the choice is finally made. But examined more closely, probability consists of a determined probability distribution (e.g., at present he prefers choice A 70% of the time, choice B 21%, and choice C 9%), combined with a randomization that can lead to any of the three choices, but done enough times will approach the probability distribution. Certainly this approach favors the preferences of the individual without being strictly determined, but it boils down to determinism (probability distribution) and randomization, neither of which offers ultimate meaningful self-determination, as noted above.

A person is not ultimately responsible for a set of physical states that began with his primary set at birth and, through a series of events involving interaction with the environment leading to one new state after another, culminating in his current condition. Randomization, while adding freedom, does not add freedom that justifies ultimate responsibility. And besides determinism and randomness, or their combination (probabilistic causation) there are no other causal options. So it is causally impossible for a person to be ultimately causally responsible for a decision. So free will is impossible.

This is a misapplication of probablity theory. Probability is a numerical representation of the liklihood of an outcome based upon very many repetitions. IOW, we performed the same experiment 1000 times and 701 times we got result A, and 299 times we got the result not-A. Whether you get the result A or not-A in any single instance is completely determined. With sufficient controls in place (more exact control over initial conditions) the closer we get to 100% consistency in the outcome. Alternately with sufficient knowledge of the initial conditions, the more likely we will correctly predict the outcome in any particular instance. These statements are implied by repeatability, a central tenet of physics.

Volition is not inconsistent with determinism. In fact volition actually depends upon the reality of determinism. If not for the belief in repeatabilty you would not be able to formulate and execute plans. IOW, if there is a God, he certainly doesn’t interfere with the motions of particles, which BTW your brain is composed of. And unless you have the ability of telekinesis, neither does your mind have control over particle’s paths. Every thought you have is completely determined, and not the result of your will, but just the result of cause and effect in a determined universe. In reality thoughts exist only superficially.

BTW, a dice roll is not random. It is complex, but definitely not random.

You’re both a little bit wrong. Determinism is a premise of most theories. We arrive at deterministic theories by repetition of experiments or observations. We cherry-pick theories depending on whether they have convergent sampling results, and assume that this is sufficient reason for accepting the theories. As the sample size approaches infinity, the reliability of the theory is said to approach unity (100%). Actually, we will never really know this, but we may legitimately assume it if the theory is reliable enough (e.g., “close enough for government work”).

Because determinism is a premise of the theories, it cannot be a conclusion of the theories. A single observation at odds with a deterministic theory is sufficient to demonstrate its lack of complete truth. Whether that “error” results from observational error or from an insufficiency in the theory, we cannot know. Nonetheless, a theory that is not confirmed by each observation testing it is not necessarily disproven by scientific standards. If no other theory available is better able to predict observations, or agree with observations, then that slightly imperfect theory is acceptable by the principle of sufficient reason.

I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. I’m very contrarian, and there are lots of people smarter than I am who continue to tear their hair out over this set of problems.

 

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
Avatar
 
 
Brick Bungalow
Total Posts:  4783
Joined  28-05-2009
 
 
 
21 May 2016 07:32
 

Sam is pretty clear on what he means by free will or free agency. It isn’t anything to do with the particulars of circumstance nor with our relative experience of freedom nor with our conceptual understanding of things like ‘slavery versus freedom’. All interesting conversations but not relevant to his specific argument.

What he means is internal self authorship of subjective experience or libertarian free will. This means that a person does or can self direct their own flow of conscious thought, at least to some degree. They can claim authorship of felt experience and contemplation. The idea that we can think a thought because we decided to think it.

 
nonverbal
 
Avatar
 
 
nonverbal
Total Posts:  1124
Joined  31-10-2015
 
 
 
21 May 2016 12:59
 

From Andy Ross’s blog, here’s an excerpt otherwise unavailable without purchasing a subscription to newscientist.com:

Physics and Time
Nicolas Gisin

I think certainty requires free will. But the search for scientific truth seems to kill it.

Newton speaks of a cosmos that operates like clockwork and can be described by deterministic theories. Everything was determined in the initial conditions. Nothing truly new ever happens.

Einstein showed there was no unique definition of simultaneous events. A block universe dispenses not just with free will but also with a flowing time. Past, present, and future are all frozen in one big block.

Neuroscientists say we feel our choices are free but this feeling is a phantom.

The mathematical real numbers can be thought of as containing an infinite amount of information. Yet a finite volume of spacetime can only hold a finite amount of information.

A deterministic model does not imply that nature itself is deterministic. Seemingly deterministic systems such as solar systems, clocks, and harmonic oscillators are the boring exceptions. Chaos, quantum measurements, and life are the interesting rule.

Not everything is necessary or predetermined. Science does not have to contradict free will. Science does not explain free will either. Free will allows us to trust science in the first place.

This free will does not mean we can invent the future. It merely lets us influence which possibilities become actual. Quantum theory is a non-deterministic theory, but creates a determined world.

This line of thought restores time as more than just a parameter to label a sequence of events. The happening of a non-necessary event, like the result of a quantum measurement, is a true creation.

Time passes, and free will exists. Otherwise, science makes no sense.
____________

Andy Ross: I discuss this theme (as key to psychophysics) in my 2009 book Mindworlds.
http://www.andyross.net