Wait, can free will exist?

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Oct 18, 2011 8:28 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Do these laws not forbid such a claim of predicting a future result?

A "perfect" model is just the original thing being modeled. If you could account for every factor, then yes, you could predict the outcome. You can't, of course, account for every factor, because you would need a spare copy of the universe running at a faster clip. = )

There's a lot of old junk attached to both the ideas of "free will" and "determination" that come out of religious philosophies. None of it is relevant to a naturalistic perspective. The fact that the universe is "deterministic" in the sense that causality is unbroken doesn't mean that it's practically or even theoretically possible to predict the outcome. There's no one "determining" it.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Twistar » Wed Oct 19, 2011 2:50 am UTC

doogly wrote:Free will in the sense of an agent other than law, initial conditions and probability is just incompatible with naturalist ontology.


Is consciousness compatible with a naturalist ontology?

determinism: initial states entirely determine

Also Ben, Is your point basically that there could be a model of the universe which is neither deterministic or random? Because I agree that there is nothing in the definition of a random model and a deterministic model that makes those two options exhaustive, however, no one has ever come up with a third option which is consistent with modern physical models. This isn't to say no one ever will, they just haven't yet. It would be interesting to think about what characteristics that system would have. Also, the burden of proof is technically on the people claiming the current models are not exhaustive or complete.
But the distinction between deterministic and predictable is important. Deterministic systems don't need to be predictable. Chaos is the best example.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Charlie! » Wed Oct 19, 2011 3:52 am UTC

Twistar wrote:I agree that there is nothing in the definition of a random model and a deterministic model that makes those two options exhaustive


Charlie wrote:Imagine that you could repeatably generate some system at some point in time - like a pendulum pulled back to a certain height, or a human at birth. There would be some extent to which the same thing happened every time you generated the system. That would be determinism. There would be some other extent to which different things happened every time you generated the system. That would be randomness.

[..] "does the same thing" and "does something different" are all the things that there are!
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:04 am UTC

Thanks doogly and Charlie. It is more a description of the predictability over the defined laws of physics being the active agent. The laws of physics may be fixed, but actions within those laws are not (there are random actions). It's too simplistic to break it down to "black and white" when we see the evidence of colour.
For example, in my computers OS, what is the agent of action? Is it the physical law of gravity? Is it relativity? Or is it logic?

Is logic a physical aspect of the universe?

Which physical law do we choose to describe the actions of the OS in my computer?

It is easy to define the physical boundaries of the OS, it's input and it's output. We can describe which parts are acting freely (if any) and which are influenced. Why can we not do the same when talking about information inside physical brains?

[edit]

I just thought of an experiment that could hopefully be an unbiased test for why reasoning on free will has an impact on our actions. It might be one that has been done before.
We would set up a game where there are two outcomes, "win" and "loose". Then get participants to play the game. Perhaps we could have a "control group" that just plays normally, and one control group we "prime" with relevant questions. We can compare the control group and the primed control group to see if primed questions effect the results we get.

Then, we get 3 groups of people to play the game. With the first group we tell them "you can choose to win or loose by how you play". The second group "no matter what you do, we have already decided if you win or loose" and the third group "your winning or loosing is chosen at random".

We can now observe these three groups of people, and see if they actually play differently based on what they have been told about the game. Perhaps a questionnaire after the game asking if they were playing to "win" or "loose" would also help show what was going on.

Interestingly, this experiment assumes nothing about the physical world. It could be a deterministic universe, a random universe or one inclusive of free will. But will the results be different in each group of people? If the results are different, would there be a result we prefer (IE wining!)?
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby doogly » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:34 am UTC

Your computer's behavior is absolutely determined entirely by Maxwell's equations. d*F=J. That is the entire thing right there.
Of course, you cannot look at d*F=J and see how a computer works. (most likely that doesn't even look like Maxwell's equations to you, but that's alright too.) But the point is that anything you have your computer do (including generate pseudorandom numbers) is entirely electromagnetic.

Your experiment would help you learn something about human behavior, and nothing about ontology.


Hmmm..... maybe your problem is with what you think of as physicalism. Perhaps you are thinking of a world composed entirely of material matter, but every so often, when a neuron in your brain needs to send out some ion or whatever it is they do, you are able to imagine some force due to a personal agency getting into a disagreement with Maxwell's laws about what should happen? A physicalist view of matter but not of force? Could that be the trouble?
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:59 am UTC

Ok, so electromagnetism is the same as logical operators? Is that what your saying?

Wait, how can you skip the example of the experiment then try to convince me I'm making a non-experimental claim? Back up a bit. Do you get 3 results from the 3 groups, or 2 results from the 3 groups in the experiment? The 3 groups are "random; deterministic; choice". If one or more of these does not exist, we would expect to have identical results for one of the groups.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby doogly » Wed Oct 19, 2011 12:50 pm UTC

Logic is a method by which you do some reasoning. It's not a law of nature, it's more of a "pre-law."

What I'm saying is that human behavior is deterministic, but one of the things that determines behavior is the nature of the experiment in which you put them. They're sensitive to that sort of thing.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Malconstant » Wed Oct 19, 2011 1:39 pm UTC

Ben,

I would really appreciate it if you could try to articulate what you think our point of view is on the matter regarding free will and physicalism. I get the feeling that you're being dismissive of it by appealing to evidence of everyday experience that both of us share, in which case we would be incredibly naive to hold our views. But I'd like you to try and consider "what if Mal and everyone else here aren't being incredibly naive about this, what if they are actually onto something, though I can't tell what it is because the thing that I think they're saying is demonstrably false." And try to write up an articulation of what we mean by physicalism, determinism, randomness, free will, how computers work ontologically, etc.

I've tried to state what I believe your understanding of these ideas are several times. For you:

When I go to an ice cream shop, I have the experience of choosing what flavor I want. I didn't know what I was going to choose before I entered the store (determinism), and my choice certainly wasn't random, I have tastes (random), I chose my favorite ice cream flavor, because that's what I wanted (choice), but if maybe I felt like trying out a different flavor, I could have done that too, choosing my favorite flavor wasn't a pre-determined thing. And nothing in that description mentioned God or anything unphysical, so I'm still working in a physicalist setting.

Does that sounds about right for how you are approaching these concepts? If not, then what would be a better example, but either way, I'd really appreciate it if you could try to articulate what you think we are saying with all this, and in a way which is coherent and reasonable, not begging the question, not a straw man, not trivially demonstrably false. Just, an honest, reasonable stab at summarizing what we're been saying for ~ 100 posts now.
Technical Ben wrote:PS, doogly, way to miss the point.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Oct 19, 2011 3:21 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Then, we get 3 groups of people to play the game. With the first group we tell them "you can choose to win or loose by how you play". The second group "no matter what you do, we have already decided if you win or loose" and the third group "your winning or loosing is chosen at random".

We can now observe these three groups of people, and see if they actually play differently based on what they have been told about the game. Perhaps a questionnaire after the game asking if they were playing to "win" or "loose" would also help show what was going on.

Interestingly, this experiment assumes nothing about the physical world. It could be a deterministic universe, a random universe or one inclusive of free will. But will the results be different in each group of people? If the results are different, would there be a result we prefer (IE wining!)?


But this experiment is entirely deterministic. I can predict with good confidence what the results will be without even doing it:

The first group will have a number of winners determined by the difficulty of the game relative to the intelligence of the players. The players will play well.
The second group will have exactly as many winners as you decide there are going to be. The players will play poorly because they have no incentive to try.
The third group will have a number of winners as predicted by your distribution. The players will play poorly because they have no incentive to try.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:56 pm UTC

Then, has the concept of free will not changed the result Laserguy? Each person performed differently with the experiment. Now, which way is the best way to play if you don't know which game you are playing?

Run the experiment again, but this time with 3 types of game for each of the 3 groups. A deterministic game (we choose if people win or loose at 50%) a random game (we let a random 50% win) and a game where the player can choose to win (well, just click "win"). Now, will the result differ? We are not looking at how many people won, we already know this. We are looking at what actions the people took! Does this test show bias to a deterministic, random or free will model? If we have different sets of results, do we not conclude there are differences between each set?

Could we make it a double blind test? Would that give further insight?

Mal, even if we have a deterministic mind, by definition we cannot determine the inputs (see true random universe). This is why I cannot see it as being described as determinism. As the mind is effected by the inputs, we cannot "predict" the mind alone unless we cheat and use a non-random universe. Granted, we can create a theoretical universe to predict a theoretical mind, but this is a complete impossibility in reality. As the mind is a deterministic system, built from random inputs, it is not correct to call it random or determined. As it's not random, it seems to work as a finite state machine, which is deterministic. It's not deterministic, as it's actions (and future programming) are based on random inputs, we cannot predict the inputs. If we guess all possible out comes, we still don't know the final state that will happen, only the possible ones. This is not a model of free will, but the reason why I see the two models as incomplete. We cannot get the unattainable "prediction" in any way ( and in theory neither can the universe, physical world or laws them selves).

As there are two many variables in the physical universe that by definition look to be "unknowable unknowns", where even the physical object may not know it's self (QM for example), then how can we say a mind is predictable in action?
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby TrlstanC » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:17 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Mal, even if we have a deterministic mind, by definition we cannot determine the inputs (see true random universe). This is why I cannot see it as being described as determinism. As the mind is effected by the inputs, we cannot "predict" the mind alone unless we cheat and use a non-random universe.


To have the mind be describe as a deterministic machine we don't have to assume we can know exactly what all the inputs will be. We only need to be able to say that if we know what the input is, we can figure out what the output will be. This is like saying that the rules of Shoot-n-Ladders are deterministic, if we know what the roll of the dice is, then we can predict perfectly what will happen. Basically if we make the assumption that the universe is completely random on the quantum scale then we can never predict exactly what will happen in the entire universe. But if we narrow down the range we're talking about, and just focus on a limited part of the universe, like a bowling ball, a car, or a computer, then we can say that they behave deterministically and are perfectly predictable.

Some people are claiming that the human brain is similar to a computer in this way, if we knew exactly how it was built we could perfectly predict all outputs if we knew the inputs. Some other people are claiming that the human brain is like the game of Shoot-n-Ladders including the dice - we can explain what would happen, but can't predict the random component. Neither of these views appear to be consistent with the traditional idea of free will.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby andyisagod » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:56 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:I just thought of an experiment that could hopefully be an unbiased test for why reasoning on free will has an impact on our actions. It might be one that has been done before.
We would set up a game where there are two outcomes, "win" and "loose". Then get participants to play the game. Perhaps we could have a "control group" that just plays normally, and one control group we "prime" with relevant questions. We can compare the control group and the primed control group to see if primed questions effect the results we get.

Then, we get 3 groups of people to play the game. With the first group we tell them "you can choose to win or loose by how you play". The second group "no matter what you do, we have already decided if you win or loose" and the third group "your winning or loosing is chosen at random".

We can now observe these three groups of people, and see if they actually play differently based on what they have been told about the game. Perhaps a questionnaire after the game asking if they were playing to "win" or "loose" would also help show what was going on.

Interestingly, this experiment assumes nothing about the physical world. It could be a deterministic universe, a random universe or one inclusive of free will. But will the results be different in each group of people? If the results are different, would there be a result we prefer (IE wining!)?


Ok so if instead of people we put entirely deterministic robots in your game that have been programmed in such a way that they play the game differently if they have been told that the results will be all ready determined or random or influenced by them. Then these robots have free will and have chosen to play in a certain way despite their choice being the determined entirely by the physical initial conditions of their circuitry?

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Malconstant » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:09 am UTC

Technical Ben wrote: As the mind is a deterministic system, built from random inputs, it is not correct to call it random or determined.


Well great! I think that's a point where we can all be happy with. Noone's arguing the point that the universe is fundamentally random at quantum levels, and that at larger levels behavior becomes more predictable until it can be considered totally deterministic. I think we're all agreed on this point, and that should settle the ontological issue once and for all. Nice talk!

Technical Ben wrote:This is not a model of free will, but the reason why I see the two models as incomplete. We cannot get the unattainable "prediction" in any way ( and in theory neither can the universe, physical world or laws them selves).

son of a bitch.

Technical Ben wrote:As there are two many variables in the physical universe that by definition look to be "unknowable unknowns", where even the physical object may not know it's self (QM for example), then how can we say a mind is predictable in action?


I don't understand where you're finding incompleteness in this. the human mind isn't totally predictable. The structure of the brain is such that it can take all of the randomness of low-level interactions and make reliable results from it. It's like statistical mechanics and the kinetic theory of gases. The particles can be all randomly distributed, but still have astronomically sharp probability distribution peaks, resulting in highly reliable macro behavior, even though down at the lowest level things are sheer chaos and randomness. But this structure is entirely described by randomness in low-level interactions, resulting in deterministic behavior in high-level interactions, exactly analogous to a brain. The model only appeals to randomness and determinism and is thus a physical model. If this is the kind of thing that you believe a brain to be then we are in agreement.

If you want to get into the rich subtleties of decision making and thinking, I'd highly recommend research into cognitive psychology. There is some fascinating stuff that we've figure out about how the mind works, how memories form, what thought is, how decisions are made, etc. That's all the high-level operation stuff, but it's still crazy and an amazing subject area.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby thoughtfully » Thu Oct 20, 2011 3:29 am UTC

I'm not so sure the brain is deterministic. I haven't seen any convincing evidence that it can't have random elements.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 20, 2011 3:31 am UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Then, has the concept of free will not changed the result Laserguy? Each person performed differently with the experiment. Now, which way is the best way to play if you don't know which game you are playing?


Each person performed differently because you gave them different inputs. This is entirely consistent with determinism. Free will is not necessary at all to explain the results. You can perform the experiment with rats and get the same results*. All you're demonstrating is that living things respond in certain ways to certain stimuli--again, entirely what you'd expect from determinism.

[*]For example, have a machine that spits out food and a lever. In one case, it spits out food randomly, regardless of whether or not the lever is pulled. In other case, it spits out food at a predetermined times, again, independent of the lever. In the third case, it spits out food whenever the rat pulls the lever. Result? Rats in the third case pull the lever lots of times, and rats in the other cases don't bother pulling it at all.

[edit]In fact, the original experiment is really only two cases: deterministic and random. The case that you are calling determinism (We choose win/lose every time) is the problem. If the sequence is not known or cannot be figured out by the player, then as far as they are concerned, it is random. Thus they play identically to the random player. On the other hand, if the sequence is known or can be figured out, then the player will play get the same result as the "free will" player.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Oct 20, 2011 9:02 am UTC

Exactly LG. "If the sequence is not known or cannot be figured out by the player, then as far as they are concerned, it is random." However, it is not (it was determined in the game already). IE, it is "undefined" and not random. We have a separate class to "defined" and "random". Why? Because of available information or reference frame. So, am I only asking for a reference frame or available information to be in the right place to allow for a definition of free will?

The only sane action to take is to act as if free will exists. Would we not label that action and it's implications as it's own thing in any other pursuit of science? (We don't go "neutrinos cannot have 3 flavours, they can only exist or not exist" etc. If we get 3 results, we make 3 categories.)

Another factor is acting on the thought that choice exists. If we decide "there is no free will = there is no choice" we act differently. In the case of the game experiment, it could cause us to loose the game. In real life, the actions can be much more important. So which way is the best way to act? If we are acting exactly like free will exists, then scientifically, for all intense and purpose free will does exist.

PS, thanks for the recommendation on the subjects to look into Mal. I do check up on Science reporting sites on occasion, so see reports of discoveries and work done. However, does someone who sees an action, need to worry about the mechanics of it? Back to the example of the sun. I don't need to be able to model the sun to know it exists. I found your reply on that subject to be a rather empty philosophy and world view (that when you turn your back, the sun no longer exists?). However I'd consider other comments on it.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Charlie! » Thu Oct 20, 2011 9:32 am UTC

I feel like you're making one big category error, Ben. You're treating "free-willed" as if it has to be the same sort of thing as deterministic and random. But it cannot be that sort of thing - deterministic and random just mean "does the same thing when in the same configuration" and "does something different when in the same configuration," which is all the things that there are - there's no room for another object of the same type.

So how would you define free will if it wasn't the same sort of object as "deterministic" or "random?"
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Malconstant » Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:22 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote: If we are acting exactly like free will exists, then scientifically, for all intense and purpose free will does exist.

Well, sure, the term "free will" of course came from an observation of human experience. So in that sense it must exist, but that's the whole difference between perception and reality. If free will is to be defined as "the experience of doing whatever we feel like doing whenever we want to" then yeah, that's clearly a thing, noone would ever object to that. We're talking about something else, about ontology, not psychology.

Technical Ben wrote:
However, does someone who sees an action, need to worry about the mechanics of it? Back to the example of the sun. I don't need to be able to model the sun to know it exists. I found your reply on that subject to be a rather empty philosophy and world view (that when you turn your back, the sun no longer exists?). However I'd consider other comments on it.

Absolutely false. If you "know that the sun exists" that means that you have a model of what the sun is. Even if that model is just "a bright and warm thing in the sky" that's a model of the sun. If I saw the sun earlier, but now I can't see the sun and therefore conclude that it doesn't exist now, that's also a model of the sun, the model being that "it's a bright and warm thing in the sky that existed earlier but now doesn't exist." All knowledge about the universe is framed in models, no matter how crude and not filled-in, and you don't have to recognize that you're working within a model paradigm in order to be doing so.

The distinction between perception and reality is a pretty important thing to understand, I wouldn't call that empty philosophy at all.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:35 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Exactly LG.
Please stop starting posts like this, where you pretend to agree with someone else and then proceed to completely and utterly miss their entire point.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 20, 2011 2:59 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Exactly LG. "If the sequence is not known or cannot be figured out by the player, then as far as they are concerned, it is random." However, it is not (it was determined in the game already). IE, it is "undefined" and not random. We have a separate class to "defined" and "random". Why? Because of available information or reference frame. So, am I only asking for a reference frame or available information to be in the right place to allow for a definition of free will?


No, it is not undefined. It is deterministic. The sequence is fixed. The fact that the player doesn't know the sequence is irrelevant as far as the Universe is concerned--the sequence is determined by some rule. Even if we don't know--even if we cannot know--the rule, doesn't change the fact that the rule exists, and the event that we're describing is therefore purely causal. If no rule existed, then the event would be random. That exhausts the possible options. I agree that incomplete information of the Universe (and even about ourselves) creates the perception of free will. But that doesn't mean that our perception is valid--in fact, we have good reason to believe that it isn't, because we know that we don't have complete information on the Universe. Our brains are easily fooled, and will often invent bullshit explanations for things that we observe but don't understand. As Mal notes: the perception of choice that we have is something that clearly exists. Nobody is disputing that. What we are disputing is that perception is anything more than a perception. It's the difference between saying "I believe X exists" and "X exists".

Technical Ben wrote:The only sane action to take is to act as if free will exists. Would we not label that action and it's implications as it's own thing in any other pursuit of science? (We don't go "neutrinos cannot have 3 flavours, they can only exist or not exist" etc. If we get 3 results, we make 3 categories.)


As I pointed out, in the experiment we're talking about, you don't get three results. You get two. Two of the cases will always converge to the same result.

Technical Ben wrote:Another factor is acting on the thought that choice exists. If we decide "there is no free will = there is no choice" we act differently. In the case of the game experiment, it could cause us to loose the game. In real life, the actions can be much more important. So which way is the best way to act? If we are acting exactly like free will exists, then scientifically, for all intense and purpose free will does exist.


No, scientifically, that does not imply free will exists. If a child believes and behaves in a way exactly like they would were Santa Claus to exist, that does not imply that Santa Claus actually exists. Perception/belief and reality aren't the same thing. There is a sensation that we experience that we call free will, I don't deny that. What I (and others here) don't agree with is that free will is somehow fundamental to the Universe itself, rather than just something that exists only within our brains.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:50 pm UTC

How can the random result group be classed the same as the defined result group? Those in the random group "had no law" saying they would win or not. Those in the defined group "had a law" saying they would win or loose. Is that not fitting the "law/no law" or "determined/undetermined" question? If these gave different results, I could conclude which is which.

Those in the third group had the choice to define their own law. I don't see why this experiment requires any thing special. The third group could be acting deterministicly or randomly. However, if they give a different result, how can I define it as "the same"? In the experiment, the random group and the defined group give the same result. If Choice is in a second group, how can it be "the same as" either of the things in the first groups?

At least, I was hoping to show an experiment that favours neither random, deterministic or choice. But via testing, would show if there is one, two or three results. If there is more than one result, do we not have to give more than one description? If two of the test share results, would we not rule out differences? So the test could rule out which model was incorrect?

Sorry, I was not getting at "belief in X exist = X exists" but "evidence and a result of X = X exists". If "choice" or "free will" gives a different result in the experiment than "it's determined" and "it's not determined" then what conclusion do I make? I'm not saying it's fundamental to the universe either.

It could be a deterministically constructed thing, or random. But that neither description matches the results. As the insistence is on "they are mutually exclusive" I cannot describe the human mind as "both random and deterministic". That would be a contradiction. So for an object that displays both, do I not need a model that allows for both? I can divide the universe into individual objects, those random and those determined. So I don't need to model free will in the rest of the universe. However the "self", or just plain physical mind, cannot be divided .It's an object we describe with multiple parts. We cannot have "half a mind". We have to talk about the whole system. So for me I need a model that allows for both exclusive descriptions to co-exist.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:05 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:If Choice is in a second group, how can it be "the same as" either of the things in the first groups?
You're still either begging the question, or failing to distinguish reality from perception. Because the *perception* of choice is different input from the *perception* of no choice, which means the third group gets different input from the first and second. Which means even completely deterministic agents cannot be expected to behave the same way in those different situations.

This tells us literally nothing about whether choice exists.

If "choice" or "free will" gives a different result in the experiment than "it's determined" and "it's not determined" then what conclusion do I make?
You conclude that telling experimental subjects "You have a choice" leads to different results than telling them "You have no choice".

What you do *not* do, is conclude from any of this that choice necessarily exists. Any more than you conclude that Santa Claus exists from the fact that children behave differently when they're told that Santa will give or refrain from giving presents based on how they behave.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 20, 2011 7:26 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:How can the random result group be classed the same as the defined result group? Those in the random group "had no law" saying they would win or not. Those in the defined group "had a law" saying they would win or loose. Is that not fitting the "law/no law" or "determined/undetermined" question? If these gave different results, I could conclude which is which.

Those in the third group had the choice to define their own law. I don't see why this experiment requires any thing special. The third group could be acting deterministicly or randomly. However, if they give a different result, how can I define it as "the same"? In the experiment, the random group and the defined group give the same result. If Choice is in a second group, how can it be "the same as" either of the things in the first groups?


I was going to spend some time explaining why this experiment doesn't work, but I think there's a bigger problem that cuts to the heart of the matter. This experiment isn't testing choice. It is testing perception of choice. Do people behave differently if they think they have choice rather than if they know for certain that they don't? Sure. Nobody is disputing that perception of free will exists. What is being disputed is that free will exists as anything but a perception.

Technical Ben wrote:Sorry, I was not getting at "belief in X exist = X exists" but "evidence and a result of X = X exists". If "choice" or "free will" gives a different result in the experiment than "it's determined" and "it's not determined" then what conclusion do I make? I'm not saying it's fundamental to the universe either.


Well, if free will isn't fundamental, then it is based on some process that is fundamental. Are there any fundamental processes that are neither deterministic nor random?

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby dedwrekka » Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:13 am UTC

I think there's a fundamental problem with applying the properties of physics directly to philosophical concepts. If everything is determined by concepts and principles in physics, then our concepts of free will and what we perceive it as are intrinsically tied to concepts in physics. Free will exists because we have no method or vocabulary to describe anything outside of that system because our will and thought processes are so intrinsically dependent and determined by physical laws. Just as we lack the ability to imagine something that exists in more dimensions than our own, or find life-as-we-don't-know-it in the universe, we would lack the ability to describe free will outside of our system of physical laws.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby doogly » Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:31 am UTC

Ooooh, sweet tasty argument from ignorance, come to papa.

Also, I highly recommend spending more time with geometry. You can easily imagine higher dimensional manifolds if you spend some time on it. Do your homework.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby tomandlu » Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:56 pm UTC

Perhaps it's the wrong question.

Try 'do we perceive ourselves as having free will?'

Going further, I'm not even sure 'free will' is relevant - isn't it just an axiomatic consequence of conciousness? The awareness of 'I' and that 'I' have made choices in the past and will do so in the future? In other words, free will is expressed not in the ability to confound causality, but in making conciousness part of causality.

As a thought experiment, create an exact copy of our universe. Would you expect the 'you' in this copy to make different choices? I would suggest that they would not. However, if free will exists as a scientific observable phenomena, then the two universes should deviate from each other. However, whether the universes deviate or not, conciousness remains intact.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 21, 2011 3:10 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:free will is expressed not in the ability to confound causality, but in making conciousness part of causality.
That's a fine way to understand the existing, physical thing we're "really" talking about most of the time when we say "free will". It is not, however, what philosophical discussions are usually about, because such discussions explicitly say they're not about that.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby tomandlu » Fri Oct 21, 2011 4:14 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
tomandlu wrote:free will is expressed not in the ability to confound causality, but in making conciousness part of causality.
That's a fine way to understand the existing, physical thing we're "really" talking about most of the time when we say "free will". It is not, however, what philosophical discussions are usually about, because such discussions explicitly say they're not about that.


I can't imagine what they could (usefully) be talking about then... Well, I sort-of can, but it strikes me as a very boring game.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Oct 21, 2011 4:56 pm UTC

Yes, precisely. Thus followed this thread.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Anaphase » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:28 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
tomandlu wrote:free will is expressed not in the ability to confound causality, but in making conciousness part of causality.
That's a fine way to understand the existing, physical thing we're "really" talking about most of the time when we say "free will". It is not, however, what philosophical discussions are usually about, because such discussions explicitly say they're not about that.


I can't imagine what they could (usefully) be talking about then... Well, I sort-of can, but it strikes me as a very boring game.


Let's try this:

Freedom: When one's environment does not restrict one's choices directly or through coercion.

Will: The power to act in a considered way based on ones intentions and desires. (Use "volition" instead to avoid creepy Nietzschean connotations.)

These are really separate things, though they get invoked together quite a lot since most moral questions concern actions that are both free and willed. Neither really poses a problem for determinism either separately or in combination.

Free Will: The power to act in a way that is unmoored from any prior cause, including one's own past experiences and origin, but still in some sense one's own. In Medieval Christendom this seemed to make a kind of sense, with the immaterial soul serving as the private Unmoved Mover, but it seems utterly incoherent given the current understanding of the how the world works. It is thoroughly incompatible with any sort of determinism. The idea has such remarkable staying power, I think, because it became the basis of many popular resolutions to conundrums of a theodical nature, leaving many Christians (of all stripes) rather loathe to part with it. Where secular morality is concerned however it's at best superfluous.
Last edited by Anaphase on Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:31 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby tomandlu » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:25 am UTC

Anaphase wrote:Where secular morality is concerned however it's at best superfluous.


... and rather reductive.

Would an archetypal brain in a vat have free will, despite being incapable of action? I would argue yes ("I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space" etc.), but the theological debate that you state seems to tie it into the ability to act - i.e. it's less about free will and more about the morality and culpability of actions.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby D.B. » Sat Oct 22, 2011 1:00 pm UTC

This is a side note not directly relevant to the free will discussion, so spoilered


@Technical Ben

Spoiler:
Technical Ben wrote:Exactly LG. "If the sequence is not known or cannot be figured out by the player, then as far as they are concerned, it is random." However, it is not (it was determined in the game already). IE, it is "undefined" and not random. We have a separate class to "defined" and "random". Why? Because of available information or reference frame.


This paragraph caught my eye. I think you might be interested in exploring the difference between frequentist and bayesian interpretations of probability, as this seems very similar to the distinction you're making here.

I'm not aware of a universal set of definitions, but as I understand it,
  • Frequentism considers probability to strictly be the limiting value of a normalised frequency histogram - i.e. you take repeat samples of your random variable (say observing some quantum event), and find out how often on average each outcome comes up.
  • Bayesians consider probability to be the 'degree of plausibility' of an outcome, based on all available prior information. For example, whether it will rain tomorrow is essentially a deterministic quantity based on the current state of the atmosphere, etc. However we do not have exhaustive information about all the factors it depends on, and so can only speak in terms of how likely we think it is to rain.

When you talk about a "third class" then between defined and random, you seem to me to be using a frequentist-style definition of probability (utterly unpredictable, but average frequencies of outcomes tends towards some limiting ratio) to refer to 'random', and a bayesian-style definition of probability (possibly a deterministic system, but limited information as to initial conditions) as your new class. This is arguably a very sensible distinction to make, though I wouldn't take it as far as to say that there is actually a new option between deterministic and random.

I also don't think any of this gets you much closer to free will. But it is interesting in its own right!

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby qetzal » Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:54 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:As a thought experiment, create an exact copy of our universe. Would you expect the 'you' in this copy to make different choices? I would suggest that they would not. However, if free will exists as a scientific observable phenomena, then the two universes should deviate from each other. However, whether the universes deviate or not, conciousness remains intact.


Yes, but randomness would also result in the two universes diverging. And we have very good reason to believe that randomness is a fundamental element of our universe. So even if this experiment could be done it wouldn't provide evidence for free will.

Technical Ben wrote:The only sane action to take is to act as if free will exists. Would we not label that action and it's implications as it's own thing in any other pursuit of science? (We don't go "neutrinos cannot have 3 flavours, they can only exist or not exist" etc. If we get 3 results, we make 3 categories.)

Another factor is acting on the thought that choice exists. If we decide "there is no free will = there is no choice" we act differently. In the case of the game experiment, it could cause us to loose the game. In real life, the actions can be much more important. So which way is the best way to act? If we are acting exactly like free will exists, then scientifically, for all intense and purpose free will does exist


This really begs the question. We can't choose to act as if free will exists, unless it actually exists.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby tomandlu » Sat Oct 22, 2011 4:46 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:This really begs the question. We can't choose to act as if free will exists, unless it actually exists.


If free will does not exist, then we have no choice in the choice we make. Therefore choosing to behave as if free will exists is not really a choice, so we may as well choose it, since, if free will does exist, then it's the choice we should have made. Or something.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby yurell » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:00 pm UTC

To me that sounds like a (slightly) more sensible version of Pascal's Wager:

We believe in Free Will, it exists = We were right
We believe in Free Will, it doesn't exist = We had no choice in the matter anyway
We don't believe in Free Will, it exists = We were wrong
We don't believe in Free Will, it doesn't exists = We had no choice in the matter anyway

Clearly it's better to believe in Free Will!
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Anaphase » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:44 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:If free will does not exist, then we have no choice in the choice we make.

Why do you want one?

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:21 pm UTC

Now you're just equivocating with the word "choice." We have choices, and the outcome is unknown, regardless of any metaphysical BS.

Edit:

Technical Ben wrote:If we are acting exactly like free will exists, then scientifically, for all intense and purpose free will does exist

All intents and purposes. Not very technical of you.

But people do act exactly as if they do have free will, because "free will" doesn't mean anything.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Anaphase » Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:10 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:Would an archetypal brain in a vat have free will, despite being incapable of action? I would argue yes ("I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space" etc.), but the theological debate that you state seems to tie it into the ability to act - i.e. it's less about free will and more about the morality and culpability of actions.


Theodical, specifically.

The general idea seems to be that God is the Prime Mover for the physical world, and as such His actions cannot be ascribed to any prior cause, and furthermore that human souls are microgods of a sort, each imbued by Him with a tiny little dab of Prime-Mover-ness that they use somehow to push around the machinery of their assigned bodies in a way that is unambiguously their own (the soul being the true source of personal identity in this worldview) and likewise not ascribable to any prior cause.

This then, is what gets around the problem of evil, i.e. if God is perfectly good why is there evil in the world? A soul is basically considered to be an irreducible entity--God was incapable of preventing souls from behaving in a bad way because a soul's Prime-Mover-ness is either there or it isn't, if he could in any way determine what it does it would no longer constitute a First Cause in its own right--so God could only make the choice of either making a soul or not making it, and anything unpleasant that happens further on down the line can only be ascribed to the soul itself, and not to God.

So the culpablity in question is specifically that of God Himself--can He be considered moral if He creates beings capable of evil? The above answer is extremely popular in Christian circles, but it falls apart if individual actions are no longer "uncaused".* If one's choices originate from the normal operation of the physical world then there is no longer a ghost in the machine to sever the causal connection between human actions and the original act of Divine Creation. In a secular moral system, obviously, such issues tend not to come up.

(BTW. to answer tomlandu's question, yes, in such a worldview a brain in a vat can indeed have free will because it still has that little spark of First Cause sending ripples out from inside it, irrespective of whether those ripples are quite incapable of propagating beyond the confines of the vat, or even of the brain itself.)

*The incompatibility between the worldviews is even worse then one might think at first blush, since in a deterministic theory of mind the personal character of an act is considered to derive from its originating (in a particular way) in the natural cause-and-effect physical operation of one's body and brain, while in the above theistic worldview it is precisely the uncaused character of an act, originating from a Prime-Moving immaterial soul, that makes it personal.

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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby Technical Ben » Mon Oct 24, 2011 10:37 am UTC

gmalivuk, Laserguy, I kind of agree and disagree with you. gmalivuk you mentioned that while giving the option of choice does change the result, this tells us nothing about the fundamental aspect of how that choice is made. But if it does give us a result, what action would you choose? Does the mere thought of "I can choose" cause us to act differently than thinking "I can not choose"? I've no problem with that. Because I don't know how the fundamentals work, neither do I need to, in practice. As long as the action gives different results, I take the action that corresponds with the result I want. Why conclude it's an "illusion" if I get different results?

If we get a set of results from scientific method, we model those results as the physical reality. Independently of the problem of "imaginary" reality, we assume the result is reality. If we detect a Higgs Boson in the LHC do we say "oh, but it could be Aliens plying with us" or "it could be our perception is tricking us"?

So, if I get a specific result only when I act on the perception of free will, what conclusion should I make? That "free will is a trick" or "the results suggest a physical reality"?

Remember, I don't have a physical model of Higss Bosons, or of Black holes, or of Fusion in the Sun. Others may, I don't. Yet, I can know if these things physically exist by testing, viewing or looking for independent results. We get the results irrespective of the theories we may have, because the results happen in reality, and our theories are just imaginary. So why should I decide my real results from acting on free will are incorrect because of others imaginary theory that only determinism could exist?

[edit]
yurell wrote:To me that sounds like a (slightly) more sensible version of Pascal's Wager:

We believe in Free Will, it exists = We were right
We believe in Free Will, it doesn't exist = We had no choice in the matter anyway
We don't believe in Free Will, it exists = We were wrong
We don't believe in Free Will, it doesn't exists = We had no choice in the matter anyway

Clearly it's better to believe in Free Will!


Well this basically, except replace "believe" with "act on" so we can get an actual result of the test. Assuming we don't know which universe we exist in, the only universe with a "result" is the one that free will exists in. The only result we can act on is the "free will" result (by definition we cannot act against our will). The other universes give the same result as the one with free will. As they give the same result, they are the same, I'll merge them with the universes that give that result. I'm only left with one universe that I could exist in.

Like the LHC, if we get a result at the energy level of a Higgs Boson, it's a Higgs Boson. We don't conclude "it's an imagination" or "an illusion of reality". Remember, I cannot model a Higgs Boson, yet it's existence is independent of my model, and proven by result not theory. I would want to prove free will or choice via result, not theory.
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Re: Wait, can free will exist?

Postby PeteP » Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:58 pm UTC

You seem to be horrible confused about what is necessary to prove or even suggest something. If you have a situation where "no free will" gives you the same result as "free will" that situation is useless to prove free will.
If we have no free will we except people to act different if you give them a different situation/different information/different input, we expect the same if we have free will.
If I persuade someone that an asteroid will destroy the world tomorrow, I expect said person to act differently than normal. The different behavior of said person doesn't give me information about the existence of free will or about the existence of the asteroid. The same goes for your scenario. We expect them to act differently based on whether we tell them that they have a choice or not and whatever else we tell them.
If we tell people 3 different things in a deterministic system it's not surprising if they react differently to different inputs. The same applies if they have free will or if it's a mix of random and deterministic.
If you want to take it as an indicator for free will then please explain how and why the results would be different in a system without free will?
Last edited by PeteP on Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:42 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.


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