Author Topic: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...  (Read 10238 times)

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keeta

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #87 on: January 03, 2013, 03:21:28 AM »
so, 4 random dudes,that i did not know, or ask to spank or grab my ass, but did, at a club*, all on the same night, and someone wants to argue that god wanted my night to go like that?? i'm going with they had free will and made the choice.


*no, not a strip club..

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #88 on: January 03, 2013, 03:25:07 AM »
So it had nothing to do with their personalities and other attributes.  Their actions were un-tied to who and what they are.

You're saying their decisions were random?
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Offline William

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #89 on: January 03, 2013, 03:35:42 AM »
Seems like they made the popular choice.  The instinct was internal but the truth was external  ;D
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keeta

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #90 on: January 03, 2013, 03:43:48 AM »
zero personalities...lol i didn't even see it coming..not once! like zero conversation with these people..i don't know if their decisions were random or if they were workin as a freakin pack..lol 
lol thanks william, i think.. ;)
i was shocked myself...i don't go out much, so what are the odds that the one time i do...it's like i have a target on my ass and somewhere in their screwball brains think it's ok to just go and touch complete strangers without an invite...is that random, is it learned behavior, these are pretty ballsy guys..could it be random that 4 ballsy guys were at the same place at the same time, or is it a work of magic and my good luck? :P

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #91 on: January 03, 2013, 03:55:48 AM »
Shouldn't this stuff about your night out be in chatter if it's not going to relate to the thread's subject matter?
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Offline William

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #92 on: January 03, 2013, 04:09:09 AM »
The example keeta brings is useful  :)

Could these four blokes have made another choice? 
Would they have made another choice in a different environment?
Would they have made a different choice if prettier girls were present?
Would they have made a different choice 10 years ago?
Will they make a different choice in 10 years from now? 
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #93 on: January 03, 2013, 04:36:58 AM »
I think you are wrong for the reasons I’ve already given....

Super!  Did they address the question I've asked here?

What I was trying to express before, is that for there to be a "free will" aspect to the world, there would perforce need to be some thing (most commonly labelled a "soul") which did not generate "choices" randomly (because that, to me, would mean it was not "will"), but which is also ungoverned by any other aspect of the universe.  This would HAVE to be the case to allow it to make a non-predetermined willed choice.

And THAT is the thing that I simply cannot grok.  Because what is being put forward is a thing that HAS no means of making a decision.  Anything and everything that happens to it CAN have no effect on it, because we've already said that it is outside of causality, so this "soul" thing can only be a rigidly unchanging thing.  If it is unswayed by circumstance and history, it cannot ever change or grow.....and, to be frank, I do not regard THAT as in any way "will", either. 
.....
The problem for the advocate for free will, in any meaningful sense of "free" and "will", is that they must explain both how their choices are NOT causal (or stochastic), NOR random.  Everything we observe, every test we do, only points to a mainly stochastic universe that follws causal rules, aside from the occasional wobble thrown in by quantum activity.

If you think you are right and I’m wrong then that’s fine, but there would be consequences if you were right. Free will is one of the foundations of legal systems around the world. If you say there is no such thing as free will then people cannot be held responsible for their actions. There is no longer any concept of blame, fault or liability. All contracts would become null and void because no one could ever have signed of their own free will. If you want to claim there’s no free will go right ahead. I’m just glad that society at large and the courts don’t believe you.

You seem slightly off base here: the legal systems would not change because we were right (because the nature of the universe would not change), but because our understanding changed.

Yes - that WOULD mean a change in the law - though not a dramatic as you think.  Why would contract law have to change, though?  (To pick one example).  99% of contract law is to do with what is to be done, and the penalties that are incurred if it is breached - so no changes required there.  The tiny 1% you are hung up on - the "signed of free will" - would require some slight amendments, but at present that factor maninly relates to overt coercion such as someone holding a gun to your head.  If it was accepted that "free will" was not an issue, that would very quickly be dropped from the legal requirement, and we would retain the aspect of pressure being exerted on the other person.

Incidentally, how DO you currently test that a contract was signed of someone's own "free will"?  Presumably there MUST be a test, otherwise how could you be sure it happened?  Surely this test is one that we can use to settle this argument here, so I look forward to hearing it!

You've also repeated that "There is no longer any concept of blame, fault or liability."  Indeed - I've addressed that point, as has dioubet.  Do you disagree with our analysis of the resultant change in penalties?  We've AGREED with you that "blame" would indeed become an outmoded concept, so what is the issue?

The fact that there is a penalty for crimes will continue to act as a "deterrent", as it will be another factor involved in the mass of factors that cause a person to react in particular ways.  And in our way, it means that there will be a HUGE focus on rehabilitation and the removal of tendancies towards crime, as opposed to the current system (which you appear to support), where punishment is, and has been, the major focus.  I'm not clear why you think that the current system is better than our alternative?
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Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #94 on: January 03, 2013, 08:09:48 AM »
You think there is free will because we are able to make different choices in what appear to be similar situations.  I've pointed out how this has nothing to do with free will as the situations are not the same ones.

I think there is free will because the common usage meaning of the term is the ability to act at one’s own discretion and in the pragmatic sense that is exactly what we do in everyday life. I also think this insistence by some here that there is no free will or that it is an illusion is based on an overly pedantic interpretation of the situation. It reminds me of people who, upon first learning about atoms, will argue that things we call solid in everyday life are really mostly empty space. It may be true in a strictly theoretical sense, but that isn’t how people behave in everyday life.


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Being an atheist does not preclude religious beliefs.  Scientologists, for example, are atheists (they believe in no deities) who have religious beliefs.  Homeopathy is a religious belief.  Reincarnation is a religious belief.  Neither of these require belief in deities, either.

Your belief in free will is similarly religious.

Religious, as it applies to beliefs, means forming part of someone’s faith in a divine being. Here is what you said:
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Your religious beliefs are demonstrably untrue.  That you believe we cannot be good without them is typical of believers in many religious traditions.
That unwarranted assumption that I believe people cannot be good without my religious beliefs makes no sense at all in the context of free will. It looks more like you mistook me for a religious believer, probably a Christian. Now, you appear to be struggling to mask that mistake with red herrings. “Homeopathy is a religious belief.” Please.


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A non sequitur fallacy would be if I was using your religiosity as a premise to an argument against your position.  I am not.  I am brining it up for your own benefit.

Oh please. Just stop it.


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As for signing contracts, the "free will" to sign them legally is not the same concept we're talking about in this thread.

It’s the same concept of free will I’m talking about, which is the ability to act at one’s own discretion. That is what the law means when it says people entering into contracts must do so of their own free will.
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume 1711–1776

Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #95 on: January 03, 2013, 08:14:30 AM »
Super!  Did they address the question I've asked here?

Yes, based on the common usage meaning of free will, which is what I’m using. Free will is the ability to make choices, to act at our own discretion. We have that ability in everyday life. In a practical sense, we make choices every day.  You decide what to wear, what to eat, what to say, what to read and what to write in posts on a web forum. Some here want to say that those weren’t choices, that it’s an illusion and that every choice you made today wasn’t a choice but a compulsion. Everything you said and wrote today was compelled. You were compelled to write that post above. Every word in it was compelled. If you wrote some words then changed your mind and edited them then that was a compulsion as well. You had no choice but to write exactly the words you wrote in your post above. You had no say in the matter at all. You may want to claim that is how you behave, but to my mind thinking that way is as perverse as insisting that because atoms are mostly empty space then nothing is solid.

How about this as an explanation? Suppose the firing of neurons in your brain is a mix of causal and random events (due to quantum indeterminacy), which, due to the random component, constantly change the pattern of aggregate firings. Each neuron has, on average, 10,000 excitatory and inhibitory connections to other neurons and the sum of the impulses on those connections determines whether a particular neuron fires. There are around 100 trillion neurons in your brain so you can bet there are millions of them involved in making choices or decisions. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to call the ebb and flow of those randomly influenced patterns of millions of nerve impulses free will?


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Why would contract law have to change, though?  (To pick one example).  99% of contract law is to do with what is to be done, and the penalties that are incurred if it is breached - so no changes required there.  The tiny 1% you are hung up on - the "signed of free will" - would require some slight amendments, but at present that factor maninly relates to overt coercion such as someone holding a gun to your head.

Incidentally, how DO you currently test that a contract was signed of someone's own "free will"?  Presumably there MUST be a test, otherwise how could you be sure it happened?  Surely this test is one that we can use to settle this argument here, so I look forward to hearing it!

Can you show me where you obtained those figures, please? I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of a binding contract that wasn’t signed by one or more individuals. As far as I know, it is a legal requirement that for a contract to be binding, the person or persons signing it must do so of their own free will. Perhaps if there’s a lawyer in the house they could clarify this. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know the answer to your question about testing. Perhaps a lawyer here could answer that and also give us the position of the law on free will in general.


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You've also repeated that "There is no longer any concept of blame, fault or liability."  Indeed - I've addressed that point, as has dioubet.  Do you disagree with our analysis of the resultant change in penalties?  We've AGREED with you that "blame" would indeed become an outmoded concept, so what is the issue?

Your responses appeared to address only criminal acts by individuals such as stealing or murder. I’m wondering about the rest of the law. For example, how would we determine liability in cases of negligence if people couldn’t be held responsible for their actions?
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume 1711–1776

Offline screwtape

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #96 on: January 03, 2013, 09:21:57 AM »
Being an atheist does not preclude religious beliefs.  Scientologists, for example, are atheists (they believe in no deities) who have religious beliefs.  Homeopathy is a religious belief.  Reincarnation is a religious belief.  Neither of these require belief in deities, either.

Your belief in free will is similarly religious.

I get what you are saying, but I would use the phrase "magical thinking" or "woo" rather than religious.  For me, and I think a lot of other people, the word religious has god baggage.

When I took a class in philosophy of religion, we needed to distinguish a religion from other ideologies.  It is a categorical error to include, say, the democratic party with religions in the context of the subject matter.  So, we defined religion as a set of beliefs about at least one god and how it relates to a society.  Buddhism was an oddball in that regard, not being strictly theistic.

In this case, I can see where 3sig is being dogmatic and your other examples employ magical thinking.  But I would not call them religious without some other context.
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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #97 on: January 03, 2013, 11:35:49 AM »
So it had nothing to do with their personalities and other attributes.  Their actions were un-tied to who and what they are.

You're saying their decisions were random?
The problem is that if you don't have some way for individuals to make meaningful choices (self-determination), it boils down to "the universe made them that way".  And that's what I have a problem with, it serves as an excuse to let people act however they want to and blame their upbringing or circumstances.

keeta

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #98 on: January 03, 2013, 01:37:53 PM »
So it had nothing to do with their personalities and other attributes.  Their actions were un-tied to who and what they are.

You're saying their decisions were random?
The problem is that if you don't have some way for individuals to make meaningful choices (self-determination), it boils down to "the universe made them that way".  And that's what I have a problem with, it serves as an excuse to let people act however they want to and blame their upbringing or circumstances.

exactly..people think they can act anyway they want yet say they had no control over it, so others should just put up with it...but that's a bunch of bs..tired of people not being responsible for their actions. or blaming them on something or someone else. i don't go around grabbing at random people, then put my hands in the air like oooops!! did my hand just do that?!? weird...i COULD, but i'm not brainwashed darn it, i take responisbility for my actions and know that i choose to do things, it's not chosen for me.

Offline screwtape

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #99 on: January 03, 2013, 02:42:30 PM »
keeta,

your post has only the most superficial connection to this discussion.  While I am sure it would be a very popular topic if you continued to focus on your buttock and the many, many ways in which it has been fondled, I am afraid this is not that kind of forum.  Since that is the case, please spend some time reading what has been said and what it means before participating.  Thanks.
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Offline Skinz

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #100 on: January 03, 2013, 08:13:02 PM »
Quote from: jaimehlers
The problem is that if you don't have some way for individuals to make meaningful choices (self-determination), it boils down to "the universe made them that way".  And that's what I have a problem with, it serves as an excuse to let people act however they want to and blame their upbringing or circumstances.

Let's assume for a moment that our decisions are no more than the sum of probabilities, causalities and our processing of these variables. We are still in control of how we process the information and coming up with a menu of choices. I may want to violently oppress my manager, but I don't. I can use my accumulated knowledge and reasoning to predict where that path would lead me. The same goes for everyone, to a greater or lesser extent; Even in a set and deterministic universe, the sheer complexity of everything dictates that there are always options for a cognitive being, even if the option is to cease existing, a profound concept.

However, I may be missing the crux of the argument. In a matter so deeply philosophical, I'm not sure I can contribute any more than these two cents :)

EDIT: Misquote, fixed.
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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #101 on: January 03, 2013, 09:12:03 PM »
Right.  We have the ability to choose between outcomes, to pick the one we want to go for.  Self-determination, as it were.  What we can do is limited based on what's come before and the information that's available to us, but we can make meaningful decisions within those parameters.

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #102 on: January 04, 2013, 12:03:42 AM »
The problem is that if you don't have some way for individuals to make meaningful choices (self-determination), it boils down to "the universe made them that way".  And that's what I have a problem with, it serves as an excuse to let people act however they want to and blame their upbringing or circumstances.
But what if that's really the way it is?  What if what we do really IS a product of everything in the universe that has happened right up to this very time and place?  If that is so, then the problem isn't with our cognitive ability to understand it, but with the fact that our emotions get in the way of seeing it for what it is.  That wouldn't really be surprising, because all of our decision making passes through the emotional centers of our brain. 

BTW, I'm not even remotely saying that I don't have the same feelings about it as you do.  I agree with what you said.  I feel the same way about it as you.  But what if all the bad stuff the people do really isn't their fault after all?  Maybe the first step in figuring out how to deal with some of the stuff that people do is understanding that it's not something they could control to begin with?  Maybe stopping the future bad things would be easier if we figured out how to change the circumstances leading up to them?  Maybe if we could set aside our ingrained and instinctual desire to hold people accountable for their actions, we might find a way to 'fix' things instead of simply punishing people for behaving in the way they had no choice but to behave?  I don't know.  I'm trying to find a good perspective to look at it from, but its hard to do. 

It is right to use the notion that we don't like the possibility that we have no free will (because then we can't hold people accountable) as a justification for believing we don't? 

Let's assume for a moment that our decisions are no more than the sum of probabilities, causalities and our processing of these variables. We are still in control of how we process the information and coming up with a menu of choices.

If we assume that our decisions are no more than the sum of probabilities, causalities and our processing, then no, you are not in control of coming up with a menu of choices.  The menu of choices comes up in your mind, but that wasn't under your control any more than the water flowing down a hillside is in control of how it makes it around the blades of grass.  It happened due to the previous 14 billion years playing out the way it did and nothing more.  And the eventual choice comes out of it as well. 

I may want to violently oppress my manager, but I don't.

If the sum of probabilities and causalities led you to do it, then you would.  Thus far, they have not. 

Right.  We have the ability to choose between outcomes, to pick the one we want to go for.  Self-determination, as it were.  What we can do is limited based on what's come before and the information that's available to us, but we can make meaningful decisions within those parameters.
 

I would like that to be true, but I don't think it is.  Everything up to that decision led to whatever decision was made and if the scenario were run a million times with everything being equal, the same decision would be made a million times over. 

I don't like it.  I don't want that to be true.  But I don't see a way around it, and unfortunately it's a theory that explains behavior quite well. 

Also, you can't get mad at me for this, because the past 14 billion years led up to this post.  :) 
Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #103 on: January 04, 2013, 01:31:28 AM »
But what if that's really the way it is?  What if what we do really IS a product of everything in the universe that has happened right up to this very time and place?  If that is so, then the problem isn't with our cognitive ability to understand it, but with the fact that our emotions get in the way of seeing it for what it is.  That wouldn't really be surprising, because all of our decision making passes through the emotional centers of our brain.
Sure, we can trace things backwards through the exact path we took.  That doesn't mean that it works to apply that going forwards - that we can then say "this is the only path going forward".  Even accounting for the effects of uncertainty, there's no telling what would happen if the universe were rewound to before a decision-point and then left to go forward again.  It seems logical that it would thus proceed forward exactly the same way.  But that doesn't mean that it would actually work out like that.  We don't really understand how the human mind works, how we make decisions; we're just starting to investigate the field.  It's more than merely premature to draw conclusions about it at this point.

Quote from: JeffPT
But what if all the bad stuff the people do really isn't their fault after all?  Maybe the first step in figuring out how to deal with some of the stuff that people do is understanding that it's not something they could control to begin with?  Maybe stopping the future bad things would be easier if we figured out how to change the circumstances leading up to them?  Maybe if we could set aside our ingrained and instinctual desire to hold people accountable for their actions, we might find a way to 'fix' things instead of simply punishing people for behaving in the way they had no choice but to behave?  I don't know.  I'm trying to find a good perspective to look at it from, but its hard to do.
I don't buy into that.  For one thing, that suggests that all the good things that a person' does aren't their fault either; they had no control over whether they actually did them, it was only the universe and various circumstances that led to them doing it.  I don't consider that a reasonable conclusion.  It's basically saying that people are completely unable to do anything except what circumstances allow them to do.  And I don't think that's the case.  Circumstances matter, but so does the ability to weigh alternatives and make a decision based on what one sees as the best option.

Quote from: JeffPT
It is right to use the notion that we don't like the possibility that we have no free will (because then we can't hold people accountable) as a justification for believing we don't?
That's not what I'm arguing for in the first place.  I don't think it's just to punish people out of vengeance - because we want to get back at them for whatever reason.  Frankly, I think punishing people is largely a waste of time to begin with.  Teaching them is worthwhile, though.

Quote from: JeffPT
I would like that to be true, but I don't think it is.  Everything up to that decision led to whatever decision was made and if the scenario were run a million times with everything being equal, the same decision would be made a million times over.

I don't like it.  I don't want that to be true.  But I don't see a way around it, and unfortunately it's a theory that explains behavior quite well. 

Also, you can't get mad at me for this, because the past 14 billion years led up to this post.  :)
So, you've actually run through the scenario a million times and determined that the same decision would be made every single time?  If not, this is hyperbole.  Furthermore, it's a hypothesis at best - theories are testable.  What you're suggesting is inherently untestable to begin with, because you can't rewind the universe and run through it again even once, let alone a million times.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how much you or anyone else argues that this has to be the case, you can't prove it.  You're going based on what you feel to be true, and using logic to justify it.  You need to understand though, that I'm not arguing based on what I want to be true, but based on what I feel and think is true, same as you.  The difference between our positions is that you feel that everything is predetermined - that a person has no choice in what they do - whereas I feel that while you can figure probabilities of things a person may do, you can't pick out what they will actually do, because they have a say in the matter.  They aren't just passive objects in life, like a rock.

You can't hold a rock responsible if it breaks a window.  But you can hold the person who threw it responsible for throwing it, not to punish them for breaking the window, but to show them that they shouldn't have broken the window in the first place.

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #104 on: January 04, 2013, 01:55:46 AM »
Right.  We have the ability to choose between outcomes, to pick the one we want to go for.  Self-determination, as it were.  What we can do is limited based on what's come before and the information that's available to us, but we can make meaningful decisions within those parameters.
But your consciousness is really just a ongoing series of chemical reactions... Each reaction is caused by the one before it. Let me put it this way, you have a magic window in which you can see your own childhood and a magic remote that can reverse time. If you kept  restarting time at your birth over and over again, would the outcome ever be any different, do you really believe that you may have done something different in the exact same situation with the exact same knowledge you had... If so then you have free will, if not then your thoughts are predetermined, the pattern recognizer in your brain will always act the same way and you don't really have a choice in the matter.
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Offline Skinz

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #105 on: January 04, 2013, 02:35:12 AM »

Let's assume for a moment that our decisions are no more than the sum of probabilities, causalities and our processing of these variables. We are still in control of how we process the information and coming up with a menu of choices.

If we assume that our decisions are no more than the sum of probabilities, causalities and our processing, then no, you are not in control of coming up with a menu of choices.  The menu of choices comes up in your mind, but that wasn't under your control any more than the water flowing down a hillside is in control of how it makes it around the blades of grass.  It happened due to the previous 14 billion years playing out the way it did and nothing more.  And the eventual choice comes out of it as well. 

I may want to violently oppress my manager, but I don't.

If the sum of probabilities and causalities led you to do it, then you would.  Thus far, they have not. 



Let me expand. I often forget that people can't read my mind :P

If we assume that our decisions are no more than the sum of probabilities, causalities and our processing, and the information we receive is also dictated by causality, then we must define free will within these parameters. Luckily for my manager, my personal code of ethics, under the original premise, has also been dictated by causality, in an unimaginable matrix of the inputs I have received in my lifetime, and it weighs in her favour. Since I am the sum of causality, as are we all, the free will being discussed WITHOUT causal links is almost akin to the idea of God, insofar as it is something outside of the logical universe as defined by the premise.

Therefore, what I am saying (I think, I'm beginning to confuse myself) is that free will is limited by parameters at all times. I cannot leap into space. Even within a universe that is no more than the sum of probabilities, causality and out processing, "free will" is as free as it can be, because it's all we have. Maybe "limited free will" is more appropriate, though, be it a contradiction in terms. Or maybe, just maybe, I am out of my depth!
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #106 on: January 04, 2013, 06:47:23 AM »
Super!  Did they address the question I've asked here?

Yes, based on the common usage meaning of free will, which is what I’m using. Free will is the ability to make choices, to act at our own discretion.

So in other words, your definition of "free will" relates to the appearance of being able to make a decsion, rather than the actuality of whether different choices can actually be made?  Fair enough, I'm not going to argue with that - I quite agree that everyone (myself included) tends to operate and function as if actual choice can exist.

But I note that you did NOT actually offer an answer to my question, as to how the third option to causality and randomess actually operates.

Everything you said and wrote today was compelled. You were compelled to write that post above. Every word in it was compelled. If you wrote some words then changed your mind and edited them then that was a compulsion as well. You had no choice but to write exactly the words you wrote in your post above. You had no say in the matter at all.
Yup.  All true. 

You say it feels an odd thing to believe.  I agree - totally counter intuitive.  Doesn't mean it is wrong.

How about this as an explanation? Suppose the firing of neurons in your brain is a mix of causal and random events (due to quantum indeterminacy), which, due to the random component, constantly change the pattern of aggregate firings. Each neuron has, on average, 10,000 excitatory and inhibitory connections to other neurons and the sum of the impulses on those connections determines whether a particular neuron fires. There are around 100 trillion neurons in your brain so you can bet there are millions of them involved in making choices or decisions. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to call the ebb and flow of those randomly influenced patterns of millions of nerve impulses free will?

Call it what you like - and I think that's an accurate description of reality.  But nothing there explains how it is possible for an alternate "decision" to be made given a particular pattern of those 100 trillion neurons.  THAT is what I'm asking you to explain - how, for one particular pattern of those neurons, the following split-second's pattener was NOT inevitable through causality, nor a random result.


Can you show me where you obtained those figures, please? I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of a binding contract that wasn’t signed by one or more individuals. As far as I know, it is a legal requirement that for a contract to be binding, the person or persons signing it must do so of their own free will.
You missed my point.  Yes, the "were you coerced into signing" is, currently, a valid part of contract law.  But if you pick up any textbook on contact law, you'll see very little is to do with that aspect, and the bulk is to do with fairness of penalty for failure, etc.  But that's a minor point, TBH.


Your responses appeared to address only criminal acts by individuals such as stealing or murder. I’m wondering about the rest of the law. For example, how would we determine liability in cases of negligence if people couldn’t be held responsible for their actions?
Very simply.  Did the person take the actions that they were legally obliged to take - yes or no?  And there is your "negligence" right there.  As a result of what a person did, something happened, which affected others.  Ultimately, THAT is the question asked of negligence cases - the reason WHY they did what they did is considered mitigation. 

You seem to want to place blame.  MY point is that although, sure, the person did not have "choice" in what they did, there still need to be steps taken to ensure that they will not repeat the poor action - which may be retraining, or removal from the job (both of which already happen). 

You also seem to continually want to misrepresent my position - "how would we (do x) if people couldn’t be held responsible for their actions" - in that bold section there.  Please re-read my part about action taken for criminal acts which (I thought) was fairly specific that we don't "blame" a person, but that we DO recognise that having taken a particular detrimental action once indicates a likelihood that it will be repeated, and therefore rehabilitation/retraining is called for.  I was quite, quite clear that "punishment" was not a factor in the process, so I'm confused as to why you are still insisting that my view requires the placement of "blame".
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #107 on: January 04, 2013, 07:03:53 AM »
Right.  We have the ability to choose between outcomes, to pick the one we want to go for.  Self-determination, as it were.  What we can do is limited based on what's come before and the information that's available to us, but we can make meaningful decisions within those parameters.

How?  Help me understand the process that allows a decision to be made outside of causality and randomness?

Quote from: JeffPT
Everything up to that decision led to whatever decision was made and if the scenario were run a million times with everything being equal, the same decision would be made a million times over.
 
So, you've actually run through the scenario a million times and determined that the same decision would be made every single time? 

Jeff and I are saying that any particular neuron in the brain will, at any point in time, be in a particular state.  The physical laws of the universe, combined with the neighbouring action potentials, will determine exactly what the subsequent state of that neuron will be.  Each neuron in the brain is subject to causality.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how much you or anyone else argues that this has to be the case, you can't prove it.  You're going based on what you feel to be true, and using logic to justify it. 
Okay - so you disagree that the brain and its constituent parts are subject to causality, is that what you are saying?

You can't hold a rock responsible if it breaks a window.  But you can hold the person who threw it responsible for throwing it....

WHY?  Why is it that the rock, once it has been acted on by an external force, has to follow the physical laws of the universe, but the person's brain does not?  Because that in essence is what you are saying here - that there is something in the brain that can overrule the electrochemical processes that are going on and change their firing rate so that different actions are taken.

So again I ask - can you even begin to describe why or how it is that the brain is not subject to all the physical laws we know exist, and which govern every other aspect of the universe?  Its all just electrical switches, after all, so what makes a "switch" in a brain be able to forego the laws of physics in a way that the "switches" in your television, or your PC, can not?
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #108 on: January 04, 2013, 08:07:16 AM »
I think there is free will because the common usage meaning of the term is the ability to act at one’s own discretion and in the pragmatic sense that is exactly what we do in everyday life. I also think this insistence by some here that there is no free will or that it is an illusion is based on an overly pedantic interpretation of the situation. It reminds me of people who, upon first learning about atoms, will argue that things we call solid in everyday life are really mostly empty space. It may be true in a strictly theoretical sense, but that isn’t how people behave in everyday life.

Oh, so you're a determinist just like the rest of us here.  You don't believe in free will in the sense that Anfauglir, dloubet, and I have been objecting to.

That unwarranted assumption that I believe people cannot be good without my religious beliefs makes no sense at all in the context of free will. It looks more like you mistook me for a religious believer, probably a Christian. Now, you appear to be struggling to mask that mistake with red herrings. “Homeopathy is a religious belief.” Please.

You are wrong.  This really is what I meant from the outset.  Then again, I have no way to present evidence of that to you.  Aside, of course, from my having called free-will a religious belief in the past to others whom I also knew were atheists beforehand.  A link to which I am PM'ing you.

Oh please. Just stop it.

Well if it really was belief in metaphysically-free will, then it would be a religious belief.  As an atheist who doesn't want to hold religious beliefs, I figured you might benefit from recognizing this one.

As it is, you don't believe in that kind of free will in the first place.  A massive miscommunication has taken place between us all in this thread.

It’s the same concept of free will I’m talking about, which is the ability to act at one’s own discretion. That is what the law means when it says people entering into contracts must do so of their own free will.

That is what the law means.  And what you mean.  But that's not the concept of free will that people are objecting to, here.  Obviously people do act at their own discretion.  How anyone could deny that that happens, boggles the mind to the extreme.  Is that the position you thought you were arguing against?
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #109 on: January 04, 2013, 08:09:09 AM »
In this case, I can see where 3sig is being dogmatic and your other examples employ magical thinking.  But I would not call them religious without some other context.

Okay, you make a fair point.  I'll change my wording in the future.  It didn't go over well when I used that wording with One Above All[1] either, and I should have gotten the hint then.
 1. Back when he was Lucifer...
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Offline screwtape

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #110 on: January 04, 2013, 08:18:56 AM »
It didn't go over well when I used that wording with One Above All[1]
 1. Back when he was Lucifer...

Oh.  Well.  As long as it aggravates OAA, feel free to use it with impunity. 
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Online jaimehlers

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #111 on: January 04, 2013, 10:40:59 AM »
But your consciousness is really just a ongoing series of chemical reactions... Each reaction is caused by the one before it. Let me put it this way, you have a magic window in which you can see your own childhood and a magic remote that can reverse time. If you kept  restarting time at your birth over and over again, would the outcome ever be any different, do you really believe that you may have done something different in the exact same situation with the exact same knowledge you had... If so then you have free will, if not then your thoughts are predetermined, the pattern recognizer in your brain will always act the same way and you don't really have a choice in the matter.
But we don't have such a magic window (or a machine that lets us rerun the universe), and so we have no way to know how such a thing would actually work.  The only way to 'make' one is to imagine it, and the problem is that things in your imagination tend to go the way you expect them to.  Because you expect there to be a single causal chain from beginning to end that cannot possibly be changed, you imagine things that way with your magic window and remote.  Because I think differently, what I imagine comes out differently.  Neither of us has actual proof to back up what we're saying, only logic and reason, and such are only useful to confidently screw up in this sort of situation.

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #112 on: January 04, 2013, 11:52:15 AM »
How?  Help me understand the process that allows a decision to be made outside of causality and randomness?
Irrationality.  A computer is rational.  If you run the same program on it with the same inputs, you'll get the same outputs no matter how many times you run it, or which computer you run it on.  But humans are irrational.  If you were to run someone through the same set of experiences (and wipe the memory of that after the fact), I think you'd get differences between each set that couldn't be explained by randomness.  And unlike your "rewind the universe machine", that's within the realm of possibility to test.

Quote from: Anfauglir
Jeff and I are saying that any particular neuron in the brain will, at any point in time, be in a particular state.  The physical laws of the universe, combined with the neighbouring action potentials, will determine exactly what the subsequent state of that neuron will be.  Each neuron in the brain is subject to causality.
There are several faults with that assumption.
  • First is the fact that it's an inherently untestable hypothesis.  All that your thought experiment does is confirm what you already expect to be the case; you can't run a real experiment to test whether your expectations conform to reality.  That's why we run actual experiments, because things frequently happen that violate what we expect to happen.
  • Second is your idea that as an individual neuron goes, so goes the brain.  A neuron is fairly simple, just a path to transmit electrical signals.  The human brain is many orders of magnitude more complicated than that, to the point where we still only just barely have an idea of the basics of how it works.  It's more than just merely premature to conclude that you know how it must work based on how something as simple as a neuron works.
  • Third is the idea that you can measure the exact position of every single particle in the brain and then confidently predict it's future position.  That violates the uncertainty principle; you would essentially scramble the future you were trying to predict by your efforts to predict it!

Quote from: Anfauglir
Okay - so you disagree that the brain and its constituent parts are subject to causality, is that what you are saying?
You seem to be assuming that since the brain is subject to causality, it must work only in the way you've already decided it must work, and any other way is impossible because "causality says so".  The only way you'll change your mind is if someone proves that you're wrong - except that it's impossible to prove that you're wrong, considering that you haven't proven that you're right to begin with.  The fact of the matter is that I don't see causality as a "one-way forward" situation.  A complex, irrational system can cause a divergence in causality, if only because we can't predict the exact course it will take.  If it follows one course, it'll go one direction, if it follows a second, it'll go a different way; but you can't predict in advance which course it will follow.

Quote from: Anfauglir
WHY?  Why is it that the rock, once it has been acted on by an external force, has to follow the physical laws of the universe, but the person's brain does not?  Because that in essence is what you are saying here - that there is something in the brain that can overrule the electrochemical processes that are going on and change their firing rate so that different actions are taken.
Of course the brain follows the physical laws of the universe.  The problem lies in your assumption that the simple cause-effect situation the rock is in accurately describes something as complicated and irrational as the human brain.  If you throw a rock at a window, then the rock will hit the window and either break it or bounce off.  I'll grant that this is analogous to a neuron firing and transmitting an electrical signal to another neuron.  But the brain is more than just the sum of its neurons.  I don't think you or anyone can legitimately claim that they know exactly how the brain's system works at this point, but we do know that it's basically an irrational system; that is, the interaction between the senses, the emotions, and the various component parts of the mind itself.  And one of the things about irrationality is that it is not particularly predictable.

Quote from: Anfauglir
So again I ask - can you even begin to describe why or how it is that the brain is not subject to all the physical laws we know exist, and which govern every other aspect of the universe?  Its all just electrical switches, after all, so what makes a "switch" in a brain be able to forego the laws of physics in a way that the "switches" in your television, or your PC, can not?
A computer is just a series of electrical switches, but it doesn't work at all like the human brain, does it?  If you run your "rewind" thought experiment on a computer, it'll act as you described in that experiment; no matter how many times you make it repeat itself, it'll put out the same results.  But a computer is tremendously limited compared to the human brain.  I don't think we can reasonably conclude at this point that the brain is just a more complicated computer.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #113 on: January 04, 2013, 01:03:18 PM »
If you were to run someone through the same set of experiences (and wipe the memory of that after the fact), I think you'd get differences between each set that couldn't be explained by randomness.  And unlike your "rewind the universe machine", that's within the realm of possibility to test.

This is impossible even in principle, as the same set of experiences would be absolutely impossible to replicate.
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Offline mhaberling

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #114 on: January 04, 2013, 01:11:24 PM »
But your consciousness is really just a ongoing series of chemical reactions... Each reaction is caused by the one before it. Let me put it this way, you have a magic window in which you can see your own childhood and a magic remote that can reverse time. If you kept  restarting time at your birth over and over again, would the outcome ever be any different, do you really believe that you may have done something different in the exact same situation with the exact same knowledge you had... If so then you have free will, if not then your thoughts are predetermined, the pattern recognizer in your brain will always act the same way and you don't really have a choice in the matter.
But we don't have such a magic window (or a machine that lets us rerun the universe), and so we have no way to know how such a thing would actually work.  The only way to 'make' one is to imagine it, and the problem is that things in your imagination tend to go the way you expect them to.  Because you expect there to be a single causal chain from beginning to end that cannot possibly be changed, you imagine things that way with your magic window and remote.  Because I think differently, what I imagine comes out differently.  Neither of us has actual proof to back up what we're saying, only logic and reason, and such are only useful to confidently screw up in this sort of situation.
That doesn't really answer my question... You are different then me, but I am claiming that if you honestly run that simulation in your head you will arrive at the same answer as me... If not please tell me what answer you arrive at and why you arrived at it.
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Online jaimehlers

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #115 on: January 04, 2013, 01:17:52 PM »
This is impossible even in principle, as the same set of experiences would be absolutely impossible to replicate.
I still maintain that this will be possible to test at some point even if it is not now.  We may not be able to ensure that every single iota of experience is identical, but we can very closely replicate the same set of experiences in a controlled environment so that they can be repeated (making sure the same kinds of meals are available, the same activities are available to do, etc).  For that matter, a virtual reality environment would come very close to ensuring that the experiences are the same.

The problem is not in replicating the experiences, but in erasing only the specific memories of those experiences without erasing anything else.  If you can't erase the memories, it's not possible to test for; if you can't erase only those memories, it invalidates the premise of the test.