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Help! How could determinism not also imply fatalism?
Posted: 15 September 2012 03:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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KOZ - 15 September 2012 02:33 AM

It is hilarious (the most amazing irony) when people that have faith based beliefs try to engage in reasoned debate. Anyway, I can’t be bothered with where you plan to take this. Ciao, I’m out.

Agreed.

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Posted: 15 September 2012 08:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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BernardoPinto - 15 September 2012 07:03 AM

Listen, I could give you a number of reasons and point to several experiments that show that free will is at the very best highly unlikely

Granted.  I will add the more detailed descriptions of psychological research as described by Daniel Kahneman and Richard J. Davidson in their respective recent books, all of which bolster the case for no free will.  My point is that none of this evidence touches directly upon the hypothesis.

BernardoPinto - 15 September 2012 07:03 AM

however, given that there is no solid evidence in favor of its existence in the first place, what you’re asking is akin to asking me to disprove god.

Here is that logical error again.  If you do me the service of reading on, you should be able to see that both those who say that free will describes consciousness and those who say that the illusion of free will describes consciousness are making positive statements about a known entity.  And both are doing so in the absence of sufficient evidence to support their claim.

BernardoPinto - 15 September 2012 07:03 AM

Also, have you read his book, free will ?

Yes, together with all of his other books.  As Dr. Harris states in Free Will:


“There is no question that our attribution of agency can be gravely in error. I am arguing that it always is.”
Harris, Sam (2012-03-06). Free Will (p. 25). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


I will grant the first proposition, but the second requires more evidence.  What Dr. Harris did accomplish in his book was to convince me that the argument is skewed in favor of there being no free will.  He does this by showing how randomness must be scored in the determinist’s camp.  Therefore, the assertion is as follows:  environmental factors + genetic factors + randomness = 100% of human behavior.  But he is claiming to have (potential for) the formula for all of human behavior.  Our state of understanding does not justify that radical hypothesis.


Thus, hopefully you can see that the absence of free will is not a negation, but a positive assertion. 

BernardoPinto - 15 September 2012 07:03 AM

Regarding spiritual experiences, yes they exist but there’s nothing “spiritual” or “supernatural” about them. They are part of the natural world. If you want evidence just some take some acid or dmt. It’s that simple.  Harris took quite a few drugs when was younger and studied with several mystics, he knows what he’s talking about. Having said that, these so called “spiritual” experiences fall completely under the purview of science.

Alternative states of consciousness is as self manifest a fact as consciousness itself.  Advocating for spiritualism, which is what I understand Sam and the naturalists are doing, requires something more than acknowledging the existence of a spectrum of possible states for consciousness. 

BernardoPinto - 15 September 2012 07:03 AM
TheCoolinator - 14 September 2012 08:45 PM

  My search was in vein until you were kind enough to post those links to a naturalism website

Those links I posted have nothing to do with free will or spiritual experiences.  I posted them because they talk about determinism and how it differs from fatalism.

Yes, but it was more of an argument than a description.  This caught my attention and I took the liberty of reading on and familiarizing myself with the remainder of the web site.  The entire site is well sourced, well written and very educational.  Mr. Clark was quoted in some detail in Free Will, so I found the whole experience quite engaging.  I can’t thank you enough for posting it.  I am in your debt. 

BernardoPinto - 15 September 2012 07:06 AM

I’m not 100 % sure about what naturalists say about the self. But I do agree with Harris when he says that the self is an illusion both objectively and subjectively, And no, communication would still be possible. But hey, Harris is currently writing a book on this very topic so.

We’re having a definition miscommunication here.  Clearly, there is an entity which can engage in debate in online forums and experience alternative states of being.  Let’s call this the ‘self’ for the purposes of this point only.  Even if the self is a cognitive illusion entirely determined by its prior causes, it is something.  More precisely, it is something about which we know very little. 


So, if I say that the self is free I am making an unfounded qualitative statement about its properties.  If I say the self is not free than am doing the same thing.  If I say there is no more evidence for the freedom the self than there is for God – I am making a hyperbolic assertion logically indistinguishable from: there is no more evidence for the nonfreedom of the self than there is for God.  There is a self , the correct question is: Is it an agent or a determined result of prior processes?  Even better would be to ask - what evolutionary pressures caused the self to appear?  Understanding this would likely give us the information we need to address the question in a serious way.

 

Now, you should know about me that I do not believe in either one.  I find both explanations plausible and I am confident that the rapidly advancing state of research on consciousness will soon be sufficient to persuade me in the direction of the truth.  The reason my panties get all twisted up on this issue is that I see Dr. Harris and the naturalist making statements of fact on insufficient evidence.  That is a circumstance which is always intolerable – as Sam originally convinced me.  But it is abominable for Sam Harris, of all people, to be engaging in this error.  And that is why I am so worked up.  If you can help me to understand this, I will be even further in your debt. 

 

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Posted: 16 September 2012 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 15 September 2012 08:56 PM


Here is that logical error again.  If you do me the service of reading on, you should be able to see that both those who say that free will describes consciousness and those who say that the illusion of free will describes consciousness are making positive statements about a known entity.  And both are doing so in the absence of sufficient evidence to support their claim.

There is only one piece of evidence in favor of free will and that is our subjective sense of freedom. But that is very easily explained. In reality, there is no solid evidence whatsoever in favor of free will and a lot of evidence against it.  Now, if you want, you can say that I can’t really be sure that free will exists, that I should be agnostic about it, and so forth…

However, If you do that ,you’re simply revealing a lack of understanding of how knowledge works. Knowledge is probabilistic in nature. I’m just as agnostic about free will as you are about Santa Claus.

TheCoolinator - 15 September 2012 08:56 PM

“There is no question that our attribution of agency can be gravely in error. I am arguing that it always is.”
Harris, Sam (2012-03-06). Free Will (p. 25). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I picked my book and couldn’t find that quote. Then I noticed that you have the kindle edition and I have the physical version.
Since I can’t find that quote, I can’t comment on it. What I did find on page 25 was free will destroyed in just two sentences:

How can we be “free” as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware ?

Thus, hopefully you can see that the absence of free will is not a negation, but a positive assertion.

It really isn’t. It’s just a rejection of an unsupported belief. And if you think that we should then be just agnostics about it see my first point in this post.

As a side note, do you assert that god doesn’t exist or just that he is highly unlikely to exist ? Because if you assert that he doesn’t exist, your argument is self-defeating.

Alternative states of consciousness is as self manifest a fact as consciousness itself.  Advocating for spiritualism, which is what I understand Sam and the naturalists are doing, requires something more than acknowledging the existence of a spectrum of possible states for consciousness.

I can assure you that Sam never claimed anything beyond the fact that there’s a spectrum of possibilities in terms of states of consciousness that we should explore. Publicly, at least. He has experienced some of those states, sometimes with the help of drugs, other times with the help of meditation. He has spoken about dropping his sense of self and about turning off the inner dialogue. That’s it. He doesn’t claim that there’s something magical about the brain or that these experiences resulted in him being privy to secret knowledge about the cosmos.

 

We’re having a definition miscommunication here.  Clearly, there is an entity which can engage in debate in online forums and experience alternative states of being.


Here lies the problem. This so called “entity” is actually completely fragmented. There are a bunch of variables, namely physical variables that come into play but there isn’t an entity.  Take something as “simple” as making a decision. Can you imagine how how many variables play into that?  A higher quantity of testosterone, for instance, will make you less averse to risk. A simple change in testosterone will do that. Notice that not only do you not identify with testosterone (you don’t feel like you are testosterone) but also that testosterone is just one variable. Imagine all the other variables, all the brain processes, all the cognitive representations, all the chemicals reacting and so forth…

If I say there is no more evidence for the freedom the self than there is for God – I am making a hyperbolic assertion logically indistinguishable from:

I have no idea how you reached that conclusion.
Evidence for free will - subjective experience of freedom (easily explained)
Evidence for god - none.

Now, you should know about me that I do not believe in either one.  I find both explanations plausible and I am confident that the rapidly advancing state of research on consciousness will soon be sufficient to persuade me in the direction of the truth.  The reason my panties get all twisted up on this issue is that I see Dr. Harris and the naturalist making statements of fact on insufficient evidence..

I think Tom Clark believes in free will. Not sure about other naturalists though.

 

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Posted: 16 September 2012 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 06:43 AM

I think Tom Clark believes in free will. Not sure about other naturalists though.

This is unlikely based on his website.  http://www.naturalism.org/horgan.htm#losingfaith.  See his dialogue with Horgan.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 09:01 AM

 

 

This is unlikely based on his website.  http://www.naturalism.org/horgan.htm#losingfaith.  See his dialogue with Horgan.

Check page 20 and 21 of Harris’s Free Will.

Clark seems to have a confusing and convoluted view of free will.
On one hand he denies contra causal free will but then adds that non-conscious processes are just as much “I” as consciousness.
He seems to hold a view somewhat similar to Dennet´s ..?

Anyway, no time to get into that right now.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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Just a few highlights to show what I hope you will agree is the chief point of disagreement between us:

BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 06:43 AM

However, If you do that ,you’re simply revealing a lack of understanding of how knowledge works. Knowledge is probabilistic in nature. I’m just as agnostic about free will as you are about Santa Claus.
———-
Since I can’t find that quote, I can’t comment on it. What I did find on page 25 was free will destroyed in just two sentences:

How can we be “free” as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware ?
————
Evidence for free will - subjective experience of freedom (easily explained)
Evidence for god - none.

You are putting me in the camp of libertarian free will.  That straw man is quite dead, so I sympathize with why you would prefer to argue with him.  Unfortunately for you, I need make no supernatural postulates in order to allow for the possibility of free will.  Such a phenomenon could have arisen from natural selection so it is a reasonable explanation for the freedom of consciousness.  If it did, that would violate the string of determinism and the whole theory would come tumbling down.  I agree that determinism explains the universe up through the emergence of life, but I am forced to allow that the unique properties of life may have broken the string of causality and introduced a new, previously undetermined cause.  You can only deny this possibility by returning to your faith in determinism.


Your Sam Harris quote above highlights my point beautifully.  The important phrase there is “if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend.”  Agreed.  However, that statement shows that he is relying on the assumption of determinism.  Determinism is being adopted on faith in all of the arguments against free will.  So you see, my position is the only one in this debate which takes nothing on faith. 


When we better understand the nature of consciousness and/or the origins of life, these questions will be answered and the determinists may well turn out to be right.  So why do naturalists insist on violating their own principals by rushing out ahead of the evidence on this question? When some string theorists did this they caused serious long term harm to the respect afforded to their theory.  Most string theorists now have enough confidence to avoid that error and await the vindication they believe is coming to them.  There is a lesson there for the determinists. 

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Posted: 16 September 2012 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 09:56 AM

Check page 20 and 21 of Harris’s Free Will.

Clark seems to have a confusing and convoluted view of free will.
On one hand he denies contra causal free will but then adds that non-conscious processes are just as much “I” as consciousness.
He seems to hold a view somewhat similar to Dennet´s ..?

Anyway, no time to get into that right now.

I think you may be confusing freedom of will which I believe Harris and Clark deny with social freedom, which they both advocate for moral and practical reasons.  If I understand the situation correctly, they both take exception to Dennett’s remarks on the topic.


I join you in not being familiar with Dennett, but this discussion is convincing me of the urgency of curing that failing.  It appears increasingly likely that I may have ally there.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 12:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 11:27 AM
BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 09:56 AM

Check page 20 and 21 of Harris’s Free Will.

Clark seems to have a confusing and convoluted view of free will.
On one hand he denies contra causal free will but then adds that non-conscious processes are just as much “I” as consciousness.
He seems to hold a view somewhat similar to Dennet´s ..?

Anyway, no time to get into that right now.

I think you may be confusing freedom of will which I believe Harris and Clark deny with social freedom, which they both advocate for moral and practical reasons.  If I understand the situation correctly, they both take exception to Dennett’s remarks on the topic.


I join you in not being familiar with Dennett, but this discussion is convincing me of the urgency of curing that failing.  It appears increasingly likely that I may have ally there.

 


Is it truth you seek or agreement?

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Posted: 16 September 2012 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 11:20 AM

You are putting me in the camp of libertarian free will.  That straw man is quite dead, so I sympathize with why you would prefer to argue with him.

Maybe, it’s best if you define the free will you’re defending.

TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 11:20 AM

Such a phenomenon could have arisen from natural selection

Could it though ? I very much doubt that and have never seen a compelling argument that supports that assertion.

I agree that determinism explains the universe up through the emergence of life, but I am forced to allow that the unique properties of life may have broken the string of causality

The “unique” properties of life ? You’re starting to sound like a theologian. Don’t hide behind non- specific language.

You can only deny this possibility by returning to your faith in determinism.

Erm….no. I can deny it because if determinism is true, then your hypothesis is logically inconsistent.
Also, while I do think determinism is true, I’m open to evidence that supports randomness.
Unfortunately for those who want free will to be true, determinism is completely irrelevant to this debate. Free will is impossible regardless of what kind of universe we live in, deterministic, random or something in between.

These accusations of faith are a bit ridiculous.

Your Sam Harris quote above highlights my point beautifully.  The important phrase there is “if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend.”  Agreed.  However, that statement shows that he is relying on the assumption of determinism.  Determinism is being adopted on faith in all of the arguments against free will.  So you see, my position is the only one in this debate which takes nothing on faith.

Now I’m really starting to wonder if you really read “Free Will”. In it, Sam explains that it doesn’t matter if things are determined, random or probabilistically inclined..it’s absolutely irrelevant to the free will debate. How can you have read the book and make the mistake of thinking that Sam’s case is dependent on determinism being true?

 

[ Edited: 16 September 2012 12:32 PM by BernardoPinto]
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Posted: 16 September 2012 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 11:27 AM

I think you may be confusing freedom of will which I believe Harris and Clark deny with social freedom,

I’m not. Trust me. I’ve had countless debates about free will.

I’m not a big fan of the so called “freedom to act” either but I do know what it means and it has nothing to do with contra causal free will.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 12:28 PM
TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 11:20 AM

Such a phenomenon could have arisen from natural selection

Could it though ? I very much doubt that and have never seen a compelling argument that supports that assertion.

Perhaps this will fit the bill.  http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/16891/P90/#222481  Obviously, I am allowing myself the assumption that the ability to make an arbitrary choice is possible, but given the mind boggling inventory of the history of Earth’s biomass, I don’t think I’m making a ridiculous leap there.

BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 12:28 PM

I agree that determinism explains the universe up through the emergence of life, but I am forced to allow that the unique properties of life may have broken the string of causality

The “unique” properties of life ? You’re starting to sound like a theologian. Don’t hide behind non- specific language.

Really?  This is biology 101 stuff, my friend.  I got this http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_seven_properties_of_life from a quick google search. 

BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 12:28 PM

You can only deny this possibility by returning to your faith in determinism.

Erm….no. I can deny it because if determinism is true (emphasis coolinator), then your hypothesis is logically inconsistent.

Ahem.

BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 12:28 PM

Now I’m really starting to wonder if you really read “Free Will”. In it, Sam explains that it doesn’t matter if things are determined, random or probabilistically inclined..it’s absolutely irrelevant to the free will debate. How can you have read the book and make the mistake of thinking that Sam’s case is dependent on determinism being true?

Given your superior understanding of Sam’s meaning as expressed in Free Will, you may be the best person explain to me specifically how randomness lies outside of determinism.  I erroneously took Sam to lump randomness, which is governed by known mathematical laws, with determinism:


What I will do next, and why, remains, at bottom, a mystery— one that is fully determined by the prior state of the universe and the laws of nature (including the contributions of chance).
Harris, Sam (2012-03-06). Free Will (p. 40). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


What’s more, if you place randomness outside of the deterministic model, it seems to me to become logically absurd since randomness is not an idea whose reality is under question.  If we couldn’t account for it mathematically, we could never reliably determine any future event even given a perfect knowledge of the state and nature of every force and matter particle/string in the universe.  Or am I missing something here?

[ Edited: 16 September 2012 05:35 PM by TheCoolinator]
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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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BernardoPinto - 16 September 2012 12:30 PM
TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 11:27 AM

I think you may be confusing freedom of will which I believe Harris and Clark deny with social freedom,

I’m not. Trust me. I’ve had countless debates about free will.

I’m not a big fan of the so called “freedom to act” either but I do know what it means and it has nothing to do with contra causal free will.

I only meant to suggest you may have mistaken a Clark reference to “freedom to act” which he supports, for a reference to “free will” which he does not.  Of course, my understanding of Clark is limited at best.  In any case, I was only trying to be helpful.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 05:30 PM


Perhaps this will fit the bill.  http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/16891/P90/#222481

“in an infinite universe, anything that is not prohibited from happening, must happen.” 

Is that your argument ? Free will certainly falls under the “prohibited” phenomena given that it is logically inconsistent. Contra-causal free will, that is.

Obviously, I am allowing myself the assumption that the ability to make an arbitrary choice is possible, but given the mind boggling inventory of the history of Earth’s biomass, I don’t think I’m making a ridiculous leap there.

I don’t really understand where you’re going with this. How would a random choice signify or give birth to free will ?

Really?  This is biology 101 stuff, my friend.  I got this http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_seven_properties_of_life from a quick google search.

I’m certainly aware of the facts on that list (although one of them seems to be wrong) but I didn’t know there was actually a list called properties of life.

Ahem.

Let’s take a step back.

You said this : but I am forced to allow that the unique properties of life may have broken the string of causality and introduced a new, previously undetermined cause.

This is a completely self-defeating argument.  If determinism is true, then what you’re proposing is, by definition, not possible. if determinism is not true (and it may not be) then there is no string of causality that gets broken.

 

Given your superior understanding of Sam’s meaning as expressed in Free Will, you may be the best person explain to me specifically how randomness lies outside of determinism.  I erroneously took Sam to lump randomness, which is governed by known mathematical laws, with determinism:


This is not about superior understanding. The words are there, written on the page, for everyone to see and the meaning seems to be unequivocally obvious.

Also, what exactly do you mean by randomness being outside of determinism ?

 

 

 

 

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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 16 September 2012 05:39 PM

I only meant to suggest you may have mistaken a Clark reference to “freedom to act” which he supports, for a reference to “free will” which he does not.  Of course, my understanding of Clark is limited at best.  In any case, I was only trying to be helpful.

Well, if I understand correctly, Clark denies that we have contra causal free will but then says that we do have free will because the “part of us ” that is not free is still part of us or some such nonsense.

Of course this arguments falls completely flat ...

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Posted: 16 September 2012 07:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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Thank you for your time, sir.  I’m content to let this record stand as it is.

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