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Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig
Posted: 30 June 2012 10:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
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neopolitan - 30 June 2012 07:56 PM

Hi,


I note that some here count this debate a win to Sam.  While I don’t fall on the side of the angels on this debate, I truly think that in terms of a debate, Sam lost.


I’ve noticed a few tricks that WLC consistently deploys and was more than a bit disappointed that Sam failed to comprehensively demolish the Argument from Morality.


In the hope that, in future debates, something can be done about WLC’s use of debates to run apparent rings around more rational speakers, I’ve tried to eke out the errors in his various arguments.


I’m probably not the first, and I hope I won’t be the last, but if I can help to get fully prepared debaters to stand against WLC then I’ll have done my bit.


Please take a look at When Morality Arguments are Bad.  Any constructive criticism would be much appreciated.


neopolitan


Humans do not have free will.
Morality would have to involve individual choice.
It is illogical to discuss the relationship between an imaginary god and an imaginary quality.
The attempt to determine the existence or non-existence of a deity by studying the “good” or “bad” behavior of non-volitional entities is an exercise in futility.

Can a god who dictates human behavior be relevant if free will is factored out?

 

 

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Posted: 30 June 2012 11:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
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toombaru - 30 June 2012 10:45 PM
neopolitan - 30 June 2012 07:56 PM

Hi,
< snip >
When Morality Arguments are Bad
< snip >
neopolitan

Humans do not have free will.
Morality would have to involve individual choice.
It is illogical to discuss the relationship between an imaginary god and an imaginary quality.
The attempt to determine the existence or non-existence of a deity by studying the “good” or “bad” behavior of non-volitional entities is an exercise in futility.

Can a god who dictates human behavior be relevant if free will is factored out?

Well, it comes down to whether you are talking about factoring out strong Free Will or weak free will.  If you are talking about factoring out free will entirely (ie by factoring out weak free will), then no, we cannot choose to do, or not do, anything.


But I don’t think that most people who talk about there being no Free Will are really talking about things in these terms.  Instead they are talking about us having limited free will (which by being limited is not strongly Free).  We are free within very narrow limits, as Sam Harris explains in his books.


Strong Free Will is imaginary.  God is imaginary.  But from that we cannot conclude that we are entirely non-volitional.


neopolitan
from neophilosophical

[ Edited: 30 June 2012 11:56 PM by neopolitan]
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Posted: 01 July 2012 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
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neopolitan - 30 June 2012 11:54 PM
toombaru - 30 June 2012 10:45 PM
neopolitan - 30 June 2012 07:56 PM

Hi,
< snip >
When Morality Arguments are Bad
< snip >
neopolitan

Humans do not have free will.
Morality would have to involve individual choice.
It is illogical to discuss the relationship between an imaginary god and an imaginary quality.
The attempt to determine the existence or non-existence of a deity by studying the “good” or “bad” behavior of non-volitional entities is an exercise in futility.

Can a god who dictates human behavior be relevant if free will is factored out?

Well, it comes down to whether you are talking about factoring out strong Free Will or weak free will.  If you are talking about factoring out free will entirely (ie by factoring out weak free will), then no, we cannot choose to do, or not do, anything.


But I don’t think that most people who talk about there being no Free Will are really talking about things in these terms.  Instead they are talking about us having limited free will (which by being limited is not strongly Free).  We are free within very narrow limits, as Sam Harris explains in his books.


Strong Free Will is imaginary.  God is imaginary.  But from that we cannot conclude that we are entirely non-volitional.


neopolitan
from neophilosophical


Could you give an example of a choice you made using your limited free will?

 

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Posted: 01 July 2012 05:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
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toombaru - 01 July 2012 07:56 AM
neopolitan - 30 June 2012 11:54 PM
toombaru - 30 June 2012 10:45 PM
neopolitan - 30 June 2012 07:56 PM

Hi,
< snip >
When Morality Arguments are Bad
< snip >
neopolitan

Humans do not have free will.
Morality would have to involve individual choice.
< snip >
Can a god who dictates human behavior be relevant if free will is factored out?

Well, it comes down to whether you are talking about factoring out strong Free Will or weak free will.  If you are talking about factoring out free will entirely (ie by factoring out weak free will), then no, we cannot choose to do, or not do, anything.

< snip >

neopolitan
from neophilosophical


Could you give an example of a choice you made using your limited free will?

Any time you make a decision, then think about it and change your mind, that is a weak free will event.


The events that Sam Harris talks about in the you-tube clip “Sam Harris on Free Will” include descriptions of weak free will events.  For example, he asks the audience to think of a city then points out that the audience did not call up an exhaustive list of cities from which a particular city is carefully selected.  Instead, a city name (or two, or three) pops into your head.  Even if only one pops into your head, you can make a weak free will decision to accept it or to go back to city name retrieval process.


These sorts of weak free will decisions are probably emergent features, ie not decisions made entirely consciously after careful consideration of all the facts, but rather decisions which emerge from a range of factors including (crucially) the default states that define “us”. 


neopolitan
from neophilosophical

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Posted: 01 July 2012 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
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neopolitan - 01 July 2012 05:03 PM
toombaru - 01 July 2012 07:56 AM
neopolitan - 30 June 2012 11:54 PM
toombaru - 30 June 2012 10:45 PM
neopolitan - 30 June 2012 07:56 PM

Hi,
< snip >
When Morality Arguments are Bad
< snip >
neopolitan

Humans do not have free will.
Morality would have to involve individual choice.
< snip >
Can a god who dictates human behavior be relevant if free will is factored out?

Well, it comes down to whether you are talking about factoring out strong Free Will or weak free will.  If you are talking about factoring out free will entirely (ie by factoring out weak free will), then no, we cannot choose to do, or not do, anything.

< snip >

neopolitan
from neophilosophical


Could you give an example of a choice you made using your limited free will?

Any time you make a decision, then think about it and change your mind, that is a weak free will event.


The events that Sam Harris talks about in the you-tube clip “Sam Harris on Free Will” include descriptions of weak free will events.  For example, he asks the audience to think of a city then points out that the audience did not call up an exhaustive list of cities from which a particular city is carefully selected.  Instead, a city name (or two, or three) pops into your head.  Even if only one pops into your head, you can make a weak free will decision to accept it or to go back to city name retrieval process.


These sorts of weak free will decisions are probably emergent features, ie not decisions made entirely consciously after careful consideration of all the facts, but rather decisions which emerge from a range of factors including (crucially) the default states that define “us”. 


neopolitan
from neophilosophical


The ability to decide between two courses of action only appears to be an option for sentient biological organisms.
Does a dog “decide” to chase a squirrel and does the squirrel “decide ” to run?
Does a human “decide” to have coffee and then “change their mind” and have tea?
Either an animal can choose their actions or they can’t.
What actually happens in any case where there appears to be a choice is the brain reacts in the only way it can.
And that includes its ability to “change its mind”.
The syanptic-interface merely reacts to the circumstances presented to it.
The objectifying mind divides its perceptual input into separate, distinct events.
That is a mis-conception.
In actuality, there are no separate events from which to choose.
After the so called choice occurs, the sense of self emerges and claims responsibility.
If Sam divides the concept “free will” into two separate entities, one weak and one strong, his logic is flawed and avoids the central issue.
In truth there is no actual entity as self; so the question of it having freewill is moot.
The reason the personal identity clings so tenaciously to the idea of freewill it that without it…....it loses its entire kingdom.
There is no freewill….....weak or strong.
What you call your brain will respond to this post in the only way it can.
It may attempt to rebut the ideas presented.
It may even “decide” not to respond.
The last option that the self usually considers is its own essential emptiness.
And even that does not fall into the realm of freewill.

 

 

 

[ Edited: 01 July 2012 09:26 PM by toombaru]
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Posted: 01 July 2012 10:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
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toombaru - 01 July 2012 06:40 PM

< snip >

The ability to decide between two courses of action only appears to be an option for sentient biological organisms.
Does a dog “decide” to chase a squirrel and does the squirrel “decide ” to run?
Does a human “decide” to have coffee and then “change their mind” and have tea?
Either an animal can choose their actions or they can’t.
What actually happens in any case where there appears to be a choice is the brain reacts in the only way it can.
And that includes its ability to “change its mind”.
The syanptic-interface merely reacts to the circumstances presented to it.
The objectifying mind divides its perceptual input into separate, distinct events.
That is a mis-conception.
In actuality, there are no separate events from which to choose.
After the so called choice occurs, the sense of self emerges and claims responsibility.
If Sam divides the concept “free will” into two separate entities, one weak and one strong, his logic is flawed and avoids the central issue.
In truth there is no actual entity as self; so the question of it having freewill is moot.
The reason the personal identity clings so tenaciously to the idea of freewill it that without it…....it loses its entire kingdom.
There is no freewill….....weak or strong.
What you call your brain will respond to this post in the only way it can.
It may attempt to rebut the ideas presented.
It may even “decide” not to respond.
The last option that the self usually considers is its own essential emptiness.
And even that does not fall into the realm of freewill.

 

Okay, you’re being a bit specist.  Dogs certainly make decisions, my own dogs check to make sure I am not looking before they attempt to lunge after a cat.  I’ve never had a pet squirrel, but your example isn’t particularly useful since it’s not a situation in which the squirrel has the luxury of time to reflect.  However, I’ve seen squirrels run past one tree to another tree when escaping a dog or cat, therefore the squirrel is deciding between potential trees to run up.


I don’t know whether Sam Harris divides Free Will into strong and weak.  It sounds to me like the Free Will he is denying is the strong kind.  I’ve not heard him argue specifically against the weak kind, and his discussions illustrate the use of the weak kind.  Perhaps Sam himself can comment on that.


Anyway, I think you are falling into the same sort of trap as theists here with your single minded denial of any form of free will.  Whereas the theist says “I can’t understand the mechanism by which this phenomenon might arise, therefore God did it”, you seem to be saying “I can’t understand the mechanism by which weak free will might arise, therefore it doesn’t arise”.


The major issue that non-theists seem to have with free will (and also consciousness, which you allude to) is that the traditional description of the phenomenon calls on mind-body duality, and this mind-body duality cannot be supported without the mind being something magical, like a soul, which controls the body - most likely via the brain.  If you assume that this is the only acceptable description of free will, then yes, it’s problematic.  But weak free will that I am positing is not related to any form of mind-body duality.


In the same way as consciousness is an emergent feature arising from the brain, the weak free will that we have is also an emergent feature arising from the brain.  I accept that that weak free will may be an illusion, consciousness may be an illusion, and therefore morality (being the ability to choose been good and bad acts) may be an illusion - but if so, it’s a very persistent and persuasive illusion that we are stuck with.  It would be entirely consistent and rational on our part to apply our illusionary consciousness to making our illusory decisions based on our illusory morality.

What we don’t have is strong Free Will (and I think that Sam Harris further argues that we don’t even have the illusion of strong Free Will).

What I am curious to know is, if we have no free will whatsoever, then where does this “personal identity” reside?  It sounds like you’ve made it a helpless passenger, effectively a captive soul bound to a volitionless meat-machine.  I don’t think you can have your personal identity and no free will whatsoever.

neopolitan
from neophilosophical

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Posted: 01 July 2012 10:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
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neopolitan - 01 July 2012 10:00 PM
toombaru - 01 July 2012 06:40 PM

< snip >

The ability to decide between two courses of action only appears to be an option for sentient biological organisms.
Does a dog “decide” to chase a squirrel and does the squirrel “decide ” to run?
Does a human “decide” to have coffee and then “change their mind” and have tea?
Either an animal can choose their actions or they can’t.
What actually happens in any case where there appears to be a choice is the brain reacts in the only way it can.
And that includes its ability to “change its mind”.
The syanptic-interface merely reacts to the circumstances presented to it.
The objectifying mind divides its perceptual input into separate, distinct events.
That is a mis-conception.
In actuality, there are no separate events from which to choose.
After the so called choice occurs, the sense of self emerges and claims responsibility.
If Sam divides the concept “free will” into two separate entities, one weak and one strong, his logic is flawed and avoids the central issue.
In truth there is no actual entity as self; so the question of it having freewill is moot.
The reason the personal identity clings so tenaciously to the idea of freewill it that without it…....it loses its entire kingdom.
There is no freewill….....weak or strong.
What you call your brain will respond to this post in the only way it can.
It may attempt to rebut the ideas presented.
It may even “decide” not to respond.
The last option that the self usually considers is its own essential emptiness.
And even that does not fall into the realm of freewill.

 

Okay, you’re being a bit specist.  Dogs certainly make decisions, my own dogs check to make sure I am not looking before they attempt to lunge after a cat.  I’ve never had a pet squirrel, but your example isn’t particularly useful since it’s not a situation in which the squirrel has the luxury of time to reflect.  However, I’ve seen squirrels run past one tree to another tree when escaping a dog or cat, therefore the squirrel is deciding between potential trees to run up.


I don’t know whether Sam Harris divides Free Will into strong and weak.  It sounds to me like the Free Will he is denying is the strong kind.  I’ve not heard him argue specifically against the weak kind, and his discussions illustrate the use of the weak kind.  Perhaps Sam himself can comment on that.


Anyway, I think you are falling into the same sort of trap as theists here with your single minded denial of any form of free will.  Whereas the theist says “I can’t understand the mechanism by which this phenomenon might arise, therefore God did it”, you seem to be saying “I can’t understand the mechanism by which weak free will might arise, therefore it doesn’t arise”.


The major issue that non-theists seem to have with free will (and also consciousness, which you allude to) is that the traditional description of the phenomenon calls on mind-body duality, and this mind-body duality cannot be supported without the mind being something magical, like a soul, which controls the body - most likely via the brain.  If you assume that this is the only acceptable description of free will, then yes, it’s problematic.  But weak free will that I am positing is not related to any form of mind-body duality.


In the same way as consciousness is an emergent feature arising from the brain, the weak free will that we have is also an emergent feature arising from the brain.  I accept that that weak free will may be an illusion, consciousness may be an illusion, and therefore morality (being the ability to choose been good and bad acts) may be an illusion - but if so, it’s a very persistent and persuasive illusion that we are stuck with.  It would be entirely consistent and rational on our part to apply our illusionary consciousness to making our illusory decisions based on our illusory morality.

What we don’t have is strong Free Will (and I think that Sam Harris further argues that we don’t even have the illusion of strong Free Will).

What I am curious to know is, if we have no free will whatsoever, then where does this “personal identity” reside?  It sounds like you’ve made it a helpless passenger, effectively a captive soul bound to a volitionless meat-machine.  I don’t think you can have your personal identity and no free will whatsoever.

neopolitan
from neophilosophical

 

 

That which you call personal identity is nothing but an accumulation of losely connected memories.
What happens to the “person” in advanced Alzheimer’s patients?
Where does it go?
Are there really several people living in someone suffering from multiple personality disorder?
What happens to the personal identity when its host organism dies?
The sense of being a personality occurs only in humans.
Here it is seen as the gravitational center of a conceptual overlay that occurs when the mind labels its perceptions.
It is the overseer of an objectified pseudo-reality.
It is no more real than the people in the brain’s dreams at night.
The illusion of being a person evolved only in homo sapiens simply because it helps the physical organism survive and reproduce.
It does indeed appear real to itself.
But your dream of being a self last night also appeared real.
Your night-time person and your day-time person have the same origin.
They scintillate only in the electro-chemical reactions of the frontal cortex.
They both are imaginary holographic phantoms composed only of swirling mnemonic debris.
They have no free will simply because they have no existential reality.
They don’t even exist as a helpless passenger.
It is possible to live in a reality in which the sense of being a psychological entity loses its opacity.
Consciousness finds itself flowing along through a mysterious undefined openness.
And that becomes who you are.

[ Edited: 02 July 2012 09:27 AM by toombaru]
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Posted: 01 July 2012 11:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
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< snip >

That which you call personal identity is nothing but an accumulation of losely connected memories.
What happens to the “person” in advanced Alzheimer’s patients?
Where does it go?
Are there really several people is someone suffering from multiple personality disorder?
What happens to the personal identity when its host organism dies?
The sense of being a personality occurs only in humans.
Here it is seen as the gravitational center of a conceptual overlay that occurs when the mind labels its perceptions.
It is the overseer of an objectified pseudo-reality.
It is no more real than the people in the brain’s dreams at night.
The illusion of being a person evolved only in homo sapiens simply because it helps the physical organism survive and reproduce.
It does indeed appear real to itself.
But your dream of being a self last night also appeared real.
Your night-time person and your day-time person have the same origin.
The scintillate only in the electro-chemical reactions of the frontal cortex.
They both are imaginary holographic phantoms composed only of swirling mnemonic debris.
They have no free will simply because they have no existential reality.
They don’t even exist as a helpless passenger.
It is possible to live in a reality in which the sense of being a psychological entity loses its opacity.
Consciousness finds itself flowing along through a mysterious undefined openness.
And that becomes who you are.

Um, okay.

neopolitan
from neophilosophical

[ Edited: 01 July 2012 11:59 PM by neopolitan]
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Posted: 21 April 2014 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
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Newbie poster here.  Sorry for the potentially silly questions, but I just watched this debate for the first time and really enjoyed it.  I had a couple of questions:

1)  I noticed that Sam avoided “playing by the same rules” as Craig, to some extent at least.  This made a ton of sense to me, as Craig seemed to be defining God as Good and for Sam to spend too much time on that endless semantic debate would have precluded the much more interesting topics that Sam was able to raise about religion and morality.  Any other takes on that move, from a strategy perspective?  I didn’t get the sense that Sam was that worried about “winning” the debate as it was set up, but rather using it as a platform for exploring the greater breadth and real meaning of the topic (Morality and Religion or lack thereof).  Craig’s strategy was clearly to try to keep the conversation as narrow as possible to avoid any of the usual pitfalls when one tries to argue for the existence of God.  He brought up some mildly interesting points about morality generally as it relates to humanity, but nothing terribly on point or convincing as an argument that morality can’t exist, objectively, without a God (which one?!).

2)  Why not just ask the question of Craig:  “If we assume, for a moment, that there IS no God (you are somehow convinced of this fact), where does that leave you, Dr. Craig?  You have already asserted that you believe your own sense of applied ethics to be objective.  In the world where there is no God (hypothetical, in your mind), do YOU really stop believing in the objectivity of your own sense of morality?  In other words, if it is true there is no God, it does not change one iota of what we have been doing as humans on this planet.  It has no material effect at all, in fact.  So, perhaps the question is no longer relevant, since we are clearing behaving as though there IS a moral objectivity”.  To which he would respond that there is no possible world in his mind that does not include a God, showing himself to be much less open to evidence and reality than his opponent, Sam, who would readily convert on even the tiniest bit of real evidence.  It’s a small win perhaps, but I was surprised that it wasn’t picked up on.  Too obvious perhaps.  Still - it is a good question.  If pulling God out of the equation (people may still believe, as they do now, but God is proven to not exist) changes nothing about human behaviour, at least in the past, then the question is so academic that it is meaningless. 

Or am I way off base?

Love this site and becoming a bigger fan of Mr. Harris by the day.  I even joined our local Humanist movement last month!

Sean

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