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Sam’s new thoughts on free will
Posted: 09 September 2012 09:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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ncarver - 09 September 2012 09:00 PM
TheCoolinator - 09 September 2012 08:25 PM

I assume you haven’t read the Moral Landscape, on which Sam builds some very good arguments that answer the dilemma you raised about value.  The absence of free will doesn’t do away with our interests and ability to experience pleasure and pain and other states on the spectrum of well being.  Therefore, we can still achieve morality and motivation for action. 

I think that he would concede that, no, you don’t have any choice in your credulity or work ethic - but you’ve clearly got some of both or you wouldn’t be on his forum trying to parse his arguments.  That having been said, and as I’ve said elsewhere, I take it as given that our minds are infused either with free will or the illusion of free will.  Whichever it is, I’ve seen no evidence for preferring one explanation to the other.

I’m about half way through Moral Landscape, but I have the same issue there. I don’t really feel his arguments about morality and motivation without freewill as compelling as the arguments against faith or religion as a basis for morality. I’ll continue reading and rereading it, but as much as I agree with Sam’s fundamental theses, I still find many of his arguments more statements to be accepted than logical arguments.


If one does not choose their actions, there could be no such thing as morality.

 

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Posted: 09 September 2012 10:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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ncarver - 09 September 2012 09:00 PM

I’m about half way through Moral Landscape, but I have the same issue there. I don’t really feel his arguments about morality and motivation without freewill as compelling as the arguments against faith or religion as a basis for morality. I’ll continue reading and rereading it, but as much as I agree with Sam’s fundamental theses, I still find many of his arguments more statements to be accepted than logical arguments.

Whether or not free will exists cannot be determined by how useful it is to us.  If it does not exist we are going to have to wrestle with those issues whether we like it or not.  I for one found his arguments for morality without free will very convincing.  I suggest you spend some time considering life under the assumption that there is no free will to see whether you agree.  It isn’t a very difficult mental exercise, but it is very instructive.  Even if you don’t have a self or the freedom of will, you will still have to contend with the illusion of those phenomena, which are pervasive.  I think you’ll find that it doesn’t change much one way or the other, which is why I am bored with the inquiry. 

However, what does get my panties all knotted up is the weakness of Sam’s arguments for stating that he is so certain that we don’t have free will.  For a man who made is fortune chiding people for accepting propositions on insufficient evidence, I’m appalled at his fanatacism on the topic.  I am worried that he is being influenced by his affinity for spiritualism attained through mindfulness meditation and that that is wearing down his commitment to rationality.  Given the certainty he has and the flimsiness of his proof, I can see no explanation for his belief other than faith. 

 

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Posted: 09 September 2012 10:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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toombaru - 09 September 2012 08:50 PM
TheCoolinator - 09 September 2012 08:30 PM
toombaru - 09 September 2012 08:09 PM

You had no choice but to respond.
Try to stop reading right now if you can and ignore what is written below.

 

I accept your challenge.


I have to tell you that the answer you seek came after that.

Nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!  Cruel, cruel master!  To deny me wisdom through so clever a trick!  Would that I had read!  Would that I had READ!

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Posted: 09 September 2012 10:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 09 September 2012 10:14 PM

Nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!  Cruel, cruel master!  To deny me wisdom through so clever a trick!  Would that I had read!  Would that I had READ!

I apologize for that.  I’m just having fun with the back and forth at this point.  I consider myself to have won this debate when you asked me if I could offer proof for the existence of free will.  I read that as I do the deists challenge that I offer proof that God doesn’t exist.  I’m not the one making assertions, so the burden of proof doesn’t rest on me.  This is the unrelenting advantage of skepticism.

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Posted: 10 September 2012 12:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 09 September 2012 10:23 PM
TheCoolinator - 09 September 2012 10:14 PM

Nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!  Cruel, cruel master!  To deny me wisdom through so clever a trick!  Would that I had read!  Would that I had READ!

I apologize for that.  I’m just having fun with the back and forth at this point.  I consider myself to have won this debate when you asked me if I could offer proof for the existence of free will.  I read that as I do the deists challenge that I offer proof that God doesn’t exist.  I’m not the one making assertions, so the burden of proof doesn’t rest on me.  This is the unrelenting advantage of skepticism.


It is fun isn’t it…....playing in the brain’s thought stream.
But I’m afraid that the burden of proof lies on the one who asserts the presence of something not on the one who doubts.
It cannot be proven that something doesn’t exist.

 

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Posted: 10 September 2012 02:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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toombaru - 09 September 2012 05:35 PM
Hunt Stoddard - 09 September 2012 04:40 PM
toombaru - 09 September 2012 02:54 PM

It is impossible to discuss how things would be without something that doesn’t exist.

Discussing how things would be without something that doesn’t exist is the same as discussing how things are, but that’s not the point because the discussion is about how things would be without lending credence to the “notion of free will,” which does exist.


If free will doesn’t exist, that wouldn’t be a volitional option.
So maybe one has to just sit and wait until the understanding that free will doesn’t exist dawns….......oh…....wait a minute….......that’s not an option either.

:-0

Volition (will) and free will are not the same, it’s just that without free will your volition is not free, but preordained by prior circumstances.  The phenomenology or “feeling” of volition (or “will”) is still there, but it is not free for the reason that freedom implies a break in causality.  For volition to be free in the sense of free will means there is no causal chain prior to it, there is no causality at all prior to it, not even within your own brain/mind/will.  Otherwise it would not be free.  It springs from nowhere.  It simply pops into existence, which is ridiculous and is why Harris calls it an incoherent concept.

“...that’s not an option either.”
And why would that not be an option?  Perhaps Sam, and everyone else who doesn’t believe in free will, was just preordained to realize that free will doesn’t exist.  I know I’m sort of conflating lack of free will and determinism for the sake of the argument.

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Posted: 10 September 2012 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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I am trying to wrap my brain around the gap between having the potential to do X and doing or not doing X.  You say:
“Of course, I’m not saying that you can become a surgeon by accident—you must do many things, deliberately and well, and in the appropriate sequence, year after year. Becoming a surgeon requires effort.”
What is the essence of a deliberate action versus one we have no control over?  It seems there is some special sauce being applied on top of potential, which allows the bearer of potential to realize that potential.  What is the special sauce if not free will?

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Posted: 10 September 2012 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Hunt Stoddard - 10 September 2012 02:08 AM
toombaru - 09 September 2012 05:35 PM
Hunt Stoddard - 09 September 2012 04:40 PM
toombaru - 09 September 2012 02:54 PM

It is impossible to discuss how things would be without something that doesn’t exist.

Discussing how things would be without something that doesn’t exist is the same as discussing how things are, but that’s not the point because the discussion is about how things would be without lending credence to the “notion of free will,” which does exist.


If free will doesn’t exist, that wouldn’t be a volitional option.
So maybe one has to just sit and wait until the understanding that free will doesn’t exist dawns….......oh…....wait a minute….......that’s not an option either.

:-0

Volition (will) and free will are not the same, it’s just that without free will your volition is not free, but preordained by prior circumstances.  The phenomenology or “feeling” of volition (or “will”) is still there, but it is not free for the reason that freedom implies a break in causality.  For volition to be free in the sense of free will means there is no causal chain prior to it, there is no causality at all prior to it, not even within your own brain/mind/will.  Otherwise it would not be free.  It springs from nowhere.  It simply pops into existence, which is ridiculous and is why Harris calls it an incoherent concept.

“...that’s not an option either.”
And why would that not be an option?  Perhaps Sam, and everyone else who doesn’t believe in free will, was just preordained to realize that free will doesn’t exist.  I know I’m sort of conflating lack of free will and determinism for the sake of the argument.



Saying volition and free will are not the same is like saying that angels and cherubim are fundamentally different.
Comparing things that exist only as ideas can lead only to more confusion.
There is no such thing as free will.
When offered two options, the brain reacts in the only way it can.
After the brain reacts, the illusory sense of self claims responsibility.
In man the perceived world is filtered through the brains conceptual overlay and it is against these constraints it struggles.
To the sense of self it appears like choice originates under its watch.
As you mentioned above, for it to believe that it can alter the infinite chain of causation to accomodate its personal desires is laughable.

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Posted: 10 September 2012 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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wantstoknow - 10 September 2012 03:58 AM

I am trying to wrap my brain around the gap between having the potential to do X and doing or not doing X.  You say:
“Of course, I’m not saying that you can become a surgeon by accident—you must do many things, deliberately and well, and in the appropriate sequence, year after year. Becoming a surgeon requires effort.”
What is the essence of a deliberate action versus one we have no control over?  It seems there is some special sauce being applied on top of potential, which allows the bearer of potential to realize that potential.  What is the special sauce if not free will?

Exactly. This is the place where it breaks down for me, as well. “Deliberate” implies choice, it implies having control over whether or not that action was taken, and you just as well could have not done it. But if there is no choice, if the brain would do the only thing it could have done given the circumstances and the near-infinite causal chain of events prior to it… how can deliberate have any meaning?

Now, it could be an issue of language lacking. Perhaps our words and language are so infused with the illusion of free-will that we have no way to express this kind of thing, thus are left with words like “deliberate.” Still… the implication is as “wantstoknow” indicated… an implication of two different kinds of actions… one not chosen, and essentially pre-determined… and the other “deliberate” (for lack of a better word) that could have been otherwise if not for human volition to make it so.

This is what is not being explained clearly, or clearly enough for my little brain.

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Posted: 10 September 2012 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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ncarver - 10 September 2012 08:28 AM
wantstoknow - 10 September 2012 03:58 AM

I am trying to wrap my brain around the gap between having the potential to do X and doing or not doing X.  You say:
“Of course, I’m not saying that you can become a surgeon by accident—you must do many things, deliberately and well, and in the appropriate sequence, year after year. Becoming a surgeon requires effort.”
What is the essence of a deliberate action versus one we have no control over?  It seems there is some special sauce being applied on top of potential, which allows the bearer of potential to realize that potential.  What is the special sauce if not free will?

Exactly. This is the place where it breaks down for me, as well. “Deliberate” implies choice, it implies having control over whether or not that action was taken, and you just as well could have not done it. But if there is no choice, if the brain would do the only thing it could have done given the circumstances and the near-infinite causal chain of events prior to it… how can deliberate have any meaning?

Now, it could be an issue of language lacking. Perhaps our words and language are so infused with the illusion of free-will that we have no way to express this kind of thing, thus are left with words like “deliberate.” Still… the implication is as “wantstoknow” indicated… an implication of two different kinds of actions… one not chosen, and essentially pre-determined… and the other “deliberate” (for lack of a better word) that could have been otherwise if not for human volition to make it so.

This is what is not being explained clearly, or clearly enough for my little brain.

 


Oh….......that’s not your brain.
That’s just a highly evolved mass of neurons out of which the sense of being a you emerges.
As long as the I am is at the help, understanding will be ever on the receding horizon.
One can stack shadows only so high.

 

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Posted: 10 September 2012 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/09/consciousness_science_and_ethics_abortion_animal_rights_and_vegetative_state_debates_.single.html

Tangentially related to this discussion… the investigation into what is consciousness and what does it say about human behavior. Free will and consciousness are related concepts in many ways.

It does bring me to my major point about the lack of free will, or the fact that it is “just an illusion.”

What if the illusion is the whole point? What if consciousness and that sense of “I” is not just a crappy side effect of advanced neurochemistry… but the evolutionary point to it all? Why is the illusion any less real? Maybe the point of the brain mass is to cast that shadow.

We very well could be the universe trying to know itself… so the sense of “I” is necessary for that. Hatred and worry and all that are negative side effects of the sense of that consciousness, but that doesn’t mean the self is a lie. Hell, at a quantum level, isn’t all of reality simply an illusion swimming in a wavefront of possibility? Why would the illusion of free will or consciousness be any less real?

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Posted: 10 September 2012 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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ncarver - 10 September 2012 11:53 AM

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/09/consciousness_science_and_ethics_abortion_animal_rights_and_vegetative_state_debates_.single.html

Tangentially related to this discussion… the investigation into what is consciousness and what does it say about human behavior. Free will and consciousness are related concepts in many ways.

It does bring me to my major point about the lack of free will, or the fact that it is “just an illusion.”

What if the illusion is the whole point? What if consciousness and that sense of “I” is not just a crappy side effect of advanced neurochemistry… but the evolutionary point to it all? Why is the illusion any less real? Maybe the point of the brain mass is to cast that shadow.

We very well could be the universe trying to know itself… so the sense of “I” is necessary for that. Hatred and worry and all that are negative side effects of the sense of that consciousness, but that doesn’t mean the self is a lie. Hell, at a quantum level, isn’t all of reality simply an illusion swimming in a wavefront of possibility? Why would the illusion of free will or consciousness be any less real?


I suppose it all depends on how you define real.
By saying that illusions are real illusions does not substantiate their existential reality.
The idea that the universe desires to know itself is a bit sapien-centric.
It seems to indicate that there is some form of all encompassing consciousness that has an agenda.
Here manifestation is seen as a totally impersonal magnificent magnus machina.
It amazes me that the human mind even attempts to understand its own relationship to infinity with its little bag of labels.

 

These eyes look out at a million leaves quivering in the soft ocean breeze and these lips smile.

 

[ Edited: 10 September 2012 12:21 PM by toombaru]
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Posted: 10 September 2012 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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toombaru - 10 September 2012 12:40 AM

But I’m afraid that the burden of proof lies on the one who asserts the presence of something not on the one who doubts.
It cannot be proven that something doesn’t exist.

This is a tired saw of many atheists, and it only approximates the truth.  In valid either/or questions (those which are not a false dilemma fallacy) advocates of either side have the burden of proving their case.  The rational skeptic should remain ambivalent until one side has succeeded.  With the valid either/or question ‘does God exists?’ we can see immediately that the two sides are not equally probable.  In fact, any articulated historical God is so laughably unlikely to exist we can take the ‘does not exist’ side of the argument at a glance.  The deists God, on the other hand, is a little trickier.  An rational agnostic on that God is more difficult to move into the atheistic column.  Luckily, we’re posting on Dr. Harris’s forum, so all of that work has already been done for us.  We can take the side that the deistic God (or any other God) does not exist only on sufficient evidence; not default.  The fallacy of the “Can you prove God does not exist?” question lies in the fact that, if I can’t, that in no way justifies theism; only agnosticism.  Sadly for those that ask that question - we can, in fact, offer overwhelming empirical evidence that He does not exist.


Now let’s consider the valid either/or question: ‘does free will (or ‘self’ if you prefer) exist?’  Should I prefer yes, no, or should I wait to be convinced?  There is no doubt that all of the best arguments are on the side of it not existing.  However, none of them rises to meet its burden of proof in my mind.  I think this is why Sam so often resorts to bad arguments on this topic.  Unlike the question of atheism, he runs out of ammunition on this subject before his target is destroyed.  Therefore, I will refuse to consider the matter decided until I meet an argument(s) which I find sufficiently persuasive.  I’m not lazy as this statement implies.  I’m actively looking for persuasive arguments – though I admit I’m working harder on questions I find more interesting.  Lazy would be deciding the question on the preponderance of the evidence, which is what you and Sam appear to have done. 


If you’ve been kind enough to follow me this far, you will have already noticed the error you made by asking whether I can prove that free will exists.*  Even if I can’t (though unlike the God question, in this case I really cannot) that does not justify believing in its absence – only agnosticism - which is already my position on the question.  By abandoning your burden of proof, you gave up on any serious pretense to being persuasive on the topic.


*Note to the 3rd party reader: Toombaru and I have been discussing this question on two separate threads and I erred by referencing in this thread a comment he made in the other thread, namely “Perhaps we could approach this by you offering evidence that supports the existence of self.”.  The other thread I reference is Forum Home >  Politics, Religion, Philosophy, and Science >  Philosophy >  Illusion of Freedom.

 

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Posted: 10 September 2012 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 10 September 2012 02:13 PM
toombaru - 10 September 2012 12:40 AM

But I’m afraid that the burden of proof lies on the one who asserts the presence of something not on the one who doubts.
It cannot be proven that something doesn’t exist.

This is a tired saw of many atheists, and it only approximates the truth.  In valid either/or questions (those which are not a false dilemma fallacy) advocates of either side have the burden of proving their case.  The rational skeptic should remain ambivalent until one side has succeeded.  With the valid either/or question ‘does God exists?’ we can see immediately that the two sides are not equally probable.  In fact, any articulated historical God is so laughably unlikely to exist we can take the ‘does not exist’ side of the argument at a glance.  The deists God, on the other hand, is a little trickier.  An rational agnostic on that God is more difficult to move into the atheistic column.  Luckily, we’re posting on Dr. Harris’s forum, so all of that work has already been done for us.  We can take the side that the deistic God (or any other God) does not exist only on sufficient evidence; not default.  The fallacy of the “Can you prove God does not exist?” question lies in the fact that, if I can’t, that in no way justifies theism; only agnosticism.  Sadly for those that ask that question - we can, in fact, offer overwhelming empirical evidence that He does not exist.


Now let’s consider the valid either/or question: ‘does free will (or ‘self’ if you prefer) exist?’  Should I prefer yes, no, or should I wait to be convinced?  There is no doubt that all of the best arguments are on the side of it not existing.  However, none of them rises to meet its burden of proof in my mind.  I think this is why Sam so often resorts to bad arguments on this topic.  Unlike the question of atheism, he runs out of ammunition on this subject before his target is destroyed.  Therefore, I will refuse to consider the matter decided until I meet an argument(s) which I find sufficiently persuasive.  I’m not lazy as this statement implies.  I’m actively looking for persuasive arguments – though I admit I’m working harder on questions I find more interesting.  Lazy would be deciding the question on the preponderance of the evidence, which is what you and Sam appear to have done. 


If you’ve been kind enough to follow me this far, you will have already noticed the error you made by asking whether I can prove that free will exists.*  Even if I can’t (though unlike the God question, in this case I really cannot) that does not justify believing in its absence – only agnosticism - which is already my position on the question.  By abandoning your burden of proof, you gave up on any serious pretense to being persuasive on the topic.


*Note to the 3rd party reader: Toombaru and I have been discussing this question on two separate threads and I erred by referencing in this thread a comment he made in the other thread, namely “Perhaps we could approach this by you offering evidence that supports the existence of self.”.  The other thread I reference is Forum Home >  Politics, Religion, Philosophy, and Science >  Philosophy >  Illusion of Freedom.

 


There is no more evidence to support the existence of the self than there is for a creator god.
The fact that if feels real does not make it so.
Both God and the self are mental fabrications that exist only as conceptual collages.
The brain creates both gods and the sense of being a separate autonomous entity.
Most brain programs cling to both ideas until the organism dies.
Keep your self at the wheel as long as you can.
Keep it even after the physical body dies.
(If you can’t do that…...it’s not real)
Once the illusion of self evaporates, the question of it having or not having free will becomes moot.

 

Hey that’s a good name for a baby.

 

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Posted: 10 September 2012 02:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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was it tombaruu who said ” I would suggest that there is no such thing as free will simply because there is no actual entity to have it. The sense of self exists only in the frontal cortex of man.
It is a conceptual homunculus that attaches itself to the organism.
It appears real to itself but it is phantom composed entirely of its own memories.
Who do you think does all this choosing?
The phantom or the brain?”

consciousness is not tangential, it is the same elephant as free will, isn’t it? and I believe consciousness is more than a phantom: I recall reading in the area of complexity, that a function or a new entity arise from a set of reacting agents being so densely packed that a threshold is reached where a new unforeseeable process takes place. In particular, consciousness might be just be the emerging process as enough neurones become interconnected. if that is true does it make consciousness a phantom? hurricanes built up from a certain set of circumstances passing a threshold, hurricanes aren’t phantoms. Just because consciousness emerges from our large set of connections doesn’t make it a phantom and to reduce the self to a collection of memories…isn’t that a predicate without solid proof?

If consciousness is real, and it is,  as we experience it, the self is more than memories, and negating free will on the basis of the scanners is a definition issue, but the biggest problem I see in the statement “free will doesnt exist , we are predetermined to do what we do”, is that it is UNFALSIFIABLE, and that is a serious issue in sciences.

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