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Sam’s new thoughts on free will
Posted: 09 September 2012 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Sam wrote:

“Understanding the true causes of human behavior does not leave any room for the traditional notion of free will. But this shouldn’t depress us, or tempt us to go off our diets. Diligence and wisdom still yield better results than sloth and stupidity. And, in psychologically healthy adults, understanding the illusoriness of free will should make divisive feelings such as pride and hatred a little less compelling. While it’s conceivable that someone, somewhere, might be made worse off by dispensing with the illusion of free will, I think that on balance, it could only produce a more compassionate, equitable, and sane society.”


toombaru wrote”
I do not believe that there is such a thing as free will.
But If free will doesn’t exist, one cannot choose to live without believing in it.
If one truly factors free will out of human behavior, it is pointless to discuss how they might be improved by its absence.
It is impossible to discuss how things would be without something that doesn’t exist.
It would be like trying to figure out how life would be without gods or angels.
The desire to create a more compassionate, equitable and sane society by understanding that there is no free will makes the assumption that there is such a thing as free will.
If Sam’s brain drops the illusion of free will, it has to give it up all the way.
Do you think Sam reads any of these responses?

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Posted: 09 September 2012 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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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.

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Posted: 09 September 2012 05:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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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

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Posted: 09 September 2012 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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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.


What would the world like without fairies?

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Posted: 09 September 2012 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Perhaps if Sam saw the effect which knowledge of the absence of free will has had on Toombaru, he would stop arguing for all of the salutary effects it can have.


Seriously though, Sam’s recent argument does underscore a serious problem with his logic.  He criticizes the people who have said that the belief in no free will has negative moral consequences, he then counters that it will have laudable moral consequences.  As Toombaru correctly objected, this all misses the point of whether or not the belief is true.  He is beginning to sound more and more like a religious believer who worships the God of determinism.  His faith is belied by the insufficient evidence for his belief.


I know he thinks that he has supplied adequate reason in Free Will, but his reasoning in that work falls prey to two separate fallacies.  First, he appears most convinced by the fact that brain scanning can detect mental activity before we are consciously aware of it.  I say this because he returns to the fact so often.  This is a classical post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.  We can also determine that our brains are going to register an image before that image is actually made available to our consciousness.  This does not prove that we can’t see, only that our measurement instruments are more sensitive than our evolved equipment.  Not every image that registers in our visual cortex will be supplied to our consciousness - this has been shown sufficiently and taken advantage of by advertisers.  However, our lack of control over our inputs does not mean we don’t have free will - it only means our faculties are not as efficient as we experience them to be.  This leaves open the very real possibility that free will is illusory, but it by no means can decide the matter.


Second, Sam’s arguments rely heavily on our absence of power. This is a false dilemma.  It is not necessary that we have complete power in order to be free.  Look at his example of the surgeon.  He is correct in that there are innumerable things that disqualify people from achieving that outcome which are beyond their power to control.  However, we need not have complete control for there to be an element of freedom to our will.  Any amount of control will suffice.  So do we have any?  I’m still waiting to for the evidence that can convince me either way. 

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Posted: 09 September 2012 06:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 09 September 2012 06:23 PM

Perhaps if Sam saw the effect which knowledge of the absence of free will has had on Toombaru, he would stop arguing for all of the salutary effects it can have.


Seriously though, Sam’s recent argument does underscore a serious problem with his logic.  He criticizes the people who have said that the belief in no free will has negative moral consequences, he then counters that it will have laudable moral consequences.  As Toombaru correctly objected, this all misses the point of whether or not the belief is true.  He is beginning to sound more and more like a religious believer who worships the God of determinism.  His faith is belied by the insufficient evidence for his belief.


I know he thinks that he has supplied adequate reason in Free Will, but his reasoning in that work falls prey to two separate fallacies.  First, he appears most convinced by the fact that brain scanning can detect mental activity before we are consciously aware of it.  I say this because he returns to the fact so often.  This is a classical post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.  We can also determine that our brains are going to register an image before that image is actually made available to our consciousness.  This does not prove that we can’t see, only that our measurement instruments are more sensitive than our evolved equipment.  Not every image that registers in our visual cortex will be supplied to our consciousness - this has been shown sufficiently and taken advantage of by advertisers.  However, our lack of control over our inputs does not mean we don’t have free will - it only means our faculties are not as efficient as we experience them to be.  This leaves open the very real possibility that free will is illusory, but it by no means can decide the matter.


Second, Sam’s arguments rely heavily on our absence of power. This is a false dilemma.  It is not necessary that we have complete power in order to be free.  Look at his example of the surgeon.  He is correct in that there are innumerable things that disqualify people from achieving that outcome which are beyond their power to control.  However, we need not have complete control for there to be an element of freedom to our will.  Any amount of control will suffice.  So do we have any?  I’m still waiting to for the evidence that can convince me either way.

 


What was the last “choice” you made?

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Posted: 09 September 2012 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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toombaru - 09 September 2012 02:54 PM

Do you think Sam reads any of these responses?

He has a thriving career on the lecture/debate circuit, a three-year old daughter, a beautiful wife, and is (I believe) currently working on a new book.  If you’re going to post here, you’re better off doing it just to amuse yourself.  Or, if you prefer, to excite the neurological circiutry which will increase your cognitive experience of satisfaction.

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Posted: 09 September 2012 07:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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toombaru - 09 September 2012 06:31 PM

What was the last “choice” you made?

To reply to this post.  Admittedly, not the best one.  Perhaps you can put me at ease by convincing me I had no say in the matter.

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Posted: 09 September 2012 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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This is the part I wrestle with… if I accept the lack of freewill, and the evidence is compelling… then… two questions arise…

1) Do I have a choice whether to accept the lack of free will or not? Aren’t I predetermined whether I believe one way or another? Isn’t the whole point of this discussion moot because I have no choice in the matter? Belief in free will, or not, is predetermined?

2) Sam states… ” Diligence and wisdom still yield better results than sloth and stupidity. ”  But… isn’t it predetermined whether I am diligent or wise or slothful or stupid? What I do and how I act, it is determined already so can we even go so far as to judge “better” any more than we can be vengeful or hateful?

It is this second point that I struggle with the most. It isn’t so much morality or ethics, but the whole concept of value that seems to go away. Can we say good or bad, better or worse about anything, since all action, all decisions, all results are predetermined? Everything just “is” and would have always been that way. If some suffers, they were always going to suffer, and nothing ever could have been done to change that. Can we judge that any more than we can hate a psychopath?

It is the implication that “determinism” doesn’t mean “predetermined” which I don’t get. He seems to simply state that one doesn’t mean the other, without explaining or making a logical distinction between the two.

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Posted: 09 September 2012 08:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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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

I think you missed Mr. Stoddard’s point, with which I agree.  He isn’t asserting that free will exists, he is asserting that the “notion of free will” does which is unabmigously true.  Therefore, we can argue the merits of believing in God or faries or free will without referrence to their claim to actually existing.


Your counter argument is tautological.  It amounts to stating that all arguments are illogical since we don’t have a choice in whether to accept them.  That pretty much undermines every post you’ve made on this forum, so you may want to rethink it a bit.  Sam offers some good reasons for continuing to argue for your beliefs in the absence of free will in his book on that subject.

 

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Posted: 09 September 2012 08:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 09 September 2012 07:09 PM
toombaru - 09 September 2012 06:31 PM

What was the last “choice” you made?

To reply to this post.  Admittedly, not the best one.  Perhaps you can put me at ease by convincing me I had no say in the matter.


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

 

 

 

 

 

 


Deep within the scintillating synaptic interface, neurons fire and…...well…......no one know what goes on on that gray goo.
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?

 

 

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Posted: 09 September 2012 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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ncarver - 09 September 2012 07:45 PM

This is the part I wrestle with… if I accept the lack of freewill, and the evidence is compelling… then… two questions arise…

1) Do I have a choice whether to accept the lack of free will or not? Aren’t I predetermined whether I believe one way or another? Isn’t the whole point of this discussion moot because I have no choice in the matter? Belief in free will, or not, is predetermined?

2) Sam states… ” Diligence and wisdom still yield better results than sloth and stupidity. ”  But… isn’t it predetermined whether I am diligent or wise or slothful or stupid? What I do and how I act, it is determined already so can we even go so far as to judge “better” any more than we can be vengeful or hateful?

It is this second point that I struggle with the most. It isn’t so much morality or ethics, but the whole concept of value that seems to go away. Can we say good or bad, better or worse about anything, since all action, all decisions, all results are predetermined? Everything just “is” and would have always been that way. If some suffers, they were always going to suffer, and nothing ever could have been done to change that. Can we judge that any more than we can hate a psychopath?

It is the implication that “determinism” doesn’t mean “predetermined” which I don’t get. He seems to simply state that one doesn’t mean the other, without explaining or making a logical distinction between the two.

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.

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Posted: 09 September 2012 08:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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ncarver - 09 September 2012 07:45 PM

This is the part I wrestle with… if I accept the lack of freewill, and the evidence is compelling… then… two questions arise…

1) Do I have a choice whether to accept the lack of free will or not? Aren’t I predetermined whether I believe one way or another? Isn’t the whole point of this discussion moot because I have no choice in the matter? Belief in free will, or not, is predetermined?

2) Sam states… ” Diligence and wisdom still yield better results than sloth and stupidity. ”  But… isn’t it predetermined whether I am diligent or wise or slothful or stupid? What I do and how I act, it is determined already so can we even go so far as to judge “better” any more than we can be vengeful or hateful?

It is this second point that I struggle with the most. It isn’t so much morality or ethics, but the whole concept of value that seems to go away. Can we say good or bad, better or worse about anything, since all action, all decisions, all results are predetermined? Everything just “is” and would have always been that way. If some suffers, they were always going to suffer, and nothing ever could have been done to change that. Can we judge that any more than we can hate a psychopath?

It is the implication that “determinism” doesn’t mean “predetermined” which I don’t get. He seems to simply state that one doesn’t mean the other, without explaining or making a logical distinction between the two.

 


Oh, that’s merely the brain wrestling with its own imaginary dilemma.
It is a problem that cannot be solved on the level in which it occurs.
And that is level in which the sense of self lives,
Who and what is this “I” thing that asks if it actually has, or doesn’t have, something that exists only as one to the brain’s conceptual descriptions?
What happens to the I thing when the body dies?
Where was it a hundred years ago?
Does it possess any qualities at all?
Does a dog or a cat have free will?
What about mice and microbes?
Brains create the sense of self and most of them believe that their creations are real and make choices.

 

 

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Posted: 09 September 2012 08:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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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.

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Posted: 09 September 2012 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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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.

 

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Posted: 09 September 2012 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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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.

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