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Author Topic:   Do I have a choice? (determinism vs libertarianism vs compatibilism)
Tusko
Member (Idle past 22 days)
Posts: 605
From: London, UK
Joined: 10-01-2004


Message 151 of 210 (359913)
10-30-2006 4:12 PM
Reply to: Message 147 by nwr
10-28-2006 10:16 PM


Re: Is randomness a problem
nwr writes:

Actually, no. We don't agree.

Right, good. I got a bit confused at that point!

We agree on the robot stuff. I don't think a robot could be considered to have free will. However, I think the comparison between humans and robots isn't really that helpful with regards to free will. The implication is that a determinist thinks that humans are like robots, and although ultimately I'm going to have to accept that, I think there are also some fundamental differences between humans and robots in a determinist universe.

I'm reluctant to call a human a robot because I think they are so much more complex than robots. Also, I don't think robots are an appropriate comparison because we have a complex and rich internal life and experience of consciousness and I don't imagine an Aibo does. The comparison with robots is only appropriate for me with regards to choice. Our experiences and beliefs frame our understanding of, and so ultimately dictate our choices, and the software and hardware of an Aibo does for them.

Having said this, human actions remain much more difficult to predict than those of an Aibo, and whether you are a believer in free will or not, you probably don't have much luck in predicting how other individuals will act, even if you are married to them. But I don't think that determinists make any claim that for their beliefs to be true they should be able to predict the behaviour of themselves or others.

nwr writes:

It seems perverse to credit decisions made in the behavior of that person to any agent other than the person.

I don't think I'm crediting anyone's actions to a specific agent. People arrive at decisions themselves. But I think they are only able to judge situations and reach decisions based on their personal experiences and their learned beliefs, and that these things are as far as I can see inherited and not chosen. Maybe I'm wrong - but our framework for understanding the world provided by language seems like a closed system to me, and I don't know on what basis you could choose to step outside it and make a choice unfettered to our past. What, indeed, would make this desirable?

As I mentioned in a post earlier today to Javaman, it seems to me that it would be a mechanism by which you would be able to carry out actions which you thought weren't the most appropriate given the circumstances.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 147 by nwr, posted 10-28-2006 10:16 PM nwr has acknowledged this reply

  
JavaMan
Member (Idle past 492 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 152 of 210 (360062)
10-31-2006 7:59 AM
Reply to: Message 150 by Tusko
10-30-2006 11:38 AM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
I think you believe that when an individual is faced with a choice (and is free from obvious physical constraints that would prevent the most obvious outcomes), that they might sometimes do what seemed to be - at that moment in time and in subjective terms - the second-best course of action. Maybe even the third or fourth best. I'm not just talking about concious choice here, just to make it clear. Wherever the buck stops in terms of decision-making in the brain, I think that this is a strange thing to be saying.

Assume for a moment it is possible: why would you ever want to do it? What would be attractive about having the ability to carry out acts that seem less appropriate than others you can concieve of?

Of course, or beliefs about the world around us aren't always right. A belief can at best only be a tool to aid interaction with the world outside. But I can't see how we can have anything above or beyond those beliefs. I think this is the key area of disagreement between us.

Even if you believe that there is some discrete decision-making stage of the cognitive process, I think the burden is upon you to explain how it could act - or at least act usefully - outside the learned experience of that individual.

I'm not saying that the decision-making process acts outside the learned experience of an individual. But why are you making the unwarranted assumption that the learned experience inevitably causes the final decision? That doesn't leave any room for the decision-making itself - so what's the point of having a decision-making apparatus?

As far as I can see the learned experience is a pool of information that can be drawn upon when faced with a novel situation. The decision-making apparatus is there so that we can dip into our pool of learned experience, compare it with the novel situation, and make a decision appropriately. If our decision-making worked in the hard-deterministic way that you suggest, how could we ever deal with novel situations?

This in fact leads back to my thread that I have for the moment abandoned because this discussion feels more fundamental. In that thread I proposed a community who indoctinated their children with a different belief: namely, that we can only ever make one decision in a given circumstance. Perhaps you think this is impossible?

I'm not sure that changing what people believe would make much of a difference - I don't think that we teach our children that they do have free will, so telling them that they don't isn't really going to affect their behaviour. But, it might be interesting to imagine what a society would be like where people were discouraged from taking notice of their own subjective experience. Have you ever read BF Skinner's 'Walden Two'? - I haven't read it myself, but it's a novel about a utopian society run along behaviourist lines. Maybe that's the society you're looking for?


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang
This message is a reply to:
 Message 150 by Tusko, posted 10-30-2006 11:38 AM Tusko has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 153 by Tusko, posted 10-31-2006 10:17 AM JavaMan has responded
 Message 163 by DominionSeraph, posted 11-01-2006 12:09 PM JavaMan has responded

  
Tusko
Member (Idle past 22 days)
Posts: 605
From: London, UK
Joined: 10-01-2004


Message 153 of 210 (360088)
10-31-2006 10:17 AM
Reply to: Message 152 by JavaMan
10-31-2006 7:59 AM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
Javaman writes:

That doesn't leave any room for the decision-making itself - so what's the point of having a decision-making apparatus?

To me the decision-making process is inextricable from the learned experience of the individual. If there is a surge in brain activity just before someone carries out an act, then that activity to me can only be a rubber-stamping procedure.

What is the purpose of the decision-making apparatus? Its to make decisions clearly. But decisions cannot, as far as I can see, be made apart from the beliefs of the decision-maker. As you are aware, I'm not talking about general beliefs like your politics or religion. I mean every single belief that has been learned in the course of a life-time and is availible to the decision-making executive. Without beliefs the decision-maker would, if it made decisions at all, make ones that couldn't be considered free.

So my question is: how do you separate the decision making process from the learned experience of the individual?

Javaman writes:

If our decision-making worked in the hard-deterministic way that you suggest, how could we ever deal with novel situations?

Are we ever faced with truly novel situation? I assume that neither of us have ever been gustinoflated by the wambriled zarlinger and had to pick up the pieces. I wouldn't know what to do in this circumstance - but would anyone, whether free-will existed or not? As far as I see it, everything that we experience is understood in terms that we do understand. As a consequence, I don't think there is a problem dealing with novel situations because if the do arise we deal with them by either ignoring them or, if that is impossible, applying the knowledge that we think will provide the best fit. Does that seem like an adequate explanation?

I don't think that we teach our children that they do have free will

Really? I think we do. I think that a belief in free will is fundamental to our attempts to socialise chidren (through attempting to make them morally responsible). Also, the trivial belief in choice happens every day with children, surely? And when you grow up, isn't the whole legal system based on the assumption of free will?

Moving on - Thanks a lot for the mention of Walden Two. That's just the kind of thing that I might be after. I'm going to see if I can order that on the internet today.

I have still only partially read that article you recommended about pre-conscious free-will so I'm not in a position to comment on it in any detail. What I did think was interesting with relation to the discussion in the last couple of posts was that the author took pains in the opening page to point out that the assumption the studies have been built on is one that free-will exists.

Thanks again for helping to clarify my thoughts on this issue. I agree that its not scientific necessarily to believe in hard-determinism but I'm finding it hard to see how it could be any more scientific to believe in free will.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 152 by JavaMan, posted 10-31-2006 7:59 AM JavaMan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 154 by JavaMan, posted 10-31-2006 12:08 PM Tusko has responded
 Message 155 by JavaMan, posted 10-31-2006 12:29 PM Tusko has responded

  
JavaMan
Member (Idle past 492 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 154 of 210 (360110)
10-31-2006 12:08 PM
Reply to: Message 153 by Tusko
10-31-2006 10:17 AM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
Are we ever faced with truly novel situation? I assume that neither of us have ever been gustinoflated by the wambriled zarlinger and had to pick up the pieces.

I don't know. I think I might have been a couple of times.


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang
This message is a reply to:
 Message 153 by Tusko, posted 10-31-2006 10:17 AM Tusko has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 156 by Tusko, posted 11-01-2006 4:29 AM JavaMan has not yet responded

  
JavaMan
Member (Idle past 492 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 155 of 210 (360118)
10-31-2006 12:29 PM
Reply to: Message 153 by Tusko
10-31-2006 10:17 AM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
I agree that its not scientific necessarily to believe in hard-determinism but I'm finding it hard to see how it could be any more scientific to believe in free will.

I'm not really defending the notion of free will so much as criticising the dogmas of hard determinism.

One of the principal aims when you're doing science is to define a useful model of the domain you're investigating. For me hard determinism is much too crude to allow a proper scientific investigation of cognition, because it's constantly trying to conflate precisely those phenomena of cognition that we want to investigate. Examples from your past few posts include:

To me the decision-making process is inextricable from the learned experience of the individual

Everything is inextricable from everything else if you look at in a particular context. But as someone interested in neuroscience I want to understand the 'learned experience' and the 'decision-making process' that acts upon it, and I can only begin to understand them by considering them as separate things that have a relationship.

Are we ever faced with truly novel situation? As far as I see it, everything that we experience is understood in terms that we do understand. As a consequence, I don't think there is a problem dealing with novel situations because if the do arise we deal with them by either ignoring them or, if that is impossible, applying the knowledge that we think will provide the best fit.

Obviously I'm not talking about experiences completely outside my experience. But it is useful to distinguish between familiar and novel experiences - my decision-making apparatus deals with them differently.

I can't see how to make a distinction between "hard-wiring" for instinct and "beliefs", conscious and unconscious.

It's precisely questions like this that neuroscience is dealing with. You can't assume an answer based on the rational argument of hard determinism.


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang
This message is a reply to:
 Message 153 by Tusko, posted 10-31-2006 10:17 AM Tusko has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 157 by Tusko, posted 11-01-2006 5:16 AM JavaMan has responded

  
Tusko
Member (Idle past 22 days)
Posts: 605
From: London, UK
Joined: 10-01-2004


Message 156 of 210 (360333)
11-01-2006 4:29 AM
Reply to: Message 154 by JavaMan
10-31-2006 12:08 PM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
Are we ever faced with truly novel situation? I assume that neither of us have ever been gustinoflated by the wambriled zarlinger and had to pick up the pieces.

I don't know. I think I might have been a couple of times.

My deepest sympathies go out to you at this difficult time. But to paraphrase Wilde:

To be gustinoflated by the wambriled zarlinger once, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To be gustinoflated by the wambriled zarlinger twice looks like carelessness.

:)


This message is a reply to:
 Message 154 by JavaMan, posted 10-31-2006 12:08 PM JavaMan has not yet responded

  
Tusko
Member (Idle past 22 days)
Posts: 605
From: London, UK
Joined: 10-01-2004


Message 157 of 210 (360340)
11-01-2006 5:16 AM
Reply to: Message 155 by JavaMan
10-31-2006 12:29 PM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
Javaman writes:

I'm not really defending the notion of free will so much as criticising the dogmas of hard determinism.

No dogma is useful. Surely the dogmas of free-will are just as distracting as the dogma of hard determinism - and isn't the idea of free will much more pervasive in our society than hard determinism?

I can't see how to make a distinction between "hard-wiring" for instinct and "beliefs", conscious and unconscious.

It's precisely questions like this that neuroscience is dealing with. You can't assume an answer based on the rational argument of hard determinism.

I'm not assuming that hard determinism is true. I just can't see how free will would work. If you can point me at studies that a layman might be able to understand that directly address the question that we are debating, I'd really love to read them. I'm crying out for evidence that free will exists.

Everything is inextricable from everything else if you look at in a particular context. But as someone interested in neuroscience I want to understand the 'learned experience' and the 'decision-making process' that acts upon it, and I can only begin to understand them by considering them as separate things that have a relationship.

I can't see why you would think a belief in determinism necessitates a cruder approach. It would be really helpful if you could explain this to me.

If there is a decision making executive somewhere, then how can it function outside its beliefs? If there are neurological processes and structures that it must necessarily use, how could it function in any other way?

In this way I see both un/conscious beliefs and "hard-wiring" as the only things that can inform this executive, so how can it make a decision that would be inappropriate to those beliefs and hard-wiring? If it could, would that be free either?

Obviously I'm not talking about experiences completely outside my experience. But it is useful to distinguish between familiar and novel experiences - my decision-making apparatus deals with them differently.

This makes sense. A novel experience has to be addressed in a different way to a familiar experience. But you have only the general principles to fall back on, only the physical resource between your own two ears to help you come to a decision. However the mechanics of decision making work, surely it is the nature of the experience, memory, protein structures that are the fuel for the decision-making fire. Without these, the executive is in a vacuum and however it functions is not able to come to any decisions. Isn't it what you've learned that shapes your response rather than the precise mechanism by which the brain turns experience into action?

I raised the point before, but I haven't really heard your thoughts on it yet so I'll mention it again. Isn't it a mistake to think that scientific investigation can be conducted in a vacuum? When scientists assume that there is free will, isn't that going to colour the investigation just as much as if they assume that there isn't?

When Velmans says:

Velmans writes:

Although “preconscious free will” might appear to be a contradiction in terms, it is consistent with the scientific evidence and provides a parsimonious way to reconcile the commonsense view that voluntary acts are freely chosen with the evidence that conscious wishes and decisions are determined by preconscious processing in the mind/brain.

Isn't he basically conceding the part of the investigation that would pertain to our discussion to the "commonsense view"?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 155 by JavaMan, posted 10-31-2006 12:29 PM JavaMan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 158 by JavaMan, posted 11-01-2006 9:26 AM Tusko has responded
 Message 159 by JavaMan, posted 11-01-2006 11:31 AM Tusko has responded
 Message 160 by JavaMan, posted 11-01-2006 11:34 AM Tusko has not yet responded

  
JavaMan
Member (Idle past 492 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 158 of 210 (360369)
11-01-2006 9:26 AM
Reply to: Message 157 by Tusko
11-01-2006 5:16 AM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
I raised the point before, but I haven't really heard your thoughts on it yet so I'll mention it again. Isn't it a mistake to think that scientific investigation can be conducted in a vacuum? When scientists assume that there is free will, isn't that going to colour the investigation just as much as if they assume that there isn't?

When Velmans says:

Velmans writes:

Although “preconscious free will” might appear to be a contradiction in terms, it is consistent with the scientific evidence and provides a parsimonious way to reconcile the commonsense view that voluntary acts are freely chosen with the evidence that conscious wishes and decisions are determined by preconscious processing in the mind/brain.

Isn't he basically conceding the part of the investigation that would pertain to our discussion to the "commonsense view"?

He's simply taking the empirical approach that science always takes, starting from the observed phenomena. And one of those observed phenomena is that we feel as though our voluntary acts are freely chosen. Science isn't going to throw away this bit of data just because of a rational argument (hard determinism) that claims that this subjective feeling is an illusion and that all actions are predetermined.

Now your view might be right, but if you want to establish it scientifically you need to do two things:

1. Prove that actions really are predetermined and that the decision-making process really is just a rubber-stamping exercise;

2. Account for the observed phenomenon that we feel as though our voluntary acts are freely chosen.


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang
This message is a reply to:
 Message 157 by Tusko, posted 11-01-2006 5:16 AM Tusko has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 161 by Tusko, posted 11-01-2006 11:46 AM JavaMan has responded

  
JavaMan
Member (Idle past 492 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 159 of 210 (360427)
11-01-2006 11:31 AM
Reply to: Message 157 by Tusko
11-01-2006 5:16 AM


I may be some time...
Don't be surprised if you don't get any response from me for the next few days, Tusko - I'm off to the Lake District for a long weekend with the family (wife, two daughters, dog and Tom Cobley). Solving the problem of freewill vs determinism can wait :).

Edited by JavaMan, : No reason given.


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang
This message is a reply to:
 Message 157 by Tusko, posted 11-01-2006 5:16 AM Tusko has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 162 by Tusko, posted 11-01-2006 11:58 AM JavaMan has responded

  
JavaMan
Member (Idle past 492 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 160 of 210 (360429)
11-01-2006 11:34 AM
Reply to: Message 157 by Tusko
11-01-2006 5:16 AM


Duplicate post
Duplicate post

Edited by JavaMan, : duplicate post


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang
This message is a reply to:
 Message 157 by Tusko, posted 11-01-2006 5:16 AM Tusko has not yet responded

  
Tusko
Member (Idle past 22 days)
Posts: 605
From: London, UK
Joined: 10-01-2004


Message 161 of 210 (360433)
11-01-2006 11:46 AM
Reply to: Message 158 by JavaMan
11-01-2006 9:26 AM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
I don't see why the burden of proof should be placed an determinists. The only reason it seems to be is because

a) Most people think they have free-will.

and

b) Errr... that's it.

To me the idea of free-will doesn't seem coherent. I'd be happy to accept it if someone could explain how it could work to me. Because a majority of people believe in it does it become more likely that it exists? The main study cited by Velmans points out how unreliable feelings can be when it comes to understanding congition.

You argue that the reason people think they have free-will is that they feel themselves reaching decisions. I don't deny that we reach decisions. We do reach decisions, and it is a cognitive process that has lead us to this decision. But to me the beliefs we have are the map that gets us hopefully from where we are to where we want to be. We can't use someone else's map. We can't choose to change our map either, as far as I can see. We can just get more insight into our decision-making by trying to understand that map and perhaps watch it as it shifts as we age.

Sorry to repeat it again: I just don't see how we could reach other decisions, given what we have experienced.

But I think that's not looking at the situation adequately. It is making the assumption that all people experience the sensation of free-will. I think that this feeling has to be learned, just as I think it would be possible to teach others not to feel as though they had free-will.

What I'm really interested in right now is your comment that you thought determinism was a comparitavely crude way of understanding cognitive processes. I'm very interested in why you think this is.

Edited by Tusko, : "But I think that's not.." paragraph added


This message is a reply to:
 Message 158 by JavaMan, posted 11-01-2006 9:26 AM JavaMan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 168 by JavaMan, posted 11-08-2006 3:58 AM Tusko has responded

  
Tusko
Member (Idle past 22 days)
Posts: 605
From: London, UK
Joined: 10-01-2004


Message 162 of 210 (360436)
11-01-2006 11:58 AM
Reply to: Message 159 by JavaMan
11-01-2006 11:31 AM


Re: I may be some time...
That sounds lovely - and although I don't know who Tom Cobley is, I'm sure you are in safe hands.

I just think you've got your priorities way out of line - especially since we've almost cracked it.

:)


This message is a reply to:
 Message 159 by JavaMan, posted 11-01-2006 11:31 AM JavaMan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 166 by JavaMan, posted 11-01-2006 4:23 PM Tusko has responded

  
DominionSeraph
Member (Idle past 2927 days)
Posts: 365
From: on High
Joined: 01-26-2005


Message 163 of 210 (360440)
11-01-2006 12:09 PM
Reply to: Message 152 by JavaMan
10-31-2006 7:59 AM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
JavaMan writes:

But why are you making the unwarranted assumption that the learned experience inevitably causes the final decision? That doesn't leave any room for the decision-making itself - so what's the point of having a decision-making apparatus?

You're looking at this the wrong way. You're comparing two things -- the universe as it is and the universe as it is not; seeing that they lead to different places, and using that to support that the outcome isn't inevitable. The problem is that you're assuming that the universe can change. It can't, as it can only be what it is. It cannot be what it is not.

So, if in order for the outcome to change, the impossible must occur, can the outcome actually change?

Edited by DominionSeraph, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 152 by JavaMan, posted 10-31-2006 7:59 AM JavaMan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 164 by JavaMan, posted 11-01-2006 12:22 PM DominionSeraph has responded

  
JavaMan
Member (Idle past 492 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 164 of 210 (360446)
11-01-2006 12:22 PM
Reply to: Message 163 by DominionSeraph
11-01-2006 12:09 PM


Re: Hard Determinism isn't Science
The problem is that you're assuming that the universe can change. It can't, as it can only be what it is. It cannot be what it is not.

Correction: It can only be what it has been. On this precipice of the present, nothing has happened yet. It's precisely the point of disagreement between us that you think that the future is predetermined by what has happened previous to this moment, that nothing that happens in this moment can change what will happen in the future. Whereas I am claiming that my choice is an additional determining factor.


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang
This message is a reply to:
 Message 163 by DominionSeraph, posted 11-01-2006 12:09 PM DominionSeraph has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 165 by DominionSeraph, posted 11-01-2006 1:15 PM JavaMan has responded

  
DominionSeraph
Member (Idle past 2927 days)
Posts: 365
From: on High
Joined: 01-26-2005


Message 165 of 210 (360469)
11-01-2006 1:15 PM
Reply to: Message 164 by JavaMan
11-01-2006 12:22 PM


JavaMan writes:

Correction: It can only be what it has been.

Time is included in the universe.

JavaMan writes:

It's precisely the point of disagreement between us that you think that the future is predetermined by what has happened previous to this moment, that nothing that happens in this moment can change what will happen in the future. Whereas I am claiming that my choice is an additional determining factor.

What you will choose is already determined. Since its already included, there's no wait. (and what timestream would the universe be waiting in, anyway?)

Edited by DominionSeraph, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 164 by JavaMan, posted 11-01-2006 12:22 PM JavaMan has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 169 by JavaMan, posted 11-08-2006 7:40 AM DominionSeraph has responded

  
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