Experimental Philosophy And The Problem of Free Will

Plato & Aristotle (Portait by Raffaello Sanzio)

Plato & Aristotle (Portait by Raffaello Sanzio)

ScienceDaily reports:

Philosophers have argued for centuries, millennia actually, about whether our lives are guided by our own free will or are predetermined as the result of a continuous chain of events over which we have no control.On the one hand, it seems like everything that happens has come kind of causal explanation; on the other hand, when we make decisions, it seems to us like we have the free will to make different decisions.

Most people seem to favor free will, and while many, across a range of cultures, reject what is referred to as determinism, they remain conflicted over the role of personal responsibility in situations that require moral judgements, said Shaun Nichols, a professor of philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Arizona.

Nichols is part of a growing number of researchers who are gaining insights into this philosophical dilemma by applying experimental methods commonly used by developmental psychologists and other social scientists. His latest findings (“Experimental Philosophy and the Problem of Free Will”) are published in the current issue of the journal Science.

Until recently, these points have been dissected using “careful and sustained thought, sharpened by dialogue with fellow philosophers,” Nichols said.

“Mostly what people have done is work on these problems in conceptual ways. You think through the problems; you think about the implications of various theses. And a lot of excellent work has been done on complex philosophical issues using those techniques over the last 2,000 years.”

Nichols calls experimental philosophy another tool that can offer new sources of information and help sort through some of these problems.

The debate over free will and determinism is one such problem…

Read more here.

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  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    I’ve always thought we as individuals have free will, but we’ve always had that free will to choose to “go with the flow” so to speak, or to find a different path.

    This simple choice gets very complicated as the proportions of people on the “free path” and the “common path” so to speak are always shifting in time, so at any given time one side can always look like the weirdos. It also gets confusing if you consider the common path those that don’t believe in free will, and the free path the ones that do.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    I’ve always thought we as individuals have free will, but we’ve always had that free will to choose to “go with the flow” so to speak, or to find a different path.

    This simple choice gets very complicated as the proportions of people on the “free path” and the “common path” so to speak are always shifting in time, so at any given time one side can always look like the weirdos. It also gets confusing if you consider the common path those that don’t believe in free will, and the free path the ones that do.

  • j30

    There is no logical defense of free-will.

    The idea that we have free-will simply because we imagine we could have made a different decision is ludicrous. Imagination has never been considered scientific evidence.

    The series of events that led to your biology and cognitive processing structure have already determined the outcome of your so-called “decisions”.

  • j30

    There is no logical defense of free-will.

    The idea that we have free-will simply because we imagine we could have made a different decision is ludicrous. Imagination has never been considered scientific evidence.

    The series of events that led to your biology and cognitive processing structure have already determined the outcome of your so-called “decisions”.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      I say that’s partially because the core concept of “freedom” is antithetical to ANY theoretical construct. As soon as you lay out the parameters of any hypothetical system, you imply the possibility that individual observations may not conform (i.e., that they’re FREE of the system’s constraints).

      It’s called “Paradox”, and it’s fuckin’ awesome. Why the hell are we spending so much gunpowder to destroy something so beautiful?

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      Free will does not concern the ability to imagine what you could have done. Free will concerns what you CAN do. It is the simple concept that you can weigh the options use you imagination (foresight in this case not hindsight which you choose to disqualify free will with) and choose the future that you want.

      Sure the issue of free will is extremely complex; you can try to muddle down the issues of cognitive processing and biochemistry and claim you have derived that free will cannot exist, but in doing so you assume that the mind is a perfect machine. Its the assumption that what goes in and what comes out is all that matters, and the in-between is set-in-stone, thought-less, will-less, and soul-less. A “scientific” definition of free will is nonsense because the decision making process that free will involves is defined by the fuzzy stuff that science cannot by its definition touch.

      • j30

        Imagining the future is no more substantive than imagining the past.

        By insisting that free-will involves the fuzzy stuff that science cannot by its definition touch, you have essentially relegated it to the realm of superstition, imagination, and myth.

        • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

          You seem to have a near dogmatic view of science as truth, with no appreciation of complex issues of subjectivity, and uncertainty. Limits of scale are rapidly tearing scientific logic at its seams. The understanding of the universe in senses of quantum physics, chaos theory, and even what we are currently talking about: the mind. Do you really think we actually understand down the the finest details how the mind works? We have a lot of theories, and a lot of angles we are looking at, but still we aren’t even close to understanding it.

          “Fuzzy stuff” is not superstition, imagination and myth, it is the stuff that is so complex that we cant quantify it in scientific terms. Sometimes those three tools are utilized to get a picture, and a sense of scale, but neither the finite scientific quantification, nor the subjective ideas give us the full picture or a pure understanding.

          Also there is such a thing as imagining the future from utilizing past experience, you just dont have an infinite frame of reference. Essentially you see an apple falling, you can use foresight that it will probably hit the ground; I think I can assume that you aren’t a philosophical idealist that will claim that just because the apple is falling, and that it always hit the ground before doesn’t mean it will hit the ground this time. In fact, if you are close enough, you can if you so choose with your free will to grab the apple as it falls, preventing it from hitting the ground. I suppose foresight only works in as much as certain people’s free will doesn’t get in the way. Now, why can we not assume that such a simple example cannot be extended to actual important endeavors?

          • j30

            We don’t need to know the finest details of how the mind works. We only need to know that all interactions are predicated on previous events. Nothing happens without a cause. Certainly the human mind, among many other things is a veritable black box from which we can only observe input and output. However, the “mystery” does not in any way imply freedom from previous consequence.

            Let’s explore this further. Imagine you are going to make a decision. You do not make this decision purely randomly (because that wouldn’t qualify as a decision), especially if it is important to you in some way. You will gather information and weigh the known risks and rewards of each perceived choice and mix that with a little gut instinct and maybe some trusted advice. All of these influence the outcome of your decision. Your experience tells you what decisions are important and what information is trustworthy. Your decision is based on your experience.

            Yes we can’t know everything and this will inevitably inject some randomness (or just bad info) into our decision making process. However, randomness does not equal “freedom”. The conscious decision making part of our brain, the part we are responsible for, the thing that distinguishes adults from children, makes “decisions” based on our life experience and is therefore determined and not in any way “free”.

          • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

            Uncertainty and randomness are related but not synonymous. And on that note if nothing happens without a cause as you say, then thinking really deeply, randomness doesn’t exist; however that is a whole different argument to talk about. I never talked about randomness, I talked about near infinite complexity, and the uncertainty that this breeds.

            All of that processing that you were talking about involving weighing ideas risks, rewards etc, considering gut reaction, or even having to make a quick decision with little weighing of anything, that is your free will in action. The complexity of mental processing allows for your own mind to be unique. In being unique you have to be the controller in the situation, or you’d always be looking for outside information to make a decision. Even if you say we store the outside information within ourselves, I think it would be a fair assessment that we store this information differently depending on our experience.

            Personally I always took the fact that a belief in Free will can dramatically change one’s actions as a proof for its existence, but I can’t really claim that bit is a good argument, its just a kinda gut-feeling.

          • j30

            I agree that it is important not to conflate uncertainty and randomness. I would say that uncertainty is compatible with causality and randomness is not. However I am willing to grant anyone the existence of randomness for the sake of a discussion about free-will since randomness is incompatible with decision making and responsibility and therefore incompatible with free-will.

            Every human being is unique. Every decision is unique. The fact that nothing happens without a cause does not eliminate uncertainty. The uniqueness of each event prevents certainty.

            We do store our internal record of outside information differently based on our experience, but you have to understand that our primary experiences on which we begin building a framework on which we store information are not chosen by us. We do not choose our parents or our treatment as children or our geographical location or our biology. And it is this set of primary experiences that form the basis for our ability to identify and make “choices”.

            If someone told you that they’ve always taken the fact that a belief in Jesus, Vishnu, Buddha, or L Ron Hubbard can dramatically change one’s actions as proof of its existence, would you accept Jesus, Vishnu, Buddha, or L Ron Hubbard into your heart?

            I would like to add that I appreciate your clearheadedness and willingness to continue this discussion up to this point.

            Namaste.

          • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

            I’m beginning to realize where we differ. When I say uncertainty, I mean uncertainty exists in the sense of reality, or truth, in respect to the future(I still am however in the mindset that the past is rather set in stone as I’m sure you are). The future has different potentials dependent on complex issues such as free will through things such as uncertainty and/or randomness. I think you use uncertainty as more of a perspective term, as in You or I am uncertain of the future, however it is already determined by the scenarios already set in motion. Free will is the creation and destruction of those automated scenarios and shaping reality as is desired.

            Randomness cannot exist in a world where the future is already determined of course, but I’m arguing against a determined future. That’s why I don’t really want to get into randomness, because I honestly cannot say I know a good argument to definitively show randomness to exist and I don’t want to be the guy that speaks the pseudo-science “quantum physics” mantra.

            Another place I think we differ is that, you may be able to call me crazy for claiming this, but I think the appearance of randomness is good enough to be called random. Hell, a majority of statistics deals with the degree of randomness from completely random to not random at all. Computers can create signals that are very random (not Completely random, that’s thoretically impossible). However we treat computer’s randomly generated information as random when that sort of thing is needed. Is it such a huge assumption that the human mind could have a little random mixed in there? I’d call this almost a faithful belief, but would it be possible to assume humans surpass a computers 99% randomness and have the capability of 100% (or even if its still impossible, 99.999999%) randomness when its useful? (merh… i really didn’t want to get into randomness… theres a lot more I could say but I still feel its way outside the scope of the argument and I know i’m not speaking as clearly as i’d like to)

            Comparing faith in a concept is a little different than faith in a religious figure. But on that note, you say we are essentially engrained in our culture to believe a certain way due to a combination of social factors that made you who you are. When I say that free will proves its own existence, what I mean is that when someone has been convinced of it, they can look at all those shaping influences, and deny the ones they dislike and approve of those they like. Free will may not be something humans are born with, but they can catch it. One might consider it a dangerous disease, if “one” happened to be a grand manipulator… but again I’m getting into other issues (partially) outside of the discussion.

            Only a free mind can have a free will.

            I also appreciate the discussion, this is definitely one of the better long-winded arguments I’ve had

          • j30

            I’m glad you are enjoying this discussion and I don’t mean to be terse, but I want to try and narrow my point.

            “Randomness” is incompatible with “decision making”.

            If you make a “decision” based on some combination of your intellectual ability, your gut instincts, your emotions and desires, the outcome of your “decision” is determined by these factors. Your intellectual process is like a coin sorting machine. Your mind sorts the factors and comes to a conclusion. If you inject “randomness” into this process, it may corrupt the output but it does not make it free from those influences. The “randomness” simply becomes one of the factors that led to your decision.

            The only way to get around these influences that determine the outcome of our decisions is to imagine that humans can somehow create an influence that is free from all previous influences, a “first-cause” if you will.

            The obvious problem with this is that an uncaused-cause would by definition have no context. There would be no way for this uncaused cause to be relevent to any decision making process because it could not logically be triggered by anything at all.

            Namaste.

          • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

            Hmm, I guess I have 2 ways of looking at free will, neither of which I fully believe in, but I think of them as possible representations.
            The first is a modified version of you’re external first cause. This would essentially be an argument from spirituality (which I’ll admit that I probably have an unnecessarily large lack of). This first cause may have no context initially, but as soon as it is thrust into the complexity that is the human body and mind, that in it of itself is the context. Whether it initially has no context doesn’t matter, because it is now charged with integration of information and making a decision, whether perfect or not.

            The second, which I would probably say I am leaning towards, is the simple (okay maybe not simple) concept of emergence. It is contained emergence where all of the things that make up the being’s mind need an integrating portion of processing that is relatively unbiased towards any particular area. Sort of like all of the ideas, hopes, dreams, memes, etc. that swirl around in someone, is treated like a hive or something. Something has to be the queen, which is the thing that actually controls the active portions rather than the passive receiving portion of the being. Free will happens in this notably complex transition from receiving information to acting on it. You seem to treat the transition phase as just another ingredient in the pot, but because the source of its existence is the being that it is now controlling, it cannot have the same status as the coins it is sorting.

            On a completely separate note, there should be a place on the internets to archive really interesting conversations like this; I’m sure there are tons of them around, but impossible to find.

            Namaste

          • j30

            An uninitialized non-contextual event cannot be part of a decision making process. What you are talking about sounds like “divine inspiration”, which would be neither random nor self-generated. It also sounds like contamination, seeing as how the “first-cause” could in no way be apropos to anything, including of course a decision to act.

            Your “queen bee” is not “self-generating”. The queen bee is subject to biology and primary experience, neither of which come from within the individual.

            Namaste.

    • Hadrian999

      wouldn’t that be an argument for abolishing laws and and penalties, how can you punish someone for an act that they are not to blame for?

      • Tuna Ghost

        This very question is what Wilhelm Gottfreid Liebniz (the other guy who discovered calculus, a contemporary of Newton) was trying to do in the early 18th century: finding a way to salvage free will, and thus personal responsibility, in his metaphysics which appeared to suggest a deterministic universe. See my post for an elaboration.

      • j30

        There is no need to abolish all laws and penalties although I think many people agree they are imperfect.

        Laws can be enforced without pretending free-will exists. You simply treat people the same way you treat a child who is not responsible for their actions.

        Or treat people the same way you treat a malfunctioning part of a machine. We have no desire to “punish” a broken gear or a worn out belt on an engine. We simply remove the damaged or malfunctioning part and repair the machine. There is no need to chastise or blame the part determined to be the proximal cause.

  • MrPINKi

    Well since yesterday they have discovered a new theory at the LHC. That is they think they may be able to send msg’s back and fourth through time. Using the Higgs singlet, the theory goes, would be able to travel in and out of the hidden fifth dimension and pop out at any point along the space-time continuum. Once they find this singlet and the Higgs, they will have the ability to send msg’s. This in effect could change decisions already made. Will it cause a paradox, don’t know, and neither do they. They do theorize that it will not have a paradox affect though.

  • MrPINKi

    Well since yesterday they have discovered a new theory at the LHC. That is they think they may be able to send msg’s back and fourth through time. Using the Higgs singlet, the theory goes, would be able to travel in and out of the hidden fifth dimension and pop out at any point along the space-time continuum. Once they find this singlet and the Higgs, they will have the ability to send msg’s. This in effect could change decisions already made. Will it cause a paradox, don’t know, and neither do they. They do theorize that it will not have a paradox affect though.

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      Thats comforting. Hope they don’t send a msg thru time WHILE dividing by zero. I don’t want to wake up on Planet Of The Apes (although it does seem like the gorillas are in charge lately.)

    • Liam_McGonagle

      I thought this Higgs thing was a spatial not temporal displacement. You for serious here or just having us on?

      Still, even if you were having us on, I like the idea from a themeatic perspective. Great fodder for speculative fiction.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I say that’s partially because the core concept of “freedom” is antithetical to ANY theoretical construct. As soon as you lay out the parameters of any hypothetical system, you imply the possibility that individual observations may not conform (i.e., that they’re FREE of the system’s constraints).

    It’s called “Paradox”, and it’s fuckin’ awesome. Why the hell are we spending so much gunpowder to destroy something so beautiful?

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Free will does not concern the ability to imagine what you could have done. Free will concerns what you CAN do. It is the simple concept that you can weigh the options use you imagination (foresight in this case not hindsight which you choose to disqualify free will with) and choose the future that you want.

    Sure the issue of free will is extremely complex; you can try to muddle down the issues of cognitive processing and biochemistry and claim you have derived that free will cannot exist, but in doing so you assume that the mind is a perfect machine. Its the assumption that what goes in and what comes out is all that matters, and the in-between is set-in-stone, thought-less, will-less, and soul-less. A “scientific” definition of free will is nonsense because the decision making process that free will involves is defined by the fuzzy stuff that science cannot by its definition touch.

  • Hadrian999

    wouldn’t that be an argument for abolishing laws and and penalties, how can you punish someone for an act that they are not to blame for?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Thats comforting. Hope they don’t send a msg thru time WHILE dividing by zero. I don’t want to wake up on Planet Of The Apes (although it does seem like the gorillas are in charge lately.)

  • neo chaos

    it is all a paradox, everything is a perfect circle, it will all lead back to absence, it is the only absolute. just enjoy the ride, there is no real evidence, physical or not.

  • neo chaos

    it is all a paradox, everything is a perfect circle, it will all lead back to absence, it is the only absolute. just enjoy the ride, there is no real evidence, physical or not.

  • Tuna Ghost

    This very question is what Wilhelm Gottfreid Liebniz (the other guy who discovered calculus, a contemporary of Newton) was trying to do in the early 18th century: finding a way to salvage free will, and thus personal responsibility, in his metaphysics which appeared to suggest a deterministic universe. See my post for an elaboration.

  • Tuna Ghost

    Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz produced what i think is my favorite defense of free will to date. His metaphysics outlined reality as a true four-dimensional structure, in which all events are happening simultaneously (which would be necessary in a true four-dimensional universe). I had written a huge post detailing his metaphysics, but unless you’re really into that sort of thing it would bore you to tears. So, you’re welcome. Just take my word for it: Leibniz viewed reality as a four-dimensional structure. Fans of Grant Morisson will have an easy time understanding this concept.

    Anyway, a universe like this raises an interesting dilemma. If the statement “Tom Cruise is crazy” is true by virtue of one or several other predicates (“Tom” is the subject, “Crazy” the predicate. A true statement, to Liebniz, is simply a statement like “A is B” and refers to the actual reality we inhabit), if the network or “complete demonstration” (collection of all predicates about a person) is true, then it seems that Tom Cruise is not so much a person who exists from time t to time t’ and undergoes changes and growth (and perhaps bouts of insanity) in succession along a timeline, but he is more akin to a picture or a book: all of his predicates exist all at the same time, simultaneously, so that one may even refer to Tom Cruise as an event, one occurrence in the field of space-time, although we mere mortals may experience him piecemeal in a linear fashion, the way one would engage with a novel. This has serious ramifications insofar as free will is concerned, as we will see later.

    So, the statement “Tom Cruise is crazy” will be true even after his madness is lifted (should the gods ever grant him that small mercy) and was true before Tom Cruise became crazy, and even before Tom Cruise was ever born. Leibniz’s own example is regarding Caesar:

    For if anyone were capable of carrying out a complete demonstration by virtue of which he could prove this connection of the subject, which is Caesar, with the predicate, which is his successful enterprise, he would bring us to see in fact that the future dictatorship of Caesar had its basis in concept or nature, so that one would see there a reason why he resolved to cross the Rubicon rather than to stop, and why he gained instead of losing the day at Pharsalus, and that it was reasonable and by consequence assured that this would occur…

    As stated earlier, Leibniz would view the statement regarding Tom Cruise as true based on the same criteria that anyone would use–wether or not the subject contained the predicate. But one predicate does not describe all of the subject Tom Cruise, nor do a few or several hundred; surely there are an infinite number of predicates used to describe Tom Cruise, or at least a very great many, for they would have to describe all Tom Cruise has done or will ever do, has been or will ever be. When viewed as a collection, all the predicates seem a jumble of almost random or arbitrary descriptions (although Leibniz does not believe them to be random). What is their connection? Leibniz claims that the predicates are not a random collection, that one predicate or group of predicates rests upon others. For instance, Tom Cruise is crazy because he one day threw caution to the wind and gave up on rationality in exchange for the blessing of a dead science fiction writer, or rather, it was Caesar’s boldness and desire that made him cross the Rubicon.

    Not only this, but according to Leibniz every predicate that is true of a subject is true by virtue of other predicates, all of which constitute a sufficient reason for why things are the way they are and not some other way, or no way at all. How else could one have “identity” without a sufficient reason for someone to act the way they do at a given time, or how is Caesar with a given set of predicates one week the same as the Caesar with a radically different group of predicates the next? It seems Leibniz is describing a complex network of predicates, all supporting one another and all being true of one subject, a complete concept. From such a network, the “complete demonstration” noted in the quote above, would it be difficult to “deduce”, from past deeds, Caesar’s actions at some future point? To continue the passage quoted above:

    “…and that it was reasonable and by consequence assured that this would occur, but one would not prove that it was necessary in itself, or that the contrary implied a contradiction,…”

    For he who is capable of carrying out a complete demonstration, such a deduction would be the easiest thing in the world, but surely no man can be aware of the near-infinite collection of predicates for even one subject, let alone one subject interacting with an entire world of subjects.

    Anyway. Tom Cruise’s predicates lead him to act one way, because everything that he had ever done in his life had, in a sense, already occurred and can be seen by he who is capable of stepping outside of time (God for Liebniz, but you can refer to this theoretical person however you wish) and carry out a complete demonstration and view the entirety of Tom Cruise as if it were a painting (already we see problems for free will).

    But one must ask: if the price of our wonderful free will is sin, where is the justice in the punishment if God (or fate) in his infinite wisdom set the world on a course where we have, in a sense, already committed the sins? How exactly does our “free will” come into play? Free will, by conventional understanding, is something that God allows to change the course of the way things are; we may be sinners or saints, but it is by our choices and our doings and thus are we made responsible for them. But if our destiny is a four dimensional painting, if all that we have done or will do is already recorded in our “complete demonstration”, are we truly responsible?

    One may argue that from our perspective, the debate between free will and determinism is moot because for us, due to our limited perception, they may as well be the same thing, for we will never know which is true in this world. “Put here, came here, no difference”. But that is simply ducking the issue. We can engage it and still come to the conclusion that we are responsible for our actions even in a seemingly deterministic universe.

    The primary problem is that we (and Liebniz, for that matter, which is why we still have this argument) are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” when using a perspective outside of time. These terms, these notions, have no meaning from this perspective. We use words like “already”, “before”, “after”–but these are meaningless. We think because the character on page 23 chooses A instead of B, even though we’ve finished the novel, that he was fated to choose A because the rest of the novel wouldn’t have happened unless he chose A.

    This is not true. Even though the character on page 23 is making the same choice every time you open to that page, it is still his choice. He is still making that choice, for all eternity. All of your choices, in fact, are still being made by you. All at once, from the perspective outside of time. These are still your choices, and they are making the 4-d structure that is you. What you are, at that point, at those space-time coordinates, is made of previous choices and doings–and what you will be, “in the future” (or, more precise, at a different set of space-time coordinates), is also made of those same choices.

    So yeah. That’s Leibniz’s perspective for you, one which I find preferable. It has the same metaphysical description of the universe that I had perceived before I read any Leibniz, which may explain why i like it so much, and he finds responsibility for our actions within it.

    • Tuna Ghost

      Apologies for the spelling and grammatical errors, I’m sort of in a hurry

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Couldn’t this Bible above just be summarized as saying that some influential theorists believe in a 4+ dimensional model of the universe that flattens all of time into an omni-present 4th dimension and therefore questions the existence of causality and therefore limiting the significance of “choice” to the simple presence or absence of some characteristic?

      Interesting enough idea, but the extreme interpretation of it suggests that my bronchitis is every bit as much my personal choice as the specific text I’m writing in this comment. In fact, it does seem to mock the notion of personal identity a bit: Which bits represent the real Liam McGonagle–coordinates 4A3c or 4A3d?

      • RONIN

        Agreed.

        If human beings can be said to have this of free will as it is defined by this theory, what stops the same from being said about everything else that exists.

        • Tuna Ghost

          Well, what else can make choices?

          • RONIN

            His theory doesn’t seem to leave room for the ability to do otherwise, whether we say it’s at some point in the future or a different set of space-time coordinates. How is choice defined here?

      • Tuna Ghost

        I wanted to present a reasonably thorough view on Leibniz’s ideas, including why salvaging Free Will was necessary.

        Interesting enough idea, but the extreme interpretation of it suggests that my bronchitis is every bit as much my personal choice as the specific text I’m writing in this comment.

        I’m not sure why you think that. At any rate, the sentence “Liam has bronchitis” is supported by several other predicates, such as “Liam was outside in the cold for hours and hours”, “Liam did not take care of his cold”, and “Liam smokes thirty cigarettes a day”.

        In fact, it does seem to mock the notion of personal identity a bit: Which bits represent the real Liam McGonagle–coordinates 4A3c or 4A3d?

        None of them. The “real” Liam, what Leibniz calls the “complete demonstration”, is impossible to view from our perspective. It encompasses all your predicates you have or ever will have. The Liam at 4A3c is just a cross-section of Liam.

        • Andrew

          > why salvaging Free Will was necessary.

          Argumentum ad consequentiam?

          • Tuna Ghost

            Its possible, I won’t deny it. Remember, Leibniz (and all the other continental rationalists) were still under scrutiny of the Church at the time. It hadn’t been too long ago that Galileo had been put to death for disagreeing with the church. Spinoza had to flee the continent for his own pretty innocuous brand of heathenry, if I recall correctly.

            At any rate, that’s a fallacy I’ve always had a funny feeling about. There’s something…not to be trusted about it.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          You’re contadicting yourself a little bit here. Which is it you assert? The causality implied by sequence, or the causality negating omnipresence of time?

          “. . . The primary problem is that we . . . are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” . . .”

          I think you need to come down firmly on one side of the argument on the other before you can even understand the application of volition.

          Re: “the complete demonstration”–the problem here which you haven’t addressed to date is the fact that, given our impaired ability to perceive the entirety of the “complete demonstration” we can have little confidence that any selected portion thereof can be considered sufficiently representative of the total.

          It’s one thing to take a statistical sampling risk when you’re dealing with a portion of finite total, but we don’t have any realistic ability to perceive the totality defined as the “complete demonstration”, let alone make efforts to make unbiased samples from it. That’s my point about the unreliability of our observations about personality: if you define the personality as anything less than the practically immeasurable “complete presentation”, then you are invoking temporality–thus negating the omnipresence of all time that characterize’s Leibnitz’ model.

          • Tuna Ghost

            The causality implied by sequence, or the causality negating omnipresence of time?

            I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “causality negating omnipresence of time”. At any rate, it isn’t the former–because a predicate rests on other predicates does not imply causation in terms of cause-and-effect as we typically understand the phrase. Leibniz would say, when asked “why did I get bronchitis”, simply that you are the kind of person to get bronchitis. Who you are, at the time and place you come down with bronchitis, is someone who would come down with bronchitis. That’s the explanation from outside of time, the one from inside is going to start with the word “because” as that is how we describe things in here. This entire debate began long ago because Leibniz uses temporal language where he shouldn’t, a mistake that is very easy to make. Remember, we’re beings inside the 4-d structure attempting to describe a perspective outside the structure that is observing phenomena inside the structure–things are bound to get a bit mixed up.

            Do you mean to write “causality-negating omnipresence”, referring to the 4-d structure in which time is more like space than as most tend to think of it?

            “the complete demonstration”–the problem here which you haven’t addressed to date is the fact that, given our impaired ability to perceive the entirety of the “complete demonstration” we can have little confidence that any selected portion thereof can be considered sufficiently representative of the total.

            I don’t see why that’s a problem. Is who you were at 13 an adequate representation of your totality? Should it be?

            if you define the personality as anything less than the practically immeasurable “complete presentation”, then you are invoking temporality–thus negating the omnipresence of all time that characterize’s Leibnitz’ model.

            I’ve never had much use for the term “personality”, as the meaning and scope seemed to grow and dimish however and whenever the user needed it to do so. If we’re going to talk about identity, we need to nail down some defitions first. Why are you using the term “personality”? In the sense that Leibniz uses the phrase “because that’s the sort of person Ceasar was”, then yes, “personality” means the collection of predicates that particular predicate rests upon, likely unobservable by us.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            LOL. A simple “Yes, Liam–you’re right,” will do.

            You manage to use five words for every single word actually needed. The hallmark of genius is usually held to be the pithy expression of great ideas, not their weighing down with ponderous claptrap.

            So now you say that you definitely believe that the 4 dimension paradigm doesn’t support causation. You’re sure about that? After all, you expressed no problem with the concept of “omni-present time” in my first post, but suddenly it caused great confusion for you in the second. Flip flop, flip flop . . .

            Okay, assuming that you really do mean what you say (and understand what you’re saying), here’s the summary:

            1. You admit to the severe limitation of the notion of personal identity which I described in my first post.

            2. You express doubt about the applicability of causation in a 4 dimensional universe

            3. The absence of causation requires an alternative medium for the expression of agency, or at least to distinguish it from “non-agency”. Which you have not presented here, making my statement “my bronchitis is every bit as much a “choice” as the text I’m writing here” entirely valid. You haven’t even laid the groundwork for an objection to that statement.

            And please, don’t try to conn us by saying that qualification of the bronchitis with terms like “downpour-induced” or “tobacco-induced” mean anything. Quite apart from their self-contradictory reference to the notions of causation in our 3-dimensional world’s version of etiology, they’re utterly incomplete and haphazardly drawn. What about the myriad of other pre-disposing factors that were incurred before I was born, like my genetic makeup? Even allowing the qualification of the predicate to such a ridiculous degree, you still haven’t addressed the fact that literally millions of other people who are are not statistically distinguishable from myself on any medically relevant point are caught in downpours or tobacco habits and DO NOT contract bronchitis.

            Listen, if you were an academic, I might understand the weird circumlocutions on the grounds of ingrained habit or even a defense of the structured approach of the discipline. But you’re not displaying any consistency or rigor here at all.

          • Tuna Ghost

            .You manage to use five words for every single word actually needed. The hallmark of genius is usually held to be the pithy expression of great ideas, not their weighing down with ponderous claptrap.

            I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. By the way, I just rolled my eyes so hard the floor tilted and my tea cup fell off my desk.

            So now you say that you definitely believe that the 4 dimension paradigm doesn’t support causation. You’re sure about that? After all, you expressed no problem with the concept of “omni-present time” in my first post, but suddenly it caused great confusion for you in the second. Flip flop, flip flop . . .

            Because you didn’t use the strange phrase “omni-present time”. You used the even more nebulous phrase “causilty negating omnipresence of time”, a phrase that can have several different meanings. SImply placing a hyphen somwhere in there could have fixed that, which I tried to do to make sure we’re on the same page.

            1. You admit to the severe limitation of the notion of personal identity which I described in my first post.

            Umm, sure? I have no idea why this matters, but okay.

            2. You express doubt about the applicability of causation in a 4 dimensional universe

            I express Leibniz’s doubt of the inescapability of cause-and-effect leading to a deterministic universe that abolishes free will, as we typically understand the terms.

            3. The absence of causation requires an alternative medium for the expression of agency, or at least to distinguish it from “non-agency”. Which you have not presented here, making my statement “my bronchitis is every bit as much a “choice” as the text I’m writing here” entirely valid. You haven’t even laid the groundwork for an objection to that statement.

            I don’t recall taking causation off the table. Only the notion that its either your brand of causation or an “omnipresence of time” that, for some reason you haven’t explained completely, negates it. Leibniz’s views suggest a kind of compatability..

            Here, I’ll try to break it down: in a deterministic universe, actions and choices are necessary in the sense that they must be made a certain way or the universe would not be as it is now. There is no other option. The universe is set, as are all your choices. Leibniz argues against this, saying that a person’s will “inclines without necessistating”. To elaborate:

            “For speaking absolutely, our will is in a state of indifference, in so far as indifference is opposed to necessity, and it has the power to do otherwise, or to suspend its action altogether, both alternatives being and remaining possible. [...] It is true, however, and indeed it is certain from all eternity, that a particular soul will not make use of this power on such and such an occasion. But whose fault is that? Does it have anyone to blame but itself?”

            So. You have will, the ability to do or not do. The mistake comes in thinking that because “future” choices have “already” been made, that the univese is deterministic. This is the fault of using temporal language where it shouldn’t be applied. Do you see now how causation exists but does not behave in the sense we normally believe it to behave?

            Your frankly baffling bit about bronchitis seems to be asking about the role of random events in Leibniz’s universe as described here, as you don’t seem able to distinguish between agency and non-agency in this situation. I can’t imagine why not. You wrote “Interesting enough idea, but the extreme interpretation of it suggests that my bronchitis is every bit as much my personal choice as the specific text I’m writing in this comment” without ever explaining why it seems this way to you. Elaborate, and I’ll be happy to provide what answers Leibniz has on the subject.

            Listen, if you were an academic, I might understand the weird circumlocutions on the grounds of ingrained habit or even a defense of the structured approach of the discipline. But you’re not displaying any consistency or rigor here at all.

            What you call “cicumlocutions” I call “attempts to explain a complex idea to someone trying to dumb it down for himself”. It’s possible neither of us is right in this case.

            I deny charges of inconsistency and counter with charges of poor reading skills. As for rigor, I was attempting to spare everyone an in-depth look into Leibniz’s notions of complete demonstrations, substances, etc. I’ll go into it if you like, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            “I deny charges of inconsistency . . .”

            “The primary problem is that we . . . are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” . . . ”

            “I don’t recall taking causation off the table. . . .”

            Case closed. Verdict: Fraud.

          • Tuna Ghost

            wow, two cut-up quotes removed from context that, if read to their completion, counter the argument you’re currently proposing. That’s some good arguin’, buddy. No, really. You’ve completely refuted my claims of poor reading skills.

            Completely.

            So do you plan to explain “…but the extreme interpretation of it suggests that my bronchitis is every bit as much my personal choice as the specific text I’m writing in this comment”? Or are we just going to pretend you didn’t write that, like you’re pretending I didn’t write “are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” when using a perspective outside of time.“, or “does not imply causation in terms of cause-and-effect as we typically understand the phrase“, or “I don’t recall taking causation off the table. Only the notion that its either your brand of causation or an “omnipresence of time” that, for some reason you haven’t explained completely, negates it.“?

            Is that the plan? You can tell me, I won’t reveal your shameful secret to anyone.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            LOL.

            Quoth Tuna Ghost: “wow, two cut-up quotes . . .”

            Thank you for providing evidence that you don’t know how to count, in addition to your lying and reading problems.

            (1) “I deny charges of inconsistency . . .”

            (2) “The primary problem is that we . . . are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” . . . ”

            (3) “I don’t recall taking causation off the table. . . .”

            Please, go on. Don’t let acute public humiliation hold you back. Hasn’t to date, why should it now?

          • Tuna Ghost

            So we are pretending you didn’t write those things? And ignoring the actual quotes that just happen to refute your recent charge? Gotcha.

            And the fact that you won’t actually engage in any of the points and opt instead for claims of “lying” (really? It’s all in black and white, honey. I mean literally in black and white, right up there) is probably more revealing than you mean it to be.

          • Tuna Ghost

            …I’m being trolled, aren’t I. I should’ve guessed from the LOL’s, nobody who actually gives a damn about being taken seriously does that. God damn kids with your pranks and squirt guns and facebooks

  • Tuna Ghost

    Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz produced what i think is my favorite defense of free will to date. His metaphysics outlined reality as a true four-dimensional structure, in which all events are happening simultaneously (which would be necessary in a true four-dimensional universe). I had written a huge post detailing his metaphysics, but unless you’re really into that sort of thing it would bore you to tears. So, you’re welcome. Just take my word for it: Leibniz viewed reality as a four-dimensional structure. Fans of Grant Morisson will have an easy time understanding this concept.

    Anyway, a universe like this raises an interesting dilemma. If the statement “Tom Cruise is crazy” is true by virtue of one or several other predicates (“Tom” is the subject, “Crazy” the predicate. A true statement, to Liebniz, is simply a statement like “A is B” and refers to the actual reality we inhabit), if the network or “complete demonstration” (collection of all predicates about a person) is true, then it seems that Tom Cruise is not so much a person who exists from time t to time t’ and undergoes changes and growth (and perhaps bouts of insanity) in succession along a timeline, but he is more akin to a picture or a book: all of his predicates exist all at the same time, simultaneously, so that one may even refer to Tom Cruise as an event, one occurrence in the field of space-time, although we mere mortals may experience him piecemeal in a linear fashion, the way one would engage with a novel. This has serious ramifications insofar as free will is concerned, as we will see later.

    So, the statement “Tom Cruise is crazy” will be true even after his madness is lifted (should the gods ever grant him that small mercy) and was true before Tom Cruise became crazy, and even before Tom Cruise was ever born. Leibniz’s own example is regarding Caesar:

    For if anyone were capable of carrying out a complete demonstration by virtue of which he could prove this connection of the subject, which is Caesar, with the predicate, which is his successful enterprise, he would bring us to see in fact that the future dictatorship of Caesar had its basis in concept or nature, so that one would see there a reason why he resolved to cross the Rubicon rather than to stop, and why he gained instead of losing the day at Pharsalus, and that it was reasonable and by consequence assured that this would occur…

    As stated earlier, Leibniz would view the statement regarding Tom Cruise as true based on the same criteria that anyone would use–wether or not the subject contained the predicate. But one predicate does not describe all of the subject Tom Cruise, nor do a few or several hundred; surely there are an infinite number of predicates used to describe Tom Cruise, or at least a very great many, for they would have to describe all Tom Cruise has done or will ever do, has been or will ever be. When viewed as a collection, all the predicates seem a jumble of almost random or arbitrary descriptions (although Leibniz does not believe them to be random). What is their connection? Leibniz claims that the predicates are not a random collection, that one predicate or group of predicates rests upon others. For instance, Tom Cruise is crazy because he one day threw caution to the wind and gave up on rationality in exchange for the blessing of a dead science fiction writer, or rather, it was Caesar’s boldness and desire that made him cross the Rubicon.

    Not only this, but according to Leibniz every predicate that is true of a subject is true by virtue of other predicates, all of which constitute a sufficient reason for why things are the way they are and not some other way, or no way at all. How else could one have “identity” without a sufficient reason for someone to act the way they do at a given time, or how is Caesar with a given set of predicates one week the same as the Caesar with a radically different group of predicates the next? It seems Leibniz is describing a complex network of predicates, all supporting one another and all being true of one subject, a complete concept. From such a network, the “complete demonstration” noted in the quote above, would it be difficult to “deduce”, from past deeds, Caesar’s actions at some future point? To continue the passage quoted above:

    “…and that it was reasonable and by consequence assured that this would occur, but one would not prove that it was necessary in itself, or that the contrary implied a contradiction,…”

    For he who is capable of carrying out a complete demonstration, such a deduction would be the easiest thing in the world, but surely no man can be aware of the near-infinite collection of predicates for even one subject, let alone one subject interacting with an entire world of subjects.

    Anyway. Tom Cruise’s predicates lead him to act one way, because everything that he had ever done in his life had, in a sense, already occurred and can be seen by he who is capable of stepping outside of time (God for Liebniz, but you can refer to this theoretical person however you wish) and carry out a complete demonstration and view the entirety of Tom Cruise as if it were a painting (already we see problems for free will).

    But one must ask: if the price of our wonderful free will is sin, where is the justice in the punishment if God (or fate) in his infinite wisdom set the world on a course where we have, in a sense, already committed the sins? How exactly does our “free will” come into play? Free will, by conventional understanding, is something that God allows to change the course of the way things are; we may be sinners or saints, but it is by our choices and our doings and thus are we made responsible for them. But if our destiny is a four dimensional painting, if all that we have done or will do is already recorded in our “complete demonstration”, are we truly responsible?

    One may argue that from our perspective, the debate between free will and determinism is moot because for us, due to our limited perception, they may as well be the same thing, for we will never know which is true in this world. “Put here, came here, no difference”. But that is simply ducking the issue. We can engage it and still come to the conclusion that we are responsible for our actions even in a seemingly deterministic universe.

    The primary problem is that we (and Liebniz, for that matter, which is why we still have this argument) are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” when using a perspective outside of time. These terms, these notions, have no meaning from this perspective. We use words like “already”, “before”, “after”–but these are meaningless. We think because the character on page 23 chooses A instead of B, even though we’ve finished the novel, that he was fated to choose A because the rest of the novel wouldn’t have happened unless he chose A.

    This is not true. Even though the character on page 23 is making the same choice every time you open to that page, it is still his choice. He is still making that choice, for all eternity. All of your choices, in fact, are still being made by you. All at once, from the perspective outside of time. These are still your choices, and they are making the 4-d structure that is you. What you are, at that point, at those space-time coordinates, is made of previous choices and doings–and what you will be, “in the future” (or, more precise, at a different set of space-time coordinates), is also made of those same choices.

    So yeah. That’s Leibniz’s perspective for you, one which I find preferable. It has the same metaphysical description of the universe that I had perceived before I read any Leibniz, which may explain why i like it so much, and he finds responsibility for our actions within it.

  • Tuna Ghost

    Apologies for the spelling and grammatical errors, I’m sort of in a hurry

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I thought this Higgs thing was a spatial not temporal displacement. You for serious here or just having us on?

    Still, even if you were having us on, I like the idea from a themeatic perspective. Great fodder for speculative fiction.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Couldn’t this Bible above just be summarized as saying that some influential theorists believe in a 4+ dimensional model of the universe that flattens all of time into an omni-present 4th dimension and therefore questions the existence of causality and therefore limiting the significance of “choice” to the simple presence or absence of some characteristic?

    Interesting enough idea, but the extreme interpretation of it suggests that my bronchitis is every bit as much my personal choice as the specific text I’m writing in this comment. In fact, it does seem to mock the notion of personal identity a bit: Which bits represent the real Liam McGonagle–coordinates 4A3c or 4A3d?

  • RONIN

    Agreed.

    If human beings can be said to have this of free will as it is defined by this theory, what stops the same from being said about everything else that exists.

  • Tuna Ghost

    I wanted to present a reasonably thorough view on Leibniz’s ideas, including why salvaging Free Will was necessary.

    Interesting enough idea, but the extreme interpretation of it suggests that my bronchitis is every bit as much my personal choice as the specific text I’m writing in this comment.

    I’m not sure why you think that. At any rate, the sentence “Liam has bronchitis” is supported by several other predicates, such as “Liam was outside in the cold for hours and hours”, “Liam did not take care of his cold”, and “Liam smokes thirty cigarettes a day”.

    In fact, it does seem to mock the notion of personal identity a bit: Which bits represent the real Liam McGonagle–coordinates 4A3c or 4A3d?

    None of them. The “real” Liam, what Leibniz calls the “complete demonstration”, is impossible to view from our perspective. It encompasses all your predicates you have or ever will have. The Liam at 4A3c is just a cross-section of Liam.

  • Tuna Ghost

    Well, what else can make choices?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Trayan-Kolev/792033934 Trayan Kolev

    funny that it should be mentioned the whole… deterministic view that people are going to be judged on ALL their previous actions no matter what the current consequences.
    Well guess what that is what most religions are about.
    It has been ingrained in our minds that our lifestyles TODAY determine what we become tomorrow.
    While there are millions of actions everyday that cause unintended consequences for the rest of us, its our own perception, beliefs and finally actions that determine US!
    Divine order and fate might be considered the interpretations of the unintended consequences, the rest, its all about the individual and his or her interpretation of what is going on around them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Trayan-Kolev/792033934 Trayan Kolev

    funny that it should be mentioned the whole… deterministic view that people are going to be judged on ALL their previous actions no matter what the current consequences.
    Well guess what that is what most religions are about.
    It has been ingrained in our minds that our lifestyles TODAY determine what we become tomorrow.
    While there are millions of actions everyday that cause unintended consequences for the rest of us, its our own perception, beliefs and finally actions that determine US!
    Divine order and fate might be considered the interpretations of the unintended consequences, the rest, its all about the individual and his or her interpretation of what is going on around them.

  • Andrew

    > why salvaging Free Will was necessary.

    Argumentum ad consequentiam?

  • RONIN

    His theory doesn’t seem to leave room for the ability to do otherwise, whether we say it’s at some point in the future or a different set of space-time coordinates. How is choice defined here?

  • Liam_McGonagle

    You’re contadicting yourself a little bit here. Which is it you assert? The causality implied by sequence, or the causality negating omnipresence of time?

    “. . . The primary problem is that we . . . are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” . . .”

    I think you need to come down firmly on one side of the argument on the other before you can even understand the application of volition.

    Re: “the complete demonstration”–the problem here which you haven’t addressed to date is the fact that, given our impaired ability to perceive the entirety of the “complete demonstration” we can have little confidence that any selected portion thereof can be considered sufficiently representative of the total.

    It’s one thing to take a statistical sampling risk when you’re dealing with a portion of finite total, but we don’t have any realistic ability to perceive the totality defined as the “complete demonstration”, let alone make efforts to make unbiased samples from it. That’s my point about the unreliability of our observations about personality: if you define the personality as anything less than the practically immeasurable “complete presentation”, then you are invoking temporality–thus negating the omnipresence of all time that characterize’s Leibnitz’ model.

  • Tuna Ghost

    The causality implied by sequence, or the causality negating omnipresence of time?

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “causality negating omnipresence of time”. At any rate, it isn’t the former–because a predicate rests on other predicates does not imply causation in terms of cause-and-effect as we typically understand the phrase. Leibniz would say, when asked “why did I get bronchitis”, simply that you are the kind of person to get bronchitis. Who you are, at the time and place you come down with bronchitis, is someone who would come down with bronchitis. That’s the explanation from outside of time, the one from inside is going to start with the word “because” as that is how we describe things in here. This entire debate began long ago because Leibniz uses temporal language where he shouldn’t, a mistake that is very easy to make. Remember, we’re beings inside the 4-d structure attempting to describe a perspective outside the structure that is observing phenomena inside the structure–things are bound to get a bit mixed up.

    Do you mean to write “causality-negating omnipresence”, referring to the 4-d structure in which time is more like space than as most tend to think of it?

    “the complete demonstration”–the problem here which you haven’t addressed to date is the fact that, given our impaired ability to perceive the entirety of the “complete demonstration” we can have little confidence that any selected portion thereof can be considered sufficiently representative of the total.

    I don’t see why that’s a problem. Is who you were at 13 an adequate representation of your totality? Should it be?

    if you define the personality as anything less than the practically immeasurable “complete presentation”, then you are invoking temporality–thus negating the omnipresence of all time that characterize’s Leibnitz’ model.

    I’ve never had much use for the term “personality”, as the meaning and scope seemed to grow and dimish however and whenever the user needed it to do so. If we’re going to talk about identity, we need to nail down some defitions first. Why are you using the term “personality”? In the sense that Leibniz uses the phrase “because that’s the sort of person Ceasar was”, then yes, “personality” means the collection of predicates that particular predicate rests upon, likely unobservable by us.

  • Tuna Ghost

    The causality implied by sequence, or the causality negating omnipresence of time?

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “causality negating omnipresence of time”. At any rate, it isn’t the former–because a predicate rests on other predicates does not imply causation in terms of cause-and-effect as we typically understand the phrase. Leibniz would say, when asked “why did I get bronchitis”, simply that you are the kind of person to get bronchitis. Who you are, at the time and place you come down with bronchitis, is someone who would come down with bronchitis. That’s the explanation from outside of time, the one from inside is going to start with the word “because” as that is how we describe things in here. This entire debate began long ago because Leibniz uses temporal language where he shouldn’t, a mistake that is very easy to make. Remember, we’re beings inside the 4-d structure attempting to describe a perspective outside the structure that is observing phenomena inside the structure–things are bound to get a bit mixed up.

    Do you mean to write “causality-negating omnipresence”, referring to the 4-d structure in which time is more like space than as most tend to think of it?

    “the complete demonstration”–the problem here which you haven’t addressed to date is the fact that, given our impaired ability to perceive the entirety of the “complete demonstration” we can have little confidence that any selected portion thereof can be considered sufficiently representative of the total.

    I don’t see why that’s a problem. Is who you were at 13 an adequate representation of your totality? Should it be?

    if you define the personality as anything less than the practically immeasurable “complete presentation”, then you are invoking temporality–thus negating the omnipresence of all time that characterize’s Leibnitz’ model.

    I’ve never had much use for the term “personality”, as the meaning and scope seemed to grow and dimish however and whenever the user needed it to do so. If we’re going to talk about identity, we need to nail down some defitions first. Why are you using the term “personality”? In the sense that Leibniz uses the phrase “because that’s the sort of person Ceasar was”, then yes, “personality” means the collection of predicates that particular predicate rests upon, likely unobservable by us.

  • Tuna Ghost

    Its possible, I won’t deny it. Remember, Leibniz (and all the other continental rationalists) were still under scrutiny of the Church at the time. It hadn’t been too long ago that Galileo had been put to death for disagreeing with the church. Spinoza had to flee the continent for his own pretty innocuous brand of heathenry, if I recall correctly.

    At any rate, that’s a fallacy I’ve always had a funny feeling about. There’s something…not to be trusted about it.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    LOL. A simple “Yes, Liam–you’re right,” will do.

    You manage to use five words for every single word actually needed. The hallmark of genius is usually held to be the pithy expression of great ideas, not their weighing down with ponderous claptrap.

    So now you say that you definitely believe that the 4 dimension paradigm doesn’t support causation. You’re sure about that? After all, you expressed no problem with the concept of “omni-present time” in my first post, but suddenly it caused great confusion for you in the second. Flip flop, flip flop . . .

    Okay, assuming that you really do mean what you say (and understand what you’re saying), here’s the summary:

    1. You admit to the severe limitation of the notion of personal identity which I described in my first post.

    2. You express doubt about the applicability of causation in a 4 dimensional universe

    3. The absence of causation requires an alternative medium for the expression of agency, or at least to distinguish it from “non-agency”. Which you have not presented here, making my statement “my bronchitis is every bit as much a “choice” as the text I’m writing here” entirely valid. You haven’t even laid the groundwork for an objection to that statement.

    And please, don’t try to conn us by saying that qualification of the bronchitis with terms like “downpour-induced” or “tobacco-induced” mean anything. Quite apart from their self-contradictory reference to the notions of causation in our 3-dimensional world’s version of etiology, they’re utterly incomplete and haphazardly drawn. What about the myriad of other pre-disposing factors that were incurred before I was born, like my genetic makeup? Even allowing the qualification of the predicate to such a ridiculous degree, you still haven’t addressed the fact that literally millions of other people who are are not statistically distinguishable from myself on any medically relevant point are caught in downpours or tobacco habits and DO NOT contract bronchitis.

    Listen, if you were an academic, I might understand the weird circumlocutions on the grounds of ingrained habit or even a defense of the structured approach of the discipline. But you’re not displaying any consistency or rigor here at all.

  • Tuna Ghost

    .You manage to use five words for every single word actually needed. The hallmark of genius is usually held to be the pithy expression of great ideas, not their weighing down with ponderous claptrap.

    I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. By the way, I just rolled my eyes so hard the floor tilted and my tea cup fell off my desk.

    So now you say that you definitely believe that the 4 dimension paradigm doesn’t support causation. You’re sure about that? After all, you expressed no problem with the concept of “omni-present time” in my first post, but suddenly it caused great confusion for you in the second. Flip flop, flip flop . . .

    Because you didn’t use the strange phrase “omni-present time”. You used the even more nebulous phrase “causilty negating omnipresence of time”, a phrase that can have several different meanings. SImply placing a hyphen somwhere in there could have fixed that, which I tried to do to make sure we’re on the same page.

    1. You admit to the severe limitation of the notion of personal identity which I described in my first post.

    Umm, sure? I have no idea why this matters, but okay.

    2. You express doubt about the applicability of causation in a 4 dimensional universe

    I express Leibniz’s doubt of the inescapability of cause-and-effect leading to a deterministic universe that abolishes free will, as we typically understand the terms.

    3. The absence of causation requires an alternative medium for the expression of agency, or at least to distinguish it from “non-agency”. Which you have not presented here, making my statement “my bronchitis is every bit as much a “choice” as the text I’m writing here” entirely valid. You haven’t even laid the groundwork for an objection to that statement.

    I don’t recall taking causation off the table. Only the notion that its either your brand of causation or an “omnipresence of time” that, for some reason you haven’t explained completely, negates it. Leibniz’s views suggest a kind of compatability..

    Here, I’ll try to break it down: in a deterministic universe, actions and choices are necessary in the sense that they must be made a certain way or the universe would not be as it is now. There is no other option. The universe is set, as are all your choices. Leibniz argues against this, saying that a person’s will “inclines without necessistating”. To elaborate:

    “For speaking absolutely, our will is in a state of indifference, in so far as indifference is opposed to necessity, and it has the power to do otherwise, or to suspend its action altogether, both alternatives being and remaining possible. [...] It is true, however, and indeed it is certain from all eternity, that a particular soul will not make use of this power on such and such an occasion. But whose fault is that? Does it have anyone to blame but itself?”

    So. You have will, the ability to do or not do. The mistake comes in thinking that because “future” choices have “already” been made, that the univese is deterministic. This is the fault of using temporal language where it shouldn’t be applied. Do you see now how causation exists but does not behave in the sense we normally believe it to behave?

    Your frankly baffling bit about bronchitis seems to be asking about the role of random events in Leibniz’s universe as described here, as you don’t seem able to distinguish between agency and non-agency in this situation. I can’t imagine why not. You wrote “Interesting enough idea, but the extreme interpretation of it suggests that my bronchitis is every bit as much my personal choice as the specific text I’m writing in this comment” without ever explaining why it seems this way to you. Elaborate, and I’ll be happy to provide what answers Leibniz has on the subject.

    Listen, if you were an academic, I might understand the weird circumlocutions on the grounds of ingrained habit or even a defense of the structured approach of the discipline. But you’re not displaying any consistency or rigor here at all.

    What you call “cicumlocutions” I call “attempts to explain a complex idea to someone trying to dumb it down for himself”. It’s possible neither of us is right in this case.

    I deny charges of inconsistency and counter with charges of poor reading skills. As for rigor, I was attempting to spare everyone an in-depth look into Leibniz’s notions of complete demonstrations, substances, etc. I’ll go into it if you like, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • j30

    There is no need to abolish all laws and penalties although I think many people agree they are imperfect.

    Laws can be enforced without pretending free-will exists. You simply treat people the same way you treat a child who is not responsible for their actions.

    Or treat people the same way you treat a malfunctioning part of a machine. We have no desire to “punish” a broken gear or a worn out belt on an engine. We simply remove the damaged or malfunctioning part and repair the machine. There is no need to chastise or blame the part determined to be the proximal cause.

  • j30

    There is no need to abolish all laws and penalties although I think many people agree they are imperfect.

    Laws can be enforced without pretending free-will exists. You simply treat people the same way you treat a child who is not responsible for their actions.

    Or treat people the same way you treat a malfunctioning part of a machine. We have no desire to “punish” a broken gear or a worn out belt on an engine. We simply remove the damaged or malfunctioning part and repair the machine. There is no need to chastise or blame the part determined to be the proximal cause.

  • j30

    Imagining the future is no more substantive than imagining the past.

    By insisting that free-will involves the fuzzy stuff that science cannot by its definition touch, you have essentially relegated it to the realm of superstition, imagination, and myth.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    “I deny charges of inconsistency . . .”

    “The primary problem is that we . . . are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” . . . ”

    “I don’t recall taking causation off the table. . . .”

    Case closed. Verdict: Fraud.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    You seem to have a near dogmatic view of science as truth, with no appreciation of complex issues of subjectivity, and uncertainty. Limits of scale are rapidly tearing scientific logic at its seams. The understanding of the universe in senses of quantum physics, chaos theory, and even what we are currently talking about: the mind. Do you really think we actually understand down the the finest details how the mind works? We have a lot of theories, and a lot of angles we are looking at, but still we aren’t even close to understanding it.

    “Fuzzy stuff” is not superstition, imagination and myth, it is the stuff that is so complex that we cant quantify it in scientific terms. Sometimes those three tools are utilized to get a picture, and a sense of scale, but neither the finite scientific quantification, nor the subjective ideas give us the full picture or a pure understanding.

  • Tuna Ghost

    wow, two cut-up quotes removed from context that, if read to their completion, counter the argument you’re currently proposing. That’s some good arguin’, buddy. No, really. You’ve completely refuted my claims of poor reading skills.

    Completely.

    So do you plan to explain “…but the extreme interpretation of it suggests that my bronchitis is every bit as much my personal choice as the specific text I’m writing in this comment”? Or are we just going to pretend you didn’t write that, like you’re pretending I didn’t write “are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” when using a perspective outside of time.“, or “does not imply causation in terms of cause-and-effect as we typically understand the phrase“, or “I don’t recall taking causation off the table. Only the notion that its either your brand of causation or an “omnipresence of time” that, for some reason you haven’t explained completely, negates it.“?

    Is that the plan? You can tell me, I won’t reveal your shameful secret to anyone.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    LOL.

    Quoth Tuna Ghost: “wow, two cut-up quotes . . .”

    Thank you for providing evidence that you don’t know how to count, in addition to your lying and reading problems.

    (1) “I deny charges of inconsistency . . .”

    (2) “The primary problem is that we . . . are prone to using temporal language and the notion of “Cause and Effect” . . . ”

    (3) “I don’t recall taking causation off the table. . . .”

    Please, go on. Don’t let acute public humiliation hold you back. Hasn’t to date, why should it now?

  • Tuna Ghost

    So we are pretending you didn’t write those things? And ignoring the actual quotes that just happen to refute your recent charge? Gotcha.

    And the fact that you won’t actually engage in any of the points and opt instead for claims of “lying” (really? It’s all in black and white, honey. I mean literally in black and white, right up there) is probably more revealing than you mean it to be.

  • Tuna Ghost

    …I’m being trolled, aren’t I. I should’ve guessed from the LOL’s, nobody who actually gives a damn about being taken seriously does that. God damn kids with your pranks and squirt guns and facebooks

  • http://www.nickmeador.org/ ndmeador

    Most conversations about “free will” are pure philosophical verbalism by dogmatic rationalists who don’t have nearly enough information to conduct such a discussion. I don’t think the human race has all the information required, but what info we do have must be combined from fields like psychology, quantum physics, biology (genetics), general semantics, etc. The topic is still framed in an either/or fashion–i.e., we either have total free will, or every action is predetermined by some other force or action. No topic can ever be truthfully examined from a two-valued stance. Free will is an “infinite-valued” topic, to use Korzybski’s term. Nichols’s “experiments” are still essentially based on the opinion of test subjects. It seems like he’s basically trying to “prove or disprove” the “conceptual thinking” from traditional philosophy. That simply won’t be enough.

  • http://www.nickmeador.org/ ndmeador

    Most conversations about “free will” are pure philosophical verbalism by dogmatic rationalists who don’t have nearly enough information to conduct such a discussion. I don’t think the human race has all the information required, but what info we do have must be combined from fields like psychology, quantum physics, biology (genetics), general semantics, etc. The topic is still framed in an either/or fashion–i.e., we either have total free will, or every action is predetermined by some other force or action. No topic can ever be truthfully examined from a two-valued stance. Free will is an “infinite-valued” topic, to use Korzybski’s term. Nichols’s “experiments” are still essentially based on the opinion of test subjects. It seems like he’s basically trying to “prove or disprove” the “conceptual thinking” from traditional philosophy. That simply won’t be enough.

  • j30

    We don’t need to know the finest details of how the mind works. We only need to know that all interactions are predicated on previous events. Nothing happens without a cause. Certainly the human mind, among many other things is a veritable black box from which we can only observe input and output. However, the “mystery” does not in any way imply freedom from previous consequence.

    Let’s explore this further. Imagine you are going to make a decision. You do not make this decision purely randomly (because that wouldn’t qualify as a decision), especially if it is important to you in some way. You will gather information and weigh the known risks and rewards of each perceived choice and mix that with a little gut instinct and maybe some trusted advice. All of these influence the outcome of your decision. Your experience tells you what decisions are important and what information is trustworthy. Your decision is based on your experience.

    Yes we can’t know everything and this will inevitably inject some randomness (or just bad info) into our decision making process. However, randomness does not equal “freedom”. The conscious decision making part of our brain, the part we are responsible for, the thing that distinguishes adults from children, makes “decisions” based on our life experience and is therefore determined and not in any way “free”.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Uncertainty and randomness are related but not synonymous. And on that note if nothing happens without a cause as you say, then thinking really deeply, randomness doesn’t exist; however that is a whole different argument to talk about. I never talked about randomness, I talked about near infinite complexity, and the uncertainty that this breeds.

    All of that processing that you were talking about involving weighing ideas risks, rewards etc, considering gut reaction, or even having to make a quick decision with little weighing of anything, that is your free will in action. The complexity of mental processing allows for your own mind to be unique. In being unique you have to be the controller in the situation, or you’d always be looking for outside information to make a decision. Even if you say we store the outside information within ourselves, I think it would be a fair assessment that we store this information differently depending on our experience.

    Personally I always took the fact that a belief in Free will can dramatically change one’s actions as a proof for its existence, but I can’t really claim that bit is a good argument, its just a kinda gut-feeling.

  • Suckmyaces

    why does it always have to be one or the other? take a lesson from Psychology and think outside the box…maybe its both? Sounds contradictive? Maybe not so much, because if you have “some” free will to mold your life into what you want to be, and at the same time are only given certain choices by whatever deterministic force controls things, then you can have both. This theory can be mixed up in different ratios as one pleases, its just a thought experiment.

  • Suckmyaces

    why does it always have to be one or the other? take a lesson from Psychology and think outside the box…maybe its both? Sounds contradictive? Maybe not so much, because if you have “some” free will to mold your life into what you want to be, and at the same time are only given certain choices by whatever deterministic force controls things, then you can have both. This theory can be mixed up in different ratios as one pleases, its just a thought experiment.

  • j30

    I agree that it is important not to conflate uncertainty and randomness. I would say that uncertainty is compatible with causality and randomness is not. However I am willing to grant anyone the existence of randomness for the sake of a discussion about free-will since randomness is incompatible with decision making and responsibility and therefore incompatible with free-will.

    Every human being is unique. Every decision is unique. The fact that nothing happens without a cause does not eliminate uncertainty. The uniqueness of each event prevents certainty.

    We do store our internal record of outside information differently based on our experience, but you have to understand that our primary experiences on which we begin building a framework on which we store information are not chosen by us. We do not choose our parents or our treatment as children or our geographical location or our biology. And it is this set of primary experiences that form the basis for our ability to identify and make “choices”.

    If someone told you that they’ve always taken the fact that a belief in Jesus, Vishnu, Buddha, or L Ron Hubbard can dramatically change one’s actions as proof of its existence, would you accept Jesus, Vishnu, Buddha, or L Ron Hubbard into your heart?

    I would like to add that I appreciate your clearheadedness and willingness to continue this discussion up to this point.

    Namaste.

  • Seriously

    Free will-real simple: Your choice – 1. Good 2. Evil

  • Seriously

    Free will-real simple: Your choice – 1. Good 2. Evil

  • rtb61

    What measure free will, when choice can be altered by the foods you eat, by the drugs you take, by sleep or lack there of, by alterations in surrounding electromagnetic fields, by the emotions of those around you, by your upbringing and by the DNA the defines you prior to birth.
    Are you even a single individual or just a cellular collective, not individual thought but the collective thought of all your cells. Even then when you cerebellum is subject to the electromagnetic bath of existence, is your thought also bound to the collective will of all living things and your ability to express that thought being limited by your crested short haired cranky rock throwing monkey carcass with variations based upon your particular pattern of monkey DNA.
    Free will is measured by the ability to choose, choice is measured by knowledge and understanding, the greater your knowledge and understanding the greater the impact of your choices. In terms of free will and choice, we barely know enough to be able to toss a coin.

  • Anonymous

    What measure free will, when choice can be altered by the foods you eat, by the drugs you take, by sleep or lack there of, by alterations in surrounding electromagnetic fields, by the emotions of those around you, by your upbringing and by the DNA the defines you prior to birth.
    Are you even a single individual or just a cellular collective, not individual thought but the collective thought of all your cells. Even then when you cerebellum is subject to the electromagnetic bath of existence, is your thought also bound to the collective will of all living things and your ability to express that thought being limited by your crested short haired cranky rock throwing monkey carcass with variations based upon your particular pattern of monkey DNA.
    Free will is measured by the ability to choose, choice is measured by knowledge and understanding, the greater your knowledge and understanding the greater the impact of your choices. In terms of free will and choice, we barely know enough to be able to toss a coin.

  • Fred

    Free will is an illusion based on ignorance of our starting conditions. The outcome for each and every one of us remains the same however…

  • Fred

    Free will is an illusion based on ignorance of our starting conditions. The outcome for each and every one of us remains the same however…

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    I’m beginning to realize where we differ. When I say uncertainty, I mean uncertainty exists in the sense of reality, or truth, in respect to the future(I still am however in the mindset that the past is rather set in stone as I’m sure you are). The future has different potentials dependent on complex issues such as free will through things such as uncertainty and/or randomness. I think you use uncertainty as more of a perspective term, as in You or I am uncertain of the future, however it is already determined by the scenarios already set in motion. Free will is the creation and destruction of those automated scenarios and shaping reality as is desired.

    Randomness cannot exist in a world where the future is already determined of course, but I’m arguing against a determined future. That’s why I don’t really want to get into randomness, because I honestly cannot say I know a good argument to definitively show randomness to exist and I don’t want to be the guy that speaks the pseudo-science “quantum physics” mantra.

    Another place I think we differ is that, you may be able to call me crazy for claiming this, but I think the appearance of randomness is good enough to be called random. Hell, a majority of statistics deals with the degree of randomness from completely random to not random at all. Computers can create signals that are very random (not Completely random, that’s thoretically impossible). However we treat computer’s randomly generated information as random when that sort of thing is needed. Is it such a huge assumption that the human mind could have a little random mixed in there? I’d call this almost a faithful belief, but would it be possible to assume humans surpass a computers 99% randomness and have the capability of 100% (or even if its still impossible, 99.999999%) randomness when its useful? (merh… i really didn’t want to get into randomness… theres a lot more I could say but I still feel its way outside the scope of the argument and I know i’m not speaking as clearly as i’d like to)

    Comparing faith in a concept is a little different than faith in a religious figure. But on that note, you say we are essentially engrained in our culture to believe a certain way due to a combination of social factors that made you who you are. When I say essentially that free will proves its own existence, what I mean is that when someone has been convinced of it, they can look at all those shaping influences, and deny the ones they dislike and approve of those they like. Free will may not be something humans are born with, but they can catch it. One might consider it a dangerous disease, if “one” happened to be a grand manipulator… but again I’m getting into other issues (partially) outside of the discussion.

    Only a free mind can have a free will.

  • j30

    I’m glad you are enjoying this discussion and I don’t mean to be terse, but I want to try and narrow my point.

    “Randomness” is incompatible with “decision making”.

    If you make a “decision” based on some combination of your intellectual ability, your gut instincts, your emotions and desires, the outcome of your “decision” is determined by these factors. Your intellectual process is like a coin sorting machine. Your mind sorts the factors and comes to a conclusion. If you inject “randomness” into this process, it may corrupt the output but it does not make it free from those influences. The “randomness” simply becomes one of the factors that led to your decision.

    The only way to get around these influences that determine the outcome of our decisions is to imagine that humans can somehow create an influence that is free from all previous influences, a “first-cause” if you will.

    The obvious problem with this is that an uncaused-cause would by definition have no context. There would be no way for this uncaused cause to be relevent to any decision making process because it could not logically be triggered by anything at all.

    Namaste.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Hmm, I guess I have 2 ways of looking at free will, neither of which I fully believe in, but I think of them as possible representations.
    The first is a modified version of you’re external first cause. This would essentially be an argument from spirituality (which I’ll admit that I probably have an unnecessarily large lack of). This first cause may have no context initially, but as soon as it is thrust into the complexity that is the human body and mind, that in it of itself is the context. Whether it initially has no context doesn’t matter, because it is now charged with integration of information and making a decision, whether perfect or not.

    The second, which I would probably say I am leaning towards, is the simple (okay maybe not simple) concept of emergence. It is contained emergence where all of the things that make up the being’s mind need an integrating portion of processing that is relatively unbiased towards any particular area. Sort of like all of the ideas, hopes, dreams, memes, etc. that swirl around in someone, is treated like a hive or something. Something has to be the queen, which is the thing that actually controls the active portions rather than the passive receiving portion of the being. Free will happens in this notably complex transition from receiving information to acting on it. You seem to treat the transition phase as just another ingredient in the pot, but because the source of its existence is the being that it is now controlling, it cannot have the same status as the coins it is sorting.

    On a completely separate note, there should be a place on the internets to archive really interesting conversations like this; I’m sure there are tons of them around, but impossible to find.

    Namaste

  • Wklemm

    I wrote the following “Letter to the Editor” of Science about Nichols’ article, but Science said they would not run it.

    ———
    Experimental Philosophy and Neuroscience

    Without neuroscience, experimental philosophy is like an apple without a core. Shaun Nichols’ discussion of the problem of free will (Science , March 18) suggests that the issue of determinism can be resolved without neuroscience. But willed action comes from neural circuit activity. So, of course, a willed action has a cause: it is driven by nerve impulse patterns. But what light does that shed on the idea of free will?
    The real issue is what causes brain circuits to select one set of patterns over alternatives. The brain selects among circuit-impulse- pattern options on the basis of such situational contingencies as what has been stored in the brain’s memory, likely outcomes, reward/punishment probabilities, and no doubt other factors. So, of course, all these factors constrain the brain’s choices, and in that sense there is no free will. But free will needs to be operationally defined, as it often is, as the choice of one action over other possibilities when the chosen action is not mandatory. In other words, a brain can choose an alternative that is not even in its own embodied best interest, which is commonly and universally done.
    Operational definition of “determinism” could also use re-framing. If it means that effects have causes, then it is hardly a useful word, and Nichols’ attempt to defend it requires no particular insight. But determinism could simply mean that effects have a range of causes, each with their own probability of influence and selection. If for any given willed action, the chosen effect violates the expected probability, the issue becomes whether that action was a random choice or one that emanated from the neural processing (i.e. free will). Why would we assume randomness from a brain operation that is being influenced non-randomly by situational contingency, memory, etc.? No one choice or decision is inevitable. Why isn’t that free will?
    Is the common “sense of agency” an artifact or an inevitable consequence of a conscious brain that knows that it knows, what it knows, why a given choice was selected, and whether the choice was implemented as expected? Nichols’ mentions that young children seem to reject determinism, without the caveat that the brain of young children is not developed enough for a child to fully know that it knows, what it knows, etc. This proves nothing about the issue of free will, except that if it exists, children don’t have much of it.
    Likewise, the neuroscience research that has led many scholars to conclude free will is an illusion has been soundly challenged in a recent review (1). The various flaws of method and interpretation in this research does not prove that free will exists, but it does go a long way to disprove the notion of illusory free will.
    Nichols describes research showing that people reject determinism if they think choices are made psychologically and embrace it if they think choices are made by neurons. But what does that prove? Psychological processes are not separate from neurophysiological ones, despite the apparent confusion by the general public.
    Nichol’s pitch for the usefulness of “experimental philosophy” has much merit, but in practice it will only bear fruit if it includes the neuroscience core.

    Reference

    1. W. R. Klemm, Advances in Cognitive Psychology. 6, 47 (2010).

  • Wklemm

    I wrote the following “Letter to the Editor” of Science about Nichols’ article, but Science said they would not run it.

    ———
    Experimental Philosophy and Neuroscience

    Without neuroscience, experimental philosophy is like an apple without a core. Shaun Nichols’ discussion of the problem of free will (Science , March 18) suggests that the issue of determinism can be resolved without neuroscience. But willed action comes from neural circuit activity. So, of course, a willed action has a cause: it is driven by nerve impulse patterns. But what light does that shed on the idea of free will?
    The real issue is what causes brain circuits to select one set of patterns over alternatives. The brain selects among circuit-impulse- pattern options on the basis of such situational contingencies as what has been stored in the brain’s memory, likely outcomes, reward/punishment probabilities, and no doubt other factors. So, of course, all these factors constrain the brain’s choices, and in that sense there is no free will. But free will needs to be operationally defined, as it often is, as the choice of one action over other possibilities when the chosen action is not mandatory. In other words, a brain can choose an alternative that is not even in its own embodied best interest, which is commonly and universally done.
    Operational definition of “determinism” could also use re-framing. If it means that effects have causes, then it is hardly a useful word, and Nichols’ attempt to defend it requires no particular insight. But determinism could simply mean that effects have a range of causes, each with their own probability of influence and selection. If for any given willed action, the chosen effect violates the expected probability, the issue becomes whether that action was a random choice or one that emanated from the neural processing (i.e. free will). Why would we assume randomness from a brain operation that is being influenced non-randomly by situational contingency, memory, etc.? No one choice or decision is inevitable. Why isn’t that free will?
    Is the common “sense of agency” an artifact or an inevitable consequence of a conscious brain that knows that it knows, what it knows, why a given choice was selected, and whether the choice was implemented as expected? Nichols’ mentions that young children seem to reject determinism, without the caveat that the brain of young children is not developed enough for a child to fully know that it knows, what it knows, etc. This proves nothing about the issue of free will, except that if it exists, children don’t have much of it.
    Likewise, the neuroscience research that has led many scholars to conclude free will is an illusion has been soundly challenged in a recent review (1). The various flaws of method and interpretation in this research does not prove that free will exists, but it does go a long way to disprove the notion of illusory free will.
    Nichols describes research showing that people reject determinism if they think choices are made psychologically and embrace it if they think choices are made by neurons. But what does that prove? Psychological processes are not separate from neurophysiological ones, despite the apparent confusion by the general public.
    Nichol’s pitch for the usefulness of “experimental philosophy” has much merit, but in practice it will only bear fruit if it includes the neuroscience core.

    Reference

    1. W. R. Klemm, Advances in Cognitive Psychology. 6, 47 (2010).

  • j30

    An uninitialized non-contextual event cannot be part of a decision making process. What you are talking about sounds like “divine inspiration”, which would be neither random nor self-generated. It also sounds like contamination, seeing as how the “first-cause” could in no way be apropos to anything, including of course a decision to act.

    Your “queen bee” is not “self-generating”. The queen bee is subject to biology and primary experience, neither of which come from within the individual.

    Namaste.

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