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Determinism: You are a machine. Get used to it.

Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
edited October 2008 in Debate and/or Discourse
Ketherial wrote: »
MrMister wrote: »
We can, and I think there's a strong argument to be made that we should, work to make our environment, our fellow man, more conducive to a future of harmony and happiness.

I think Keth's point is that you're being incoherent, because once you embrace hard determinism it doesn't make sense to say that we can and should make the environment more conducive to happiness. After all, you said that the mass murderer couldn't have done anything other than he did--his actions were determined. So why do you use the language of choice when making your entreaties to us, as if we could all choose to be nicer people? If we can choose to be nicer, why couldn't the killer choose that too?

Anyhow, determinism is pretty much it's own debate. I don't think it's clear that it does the work for you that you think it does, though.

this is exactly my point.

i just have no idea what the word "should" means in a determinist paradigm.

so is this thread like officially dead? if so, we can ditch the semantics and just talk about determinism instead.

Okay, okay. My religion thread is, I think, dead after a day. Maybe I'll see how I'm wrong later, or maybe I'll be able to make a stronger argument later, whatever.

But let's talk about determinism.

Here's my earlier clarifying discussion, with Richy:
Richy wrote: »
Richy wrote: »
Take determinism, which is the topic matter of this thread. In my limited understanding - and feel free to correct me if I get it wrong - it is a theory that all our actions and reasoning are solely governed by the predictable and quantifiable interactions of elementary particles with no allowances for free will, and that if we could measure and quantify all particles in the universe then we could predict exactly who will do what when and where. That is unprovable. Measuring and quantifying exactly all particles in the universe, or in a subset thereof, is physically impossible (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and so on), so it will never be possible to prove or demonstrate determinism. But Loren seems to have derived a set of beliefs based on determinism and practises them in his life (i.e. a religion by this thread's definition), and in doing so makes an assumption that determinism is true despite a lack of solid logical proof for it (i.e. faith).

Sorry for not defining that term.

Simply put, we are all products of our genes and our environment, neither of which is under our control. Everything we do, everything we will do, is subject to these two forces, and we can't do anything about it, as we are all thoroughly within the prison of genetics and environment the moment we are conceived.

One could try to articulate that there is something more, but one will immediately find such a something impossible to visualize or articulate clearly, for anything that is not in our genes or environment is imperceptible, and I would argue, largely inconceivable.

The measuring particles thing is Laplace's demon, which is an interesting hypothesis that fits within a deterministic frame.

Still, the part I bolded requires some degree of faith, in my opinion. A lot of people try to change themselves through conscious effort - fighting back against the impulses that their genes and environment dictate - and some even claim to succeed. Other people do things on a whim that seem to defy all social or genetic programming; the classic example of someone risking his life to save a complete stranger would apply here.

I'd be a bit more comfortable with an engineering metaphor, given my professional training. You're basically saying that humans are machine, playing out an internal program that has been dictated by genetics and environment. But you're also making two assumptions, that it is impossible for the machine to modify that program by itself (self-determinism, people changing themselves) and that it is impossible to act in contradiction with the program (free will, risking yourself for a stranger). These are two assumptions I do not believe you can prove (and therefore require faith), and a lot of people would provide evidence to the contrary that you cannot disprove (and therefore would have to account for on faith, by saying something along the lines of "there has got to be a genetic/environmental explanation for this behavior that we do not know yet").

Again, everything that you do and will do is dictated by what has come before. Every decision you make and will make is a product of your environment reflected off what is in your brain. This includes conscious decisions. The conscious decision to change your behavior isn't freed from the confines of your brain and body, and anything that would "seem to defy all social and genetic programming" would apparently not.

I'm comfortable with the analogy of machines, but I'm not suggesting that one's program can't e modified. I'm simply saying that the modifications are necessarily dictated by the programming.

I'm not sure what place the situation of "risking one's life for a stranger" has in this discussion (as you seem to be suggesting that genetics and environment can't account for someone risking his life for a stranger...?) and "free will" is pretty much inconceivable.

I suppose that the bolded statement that I threw in there may have spun subsequent attitudes a certain way, but let me clarify that apparently unclear clarifying statement: "We can't do anything about it" is in reference to the two factors of genetics and environment. We can't break free of those two factors. Basically, everything that happens plays out between those two factors, and neither of those two factors are things that we have any "independent" (that is, non-genetic, non-environmental) influence over.

Back to Ketherial's question:

What does "should" mean in a determinist paradigm? Exactly the same as the regular definition. It's talking about a duty (or an analogous burden) that is imposed on people. In a determinist paradigm, this can be considered an environmental factor that compels people to act a certain way.

The rest of you, discuss your future in the prison of your own destiny. Isn't it cold? So, so cold?

Loren Michael on
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Posts

  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Speaker wrote: »
    Sounds like holding this belief as a moral code works psychologically the same way that Calvinist predestination did.

    Care to elaborate, for those of us not as intimately familiar with Calvinism?

    I think an obvious implication is that those of us who are fortunate to lead largely happy lives ultimately are the beneficiaries of luck, and people who lead largely shitty lives are ultimately (conversely) victims of luck.

    For me, it's not that I'm holding determinism as a moral code (any more than I hold gravity or evolution as moral codes), but rather, there are serious implications for why things are the way that they are and how we are obligated to understand our fellow man.

    Torgo, same to you. Pithy comments that amount to "read a book!" aren't as constructive or informative as they feel.

    electricitylikesme, my understanding of the discussions about free will is that they tend to boil down to a homunculus or infinite regress fallacy, or something similarly nonsensical. Could you elaborate on that please?

    I agree with the rest of your post though.

    Also!

    EVERYONE:

    IF YOU BRING UP "FREE WILL", DEFINE IT.

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  • SpeakerSpeaker Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Speaker wrote: »
    Sounds like holding this belief as a moral code works psychologically the same way that Calvinist predestination did.

    Care to elaborate, for those of us not as intimately familiar with Calvinism?

    I believe the doctrine was that who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is predetermined. You can't do anything to change it.

    It worked psychologically as a moral code because everyone was always trying to prove that they were in the former category rather than the later. Instead of just accepting that whatever you did was beyond your control, the seeming helplessness of the situation created a powerful pressure to behave morally.

    Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
    Walkers with the sun and morning, we are not afraid of night,
    Nor days of gloom, nor darkness -
    Being walkers with the sun and morning.
  • MaedhricMaedhric Registered User
    edited May 2008
    Speaker wrote: »
    Speaker wrote: »
    Sounds like holding this belief as a moral code works psychologically the same way that Calvinist predestination did.

    Care to elaborate, for those of us not as intimately familiar with Calvinism?

    I believe the doctrine was that who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is predetermined. You can't do anything to change it.

    It worked psychologically as a moral code because everyone was always trying to prove that they were in the former category rather than the later. Instead of just accepting that whatever you did was beyond your control, the seeming helplessness of the situation created a powerful pressure to behave morally.


    It also meant a large social pressure encouraging people to make money and become wealthy, as it was seen as a measure for your luck and worldly success and thus as an indicator wether god favoured you or not, IIRC.

  • GreeperGreeper Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Sure, you could probably say determinism exists. It seems like the only logical thing after my psych 101 class.

    But it's not like serial killers should go unpunished or that you can't be blamed for anything you do, you still make choices.

    But in the end, your choices make you!

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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Speaker wrote: »
    Speaker wrote: »
    Sounds like holding this belief as a moral code works psychologically the same way that Calvinist predestination did.

    Care to elaborate, for those of us not as intimately familiar with Calvinism?

    I believe the doctrine was that who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is predetermined. You can't do anything to change it.

    It worked psychologically as a moral code because everyone was always trying to prove that they were in the former category rather than the later. Instead of just accepting that whatever you did was beyond your control, the seeming helplessness of the situation created a powerful pressure to behave morally.

    That sounds roughly in line with my earlier comment:
    I think an obvious implication is that those of us who are fortunate to lead largely happy lives ultimately are the beneficiaries of luck, and people who lead largely shitty lives are ultimately (conversely) victims of luck.

    I would add that I think there's a strong argument to be made that, given that good people who lead good lives are merely lucky, and that one significant moral obligation is that we should work to increase the odds of people begin able leading fortunate lives as best we can.

    Similarly, that we should view people who we would otherwise view as leading contemptible and agonizing lives ultimately as victims, rather than villains.

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  • MaedhricMaedhric Registered User
    edited May 2008
    Greeper wrote: »
    Sure, you could probably say determinism exists. It seems like the only logical thing after my psych 101 class.

    But it's not like serial killers should go unpunished or that you can't be blamed for anything you do, you still make choices.

    But in the end, your choices make you!

    That's a question of what is intended by punishment.

    Is it intended to simply punish the wrongdoer, for acting against and thus damaging the community, a form of revenge?

    Is it intended as an act of revenge for doing something morally wrong?

    Or is it intended to protect the community from further harm (which is what is to be expected if you have a serial killer running around)?

    Simply put, are you punished for having made the choice to commit a crime, or are you punished for the act of commiting a crime and for the danger you pose to the community?
    Only in the first case would the argument of not having a free will (having the choice) would be of importance.

  • GreeperGreeper Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Maedhric wrote: »
    Greeper wrote: »
    Sure, you could probably say determinism exists. It seems like the only logical thing after my psych 101 class.

    But it's not like serial killers should go unpunished or that you can't be blamed for anything you do, you still make choices.

    But in the end, your choices make you!

    That's a question of what is intended by punishment.

    Is it intended to simply punish the wrongdoer, for acting against and thus damaging the community, a form of revenge?

    Is it intended as an act of revenge for doing something morally wrong?

    Or is it intended to protect the community from further harm (which is what is to be expected if you have a serial killer running around)?

    Simply put, are you punished for having made the choice to commit a crime, or are you punished for the act of commiting a crime and for the danger you pose to the community?
    Only in the first case would the argument of not having a free will (having the choice) would be of importance.

    You are punished for both, I believe.

    Punishment does little to deter other criminals from acting, it's true, however it might do a little in that regard too.

    Just because there's determinism doesn't mean a person who would have become a serial killer would not if they were afeared of the consequences. That's a part of determinism too.

    Essentially, of course, the serial killer couldn't help killing people. IT WAS HIS DESTINY. But we shouldn't do any less then massively hate on that kind of behavior, since it fucks with society's cohesion.

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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Greeper wrote: »
    But it's not like serial killers should go unpunished or that you can't be blamed for anything you do, you still make choices.

    Here's the quandary: Punishing a criminal is like punishing a robot for its own malfunctions, but punishing such a robot for its own programming can be an effective preventative measure for future malfunctions.

    As such, we should punish only to prevent. There is nothing good, in itself, about retribution. The suffering inflicted on wrongdoers is just as sad as the suffering of everyone else. It is warranted only with the growth it brings in the welfare of others, through the prevention of future crime.

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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    electricitylikesme, my understanding of the discussions about free will is that they tend to boil down to a homunculus or infinite regress fallacy, or something similarly nonsensical. Could you elaborate on that please?

    I agree with the rest of your post though.

    It was essentially a statement of my kind of world view.

    Basically, from my perspective, I appear to have free will. This is probably not true, but because I appear to have free will to myself it does mean I have to make decisions and the more carefully I make them the better they will be.

    It also has some follow on effects which mean that by and large there is no value in blaming people for their actions, only in trying to effect the world so they're less likely to do them. For individual problems like your lone serial killer this means prison, for systemic issues like poverty or subprime mortage debt it means we can't just hang people out to dry.

  • SpeakerSpeaker Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Was there a book you were recommending on this Loren?

    Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
    Walkers with the sun and morning, we are not afraid of night,
    Nor days of gloom, nor darkness -
    Being walkers with the sun and morning.
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Speaker wrote: »
    Was there a book you were recommending on this Loren?

    Nonzero is the book I always recommend. :P

    But also, The Moral Animal (by the same author, see my sig).

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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Basically, from my perspective, I appear to have free will. This is probably not true, but because I appear to have free will to myself it does mean I have to make decisions and the more carefully I make them the better they will be.

    It also has some follow on effects which mean that by and large there is no value in blaming people for their actions, only in trying to effect the world so they're less likely to do them. For individual problems like your lone serial killer this means prison, for systemic issues like poverty or subprime mortage debt it means we can't just hang people out to dry.

    Okay, yeah, I agree with all of that. I would say that there is a definite free will illusion that doesn't go away even when the nonexistence/incoherance of a non-illusory version is made clear.

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  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Determinism, yippee!

    The concept of free will and the concept of determinism don't even exist in the same universe.

    Saying that free will can't exist because everything is pre-determined is like saying Link can't wear a green tunic because The Legend of Zelda is a fictional video game and not real.

    You may attempt to state that really Link can't wear a green tunic because he doesn't really exist, but that sort of renders the entire question moot instead of actually answering it. If you're using his existence only in video game fiction as a basis for answering a question about what he can wear, then the answer is both that he cannot wear a green tunic, and he cannot not wear a green tunic.

    I know someone arrogant earlier in the thread demanded definitions of free will before it can be talked about. Well, it has a few variations, but the only definitions worth anything necessarily involve concepts such as the "self." And if you attempt to use determinism to answer the question of free will, you've rendered the question moot. The self does not exist in a deterministic context. There is no "you" to have or not have free will. There is only an infinite mass of the tiniest particles obeying the simplest laws of physics. Any attempt at classification into "you" "me" "choice" "crime" "punishment" etc. is fiction in that context, and hence you have not answered the question of free will, but rather rendered it moot.

    On the other hand, if you accept that the question of free will is framed within a context where arguably fictional things like the "self" exist - and, really, how could it not? what entity is it that has or does not have free will? - then of course free will exists, and it is exactly that which we intuitively know it to be: making choices that are uniquely belong to each of us because they are based on who we are.

    Just like if you accept that my question about Link was framed within the context of Hyrule and related lands, then of course he wears a green tunic, and sometimes blue or red, I think.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Basically, from my perspective, I appear to have free will. This is probably not true, but because I appear to have free will to myself it does mean I have to make decisions and the more carefully I make them the better they will be.

    It also has some follow on effects which mean that by and large there is no value in blaming people for their actions, only in trying to effect the world so they're less likely to do them. For individual problems like your lone serial killer this means prison, for systemic issues like poverty or subprime mortage debt it means we can't just hang people out to dry.

    Okay, yeah, I agree with all of that. I would say that there is a definite free will illusion that doesn't go away even when the nonexistence/incoherance of a non-illusory version is made clear.
    TBH it's more of a moral and motivational code then anything else, but it's essentially my resolution of what do you do about acknowledging determinism if you have to explain it to someone.

  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    I know someone arrogant earlier in the thread demanded definitions of free will before it can be talked about.

    Just trying to nudge the thread away from looming death-spirals by making some coherency necessary.

    And I think that you are correct that, yes, free will is real similar to the way that happiness or anger are real.

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  • HozHoz Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I'm not sure about determinism, but I always get confused when I hear people talk about free will. I don't even think people know what they're talking about when discussing it. People talk about it like they've based everything on a collection of bastard concepts they've adopted from watching tv dramas and reading sci-fi novels.

    We have a greater degree of awareness than the monkeys we descended from and that compliments the decision making capabilities they've passed on to us. And it seems like some are trying to dismiss this because it is incongruous with their perception of how existence is framed, while others are trying to stretch it out to a concept of absolute self-awareness because it's not romantic enough as is.

    Am I babbling?

  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Hoz wrote: »
    Am I babbling?

    No, but I would like to reiterate (and I don't mean to single you out) that this is a thread about determinism and its implications. I know that the idea of "free will" vague and indefinable though it may be is very difficult to separate from the subject of this thread, but really, waxing poetic about free will is ultimately a tangent that will end in nihilistic confusion and tears so I beg you all to keep to determinism as much as possible and "free will" as little as possible, unless it's strongly defined and obviously related to the subject at hand.

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  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    I know someone arrogant earlier in the thread demanded definitions of free will before it can be talked about.

    Just trying to nudge the thread away from looming death-spirals by making some coherency necessary.

    And I think that you are correct that, yes, free will is real similar to the way that happiness or anger are real.
    I'd say it exists similarly, but even moreso than happiness or anger. The very idea of the self is inextricably linked to the existence of free will. Happiness and anger not so much.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    I know someone arrogant earlier in the thread demanded definitions of free will before it can be talked about.

    Just trying to nudge the thread away from looming death-spirals by making some coherency necessary.

    And I think that you are correct that, yes, free will is real similar to the way that happiness or anger are real.
    I'd say it exists similarly, but even moreso than happiness or anger. The very idea of the self is inextricably linked to the existence of free will. Happiness and anger not so much.

    Holy crap I'm agreeing with Yar.

  • VariableVariable Ted Hitler Stroke Me Lady FameRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Greeper wrote: »
    But it's not like serial killers should go unpunished or that you can't be blamed for anything you do, you still make choices.

    Here's the quandary: Punishing a criminal is like punishing a robot for its own malfunctions, but punishing such a robot for its own programming can be an effective preventative measure for future malfunctions.

    As such, we should punish only to prevent. There is nothing good, in itself, about retribution. The suffering inflicted on wrongdoers is just as sad as the suffering of everyone else. It is warranted only with the growth it brings in the welfare of others, through the prevention of future crime.

    this makes sense. I mean if you accept that environment can shape you, then going to jail can certainly shape you in a given way that would lead you to not commit anymore crime.

    that's what I was thinking just now in the shower, anyway. hopefully it's on the mark of understanding the "environment" thing and I'm not taking it too literally.

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  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    I know someone arrogant earlier in the thread demanded definitions of free will before it can be talked about.

    Just trying to nudge the thread away from looming death-spirals by making some coherency necessary.

    And I think that you are correct that, yes, free will is real similar to the way that happiness or anger are real.
    I'd say it exists similarly, but even moreso than happiness or anger. The very idea of the self is inextricably linked to the existence of free will. Happiness and anger not so much.

    Holy crap I'm agreeing with Yar.
    Christ, they need to script a button that says that for people. I get it all the time.

    Edit: also we could punish because collectively it makes us feel good. Or because we believe that adherence to higher-order principles like some notion of "justice" pays off in the long run even we we aren't able to calculate the immediate benefit in real time for a given situation. In other words, status quo > you.

  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Variable wrote: »
    Greeper wrote: »
    But it's not like serial killers should go unpunished or that you can't be blamed for anything you do, you still make choices.

    Here's the quandary: Punishing a criminal is like punishing a robot for its own malfunctions, but punishing such a robot for its own programming can be an effective preventative measure for future malfunctions.

    As such, we should punish only to prevent. There is nothing good, in itself, about retribution. The suffering inflicted on wrongdoers is just as sad as the suffering of everyone else. It is warranted only with the growth it brings in the welfare of others, through the prevention of future crime.

    this makes sense. I mean if you accept that environment can shape you, then going to jail can certainly shape you in a given way that would lead you to not commit anymore crime.

    that's what I was thinking just now in the shower, anyway. hopefully it's on the mark of understanding the "environment" thing and I'm not taking it too literally.

    Actually, I would say that the current system of dealing with criminals is horribly broken and off the mark, but I highly suspect that it's possible to have a system that effectively rehabilitates criminals (which I think is what you are talking about) who can be rehabilitated, keeps the more dangerous and "irreparable" ones away from those they might harm, while still acting as a deterrent.

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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    also we could punish because collectively it makes us feel good.

    The feeling that acts of cruelty towards perceived offenders is a good thing is a stubborn feeling that isn't easily ground away, particularly in the cathartic sense. But, at least in my experience (and I suspect a fair number of others), steering toward a paradigm where determinism is closer to the forefront of moral thought tends also to lead people toward compassion.

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  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I think that "free will" is an incoherent and nonsensical concept.

    When you make a decision, when you exercise your supposed will, what factors influence your decision? Loren and other determinists claim that your will is predetermined, or in other words constrained by physical factors, and in fact those factors are what constitute your will. I don't really understand what the other side is claiming. If will is "free," what is it free of? What is it not constrained by? Your personality is a biological function, that's pretty clear; it can be altered completely by manipulation of the matter in your brain, or even just the hormones in your body. If you're "free" of the constraints of that, what is your motivation? How can you make a decision? What is the "self" that operates, somehow independent of material elements, to make decisions?

    Inquisitor wrote: »
    I fucking hate you Canadians.
  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    When discussing determinism, it is necessary to discuss the function of time. If we agree that Einstein's relativity is correct, then everything has both already happened and is happening right now. Many philosopher's have used this to deny the agent of free will. Taylor, a fatalistm has used language to point this out:

    If we believe that any declarative statement is either true or false, then each declarative statement, regardless of tense, is either true or false. Thus, if I say that "I will eat cornflakes tomorrow," then it is either true or false. If the sentence is true, then I must eat cornflakes tomorrow. If the sentence is false, then I must not eat cornflakes tomorrow.

    Now a fatalist is basically a determinist in reverse -- not that we don't have free will because of the sum total of events that occurred, but that our actions are determined because the future is already set.
    Let us now imagine that I am a naval commander, about to issue my order of the day to the fleet. We
    assume, further, that, within the totality of other conditions prevailing, my issuing of a certain kind of order will ensure that a naval battle will occur tomorrow, whereas if I issue another kind of order, this will ensure that no naval battle occurs. Now, then, I am about to perform one or the other of these two acts, namely, one of issuing an order of the first sort or one of the second sort. Call these alternative acts 0 and 0' respectively. And call the two propositions, "A naval battle will occur tomorrow" and "No naval battle will occur tomorrow," Q and respectively. We can assert, then, that, if I do act 0, then my doing such will ensure that there will be a naval battle, whereas if I do O', my doing that will ensure that no naval battle will occur.

    With reference to this situation, then, let us now ask whether it is up to me which sort of order I issue; that is, let us see whether the following proposition is true : (B) It is within my power to do 0, and it is also within my
    power to do Or. Anyone, except a fatalist, would be inclined to say that, in the situation we have envisaged, this proposition might well be true, that is, that both acts are quite within my power (granting
    that I cannot do both at once). For in the circumstances we assume to prevail, it is, one would think, up to me as the commander whether the naval battle occurs or not; it depends only on what kind of order I issue, given all the other conditions as they are, and what kind of order is issued is something quite within my power. It is precisely the denial that such propositions are ever true that would render one a fatalist. But we have, unfortunately, the same formal argument to show that (B) is false that we had for proving the falsity of (A),
    namely :
    1'. If Q is true, then it is not within my power to do O' (for in case Q is true, then there is, or will be, lacking a
    condition essential for my doing O', the condition, namely, of there being no naval battle tomorrow).
    2'. But if is true, then it is not within my power to do 0 (for a similar reason).
    3'. But either Q is true, or is true.
    4'. Either it is not within my power to do 0, or it is not within my power to do 0';

    and (B) is accordingly false. Another way of expressing this is to say that what sort of order I issue depends, among other things, on whether a naval battle takes place tomorrow-for in this situation a naval battle tomorrow is (by our fourth presupposition) a necessary condition of my doing 0, whereas no naval battle tomorrow is equally essential for my doing 0'.

    The problem with this argument, however, is the same problem with ALL arguments for determinism: that we act the way we do because we exist as singular entities throughout time; namely that we endure through time. It seems to me that this is simpy not true; rather we perdure as time-parts throughout time. (If this interests you, you should check out Ted Sider's excellent book, Four-Dimensionality. What this is saying is that each moment, we have a certain being. Our body's cells are changing, and atoms are moving in and out of our body. We can lose a finger, or be a head in a vat. However, thanks to four-dimensionality, we are in each instances time parts of our objective existence. (Sider calls these proper objects "time-worms," while their phenomenal appearance "time-parts.") Thus, it may be true that I will eat cornflakes tomorrow, but it is equally true that my time part, due to relativity, is always afforded the choice NOT to eat cornflakes.

    Taylor says that we are necessarily fatalists with regards to the past. While this is seemingly logical, because we never think that we can change the past, is it true? Whether we can or not, I think, has no real ramifications when discussing determinism, but I also think that it is a question that can be pursued.

    tl;dr: Determinism and Free Will are NOT incompatible.

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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    I know someone arrogant earlier in the thread demanded definitions of free will before it can be talked about.

    Just trying to nudge the thread away from looming death-spirals by making some coherency necessary.

    And I think that you are correct that, yes, free will is real similar to the way that happiness or anger are real.
    I'd say it exists similarly, but even moreso than happiness or anger. The very idea of the self is inextricably linked to the existence of free will. Happiness and anger not so much.

    Holy crap I'm agreeing with Yar.
    Christ, they need to script a button that says that for people. I get it all the time.

    Edit: also we could punish because collectively it makes us feel good. Or because we believe that adherence to higher-order principles like some notion of "justice" pays off in the long run even we we aren't able to calculate the immediate benefit in real time for a given situation. In other words, status quo > you.
    Justice is intended to keep society under control and in order, some key point of which is to balance the chance of people taking the law into their own hands against humane considerations.

    EDIT: Also, what you've written is essentially baseless speculation - there is no evidence that a society which mets out ever harsher punishments to its criminals is by any account "happier".

  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I think that "free will" is an incoherent and nonsensical concept.

    I agree, obviously, but there is a definite feeling of agency that, among other things, makes people typically reject the notion of determinism out of hand on a visceral level. I don't think there's any reasonable means or metric by which that one can claim that it exists "moreso than happiness or anger" as Yar has claimed though.

    Given the popular way the incoherent club of Free Will is wielded though, I strongly suspect this feeling isn't what people are generally talking about when they throw the term around. I strongly suspect that people don't know what the hell they are talking about in this respect, but I strongly suspect that it normally comes down to a homunculus, but I don't want to get too far into the realm of speculation and definitely not speculation in the realm of free will.

    EDIT: I !FAIL PODLY for not defining free will.
    EDIT2: I !RESCIND PODLY'S FAILURE

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I think that "free will" is an incoherent and nonsensical concept.

    When you make a decision, when you exercise your supposed will, what factors influence your decision? Loren and other determinists claim that your will is predetermined, or in other words constrained by physical factors, and in fact those factors are what constitute your will. I don't really understand what the other side is claiming. If will is "free," what is it free of? What is it not constrained by? Your personality is a biological function, that's pretty clear; it can be altered completely by manipulation of the matter in your brain, or even just the hormones in your body. If you're "free" of the constraints of that, what is your motivation? How can you make a decision? What is the "self" that operates, somehow independent of material elements, to make decisions?

    EM, I think of determinism and free will as this:

    Determinism: You exist in a way that a certain set of actions constitute your conditioning. I am determined to have been born male, in Boston, and relatively healthy. Less clear (Freud was a major proponent of biological determinism, so this is a bit Freudian) is that I am determined to be introspective, introverted, shy, oversensitive, and personable. Even less clear is that I am determined to prefer lobster to steak, redheads to brunettes, and the beach to lakes. These constitute my "Being there," the sum total of conditions through which I have lived.

    Free Will: I am always-already "somewhere" where forces are acting upon me. My there is where the sum total of relations in which I stand. I am free, however, to act upon some of them. I am (theoretically) free to get a sex change, free to vote republican, free to become a vegetarian, free to kill myself. I am free to hate those forces which oppress me, free to love someone who loves me. I am free to recognize myself as an individual, as a person, as a subject. I have FREEDOM to act, freedom to agency.

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I agree, obviously, but there is a definite feeling of agency that, among other things, makes people typically reject the notion of determinism out of hand on a visceral level. I don't think there's any reasonable means or metric by which that one can claim that it exists "moreso than happiness or anger" as Yar has claimed though.

    Van Inwagen calls this "Metaphysical Freedom," in which we cannot find the essence of free will, but it seems that no one will truly deny that they are free in their actions. I chose my school because I wanted to go there, I chose pancakes and not bacon and eggs this morning because I just wanted pancakes.

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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    Free Will: I am always-already "somewhere" where forces are acting upon me. My there is where the sum total of relations in which I stand. I am free, however, to act upon some of them. I am (theoretically) free to get a sex change, free to vote republican, free to become a vegetarian, free to kill myself. I am free to hate those forces which oppress me, free to love someone who loves me. I am free to recognize myself as an individual, as a person, as a subject. I have FREEDOM to act, freedom to agency.

    This is self-defeating. It works because you think you can act. The point is there's always a reason you won't - the illusion comes after, when you think "well I could also have done this".

  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    I agree, obviously, but there is a definite feeling of agency that, among other things, makes people typically reject the notion of determinism out of hand on a visceral level. I don't think there's any reasonable means or metric by which that one can claim that it exists "moreso than happiness or anger" as Yar has claimed though.

    Van Inwagen calls this "Metaphysical Freedom," in which we cannot find the essence of free will, but it seems that no one will truly deny that they are free in their actions. I chose my school because I wanted to go there, I chose pancakes and not bacon and eggs this morning because I just wanted pancakes.

    That's the key though; it's not your choice itself that is the crux of the argument. You clearly chose to have pancakes. But why did you want them? It's pretty easy to explain most motivations in terms of physical or biological elements, or social factors on a larger scale. I would argue that desire/will are constituted by deterministic elements. You are free to vote Republican, but you won't, because you don't want to.

    Inquisitor wrote: »
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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    I agree, obviously, but there is a definite feeling of agency that, among other things, makes people typically reject the notion of determinism out of hand on a visceral level. I don't think there's any reasonable means or metric by which that one can claim that it exists "moreso than happiness or anger" as Yar has claimed though.

    Van Inwagen calls this "Metaphysical Freedom," in which we cannot find the essence of free will, but it seems that no one will truly deny that they are free in their actions. I chose my school because I wanted to go there, I chose pancakes and not bacon and eggs this morning because I just wanted pancakes.

    Yes, but you wanted to go there and you wanted to eat them because of the invisible hands of your environment twisting and tuning the knobs of your genetics. Any choices you have are chosen by the time you realize your decision.

    Also what electricitylikesme said.

    electricitylikesme: Look at the top of [chat] a couple pages back.

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    Free Will: I am always-already "somewhere" where forces are acting upon me. My there is where the sum total of relations in which I stand. I am free, however, to act upon some of them. I am (theoretically) free to get a sex change, free to vote republican, free to become a vegetarian, free to kill myself. I am free to hate those forces which oppress me, free to love someone who loves me. I am free to recognize myself as an individual, as a person, as a subject. I have FREEDOM to act, freedom to agency.

    This is self-defeating. It works because you think you can act. The point is there's always a reason you won't - the illusion comes after, when you think "well I could also have done this".

    Do you think that even the "I" is an illusion?

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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Free Will: I am always-already "somewhere" where forces are acting upon me. My there is where the sum total of relations in which I stand. I am free, however, to act upon some of them. I am (theoretically) free to get a sex change, free to vote republican, free to become a vegetarian, free to kill myself. I am free to hate those forces which oppress me, free to love someone who loves me. I am free to recognize myself as an individual, as a person, as a subject. I have FREEDOM to act, freedom to agency.

    This is self-defeating. It works because you think you can act. The point is there's always a reason you won't - the illusion comes after, when you think "well I could also have done this".

    Do you think that even the "I" is an illusion?

    The "I" is quite real, because I am it. The illusion is the things I could do being things that I actually will do. There's always the same pressures and environmental reasons why I don't do a lot of things, and why I do do other things.

    It is arguable that the entire process of consciousness is simply the machinations of the brain-machine absorbing it's environment to choose how to operate it's output apparatus.

  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    There was some literature I read about consciousness being an effect of action, not a cause, but I can't remember who the hell wrote the original or what book I read it in.

    Basically, there's a pretty decent argument that it's the brain's justification organ or somesuch.

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Podly wrote:
    Do you think that even the "I" is an illusion?

    The "I" is quite real, because I am it. The illusion is the things I could do being things that I actually will do. There's always the same pressures and environmental reasons why I don't do a lot of things, and why I do do other things.

    It is arguable that the entire process of consciousness is simply the machinations of the brain-machine absorbing it's environment to choose how to operate it's output apparatus.

    While I think it is necessary to demarcate the notion of the subject/agent, if not let me know and we can stop.

    You say that the "I" is quite real, because "you are it." I think you are failing to recognize that, in your scenario, the self too arises from the brain's mechanical properties creating an environment in which to act. If we are determined to act in a certain way, there is no self, there is no "subject." There is just the human animal, which is just a fancy vehicle to carry genes. (Which, itself, is just a beautiful result of atoms moving in a particular way.) You cannot believe the self is anything other than a virtual phenomena resulting from reflection if you are a biological determinist.

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  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Free Will: I am always-already "somewhere" where forces are acting upon me. My there is where the sum total of relations in which I stand. I am free, however, to act upon some of them. I am (theoretically) free to get a sex change, free to vote republican, free to become a vegetarian, free to kill myself. I am free to hate those forces which oppress me, free to love someone who loves me. I am free to recognize myself as an individual, as a person, as a subject. I have FREEDOM to act, freedom to agency.

    This is self-defeating. It works because you think you can act. The point is there's always a reason you won't - the illusion comes after, when you think "well I could also have done this".

    Do you think that even the "I" is an illusion?

    The interface of consciousness and self with will is an interesting one, and important to the discussion, so here's how I see it:

    the I, the awareness of self and of being, is something I can't explain. As a materialist, I am sure that consciousness is a material process, but I don't understand it. However, personality, taste, etc, all the elements of identity, can be explained and deterministically charted by the material function of the brain. Consciousness itself, then, seems to be simply an observer riding along in the deterministic vehicle of the identity. I don't think they're actually separate; in fact, they are so closely linked that we often think the consciousness has a controlling power.

    Inquisitor wrote: »
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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    Podly wrote:
    Do you think that even the "I" is an illusion?

    The "I" is quite real, because I am it. The illusion is the things I could do being things that I actually will do. There's always the same pressures and environmental reasons why I don't do a lot of things, and why I do do other things.

    It is arguable that the entire process of consciousness is simply the machinations of the brain-machine absorbing it's environment to choose how to operate it's output apparatus.

    While I think it is necessary to demarcate the notion of the subject/agent, if not let me know and we can stop.

    You say that the "I" is quite real, because "you are it." I think you are failing to recognize that, in your scenario, the self too arises from the brain's mechanical properties creating an environment in which to act. If we are determined to act in a certain way, there is no self, there is no "subject." There is just the human animal, which is just a fancy vehicle to carry genes. (Which, itself, is just a beautiful result of atoms moving in a particular way.) You cannot believe the self is anything other than a virtual phenomena resulting from reflection if you are a biological determinist.
    Which is, indeed, more or less what I believe to be true.

    The practical reality of that is virtually nil for me, though it does have - as I have said before - some useful guiding ideas when we go to implement policy that will affect other peoples lives, or ask the question "why do people act like that?"

    It ties back to the thing I agreed with that Yar said - since free will is an illusion that you are apart of, within the illusion you most definitely have it.

  • redxredx East Bumblefuck, PARegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yes, but you wanted to go there and you wanted to eat them because of the invisible hands of your environment twisting and tuning the knobs of your genetics. Any choices you have are chosen by the time you realize your decision.
    but, I mean, you make is sound like a bad thing almost. Your environment is everything that has ever happened to you. Every experience you've had. It's this mind numbingly complex and beautiful process, infinity more complex than anything accounted for by simple free will, and you make it sound as if you're being manipulated.

    It's what makes us, 'us'. What 'decisions' we make are the net result of everything that has come before, of everyone we've interacted with. Aren't we neat machines.

    Quite frankly, I don't see what it changes. Your example, well... There are a lot of people who don't feel strongly about determinism, that believe the criminal rehabilitation system should live up to it's damn name. I don't know, mostly religious folks to be honest. I was raised a quaker, and they were all over that shit, and I'm pretty sure they don't believe in determinism, almost totally sure.

    Wanting better jails just take compassion. If your actions are dictated by determinism, you should seek to create a good an environment as possible for all the little machines to live in, particularly those ones you care about. How's that diffrent from someone who's actions aren't influenced by having acknowledged determinism?

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  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    redx wrote: »
    Yes, but you wanted to go there and you wanted to eat them because of the invisible hands of your environment twisting and tuning the knobs of your genetics. Any choices you have are chosen by the time you realize your decision.
    but, I mean, you make is sound like a bad thing almost. Your environment is everything that has ever happened to you. Every experience you've had. It's this mind numbingly complex and beautiful process, infinity more complex than anything accounted for by simple free will, and you make it sound as if you're being manipulated.

    I think Loren would agree it's a beautiful process, he's just using language in a way to make his point more strongly.

    Your point about what constitutes "you" is important though; free will would mean being free of the identity that has been constructed by your life, which would just make you insane and chaotic.

    and ultimately determinists argue that nothing changes when you acknowledge determinism, except that you get rid of whatever illusions accompany the idea of free will and free agency, ideas like vengeful retribution as justice being one of them.

    Inquisitor wrote: »
    I fucking hate you Canadians.
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