On free will

by Neil Rickert

Here’s a recent video, “The Dark Side of Free Will“, of a TEDx talk by philosopher Gregg Caruso (h/t Brian Leiter).

Caruso argues that we do not have free will.  However, the main point of his talk is to argue that belief in free will has undesirable consequences, so we would be better off dropping any such belief.

I don’t get it.  I do not see any substance to his argument.  But I suggest you watch the video and decide that for yourself.

Among the undesirable consequences that Caruso mentions, are a retributive system of justice, and a “blame the victim” mentality.

I agree with Caruso that there are problems with our current system of justice, and that we should get rid of that “blame the victim” mentality.  But I don’t see that this as anything much to do with a belief in free will.

Caruso mentions evidence to support his case.  But all he has is correlations.  I am left wondering why he called his talk “The Dark Side of Free Will.”  Why not, instead, “The Dark Side of Conservatism” or “The Dark Side of Religion”?  Either of those titles would seem a better fit to the evidence that he mentions.

But here’s what leaves me puzzled about these kinds of arguments.  Caruso wants us to make changes, which involves us making choices.  To me, that we have an ability to make such changes is a very typical example of free will.  So I see Caruso as implicitly endorsing the view that we have free will, while explicitly denying it.

Arguments against free will always seem to involve that kind of internal contradiction.

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69 Comments to “On free will”

  1. However, the main point of his talk is to argue that belief in free will has undesirable consequences, so we would be better off dropping any such belief.

    Ouch! An argument from consequences?

    And I’m less than a minute in and he’s claiming that some who are pro- free-will claim that lack of it would lead to nihilism, people running riot because no moral consequences, blah blah. I’d love to know who these straw-people are, as they seem to be claiming that a lack of free will somehow leaves people able to make the choice to abandon any framework of morals.

    This chap’s a professor of philosophy? Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m getting cross-eyed and depressed reading all those responses. Lets get back to Stoicism or Cynicism.

    It’s just the latest one-fell swoop solution to all of humanity’s problems.

    In response to Daz’ question, “Who are these straw-people?”

    One of my favorite passages from The Brothers Karamazov

    Madame Hohlakhov: “Well, you see, a man may be sitting perfectly sane and suddenly have an aberration. He may be conscious and know what he is doing and yet be in a state of aberration. And there’s no doubt that Dmitri Fyodorovitch was suffering from aberration. They found out about aberration as soon as the law courts were reformed. It’s all the good effect of the reformed law courts. The doctor has been here and questioned me about that evening, about the gold mines. ‘How did he seem then?’ he asked me. He must have been in a state of aberration. He came in shouting, ‘Money, money, three thousand! Give me three thousand!’ and then went away and immediately did the murder. ‘I don’t want to murder him,’ he said, and he suddenly went and murdered him. That’s why they’ll acquit him, because he struggled against it and yet he murdered him.”

    “But he didn’t murder him,” Alyosha interrupted rather sharply. He felt more and more sick with anxiety and impatience.

    “Yes, I know it was that old man Grigory murdered him.”

    “Grigory?” cried Alyosha.

    “Yes, yes; it was Grigory. He lay as Dmitri Fyodorovitch struck him down, and then got up, saw the door open, went in and killed Fyodor Pavlovitch.”

    “But why, why?”

    “Suffering from aberration. When he recovered from the blow Dmitri Fyodorovitch gave him on the head, he was suffering from aberration: he went and committed the murder. As for his saying he didn’t, he very likely doesn’t remember. Only, you know, it’ll be better, ever so much better, if Dmitri Fyodorovitch murdered him.

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  3. Neil,

    “I agree with Caruso that there are problems with our current system of justice, and that we should get rid of that “blame the victim” mentality. But I don’t see that this as anything much to do with a belief in free will.”

    It’s actually quite simple really. If people believe that others have free will, they see them as being able to have chosen differently regarding their actions, and thus they hold them more responsible for those actions than they would otherwise. In some ways, this leads people to believe that others possess some objective form of evil or good, when in reality people’s behavior’s simply reflect the expression of their genes and their cumulative environment starting from childhood and continuing throughout their lives. This is one main reason why a belief in free will is dangerous and has ill consequences in society. People end up erroneously treating others as if they didn’t have such constraints, which is obviously an ignorant view that doesn’t consider the facts of the matter. Some people define free will differently, and this may be why you don’t see why this has to do with it, because your definition of free will differs from Caruso. I believe the most relevant definition pertaining to this discussion and the core concepts we’re trying to address is:

    Free will: “the ability to intentionally behave in more than one way given the same initial conditions.”

    People that believe that humans possess this kind of free will (which only has evidence against it coming from science) will no doubt make horrible decisions regarding how they look at and treat others around them.

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    • Free will: “the ability to intentionally behave in more than one way given the same initial conditions.”

      So you are asking me to change my intentional behavior?

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      • I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking…change your behavior regarding what exactly?

        I’m not sure what your definition of free will is, but if it matches the one I suggested, and you believe that we possess such a will, then I would ask that you seek out the plethora of evidence that dis-confirms such a notion.

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  4. Neil,

    “But here’s what leaves me puzzled about these kinds of arguments. Caruso wants us to make changes, which involves us making choices. To me, that we have an ability to make such changes is a very typical example of free will. So I see Caruso as implicitly endorsing the view that we have free will, while explicitly denying it. Arguments against free will always seem to involve that kind of internal contradiction.”

    Just because we are somewhat rational doesn’t mean we have to be free. Your thoughts here miss the point. Just as a computer can receive new data and change its memory and operate some function differently based on that new data, doesn’t mean it has to be free. Likewise, we don’t need to be free to accept new information and change our beliefs. If our brains process information with no free will, it doesn’t mean that they lack the ability to process the information. It is true that if you accept Caruso’s position, it is still without any free will, but that’s the whole point. There is no contradiction here. Just as computers “make decisions”, so do we. We have pro’s and con’s lists, memory, and a reference bank of belief systems that were built with no free will, and likewise those memory banks, belief systems, etc., can still respond to new information and change over time.

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    • Just as computers “make decisions”, so do we.

      While it is convenient to talk of computers as if they make decisions, they really don’t. Human decision making is not at all like what computers do.

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      • “While it is convenient to talk of computers as if they make decisions, they really don’t. Human decision making is not at all like what computers do.”

        Neither do we really (make decisions that is). That’s irrelevant. There are at least some similarities between our brains and computers (even if only some), and I was using it as an analogy: both are systems that use rules to produce some change based on new information. However, if you’d prefer, forget the analogy with computers, for I don’t need it at all. All that matters here is to recognize that our brains can respond to new incoming data, and depending on the state of that brain, and the current collection of beliefs stored in that brain’s memory (and the individual weights of those beliefs with respect to each other), that brain can change its collection of beliefs after encountering new data. It is without any freedom to choose any differently than it does, but it can nevertheless change over time. We all can learn new ideas and new information, and our brain can change its collection of beliefs based on the rules the brain utilizes (which can also change over time) to govern and manage those very beliefs in response to that new information.

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        • Neither do we really (make decisions that is).

          Of course we make decisions. The word “decision” gets its meaning from what we do.

          I completely disagree with the picture you try to paint of what the brain does.

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          • Neil,

            “I completely disagree with the picture you try to paint of what the brain does.”

            So you don’t think that the brain “can learn new ideas and new information, and our brain can change its collection of beliefs based on the rules the brain utilizes (some of which can change over time) to govern and manage those very beliefs in response to that new information.” ?

            What part of this do you not agree with? I think its quite obviously the case that this is what the brain does. We encounter new information, and the brain changes as a result based on its current wiring and the biochemical rules it must follow. No free will needed. Nada.

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          • So you don’t think that the brain “can learn new ideas and new information, and our brain can change its collection of beliefs based on the rules the brain utilizes (some of which can change over time) to govern and manage those very beliefs in response to that new information.” ?

            That isn’t the wording that I would have picked out, because it uses too many vague terms.

            The entire “belief” story is absurd.

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          • Again, regardless of the wording or use of the word belief, which is to use the parlance of our times related to our brain configuration, our brain changes in response to new incoming sensory data, while following rules to do so. In the process, what we experience is our beliefs changing. You understand what I mean perfectly well, so let’s not beat around the bush.

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          • You understand what I mean perfectly well, so let’s not beat around the bush.

            Yes, I understand what you mean. That’s why I can be so clear that it is absurd.

            However, because you couch everything in terms of vague or hard-to-define concepts, I cannot pinpoint exactly where your thinking goes wrong.

            If you want to call that “beating around the bush”, then fine. But the bush is yours. And because you only provide a bush of mushy ideas, there’s not much of an alternative to beating around that bush.

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          • What part of “the physical brain configuration (of neurons and synapses) changes as a result of new incoming sensory data” is not well defined? It seems that because you don’t have an argument to rebut my point, you fall back on the excuse of ill-defined terms. What part of “the physical brain configuration (of neurons and synapses) changes as a result of new incoming sensory data” is not well defined? If you can’t pinpoint that, then you have no argument here.

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          • What part of “the physical brain configuration (of neurons and synapses) changes as a result of new incoming sensory data” is not well defined?

            Try “physical brain configuration”. You may think that expression is well defined. But it isn’t. It is a hand-waving way of talking that says nothing. See my earlier post about “brain state” for some of the problems with this way of talking.

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          • By “physical brain configuration”, I mean the actual arrangement of neurons and synapses. It’s that simple.

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          • By “physical brain configuration”, I mean the actual arrangement of neurons and synapses. It’s that simple.

            That’s an excellent example of petitio principii.

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  5. “That’s an excellent example of petitio principii.”

    I disagree. I have a description of what I mean by physical brain configuration which could in principle be referring to multiple things. I am specifically defining/describing what I mean by physical brain configuration as the actual connectivity arrangement between neurons and synapses. That’s pretty specific and far from being circular.

    Also, you have still failed to address or admit that the brain can indeed change with response to new sensory input, and thus no free will is needed for a person to as we like to say “change their mind” about something. Your opinion on free will can change, for example, as a result of the brain changing in response to new sensory input based on the constraints and physical laws that the brain follows during that change.

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    • I am specifically defining/describing what I mean by physical brain configuration as the actual connectivity arrangement between neurons and synapses.

      Changing the words from “physical brain configuration” to “actual connectivity arrangement” is just a rewording. That’s what makes it circular. Its a way of pretending that you are being very specific, without actually specifying anything at all.

      I did discuss the problem with this way of talking in that earlier post that I linked.

      Also, you have still failed to address or admit that the brain can indeed change with response to new sensory input, …

      My disagreement is with the entire input-output model (or stimulus-response model) that you are assuming.

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      • So are you denying that the brain changes in response to new sensory data? If not, then that’s all that need be agreed to for my point to stand. If you can’t even agree on something this obvious and simplistic, then this isn’t a discussion at all. It’s simply meaningless quibbling with no substance, seemingly because you have no argument to defend your position. I tend to think that you are better than this Neil. If you can’t provide an argument to defend your position or refute my basic claim, then there’s nothing more to say.

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        • So are you denying that the brain changes in response to new sensory data?

          I question the notion of “sensory data”, as it is often used.

          If you can’t provide an argument to defend your position or refute my basic claim, then there’s nothing more to say.

          I’m wondering what you take to be my position. As far as I know, the position I have taken is that those who argue against free will appear to contradict themselves. And I have supported that.

          Your own basic claim appears to be that you do not have the moral responsibility that would entitle you to make claims.

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          • Neil,

            “I question the notion of “sensory data”, as it is often used.”

            By sensory data, I mean the electrical pulses/signals that are produced by energy exchanges at our sensory organs from the external environment (the 5 basic sensory organs for starters). Those pulses are transmitted through the nervous system and through and to neurons, making their way to the brain where the brain responds to those electrical pulses. It does not remain static — changes do indeed occur as a result.

            “I’m wondering what you take to be my position. As far as I know, the position I have taken is that those who argue against free will appear to contradict themselves. And I have supported that.”

            I take your position to be that we have free will (as I defined it), but you can correct me if I’m mistaken. I pointed out why those who argue against free will aren’t contradicting themselves at all. And you haven’t supported your position at all, which was why I pointed it out in the first place. You merely said that that those who argue against free will appear to contradict themselves, and that is only a claim, not a supporting argument. I successfully demonstrated how this view is fallacious by pointing out that the only requirement is that the brain changes over time (and that it does so corresponding with a subjective experience of our beliefs changing, that is, what we believe to be true or false) in response to new sensory data among other ways. Just like a computer (again, just an analogy) has incoming data that is processed to produce some functional change or output (without free will) and what is stored in its memory can change as a result, so do we, even though the processing or brain change is much more complicated and differs in other fundamental ways than that of a computer. Regardless, change over time of the brain is correlated with us having new beliefs. A person can “change their mind” about free will through the same types of processes that are involved in any kind of learning that we do. Perhaps you don’t think that we “learn”, in which case you are just playing games with semantics and nothing more.

            “Your own basic claim appears to be that you do not have the moral responsibility that would entitle you to make claims.”

            My own basic claim is as simple as it appears, and there is no need to invoke terms such as “moral responsibility”. That is overcomplicating things with a term that is much less defined, and thus need not be mentioned here. The brain changes as we learn (I can’t see how you would disagree with this, unless you are positing that the brain magically stays the same yet produces different outputs over time), and the fact that we learn new things doesn’t mean we have to have free will to do so. There is no logical necessity for this to be so. If you claim this to be so, then the burden of proof is on you to show how learning is only consistent with free will as I defined it. Ultimately you can forget everything I’ve mentioned thus far and only consider that it comes down to this: whatever you think happens in the brain when we “change our mind” about a particular belief is governed by the laws of physics. We have no control over the laws of physics, therefore we have no control over the laws of physics that mediate what happens in the brain or any other process in the universe. That is the bottom line here, and I think you’ve grossly overcomplicated things and needlessly confused yourself. You need only recognize that the laws of physics can’t be deviated by some magic will of human beings. Rather, our brain is governed by these laws, and that which is governed by physical laws has no ability to produce a result that differs given the same initial conditions (by definition stated long ago).

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          • I take “data” to refer to Shannon information. We don’t receive any of that, as best I can tell. We create it. One could perhaps say that our brains digitize the world. How they do that is not dictated. I see the brain as already making adaptive choices at that level.

            Your argument ignores the indeterminacy of this digitization process. It also greatly oversimplifies our interaction with the world.

            I take your position to be that we have free will (as I defined it), but you can correct me if I’m mistaken.

            My basic view is that people disagree over what they mean by “free will”, and that much of the debating is really over disagreements on meaning.

            As I see it, there could not possibly be scientific evidence either for or against free will. So people who believe that they have a scientific case against free will are mistaken.

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          • Neil,

            “I take “data” to refer to Shannon information. We don’t receive any of that, as best I can tell. We create it. One could perhaps say that our brains digitize the world. How they do that is not dictated. I see the brain as already making adaptive choices at that level.”

            It’s not making free choices that could have been made differently given the same initial conditions less randomness. So this is no argument for free will.

            “Your argument ignores the indeterminacy of this digitization process. It also greatly oversimplifies our interaction with the world.”

            Indeterminacy is irrelevant to the free will debate. Whether the brain is deterministic or indeterministic (random) negates free will either way. We’ve been through this argument before and you still haven’t conceded to the scientific fact that the laws of physics mediate everything that the brain does. There is no free will because of these constraints. Nada. There is no argument you can provide to suggest that free will exists, unless you can show that the laws of physics are violated by some component of us or our brains, which I think is quite a tall order for you to accomplish since nobody else has been successful thus far. All people can do is change the definition of “free will” to mean something else other than the definition I provided earlier, which circumvents the entire topic of discussion.

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          • It’s not making free choices that could have been made differently given the same initial conditions less randomness.

            Actually, it is.

            Whether the brain is deterministic or indeterministic (random) negates free will either way.

            “Indeterministic” is not the same as “random”.

            We’ve been through this argument before and you still haven’t conceded to the scientific fact that the laws of physics mediate everything that the brain does.

            We clearly have different understandings of the laws of physics.

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          • “Actually, it is.”

            What evidence do you have to support your position?

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          • What evidence do you have to support your position?

            Science depends on making choices.

            Science seems to work.

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          • They are not free choices. Your going around in circles here. This isn’t an argument. You need to demonstrate how the brain is not entirely governed by the laws of physics (which we often describe in terms of neuro-chemical reactions) in order to defend the positions that we have free will (as I defined it at the beginning of this discourse) which I’ve mentioned several times now and you’ve failed to do that here.

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          • This isn’t an argument.

            You asked for evidence. I provided evidence.

            As I have already said, I see free will as neither provable nor disprovable.

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          • “You asked for evidence. I provided evidence.”

            No you didn’t. You never provided evidence showing that the changes that occur in the brain are not bound to happen as they do because of the laws of nature.

            ” I have already said, I see free will as neither provable nor disprovable.”

            And I pointed out how you were incorrect with this assertion (or at least not supported) since science has only shown evidence in favor of our brains and the changes they undergo adhering to the laws of nature, and thus outside of our control. As you said yourself, nature “just keeps doing what it does”. And we have no control over what it does.

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          • No you didn’t. You never provided evidence showing that the changes that occur in the brain are not bound to happen as they do because of the laws of nature.

            I provided evidence that we make choices. I did not expect you to be persuaded by that evidence, but it was still evidence.

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          • “I provided evidence that we make choices. I did not expect you to be persuaded by that evidence, but it was still evidence.”. It isn’t evidence supporting free will because the choices aren’t free. Now we have come full circle.

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          • It isn’t evidence supporting free will because the choices aren’t free.

            Bah! Humbug.

            I have not said that we have free will. I have said that we make choices. I need not provide evidence for what I have not claimed.

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          • “I have not said that we have free will. I have said that we make choices. I need not provide evidence for what I have not claimed.”

            Neil, you know perfectly well that you claimed that the idea of no free will, and the idea of spreading that idea so others accept it is contradictory. That is what we’ve been primarily discussing here, so stay on topic and forget the red herrings and other digressions that steer away from supporting your initial assertion. That is what I asked evidence for ultimately — the claim at the end of your post.

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          • Neil, you know perfectly well that you claimed that the idea of no free will, and the idea of spreading that idea so others accept it is contradictory.

            Actually, I have only pointed out that the arguments made against free will are contradictory. I have not claimed that the idea itself is contradictory. And I have not claimed that we have free will.

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          • “Actually, I have only pointed out that the arguments made against free will are contradictory. I have not claimed that the idea itself is contradictory. And I have not claimed that we have free will.”

            But you provided no evidence to support that claim, which was why I pointed out that your claim was not supporting by the evidence that fits in line with the definition of free will I described at the beginning of this discourse.

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          • You need to demonstrate how the brain is not entirely governed by the laws of physics (which we often describe in terms of neuro-chemical reactions) in order to defend the positions that we have free will (as I defined it at the beginning of this discourse) which I’ve mentioned several times now and you’ve failed to do that here.

            Only our mathematical models are “governed” by the laws of physics.

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          • You’re not addressing the existence of quite a bit of predictability in our reality. That is ultimately what we define as the laws of nature, and to use a different definition just plays a word game rather than using an actual defensible argument to address my challenge to your claim, which you’ve still failed to do.

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          • You’re not addressing the existence of quite a bit of predictability in our reality.

            But now you are talking of our reality. Yes, there are patterns there. We pattern our own reality for our benefit.

            That’s different from what I expressed disagreement with.

            And no, I am not playing word games.

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          • “But now you are talking of our reality. Yes, there are patterns there. We pattern our own reality for our benefit. That’s different from what I expressed disagreement.”

            Our reality is our entire experience so there isn’t anything else to base any assertions off of (other than 100% speculative metaphysics with no correlation with what we experience). If recognizing those patterns allow us to preserve life by continuing to survive, then they are an aspect of whatever world that our reality is an interpretation of, assuming there is a world external to our reality. So your disagreeing here is still disagreement in regard to any world external to our reality.

            “And no, I am not playing word games.”

            Yes you are and this is generally your most common tactic as your arguments either fall short or are non-existent, and it’s all you can fall back on to avoid admitting you are incorrect or have no support for many of the claims you make.

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          • If recognizing those patterns …

            What patterns.

            How do you define “pattern”.

            As best I can tell, we find patterns in our descriptions. And if we change how we describe, we change the patterns.

            Your claim was that there are patterns independent of description. My disagreement is with that.

            See my post on coffee cups and donuts. If you see patterns that are different between coffee cups and donuts, those are not intrinsic. They are dependent on our conventions, on how we describe those items.

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          • “Your claim was that there are patterns independent of description. My disagreement is with that.”

            That disagreement is irrelevant to supporting your claim made at the end of your post. Forget the patterns, and only realize that we are able to predict the future to some degree by some mechanism of natural rules being followed over time.

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          • Forget the patterns, and only realize that we are able to predict the future to some degree by some mechanism of natural rules being followed over time.

            I fixed that for you.

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          • “I fixed that for you.”

            The future is somewhat predictable, because the universe is and operates in a way that allows us to do so and that is all that matters with that point.

            You still haven’t provided evidence to defend or support your claim made at the end of your post, given the definition of free will I provided long ago.

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          • You still haven’t provided evidence to defend or support your claim made at the end of your post, given the definition of free will I provided long ago.

            Do you mean this one: “Arguments against free will always seem to involve that kind of internal contradiction.”

            I have twice pointed out where you seem to be involved in a contradiction. Each time, you evaded the issue.

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          • “Do you mean this one: “Arguments against free will always seem to involve that kind of internal contradiction.”

            I have twice pointed out where you seem to be involved in a contradiction. Each time, you evaded the issue.”

            Nope. You haven’t. You’ve evaded the issue and not presented any evidence to support the claim that a world without free will is incompatible or contradictory with human beings learning new things, including learning that they don’t have free will.

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          • Your main problem seems to lie in your definitions, and your common assumptions of the way we use language. You still haven’t shown how a world without free will implies that people, as a part of that world, are unable to exist and behave exactly as we do.

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          • ” “Indeterministic” is not the same as “random”. ”

            Anything that is not random is by definition, deterministic. If the brand of indeterminacy you’re discussing is not random then it is deterministic which doesn’t help to allow free will.

            Your understanding of the laws of physics are incorrect if you think that given the same initial conditions, the brain can change over time while not being ultimately mediated by quantum mechanics (randomness, based on observation at least with no local hidden variables). No room for free will here.

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          • Anything that is not random is by definition, deterministic.

            Only if you are using an absurd definition.

            Your understanding of the laws of physics are incorrect if you think that given the same initial conditions, the brain can change over time while not being ultimately mediated by quantum mechanics (randomness, based on observation at least with no local hidden variables).

            The laws of physics are human constructs. Nothing in nature is looking at those laws to decide what to do next. Nature is oblivious to our scientific laws. It just keeps doing what it does.

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          • Not at all. If something is non-random it has order and patterns and thus some predictable description, hence deterministic.

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          • If something is non-random it has order and patterns and thus some predictable description, hence deterministic.

            We evidently disagree on this.

            I see both “random” and “deterministic” as mathematical terms. The applicability of either to reality is dubious.

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          • “We evidently disagree on this. I see both “random” and “deterministic” as mathematical terms. The applicability of either to reality is dubious.”

            The applicability to reality is as obvious as anything else in Science is. The entire scientific method would be useless if this wasn’t applicable. We can predict things to a high degree of certainty and accuracy because some level of deterministic direction is innate in our observations. Randomness or determinism are the only two options, and both negate free will. If you think there are more than two options, then state them now.

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          • The applicability to reality is as obvious as anything else in Science is. The entire scientific method would be useless if this wasn’t applicable.

            That’s your mistake.

            We model parts of reality. Then we make predictions based on our models. But our models are imperfect. We try to have them fit well, but they are still imperfect.

            That an imperfect model is determinist is no evidence at all that reality is deterministic. And it is far from clear whether “reality is deterministic” even makes sense.

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          • “That’s your mistake. We model parts of reality. Then we make predictions based on our models. But our models are imperfect. We try to have them fit well, but they are still imperfect.”

            We can’t make any successful predictions based on any model if the universe isn’t actually predictable to that extent, if not beyond the extent of our models, since they are never perfect. So it is in fact your mistake here.

            “That an imperfect model is determinist is no evidence at all that reality is deterministic. ”

            That the universe has a predictable nature is a deterministic quality not an indeterministic quality, and random or non-random, free will is negated.

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          • We can’t make any successful predictions based on any model if the universe isn’t actually predictable to that extent, if not beyond the extent of our models, since they are never perfect. So it is in fact your mistake here.

            That seems to be word salad. I cannot make sense of it.

            That the universe has a predictable nature is a deterministic quality not an indeterministic quality, and random or non-random, free will is negated.

            We make statistical predictions. They do not require determinism. So no, predictability is not “a deterministic quality”.

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          • “That seems to be word salad. I cannot make sense of it.”

            Well then you have some work to do gaining some foothold on these very basic concepts. Without having a solid understanding with these basics, it explains why your thinking is muddled on this issue. I’d address this misunderstanding first through more reading on the subject, and then continue the discussion after you reevaluate your claims based on a proper understanding of that basic foundation.

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          • “We make statistical predictions. They do not require determinism. So no, predictability is not “a deterministic quality”. ”

            If they aren’t deterministic, then they are random. If you disagree, then once again, as I’ve asked you several times now, give me another option here, other than random or deterministic for an underlying property of the laws of nature (or nature, if you will), if you assert that it is neither deterministic nor random and indeterministic.

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          • Patterns exist in nature regardless of if the ways we describe them are man-made. That is irrelevant to the fact that the intrinsic laws of nature (independent of our description) exist as evident by the patterns we see and by the fact that we also learn those patterns to increase our survival ability. The evolution of the brain has been all about recognizing and remembering these patterns in more and more complex ways (more complex hierarchical relationships perceived), so the laws of nature are demonstrating consistency by the fact that this evolutionary adaptation is even possible.

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          • Patterns exist in nature regardless of if the ways we describe them are man-made.

            No, they don’t.

            That is irrelevant to the fact that the intrinsic laws of nature (independent of our description) exist as evident by the patterns we see and by the fact that we also learn those patterns to increase our survival ability.

            There are no intrinsic laws of nature.

            The evolution of the brain has been all about recognizing and remembering these patterns in more and more complex ways (more complex hierarchical relationships perceived), so the laws of nature are demonstrating consistency by the fact that this evolutionary adaptation is even possible.

            I believe this to be false.

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          • “No, they don’t.”

            Ah, yes they do. If they didn’t, then we would never be able to predict anything or anticipate any aspects of the future.

            “I believe this to be false.”

            Well then explain how larger and more complex brains give an organism a greater advantage to survive over one with a less complex brain.

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          • Ah, yes they do. If they didn’t, then we would never be able to predict anything or anticipate any aspects of the future.

            That’s pretty much like saying “Of course Eve was fashioned out of Adam’s rib; otherwise there wouldn’t be women.”

            You are believing your own origins myth, which is a made up “Just So” story that originates in theistic thinking.

            Oh, and there’s a reason that I gave this blog the title that it has.

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          • “That’s pretty much like saying “Of course Eve was fashioned out of Adam’s rib; otherwise there wouldn’t be women.”. ”

            The analogy doesn’t hold at all. I explained that the universe has some level of predictability, and that is a well known fact. It is also a well known fact that the brain uses this attribute to its advantage and ultimately for our survival. The pathologies of the brain that we’ve discovered demonstrate that when the brain is taken far out of its usual state, its ability to predict the future and correspond with reality decreases.

            “Oh, and there’s a reason that I gave this blog the title that it has.”

            Yes, but heretical doesn’t mean irrational.

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          • I explained that the universe has some level of predictability, and that is a well known fact.

            That’s not actually relevant, as far as I can see.

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          • “That’s not actually relevant, as far as I can see.”

            Then you don’t have the proper understanding to move forward or discuss this topic.

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          • Then you don’t have the proper understanding to move forward or discuss this topic.

            Oh, I see. You gave a completely bogus response, but now it is all my fault.

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          • “Oh, I see. You gave a completely bogus response, but now it is all my fault.”

            I didn’t give a bogus response, but rather one that is coherent and consistent with evidence in science. You lack of understanding with some of those basic concepts puts a hold on being able to continue a productive discussion on the matter. Just as if I tried to explain to you how hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water, if you didn’t believe that hydrogen and oxygen existed, the conversation would be futile.

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          • Just as if I tried to explain to you how hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water, if you didn’t believe that hydrogen and oxygen existed, the conversation would be futile.

            However, in this case, the problem is yours. You are deeply committed to a theory comes from philosophy of mind, and that has failed for over 2000 years. That same theory has been tried with computer is AI research, where it has failed for over 60 years.

            The only evidence is that there is something wrong with your position. However, you are so deeply committed to it, that you are unwilling to critically examine it. You find it easier to say that I am ignorant, that to consider the possibility that you are mistaken.

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          • “The only evidence is that there is something wrong with your position. However, you are so deeply committed to it, that you are unwilling to critically examine it. You find it easier to say that I am ignorant, that to consider the possibility that you are mistaken.”

            You haven’t provided evidence to support your claim made at the end of your post, given the definition of classical free will specified. No go Neil…I’m still waiting.

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          • “Those pulses are transmitted through the nervous system and through and to neurons, making their way to the brain where the brain responds to those electrical pulses.”

            I’d also be willing to amend this to say:
            “Those pulses are transmitted through the nervous system and through and to neurons, making their way to the brain where the brain changes as a result of those electrical pulses and as a result of electrical activity that was already present prior to those new electrical pulses.”

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