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    Thread: The short argument against free will

    1. #26
      DuB
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      That was little more than a footnote in my post. Specifically it was the definition of free will that I offered based on what the OP seemed to be implying. You clearly missed the main point. I'll walk you through it. Somii protested that the argument from the OP was invalid and then attempted to demonstrate this by formalizing the argument. The point of my post was to say that I think he formalized the argument incorrectly, and that when you do so correctly, it is in fact deductively valid. That doesn't mean that the conclusion is in fact true or that we are obligated to accept it. It just means that if we accept all of the given premises as being true, it would be contradictory to deny the conclusion. However, as I noted previously, the premises can certainly be questioned in various ways. Are we all clear now?

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      Yeah of course Somii's post was incorrect, it made no sense, yours made little more or at most unnecessarily dragged out a simple assertion.
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 09-05-2011 at 02:21 AM.

    3. #28
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      I certainly dragged out what are undeniably a handful of simple assertions. I guess we disagree on the extent to which doing so is useful or informative. My thought is that by fully explicating what the assertions are saying and filling in what seem to be some additional hidden assertions, we can begin to think more clearly about precisely where the original argument may have gone wrong. The fully "drug out" argument is certainly more difficult to parse, but it at least lays all of the philosophical cards on the table, and happens to offer a straightforward one-to-one mapping between the English sentences and the formal, symbolic expression of the original argument.

      Personally, I think Isadore probably comes close to hitting the most offensive nail on the head with the observation that it is difficult to imagine how a "self" can be thought of as separate from that self's set of thoughts.

    4. #29
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      I was reading this the other day http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~knuts.../kosfeld05.pdf and it got me to thinking....if the simple administration of a hormone like oxytocin can determine human behavior in this circumstance, how many other aspects of our behavior are chemically determined? What about love? Is homosexuality a choice or is it a genetically determined trait? Ill offer my own syllogism for fun.

      P1) All matter (with the apparent exception of subatomic particles) is governed by basic physical/mathematical(deterministic) laws.
      P2) Human behavior is influenced by neurological chemicals which are also subject to basic deterministic laws (follows from P1)
      C ) Human behavior is determined by physical laws.(ie free will does not exist)
      kidjordan likes this.

    5. #30
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      itīs a paradox of free will and "destiny" at the same time. Common sense is "destiny" making it self known.

      free will (space) + destiny (matter) = e(nergy)motion

    6. #31
      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      P1) All matter (with the apparent exception of subatomic particles) is governed by basic physical/mathematical(deterministic) laws.
      P2) Human behavior is influenced by neurological chemicals which are also subject to basic deterministic laws (follows from P1)
      C ) Human behavior is determined by physical laws.(ie free will does not exist)
      If you say so. You're yet to define what you mean by 'free will' so at the moment this is useless.

    7. #32
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      If you say so. You're yet to define what you mean by 'free will' so at the moment this is useless.
      Free will: The ability of a rational entity to make choices free from the influence of external constraints.

      Merriam-Webster:
      : freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

    8. #33
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Except this is nonsense.
      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      Yeah of course Somii's post was incorrect, it made no sense,.....
      Nonsense? Incorrect? Please show me why this is so.

      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post
      I think the puzzlement is regarding why or how you think the syllogism that you expressed is an accurate translation of the argument in the OP. I have to agree with other commentators that I don't see that it properly reflects the argument at all. It neither contains the same number of premises as the original argument nor does it refer to the same number of entities. So before we even try substituting in the English phrases it already seems obvious that something has gone wrong. It's not even clear to me that the argument can be adequately expressed in terms of syllogistic logic in the first place. It seems to me to require the machinery at least of first-order predicate logic. Let's give it a shot and see what happens.
      Shall we.

      1. For all X, if X is an action, then there exists a Y such that Y is a thought and *X is caused by Y.
      2. For all X and Y, if X is a thought and Y is a "self," then *X is not caused by Y.
      Are you using predicate logic correctly?

      At this point, if we are to get to #3, then we need to make an assumption about the nature of the causal relation. This seems to be a hidden premise in the OP. Let's make it explicit and call it #2.5.

      2.5. For all X, Y, and Z, iff X is caused by Y and Y is caused by Z, then X is caused by Z.
      (Note that this is similar to transitivity, but not quite the same because it involves the biconditional. So in this case, anything that makes the antecedent false also makes the consequent false.)
      Is Z supposed to be "self," that which was denoted in set Y? If not, what causes Y is irrelevant to this argument. The implicit bi-conditional you sought out would be appropriate if, and only if, he stated in his premise an entity that indicated the necessity of the causal relation between the antecedent and consequent - EX: "Only thoughts determine our actions." He failed to do so, thus it isn't appropriate, and you're just implying your own assumption to validate his argument. Since the validity of this argument relies on the necessity of that which you implied, without it, it is invalid.

      Now from #1, #2, and #2.5 it follows that

      3. For all X and Y: if X is an action and Y is a "self," then X is not caused by Y.
      Perhaps with your assumption it does, but since this assumption is not correctly implied nor is explicit, it doesn't properly follow.

      This fully explicated chain of inference is valid as far as I can see, although there are certainly still various ways in which we can question the conclusion. #3 and #4 are straightforward conclusions from the other premises. But we may not accept those premises. It seems that few people are satisfied with #2. We might also want to think hard about whether we are satisfied with #3.5.
      I disagree that your expression of the OP's argument adequately reflects it, for you neglected several set variables within the argument such as "control our thoughts" and "determine our actions."
      I stomp on your ideas.

    9. #34
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      So what's the ultimate purpose of this questioning? If we have no free will, then where are our decisions coming from? Is this just another way of saying we're little godpuppets?

    10. #35
      DuB
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      Quote Originally Posted by Somii View Post
      Are you using predicate logic correctly?
      Yes.

      Quote Originally Posted by Somii View Post
      Is Z supposed to be "self," that which was denoted in set Y?
      Z is a variable. It is not supposed to be denote any particular thing. We simply need to refer to at least 3 different things in order to define the binary relation that I had in mind.

      Quote Originally Posted by Somii View Post
      He failed to do so, thus it isn't appropriate, and you're just implying your own assumption to validate his argument.
      Yes, exactly. Maybe I wasn't clear enough on just what I am trying to accomplish here. We can both agree that the original argument, as it is literally written, is simply not valid. The conclusion does not follow. My point was that if you insert two simple premises, the ones that I have labeled #2.5 and #3.5 -- premises which the OP appears to have implicitly assumed and which he would presumably fully agree with, although he certainly does not state them explicitly -- then the conclusion does follow.

      Essentially, I'm filling in the two obvious gaps in the argument so that we can begin to consider the argument in a more interesting and productive way than simply declaring "does not follow!!" Under very reasonable assumptions about what the OP meant to say, it does follow.

      Quote Originally Posted by Somii View Post
      I disagree that your expression of the OP's argument adequately reflects it, for you neglected several set variables within the argument such as "control our thoughts" and "determine our actions."
      It seems obvious to me that those are just different ways of talking about the causal relation, which I dealt with quite explicitly. They don't actually refer to different types of relations, despite that they happen to use different English words.

    11. #36
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      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post
      . My point was that if you insert two simple premises, the ones that I have labeled #2.5 and #3.5 -- premises which the OP appears to have implicitly assumed and which he would presumably fully agree with, although he certainly does not state them explicitly -- [

      I agree. Also, I found another interesting way of phrasing this argument.

      " even rigorous introspection soon grows as hostile to the idea of free will as the equations of physics have, because apparent acts of volition merely arise, spontaneously (whether caused, uncaused, or probabilistically inclined, it makes no difference), and cannot be traced to a point of origin in the stream of consciousness. A moment or two of serious self-scrutiny and the reader might observe that he no more authors the next thought he thinks than the next thought I write."-Sam Harris

      Personally, I think the following issue is more interesting and I'm going to make a new thread for it. I think we've said all we need to say.

      "Writing at the Edge forum on dangerous ideas, neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger (scroll down after click) worries we might go literally insane believing in determinism: we won’t be able to integrate our conceptual understanding that we are determined creatures with our phenomenal self-models. But these don’t conflict precisely because the former is conceptual, the later phenomenal. How does it feel to be a perfectly determined creature (on the assumption we are)? Just as we presently do, even if that feeling might involve what we conceptually know is the illusion of being undetermined or ultimately self-caused in some respect...."

      Currents

    12. #37
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      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      " even rigorous introspection soon grows as hostile to the idea of free will as the equations of physics have, because apparent acts of volition merely arise, spontaneously (whether caused, uncaused, or probabilistically inclined, it makes no difference), and cannot be traced to a point of origin in the stream of consciousness. A moment or two of serious self-scrutiny and the reader might observe that he no more authors the next thought he thinks than the next thought I write."-Sam Harris
      All this really means is that decision-making takes place at a level deeper than subvocalization. Thoughts rise up from the unconscious or the subconscious, whatever you want to call it, and somewhere along the way we make decisions as to whether we want to follow along with this particular idea or reject it and go a different way. And yes, these decisions themselves originate at a level deeper than what we can clearly discern (subvocalization is about as deep as we can clearly follow... beneath that things get a bit murky).

      And certainly large parts of our lives are pre-determined such as sexual preference etc. But we can and do make decisions and change them as conditions change. Are they "affected" by external events/conditions? Of course... that's the whole reason we have to make a decision in the first place!! To react to conditions or events that affect us. If there were no need to adapt to changing conditions, there would be no need for us to make any decisions.

      I am the Decider.

    13. #38
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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      And yes, these decisions themselves originate at a level deeper than what we can clearly discern (subvocalization is about as deep as we can clearly follow... beneath that things get a bit murky).
      Well, IF our decisions aren't the result of subvocalization, then we can hardly be rational decision makers. I think at this point, the natural way for the discussion to shift to ask "what is the self?". IFF you think that it's composed solely of thought, then it follows naturally that decisions happen at a level below thought and therefore, (under that definition of the self) the self does not ultimately make decisions.

      So, how are you going to define the self so that it can be the originator of decisions?

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      I knew somebody was going to do that!! You jumped right past the most important thing I said:

      Thoughts rise up from the unconscious or the subconscious, whatever you want to call it, and somewhere along the way we make decisions as to whether we want to follow along
      So I'm saying that yes, thoughts originate in the murky depths that are unknowable to us, but that as they emerge into consciousness, we can decide if we let a thought determine our future course or if we reject it and take a different course.

    15. #40
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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post

      So I'm saying that yes, thoughts originate in the murky depths that are unknowable to us, but that as they emerge into consciousness, we can decide if we let a thought determine our future course or if we reject it and take a different course.
      And how exactly does one decide? Does it go something like this

      Let me give you a small narration of my mind.

      Thought arises: I want to eat candy.
      Another thought arises: I shouldn't eat candy.
      3rd thought: But I just worked out.
      4th thought: But that doesn't matter. You still shouldn't eat candy.
      5th: I'm not going to eat candy. I'm going to go do my homework.

      At each stage of the thought process, you cannot choose which thought is popping into your head. It doesn't matter which thought is popping into your head. It doesn't matter that you can change which thoughts pop into your head (although, ultimately, I might argue that "you" is just another thought that pops into your head so "you" really don't change any of your thoughts; they just change on their own). What matters is that your thoughts are always popping into your head. And you can never choose which thought pops in.


      Also, I just noticed the irony of you saying that you were "the decider" two posts back. I would contend that you only think you are the decider.

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    17. #42
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      Also, I would like to point out studies on mentally ill patients in which the patients are very adept at confabulating why they are doing something.
      Confabulation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      And there are examples in the following book which describe confabulation in normal people:
      Amazon.com: Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious (9780674009363): Prof. Timothy D. Wilson: Books

      So, perhaps my subconscious already decided it didn't want candy, and it's rationalizing why it doesn't want candy. In which case, the relevant questions (I think) are "how does the subconscious decide things?" and "how does it confabulate?".

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      I decided to write something here, then decided against it. I think. I don't know, I'm confused now.

      Ok - in a final desperate gamble to hold on to the illusion of sanity -

      Whether to eat candy or not is a trivial decision with no lasting consequences, and doesn't involve any real complexity. Just a simple yes or no.

      How about a more complex decision that carries layers of consequences and that requires some degree of rational thinking to make. Like whether to go to college, join the military or take a job. It requires you to project a lot of possibilities and weigh them carefully. And a person labors long and hard thinking about something like this... surely that isn't all pointless rumination?

      I don't have the answer of course... just want to chew on this for a while.

      What matters is that your thoughts are always popping into your head. And you can never choose which thought pops in.
      Ah yes, but when a number of conflicting options have popped into your head, you can then ponder them and decide which one to go with, or come up with a modified plan consisting of parts of several of them.

      My brain hurts.

      ... And I want to point out - when I said I was "the Decider" - it in no way affiliates me with G W Bush.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 09-07-2011 at 11:14 AM.

    19. #44
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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      Whether to eat candy or not is a trivial decision with no lasting consequences, and doesn't involve any real complexity. Just a simple yes or no.

      How about a more complex decision that carries layers of consequences and that requires some degree of rational thinking to make. Like whether to go to college, join the military or take a job. It requires you to project a lot of possibilities and weigh them carefully. And a person labors long and hard thinking about something like this... surely that isn't all pointless rumination?


      Ah yes, but when a number of conflicting options have popped into your head, you can then ponder them and decide which one to go with, or come up with a modified plan consisting of parts of several of them.

      ... And I want to point out - when I said I was "the Decider" - it in no way affiliates me with G W Bush.
      Haha. Let's not even bring up GW. It never happened.

      Hmm. That's an interesting point about being able to consider a bunch of options. I wonder working memory is somehow related to the number of thoughts we can consider when making an important decision. Of course we can always boil down the options until it comes down to a few factors, but in the end, I imagine it would be constrained by our working memory. We can only consider as many factors as we can hold in our working memory when making a complex decision which involves lots of thoughts. However, I think my previous argument still holds except now there are multiple thoughts occupying the working memory instead of just 1. Also, the facts that we are holding in our working memory don't have value judgements attached to them and our values are not rational. They are emotional. And some emotions are conscious and some aren't. Also, we don't know why we value certain things or like certain people, we just do.

      Also, I don't think the rumination is pointless. I think that if we view the subconscious as the ultimate decision maker and we view consciousness as a subset of the unconscious, then the value of rumination in our decision making process becomes apparent. When I say consciousness is a subset of the UC, I mean that consciousness is dependent on UC processes and that the UC is what puts thoughts in our heads (or makes them more accessible).

      If you think about how much you do automatically, then I think the concept is easier to swallow.

    20. #45
      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      Free will: The ability of a rational entity to make choices free from the influence of external constraints.

      Merriam-Webster:
      : freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention
      In that case determinism trivially contradicts free will.

    21. #46
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      In that case determinism trivially contradicts free will.
      Yes but I didn't flaunt it as infallible affirmation of determinism I just wanted to add my own syllogism into the mix. Although I do believe that it is a pretty sound deductive argument. I have true premises and it is backed up by empirical science and is peer-reviewed.

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      Kidjordan, I can accept everything you just said - especially about Bush - but 2 thoughts I'd like to add.

      1) Rationality can play a major part in decision making, especially if you're a person who likes to make graphs and charts - schedules and budgets. Or do math to work things out.


      2) If the choices are coming from your own UC, isn't that still "you"?

      They're not just entirely random ideas emerging. If you're faced with a problem for instance, the unconscious will give you options that relate to that problem. True they're a bit unfocused, like the symbols it gives you in dreams, but they do relate directly to the problem you face, probably derived from instinct. The UC throws the thoughts up where the conscious mind can chew on them.

      Just thought of this I'd like to add:

      3) The fact that we make choices largely from emotion rather than logic still doesn't mean it's not "us" making the choices. My unconscious is MY unconscious!
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 09-07-2011 at 11:23 PM.

    23. #48
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      I haven't responded in a while. I've been thinking deeply. I want to write about this long-form rather than in a bunch of forum posts because then I spend less time going over the same issues. I will respond. And it will be good.

      1) Rationality can play a major part in decision making, especially if you're a person who likes to make graphs and charts - schedules and budgets. Or do math to work things out.
      That's what I was talking about when I said boiling things down so that they can be held in working memory for decision making. Just because we are rational and intelligent (or think we are) doesn't mean we aren't determined. Think of theoretical artificial intelligence robots.

      2) If the choices are coming from your own UC, isn't that still "you"? 3) The fact that we make choices largely from emotion rather than logic still doesn't mean it's not "us" making the choices. My unconscious is MY unconscious!
      Hmm. This is where a lot of confusion arises. People are using the term "you" and "self" to mean a lot of different things in different contexts. I think that as long as "you" aren't troubled by the thoughts that come up, then you can identify those thoughts as yours. The problem arises when you have unwanted thoughts that you can't really get rid of. Then you feel as if there is the "good" thought pattern which is "you" and the "bad" thought pattern which is your UC. Of course, you could expand the definition of "you" to include those bad UC thoughts. They aren't so dissimilar from normal thoughts. They are both occupy your mind automatically.

      EDIT: I've started a new thread that touches on this topic. It's called "the determined self"

    24. #49
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      Looking forward to it. This is fascinating, even if I get a little depressed every time think about it.

      I suspect reading the new thread will do this to me:


      ( always wanted to use that smiley)

    25. #50
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      I used to be really depressed (hence the allusions to unwanted thoughts in the post above). I used to think it was because the philosophy was depressing, but I found that if I worked out and got a good night's sleep, I could return to the philosophy except it wouldn't make me sad. I realized that I was conflating my sadness with my philosophy. I've tried to divorce emotion from whatever conclusions I draw from my philosophy (unless they are positive ones). There's a topic for another thread. That and whether or not anti-depressants are effective (I didn't use them and I feel fantastic now).

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