Defining Free Will, Fairly

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Purple Knight
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Defining Free Will, Fairly

Post #1

Post by Purple Knight »

I think there was one of these before, but I want to start one with the emphasis on hammering out a definition that is fair to both sides. In other words, a definition of free will that does not render itself definitionally false (thus rendering the people who believe in it stupid) or render itself definitionally true (thus making the people who doubt it stupid).

So to be fair to the people who believe in brown rabbits, we are not going to define rabbits as nonbrown.

I would also like to focus on arriving at a definition that is fair to the concept most people have of free will, rather than defining it as something else. For example, on the question of randomness, the idea that claim to randomness is what free will is does not pass this particular muster, since no one is claiming a random number generator hooked up to the decay of a radioactive isotope has free will.

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Re: Defining Free Will, Fairly

Post #21

Post by mgb »

AgnosticBoy wrote: Sun Oct 24, 2021 11:15 am I believe your view is still compatible with determinism since there is still causation involved. The only different aspect is that the cause is not strictly physically based! This brings to mind REne Descartes view where he brings up the soul, and then some automatically consider the soul to be the source of free-will since it is outside of the physical space.
Yes, my argument is mainly against rigid, physical determinism. Here's a question; Can nothing be a cause?
Suppose someone is waiting on a phone call and does not know if the call will come or not. This lack of knowledge - which is nothing - can be seen as a cause because in the absence of knowledge he begins to pace the room wondering what to do. The instant this lack of knowledge affects him physically there is physical action that cannot be fully attributed to a physical cause...

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Re: Defining Free Will, Fairly

Post #22

Post by AgnosticBoy »

mgb wrote: Sun Oct 24, 2021 1:53 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Sun Oct 24, 2021 11:15 am I believe your view is still compatible with determinism since there is still causation involved. The only different aspect is that the cause is not strictly physically based! This brings to mind REne Descartes view where he brings up the soul, and then some automatically consider the soul to be the source of free-will since it is outside of the physical space.
Yes, my argument is mainly against rigid, physical determinism. Here's a question; Can nothing be a cause?
Suppose someone is waiting on a phone call and does not know if the call will come or not. This lack of knowledge - which is nothing - can be seen as a cause because in the absence of knowledge he begins to pace the room wondering what to do. The instant this lack of knowledge affects him physically there is physical action that cannot be fully attributed to a physical cause...
Just because he does not know doesn't mean that he doesn't believe or anticipate it happening. Otherwise, i don't know what reason the person would have to be pacing around.

On a related matter, if we accept that nothing can cause something then you would have to accept the same for the Universe. Therefore, no God is needed. I'm more open to the idea of causa sui or self-causation since something along those lines are needed to explain the origins, otherwise, we're stuck with an infinite regress.
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Re: Defining Free Will, Fairly

Post #23

Post by mgb »

AgnosticBoy wrote: Sun Oct 24, 2021 2:54 pm Just because he does not know doesn't mean that he doesn't believe or anticipate it happening. Otherwise, i don't know what reason the person would have to be pacing around.
Yes, but nothing - not knowing - has an influence on what happens so it is a causal element and this is all that is needed to show that there can be a non physical cause. Normally causes are extremely complex - for example a person has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grand parents and so on. All these people are part of the causal chain of everything he does no matter how insignificant. Causal chains normally go back to the Big Bang and the early distribution of matter. This gives us pause for thought on what we mean by 'determinism'.

The hard determinist argues that everything and all the causal factors, are physically determined but only one non physical factor is needed to show this is not true. Not knowing is one such factor (and the digit in the other example is another.)

Randomness in normally understood to mean that there is no bias in a system. If there is to be a lottery, for example, the numbers are not supposed to be biased in the sense that each of them has an equal chance of coming up. But the fact is one number does come up and that means there must have been some subtle bias in the system that made it come up. But if this bias is too subtle for humans to know, the system is said to be random.

I agree that it is not convincing to define randomness as 'uncaused' but what if everything causes everything? That is what seems to be happening because every causal chain goes back to the beginning of time. If the distribution of matter at the beginning of time was slightly different, the position and shape of the continents on earth would be different. This means all human history would be different. So there are no simple causes. And if causes are so complex as to be beyond calculation then maybe everything is random?

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Re: Defining Free Will, Fairly

Post #24

Post by AgnosticBoy »

mgb wrote: Mon Oct 25, 2021 5:53 am Normally causes are extremely complex - for example a person has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grand parents and so on. All these people are part of the causal chain of everything he does no matter how insignificant. Causal chains normally go back to the Big Bang and the early distribution of matter. This gives us pause for thought on what we mean by 'determinism'.
[emphasis added]

The part in bold text is debatable. There are scientists that also accept that 'emergence' occurs in the Universe at some point.
The concept of emergence is closely connected with the notions of antireductionism, unpredictability, and novelty. In many cases these latter concepts are explicated in mereological terms: very crudely, something is emergent when it (the whole) is greater than the sum of its parts. Alternatively, the behaviour of the emergent whole does not reduce to some function of the behaviour of its components. Or, the behaviour of the emergent whole is unpredictable given knowledge of the nature of its parts. Or finally, the behaviour of the emergent whole is completely different, new, and unexpected, given knowledge of the nature of its parts. In addition, there is often a demand that the emergent feature is not explainable by a theory of the nature of its parts.

Most philosophical discussions focus on the notion of emergence in the context of the mind/body problem, broadly construed: how can the mental, with all of its unique attributes, possibly obtain in a world in which the basic fundamental features are characterized by physical theory. This problem of emergence is intimately connected with the position called non-reductive physicalism.
Source: Batterman, Robert W.. Emergence in physics, 2009, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q134-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/ ... hysics/v-1.
mgb wrote: Mon Oct 25, 2021 5:53 amThe hard determinist argues that everything and all the causal factors, are physically determined but only one non physical factor is needed to show this is not true. Not knowing is one such factor (and the digit in the other example is another.)
I readily accept that the non-physical can exist. Your explanation would put a dent into much of the determinists point-of-view but then again so would views involving the physical, like 'emergence'.

In defending the non-physical, I started two threads on this forum a few years ago using mental imagery/hallucinations as my main piece of evidence. I brought up the fact that if experience, especially visual experience required the senses, then how or why am I able to have visual experiences without my senses and any physical/sensory stimuli. This of course occurs when I'm dreaming, hallucinating, or just imagining something involving imagery.
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