I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".

Tags: Free, Harris, Michael, Sam, Shermer, Will

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So, Hitler was just a "thought experiment." It still remains that there is no way this will ever happen. YOU cannot now or then, or ever become Hitler. You cannot become Hitler in any way (outside of studying him) than you can become an elephant in Africa. You cannot become me and I cannot become you.

This leaves me here reading words and just scratching my head?

Let's suppose that there are monkeys in a woman's vagina. Oh, I give up.

YOU cannot now or then

We can know that it logically follows that, if the world is entirely causal (no non-causal events), that such must be the case (logically). Otherwise we must have self-contradictory events. I'm only working within the confines of logic.

We also know that any acausal event that would change such trajectory could never be a willed event - logically.

My thought experiment actually follows from the logic if the universe is causal. If there were "vagina monkeys" they would either happen causally, or acausally "popped" into existence. Must be one or the other - that is a logical fact.  And neither are logically compatible with free will. ;-)

If vagina monkeys were caused to happen, and the cause was not different, they must (logically) happen identically.

Not monkeys in a woman's vagina, Michael. Teeth.

Vagina dentata, you know.

Your premise is that the universe is totally causal—a not unreasonable working assumption, but quite a large one nevertheless and one that cannot be proved.

Defining causation precisely has been a major problem for a long time. Just presupposing that the universe is totally causal because we cannot envision it not being that way is not sufficient— nor convincing. For many processes we can only provide probabilistic descriptions. Assuming that there must be "hidden variables" that could provide exact descriptions is perhaps unjustified.

Presumably there is nothing more involved in the movement of the planets in our solar system than Newtonian mechanics as revised by special relativity, theories we understand very well, but even so, it has not been possible to determine if the solar system is dynamically stable over very long periods of time. In other words even in systems that we understand very well and have every reason to believe are completely deterministic, we cannot satisfactorily predict long term behavior.

Perhaps you missed the part where I address acausal (non-causal) events as well (an indeterministic universe).

I'm a hard incompatibilist, not a hard determinist. That means I address both possibilities (a deterministic universe as well as an indeterministic universe). Both are logically incompatible with free will.

Using modal logic we can address BOTH possibilities (and they are the only possibilities):

  • IF the universe is entirely causal (determinism) then...
  • IF the universe has acausal events (indeterminism) then...

Also, determinism doesn't imply predictability (only that all events are causal). Chaos theory, nonlocal hidden variables, etc...are all deterministic yet not humanly predictable. 

In regards to the "stability" of the universe, it must be addressed in the form of causal events outputting the stability or acausal events doing so. If causal, it must output any instability in the way those causal events dictate. 

The important part is that both a deterministic universe (e.g. Bohmian mechanics or other non-local hidden variable interpretations) and an indeterministic universe (e.g. Copenhagen interpretation) are incompatible with free will.

And if the universe is indeterministic and acausal events have any effect on our thoughts, not only is free will impossible, but those events would be more detrimental to any "willing". With a deterministic universe there is no free will as our will comes about causally, but at least we will (just not freely).

Also, determinism doesn't imply predictability (only that all events are causal).

No, cellular automata are a good counterexample to that, but causality itself is a form of predictability. When you say that A causes B, you are saying that from an occurrence of A, the subsequent occurrence of B can be reliably expected.

My counter argument to determinism is that it is actually nothing more than an assumption except where you can demonstrate it in repeated instances. In other words determinism relies on induction in a huge way.

 but causality itself is a form of predictability.

Determinism doesn't imply that the causes are humanly predictable. The uncertainty principle means that we can't measure both momentum and position at the same time. But depending on the quantum interpretation is could be due to indeterminism, or determinism. There is also a measurement problem at that scale (the fact that to "see" something at the quantum scale we need to "interact" with that something with particles of the same size). Chaos theory means that one small difference can lead to a big effect. Nonlocal variables means that causes can be "at a distance" (entanglement is an example). So no, determinism just means entirely causal, not that we have or will have the capacity to "predict" entirely (that is not to say we can't make estimative predictions about larger scale causality - that is induction).

Again, I'm agnostic towards determinism, but BOTH determinism and indeterminism are incompatible with free will

 When you say that A causes B, you are saying that from an occurrence of A, the subsequent occurrence of B can be reliably expected.

Not just reliably expected, but a logical necessity.

 In other words determinism relies on induction in a huge way.

Induction relies on causal determinism  - not the other way around.

There is also a measurement problem at that scale (the fact that to "see" something at the quantum scale we need to "interact" with that something with particles of the same size).

This was Heisenberg's original viewpoint when he did not understand the mathematics involved, but it isn't the correct interpretation of the uncertainty principle. Uncertainty is intrinsic in the mathematics, a very basic fact.

This was Heisenberg's original viewpoint when he did not understand the mathematics involved, but it isn't the correct interpretation of the uncertainty principle. Uncertainty is intrinsic in the mathematics, a very basic fact.

What I said was:

"The uncertainty principle means that we can't measure both momentum and position at the same time. But depending on the quantum interpretation is could be due to indeterminism, or determinism. There is also a measurement problem at that scale..."

I didn't say that the measurement problem was Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (again that has to do with not being able to measure both the momentum and position with accuracy at the same time). The measurement problem is a separate issue. The point being that causal determinism doesn't imply "predictability" due to a number of reasons that prevents such.

The Uncertainty Principle argument is semantic, as I see it. Even if we know that an electron is indeterminate, the Uncertainty Principle may refer to the measurement problem as Heisenberg conceived. Here is a discussion on Uncertainty and QI: http://www.uhh.hawaii.edu/~ronald/310/Quanta.htm

Cellular Automata that Dr. Allan H. Clark mentioned is a good argument against causality necessarily being predictable. With Cellular Automata, a system is only predictable if the rules of the system is accessible, but any future state could not be calculated from past states. Cellular Automata has been proposed as an analogy to hidden non-local variables in QM, but it would also seem to imply a metaphysical dimension.

Uncertainty is intrinsic in the mathematics, a very basic fact.

Allan, a mathematics instructor once told a class

It's a basic fact that ....", and then broke off his lecture. He left the classroom and went to his office.

Thirty minutes later he returned and resumed with, "Yes, it's a basic fact that....."

A college algebra instructor told her class that story. I was in her class.

My counter argument to determinism is that it is actually nothing more than an assumption except where you can demonstrate it in repeated instances.

So is the fact that fire is hot. We have felt many instances of substances being hot, but is the physical property that we now suppose causes the sensation of hotness only a mere assumption? Science is filled with these generalizations, and until you can accept induction as proper knowledge, all of empiricism goes out the window. Tell me, is God's supposed non-existence also merely an assumption, since we haven't been able to test or demonstrate its existence? It seems to me that you are asking for metaphysical hard proofs where none exists--for anything. All we can say is that all of the evidence we have points towards determinism (except in the case of QM, which is unpredictable). This shows that free will is unlikely to exist from a scientific perspective. But any doubt will be eliminated by the logical Standard Argument.

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