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

If you mean the idea that a system cannot prove its own axioms, then that is hardly necessary. We cannot prove axioms, yet we must assume things like senses or logic to maintain reasonable interactivity with the world. The system must be internally consistent. Certainly, we cannot say that logic is absolutely true in some metaphysical sense that some aspect of the universe could exist beyond our capacity to conceive. We take logic to be factually true regardless.

If this kind of Uncertainty argument is valid against free will, then it should be valid against all knowledge. It is, thus,  self-contradictory. For example, it is not true that, even though the value of '1' cannot be proven, '1+1=2' is meaningless. It is meaningful after we've assumed the values '1' and '2'.

No, I mean that the uncertainty principle itself is an intrinsic result of the non-commutativity of observables. Once you accept the Hilbert space foundation for quantum mechanics, it falls out as a theorem. It is a mathematical fact occurring in many different forms, but always for the same reason: non-commutativity.

Heisenberg's original formulation was matrix mechanics and matrix multiplication is non-commutative. As the French mathematician Alain Connes has pointed out, non-commutativity is in a sense at the heart of experimental results.

No, I mean that the uncertainty principle itself is an intrinsic result of the non-commutativity of observables.

What does pointing this out have to do with the point made? Bohmian mechanics is a (deterministic) noncontextual hidden variable theory. The point is we simply don't know if the universe is deterministic or indeterministic, but free will is incompatible regardless of either state.

Dr. Allan H. Clark, in all my conversations with you, it always comes down to some technical jargon regarding quantum mechanics. So let's get to the bottom of this and establish some common ground in plain language. Let's see if we can agree on this.

1. QM does not invalidate classical physics on a macro level. Despite uncertainty, building codes are still well-founded by engineers, the projectile of a missile is still relatively predictable, and so are the properties of a particular species of trees.

2. Induction is not necessarily valid. The method of science establishes a baseline for validity, and we do that through repeated experiments and deductions based on those experiments, which are then tested. Ideas that repeatedly test true become theories, such as the theory of gravity, or Newton's laws of motion. Quantum uncertainty does not make Newton's laws, or gravity, uncertain on the level in which we are interested.

3. Quantum indeterminacy is uncaused, therefore it is nonsense to say that some process in the brain causes quantum values, and causing the intended action (free will), unless there is a hidden non-local variable.

4. Proposed hidden non-local variables are mostly metaphysical in nature, and outside epistemological possibility. It is nonsense to assert what one cannot know.

5. As with all scientific laws, while it is possible that we are just plain wrong on "every object in a state of motion remains so until external force is applied to it", and "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction", and "energy in an isolated system cannot change", but it is unlikely, and QM does not make them meaningless.

Noi, it's not merely technical jargon, as you would have it, it's part of the essential nature of the subject. You don't need to take my word for it, you can find it in almost any discussion of the uncertainty principle.

The original uncertainty principle is not a vague statement, it is an inequality:

where the two terms on the left are the standard deviations of position x and momentum p and the right hand is a constant. That this is a mathematical result, derivable from the general setup, is an important fact leading to significant advances, but also showing that it cannot be got around.

Is your argument that determinism is valid universally because it works well for the macroscopic level? Surely not.

My argument is that the invocation of QM in a discussion about free will amounts to mere sophistry.

Determinism is an illusion. Quantum uncertainties underlie all classical mechanics. The apparent determinism of classical mechanics is an effect of scale—quantum uncertainties are neglible, but they still are there. As a result it does not make sense to declare absolute determinism—that is my point. If free will is an illusion, so  also is determinism.

Determinism is an illusion. Quantum uncertainties underlie all classical mechanics.

You aren't listening. Determinism does not mean predictability. Their are various quantum interpretations that are in fact deterministic (Bohmian mechanics, many worlds, etc). Any claim that you know an indeterministic model must apply is as faith based as the claim that a deterministic model must apply. Both nonlocal hidden variables and acausal events have intuitive problems inherent in them.

Quantum uncertainty is not the same thing as acausality.

 If free will is an illusion, so  also is determinism.

No, it doesn't follow that if free will is an illusion that so is determinism (that's a nonsequitur). Again, free will is logically incompatible in BOTH a deterministic universe as well as an indeterministic universe. That is why it's an "illusion". There is no logical problem with nonlocal determinism. In fact entanglement is nonlocal so we know it at the very least possible (it's been shown experimentally).

But again, it doesn't matter, because even if we accept an indeterministic interpretation (e.g. Copenhagen, etc) - such is equally as incompatible with free will.

That being said I prefer interpretations that are agnostic to determinism/indeterminism (e.g. ensemble interpretation) as they make less assumptions.

What's important is it isn't "determinism vs. free will"...it's any state of the universe vs. free will. Free will is simply an absurdity  -- unless of course we define such differently than what most people feel they possess when they hear the words free will (compatibilism).  But doing that is no different than defining "god" as "nature" or "the universe". It's just dismissive of the semantic that hold any philosophical import.

You aren't listening. Determinism does not mean predictability.

I have not argued that it does. As I mentioned above cellular automata give perfect examples of systems that are clearly determined, but unpredictable. You're not reading correctly.

Their are various quantum interpretations that are in fact deterministic (Bohmian mechanics, many worlds, etc)

Do they change what can be measured? Bohm himself says in his 1957 essay on the  qualitative infinity of nature:

Neither causal laws nor laws of chance can ever be perfectly correct because each inevitably leaves out some aspect of what is happening in broader contexts.

No, it doesn't follow that if free will is an illusion that so is determinism (that's a nonsequitur).

You're reading wrong again. My statement was not an instance of material implication.

Free will is simply an absurdity

So you keep repeating, but we never get the full argument.

I have not argued that it does. 

You said:

Determinism is an illusion. Quantum uncertainties underlie all classical mechanics.

Uncertainty doesn't imply determinism - non-causality does (e.g. uncertainty due to acausality)

Do they change what can be measured?

Not sure what you mean by this or what it would have to do with the topic at hand.

So you keep repeating, but we never get the full argument.

The "full argument" for why free will is incompatible with both a deterministic as well as an indeterministic universe is a full books worth of material. Of course I'm not displaying any "full arguments" here - just summaries of arguments.

Also, you must be aware that free will is the "existence" claim which requires it's own burden of proof. It just so happens that us incompatibilists shift the burden on to ourselves to "prove a negative".

Dr., no one, neither me or Trick, have declared absolute determinism, but it is a fact that the universe is somewhat deterministic (or causal), or this very conversation would be entirely random and incoherent. Every day, many scientific fields operate on the assumption of basic laws, and so far they have not been proven wrong. This shows that whatever effect QM has, it is very, very small--so small that it doesn't effect the cast majority if our observations in any way measurable.
Secondly, you have thus far made no defense of free will on account of QM, but have regurgitated a bunch of technical jargon and mathematical facts without relation. Are you saying that unpredictability implies free will? In that case, are you saying that the human consciousness is somehow able to control QM? Or are you saying, as the blog you posted argues, that free will does not rely on consciousness, that as long as a puppet master could in theory 'give' the puppet different choices, the puppet has free will? I trust, in the case of the latter, that I don't need to pull up the definition of 'will' from the dictionary to show how unintuitive that is, since it would give a calculator free will on a macro level since it has the 'choice' of which buttons are pressed.
Any claim is a positive claim, as far as I'm concerned. "It is not true that P" is equivalent to "It is true that !P". So, "there is no free will" is a positive claim about the absence of free will. Conveniently, it just so happens that it is possible to prove negatives through contradiction of facts.

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