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Guest svfrey

Fysics and Phree Will

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Guest svfrey

Newtonian physics operates on the macro level. It says that the laws we have discovered accurately explain planetary motion and every other type of occurrence in the universe. The implication is that the world in which we live right now (and by extension, the entire universe) is the only possible world (universe). The further implication is that whatever the world looks like tomorrow will also be a direct result of these laws and other physical constants. The conclusion is that our conception of free will as it exists today is nothing but an illusion.

 

Quantum physics operates on the micro level. It says that the laws we have discovered which we allege accurately explain planetary motion and every other type of occurrence in the universe break down when the particles they describe become smaller and smaller. The implication is that the world in which we live cannot be described by local realistic theories. The further implication is that whatever the world looks like tomorrow can not (and can never) be either known or accurately predicted (via the theory of quantum indeterminacy). The conclusion is that our conception of free will is a reasonable approximation of the effects of quantum indeterminacy.

 

 

Where do you stand, and why?

 

 

Edit: Ian (or whoever is the mod of T&I now), if you think this should go in NDD, feel free to move it.

Edited by svfrey
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For myself, I feel as though I possess free will, ergo, I have it. I think that for the purposes of holding people accountable for their actions, this perception of having free will, regardless of whether we have the literal trait of free will, or "functional" autonomy, is enough.

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Guest svfrey
For myself, I feel as though I possess free will, ergo, I have it. I think that for the purposes of holding people accountable for their actions, this perception of having free will, regardless of whether we have the literal trait of free will, or "functional" autonomy, is enough.

 

your first sentence is insubstantial and partially question-begging. I feel like I could dead-lift 300 pounds, but that doesn't *necessarily* mean I can. I feel as though I possess consciousness, but that doesn't *necessarily* mean I do.

 

 

your second sentence is more interesting. The question of whether we should construct social conventions and laws on perceptions rather than reality is indeed a powerful one, given that reality is sometimes inaccessible, and so perceptions are all we have. However, your point about accountability seems entirely inconsistent with your subjective notion of free will. What if someone else doesn't "feel" like they possess free will? How do you hold them accountable for actions for which everyone else believes they should be held accountable, but for which the perpetrator does not believe they should be held accountable?

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your first sentence is insubstantial and partially question-begging. I feel like I could dead-lift 300 pounds, but that doesn't *necessarily* mean I can. I feel as though I possess consciousness, but that doesn't *necessarily* mean I do.

 

I say that the feeling is enough because I see that as the key to free will. It isn't that free will is an independent trait which is observed by individuals, but rather that free will exists as it is being perceived. I have free will because I think I do (I perceive that I do...) Given a selection of options, I feel that I have the conscious ability to select from among them. Even if an external force were making the real decision, my not perceiving that external force means I still feel as though I have free will, which goes back to the "functional" free will vs. the literal trait of it.

 

 

your second sentence is more interesting. The question of whether we should construct social conventions and laws on perceptions rather than reality is indeed a powerful one, given that reality is sometimes inaccessible, and so perceptions are all we have. However, your point about accountability seems entirely inconsistent with your subjective notion of free will. What if someone else doesn't "feel" like they possess free will? How do you hold them accountable for actions for which everyone else believes they should be held accountable, but for which the perpetrator does not believe they should be held accountable?

 

My first post was my explanation for free will (I believe in divinely-given free will, this is an explanation aside from that) For your point about social constructs, society couldn't function if the assumption wasn't made that individuals are cognizant of their decisions and actions.

 

Let's say we rely on subjective interpretation- I would say except in demonstrable cases of mental conditions, we defer to the assumption that individuals "perceive" their free will. Even if someone genuinely doesn't in this model, we separate them society regardless, as they pose a threat.

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Guest svfrey

You'll notice I didn't thoroughly engage you in my first post because you kind of missed the point. You talk about free will as being existential in terms of subjective human perceptions, but I kind of wanted to talk more about whether a concept of free will can be drawn out of an examination of our physical world, and if so, what conclusion (that it [here, possibly what you're calling "functional autonomy"] exists or does not exist) can be drawn about it?

 

Edit 1: I don't particularly care to discuss what you're talking about because it's entirely non-falsifiable. No offense to you, just to the angle from which you're arguing.

 

Edit 2: My apologies for the confusion that the rather open-ended question "Where do you stand?" has brought about. I sort of wanted to keep the discussion on people's opinions concerning the two options I presented.

Edited by svfrey

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I feel like the possible accuracy of quantum physics doesn't disprove the fact that certain patterns emerge at the macro level which create stable laws of physics that should be destroying free will.

 

I basically have this arbitrary belief that we actually do have free will, even though most stuff would suggest that we don't.

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Just some ramblings, not promising anything logical, I'll take historical and neurological approaches.

 

There are multiple examples brought up by anthropologists, sociologists, etc. concerning the development of governmental and coercive infrastructure that may be of use here.

 

We've all heard about the concept of "Medieval Indoctrination" where the church grossed in power to the point of becoming a tool of "thought control" but what about the development of the "justice concept" and how does its origination affect the existence or nonexistence of free will?

 

One hypothesis indicates that the need for survival was the underlying predecessor to thoughts about justice, but from a truly historical perspective what was the point at which the thought entered an individual's head to disregard coercive power in favor of trial, the rule of law, and/or individualized sentencing?

 

I think Machiavellian theory and the fact that human natures dictates that most human beings desire a general survival of the community are two interesting concepts, but ones that don't evidence the existence of pre-determinism.

 

Coercive power in tandem with concern for the community were a powerful combination that existed "pre-justice", and the only logical answer I can see for the development of justice is the "variable-mind" deciding that justice was necessary to promote the survival of all the civilizations... a concept which completely abandoned ideas of community containment and coercive superiority that dominated human thought for thousands of years.

 

Also, on neurology, just because subatomic particle interaction may affect thought process and emotion that would still be an infinitely regressive concept because matter has no non divisible limit (there would always be more variables interacting), and in such a system human decision making would be impossible. Thus, neuron alignment and the ability for humans to self-condition exists and human beings have the ability to overcome environmental conditioning, evidencing free will.

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See A.J. Ayer, Freedom and Necessity (1954) for a basically Humean view but one that's straight-forward and, in my opinion, basically the definitive statement for compatibilism.

 

The money quote:

"The answer is that this may indeed be true, inasmuch as it is open to anyone to hold that no explanation is possible until some explanation is actually found. But even so it does not give the moralist what he wants. For he is anxious to show that men are capable of acting freely in order to infer that they can be morally responsible for what they do. But if it is a matter of pure chance that a man should act in one way rather than another, he may be free but can hardly be responsible. And indeed when a man's actions seem to us quite unpredictable, when, as we say, there is no knowing what he will do, we do not look upon him as a moral agent. We look upon him as a lunatic."

 

Even if quantum physics does prove we're not causally determined from the first moment of the universe, indeterminism hardly means we have "free will."

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Newtonian physics operates on the macro level. It says that the laws we have discovered accurately explain planetary motion and every other type of occurrence in the universe. The implication is that the world in which we live right now (and by extension, the entire universe) is the only possible world (universe). The further implication is that whatever the world looks like tomorrow will also be a direct result of these laws and other physical constants. The conclusion is that our conception of free will as it exists today is nothing but an illusion.
I don't see how physical constants destroy free will. Gravity & friction don't interfere with free will per se (or at least interfere with freewill in a meaningful way). Its not like violence or coersion.

 

In fact, a world without those rules....or natural laws if you will...would be pretty chaotic. (can you imagine if you couldn't predict there was going to be gravity at any one moment or the next....you would be flying 100 ft above the earth....and then plopped down as gravity came to be--perhaps dying in the mean time).

Edited by nathan_debate

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Guest svfrey
I feel like the possible accuracy of quantum physics doesn't disprove the fact that certain patterns emerge at the macro level which create stable laws of physics that should be destroying free will.

 

I basically have this arbitrary belief that we actually do have free will, even though most stuff would suggest that we don't.

 

But the accuracy of quantum physics implies that the patterns that are formed are actually random, and that there is no justification for them continuing to exist, or form them to keep the same form from moment to moment. I guess a larger discussion of time needs to be opened in another thread for this to go anywhere, but eh.

 

that seems to be the rationale for most people; not that I don't have anything against it, but this reasoning just seems flimsy. whatever floats your boat.

 

See A.J. Ayer, Freedom and Necessity (1954) for a basically Humean view but one that's straight-forward and, in my opinion, basically the definitive statement for compatibilism.

 

The money quote:

"The answer is that this may indeed be true, inasmuch as it is open to anyone to hold that no explanation is possible until some explanation is actually found. But even so it does not give the moralist what he wants. For he is anxious to show that men are capable of acting freely in order to infer that they can be morally responsible for what they do. But if it is a matter of pure chance that a man should act in one way rather than another, he may be free but can hardly be responsible. And indeed when a man's actions seem to us quite unpredictable, when, as we say, there is no knowing what he will do, we do not look upon him as a moral agent. We look upon him as a lunatic."

 

Even if quantum physics does prove we're not causally determined from the first moment of the universe, indeterminism hardly means we have "free will."

 

right, I never said that quantum indeterminacy means we have "free will"; rather, I said something along the lines of the converse. I stated that our notion of "free will" is a reasonable approximation of the implications of quantum indeterminacy (that is, our actions are not determined). Whether this leaves space for us to have some sort of say over our actions is very much open to discussion.

 

I'm not sure I see the relevance of that quote; it just takes the position of someone who wants to be able to assign a moral value to actions based on the fact that we have control over them and then argues accordingly. Probably not the most neutral point of view, but if you want to tie it in with some more nuanced explanation, feel free.

 

I don't see how physical constants destroy free will. Gravity & friction don't interfere with free will per se (or at least interfere with freewill in a meaningful way). Its not like violence or coersion.

 

In fact, a world without those rules....or natural laws if you will...would be pretty chaotic. (can you imagine if you couldn't predict there was going to be gravity at any one moment or the next....you would be flying 100 ft above the earth....and then plopped down as gravity came to be--perhaps dying in the mean time).

 

If you can't see how they interact, then I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to say to convince you otherwise, so I'll just present my reasoning for why they do. Newtonian laws and the physical constants imply that there is only one possible, unique earth (solar system, galaxy, universe) under those laws. This means that everything develops accordingly, and by extension, the life that has developed on earth is a result of all this. We started off in a specific primordial soup, proteins came together in a specific way, and so whatever process we have developed along the way are also a result of all this. This means that as humans, our history has followed a specific path, and we will continue to follow down that path indefinitely.

 

Here's the point: while it may seem counter-intuitive to think that all the decisions you made in your life up until now were determined because you *feel* like you always had control over them, just consider the possibility that you could only have acted in the way that you did; that even through all your deliberation, you ended up choosing what you did because you ultimately could *only* choose that.

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right, I never said that quantum indeterminacy means we have "free will"; rather, I said something along the lines of the converse. I stated that our notion of "free will" is a reasonable approximation of the implications of quantum indeterminacy (that is, our actions are not determined). Whether this leaves space for us to have some sort of say over our actions is very much open to discussion.

Can you explain what you mean by "common conception of free will?" My pre-theoretical assumption would be something like "humans are in some significant way in control of their actions and not compelled to do them by things outside of their control." The basic Hume/Ayers argument would be that indeterminate causes are just as outside of our control as determinate causes would be.

 

Furthermore, I'm unclear why you're putting free will in scare quotes here (especially when you weren't in your original post). Are you implying there's something unrespectable about common conceptions of free will? I would agree, but you seem to think this result validates our common conception. Whatever your personal opinion is about what "free will" ought to mean, I think that to say the common conception of free will is nothing more than "determinism is false" is just wrong. I don't think the average person takes a position on determinism vs. indeterminism, but almost everyone assumes they have something called "free will."

 

I'm not sure I see the relevance of that quote; it just takes the position of someone who wants to be able to assign a moral value to actions based on the fact that we have control over them and then argues accordingly. Probably not the most neutral point of view, but if you want to tie it in with some more nuanced explanation, feel free.

 

1. Ayer disagrees with the naive moralist invested in free will, but takes their position as a hypothetical and sees if he can reason his way to the conclusion they want to get to based on their premises. He concludes that he can't. He's not actually endorsing that point of view.

2. Even if he were, why does the fact that someone has certain purposes or goals in mind when they're reasoning make their reasoning bad? You don't get to conclude anything about the argument itself because the arguer has certain overriding purposes in making it. In philosophy, everyone has a goal or a task in reasoning; they just try to wear their preferences on their sleeve so no one assumes they're trying to be a ratiocination machine.

3. For me, the quote excellently captures the dilemma our commonsense conception of free will finds itself in (I think even as far back as the pre-Socratics). If the world is deterministic, we are mere machines and therefore have no free will; if the world is non-deterministic, we are erratic, malfunctioning machines and still have no free will. I'm not clear that this requires a particularly nuanced explanation.

Edited by Screech

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But the accuracy of quantum physics implies that the patterns that are formed are actually random, and that there is no justification for them continuing to exist, or form them to keep the same form from moment to moment. I guess a larger discussion of time needs to be opened in another thread for this to go anywhere, but eh.

I don't understand how this argument can be distinguished from radical skepticism at this point. If empirically things always work a certain way and patterns consistently emerge within matter, I'll make decisions based on those empirics even if I don't have a strictly rational reason for doing so.

 

I have no proof that gravity will continue to work, but I make decisions based on the assumption that it will because empirical laws are the best guess I have. Even if the micro level systems are indeterminate, and even if macro level patterns are arbitrary so long as they are consistent it would suggest that free will doesn't exist in any functional form.

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Newtonian laws and the physical constants imply that there is only one possible, unique earth (solar system, galaxy, universe) under those laws. This means that everything develops accordingly, and by extension, the life that has developed on earth is a result of all this. We started off in a specific primordial soup, proteins came together in a specific way, and so whatever process we have developed along the way are also a result of all this. This means that as humans, our history has followed a specific path, and we will continue to follow down that path indefinitely.
That seems like at best an argument for soft determinism, not hard determinism. If you want to run this you should obviously research both--because thats probably where the 2ac answers will come from.

 

I fail to see how that means why I had locker 303 in the 3rd grade or like a particular type of ice cream.

 

The world is a rough balance between order and chaos. The chaos allows some room for choice & the order does as well (by providing a physical & intellectual safety net).

 

Also, quantum physics (generally) goes the other way.

 

Finally, lets assume you're right (or that we're in some Avatar machine that we don't control). We should probably act as if we have human choice even if we don't. Acting passively isn't a particularly effective way to be human.

Edited by nathan_debate

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Guest svfrey
Your "definition" of indeterminacy is incredibly broad.

 

All QI is stating is that the system does not have all the values for its measurable properties... our description of our physical system is incomplete.

 

Right, except the prevailing notion prior to quantum indeterminacy was that a physical system had a determinate state which uniquely determined each and every one of the values of the measurable properties of said state. This notion was reverse causal; that is, the values of these measurable properties also uniquely determined the state.

 

In my opinion, you give it too little application; in yours, I give it too much. *shrug*

 

 

 

 

Can you explain what you mean by "common conception of free will?" My pre-theoretical assumption would be something like "humans are in some significant way in control of their actions and not compelled to do them by things outside of their control." The basic Hume/Ayers argument would be that indeterminate causes are just as outside of our control as determinate causes would be.

 

Well, as you noted in the second paragraph, I do put it in scare quotes because I am rather hesitant to slap a stable definition down onto it. Whether this is because I don't entirely know *how* to define it, or whether this is because I'm not sure it exists is sort of a moot point. But I suppose for the sake of argument, my definition of free will would need the following conditions to be satisfied: 1) freedom of will [deliberation/thought/etc] 2) freedom of action. Basically ripped from the headlines of your average 17th century philosophy newspaper.

 

I agree with the basics of that argument, but I would again like to stress that I am not trying to say that indeterminacy = free will. I stated originally that it might be a "reasonable approximation" for the "common conception" of free will is. Keep in mind my caveat at the beginning of the previous paragraph.

 

Furthermore, I'm unclear why you're putting free will in scare quotes here (especially when you weren't in your original post). Are you implying there's something unrespectable about common conceptions of free will? I would agree, but you seem to think this result validates our common conception. Whatever your personal opinion is about what "free will" ought to mean, I think that to say the common conception of free will is nothing more than "determinism is false" is just wrong. I don't think the average person takes a position on determinism vs. indeterminism, but almost everyone assumes they have something called "free will."

 

mostly explained above for the first half, except I don't know what you're referring to when you say "this result."

 

I would sort of disagree with the second part. I would say that most people, if you asked them for a definition of free will beyond "I can do whatever I want lololol," would say something along the lines of "my actions are not determined (by X). Now, you probably disagree with this characterization, so I'll just wait patiently for that.

 

1. Ayer disagrees with the naive moralist invested in free will, but takes their position as a hypothetical and sees if he can reason his way to the conclusion they want to get to based on their premises. He concludes that he can't. He's not actually endorsing that point of view.

2. Even if he were, why does the fact that someone has certain purposes or goals in mind when they're reasoning make their reasoning bad? You don't get to conclude anything about the argument itself because the arguer has certain overriding purposes in making it. In philosophy, everyone has a goal or a task in reasoning; they just try to wear their preferences on their sleeve so no one assumes they're trying to be a ratiocination machine.

3. For me, the quote excellently captures the dilemma our commonsense conception of free will finds itself in (I think even as far back as the pre-Socratics). If the world is deterministic, we are mere machines and therefore have no free will; if the world is non-deterministic, we are erratic, malfunctioning machines and still have no free will. I'm not clear that this requires a particularly nuanced explanation.

 

1. fair enough. you just posted the answer to whatever question he was asking in the book, so for me, it was a bit out of context, and that's why I said what I did.

2. Goal-oriented reasoning, for me, risks losing the reasoning for the goal. In Descartes' Meditations, he specifically says that he didn't really know where his reasoning was going to take him; all he wanted to do was get down to a single principle and then work from there. I can't think of an alternate situation where he had a larger project in mind besides defeating skepticism and how that project might taint his process, but I think you get my point. I would definitely contest that people wear their preferences on their sleeve when they engage in projects of searching for first principles and basic truths. Continental philosophers who mostly engage in projects of social criticism for sure wear their preferences on their sleeve because it's the only way for them to stand out among everyone else, but I feel like they're just about the only ones who do.

3. I'm not sure it accurately does if only because it looks at the question in terms of what makes someone moral or not (a loaded subject, to be sure). Your last sentence actually captures the heart of the problem, I think, and maybe this goes back to Dr. McNinja's discussion of the locus of free will as being in our perception, if neither indeterminacy nor determinacy leave us with something that would be even remotely construed as "free will."

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Guest svfrey
I don't understand how this argument can be distinguished from radical skepticism at this point. If empirically things always work a certain way and patterns consistently emerge within matter, I'll make decisions based on those empirics even if I don't have a strictly rational reason for doing so.

 

I have no proof that gravity will continue to work, but I make decisions based on the assumption that it will because empirical laws are the best guess I have. Even if the micro level systems are indeterminate, and even if macro level patterns are arbitrary so long as they are consistent it would suggest that free will doesn't exist in any functional form.

 

perhaps that, ultimately, is the implication of quantum theory, and the search for a theory of everything will need to turn elsewhere.

 

right, the world works in terms of relative probabilities; if I got anything from the statistics sequence I just finished, it's that. Maybe I'm just not satisfied with not having a rational reason for doing so.

 

the end of my previous post also sort of addresses this.

 

That seems like at best an argument for soft determinism, not hard determinism. If you want to run this you should obviously research both--because thats probably where the 2ac answers will come from.

 

I fail to see how that means why I had locker 303 in the 3rd grade or like a particular type of ice cream.

 

The world is a rough balance between order and chaos. The chaos allows some room for choice & the order does as well (by providing a physical & intellectual safety net).

 

Also, quantum physics (generally) goes the other way.

 

Finally, lets assume you're right (or that we're in some Avatar machine that we don't control). We should probably act as if we have human choice even if we don't. Acting passively isn't a particularly effective way to be human.

 

I am continually amazed by your characterization of everything as a debate argument. I put this in Thoughts and Ideas for a reason; I wanted to bring up a topic for discussion, and then discuss it with people. I also think I speak for the majority here when I ask that you please refrain from using terms like "2AC answer" to refer to a particular point of view in a philosophical field. It makes you look juvenile and it confuses the fuck out of everyone involved.

 

Your post consists mostly of non-sequiturial assertions; it looks like I was right about you not being able to conceive of one singular form of determinism. I can't really say anything further except exhort you to try and see how the universe being ordered in a specific way means that you could only have locker 303. just try a little harder.

Edited by svfrey
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Guest svfrey

On a final note, and this is directed towards everyone in this thread, I'm not saying we should stop acting like we have control over our deliberative and active processes. I'm just presenting two theories offered about the nature of these things from a study of our physical world and trying to see what people have to say about it.

 

Additionally, perhaps I'm wrong to have ostensibly conflated indeterminacy and free will. Perhaps a new thread should be made to discuss points related to Dr. McNinja's ideas that he brought up originally. That is, what the nature of free will is, where it actually comes from, and also the relationship (or lack thereof) between indeterminacy and free will.

 

 

 

I've got a hellish week coming up, so my responses will be sporadic for the next 4-5 days or so, but I'll do my best to keep up. This is a topic about which I am intensely interested, and I did come back to cross-x specifically to make this thread, so I will stick around to contribute as meaningfully as I can.

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The conclusion is that our conception of free will as it exists today is nothing but an illusion.

 

I don't particularly care to discuss what you're talking about because it's entirely non-falsifiable. No offense to you, just to the angle from which you're arguing.

 

lol. Can't really test for free will, Sean.

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